Four Hours: Blast your cares away, then stroll bargain-filled Santee Alley for a new pair of kicks


In a concrete corner of downtown, far from the polished granite of Bunker Hill, rests a gritty-wonderful neighborhood where fashionistas and working-class families share the same splotchy, often-overlooked streets.

This destination offers places where, in a single afternoon, you can demolish your demons, discover incredible fried chicken, browse a one-of-a-kind bohemian bookstore, prowl clothing’s version of Bourbon Street, and end up at a trendy rooftop bar sipping a cocktail made, almost improbably, of bell pepper-infused mestizo mescal, Ancho Reyes, Aperol and lime.

(Lou Spirito / For The Times)

Rarely in L.A. will you find such a range of old and new, cheap and pricey, gentrified and authentic.

2 p.m. Let it rip at the boom-boom room, a.k.a. Rage Ground, a warehouse where you’ll gleefully (and legally) smash your workaday miseries to smithereens. At Rage Ground, you use pipes and bats to whale on discarded computer gear, martini glasses and plates. Safety gear is required: coveralls, construction gloves and a safety helmet with a shield that wraps most of the face (signing a legal waiver is required). Options abound, and you can even bring your own items to shatter (photos of ex-husbands are a particular favorite). “Anger is such a taboo emotion,” notes employee Kimber Springs, 25. Not at Rage Ground, where anger is therapy. “I’ve had people come out crying and give me a great big hug,” Springs says. Check out the date special ($120 for two). Reservations only.

A stroll through the colorful and chaotic Santee Alley shopping district is a must. You'll find over 150 stores selling clothing, shoes, sunglasses, wigs, prom dresses and more.
(Mark Boster / For The Times)

2:45-3 p.m. Stroll nearby Santee Alley, a furious street fest of fashion bargains: sunglasses, intimates, sports jerseys, prom gowns and glitter shoes in any hue you could imagine. Oh, yeah, and pick up 24 pairs of athletic socks for a mere 10 bucks.

3:15-3:45 p.m. Grab an orange Fanta from the cooler as you walk into Birdies, then step up to the counter at this citadel of fried chicken. Among foodies, Birdies is beloved not just for the chicken but for the decadent artisanal doughnuts that are as colorful as Easter toys. Chicken $8-$10, doughnuts from $3.

Birdies is a favorite among tourists and locals.
(Mark Boster / For the Times)

3:45-5 p.m. Walk up historic Spring Street, where downtown is in full renaissance, past bars, cafes and elegant Art Deco banks till you reach the Last Bookstore. After having crushed your demons at Rage Ground, maybe a soothing book of poetry is in order? How about some Pablo Neruda: “I want to do with you what spring does to cherry trees.”

The neon sign in the window of the Last Bookstore reflects the past and present on the corner of Spring and 5th streets in downtown.
(Mark Boster / For The Times)

5:15 p.m. To toast your rebirth, consider the rooftop of the 5-year-old Ace Hotel, where people-watching and urban views abound in the glorious United Artists building. Bar bites won’t break your budget: street tacos ($3) and a robust stack of nachos ($10), along with an eclectic list of cocktails that range from $12 to $14. First time? Look for the entrance labeled “Upstairs,” which is outside on the north side of the cafe.