City Hall dates from 1928 and offers a free observation deck on the 27th floor which doesn't seem to be well-known or visited. Enter the building from the east side and go through security. The park in front of it is a major homeless squatting area.
The area around City Hall is not too densely-built up. Eastwards, the blocks beyond are not very safe. That's Skid Row, where many homeless reside.
Just to the northeast is Union Station.
Little Tokyo is to the southeast, just before Skid Row.
The observation deck is outdoors with a narrow passage on all 4 sides of the building. I liked the south side most thanks to the skyline view.
On the west side, City Hall forms an axis with a long linear park with many other government buildings. Note that LA's downtown does not front the Pacific coast.
Looking north, can you spot the Hollywood sign? You should have better luck at the next viewpoint.
On the other side of downtown, the Intercontinental's lobby on the 70th floor is a great place to get your bearings. Many windows offer free views or you can grab a snack at the Lobby Lounge.
LA is a land of big highways. Driving here can get intimidating with so many lanes around you.
Looking west, can you see the ocean in the distance?
To the south, airplanes arriving at LAX were descending over the city.
Unfortunately, the best view towards the skyline was against the morning light.
Be sure to visit the bathroom. In the men's room, the urinals are right at the window.
Finding a parking spot at Griffith Park on a weekend is quite a challenge, but your patience is worth it thanks to beautiful views over the city below. The park was a gift from a mining giant in 1896, covering 5x the size of New York City's Central Park. While you are there, pop into the Observatory, which was built in 1935.
The Hollywood sign looks so small and insignificant even from this closer vantage point.
If you don't have a car, catch the cheap DASH buses that make the trip from points downhill for only 50 cents a ride.
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