Lila’s Guide to LA

Here’s my guide to LA, particularly downtown, for those attending the RT conference.

The Westin Bonaventure is in the business side of downtown. After 5pm there’s no a lot happening unless you know where to look. This also means you shouldn’t be wandering aimlessly. If you get mugged I’m going to say I told you so. Seriously.


There’s food inside the hotel, including small (bad, in my opinion) mall foodcourt type places on the second and third floors of the lobby. There’s a restaurant on the first floor, a bar, and a coffee bar in the center. There’s also a fancy rotating restaurant at the top of the main tower. This is the restaurant in Red Ribbon. I almost died laughing when I saw where RT was going to be. Maybe I can get them to put out fliers for the book. Yeaaaaaaaa.

I’m not going to go into the hotel’s food too much, since RT itself has details on their website.

505/525 S. Flower:

Across 5th street, south of the hotel, are the two massive black towers. On the sublevel of the buildings is a great lunchtime food complex. They have higher-end grab and go places, my 24 hour fitness (for those who need to get their gym on) dry cleaners, a GNC etc. Pretty much everything you’d expect from a complex located under two high-rises holding major law and accounting firms.

If you have special diet needs or want healthier options, this is the place to come for LUNCH. Only one place is open for dinner. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • Lemonade Café‎ – I’d recommend getting the two portion salad, split, so you get to try four things. The soups are excellent also.
  • Saffron Restaurant – A great, quick Indian place.
  • Weiland Brewery – This place just opened, and I haven’t been there yet. I’ll call to check on the happy hour the week before and update this post. They are open for dinner.
  • Famima – great for grocery items
  • These are just a few of the stores there. There’s plenty more.

How to get there:Follow signs in the hotel lobby to exit onto Flower Street. Turn right. Cross 5th street. Look for the small gold structure on the corner covering a set of stairs and escalators. Take these. You’re there!

Union Bank Plaza

West of the hotel, across Flower Street, is Union Bank Plaza. This two story open plaza has a starbucks, a little greek place and one of the three Border Grill Restaurants. Those who follow celeb chefs might recognize the owners: Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales”. Previously this place was Ciudad, but it didn’t do well.

Border Grill: good, smallish portions, and you can say you ate in a celeb restaurant. If you want something AMAZING going to Susan Feniger’s Street in Hollywood, get the Kaya Toast, you’ll die.

How to get there: Follow signs for the Figueroa Street Exit to the hotel. Or, look for the sunset. Cross the street. Done.

Fun stuff to do

The Fashion District

The Fashion District, particularly Santee Alley is a place you need to go. It’s loud, it’s overwhelming and it’s one of the cooler things to do in LA that normally tourists don’t do. Want to know why it’s important? Read this

How to get there: Exit the hotel on the FIGUEROA STREET side. Turn left. Walk 3 blocks to 7th Street.

You need to be on the SOUTH WEST corner of the street. No compass app? This is the only corner where there isn’t a big building. It’s the corner with a sign that says 7th/Fig and there’s a steak house and usually a line of taxi’s.

Look for a bus sign for Dash Route E. Board this bus. The fare is 35c. Get off the bus at Los Angeles and Olympic (or just tell the bus driver where you’re going and they’ll tell you when to get off.)

Walk two blocks east (look for the big blob of people) and you’re at the start of Santee Alley. On the return trip get off the bus at 7th and Flower streets and walk north three blocks. You’ll arrive on the other side of the hotel.

Bus info:

Other awesome places to look for around the fashion district are the wholesale only stores, where you’ll see stuff that will be in Macy’s in 6 months and the Quinceañera dress stores.

Santee Alley:

Olvera Street

Olvera Street is one of the original streets in LA, and the best place to get a feel for LA’s Hispanic roots. They’re in the process of opening a museum there all about the Latina and Latino influence in LA. Olvera street is a quick trip from the hotel via train.

How to get there: Exit the hotel on the FIGUEROA STREET side. Turn left. Walk 3 blocks to 7th Street. Look for a set of escalators going down. There will be signs saying “7th street metro center” Purchase a $1.50 ticket from the kiosk and follow the sign for the train headed to UNION STATION. It will be on the lower platform.

Take the train to it’s last stop. This will take about 3 minutes.

Once off the train follow everyone else up the steps. When you arrive on the main level of Union station turn RIGHT and head down the long hall (do not go upstairs towards the light). You pass Amtrack and commuter trains, eventually coming out on the other side of the station. Cross the street, go up the little incline and you’ll be at the plaza at one end of Olvera street.

Reverse this process to get back.


Hollywood, the physical place, is a stretch of Hollywood Blvd between Vine and Highland. This is easily accessible from the trains. Sunset/Vine, one block south of Hollywood/Vine has some great restaurants, a Borders that didn’t close and the Arclight Theater, which is the only place I can guarantee you’d see a celebrity, assuming you know how to spot them. Close to Arclight is Amoeba Music, which is a huge, independent music store.

How to get there: Exit the hotel on the FIGUEROA STREET side. Turn left. Walk 3 blocks to 7th Street. Look for a set of escalators going down. There will be signs saying “7th street metro center” Purchase a $1.50 ticket from the kiosk and follow the sign for the train headed to NORTH HOLLYWOOD. It will be on the lower platform. The train trip is 10-12 minutes.

Exit at either Hollywood/Vine or Hollywood/Highland. There’s plenty to see and do.

Grocery Store

Forget something? Don’t want to pay a zillion dollars for it at one of the shops in the hotel? Here are directions to the Ralphs Grocery store. It’s a quick, easy trip on the F Dash, which picks you up across the street from the hotel and drops you off at Ralphs. Fare is 35c each way. You will need to go during busienss hours as that’s when the F Dash runs. Use the map below to get a lay of the land. (Zoom out for full effect.)


Is there anything you want to know how to do? Place you want to get to? I am in this part of the city three times a week because of the gym (okay, okay I’ve been slipping lately, give me a break.) The point is I know this area. Ask and I’ll tell you if it’s there.


  1. Thanks, Lila!
    Is there a CVS/Walgreens or better still, a supermarket in walking distance? Milk, coke and creamers needed for the room! (Can’t start the day without a cup of tea!) Will be in LA tomorrow (30th) but I’m staying elsewhere until the conference. (North Vermont)

    1. Lynne,

      The Famima across the street at 505/525 S Flower (under the big, black towers) might have everything you need. If you’re looking for a grocery store the Ralphs (the only major grocery store in downtown) is not hard to get to by Dash Bus. The Dash is a easy, cheap bus that runs about every 10 minutes during business hours and is what smart people use to move around downtown. I made a map showing how to get from the hotel to the grocery story and updated the blog.

      You’re staying on Vermont the street? Where exactly?


  2. At the Hollywood Hotel. Am arriving today! Wanted to see a bit of Hollywood before the Convention. But I won’t be driving, so have to rely on public transport. As long as I get to see the Getty!

    1. You’re right on the red line so you should be fine! If you need food in THAT hotel go to the Trader Joe’s in the W Hotel complex. The entrance is on Vine between Hollywood and Sunset. Also, the Borders at Sunset and Vine is closing, they just started discounting last week.

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