The Last Bookstore Is LA's Reading Playground for Kids Who Love Books
Getting kids excited about reading is one of the most important things a parent can do—so it's worth thinking outside the box. When kids start to grow tired of the pastel children’s section, take them downtown to The Last Bookstore, LA's unusual book playground. It is undeniably cool and, best of all, it makes reading seem edgy and funky, rather than something a bunch of lame adults try to trick them into doing.
The main floor is filled with a fabulous selection of reasonably priced used books and vinyl records. There’s also a sizable children's section with a small table and chairs. The art and decor remind me a bit of a dark, mysterious, haunted castle in a Harry Potter book. It's a place that seems exciting, magical and just a little scary, which is sure to appeal to older kids. The Last Bookstore is a better fit for kids ages five and up than it is toddlers, so keep that in mind before packing up the stroller. My toddler was a little nervous at first, but was fascinated by the wooly mammoth mounted on the wall. Even though the space was ultimately too spooky for her, we still walked away with a couple of books she loved at a great price.
Head upstairs and wander the labyrinthian shelves of bargain books (those in slightly more “well-loved” condition). Old books are stacked together like bricks and sculpted into tunnels (yes, you can walk through a tunnel of books) and other fanciful shapes, and the colors of the bindings are grouped together to wildly artistic effect. Teens and tweens will love that these book-art installations are total Instagram bait, so even if they don’t leave with a book, they're sure to leave with some fun photos (and you might, too). Beyond the books, upstairs is also home to the Spring Arts collective, a collection of several funky, hip art galleries. I particularly enjoy Jena Priebe’s installations (she’s responsible for the magically flying book pages around the store), but every installation is worth exploring—and often the artists themselves are on site to answer questions (plus, junior collectors can make a generally reasonably priced purchase if they want).
Kids seem to outgrow books at the same rate they outgrow clothes, so bring some of the books they don’t read any more and exchange them for store credit. The bookstore won’t take everything, but trading in some books in decent condition will help subsidize the next 40 parts of that dystopian sci-fi saga about space dragons your tween is hooked on.
Photo by Mike Anderson
If possible, try to take public transportation down there. Parking in Downtown LA can be rough and expensive, even by our beloved metropolis’ standards. If you drive, pay the day rate at one of the lots rather than hourly. Either way, make a day of it with The Last Bookstore as one of the stops. Get something delicious at Grand Central Market just a few blocks away, and ride Angel’s Flight (if it’s working). To make it a completely educational outing (but still cool) hit up a nearby museum like the Museum of Neon Art. The Last Bookstore is not a place to swing by quickly (especially if you're paying for parking) but there’s plenty of fun in the area so be sure to check out our list to get started.
The Last Bookstore has always been one of my favorite spots in LA; introduce your young Angelenos on your next trip downtown and there's a chance they might find the magic in reading, too. Check the store's website for hours and details on a variety of events.