Los Angeles is a pretty hip place. Trendy restaurants seem to pop up every other day, there’s always another cool bar to try out or an event happening somewhere. But there are so many trendy restaurants, bars, and museums spread out all over that sometimes it’s hard, even for a local, to know where to go. Los Angeles is a city made up of vastly different neighborhoods spanning some five hundred square miles. Hollywood may be one of the most famous areas in LA but it certainly does not represent the whole of it. Luckily there are many pockets of intentional city planning where many great things exist close together so this massive city becomes somewhat walkable. I’ve written about one of my favorite spots near USC where my two favorite museums are located. I’m more of a history nerd but I do enjoy art museums as well and one of the most, if not the most, popular art museums in Los Angeles right now is located right in the heart of downtown. It also happens to be located above a few historical – turned super trendy – locations in the city, making it easy to enjoy some culture followed by some food and drinks, just like one of the cool kids.
* Explore the Broad Museum *
The Broad (pronounced Brōd) is a contemporary art museum that opened in 2015. More than two thousand pieces from the personal collection of Eli and Edythe Broad are displayed in the museum on a rotation. I usually prefer more traditional art, but the collection at the Broad is really fun. Their collection of postwar and contemporary art includes a lot of really interesting pieces, in a variety of mediums.
Many of the major installations have been on display every time I’ve visited, but others have been rotated out to allow for new exhibits or have been moved to other parts of the museum. Most of the collection on display is on the third floor which is accessed by either an escalator or glass-walled elevator that rises through the floor. As you descend the stairs on your way out of the exhibit space you are granted a peek into the storage space on the second floor where the remainder of the collection is housed. I find this addition really neat – You can see the hanging mechanisms for canvases and some of them have been pulled out to a degree that you can see them out of their hangers. You get a glimpse behind the scenes, something that museums like the Getty don’t allow the general public to see.
Since opening, the Broad has welcomed more than a million visitors and I think there are two really big reasons why it continues to be so popular. One, it’s free. Second, the art lends itself very well to social media. Basically, a free place to snap cute selfies and artsy Instagram posts. While appreciating the art and becoming more cultured, of course. A favorite for many visitors, including myself, is the pieces by sculptor Jeff Koons. There are three pieces of his on display, including a gigantic balloon animal of a dog.
Getting tickets for the Broad requires a little planning, if you want to get tickets in advance. Or very little planning, if you don’t mind waiting in lines. Because the museum is still very popular, they release their tickets online a month in advance on the first day of the month at noon. On the website you choose the day you want to visit, the amount of tickets, and entrance time. The other option is the standby line, so you can just roll up and wait to be let in. I personally have not done this, but friends of mine have waited about an hour to get in, depending on the time of day. On busy days they might cut off the line so if you choose to wait in standby, be sure to get there early on in the day.
* Take a Ride on Angels Flight *
After browsing the collection for a few hours you might start feeling peckish so I suggest heading to Grand Central Market for lunch. But before you do, take a second to check out one of Los Angeles’ moving landmarks. Cross the street in front of the Broad (Grand Ave) and jog to the right, then cut through California Plaza behind the Bank of the West building to take the funicular railroad Angels Flight down to Grand Central Market. Back in the day, huge Victorian mansions lined Olive Street making up the Bunker Hill neighborhood. The original Angel’s Flight was built in 1901 and connected Olive and Hill Streets. You might think that having a railroad traverse such a short distance is probably an extravagance. And you’d be correct. But even after Bunker Hill was all but destroyed, Angel’s Flight remained running until 1969. The two cars that operated for six decades were stored away when the tracks were dismantled. In the 1990s the railroad was rebuilt and the original cars were taken out of storage to be used again. It’s a fun piece of Los Angeles history, and a great way to arrive in style to lunch. A one way ticket is $1 or you can chip in an additional buck for a souvenir ticket.
* Lunch at Grand Central Market *
Grand Central Market is an indoor, open air market that just celebrated its 100th birthday. I’m sure that what’s been offered inside the market has changed dramatically in the last century but I don’t think the vibe has. Inside the market there are over about forty(!) vendors, most of them restaurants. Ranging from egg sandwiches to ramen to fresh bread and ice cream you can be sure everyone in your group will find something they want to eat. The seating at each spot is limited, but there is group seating at the Hill Street entrance and a sub level sitting area near Belcampo Meat Co. making it easy for each person to grab their choice of lunch and bring it back to eat together.
My favorite spot is Horse Thief BBQ just outside the market at the Hill Street entrance. You get to choose your meat and sides or then grab a beer at their adjacent bar. If none of the choices strike your fancy, swing inside and visit Golden Road, a microbrewery from Los Angeles. I love sitting outside on their patio, I get a direct view of Angels Flight and can people watch while I eat.
* Bradbury Building *
On the other side of Grand Central Market is one of the most beloved buildings in Los Angeles, the Bradbury Building. Depending on your age group, you might recognize it from the movie Blade Runner or 500 Days of Summer. It was built in 1893 and is the oldest commercial building in the area. You wouldn’t know it from its modest stone facade, but the interior is simply stunning. It has an center courtyard that is open all the way up five stories to the giant glass and iron skylight at the top. The rest of the interior is all scrolled iron railings, open cage elevators and warm brick. It’s truly stunning. It is an active office building so it’s open to the public during office hours. It closes at 5, so keep that in mind when planning.
Well there you have it – one of my favorite day trips in Los Angeles. A little culture, a little history, a little food – and all sure to get you a ton of likes on Instagram. What is your favorite day trip to take? There is so much to explore in the City of Angels. Let me know where I should go next in the comments!