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Resident Tourist: Olvera Street

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LAist knows there is nothing new in the least about Olvera Street, as it happens to be one of the absolutely oldest parts of town. But we're hedging our bets that maybe it's been some time since you took a stroll down its cobbled street, or maybe you've never been at all. These days are full of long hours of sun, and energy that's just about the perfect level for something as leisurely as meandering, or roaming. We like to roam downtown, because there are so many pockets of places that, when you aren't right in the midst of them, you can forget they exist. It takes an unexpected afternoon's walk to put you right in the middle of fantastic colors, sounds, and smells. And by smells, in the case of Olvera Street, we mean tasty food smells, although we issue the caveat that once downtown, you may be assaulted with more unpleasant smells. Such is life. But we've gotten off track...

Olvera Street, which is located just across the way from Union Station between Alameda and Main Streets, dates back to the late 19th century, in fact, some of the structures were once private homes, and, like the Avila Adobe, date back as early as 1818. Now the street serves as a slightly sanitized hommage to Mexican culture, and is packed with tourist-trap vendor booths and gift shops. But nevertheless, it's still a fun romp, if you have time to duck into a shop or two (at the very least to marvel over some of the stuff sold for use during Dia De Los Muertos) and to see the amazing old architecture that reflects the city's heritage. Free docent tours are available, or you can wander about on your own. We like to ride the Red Line to downtown in order to avoid the parking hassle. Our favorite shop is the Olvera Candle Shop, where once past the sort of old-world Bed, Bath & Beyond assortment of fragranced Yankee Candles you find a treasure trove of curious curios, books, accesories and the like. There are a number of restaurants on the Street--a couple of nicer sit-down spots and a handful of more casual stands. We had a bite on our adventure, but we'll get to that tale another time. And of course, we took our camera, so that we'd have plenty of pictures to show you!

Olvera Street is free to the public, and is open everyday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. though some stores may have slightly different hours.