Local Gems: Discover the Heart of Los Angeles

Food, art, architecture, and numerous LA landmarks dot the 6 mile CicLAvia—Heart of LA Celebrating UCLA100 route. You’ll find points of interest everywhere, but we’re highlighting a select few that you won’t want to miss.

Civic Center Hub

Towering at 32 floors is Los Angeles City Hall, the 91-year old center of LA government. Fun fact: The concrete in its tower was made with sand from each of California's 58 counties and water from its 21 historical missions. The observation deck is open (and free!) M-F, but on Sunday pull up a pink chair in Grand Park and enjoy the view from the ground. The park itself is host to periodic art installations, and home to the Court of Historic American Flags, memorials to the Vietnam War and Ukrainian genocide, and a statue of George Washington.

Grand Park leads up to a row of cultural points on Grand Avenue, including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, and the (newly renovated) $41 million Music Center Plaza.

The Civic Center Hub sits by the art deco Los Angeles Times Building, the United States Courthouse – Los Angeles (designed to look like a floating cube), the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters (recognizable from movies and TV), and the LAPD Headquarters (which has a small park and several pieces of art in its accessible courtyard).

Outside the LAPD, you can see sixbeaststwomonkeys,” a sculpture installation by Peter Shelton that runs down Spring Street from 1st Street. Across from the LAPD building you can get a photo under the Sister Cities of Los Angeles street sign, pointing the way to Jakarta, Athens, San Salvador, Lusaka, Giza and others.

The Olympics Mural at Broadway and 2nd has special significance for CicLAvia: it was during a 2017 ride that board member Valerie Brisco-Hooks gestured towards the famous depiction and confided, “that’s me.” At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Valerie became the first person to ever win Olympic gold medals in the 200- and 400-meter races, and the 4 x 400 relay, and the first woman to run the 400 meters in under 50 seconds. Now she’s immortalized in a towering mural.

One of the first movie palaces built in the US, the Million Dollar Theater (which is no longer open) is now 101 years old and still a captivating sight in the Broadway Theater District. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places - and always delivers a great Instagram shot.

Heading to MacArthur Park

The Bradbury Building is one of the most iconic works of architecture in the country. You may recognize it from the films Blade Runner and (500) Days of Summer. It’s one of four office buildings in LA to be designated a National Historic Landmark. It’s free to the public, and open from 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday.

Grand Central Market is a multicultural smorgasbord of food stops and cafes (37 and counting) that backs into the Angel’s Flight Railway via its opposite Hill Street exit. Be sure to note the gold silhouette banners in front, a tribute to the late LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold (the first food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize) who passed away in 2018.

Across the street from Grand Central Market is the Biddy Mason Memorial Park. It’s easy to miss, wedged between Macceroni Republic and a parking garage, but it’s absolutely worth stepping into this monument full of artwork, inscriptions, and embedded objects that tell the remarkable story of a former slave whose generosity helped shape early Los Angeles.

Broadway is lined with public art and architecture, from the Los Angeles Theater down to Clifton’s Cafeteria. When you stop by Clifton’s for the turn at 7th & Broadway, take a look at the intricate Sidewalk Terrazzo (designed by artist Arthur Pizzinat) depicting missions, orange groves, City Hall, Griffith Observatory, and other Los Angeles icons.

The Spring Arcade, publicized as a “city within a city” when it opened in 1925, is now a dining destination with restaurants like Garçons de Café and Guisados.

Stop by St. Vincent’s Court, an oft-missed, hidden breezeway that cuts underneath on 7th Street just a block north of Broadway, to get the Instagram photos that everyone else will miss. And up 7th Street you can find restaurants, bars, and shopping destinations, from the Brack Shop and Little Sister to the large shopping complex The Bloc.

LA’s tallest building (thanks to its spire) is the Intercontinental Hotel / Wilshire Grand, which boasts the highest open-air bar in the western hemisphere known as Spire 73, and the ground-floor art installation Screen by Korean artist Do Ho Suh - which is free and accessible to the public.

Also along this route you’ll find architectural gems like the Mayfair Hotel (newly renovated) and the Italian Renaissance-inspired Roosevelt Building.

The MacArthur Park hub itself sports a beautiful urban park, with scattered memorials (including one to the eponymous General MacArthur), sculptures, recreation centers, a fountain and a massive lake fed by natural springs. It’s a perfect place to relax and find some serenity during or at the end of your CicLAvia experience.

It’s also home to Levitt Pavilion, the public space that hosts 50 free outdoor concerts every year where attendants bring their own foldout chairs and picnic meals.

Heading to Chinatown

An imposing presence along Broadway towards Chinatown is the Hall of Justice, the oldest surviving government building in the LA Civic Center. In front (visible just down Temple Street) is Embodied,” a bronze statue described by artist Alison Saar as a “figure of grace and virtue to represent the spirit of justice.”

A block south (just off-route) lie Olvera Street and the El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument, a historic plaza featuring statues of King Carlos III of Spain, Felipe de Neve, and Junípero Serra.

As you pass Cesar Chavez Avenue you’ll cross under ornamented gate arches to officially enter Chinatown. You’ll find abundant Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants inside the Far East Plaza - a favorite dining spot of Jonathan Gold.

A number of businesses and organizations integrate Chinese history into their architecture, including the Southern California Teo Chew Association, a cultural center used by students at UCLA.

For those who come by rail, the colorful Chinatown Metro Station will certainly get the attention of any first-time visitor. The design is stunning, and it features several pieces of art in and around the station (such as the feng shui spiral artwork Wheels of Change).

Another block off-route is the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a 34-acre open space filled with orange trees, public art, and a mile-long run/walk trail.

Old Chinatown Central Plaza is a unique pedestrian mall that’s home to merchants and curio shops you won’t find anywhere else (without a passport, that is). In the center is a 5’ statue to Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic.

Heading to Mariachi Plaza

The Arts District of Los Angeles is regularly visited by tourists looking to capture Instagram selfies with angel wings and other street art, and is home to new businesses, restaurants, breweries and working spaces.

The Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo covers 130 years of Japanese American history. In front sits Oomo Cube,” a Rubik's Cube sculpture with photographic panels and internal lighting; artist Nicole Maloney used the OOMO shorthand for “Out of Many, One.” The museum is open on Sundays from 11 am – 5 pm, and admission is $6-12, however on October 6 the museum is hosting its free 11th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique.

Nearby are the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial, as well as a memorial to the Challenger and the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

Public art and murals line 4th street, from a mix of street artists from across Los Angeles and some from around the world, including several pieces from Starfightera.

Passing by SCI-Arc, the avant-garde Southern California Institute of Architecture, reveals “League of Shadows,” P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’s large, obscured black structure at the corner of its parking lot.

The 4th Street Bridge is another oft-used filming location, and it’s easy to see why. The art deco icon was built in 1931 and provides open views of the Los Angeles skyline.

The bridge crosses over the Metro Division 20 Station, where a widening and turnback project is being implemented to improve travel times on Metro’s Red and Purple lines.

Mariachi Plaza is the epicenter of mariachi music in the US, and since the 1930s it has been used by musicians (bands and solo acts) as a place to find a new gig. The kiosk in the center was donated by the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Across the street, the Victorian-era “Queen Anne” style Boyle Hotel is a cultural landmark that has transformed into an affordable housing building. It was built the same year the Los Angeles streetcar went into service; now it sits across the Mariachi Plaza Metro station.

Whether this is your first time or you’re a route expert (or anywhere in between), CicLAvia—Heart of LA Celebrating UCLA100 offers sights and tucked away gems you may never have noticed before. Discover them on October 6!