Was there ever a city that contained more multitudes than Los Angeles? Writing a city guide would be a joke — it’s bigger than many European nations. Here is the one place where the travel writer’s favorite cliché “a land full of contradictions” actually might hold water. This year, we’re going to try to tackle LA, but not all at once. We’re going to parcel it out over the course of months. By the time we’re done the whole place probably will have completely changed again and we’ll have to start over. That’s fitting. There’s always been something particularly Sisyphean about the City of Angels.
We’re going to start in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), with Uproxx’s music editor Caitlin White and food & travel editor Steve Bramucci waxing philosophic about their favorite spots as if they were JGL and Zooey Deschanel sitting on the bench at Angel’s Knoll in 500 Days of Summer.
Caitlin: Back in the early 2000s, when I last lived in Los Angeles before a stretch in NYC, Downtown LA was not really a place anybody I knew wanted to be going. Yes, there was the Staples Center, but even that was still being accepted into the neighborhood at the time. It had barely been open for a decade. They were just breaking ground on LA Live right around the time I moved here, and the main sentiments I remember hearing about Downtown LA was that it was either dangerous or boring.
Turns out, five or six years can make a huge difference in a city’s lifespan.
Steve: I remember those days! I wrote a travel article about DTLA in 2010 that kind of took off and I realized, “Oh, this is about to be a thing.” LA Live was thriving and 213 Hospitality had just opened all of their famous speakeasies in the area. Caña, a private rum club, was brand new.
I remember visiting a few times over the span of months and just thinking, “There’s food, art, bars, partying… this place has a scene.”
Caitlin: A scene and a buzz! Now that I’m back, Downtown LA feels like the spot 20-somethings go to relax, go out, and explore.
It’s also my pick for an escape without going far. You can ditch Venice or Echo Park for a weekend in DTLA, hanging out in the sleek, walkable neighborhood for the weekend. You feel like you’re really traveling and it won’t break the bank. Plus the hotels all have pools if you get homebody syndrome. Street food, brand new bars, fancy Italian, museums and sports all lie within blocks of each other. How do you beat that?
Steve: When downtown (and really all of Los Angeles) took off for me was in 2012, when I finally started reading Raymond Chandler — the famous father of noir. If you’re one of those people who says, “I just don’t get LA” his work will help change your mind. You realize that it really is a city that was built in the 30s and 40s. There’s more history than people realize.