Over the last few years, DTLA’s art district has metamorphosed from a rather grungy caterpillar into a technicolor butterfly. From gritty street art to grandiose galleries and gourmet restaurants, the emerging neighborhood offers inspiration for both the eye and the palate. Located in the southeast area of downtown Los Angeles, from Alameda Street to the LA River and Second Street to Seventh Street, DTLA’s Art District is all totally walkable—although parking can be tough, Uber for the day is ideal. Plus, there’s a bit of tippling involved in this itinerary, so it’s always best to be safe and ride with Uber.
Here’s where to tap into the heart of the action:
10 a.m. – Coffee & Culture
Start the day off at the tiny coffee shop Blacktop Coffee for a potent espresso drawn from San Francisco’s Sightglass Coffee and an avocado toast—LA’s snack du jour. Once buzzing on caffeine, retail therapy is in order. Pop into the adjoining Alchemy Works, home to stylish clothes, shoes, housewares, and a Warby Parker glasses outpost. Also on 3rd Street are three other must-stop retail shops: Poketo, a hip sundry shop of stationary supplies, funky socks, jewelry, and more; Guerilla Atelier, a trendy clothing shop for men and women carrying international and locally designed labels; and Apolis, a men’s store with cool bags and clothing designed in Los Angeles. Apolis also hosts regular events within the retail space, such as art exhibitions and films. And for cutting-edge fashion-as-art, cross the street to H Lorenzo Archive for some bedazzled jeans or spiked loafers. Speaking of art, plan to lose yourself for a couple hours at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel—the LA outpost of international gallery Hauser & Wirth that opened in spring of 2016—exploring its huge industrial space housing several art shows, a cool bookstore, and soon-to-open Manuela, a Southern-meets-Mexican restaurant.
1 p.m. – Sausage & Street Art
Famished by all the fashion hounding? Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, all you need to know is that Wurstkuche has some of LA’s best (and most creative to boot) brats, with strange sausage variations such as crocodile or rattlesnake. To complete the adventurous meal, cross the street to The Pie Hole for a slice of Earl Grey or Fruity Pebbles cereal pie. A few doors down from Wurstkuche, Lot, Stock and Barrel is a fun stop for vintage army or denim jackets embroidered with your favorite cartoon character or pop art logo. This area is also one of the best places to see street art in Los Angeles, so while you’re walking off lunch, book a private tour with LA Arts Tour for an artist-led stroll to see some of DTLA’s most iconic murals. After the tour, snag some stylish jewelry or progressive paintings at Dejavita, a collective shop of LA-based artists. Architecture buffs can swap out the street art tour for a visit to A+D Museum, a space dedicated to exploring progressive architecture and design.
4 p.m. Beers, Booze & Balls
It’s nearly happy hour, right? A cold one beckons. With four breweries in short walking distance—Arts District, Mumford, Iron Triangle, and Angel City—you could do a brewery crawl if the suds move you. For some old-fashioned fun to pair with those beers, Arts District is like an adult playground with pool tables, corn hole, and skee ball. If spirits are more your speed, take an uberX (from A+D museum or Dejavita, it’s typically around $5-6) to Greenbar Distillery—which opened in 2004 as LA’s first spirits-maker since the Prohibition—for a tour (book in advance) and tasting. Then, walk to LA’s newest distillery, The Spirit Guild, which makes the world’s first vodka and gin from Clementine oranges, and where tastings are free. While you’re in this area, hit up a mighty fine happy hour (5 p.m. – 7 p.m.) at Everson Royce Bar, locals just call it “ERB”, where select cocktails and wine are $7, and a bite to tide you over until dinner usually won’t run more than $10. Work off your snack and sips with a game of bocce ball on the bar’s outdoor back patio.
7 p.m. – Dinnertime
For dinner, DTLA offers a plethora of options, depending on your mood. Within an 8-minute walk of E.R.B. are two authentic Italian eateries in slick, industrial spaces: Officine Brera and Bestia, the neighborhood’s buzziest restaurant. Or, for a delicious dinner on a budget, grab a slice of pizza and a salad at Pizzanista, a few doors down from E.R.B.
9 p.m. – Music & Mayhem
For nightlife action, unless there’s a gallery opening, you can count on live music at Resident DTLA and Villain’s Tavern most nights, within walking distance from Pizzanista. Or you can grab an Uber to Resident DTLA—the area’s newest bar that’s a hybrid club, music venue, beer garden, and outdoor patio complete with a groovy Airstream bar.