Okay, all you L.A. locals. Let’s see how well you know your city. You wake up on a beautiful day only to remember that your little brother’s birthday party starts in a few hours. Your mother’s voice echoes in your head as you recall her telling you that you must provide cheap entertainment for your brother and his pals or else. What do you do? Where do you go?
Easy. Head on down to “The Piñata District”.
Choosing The Piñata District as the opening destination for our summer chronicles was the easy part. It’s defined as being the coolest (and most cost-effective) One-Stop-Party-Shop of L.A.
Finding The Piñata District was the true challenge:
“Where exactly is the Piñata District?”
“I don’t know. I thought you’ve been there before.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“…I found an intersection!”
“My GPS doesn’t take intersections!”
And so on.
Luckily, The Piñata District is well-known throughout the Los Angeles Latino Community, so a quick phone call to Samy’s father solved the mystery of the location of the place. Get off on 6th Street from the Harbor Freeway, drive down ‘till you hit Central, take a right, get to Olympic, take another right and it’s there.
And there we were. Us, a digital camera, a notebook, and a whole lot of piñatas.
Forget your average super-market as your first-hand piñata source. This place had tarps with piñatas covering their undersides. Roofs with oodles of piñatas dangling from wall to wall. We saw piñata varieties that varied from your classic star shapes to your Hello Kitty models to your giant Corona beer cans. Some even had transparent sides so piñata game participants could see exactly what they would earn if they smacked the piñata down, unleashing all of the piñatas inner goodies.
Don’t have any goodies with which to stuff your piñata’s innards? Don’t worry. The Piñata District has got you covered. Just relax to the tunes of Latino pop and Ranchera music in the background as you leisurely select what to put inside your piñata. Because underneath those scores of hanging piñatas are aisles and aisles of candy and party favors all available in bulk for unbelievably cheap prices.
Your typical American candies are available, but we had fun perusing the Mexican candy areas. As The District was dubbed the place to get “the best Mexican candy” by Samy, I tried a sweet from a bag Samy purchased. At first taste, it was nothing more than a watermelon Jolly Rancher. “Just wait,” said Samy, “the middle is full of surprises.” I fully understood her meaning twenty seconds later when I hacked up what tasted like a mixture of jalapenos and ketchup with the consistency of blended prunes into a trash bin. But of course, one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and Samy would ask me to protect her precious candy throughout the trip.
The shops of The Piñata District also stocked boxes and boxes of fruits (plantain, citrus, papaya—oh my!) and spices. Barrels were filled to the brim with corn kernels of different colors. These kernels had the same taste, we were told, but the different colors give dishes different appearances. You might be tempted to purchase one of the various novelty piggy in the shape of Elmo, a dog, etc. Or in keeping with the area’s most famous product, you might want to buy a piñata bat bedazzled with colored paper and fringe.
Samy and I chose to buy a little nosh from a crowded food truck parked outside one of the shops. After passing a man selling caged bunny rabbits and turtles, we walked up to the truck’s window, and Samy ordered pupusas, platanos fritos (fried plantains), and horchata for us to share. The Salvadorian food was filling and savory, but it was worth the $5 that it cost. We ate our meal at a single outdoor table shared by several other dining customers, surrounded by grillers atop with corn and stoves covered with cooking masa (the dough from which pupusas are made).
So now you have a filled piñata, some piggy banks, snacks, and piñata bats, and a bit of food in your belly. A new thought enters your mind: what’s a good party without a little music?
Walk about a block down to the music technology section of the Callejones, the name for a vast region of shops and vendors in the heart of Downtown L.A., to satisfy all of your remixing needs. Read: you have now entered DJ Land.
Turntables, speakers, strobe lights. This section has everything you’ve ever wanted to throw a beat-heavy bash to go along with your piñata. (These gadgets might be a bit more suited to your birthday party than your little brother’s, though…) Samy and I browsed the merchandise while listening to music that ranged from current rap to ‘70s pop. Samy was surprised we could maneuver around the section so easily. On Saturdays and Sundays, i.e. when people get off from work, the area is so crowded, “you can’t even walk,” she said.
After a solid chunk of time exploring The Piñata District and the adjacent DJ Land, Samy and I took a rest in the McDonalds across the street. Samy tried her first McFlurry, I looked through her pictures…and we both agreed that the day was a great opening to an awesome summer filled with adventuring in Los Angeles.
NEARBY PLACES OF INTEREST
- The Flower District. Downtown Los Angeles is actually a fabric of tightly linked districts specializing in an assortment of products. The Flower District, which is within walking distance, sells floral arrangements of flowers for low costs. The flowers are best purchased in the morning when they are their freshest.
- African American Firefighters Museum. This small museum is housed in an old fire station a few blocks away from The Piñata District. Make sure you come to this place at the right time, though; the Museum is opened from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. We arrived at the locked front of the Museum at about 4 p.m. on a Tuesday.