There are plenty of Chinatowns across the United States, but this one was the first to be established in America. Chinese immigrants started settling the area in 1852 and since then, it has become a bustling modern cultural center featured in many Hollywood films like Freaky Friday and Rush Hour. Landmarks like the Gate of Filial Piety, a five-tiered pagoda and a wishing well are hard to miss. Streets are crowded with shoppers looking for a bargain, and restaurants with rows of Peking duck hanging on window displays fill the air with that authentic Chinese food aroma. A younger and edgier scene comes out on art opening nights at Chung King Road, where a new surge of galleries displays eclectic and experimental art.
The Downtown Standard Hotel
550 S. Flower St.; standardhotels.com
It has a rooftop pool and bar that overlook a good view of Downtown and a shop downstairs where you can stock up on Standard-inspired gear from bikinis to towels, “Standard” brand condoms and art. Oh, and it’s also a hotel where you lay your pretty little head at night. What else can you ask for? They hold various events that attract the poshest and liveliest of crowds, so make sure to hydrate and prepare for a long night ahead.
Ninety blocks of shopping can be a little intimidating, but fear not – if you know where to go, the bargain will be worth braving the crowded streets of Downtown. Santee Alley is on Olympic Avenue between Santee Street and Maple Avenue, and vendors sell diverse cheap goods from knockoff designer labels to denim on the weekends. Pico Boulevard between Main and Santee Streets is the European corridor, where there are boutiques that sell imported goods from places like France and Italy, which are often priced 30 to 40 percent off retail. On 9th and Los Angeles Streets are the showrooms that are often closed to the public, but on the last Friday each month, those that are in the California Market Center, Cooper Design Space, Gerry Building and the New Mart often have sample sales.
800 W. Olympic Blvd.; lalive.com
It’s no Times Square, but it’s Los Angeles’ very own entertainment hub that features the Nokia Plaza, the Grammy Museum and the home of the Lakers (also the Clippers), the Staples Center. There are also plenty of renowned places to satisfy your hunger like Katsuya, the Farm of Beverly Hills, the Mixing Room and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. Even if you’re not attending a show or a sporting game, it’s still worth strolling around the district for some serious LED-powered sightseeing at night.
A national historic landmark, Little Tokyo is one of only three official Japanese towns in the United States (the other two are in San Francisco and San Jose). It’s sprinkled with many historical pieces that let you in on the rich historical background of Japanese-Americans since the hub’s founding in the beginning of the 20th century. There are plenty of sights to see – the Yagura Tower, a Japanese fire tower replica; the Japanese American National Museum, exhibiting momentous events in the community including the internment camps during World War II; and even three Buddhist temples. It’s also hard to find more authentic Japanese shops that sell anime and manga elsewhere than the Village Plaza in the center of Little Tokyo. Craving ramen and sushi? It has a specially curated selection of restaurants and bars to satisfy your appetite for both exotic and comforting food.
845 N. Alameda St.; olvera-street.com
Los Angeles is home to many Mexican-Americans, and there’s no better display in one street of their heritage and culture than Olvera. The city was founded in 1781 by a group of 11 Spanish families not too far from the street, and in 1953, it was designated as a California State Historic Landmark. There are plenty of authentic Mexican restaurants, historic buildings and vendors that sell a variety of artwork, crafts and souvenirs. It’s a quaint little cultural center that will give you a taste of a lively Mexican fiesta. Another plus? It’s conveniently located near Union Station for a quick visit.