Los Angeles is a place of self-reinvention, where the new swallows the old and in an instant is reborn of entirely new characters. One of few exceptions, refreshingly, is the white-hot Arts District. Nestled deep in a corner of downtown, the city’s manufacturing history is meaningfully apparent the moment you step foot in the neighborhood. Full of old industrial buildings and warehouses that have retained their charm (including the original Ford plant, where from 1912 to 1929 the Model T was manufactured), the area is now home to swanky lofts amid destination dining, world-class art, and stylish specialty shopping. It’s the perfect place to spend a weekend immersing yourself in L.A.’s industrial roots, a great walkable community, and elevated culture.
Stay at the Firehouse Hotel, a recent addition to the neighborhood that’s already captivated design aficionados across the country. An operating firehouse from 1927 to 1980, the independent boutique hotel is equal parts refined and bizarre, a mix of 1940s swank and 1970s gauche decadence with suites and spaces broken up by color scheme. It’s decorated with lots of independent local design wares, plus houses an enormous restaurant and bar, so it is tempting to spend the entire weekend in the whimsical yet approachable hotel. There’s lots to be seen, though, so pry yourself out of one of the plush lounge chairs and get into the wide open of the rest of the neighborhood.
Photo courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles/Facebook
Enjoy unexpected moments of artistic surprise at Hauser & Wirth, one of the gallery’s nine worldwide locations, with 20 acres of sprawling exhibition halls dedicated to contemporary and modern masters; an excellent bookshop; community garden and workshop space; curious gift shop; and, last but not at all least, elevated all-day dining at Manuela, a rustic-modern space occupying the hidden courtyard.
Alternately, for a more rigorous and focused day of artistic contemplation, head to the A+D Museum for an education in progressive architecture and design. Or if you’re looking for a little more of the frivolity unique to L.A., use our handy guide to spend a day at revitalized mixed-use multiplex the Row.
If you haven’t planned in advance, destination restaurants Bestia and Bavel are most likely totally booked, and, sure, you can stand in line right at opening time and try to get a table. But for a more relaxed experience that’s just as delicious, hit up Nightshade for inventive and cheeky dishes in verdant, plush surrounds. Expect Asian flavors and quirky comfort food: The mapo tofu lasagna is quickly becoming a signature dish; otherwise try green tomatoes with Persian cucumbers and gwaimei dressing, or a Szechuan take on Nashville hot chicken on Japanese milk bread.
Chic and rather spacious, Bon Temps includes industrial nods to its former life as the Heinz (yes, like the ketchup) loading dock, plus views into the kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the patio. Chef Lincoln Carson may have a pastry background, but his savory menu—raw bar specialties, canapés like chicken liver gougères, steak tartare with chicharrón crisps, and grilled prime rib eye carved tableside—is equally enticing.
You can’t throw a piece of pepperoni without hitting a slice of pizza around here, but the spot you really want is Sixth and Mill, which shares the team behind Italian favorites Factory Kitchen and Officine Brera. This handsome spot specializes in beautifully bubbly Neapolitan-style pizzas made by real Italians. Small plates like salads and pastas and meatballs fill the menu, but trying to figure out if the Margherita is better than the white pie is way more fun. Bonus: Cocktails and wines are excellent. Late at night, get in line at Wurstküche, the most stylish sausage house this side of Germany, where you’ll find exotic meats and gourmet vegan options alongside craft brews and some of the best fries in town.
Enter Lupetti Pizzeria and walk through the unmarked door to the right—you’re now in hidden gem In Sheep’s Clothing, a hi-fi listening lounge and record bar inspired by the Japanese kissaten. Equipped with the cream of the crop in hi-fi equipment, it’s the slow movement answer to digital distortion and distraction, a cozy minimalist concept with imaginative yet restrained cocktails, Japanese ales, and specialty coffees, where cell phone use is not the most welcome but human interaction definitely is.