Los Angeles Loves Anime!

Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center July 4-7, 2019

Anime Expo Masquerade cosplay performers

Photo: Anime Expo, Facebook

On Fourth of July weekend, Anime Expo takes over the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown LA. The annual celebration of Japanese entertainment and pop culture has exploded in popularity in recent years, drawing tens of thousands of guests to check out watch the latest anime, shop for merchandise and dress up as their favorite characters. With its massive exhibit hall, eclectic programming and events that go into the night, the convention schedule itself will keep you on your toes. Yet, sometimes you have to get out of the crowd and explore the rest of Los Angeles. Read on for things to do in LA during the 2019 Anime Expo.

Fashion District

Shop for Cosplay in the Fashion District

The Downtown Los Angeles Fashion District is a dream world for cosplayers. It's massive and renowned for its extensive collection of retail and wholesale fabric shops. It may take you a while to work your way through the blocks of shops surrounding 8th Street and Maple Avenue, but you'll no doubt find more than what you need to make your next costume. There's more to the Fashion District than fabric, though. Head over to Santee Alley to look for inexpensive shoes and accessories.

Oh My Gourai! model on display at Anime Jungle in Little Tokyo

Oh My Gourai! model | Photo: Anime Jungle, Facebook

Welcome to the Anime Jungle at Japanese Village Plaza

Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, Japanese Village Plaza is a bustling outdoor shopping center that features street performers playing in the courtyard as visitors filter in an out of shops and restaurants. There's a lot of places of interest here; you'll probably want to spend a bit of time exploring and chilling out. Head to the tiny indoor portion of the plaza and you'll find lots that will appeal to fans of Japanese pop culture. Anime Jungle is a mega-store spanning three spaces. One holds anime and manga, another is dedicated to the collectible items and a third is for cards. Nearby is Fickle Wish, a fun boutique that carries indie fashion and art primarily from Japan. Q-Pop is a small art gallery and boutique whose art shows often feature a host of locals whose work you should know. If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Cafe Dulce, where you can find donuts in flavors like green tea, Oreo and bacon.

Kaiju vs Heroes JANM Japanese American National Museum

Kaiju vs Heroes Print by Brian McCarty | Photo courtesy of Japanese American National Museum

Explore "Kaiju vs Heroes" at JANM (through July 7, 2019)

Take a journey through the world of Japanese soft vinyl kaiju (monster) and hero toys, courtesy of toy designer Mark Nagata’s unrivaled collection of vintage figurines. Born out of the cultural ashes of World War II, these distinctive toys became both a means for Japanese Americans to reconnect with their culture and an apt metaphor for postwar relations between the United States and Japan. Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata's Journey through the World of Japanese Toys is on view at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo through the final day of Anime Expo on Sunday, July 7.

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Instagram by @shopcalledquest

Expand Your Manga Collection at A Shop Called Quest

A Shop Called Quest is a comic book shop/pop culture emporium located at the massive One Santa Fe complex in the Arts District. The comic book selection is heavy on indie and art-minded releases and also does have a nice range of manga. Aside from books, you'll find items like enamel pins, patches and other collectibles. The store also hosts pop-up shops.

Skyslide at OUE Skyspace

Skyslide at OUE Skyspace

 |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Experience Stunning Views & the Skyslide at OUE Skyspace

Located on the 69th and 70th floors of the U.S. Bank Tower, OUE Skyspace opened to the public in June 2016, offering breathtaking 360-degree views of Los Angeles. Thrill-seekers must experience the Skyslide, a glass slide that runs down the side of the observation deck. If the idea of riding an outdoor glass slide 1,000 feet above the city freaks you out, don't worry - you can still enjoy the view from the deck. The U.S. Bank Tower is located walking distance from the 7th St./Metro Center station and admission prices start at $19.

Sanrio Low Caps at JapanLA

Sanrio Low Caps at JapanLA | Photo: @japanla, Instagram

Shop Super Cute Items at JapanLA in Little Tokyo

For more than a decade, JapanLA has kept Melrose Avenue's kawaii-obsessed shoppers stocked with characters from Japanese brands like Sanrio and San-X, as well as super cute items from local artists like 100% Soft and Crowded Teeth. The popular boutique opened a second outpost in Little Tokyo, conveniently located for Anime Expo attendees. New items in stock include Sanrio Low Caps, the sweet Korilakkuma & Chairoikoguma Ice Cream Collection from Japan, Sumikko Gurashi Sea Life, Kokujira & Mom Dream Collection, and Hamipa, a new panda character by San-X.

The NoMad Los Angeles Rooftop Pool

Rooftop Pool | Photo: The NoMad Los Angeles

Enjoy Drinks with a View at The NoMad

Wind down from a day at the Anime Expo with drinks at The NoMad rooftop bar, now open for summer hours. Located a couple of blocks from the 7th St / Metro Center, The NoMad offers two options to quench your thirst - a long marble bar indoors, or a poolside bar with panoramic views and a comforting fireplace housed in a gargoyle.

Little Damage

Almond-charcoal flavored swirl at Little Damage

Cool Off at Little Damage

Remember the all-black ice cream cone that went viral? That's from Little Damage, a Downtown LA soft serve ice cream shop that specializes in unusual treats. While the charcoal almond ice cream was available only for a limited time, the black cones are standard and they have a variety of strange flavors on hand. Little Damage is a healthy walk from the Metro Pershing Square station, so if your feet are worn out after a day at Anime Expo, you might want to use a rideshare service.

Get Your Game On at Two Bit Circus

Your day at Anime Expo is done and you're still down to hang out with friends, maybe grab a drink and play some games. What to do? Self-described as "the world's first micro-amusement park," Two Bit Circus in the DTLA Arts District offers fun for all ages. From escape rooms to trivia games, VR games to old school arcade classics, Two Bit Circus has it all and then some. With a throwback to old fashioned boardwalks in The Midway, to private gaming cabanas, plenty of food, sweets, and yes, adult beverages, an afternoon or evening spent at Two Bit Circus provides endless family fun.

Howlin' Ray's Nashville Hot Chicken | Photo: Howlin' Ray's

Howlin' Ray's Nashville Hot Chicken | Photo: Howlin' Ray's

Get a Bite at Far East Plaza

If you're looking for some good eats and want to get away from the Convention Center, head to Far East Plaza at historic Chinatown. The shopping center is located walking distance from the Metro Gold Line's Chinatown stop and offers a variety of dining options, from Baohaus and Lao Tao to Scoops. If you're hungry for the incredibly popular Nashville hot chicken at Howlin' Ray's, note that the restaurant is only open to 7 p.m. and the line is typically quite long.

The Last Bookstore Book Tunnel

The Last Bookstore

 |  Photo: Discover Los Angeles

Get Lost Inside The Last Bookstore

Maybe you already filled up an extra suitcase with manga bought at Anime Expo, but you should still make some time to check out The Last Bookstore. Located walking distance from the Pershing Square station, this Instagrammable spot was named one of the "20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World" by Flavorwire. Check out the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore for the best photo ops. The store's mammoth collection includes more than just books - you'll find records and art here too.

Totoro Tea painting by Nikki Longfish at Giant Robot

Totoro Tea painting by Nikki Longfish at Giant Robot | Photo: @drawingnikki, Instagram

Go West & Explore Sawtelle Japantown

Little Tokyo is a popular destination during Anime Expo, given its proximity to the Convention Center. If you have a free day before or after the Expo, head to the Westside and visit Sawtelle Japantown. This small, historically Japanese neighborhood is easily accessible via the Metro Expo Line, located walking distance from the Expo/Sepulveda station. Check out Giant Robot and Giant Robot 2 - the Asian pop culture shop and art gallery have been supplying Los Angeles with everything from zines to toys and fine art since the early 2000s. The neighborhood overflows with restaurants, so there is no shortage of meal options here. You can also walk to the Nuart on Santa Monica Boulevard and catch an art house movie.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Tribute Show at Gallery1988

Artwork by Dan Mumford for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tribute Show at Gallery1988 | Photo: @danmumforddraws, Instagram

View the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tribute Show at Gallery1988 (Opens July 5, 2019)

Melrose Avenue's Gallery1988 has been L.A.'s go-to spot for pop culture-inspired art for years. They're known for the "Crazy 4 Cult" exhibition that brings together an eclectic group of artists to pay tribute to cult films. Theme shows have touched on everything from Marvel movies to the '90s. On Friday, July 5 (Day Two of Anime Expo) Gallery1988 opens the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tribute Show, featuring artwork inspired by one of anime's most iconic properties.