17 Best Things to Do in Downey, CA

Downey, CA
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Downey, California, is nothing short of an adventure.

Nestled in southeast Los Angeles County, this city never runs out of charms to captivate its inhabitants.

Its unique blend of history, culture, cuisine, and nature makes it a place that perfectly balances tranquility with the vibrant energy of urban living.

Are you curious to know what makes Downey worth exploring?

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: John Dews, Kerri Oglesby, Paul Bullock, John Schurman, Mavis Winters, Bonnie Manno and Martha Kim.

Enjoy a Nostalgic Trip to the Original McDonald's

Exterior of World’s Oldest Operating McDonald’s
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Once upon a time, a fast-food revolution was born in the heart of Downey, California.

Nestled at 10207 Lakewood Blvd stands the oldest McDonald's restaurant.

This McDonald's is the trailblazer, the original, the archetype that set the standard for the familiar golden arches we see on every corner today.

When you first gaze upon it, the iconic 1950s architecture immediately transports you back to simpler times.

Unlike the modernized branches, this one stayed true to its roots, retaining the original building and the famous single-arch sign.

Its charm doesn't just rest in its nostalgia-inducing exterior – inside, you'll find a quaint museum that houses a collection of old-style packaging, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia.

The golden arch of World’s Oldest Operating McDonald’s
Logan Bush / Shutterstock.com

Just like the old patrons, I too often enjoy a classic cheeseburger in the dining area that shares space with the museum.

The experience is a little surreal – one moment, you're in present-day LA, and the next, you're savoring the past in this unique establishment.

It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, but once you spot the towering single arch sign, it's hard to resist stepping in for a quick bite and a trip down memory lane.

The food is, as one would expect, familiar and comforting.

For instance, the cheeseburger tastes just like it should, and the fries are as crispy and golden as ever.

Whether you're a fast-food fan, a history buff, or simply a curious wanderer, the oldest McDonald's in the world is a place worth visiting for a taste of history and a side of fries.

Pickup window of World’s Oldest Operating McDonald’s
Logan Bush / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy a Night Out at Cinemark Downey and XD

There is something incredibly comforting about escaping into another world, courtesy of the silver screen.

And when it comes to perfecting that experience, no one does it better than Cinemark Downey and XD.

Nestled in the heart of Downey, California, this theater has been my home away from home for years.

I always go there when I need to catch the latest flick.

It's a quick drive from my house, complete with ample parking.

The moment you walk through the doors, the aroma of buttery popcorn greets you—a fragrance that is only met with a taste just as divine.

If you're in the mood for something more substantial, there are Pizza Hut personal-sized pizzas on offer.

One of the features I cherish is the option to select my seat online.

No more worrying about getting the perfect spot—it's already reserved!

The seats themselves are a dream.

They recline to a point of comfort that has caught me off guard more than once, dozing off in the middle of the movie.

The sound and picture quality are top-notch, making it worth every cent.

Moreover, the theater's layout is also impressive, with different-sized theaters that cater to everyone's preferences.

I have a soft spot for their smaller theaters—they feel cozier.

But perhaps what I appreciate most is the cleanliness.

Everything is spotless, whether it's the food lines, bathrooms, or theaters.

While ticket prices might seem steep, especially for families, the amenities—like the 4D reclining seats and the food ordering options—make it worthwhile.

And let's not forget the shorter lines and exceptional customer service.

All these little touches make Cinemark Downey and XD my favorite movie theater, hands down.

Go to Space at Columbia Memorial Space Center

My city isn't just any ordinary one.

It's where you can find the Columbia Memorial Space Center, a modern locale that offers a journey into the stars right in Downey.

I've always found it fascinating how family-friendly and interactive the exhibits about space are, including a simulator that transports you right into the heart of the cosmos.

Better yet, get ready to put on your spacesuits and join me as I explore the universe, all from the comfort of my hometown!

From the moment I step into the center, I'm plunged into a world of science, technology, and engineering that never fails to ignite my curiosity.

I'm not just learning about the Earth and astronomy but also experiencing it first-hand.

One of my favorite places to visit is the robotics lab, where I learn about programming through hands-on activities.

I also love discovering the physics of flight and delving into the world of aeronautics.

For instance, I get to learn about NASA and commercial space programs in an engaging and fun way, unlike the dry textbooks from school.

The admission fee is reasonably priced and offers a discount to AAA membership holders like myself.

But it's not just the price that keeps me coming back.

The Columbia Memorial Space Center is a thriving environment for kids and adults alike to learn and explore.

There are many activities to keep visitors entertained all year round.

I remember meeting a robotics club from Long Beach here once, a testament to the center's commitment to fostering a love for STEM projects.

With so much going on, it’s no wonder I often spot them at other events around town.

Visiting the Columbia Memorial Space Center is a voyage of discovery, an opportunity to step into the shoes of an astronaut without ever leaving home.

It's an educational adventure out of this world, right here in my backyard.

So, what are you waiting for? The universe is waiting to be explored!

Spend the Night at Downey Theatre

I had always heard great things about the performances at Downey Theatre, but it wasn't until I got to experience it for myself that I truly understood why.

It was an excellent evening with a slight breeze, and the energy of the theater was almost palpable when I arrived.

The building itself is a classic one, with an air of elegance and grandeur about it.

Walking inside, I was greeted with a cozy, intimate setting that made me feel instantly at ease.

The small venue does mean that there's not a bad seat in the house.

I was lucky enough to snag a spot right in the middle, perfect for viewing the stage.

The night show was 'Mama Mia.'

And let me tell you, it was incredible.

The actors were talented, pouring their hearts and souls into every song and every dialogue.

It felt like I had been transported right into the story's heart.

The applause throughout the venue at the end of the performance was a testament to their spectacular performance.

Later in the month, I returned to Downey for a concert.

It was, as expected, a fantastic night of music and entertainment.

Although the space isn't designed for busting moves from your seat, that didn't stop me and everyone else from grooving along to the beat.

It was another night to remember, one that further cemented my love for this charming local venue.

Downey Theatre is a place to experience the magic of live performances, feel the pulse of the music, and be swept away by the talent and passion on display.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Furman Park

I have to say, there's nothing quite like spending a day at Furman Park.

I've spent countless afternoons indulging in various sports activities, from baseball to tennis, making it a perfect spot for a family outing or just a casual hangout.

It's a public park, complete with restrooms which, while sometimes too far from specific areas, the staff is always diligent about keeping tidy.

Renting a shelter for special occasions is also easy and relatively affordable.

Saturday mornings can get quite busy due to the popular baseball games.

So, if you're planning any celebration, I'd recommend getting there early to secure a parking spot.

And yes, the park might be bustling, but its charm is undisturbed.

The peaceful ambiance and lush greenery give you a sense of tranquility worth experiencing.

Speaking of the playground, it's well-maintained and provides a safe environment for kids.

It's always a delight seeing them enjoy the clean play area.

Whether for a leisurely evening walk along the track or to break a sweat playing adrenaline-pumping sports, Furman Park has never failed to provide a wholesome experience.

Spend the Day at Dennis the Menace Park

There's a certain charm about Dennis the Menace Park that I can't resist.

Located in the heart of our city, it's my go-to place to spend quality time with my children.

As you step inside, you're greeted by an expansive green lawn.

It's like a carpet of nature's own making, perfect for a family picnic or just lying around, soaking up the sun.

There are scattered picnic tables, ideal for those who want to enjoy their meal outdoors.

The playground is my kids' favorite part. It's not just a simple swing set and sandbox.

No, it's a full-fledged children's paradise with plenty of equipment to entertain them for hours.

And the best part? It's either new or so well-maintained that it looks brand new.

I remember going to this park in the 1980s when it had an old Castle.

Now, I’m pleasantly surprised with the updated play equipment for my little ones.

There are also bathrooms on site, which is always a plus when you're out with children.

They are reasonably clean and decent, more than I can say for other public facilities I've been to.

The park also has a small parking lot, ensuring you don't have to walk too far from your car.

Dennis the Menace Park is a gem in our city, where families can relax, children can play, and everyone can enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Enjoy the Day at Wilderness Park

Wilderness Park is the perfect place to spend your day, no matter what you're into.

You strap on your helmet, the cool morning air brushing against your face, ready for a bike ride that kick-starts your day.

Or maybe you're more of a runner or a walker.

Either way, the park has you covered with its well-kept walk/jog paths.

The park opens at 8 a.m. and is already buzzing with activities.

It's not just about the physical activities, though.

Wilderness Park is a favorite for families, too.

Imagine spending a sunny afternoon, sitting by the duck pond, watching your kids play by the modern, clean playground.

Seeing ducks and fishes in the pond is always a crowd-pleaser, especially for the little ones.

Now, if you're looking for some quiet time, there's a spot for you, too.

A reading box filled with free books just waiting to be read under the shade of a tree.

The park also offers a few charging stations for electric vehicles - a touch of modernity in this natural oasis.

Wilderness Park also has plenty of benches, drinking water dispensers, and restrooms.

Moreover, the park is impeccably maintained, the pathways clean, and the grassy areas a vibrant green.

It's a fantastic place to have a picnic, with the soothing sounds of the fountains in the background.

And if you're in the mood for a longer adventure, the park conveniently connects with the LA "river," providing extended trails for biking or running.

So, it's not just a park but a doorway to a larger adventure.

Remember Wilderness Park the next time you plan a day out. It's more than a park. It's a slice of paradise in our own Downey.

Savor the Experience at Lock & Key Social Drinkery + Kitchen

Every visit to the Lock & Key Social Drinkery + Kitchen is a journey into a modern tavern where the fusion of American-style cuisine and craft brews create an intoxicating, warm atmosphere.

My first encounter with this place left an indelible mark on my heart.

The food is sublime!

Each plate offers generous servings capable of satisfying two appetites, and though it's a bit on the pricier side, the explosion of flavors in your mouth will make every penny worth it.

Their cocktails? A masterpiece! Mixed to perfection, they add the right amount of buzz to your meal.

My second visit was nothing short of spectacular.

The Filet Mignon steak was a burst of flavors, paired with perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts.

Their beer selection is commendable, and the ambiance, though a tad dark, does well in setting the right mood for an unforgettable dining experience.

With its large pork belly piece, the Doc Holiday burger is a must-try, as are the Cajun fries and their salmon dish.

Each visit to this place makes it more evident - Lock & Key Social Drinkery + Kitchen is a gem, ready to be discovered by those searching for a great dining experience.

Go Bowling at Del Rio Lanes

Ever since I stepped into Del Rio Lanes for the first time, I knew this was my place - a perfect spot for unwinding and having a blast.  

The energy level is always off the charts, and if you're lucky enough to join in on one of their Cosmic Bowling nights, you're in for a real treat.

Imagine bowling in the dark, with only the glow of neon black lights outlining the alleys and pins.

It's an absolute riot!

And let's not forget about the food.

It's just as much a spectacle as the bowling itself.

I've seen kids' eyes pop out of their heads when the staff brings out a giant basket of shareable size french fries.

It's a sight to behold.

Del Rio Lanes is my go-to spot for a fun-filled night.

It's a buzzing, neon-lit space where the food is good, and the times are excellent.

Take a Glimpse into History at Casa De Parley Johnson

Having lived in Downey for years, I’ve often passed by the historic Casa De Parley Johnson.

Nestled in our city, this historic gem has always intrigued me with its Mediterranean Revival architecture.

A few years back, an old friend decided to host his wedding at the Casa.

Just stepping into the property transported us to a bygone era.

The aroma of old wood, the building's rustic charm, and the beautifully manicured gardens - it's like stepping back in time.

Over the years, Casa De Parley Johnson has become a hallmark of our city.

Whether weddings or other events, the venue has always been a part of our town's celebrations, and I continue to hold the place close to my heart.

Enjoy a Day Out at Apollo Park

I've always loved indulging in a lovely outdoor picnic with my family on sunny afternoons, and where better than Apollo Park?

This green haven is just a short distance from my house in Downey.

One of the park's best features is its spacious gazebos with picnic tables.

Whether rain or shine, they've never failed to provide an ideal space for our family gatherings.

I remember we had a big potluck party the last time we were there.

The tables were brimming with delicious homemade dishes, and the best part was we were all huddled together, enjoying the food and each other's company, undisturbed by the rain.

Apollo Park is more than just a picnic spot, though.

I've seen it transform into a hub of community activity, especially during the weekends.

The soccer fields, often the venue for local tournaments, are always buzzing with excitement.

Moreover, the artificial turf gives it an edge, making it quite a popular choice among the local teams.

I often walk on the park's track when not picnicking or cheering for the local soccer teams.

Surrounded by tranquility, it’s the perfect place to gather my thoughts or enjoy an audiobook.

There's also an outdoor gym for those looking for something more vigorous. It's open to everyone and a great way to stay in shape.

And let's not forget about the children!

The park's playground, designed for kids aged 5 to 12, is always alive with laughter and energy.

It's complete with a jungle gym and swings that never fail to bring joy to their faces.

Although the park has ample parking, finding a spot near the Jack-in-the-box can sometimes be a challenge.

That's the side the GPS will direct you to. But even so, the stroll through the park more than makes up for it.

Apollo Park has become a cherished part of my life.

It never fails to deliver, whether it's picnics, sports, or a quiet retreat.

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane at Downey Historical Society

The first time I set foot in the Downey Historical Society, I sought insight into my city's past. And boy, did it deliver!

It's a journey into a bygone era.

With an impressive collection of artifacts, the Downey Historical Society is a treasure trove of local history.

But the real highlight of my visit came when I stumbled upon the museum's tribute to the TV show “Emergency.”

Squad 51 and Engine 51, vehicles from the series, were on display.

As a show fan, seeing these icons from my favorite TV series was an absolute treat.

It felt like stepping onto the set of the show, a delightful blast from the past.

In addition to the “Emergency” display, the museum houses a large selection of historic items from Downey.

Every artifact tells a unique story, vividly depicting our city's colorful past.

Browsing the collection, I felt like I was traveling back in time, reliving the moments that shaped Downey into the city it is today.

Every visit to the Downey Historical Society is a unique adventure into the past.

It's where history comes alive, and every artifact tells a story.

Whether you're a history buff, a fan of “Emergency,” or just curious about Downey's past, this is a place you must visit.

Rediscover Stonewood Center

There's something about a mall that brings back all the nostalgic memories of childhood; for me, that is Stonewood Center.

I hadn't been to Stonewood in over twenty years, and boy, has it changed!

I found myself back there recently, not with any purpose, just craving that sweet rush of childhood memories and a specific orange iced tea from Sweet Boboa.

My feet led me on a leisurely walk around the mall, my eyes feasting on the mall's contemporary design and the assortment of popular brand-name shops, department stores, and restaurants.

Out of habit, I found myself at TORRID, unable to resist the lure of some great buys.

After the unplanned shopping spree, I took a breather and ate a Mexican meal at one of the restaurants.

Stonewood Center has also become a perfect place for bicycle riding, skateboarding, and dog walking!

The local community has found a way to enjoy this beautiful space uniquely, and I, too, am looking forward to my next visit.

Enjoy Escapades at Treasure Island Park

Now and then, I escape the hustle and bustle of city life and seek solace at the serene Treasure Island Park.

This hidden gem is conveniently located next to the LA River Bike path, making it a perfect pit stop during my usual bike rides.

Finding such a clean, quiet place in the middle of the city is a breath of fresh air, where you can hear the whispering wind through the leaves rather than the usual city noise.

At Treasure Island Park, I often find myself lost in time, enjoying the wide open spaces and the park's inviting swing sets that bring out my inner child.

The numerous trees provide an abundance of shade.

Moreover, this place is ideal for picnicking, with several benches scattered around.

I highly recommend the park's barbecue grills for all the enthusiasts.

Treasure Island Park is a haven for both humans and animals alike.

The park also hosts various plant species along its winding path, making it an absolute delight for nature lovers.

Parking is never an issue here, with ample space around Bluff Road.

Despite its size, the park is usually not crowded, allowing you to enjoy its tranquility.

You can always find small groups scattered around the park, keeping it lively without disturbing its serenity.

Next time you're looking for a peaceful retreat in the city, remember this little piece of paradise waiting to welcome you with its open arms.

Enjoy a Leisurely Day at Los Amigos Golf Course

Whenever I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I visit the picturesque Los Amigos Golf Course.

Walking in, you're greeted by the expansive greens dotted with challenging bunkers and tranquil lakes.

It's like a serene oasis right in the heart of Southbay, LA.

The course has always been in commendable shape, even for a public facility.

Meanwhile, the greens are soft and slow, and the bunker sand is gentle to the touch, making it easier to escape.

It's got a charming mix of obstacles, with water hazards sprucing up the back 9, making it an enjoyable challenge for golfers of all levels.

One of the highlights of the visit is the on-site eatery that serves the most delicious Belgian waffles and burgers.

Nothing beats enjoying a well-deserved meal after a round of golf, overlooking the beautiful course.

The course retains its charm and remains a go-to destination for a leisurely golf day in LA.

Remember, if you're planning a quick round, you might want to choose a weekday or an early tee time to beat the crowd.

Enjoy a Day Out on the Rio Hondo River Trail

I spend many of my weekends on the Rio Hondo River Trail; every time I do, it's a new experience.

Its vast and flat path is perfect for long runs or bike rides.

But always wear a hat and sunscreen - there's not much shade on this trail.

What's unique about Rio Hondo is that it eventually merges with the Los Angeles rivers and runs to Long Beach.

If you decide to go in the other direction, it will lead you towards Whittier Narrows, along cozy neighborhoods and imposing industrial sites.

The trail also boasts some parks next to the dry cement river bed, perfect for a family picnic.

After a long bike ride or run, there's nothing like finding a shady spot under a tree and enjoying a packed lunch.

Moreover, the trail provides an escape from the scorching LA summer heat, making it an ideal place to unwind and enjoy the outdoors.

While there, don't forget to look up and enjoy the stunning views of the LA basin mountain skylines to the northeast.

It's a sight to behold and why I keep returning to this trail.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery that makes time spent on the Rio Hondo River Trail truly special.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Feel the Thrill at Golf N' Stuff

Have you ever had one weekend where all you want is a decent dose of fun and adventure?

That's precisely what I found at Golf N' Stuff.

Picture this: a sprawling 18-hole mini-golf course, an exciting arcade, go-karts zooming around, and fun-filled rides.

It's the perfect place for a weekend outing and any day of the week.

I remember visiting on a weekday once; the place was bustling with families and groups of friends having a blast.

Even with the crowd, the wait time to get onto the rides or access the golf course wasn’t long.

The centerpiece of Golf N' Stuff, the mini-golf course, is an absolute marvel.

Its intricate designs, exciting obstacles, and charming additions like mini waterfalls and fountains made each round of golf exhilarating.

I still regret not trying out the go-karts; they offered another level of fun.

Arcade games have always been my weakness, and the variety here was impressive. From retro arcade games to the latest ones, they had it all.

And nothing beats the thrill of bumper cars! Safe to say, it was an adrenaline-packed day.

What made the experience even better was the availability of a snack bar and sitting areas.

It made taking breaks and refueling quite convenient.

Golf N' Stuff offers a wholesome, fun-filled experience that doesn’t hurt the pocket. The pricing is fair, ranging from $15 to $30 for access to golf and the rides.

While it can be expensive, the joy and memories you take away are priceless.

So, if you're seeking a fun day out, don't miss out on Golf N' Stuff.

Final Thoughts

Downey, California, is a city full of life and adventure.

No matter what you enjoy, Downey has something for everyone.

It's a place I'm proud to call home and one I encourage others to explore.

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