A 72-Hour Itinerary of Historic Los Angeles

Warner Grand Theatre | Photo courtesy of Mr Gold, Flickr

Los Angeles is rich with landmarks of times gone by. From historic hotels to architectural works like the 121-year-old Bradbury Building, the city brims with echoes of the past. And with two other benchmarks of historical significance a bit farther afield - the port town of San Pedro to the south and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley to the north - visiting history buffs are certain to find plenty of fodder for their passion.

Rendezvous Court at Millennium Biltmore | Photo courtesy of Frank Hsu Flickr

Day One: Millennium Biltmore Hotel

Check into the stately Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. Luminaries who have graced its doorstep include President John F. Kennedy, Cecil B. DeMille, Clark Gable, and Bette Davis. The hotel is ideally located for taking in historic Downtown sites and as a centralized jumping-off spot for excursions to the city’s historic port at San Pedro and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Sausage, egg and cheese sandwich at EggSlut | Photo by Joshua Lurie


Opened since 1917, the landmark Grand Central Market features dozens of food stalls that represent the full spectrum of L.A.’s multicultural cuisines, from old school Mexican to a new generation of artisan vendors like Belcampo Meat Co., Sticky Rice and Wexler’s Deli. Start the day at Eggslut, which features specialties like the Fairfax sandwich (with chives, cheddar, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo) and the Slut (a coddled egg on a bed of potato puree).

Bradbury Building


Located on Broadway across from the Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building has appeared in movies, TV episodes and music videos, and is frequently mentioned in literature. Built in 1893, the building was featured prominently in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Film noir fans will recognize the Bradbury from films such as Chinatown (1974), D.O.A. (1950), and I, The Jury (1953). The Bradbury’s light-filled central atrium, intricate wrought ironwork, “bird cage” elevators and Italian marble make it a favorite of photographers. Note: visitors are allowed up to the first landing, but not beyond it. The Bradbury Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Union Station entrance
Union Station entrance | Photo: Travis Conklin


Built in 1939, Union Station is a Spanish Colonial Revival architectural gem that continues to serve as a vital transportation hub today. Union Station is also a popular filming location, appearing in dozens of films such as The Hustler and Catch Me If You Can.


Olvera Street is one of L.A.’s most popular tourist destinations, located off Alameda Street near Union Station. The colorful marketplace includes dozens of authentic Mexican restaurants and open-air vendors selling everything from leather goods to artwork.

El Pueblo Historical Monument


El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument marks the founding of the city in 1781. The oldest section of Los Angeles features museums, historic buildings and a beautiful outdoor plaza that often hosts live music.

Photo courtesy of Philippe the Original, Facebook


Located at the east end of Chinatown on the corner of Alameda and Ord Streets, Philippe the Original has been open continuously since 1908. The classic order is the beef French Dip, though you can also get turkey or lamb. Get it dipped once, twice, or with the jus on the side. Seat yourself at a communal table, then add a few squeezes of sinus-clearing mustard. Philippe retains its history with vintage phone booths, sawdust on the floor, seasoned servers in '50s-style uniforms, and 45-cent coffee. If you still have room, try a big wedge of pie, perhaps blueberry or chocolate cream.

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The Richard Riordan Central Library complex is the third largest public library in the United States in terms of book and periodical holdings. The Central Library is located in the historic 1926 Goodhue Building, which is a designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Central Library’s Rare Books Department has over 16,000 volumes, dating from the 15th century, with a majority from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Central Library also houses the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection of over 3 million historic photographs. The Central Library hosts [ALOUD], a popular series of free panels and conversations featuring cultural, scientific, and political luminaries.

The Los Angeles Theatre


Located in the historic Broadway Theatre District, the Los Angeles Theatre is a 2,000-seat movie palace that was built in 1931. The theatre features a French Baroque interior reportedly modeled after the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Charlie Chaplin helped finance the theatre’s construction so that it could open in time for the premiere of his film, City Lights. In 1979, the Los Angeles Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. The Los Angeles Theatre is one of the hosts of Last Remaining Seats, a summer series of classic films and live entertainment presented by the Los Angeles Conservancy.



Cicada Restaurant is a stunning restaurant and special event venue located in the historic Oviatt Building. From the 30-foot gold leaf ceiling to the plush custom-designed bar and lounge, Cicada combines 1920s Art Deco with contemporary design elements to create an extraordinary atmosphere. The European style is enhanced by a sophisticated Northern Italian and California fusion menu. Cicada has been featured in numerous films and TV series, including Pretty Woman and Mad Men.


A longtime rival to Philippe for the title of “inventor of the French Dip,” Cole’s opened in the Pacific Electric Building in 1908. L.A.’s oldest public house was recently restored with original glass lighting, penny tile floors, historic photos, and the historic 40-foot mahogany Red Car Bar. Unwind from a busy Day One with a classic cocktail at Cole’s, or keep the night going at The Varnish, the award-winning speakeasy located in the back of Cole’s.

Day Two: Battleship IOWA

Visit the Pacific Battleship Center and tour the Battleship IOWA. Commissioned on February 22, 1943, the vessel earned the moniker “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” and nine battle stars for its service in World War II and the Korean War. Battleship IOWA began its 50 years of service by transporting President Franklin Roosevelt to meetings with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. In 1986, it was the flagship for President Ronald Reagan during the nation’s Celebration of Liberty, and from 1989 to 1990, President George H.W. Bush served as its commander-in-chief.

Korean Bell of Friendship

Day Two: Korean Bell of Friendship

Next stop is Angel’s Gate Park to see the Korean Bell of Friendship. A gift from the Republic of Korea in honor of the U.S. Bicentennial, the massive bell is a symbol of good relations between the two countries. Designed to resemble South Korea’s Bronze Bell of King Seongdeok (771 A.D.), the bell is engraved with four Korean spirits, each paired with torch-bearing representations of Lady Liberty and holding symbols: the Korean flag, Korea's national flower, a laurel branch, and a dove. The bell is housed in a pavilion that's perched on a coastal bluff that offers spectacular views.

Warner Grand Theatre | Photo courtesy of Mr Gold, Flickr

Day Two: Warner Grand Theatre

Stay at the waterfront into the evening and catch a live performance or film screening at the historic Warner Grand Theatre. Built in 1931, this Art Deco palace of the performing arts is still going strong today with everything from rockumentaries to performances by the likes of Orquesta Charangoa.

Day Two: The Whale & Ale

When hunger strikes, head for The Whale & Ale, a British-style pub known for its fish and chips. Other local dining options include Mishi’s Strudel Bakery and Café, with its famous Old-World Hungarian food, or the San Pedro Brewing Company, which offers all-American fare to go with handcrafted ales and lagers.

Day Three: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

On Day Three, head out to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, situated on a picturesque hilltop location in Simi Valley. Permanent exhibits include a full-size replica of the Oval Office, a section of the Berlin Wall, and exhibits dedicated to the Secret Service and the presidential motorcade. Inside the massive Air Force One Pavilion is the plane that transported seven U.S. leaders, including Reagan, during their presidencies. Visitors can board the actual Air Force One that flew Reagan more than 660,000 miles to 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. states during his presidency. During its 1973–2001 tenure, this plane also served presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. Stop for a bite at the on-site Irish pub, and don’t miss the memorial site where President Reagan was laid to rest on June 11, 2004.