When I was at USC, I rarely ventured off campus to explore the ever-exciting Downtown Los Angeles. This was largely due to the fact I didn’t have a car and was afraid to try public transportation. How foolish of me.

As a student living very close to DTLA, you have an obligation to step out of your comfort zone and see what this hip city has to offer. Drive, carpool, take the tram, Metro or call a Lyft to discover DTLA’s great eateries, bars and entertainment venues!

Instead of Freebirds, Taco Bell, Del Taco and Chipotle for Mexican food, try:

El Cholo
1037 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles 90015
El Cholo is a L.A. staple and a rite of passage for all Angelenos. Enchiladas, tacos, burritos – this Mexican restaurant has all of the basics.

The original flagship is located between Pico and Olympic, and (get this) it has a very special deal exclusively for USC students: 50 percent off all entrees Monday through Thursday! It’s located at 1121 S. Western Ave. if you want to check it out.

Senor Fish
422 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles 90012 (Little Tokyo)
This Little Tokyo gym has some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in L.A. On a random weeknight, take a break from studying for your midterms, grab a few friends and make sure you order the Grilled Fish Taco and the Grilled Scallops Tacos. Ah. Mazing.

Instead of Soy for sushi, try:

800 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles 90017
When it comes to sushi in DTLA, everyone knows to go to Wokcano. Sometimes it can get a little busy, especially between 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. when people are getting off from work, but it’s honestly more fun to go when it’s buzzing with professionals.

The Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice is an appetizer favorite, and you won’t go wrong with the Late Night Party Roll (crabmeat, lobster, scallops) Volcano Roll (crispy shrimp tempura) or Lobster Roll (baked lobster, snow crab and avocado).

Instead of The Pizza Studio for really good pizza, try:

9th Street Pizza
231 E. 9th Street, Los Angeles 90015
The closest you’ll get to New York-style pizza in DTLA is 9th Street Pizza. The Pizza Studio is innovative and great, but the pizzas at 9th Street are huge and thin, with enormous slices oozing with melted cheese. Definitely order the Everything Pizza.

Instead of University Village 3 Theaters for a movie, try:

LA Live Regal Cinemas
1000 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90015
Regal Cinemas can get a little expensive, charging $14.75 for General Admission. Oh, and there’s no student discount. However, this is still a far better theater than the one in University Village.

Regal is conveniently located next to popular eateries such as Yardhouse, Wolfgang Puck and even a few food trucks on Olympic. Just make sure you get there early if you plan on grabbing a bite to eat before a film, because LA Live can get annoyingly crowded.

Downtown Independent
251 S. Main Street, Los Angeles 90012
If you love indie movies and guzzling down beers as you watch those indie movies, you need to check out the Downtown Independent.

Located just a few blocks away from Pershing Square and the Civic Center, this theater has a hipster-like atmosphere. It doesn’t play big-budget studio films, but you can catch comedies, dramas and more as well as special screenings and attend meet-and-greets with actors and directors. Also, the theater hosts a comedy show every Tuesday!

Instead of the 901 Bar & Grill or Traddies for drinks, food & music, try:

Big Wang’s (food)
801 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90017
Big Wang’s is a popular spot for avid sports watchers and those looking for bar food. My favorite items: Chili Cheese Fries, Heart Attack Fries and Garlic Buffalo Wings.

Down & Out (music)
501 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles 90013
This place doesn’t serve any food, but it has a full bar, pool tables, a large dance floor and a photo area set up like a jail cell where you can take “mug shots” with your camera phone – tons of fun!
With no cover, this is a great place to hit up on a Friday or Saturday night for dancing. They play mainstream hip-hop and R&B with a little EDM mixed in here and there, but be warned: some Friday nights, they love to play ‘90s hip-hop basically the whole night.

Seven Grand (drinks)
515 W 7th Street, #2, Los Angeles 90014
Did you know L.A. boasts incredible bars that serve just one or two types of alcohol? Case in point: Seven Grand, which serves creative whiskey and bourbon cocktails.

Fellas, you’ll love this place for its impressive collection. And ladies, you might not like the taste of whiskey or bourbon now, but I guarantee you will acquire a taste for it after you order the Cranberry Rose, an alcoholic shaved ice concoction with cranberries, rosemary, citrus and Bourbon.

Instead of Tommy’s Place or Ground Zero for live entertainment, try:

Nokia Theatre or Club Nokia
777 Chick Heart Court & 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90015
Don’t be confused – these are two separate venues that are both located at LA Live. Nokia Theatre has theater-style seating, while Club Nokia has seats in the front with a general standing area in the back near the bar. Catch artists such as Machine Gun Kelly, EMBLEM3 and Lindsey Stirling at Club Nokia and Miguel, Big Sean, Jason Derulo, Ciara and Sean Paul (part of Power 106’s Valentine’s Crush) at Nokia Theatre.

Trojans, the bottom line is this: DTLA is really not that scary. Make the most out of your time at USC by exploring one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods!