Exploring Sights of Downtown Los Angeles – Little Tokyo, Olvera Street, Angel’s Flight Railway

6 August, 2012

I will be busting 2 common myths about Los Angeles in this post – first, Los Angeles is not just about Hollywood and Anaheim Disneyland Park and second, you don’t need a car to see the interesting sights in Los Angeles!

Downtown Los Angeles – just a 10-15 minutes ride by Metro from Hollywood – has an interesting collection of sights and cultural districts all within minutes of each other by Metro or by walking.

I will start off with the iconic Angel’s Flight.  This is a landmark funicular railway in the Bunker Hill district of Downtown Los Angeles, California. It has two funicular cars: Sinai and Olivet.

The funicular has operated on two different sites, using the same cars and iconic station elements. The original Angel’s Flight location, with tracks connecting Hill Street and Olive Street, operated from 1901 until it was closed in 1969, when its site was cleared for redevelopment. The second Angels Flight location opened nearby to the south in 1996, with tracks connecting Hill Street and California Plaza. It was re-closed in 2001, after an accident, and took nine years to commence operations again, on March 15, 2010.  It has been running safely since, with 50 cents the cost of a one-way ride.

The Angel’s Flight is open every single day of the year, including all weekends and holidays, from 6:45 am until 10 pm — cost just 50¢ per ride (25¢ for holders of valid Metro Passes), or 5 rides for two dollars. Originally built by engineer and Civil War veteran Colonel J.W. Eddy in 1901, the privately-operated little funicular connected the residential community at the top of Bunker Hill with the commercial and civic center district below, generally between Hill and Main Streets, saving residents the steep climb uphill.  Now it serves mainly as a tourist attraction, ferrying tourists tirelessly up and down the slope every few minutes.

Downtown Los Angeles Sights attractions Angel's Flight Railway

For a quick preview of what the Angel’s Flight ride is like, check out the video below:

To reach the Angel’s Flight by Metro, get off at Pershing Square Red line Metro Stop (Northeast access) – follow the signs.

As you can see from the map above, the landmark Grand Central Market is located just directly opposite the Angel’s Flight.  It dates back to 1917, when well to do Angelenos rode the Angel’s Flight Railway for a penny down to the best open-air shopping in town. At the Market, they could find an entire world of treats for all the senses and all the family. Today, you still can. Step back over 80 years as you explore aisle after aisle of exciting sights, scents, flavors, historic neon signs

Grand Central Market is open daily 9am-6pm.  It is a huge indoor bazaar of Central and South American vendors where you can get fresh tortillas, huge Mexican papayas and tasty Tortas as well as many other cuisines e.g. Chinese and Japanese food.  Come here for a quick lunch and maybe get some fruits to go in the market.

GRAND CENTRAL PUBLIC MARKET Downtown Los Angeles Sights attractions

There you go, 2 of Downtown Los Angeles icons – easily accessible by Metro and within minutes of each other!  Very convenient for visitors enjoying their holidays without driving.  Now, let’s take a look at the unique cultural districts of Downtown Los Angeles.

On the northeastern edge of downtown Los Angeles, the bustling Los Angeles Union Station (known as the “Last of the Great Railway Stations”) serves as the region’s main transportation hub, with the convergence of six commuter rail lines, two subway lines, a light rail line, Amtrak service and multiple local and regional bus services. The station which opened May 1939, is a massive building in the Art Deco, Moorish and Spanish Mission styles, that serves a growing rail and bus passenger market. Station grounds include soaring ceilings, deep leather-and-wood chairs, and two adjoining greenspaces and fountains flanking the main passenger concourse.

Across Alameda Street from Union Station is the historic center of the city, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, enshrined as Olvera Street, a collection of historic shops, restaurants and several museums.  This is where Los Angeles was founded as El Pueblo de Los Angeles. You can take a tour of the city’s oldest house to see what it looked like at that time.

Little Mexico Downtown Los Angeles Sights attractions Olvera Street

The plaza is mostly filled with Mexican trinket stands and Mexican restaurants.  Here, you can find the small guitars, the Mexican wrestling masks, the distinctive Mexican hats and shirts – basically anything Mexican you can find here!

LITTLE MEXICO SHOPS Downtown Los Angeles Sights attractions Olvera Street

Little Tokyo, also known as J-Town, is the Los Angeles Japanese district which features restaurants, museums, and shops. It sits in the area between Temple and about 5th and Spring through Alameda.  Little Tokyo is accessible via the nearby Metro Red/Purple Line Civic Center Station, and the Little Tokyo light-rail station on the Metro Gold Line.

Little Tokyo remains the cultural heart of the Japanese American community. The neighborhood is home to several Buddhist temples, dozens of shops, restaurants and taverns, two museums, and a branch of the Los Angeles Public Librarysystem.  Pedestrian activity in the neighborhood is centered around the Japanese Village Plaza, an open-air shopping area spanning First and Second streets.  The center is home to Nijiya Market, Mikawaya Ice Cream, Yamazaki Bakery and several other stores and eateries, as well as a landmark watchtower on First Street.

There is also a wishing tree where you can hang your wishes for a small donation to the shop where the tree is located in front of.  Take a peek at some of the interesting wishes – sex, booze and party – that’s at least what I gathered from a few of the wishes hanging there.

If you are in Little Tokyo, do not miss the ramen shops – there are lots of them there; we tried Mr Ramen – great value for money and yummy ramen; it is located just opposite Miyako Hotel.

LITTLE TOKYO Downtown Los Angeles Sights attractions

Accommodations in Los Angeles varies depending on your budget and comfort level – there are 5-star hotels, chain hotels, hostels as well as Los Angeles vacation rentals available for different travellers.

For flights to the States, you can consider CheapTickets.sg multi-stop trip functionality which effectively serve as a one-stop for us in planning our flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and internal flights to Las Vegas and finally from San Francisco back to Singapore.  Please click on link for our USA West Coast trip itinerary.

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comments (2)

  • Holiday toursReply

    13 August, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Hy Zhiqiang & Tingyi

    Nice Article Dear, keep post and keep share about your journey! i hope someday, i can visit Disney land too !

  • Shalu SharmaReply

    13 August, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    When Los Angeles comes to mind we always think of Hollywood but there other things to do and see. I have not been to LA but downtown Los Angeles seems fascinating place to see. I like the guitars at 9.95 dollars each with customised name.

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