The area's renewed vitality ricochets from the well-established ethnic enclaves of Little Tokyo and Chinatown to the Fashion District's bustling streets lined with restaurants and stores to the Financial Core's commerical high-rises.
Artist District: A bohemian paradise in the 1970s and '80s, this brawny ex-industrial corridor still offers raw, relatively affordable spaces where you won't be afraid to spill paint on the floor.
Chinatown: One of downtown's most complete neighborhoods is short on trendy loft conversions but long on art galleries, fortune cookies and pedestrian bustle. Most welcome newcomer: the Gold Line Metro station connecting to Pasadena.
Civic Center: The new Caltrans building should bring more attention and pedestrian traffic to this residentially under-served area. The 135-unit Higgins Building, including a ground-floor bistro and lounge and possibly a sub-basement nightclub, could be a start.
Fashion District: One of downtown's most lively and congested areas. Majestic movie theaters, dozens of small restaurants and electronics stores, cops, panhandlers, new art galleries. L.A.'s closet equivalent to Manhattan's 42nd Street.
Financial Core: High-rise office workers gawk at roof-top poolside hedonists at the Standard hotel, while converted office buildings such as the Pegasus apartments provide amenities fit for a CEO. The heart of downtown white-collar business.
Little Tokyo: East West Players, the Japanese American National Museum, MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, an Office Depot, a spa, a public library opening next to the shuttered St. Vibiana's Cathedral and all the sushi you can eat. What more do you want?
Old Bank District: Tom Gilmore's trio of stunning Beaux Arts buildings are now complemented by Pete's, a restaurant that functions as a de facto community center, plus a coffee shop, delis, yoga studios, etc. Long-term residents and street people have learned to interact with each other amicably.
South Park: Once the new Ralphs opens in 2005, this large district will draw foot traffic from all over downtown. Accessible to the Blue Line and great for hockey and basketball nuts: Staples Center anchors its southwestern corner.
Toy District: Straddling Little Tokyo, the Old Bank District and skid row, this up-and-coming neighborhood offers some innovative loft-conversion developments.