Art District Walking Tour, Los Angeles

Art District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Los Angeles

The Arts District is one of the hottest neighborhoods in downtown L.A., located between Little Tokyo at Alameda to the west and the railroad yards and Los Angeles River to the east. Formerly an industrial area of warehouses and factories, it has been home to art studios and galleries since the 1970s. Having undergone another downturn in the 1990s, it was officially renamed the “Arts District.” Today this much revitalized neighborhood houses many creatives, including those in green technology, architecture, and entertainment. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore this burgeoning urban oasis in more detail.
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Art District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Art District Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles (See other walking tours in Los Angeles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: ashley
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Angel City Brewery
  • Art Share L.A.
  • Architecture & Design Museum
  • Bavel
  • Zinc Cafe & Market
  • Guerrilla Tacos
  • Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Row DTLA
Angel City Brewery

1) Angel City Brewery

In a city known more for its glitz than its grit, Angel City Brewery is proud to rough things up a bit and work beneath the shiny surface. Founded in 1997, the brewery was off to a modest start but quickly gained recognition on L.A.'s craft beer scene. In 2010 it moved to the present location, the historic John A. Roebling Building in the heart of the ambitious and diverse Arts District. And its beer proved to be a good match for the area, eventually becoming an integral part of its revitalization.

As of January 2012, Angel City underwent massive renovations, including the addition of a new mustache bar. In February 2013, the Brewery and Public House opened its doors for the first time offering an ever-rotating selection of Angel City beer on tap, including a number of beers exclusively available here and nowhere else. Their massive taproom, laden with tons of communal tables and a small on-site retail store, is an ideal place to gather with friends. Outside food is welcome, and there are a number of great locations in the neighborhood that offer take-out. In addition to the neighborhood cuisine, there is a front patio – a hot spot for food trucks offering delicious bites for customers to pair with their beer.

Apart from the pints and flights of craft beers, this open-air public house is also known for the street art which adorns the building. Here, alongside Miller’s angel wings, you can see antigirl’s Heart of Los Angeles and a haunting portrait from JR’s The Wrinkles of the City series.

Open seven days a week for tours and tastings, plus a full roster of weekly events, Angel City is one of the firm favorites among drinking spots in L.A., with the hours going late into the night. Just make sure to get here early, as weekend lines are no joke.
Art Share L.A.

2) Art Share L.A.

Art Share Los Angeles is a two-story, 28,000 square-foot art space located in a former textile recycling factory built in 1928. This creative center was established in 1997 when the building was purchased and its top floor converted into 30 affordable live/work lofts, with part of the roof removed to allow natural light to fall upon a courtyard. The bottom floor was redesigned to include a theater, art gallery, art and ceramic studios, classrooms, and administrative space. Despite the building’s drastic remodeling, there are still plenty of features reminding of its industrial past – brick walls, freight doors, and old train tracks in and around the building hinting at the storied history.

During the mid-1980s, this neighborhood was a beacon for struggling artists priced out of the increasingly expensive Venice and Hollywood areas. In need of large and affordable spaces, they saw great potential in the forgotten industrial buildings of downtown L.A.’s Arts District which rapidly re-gentrified with promises of new developments in 2015. In 2016, the Art Share building welcomed 7,000 visitors, exhibiting 181 emerging artists in its galleries, engaging a total of 550 visual artists, and established two new programs (the Perimeter Gallery and Your Art Here).

Pursuant to their objective of nurturing the wealth of local talent by providing emerging artists with a roadmap to find financial success and to gain exposure, Art Share L.A. underwent a strategic rebranding and reassessment, eventually acquiring a fresh new facade (courtesy of the international street artist, INSA), transforming their building into a vibrant downtown landmark.

In addition to 30 subsidized live/work studio lofts on the top floor, it accommodates community classes, exhibitions and events below. The reduced rent enables artists to have more financial flexibility to be creative and to invest more into their crafts, refining their talents.

The place caters to all ages, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographic origins (countywide, statewide, nationwide, and worldwide). If you ever decide to visit here, be sure to check in advance the calendar for poetry and performance art events, as well as the gallery calendar for current showings.
Architecture & Design Museum

3) Architecture & Design Museum

If you are an architecture buff, the Architecture and Design Museum, otherwise known as A+D Museum, is definitely your place. The only museum in Los Angeles dedicated to continuous architecture and design exhibitions, it was created to celebrate and promote awareness of architecture and design in everyday life and to fire interest of the public in what the greater Los Angeles area was like before and could become in the future. As a design think-tank and an all-inclusive information and education center for all things design, it features architecture, interior design, landscape design, fashion design, product design, graphic design, and film/theater design.

Every residential and commercial project from the past, present and the future is showcased here. Among the exhibits are short films, 3D models and interactive displays. One of the best parts is the Rethink Los Angeles section, where many architects reveal their ideas of how the city should look in the long-distant future. Another display of interest is the photos of Los Angeles from the late 19th century through the present day, allowing to see the city's evolution over the years towards the largest and most populated metropolis in California.

The museum was founded by Stephen Kanner and Bernard Zimmerman, the former of whom was inspired by a similar museum in Helsinki, Finland. The A+D Museum first opened its doors in January 2001 in the Bradbury Building, at 304 South Broadway, but then moved to a temporary location on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, after which it changed several locations in Wilshire Boulevard until finally returning to downtown L.A. to a warehouse-turned-museum in the Arts District in the summer of 2015.

A+D Museum is also home to the Stephen Kanner Education Center for Architecture and Design which partners with various organizations throughout the city to provide students with different opportunities for learning, growth and mentorship.

Operation Hours:
Wednesday-Friday: 11pm-8pm; Saturday-Sunday: 12pm-7pm

4) Bavel

Bavel is a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Arts District. Sitting on a quiet corner in an old warehouse that still looks a little like a construction site, it is slightly removed from most of the action. The restaurant showcases the cuisines of Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, though some critics characterize it as Israeli, paying tribute to its chef-owners’ heritages. Bavel was founded by an Israeli-American husband-and-wife team, for whom the name Bavel – the Modern Hebrew pronunciation of the biblical Babel – evokes a time when the Middle East was one because "Bavel is not specific to any one region."

The place is particularly well known for its hummus. Its Middle Eastern menu is mostly pumped-up versions of the classics, but the food isn’t quite traditional either. There’s hummus with duck ’nduja and foie gras with halva, and a lamb neck shawarma dish that’s so big it could be the only thing you order. Almost everything comes with some sort of pita, flatbread, or other carb vehicle to get food to your mouth, and all of them are fantastic. As a particular note, you should try their tagine.

The long and exciting menu – impossible to cover in a single visit – is livened up by the space itself, full of hanging from the ceiling vines that create sunny and party-like atmosphere even when you’re sitting down for your 10pm reservation, be it at the charcuterie counter, near the open kitchen or in one of the big round booths, or on a side patio that almost doubles the size of the restaurant.

Reputedly one of the most exciting restaurants in Los Angeles, this is the place that you don’t visit just once to get a portrait-mode photo before mentally crossing it off and moving on to the next one. Bavel is a restaurant that you will plot to return to again and again.

The restaurant has received positive reviews from critics both in L.A. and nationally, including The Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, Eater, Food & Wine, Los Angeles Magazine, and others. It has also been featured in The New York Times several times, The Boston Globe, and The Jerusalem Post, among others.
Zinc Cafe & Market

5) Zinc Cafe & Market

Zinc Cafe & Market is a coffee resort and an ovo-lacto vegetarian cafe. The place offers an all-day menu of Californian cuisine – ideal for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner – served in a peaceful patio garden setting. As a bonus, the on-site Bar Mateo, housed in a barn built in 1914, sitting behind a mature olive grove, offers a notable craft cocktail program and curated wine list that has been uniting, once again, writers and alcohol - the real L.A. power couple!

Great cocktails, dining al-fresco under the trees and pleasing aesthetics (exposed beams, natural light, and sprawling courtyard) makes this venue a true Arts District hotspot. This is where good coffee and tasty health-minded eats come together, and where is plenty of space for a whole acting class to crank out a screenplay together, hand in hand, never breaking an eye contact.

The place has been open since May 2014 offering a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of nearby downtown L.A. The modern retail marketplace has an abundance of prepared foods, such as salads, entrees, appetizers and desserts to enjoy at Zinc or take home.

In case you want to bring your favorite furball along to Zinc Cafe & Market, it has a dog-friendly policy and keeps the doors open to pooches. Weekend visitors to the restaurant are well advised to take advantage of the reservation system, as crowds tend to pack the place on Fridays and Saturdays. No need to dress up – the casual laid-back attire is welcome. A typical meal at Zinc Cafe & Market will set you back less than $30.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Wed 8:00am-10:00pm, Thu-Sat 8:00am-12:00am, Sun 8:00am-10:00pm. Open until midnight on weekdays, but the boozy weekend brunch, which is served until 2pm, is their specialty.
Guerrilla Tacos

6) Guerrilla Tacos

Guerrilla Tacos is a restaurant run by chef Wes Avila, the former taco truck owner who used to hit the streets of L.A. out of necessity – found between jobs and in need to make living. The success of his food truck enabled Avila to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2018 and eventually turned him into one of the most notable business owners in the Arts District in which Guerrilla Tacos never stops buzzing. Food-lovers flock here for the famous hamachi tostadas (topped with uni), vegetarian tacos, and killer mezcal margaritas.

The restaurant is located just a few blocks away from the original spot of Wes's cart. The truck has been fully retired now, but chef Wes never forgets where it all started - with $167 and a small taco cart.

Somehow the restaurant feels just like the old truck did - casual, with very friendly staff and fast service - except you’re sitting at a table instead of a gutter in Culver City. This is a big space with booths, a full bar, and an open kitchen that puts out food faster than streaming services release TV shows.

Despite fears that the food would lose its magic, the restaurant proved to be unmistakably Guerrilla, with an added bonus of incredible non-taco dishes that they probably couldn’t have pulled off in a truck.
Institute of Contemporary Art

7) Institute of Contemporary Art

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), formerly known as the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA), is a contemporary art museum. As an independent and non-collecting “kunsthalle” it exhibits the work of local, national, and international contemporary artists. Until May 2015, the museum was based at the Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica. In May 2016, the venue announced an official name change to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA) and its relocation to Los Angeles's downtown Arts District, where it reopened to the public in September 2017.

The Institute is an epicenter of artistic experimentation and incubator of new ideas. Its 12,700 square-foot renovated industrial building — designed by wHY Architecture under the leadership of Kulapat Yantrasast — features ample space for exhibitions, public programs, retail pop-ups, integrated offices, and special projects.

Missioned to support art sparking the pleasure of discovery and challenges the way we see and experience the world, ICA LA is committed to upending hierarchies of race, class, gender, and culture, and to making the contemporary art relevant and accessible for all.

You can't miss the neat, little yellow building, located in the somewhat rough, southern part of the Arts District. Unlike many new museums, ICA is much cozier and more low-key. At the entry, you'll be greeted by the welcome desk to one side and the arts and crafts area to the other. There is only one main exhibition room at the ICA and one side exhibition.

In addition to great contemporary art exhibits, the venue boats spiffy new interior with pink bathrooms! They also have a great bookstore with lots of interesting literature. Admission is free.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

8) Row DTLA

Housed in the former American Apparel manufacturing facility, the ROW DTLA is a massive development with offices, restaurants, shops, bars, and events spaces. The complex at Seventh and Alameda was built between 1917 and 1923 along the Southern Pacific Railroad and opened as the Los Angeles Terminal Mart. Today, DTLA is one of L.A.’s hippest hotspots, still continuing to take shape, transforming 32 acres into an all-encompassing iconic destination. This growing collective of globally recognized shops, restaurants and offices are spread over six buildings to create their own unique L.A. Environment.

Upon completion, ROW DTLA will feature more than 100 unique stores, restaurants, and 1.3 Million square feet of workspaces, including creative offices, rooftop decks and event venues that overlook the downtown Los Angeles city skyline.

Each Sunday, the complex hosts Smorgasburg, a popular weekly street-food festival with some of the best artisan eats in the city. Smorgasburg started in 2016 and quickly became L.A.’s largest destination for exciting local food, lifestyle vendors and artisans to create an unforgettable market at ROW DTLA. Cultural events, themed pop-ups, and other surprises keep it fresh each week. Vendors are open Sunday only, from 10am to 4pm.

In 2018 ROW DTLA launched their own farmers market, called POP Produce. Running from Summer to Fall, it features fresh produce, food trucks and DJ sets within the restaurants and retailers ROW has to offer on their private street, Market Row. Catering to all ages and dietary preferences, be it vegan, vegetarian or carnivore, it puts a fresh spin on Farmers Markets in Los Angeles by blending the historical produce market with the energy and vibes of the new downtown L.A. Arts District. The 7th Street Produce Market boasts over 80 vendors open to restaurants, chefs and the general public Monday through Saturday from 12 midnight – 12 noon.

Also at ROW DTLA you can find some of the most artful bento boxes outside Japan (at Hayato), a sophisticated caffeine fix (at Go Get Em Tiger), and gluten-free karaage (at Pikunico). For shopping, there's the homegrown design boutique Poketo, Still Life Ceramics, and legendary sneaker shop Bodega (hidden speakeasy-style behind a false loading dock for an imaginary bodega) among others.

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