Downey probably isn’t on most tourists’ radar but it definitely should be. Authentic Mexican food, the best Cuban bakery on the west coast, American space program history, 10 sprawling parks, miniature golf, bowling, and an amusement park are just some things that make this city a hidden gem. It’s location makes it especially ideal for those wanting to explore Downtown Los Angeles and Orange County (home of Disneyland) - it’s only 20 minutes to either destination. You can easily explore this city in a weekend with a budget of about $50 a day. So drive, Uber or catch a bus to Downey and let your curiosities, not your budget, run wild. Here’s a guide to help you plan your itinerary.
What you’ll find in this guide:
- Local Tips
Downey has plenty of options to WOW your tastebuds. Mexican, Cuban, Greek, Thai, Homemade Pizza, Gourmet Donuts - you name it, Downey makes it!
Owned by Cuban immigrants who arrived in California in the 1960’s, this bakery grew from a home kitchen to three locations that now serve cakes, pastries, coffee, and other cuban specialties. There’s always a line out the door but don’t worry it moves quickly!
Potato Balls $.99 each
Refugiado (guava and cheese pastry) $.94 each
Cubano Sandwich $6.50
Not your typical donut shop, Donas makes gourmet Mexican pop-culture inspired donuts and they are very instagram-worthy. They also have Vegan options!
The Selena glitter donut - honey lavender flavor $4
The Abuelita - rich ‘hot chocolate’ flavor $3
Peanut-butter Cheesecake $3
This deli has been family-owned since 1959 and has the best sandwiches in Downey and 104 beers on tap; enough said.
Veggie Delight $7.50
TBA - Turkey Bacon Avocado $9.50
Peanut Butter, Jelly & Bacon- if you’re adventurous $4.95
The pizza here has a perfectly baked, but soft crust. It’s a local favorite and most famously known for it’s pastrami pizza.
Pastrami pizza $9-21
Barbecue Chicken pizza $8-$21
The Downey Special pizza $8-$21
Chicken Wings $6-$10
This 1960’s style diner Many famous movies and TV shows have been filmed here such as Mad Men and Mission Impossible 2. Every Wednesday night they have food and beer specials and classic car owners from surrounding cities come to show off their cars.
Any of the classic milkshakes $4.99
“Best Cheeseburger on the Planet” $9.89
Garlic mushroom and Swiss chicken burger with fries $9.89
This is a small amusement park with bumper boats and cars, go-karts, miniature golf and an arcade. This for “big” kids at heart and the little ones too.
Another entertaining place for adults or kids. In addition to regular bowling, they do glow-in-the-dark bowling and they also have a bar and pizza place inside.
Downey is home to 10 parks spread throughout the city. All parks have play areas for children and they are ideal for picnics or just relaxing under the shade while enjoying nature. Wilderness park has two large ponds with ducks and every now and then rabbits running around.
Locals and residents from surrounding cities can be found every Saturday morning mingling on Downey Avenue while they shop for fresh produce. Here you’ll find in-season veggies and fruit as well as ready-made food like tamales and bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
Every Saturday 9am-1pm
Downey has rich history in the American space program of the 1970s and 80s and six space shuttles were constructed on the property in which the Columbia Space Center now occupies. The center has numerous interactive exhibits and relics from past space missions.
This art gallery provides a space for local artists to display their work and frequently hosts creative events that include poetry, technology and visual arts from Downey schools. The best part is, it’s free!
If you’re looking for a bar scene these are the best options:
casual atmosphere with TVs and a full kitchen and bar
a little more upscale with craft cocktails and bar food
bar/lounge with several TVs playing all sports. There’s a DJ on weekends.
This is located on Downey Ave. where there are also bars and restaurants. They don’t sell alcohol here but it’s a good place to socialize with friends while smoking hookah.
If you’re looking for more of a club scene this is your place. They have two rooms with DJs playing different music and multiple bars. Expect to pay a cover and drinks tend to be a little more expensive than you might expect at a bar.
Downey is not a walkable city but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting.
Downey Link: this local bus runs frequently and is only 50 cents per ride.
Uber: You can also get request an Uber and there are typically plenty of drivers in the area to get you where you need to go without a long wait time.
Rent a car: If you're planning on exploring more cities, a car is the most ideal option.
The Downey Theater has several events a month including music and dance concerts and plays. Check the calendar here to see what's on when you're in town.
Downey frequently has festivals such as the Greek festival in June, Concerts in the Park at Furman Park June-August, International Food and Music Festival in September, Dia de los Muertos Festival in October and many more.
You can see the oldest operating McDonald's located on Florence Avenue and Lakewood Blvd. It's been here since 1953 and looks nothing like any other McDonald's you've ever seen!
The local's hang out and 'The Glen', a local dive bar that has karaoke.
Best Local Restaurant: Downey Pizza
Best Coffee: Drinx, nothing fancy but it's a local favorite.
If you're into ghost hunting, Downey has an abandoned insane asylum. Click here for more information.