Los Angeles is one of the world’s biggest tourist towns, with millions of people flocking to the Hollywood sign, Disneyland, the beaches, the Walk of Fame, and countless other sites. But there’s one awesome place that almost no one visits: El Pueblo de Los Angeles.
That’s a shame because El Pueblo is fascinating. Or maybe it’s not a shame because it means it’s never crowded or touristy. But either way, I highly recommend adding it to your LA itinerary. Here’s the deal:
El Pueblo is a historic site in downtown LA. It’s located near the spot where the city was first founded, as a Spanish pueblo, in 1781. It has numerous historic buildings, including the Avila Adobe, which was built in 1818 and is the oldest home in Los Angeles. The Avila Adobe is also home to the oldest living vine in California.
A few steps away from the Avila Adobe there’s a large plaza — like a legit plaza, which is incredibly rare in LA — which during many of my visits has hosted community dancing.
Olvera Street runs through El Pueblo and is a pedestrian-only area lined with Mexican restaurants, knickknack shops, and kiosks selling luchador masks. It feels kind of touristy, much like Old Town San Diego, except way, way less crowded and upscale.
There are also occasionally artists at work on Olvera Street. I once had a lengthy conversation, for example, with a woodcarver who specializes in railroad scenes.
And it is home to one of the great unsung institutions of Los Angeles, Mr. Churro, where you can get a churro filled with things like chocolate or guava paste.
Every Tuesday through Saturday, there are also free guided tours of the site (I have not been on them and cannot vouch for their quality, but hey they’re free so does it really matter?).
All of which is to say that El Pueblo de Los Angeles is an interesting, enriching, and mostly free place to visit. It’s great for families, or really anyone interested in history and culture. And for the time being, downtown LA remains off the radar for 99% of visitors (and many locals), so if you go you’ll kind of have the run of the place.
— Jim Dalrymple II