It's fun to come up with unique tour ideas, and Hoffy Tours hit the mark with its Nov. 21st -  LA Shopping Spectacular: A Stocking Stuffer's Dream.   Forty-two happy shoppers boarded the big white recliner at 9 AM for a day of bargains, sights and food!  The goal of the trip was to have fun and buy some unique gifts that would be hard to find anywhere else.  We visited the Arts District, Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo and Olvera Street.  Some people came just to see those places; others were serious shoppers.  But, even those who came for sight-seeing couldn't resist some cool items.   Here's how we did it.

1)  Hughes Estate Sales (45 minutes) - LA Arts District - open Fri/Sat/Sun - every third week
2)  Artists&fleas Art Market (1 hour) - 55 great LA craft artists sell their art the third Friday of the month - LA Arts District.
3)  Grand Central Market - wonderful and crowded; many choices for gourmet or everyman's lunch
4)  Japanese Village Plaza (45 minutes) - a delightful pedestrian street with excellent stores and restaurants between 1st and 2nd Streets in Little Tokyo.
5)  Olvera Street (1 hr.) - some of the vendors have been here for over 40 years; speciality shops on both sides of the street; smaller, less expensive items in stalls in center of the famous "calle".

ARTISTS&FLEAS - artist, designer and vintage market

Everyone got a shopping bag as a tour favor.  Many filled them!
Artists&fleas art and designer market is located on a vacant lot on Mateo St. in the Arts District and features over 50 great artists selling their products - jewelry, prints, paintings, ceramics, clothes.  Everything is of high quality and creativity, and the artists are eager to talk about their creations.  Remember that the art show is only open the third Saturday and Sunday of the month from 11 AM to 5 PM.   Check out the link to these wonderful artists:  Artists&fleas.  The art market also operates in Williamsburg, Virginian and New York City.

HUGHES ESTATE SALES - vintage items selected by an experienced company!

The Hughes Estate Sale Showroom is open Fri - Sun on the third weekend of every month.

Our next stop was the Hughes Estate Sale showroom located on the edge of the Arts District.  The Hughes scours southland estate sales and fills their showrooms with incredible merchandise - furniture, lamps, jewelry, vintage LPs, cameras, porcelain, figurines, and on and on.  The Hoffy group loved the prices and the free doughnuts.  What impressed me was that after the three-day-sale, the company goes out and buys an entire showroom full of new vintage items.  You've got to check it out.  Here's the link: Hughes Estate Sales.
GRAND CENTRAL MARKET - increasingly gourmet, increasingly crowded

Grand Central Market's most popular eatery.g

What a fun place for lunch.  A little crowded, yes, but his 1917 urban market has been recently reinvigorated with more trendy and diverse eateries.  My group didn't brave the line at the ever-popular Egg Slut, but the other choices included Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Texas BBQ, Mexican, Salvadoran, German, American deli, and on and on, and the incredible McConnell's Ice Cream.   Grand Central is right on Broadway Street across from the beautiful Bradbury Building.  It's interesting to note that the city recently placed parklets up and down the boulevard to slow cars and provide seating opportunities.  The cafe tables and umbrellas on Broadway are quite a hit although the other parklets I've noticed have little seating.  Grand Central Market is getting so popular that I've decided there's room for at least two more downtown.

Relaxed Angelinos sitting on the Broadway Street parklet in front of Grand Central Station.

JAPANESE VILLAGE PLAZA - beautiful pedestrian street with great stores and food!

The Japanese Fire Tower is a key landmark in Little Tokyo
and marks the entrance to Japanese Village Plaza.
Our next stop on the shopping spectacular tour was Japanese Village Plaza, right in the heart of Little Tokyo.  This delightfully scaled pedestrian street is colorful and packs quite a shopping punch.  There are traditional gift stores with origami, lanterns, stationery, and chopsticks, but also more specialized clothing and art stores, a Japanese supermarket and, of course, ample sushi.   For those less inclined to shop, the Japanese National Museum and Koyasan  Buddhist Temple are right within half a block.  Japanese Village Plaza, for me, is the heart of Little Tokyo.

OLVERA STREET - voted one of Top Five Pedestrian Streets in the US

Olvera Street, like much of Mexico, is not afraid of color!  Lucha Libre mask anyone?
Olvera Street was a fitting end to our tour, and a shopper's delight.  Many of the vendors have been here for decades, and their items are increasingly nice.  The group loved the "papel picado" (decorative paper streamers), Christmas tree ornaments, Dia de los Muertos crafts, and leather goods.
Of course, many headed for margaritas and, of course, the famous burro photo at the entrance to the famous "calle."  For me, La Plaza de Los Angeles is the most beautiful place in Los Angeles, surrounded by historic architecture, colorful kiosks, huge Morton Bay Fig trees, and paper streamers, full of music and comfortably scaled to the pedestrian.

An Olvera Street classic!
EVALUATING THE TOUR - Based on the response and the amount of loot people came home with, the LA Shopping Spectacular was a huge success.  Taking people to fun areas of Los Angeles and giving them a chance to buy unique holiday gifts is a combination that I hope becomes an annual event.  The rapidly-evolving Arts District is a shopper's delight on the third weekend of the month with Artists&fleas and Hughes Estate Sales, and Japanese Village Plaza and Olvera Street provided great afternoon entertainment.  Look for next year's LA SHOPPING SPECTACULAR as a prelude to the holiday season.  So much fun!