Grand Central Circuit
Urban Hike With Art and Food Highlights in Los Angeles
If ever there was a time to take up meditation, it’s now. At the very least, try a few deep breaths under a beautiful fig tree next to a Buddhist Temple as part of this 2.5-mile city walk that transcends the urban jungle of downtown LA.
Park near the Little Tokyo Village Plaza (street parking or paid lot available). 1st Street is home to many Japanese eateries and boutique shops too (Daikokuya for ramen or Fugetsu-do for mochi). Walk to the north end of the Japanese American National Museum. You’ll pass the Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple before reaching the Aoyama Tree, a 60 foot by 70 foot massive Moreton Bay fig.
The tree now sits next to a beautiful mural, the Geffen at MOCA, and a humbling WWII Memorial for Japanese-American soldiers. It was first planted in 1920 at the former site of Koyasan Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the city.
After finding your zen, head northwest on 1st street for 4 blocks, reaching LA City Hall. Here, at Circle Park, find more Moreton Bay figs to marvel at. Continue to Hill Street and turn right to reach Grand Park, a 12-acre park that features drought-tolerant plants, an interpretive tree walk, a fountain, and a court of flags. Next, walk south on Hill Street for 3 blocks to 3rd Street.
Angels Flight is a historic funicular railway that’s been operating since 1901. It’s a short $1 trip to hop on it and make a detour, and you should: The views at the top of this Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument are amazing. After returning down, walk across the street to Grand Central Market’s food arcade, operating since 1917! Arrive hungry! There’s something for everyone here, including established eateries like Donut Man and Golden Road Brewery, and everything from pasta to pupusas to PB&J.
Afterward, walk it off southeast on 3rd Street, passing the famous Bradbury Building, the city’s oldest designated landmark building.
When you reach San Pedro Street, head north and stop at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza to see another famous tree—Sunny the Grapefruit Tree (read about both trees on this hike in a new Sustainable Little Tokyo Art Initiative, including the Little Tokyo Regional Forest). Turn right at 2nd Street and then left at Little Tokyo Village Plaza to end your adventure.
To get to the Aoyama Tree and Little Tokyo Village Plaza, take the US-101 to the Los Angeles St. exit and head south. After two blocks, you reach 1st St. Find street parking or turn left and enter the pay-to-park lot on your immediate right. Dog-friendly (except for Grand Central Market and Angels Flight)!
Story and photos by Matt Pawlik, @mattitudehikes
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