Around Town: Day Trip to Downtown L.A.

♫ ♪♩ “Downtown” by Petula Clark ♩♪♫

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for youI love that song. It always cheers me up when I hear it. I lived and/or worked in downtown L.A. for many years and downtown is definitely one of my places I go when I need some cheering up. The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough for all of us, so yesterday I decided that my son and I needed a day downtown to cheer us up.One night last week, my husband, son and I were out running errands. E had been cranky from getting his molars poking through, but seemed otherwise fine. I had him on my chest in the babycarrier while we were running errands, hoping he would take a nap. The teething pain had been pretty extreme so he had gone almost an entire week without a nap longer than five minutes. When we got home, he looked flushed and dazed. I felt his forehead and he was suddenly burning up. We took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees F. My husband and I went into panic mode. We quickly gave E some infant acetaminophen and got into the car to head to the emergency room. The E.R. doctor said that it looked like he had roseola, and the fever should be better in a few days. I was so scared that the doctor was wrong and perhaps something more serious was wrong, like perhaps he had somehow gotten meningitis like I had last year. Sure enough, a few days after our E.R. trip, the fever broke and E broke out in a rash, just as predicted. I was incredibly relieved.The teething situation was unfortunately still not getting better though. It seemed like the poor little guy was just miserable, and getting all of the molars cutting through at once seemed to be just way more than he could handle. We had a few nights where none of us got any sleep because E was screaming in pain all night, no matter what my husband and I tried. I knew it was his teeth bothering him since months ago, we started the “point at what is bothering you” game every time he starts crying. I started to get concerned that perhaps he had an infection in his gums or something. Yesterday, I took him in to see a pediatric dentist who assured me that he was okay, just in an extreme amount of pain (apparently it is not that common to get all of the molars all at the same time).After we left the dentist’s office, I wanted to take E to do something fun. We had both been cooped up in the house for days and were going stir crazy. He still has a bit left of his roseola rash, and although he should not be contagious anymore, I did not want to bring him anywhere with other kids (roseola is primarily only contagious to people ages three and under). Downtown Los Angeles seemed like the perfect adventure. He could sit back and people watch, be entertained, and stay occupied without exerting himself. I was hoping the day trip would keep him distracted enough to keep the screaming at bay. Thankfully, it did the trick. I am grateful that we are only a half hour’s drive from downtown (during non-rush hour times). It is always fun to spend a day there.I apologize in advance for all of the cell phone pictures. I wanted to take pictures of our adventure, but I did not want to juggle a cranky toddler and my big camera. E and I started out going to Grand Central Market. I have actually never been inside of Grand Central Market, but decided to check it out since I have seen a lot of pictures posted lately about it on social media.  I could not find any organic produce like I would have hoped to find, but there were a lot of cute little places that would make some nice lunch/dinner options. I love the new little street parkettes in downtown, like the one in front of Grand Central in the photo below. The city carved out sections of the asphalt, replaced it with outdoor flooring, and put in adorable little cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas and big planters of succulents. They are in various areas of downtown, and free for use for the public. Such a great update for the city!

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Next we went to The Last Bookstore. I love this place, and books always cheer up my little guy. This is seriously the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. The last time I was there, somehow I did not notice this little vault room filled with vintage books. It is tucked behind the children’s book area. I suppose since I was pre-baby the last time I went there, I was not paying too much attention to the children’s book department. 🙂

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My little bookworm always loves looking at new books! Poor little guy is extra skinny right now from being sick. 😦 His head appears to have had another growth spurt though, despite being sick. 🙂 aliciainwonderlandblog
Then we happened to find a nice little park in the middle of downtown, even with a nice little play area for kids!
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Since E had his first trip to the dentist, I thought it would be fun to show him where his great-great-grandfather had his dentist’s office. E is a fifth generation Angeleno…my family (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides) has been here since the late 1800’s! I love our family history in this city. 🙂 The Bradbury Building is one of those amazing places that everyone needs to go check out. The last time I went in there was a really fun day, when my mom and my grandma came to visit me downtown after I got out of work. My grandma showed us around some of the historic buildings, and reminisced about visiting her dad at work in the Bradbury Building, ditching school by taking a red car to go see a movie in one of the old theaters, lunch at Cliftons, and more. My grandma was the best.

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I used to joke that Urban Outfitters should rename themselves Suburban Outfitters since all of their SoCal stores were initially only in the suburbs (that used to drive me nuts when I was in college and wanted to shop there more often). Look at them, proving me wrong! I get so happy every time I see one of the old historic theaters being put to use. It would have made my grandma happy to see them being used again.
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Many memories of working here, running across that bridge on my lunch break to check out some Friday sample sales. 🙂
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This Zara used to be the Ann Taylor where I worked for years while in college. Nothing against Ann Taylor (I loved working there and it was great shopping for the women who work in the financial district), but this newly revamped 7th & Fig shopping mall is such a great use of space. When I was in fashion school, I actually did a project about how the space could be redesigned to improve traffic (the mall was nearly vacant for a while). Given the proximity to USC, FIDM, LA Trade Tech College, and a few others, the area was in high need for a shopping center that catered to college students. I was really surprised when I walked past the mall and saw a sign that said “Welcome back USC students”, as well as the new H&M and Zara. It looks like the mall executives finally caught on and livened the place up a bit. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog
This is just one of my favorite buildings downtown. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have said living in a cool building like this with my cat Fluffy. 🙂 aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Every time I go downtown, I am excited about all of the improvements continuously being made. It is finally starting to feel like a “real” city. In my mind, based on all of the major cities I have been to, a vibrant city center should have the following things:
1. Excellent public transportation.
2. Ample shopping, including grocery stores, a variety of clothing stores, a big box store like Target, and more.
3. Coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
4. Movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.
5. Areas to sit an enjoy a cup coffee or just relax for a minute and people watch.
6. Accessible public restrooms.
7. Handicapped accessibility.

For many years, downtown L.A. was lacking in most of the categories on my list except for the public transportation category. DTLA’s public transportation is highly underrated, and I am speaking from experience. If you live and work near downtown, or the surrounding areas (as far away as Hollywood), you can easily exist without a car in Los Angeles. I did for about 10 years. The subway is so fast and clean, and the LADOT Dash buses were my favorite, with a variety of routes downtown.

In the past few years, DTLA has made some amazing improvements in items number 2 through 5 on my list. I am so happy with the changes! There are just two more areas that I feel could still use a bit of improvement: restrooms and handicapped accessibility. Most of the businesses downtown do not have public restrooms, so if you are visiting the area and need to go, you are usually out of luck. A major goal of any city should be to increase spending (especially from visitors and tourists). It is difficult to spend any decent amount of time downtown when you can’t find a restroom. The first time I was in London 16 years ago, there were permanent public restroom booths on the street that were self-cleaning. They were pay per use and it is such a brilliant concept. If the Brits could implement such innovative technology to improve their city (almost two decades ago!), surely we are capable of doing the same now, right L.A.? Furthermore, if the restroom booths were big enough for a mom and a stroller, you would encourage a whole new demographic to come shop downtown! I saw one public restroom booth at Pershing Square, so at least that is a step in the right direction!

Which brings me to the other area needing serious improvement: handicapped accessibility. I haven’t spent much time downtown with my stroller before yesterday, but it brought some issues to my attention. The handicapped ramps on the curb are so infrequent and sporadic. There is a ramp often on one side of the street but not the other. Seriously, how is this even acceptable? How are disabled people in wheelchairs navigating these sidewalks of downtown? I honestly do not get it.

If the city could just make those two more changes, it would be darn near perfect. Thank you to our city leaders and planners for working so hard on making downtown better and more beautiful. The new improved downtown makes me proud to be a 4th generation Angeleno! I even noticed a significant change in the attitude of people downtown now. In previous years, any time anyone said much of anything to me downtown, I got nervous that I was about to get mugged again (it happened a couple of times unfortunately). I grew anxious and worried all the time. However, yesterday, it felt like the whole attitude of the city had changed with the revitalization. Strangers smiled and said hello, and opened doors for each other. I was initially afraid to go downtown with my son, my nice stroller, sparkly wedding rings, etc. Since I had a few scary experiences when I didn’t have any of those, I was a bit nervous to go spend much time downtown now. I am so happy to say that for the first time, downtown felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place. I encourage other moms to bring their kids out for a visit downtown too! Thank you to all of the LAPD officers that I saw all around the streets, keeping our city safe! I don’t know what kind of changes you have made lately, but I definitely noticed a difference.

One last funny story in closing…last year when I got sick with meningitis, my husband took me to urgent care initially. The only urgent care open at that time of night was in DTLA. He assumed he would not need to use GPS since I usually know the grid of downtown streets like the back of my hand. When we pulled off the freeway, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: Where do I turn? Which way is Olympic?
Me: I don’t know! You just exited the freeway into the Twilight Zone!
Husband: What are you talking about?!
Me: I have no idea where we are! Nothing looks familiar! Why don’t you use the darn GPS?
Husband: I assumed I wouldn’t need it since you used to know the area so well!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. Downtown was not pretty and sparkly when I was here all the time so as far as I’m concerned, we may have just driven to a foreign country. 🙂

For the record, I had a viral infection in my brain making me loopy, but downtown really has undergone quite an amazing transformation in the past few years. 🙂

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