El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk, Los Angeles

El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk (Self Guided), Los Angeles

El Pueblo is the oldest district in Los Angeles, centered on the old plaza, once the city's administrative and commercial center under the Spanish (1781–1821), Mexican (1821–1847), and United States (after 1847) rule through most of the 19th century. On this self guided walk, you will have a chance to explore the birthplace of Los Angeles and, with a short detour to the nearby Little Tokyo, experience the vibrant Japanese culture right in the heart of L.A.
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El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk Map

Guide Name: El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles (See other walking tours in Los Angeles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: ashley
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Los Angeles Plaza
  • Avila Adobe
  • Olvera Street
  • Old Plaza Firehouse
  • Pico House
  • LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
  • Merced Theater
  • Japanese American National Museum
  • Japanese Village Plaza
  • Sushi Gen Restaurant
Los Angeles Plaza

1) Los Angeles Plaza

Los Angeles Plaza is the central point of the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District and the birthplace of the city. Felipe de Neve, the Spanish Governor of the Californias who selected the site and laid out the town of Pueblo de Los Ángeles, wanted the plaza to be the geographical center for his newly founded town.

De Neve's plaza, as was originally known, was rectangular in form — 75 yard wide by 100 in length. Built in the 1820s, the plaza was the city's commercial and social center. It remains the site of many festivals and celebrations. The plaza has large statues of three important figures in the city's history: King Carlos III of Spain, the monarch who ordered the founding of the Pueblo de Los Ángeles in 1780; Felipe de Neve, the Spanish Governor of the Californias who selected the site of the Pueblo and laid out the town; and Junípero Serra, founder and first head of the Alta California missions.

In addition to this, the plaza is dedicated to commemorating the original forty-four settlers (Los Pobladores), and the four soldiers who accompanied them. A large plaque listing their names was erected in the plaza, and later plaques dedicated to the eleven individual families were placed in the ground encircling the gazebo in the center of the plaza.

The plaza has a family friendly atmosphere with a perpetual buzz about it. There’s color, culture, entertainment, and food. There’s always something happening here – to watch, to listen, to savour.
Avila Adobe

2) Avila Adobe

If you would like to know how the rich lived in Los Angeles in the 19th century, do visit the Ávila Adobe on Olvera Street. As the oldest residence still standing in Los Angeles, it is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monuments. It was built in 1818 by Francisco Ávila, a wealthy cattle rancher, as a weekend and holiday home. He entertained friends here and traded his hides and tallow for fine furniture and the building’s wooden window and door frames.

The walls, built out of adobe bricks that had been sundried, are three feet thick. Once the floors were of hard-packed earth, but later varnished wooden planks were added. The ceilings are over 15ft high with cottonwood beams and the large rooms have many windows.

After Francisco Ávila’s death, his widow lived in the house until her death and it passed on to her children. Between 1868 and 1920 it was used as a restaurant and a bed and board. The area was a poor one and in 1926 the City Health Department decided to demolish the house. Luckily for history fans, an Englishwoman, Christine Sterling, who was interested in the city’s historical heritage, started a public campaign to save the building. Private donations flooded in from all around the city and the building was restored. The police department organized the prisoners of the county jail into work-groups and they cleaned up the surrounding plaza, turning it into a Mexican-style market-place.

Today only seven rooms remain of the original, larger house. They are open to the public as a house museum furnished as they would have been in Adobe’s time. You can see a four-poster bed, the family dining area, children’s ragdolls and, in the kitchen, an enormous washtub for bathing.

Why You Should Visit:
To see/imagine how life was back in the 19th century in this neighborhood, especially since most other houses have turned into shops/restaurants.

The house/museum is free to the public and the public restroom is an added bonus.
You can see the whole place in 10 mins if you walk around, but take some time to also read the description on the wall.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4pm
Olvera Street

3) Olvera Street (must see)

Olvera Street (Calle Olvera or Placita Olvera) is a historic district in downtown Los Angeles, and a part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. Los Angeles was officially founded in 1781, Olvera Street obtained its current name in 1877. Many of the Plaza District's Historic Buildings are on Olvera Street, as well as some of the oldest Los Angeles monuments including the Avila Adobe built in 1818, Pelanconi House built in 1857, and the Sepulveda House built in 1887. The tree-shaded, pedestrian mall marketplace with craft shops, restaurants and roving troubadours is a popular tourist destination. The street has been described as a "Top Five" in the "Great Streets of America" journal.

There is also a Visitors Center where tourists can appreciate the complimentary screening of a film which depicts early life in Los Angeles.

Why You Should Visit:
If you want a taste of Mexico, this is the place to be.
Could be the closest thing to real Mexico one can experience!
Old Plaza Firehouse

4) Old Plaza Firehouse

The Old Plaza Firehouse is the oldest fire station in the city of Los Angeles, built in 1884. It is located near Olvera Street in the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District. It was placed as a California Historical Landmark No. 730 on April 8, 1960.

Designed by local architect William A. Boring (the City paid him $160.75 for his drawings), and built in 1884, it operated as a firehouse until 1897. The building was thereafter used as a saloon, cigar store, poolroom, "seedy hotel", Chinese market, "flop house", and drugstore. The building was restored in the 1950s and opened as a firefighting museum in 1960.

The Plaza Firehouse Museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm. The museum features helmets, photos, and firefighting equipment of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum is small and charges no admission fee. Even for casual uninformed visitors, the museum makes for a interesting journey through the evolution of firefighting.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Pico House

5) Pico House

Pico House was a luxury hotel built in 1870 by Pio Pico, a successful businessman who was the last Mexican Governor of Alta California. With indoor plumbing, gas-lit chandeliers, a grand double staircase, lace curtains, and a French restaurant, the Italianate three-story, 33-room hotel was the most elegant hotel in Southern California and its opening was cause for much celebration.

Its time in the spotlight did not last very long. By 1876, the Southern Pacific Railroad had linked the city with the rest of the country and more residents and businessmen began pouring in. Pio Pico himself started having financial troubles, and lost the hotel to the San Francisco Savings and Loan Company. The business center of the city began to move south and, by 1900, the condition of the building began to decline and it was operated as a lodging house until it was acquired by the El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument. The building was renovated and restored to its former glory and is once again the most magnificent building in El Pueblo and a California Historical Landmark.

Today Pico House lives on and continues to be sought after for special exhibits and events as well as for commercial use.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes

6) LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, also called LA Plaza is a Mexican-American museum and cultural center that opened in April 2011. The museum contains interactive exhibits designed by experience design expert Tali Krakowsky such as a reconstruction of a 1920s Main Street. The museum shares the stories of the history, cultures, values, and traditions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and all Latinos in Los Angeles and Southern California. The museum programs include exhibitions, educational programs, and public programming.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Merced Theater

7) Merced Theater

Built in 1870, Merced Theater is the oldest surviving theater building in Los Angeles. It was built by cabinetmaker, William Abbot, who named the theater after his wife, Merced Garcia. William Abbot's parents came from Switzerland and Abbot married Maria Merced Garcia who grew up in El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Merced Theater is built in a brick Victorian Italianate style. Merced Theater was designed by Ezra F. Kysor who also designed the Pico House next door. On the first floor, it housed the Abbott's furniture store, the theater was on the second floor and Abbott's family's living space was on the top floor.

Merced Theater offered live theater from January 30, 1871 to 1876 - it was the center of Los Angeles theatrical activity during that period. When the Woods Opera House opened nearby in 1876, and there was an outbreak of smallpox in Merced Theater and Merced ceased being the city's leading theater. The Merced closed in 1877 and was used for informal entertainment events.

Today Merced Theater stands quietly in the center of Los Angeles Historic Park reminding visitors the past glory it once had. Merced Theater was designated a California Historic Landmark on March 6, 1935.
Japanese American National Museum

8) Japanese American National Museum

The Japanese American National Museum (全米日系人博物館, Zenbei Nikkeijin Hakubutsukan) is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans. Founded in 1992, it is located in the Little Tokyo area near downtown. The museum is an affiliate within the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

The museum covers more than 130 years of Japanese-American history, dating to the first Issei generation of immigrants. Its moving image archive contains over 100,000 feet (30,000 m) of 16 mm and 8 mm home movies made by and about Japanese Americans from the 1920s to the 1950s. It also contains artifacts, textiles, art, photographs, and oral histories of Japanese Americans. The Japanese American National Museum of Los Angeles and the Academy Film Archive collaborate to care for and provide access to home movies that document the Japanese-American experience. Established in 1992, the JANM Collection at the Academy Film Archive currently contains over 250 home movies and continues to grow.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Japanese Village Plaza

9) Japanese Village Plaza

The Japanese Village Plaza is charming little plaza located roughly in the center of Little Tokyo in downtown LA. There are an array of Japanese food, beer, sake, and mochi ice cream that can be found in the Japanese restaurants and grocery stores in the plaza. There are also a number of shops geared towards tourists and a beautiful small temple (Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple).
Sushi Gen Restaurant

10) Sushi Gen Restaurant

Sushi Gen Restaurant is a Japanese food restaurant located in Little Tokyo. It opened its door in 1980 and has been a local favorite since that time. If you would like to sample authentic Japanese cuisine, Sushi Gen is the cloest thing to being in Tokyo. A table in the restaurent often has to be booked a week in advanced, but it worth the wait. If you without reservation, you may get lucky with a seat at the bar.

The menu is big and rather daunting if you are new to Japanese food, but the friendly staff there will gladly assist with your questions. Try sushi there, you will not regret.

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