“Koreatown?” Nate questioned when I told him where we were headed for the weekend. “Do you have a death wish?”
We lived in Los Angeles in our college days, the early 2000's, when parts of the city were…dicey. Some areas still are, but it seems that many of the previously-off-limits crannies of our beloved La-La Land are suddenly ripe for exploring. That's why I booked The Line hotel in Koreatown, on a recommendation from a trusted friend. “It's so hip now,” she swore, “I saw Beyonce at the bar!”
Though Queen Bey is hardly a consideration when it comes to our hotel accommodations, the place was jaw-dropping. We got a standard king room which felt…well…cuddly for two adults and three small children. The floor-to-ceiling windows, however, gave it the illusion of spaciousness. Our nook was filled with bizarre concrete walls and uber-chic knick knacks (which we promptly stowed out of the kids' grasp), but falling asleep gazing out over the old buildings and hills of Los Angeles was worth the kind-of-steep cost of admission.
A 9pm craving for Thai food hit us the first evening, so we made a trip across the street to an authentic place that hit the spot. I was concerned about taking the boys into the city that late, but we found the local atmosphere to be warm and inviting. Sitting at a casual outdoor table, we saw the entire community stroll by. Teenagers on skateboards, little old ladies who waddled up to pinch baby Minion's cheeks, hurried executives in suits, college students clutching laundry baskets.
As far as things to see in and around Koreatown: there are a ton of jam-packed karaoke bars, some interesting Japanese shops, delectable cuisine and the best Eastern medicine this side of the Pacific Ocean. What really makes this place awesome for families, though, is the fact that it's feels very safe and it's adjacent to everything else. Staples Center is a quick jaunt east. Dodger's Stadium is within easy Uber-ing distance. The lights of Hollywood are just uptown and numerous world-famous museums are within two or three miles. In a place where traffic jams are persistent and transportation is daunting, this spot is shockingly navigable for newcomers.
We headed west on Wilshire. If it had just been Nate and I we would have hopped on the bus, but we opted instead to pay $12 for parking behind the La Brea Tar Pits for the convenience of a quick getaway if the boys got cranky. On Sunday, most of the metered parking throughout the area is free of charge. We explored a few active digs – totally free, I might add. La Brea does have a small museum that charges admission, but there is SO much to see outdoors that you can spend a day browsing the open exhibits without spending a dime.
Next door is the infamous Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, for short).
The Boone Children's Gallery at LACMA offers up plenty of hands-on activity for kids, including a reading nook and free painting activities.
LACMA charges admission, but children can enroll online in the free NexGen program to get themselves plus one adult into regular exhibits any day for free.
Did I mention it's FREE?
This is where I make back all the money these kids have cost me. One museum ticket at a time.
Hop on across the street to the food truck destination of awesomeness. Food trucks randomly accumulate throughout the day to feed the hungry corporate mouths that appear at their windows. Everyone competes to have the best food on the block, and I generally declare my mouth to be the winner.
Good stuff all around.
Also currently across the street from LACMA is a portion of the Berlin Wall. THE BERLIN WALL. I was slightly geeking out over this. The kids just thought it was a cool new play structure.
We completed our loop through museum central by passing through this epic set of street light rows, a permanent display known as the “Urban Light.” It's breathtaking at night.
And finally, coming around the backside of LACMA, there's this terrifying hanging rock called the “Levitated Mass.” I personally won't go anywhere near it, but you are more than welcome to take your chances.
Cut back through the lawn behind La Brea Tar Pits (where you're bound to spot a few squirrels and a ton of floral photo opps, if you pay attention) and you're back to your car. Time to head to your next destination.
Or back to that awesome Koreatown hotel to simply gaze off into the distance.
Koreatown served as a good reminder to me not to judge a place on outdated notions. The landscape of this world is changing everyday.
Have you ever been surprised by localities that you'd previously written off?