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Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Purple Line

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Sure, there are only two different stops from the Red Line, but the Metro Purple Line has a lot to offer throughout Koreatown. In the near future, the Purple Line is also going to be extended through the Westside, eventually terminating at the VA center (west of the 405!). While it's not there yet, Metro's workhorse bus route 720 runs along the route, and I've chosen to include some stops on the bus route that will eventually have full-fledged subway stops (hopefully) by the end of the decade.

More information about getting to the Purple Line and transferring to the 720 may be found at the bottom of the article. It's also worth noting that the Red Line Part 1 article also covers the Purple Line through DTLA. Read forth, and discover everything the Purple Line can offer.

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Photos by Matthew Tinoco
WILSHIRE/VERMONT:

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Wi Spa

Simply said, Wi Spa is four-story Korean spa open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Need I say more? While Wi Spa has become a sort of group tradition for my friends and I, the spa is just as friendly for the solo spa-venturer, or a family spa venture. A gracious coed area makes the spa a very interesting and unique date night opportunity, too.

The spa is well-stocked when it comes to relaxation opportunities. Upon entry you'll exchange your clothes in a locker for some oversized, Wi Spa logo emblazoned clothing. After you've changed, the spa offers massages, acupuncture, body treatments, spas, pools, and saunas for your disposal. The various saunas are my personal favorite, including the shock you experience when you change from a 150-degree sauna to a 55-degree pool.

To compound the various treatments, the spa is also well-stocked when it comes to food. Although I have personally found better food throughout Koreatown, the food is still good, especially considering the spa's general air for the modestly cost-conscious. Speaking of which, the spa offers stellar facilities for its entry fee ($25 standard, $15 on Tuesdays, and $35 during some peak times like Saturday night).

Similar to my advice with the Museum of Jurassic Technology on the Expo Line, one should not enter this spa with any expectations. It's a great experience, but not exactly one that can be described in words.

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Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Vermont subway station. Upon exiting the station, cross Wilshire and start walking towards Downtown. The spa is just less than a 10-minute walk from the station. Address: 2700 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90057

First Congregational Church

While the First Congregational Church itself is an amazing piece of Gothic Revival architecture, the real secret is located inside, where the world's second largest pipe organ resides. The organ, originally constructed in the early 1930s, is a spectacle, with about 20,000 pipes total. To me, a non-organ buff, the scale seems bewildering and incomprehensible, but luckily the church staff's master organist Stewart W. Foster manages to make music on the beast.

The church holds frequent musical events, more information of which can be found online at the church's 'Music at First Church' site. In addition to that, organist Foster holds free organ concerts every Thursday at 12:10 p.m. As someone who has been to one of these concerts, the sound is simply overwhelming. Take a visit: It's a beautiful building with beautiful music. And it's free.

Directions: Exit the train at the Wilshire/Vermont station. Walk north on Vermont one block and then turn right on 6th Street. The church is located a couple blocks east of Vermont at the corner of 6th and Commonwealth Avenue. Address: 540 S Commonwealth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90020

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Bullocks Wilshire Building

Although Bullock's, a former L.A.-based department store, is long gone, the Bullock's Wilshire building stands resolute as an example of some absolutely brilliant Art Deco architecture. While I hesitate to call it the most beautiful example in the city (I give that prize to the Eastern Columbia Building in Downtown), the Bullocks Wilshire building is a treasure that needs to be seen with your own two eyes.

The building is now home to the Southwestern Law School, which acquired the building in 1994 and restored it to its original 1929 state. While you technically need to be a student to get inside, a security guard might be lenient depending upon how silver your tongue is. To get a proper tour of the building's interior (which is even more beautiful than the outside), you'll need to add yourself to the Bullocks Wilshire mailing list. Invitations and dates for tours are sent out via the list. Subscription information may be found here. Tours even come with tea.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Vermont station. Walk east on Wilshire (towards DTLA) until you come across the building. The walk is less than five minutes, and the building is located at 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90005.

Bourbon Street Café

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Although Vermont Avenue and Bourban Street could not be more different, Bourban Street Café offers Koreatown visitors a place to get a delicious cup of coffee in a relatively (compared to K-Town at least) relaxed environment. The establishment serves Intelligentsia Coffee, a brew which coffee snobs will accept as being a decent cup. To compound the Intelli coffee, Bourban Street Café also serves many excellent tea varities.

Although I'm not a terribly big coffee person, I am a fan of cold drinks, and Bourban's Iced Latte is one of, if not the best, I've had in my various coffee ventures around L.A. The brew is crisp, if I was to pick a single word to describe it. The interior of the coffee shop is pretty, featuring the decor one would expect in a Silver Lake coffee shop, and is a conducive environment for working and writing articles like this one.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line train at the Wilshire/Vermont station and walk south along Vermont. The café is located in a strip mall on the northeast corner of the intersection between Vermont Avenue and 7th Street. Address: 698 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90005.

Ham Ji Park

I may have to recant on my claim that the best Korean BBQ I've had is Soot Bull Jeep. While Soot Bull Jeep has an unique atmosphere and amazing food, I'm now inclined to name Ham Ji Park as my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant in the city.

Regardless, Ham Ji Park makes damn good BBQ pork ribs. The menu is not terribly extensive compared to other restaurants in the region, but if you're looking for the best Korean BBQ pork, you can't beat Ham Ji Park. The soups are just as good as the meats. I'll be sparing with the hyperbole here, but just assume the soups will be among the most flavorful to ever hit your taste buds (especially the Pork neck).

Directions: Exit the subway at Wilshire/Vermont. Walk one block north along Vermont to Sixth, and then turn left. Ham Ji Park is located at 3407 W 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020, about a five-minute walk from the train station.

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Photos by Matthew Tinoco
WILSHIRE/NORMANDIE:

Bistro on the Boulevard

Similar to The Hat in East L.A., the best American comfort food comes in unexpected places. This time, it's found in Koreatown at a cafeteria-style eatery called Bistro on the Boulevard. Don't be misled by the name, this Bistro is easily the one of the most hidden establishments I know of, and is not exactly in a spot that is easy to find if you don't know it's there. It's a true hidden gem.

Bistro on the Boulevard's menu is extensive, covering just about any standard American food you could want. But beyond just burgers and sandwiches, the owners of the establishment are happy to cook up their own personal Korean specialties if you ask nicely (and they have the ingredients). It's best to think of this restaurant as an IHOP with a Korean twist, and better food.

The menu rotates daily, so be prepared for it to not look like that picture I took. But rest assured, I've been here a number of times and the food is always equally delicious. The restaurant has a small outdoor patio, too, offering some alright views of the surrounding neighborhood. The real draw, however, are some tasty and cheap cheesesteaks (and similar food).

Directions: Exit the Wilshire/Normandie station and cross to Wilshire Boulevard's south side. Turn left, and walk east towards Downtown L.A. Bistro on the Boulevard is located above the Big 5 Sporting Goods Store (address: 3420 Wilshire Boulevard). Once you reach the building there are two ways up. The easiest is a staircase, located on the building's west side along Mariposa street. Walk south along Mariposa street from Wilshire and you will quickly see a staircase rising into the building. Go up the staircase, walk through a door you feel like you shouldn't go through, and then suddenly you'll find a cafeteria complete with a dog.

Sabores Oaxaquenos

The magic of Los Angeles is that you're never more than a few minutes from a delicious Mexican restaurant. Koreatown is no exception, where Sabores Oaxaquenos finds itself home. Although you can order the usual array of asada-style meals, Sabores specializes in Oaxaca-style food, Oaxaca being a southern Mexican state. And specialize they do, as the food is delicious, easily among the high ranking Mexican food I've had in Los Angeles.

Try the Mole Negro, which consists of chicken and rice coated in a garlic-jalapeño chili sauce. The taste is almost unexpectedly tangy to my mouth, but it's a fantastic full-flavored dish.

The restaurant's atmosphere is exactly what you would expect for a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Koreatown. To help augment the image, the restaurant's exterior is painted a bright pink with blue text. It's lively, and great for lunch or group dinner.

Directions: Exit the Wilshire/Normandie station and walk two blocks south on Normandie, which inexplicably changes its name to Irolo Street in this area, to the intersection of 8th and Irolo. Turn right on 8th without crossing. Address: 3337 1/2 W 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005

Chapman Plaza

Chapman Plaza's castle-like architecture stands out among the post-modern buildings of Koreatown. The building, which was originally built as an open-air market in 1928, retains much of its original charm, seeming very much like an escape in the heart of Los Angeles' most dense neighborhood.

The plaza features a variety of shops and eateries, all with the sense of being "undiscovered" by Koreatown outsiders. Although I have personally never eaten here (and only discovered the plaza by accident while biking through Koreatown for this article) the plaza has several establishments that look (and smell) tasty from the outside. Among others, the two that caught my eye were The Gogi, which Yelp informs me has a $19.99 all-you-can-eat BBQ special, and Lighthouse Waffles and Cake.

This place deserves a visit, even if you're not in a mood to purchase or eat. The plaza's interior is open air, and the strands of lights draping the plaza light up at night provide a unique, relaxing, and almost Spanish feeling atmosphere.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Normandie station. Walk north one block on Normandie Avenue and then east two blocks on 6th Street. Chapman plaza is located at the corner of 6th Street and Alexandria Avenue.

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Photos by Matthew Tinoco
WILSHIRE/WESTERN:

The Wiltern

Similar to the Bullocks Wilshire building a few blocks east, the Wiltern is a fantastic example of L.A.'s Art Deco architecture. Unlike the Bullocks Wilshire building, however, the Wiltern continues to serve its original purpose as a large theatre and venue. While not as big as the Staples Center, the Wiltern pulls large draw names.

Information on shows that will take place at the Wiltern in the near future may be found both on the venue's Facebook page as well as LiveNation's calendar.

Directions: Exit the Wilshire/Western station. Walk across Wilshire Boulevard.

Koreatown Plaza

Imagine a mall, except that instead of the stores inside being H&M and Zara, every single store has a name unfamiliar and in Korean. Your mental picture here is likely pretty close to what Koreatown Plaza is. Although some of the stores inside are familiar American and European brands, many of the stores are ones that I am not familiar with. While I am not the most brand-conscious person, I am relatively aware.

In addition to the number of Korean-branded stores (often at a reasonable price, though high-end options exist if that's your fancy, too), there is also a well-stocked grocery store on the first floor, as well as a food court to fulfill any Korean craving you may have. If that's not enough, there's also a huge bakery, offering any pastry or confection imaginable.

Just go for a visit. Like the spa, it's a hard experience to describe fully. Who knows, you might come back with some fabulous Korean fashions.

Directions: Exit the train at the Wilshire/Western station. The mall is a couple blocks south of the station on Western Avenue, just after 9th Street.

Last House on Wilshire

This is more a curious historical oddity for anyone who fancies themselves a city nerd (such as myself and @LAcitynerd), but there is exactly one residential house on Wilshire Boulevard. For reasons yet unknown to me, this particular house remained steady as Wilshire Boulevard transitioned from a mixed-use street, into the commercial haven it is today.

Militant Angeleno provides a small snippet of information on the house in his CicLAvia 5.0 (June 2013) guide, which details that the home has been owned by the same family since the early 1920s.

It's not really a massive sight to see, but it's a curious historical oddity that deserves some acknowledgement, as well as raising questions as to how this one house still remains.

Directions: Exit the Wilshire/Western station and walk west along Wilshire Boulevard (crossing over Western from the station). The Last House's address is 4016 Wilshire Boulevard, Hancock Park, about a five-minute walk from the station.

Critical Mass

On the last Friday of every month, thousands of cyclists take to the streets in an event known as Los Angeles' Critical Mass. Simply put, L.A.'s Critical Mass is the largest community bike ride in America. While similar to CicLAvia in that there are thousands of cyclists on city streets, Critical Mass has a distinctly different tone than CicLAvia. The ride takes place at night with a police escort and lasts a couple of hours, but the pace is slow enough that anyone in decent physical health can keep up (about 10-12 mph).

Routing varies each month, but don't be surprised if you end up somewhere unexpected. Rides are just as likely to cruise through Santa Monica as they are the City of Industry. Downtown and Crenshaw are also on the shortlist. The route generally ends in the vicinity of the Vermont/Sunset Red Line station as well.

The specifics are simple: The ride meets at the Wilshire/Western station at 6:30 p.m. on the last Friday of the month. Riders mingle around for an hour (the ride is a largely a social event) or can show up closer to the roll-out time. The ride leaves the station at exactly 7:29 p.m. There is a break that usually lasts about 30 minutes somewhere in the middle of the ride. The ride usually finishes up between 11 and 12 p.m. near a Metro station for convenience.

The next ride is Friday, August 30.

Directions: Exit the Purple line at its Wilshire/Western terminus. If you aren't surrounded by thousands of other Angelenos with bicycles, you've probably got the wrong day.

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Photos by Matthew Tinoco
WILSHIRE/LA BREA:

Dining

The area around the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea is chock full with some of the finest dining options in Los Angeles. Although the area's roots are close to Koreatown, almost any type of food can be found in the vicinity, largely owing to Mid-City's overwhelming diversity. I've chosen to highlight three restaurants around the intersection, Genwa, Yuko Kitchen, and Sushi Eyaki.

Genwa is, by the standards of many, one of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles. I am not one to disagree, considering that the service, banchan (small side dishes that go along with the main course) and the meats are among the best I have ever experienced. If you go to the restaurant exclusively for the meat taste, then you can find some better taste elsewhere (like Ham Ji Park). But the overall experience of Genwa, a tastefully decorated and exquisitely friendly restaurant, is one of, if not the best I've had in Los Angeles. It's good for almost any occasion; the exception would likely be large groups.

Yuko Kitchen seems modestly out of place along Wilshire Boulevard; the murals and small cafe setting might seem more at home in Silver Lake. Regardless, the Japanese restaurant has a variety of seafood available, and while I am not generally big on fish, I make an exception for the spicy tuna at Yuko. Paired with some iced tea or mint lemonade, the meal is close to perfection. Service is good, and leaves little to be desired, but it does lack the dedication that Genwa comes with.

I must confess, I am not a terribly big sushi fan, but the first time I tried sushi at Sushi Eyaki, I decided I liked sushi. While the interior can be somewhat dark inside, the service and food make up for it. I'm a fan of the Jalapeño Tempura Roll, a deep fried roll of happiness, and the Cass Spicy Salmon Roll, a well-seasoned and eggy roll. Service is good, and the restaurant's atmosphere is certainly catered towards a more intimate setting, but the restaurant can certainly work for anyone who likes sushi. Menu.

Directions: All of these restaurants are located less than a five-minute walk from the Wilshire/La Brea stop. Genwa is located at 5115 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite #A, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Yuko Kitchen is located at 5484 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Sushi Eyaki is located at 5040 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

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Photos by Matthew Tinoco
WILSHIRE/FAIRFAX:

LACMA

Although it's not exactly a hidden gem, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a remarkable destination along Wilshire Boulevard. The museum, which boasts an incredibly extensive collection of more than 100,000 works spanning from prehistoric to postmodern periods, is open to the public every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Hours vary, but generally the museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Admission to the museum is $15, but students can get in for $10 and minors (<18) can enter for free. Be sure to show your TAP card though, because Metro offers a $2 discount off your admission if you can show that you took transit to the museum.

Information on the museum's plentiful events may be found on LACMA's programming page, too, offering events that highlight both Los Angeles' culture, as well as providing context to culture that Angelenos might not ordinarily be exposed to.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Western station. Upon exiting the station you'll see a covered bus stop with Rapid logos and a route map for the Rapid 720 bus. Board the 720 (headed west to Santa Monica) bus and exit at the Wilshire/Fairfax stop. LACMA is located on the northeast corner of the intersection.

Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits

Located in the heart of Hancock Park, The Page Museum is a great place to take budding archeologists. The interior of the museum is chock full of fossils, ranging from some plants and birds, to thousands of Dire Wolves, some Wooly Mammoths, and Saber Tooth Cats. Strange to think all these animals used to roam around the Fairfax district.

Of course, outside the museum is the infamous tar pits with the floating mammoths. Surrounding the museum and tar pits is an extensive park, complete with occasional bubbles of tar. Picnicking is encouraged, and there is plenty of space for young children to run around pretending they're dinosaurs stuck in tar.

The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year (save some big holidays) and admission for adults is $12. Children between 3 and 12 can get in for $5. There are also a slew of daily programs, usually aimed at educating children. Information on the museum's programming may be found on its calendar.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Western station. Upon exiting the station you'll see a covered bus stop with Rapid logos and a route map for the Rapid 720 bus. Board the 720 (headed west to Santa Monica) bus and exit at the Wilshire/Fairfax stop. The Page Museum is located about a five-minute walk east from the stop, just past LACMA at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Petersen Automotive Museum

All those movie props have to go somewhere, and if that prop happens to be a car, it likely ended up at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The Petersen's collection, which includes about 300 historical vehicles, rotates frequently, owing to the fact that the museum only has space to display about half of the total number of cars. While a great number of the cars here are from film and television (Batmobile, Herbie, MASH vehicles) vintage Mercedes and Bugattis are just as likely to be on display.

The museum is great for families (what little boy wouldn't want to see a museum of just cars) and car lovers alike. Admission tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for children. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Western station. Upon exiting the station you'll see a covered bus stop with Rapid logos and a route map for the Rapid 720 bus. Board the 720 (headed west to Santa Monica) bus and get off at the Wilshire/Fairfax stop. The museum is located on the southeast corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Architecture and Design Museum

A newcomer to the Miracle Mile, L.A.'s Architecture and Design Museum is one of my personal favorites for providing insightful exhibits on architecture and design, often through a lens on Los Angeles. The present exhibit, a part of the Pacific Standard Time Presents Modern Architecture in L.A., is called "Never Built Los Angeles", which highlights many public works projects that were planned, but never built, for Los Angeles. This present exhibit is truly fascinating look into the politics and planning that made L.A. into the city it is today.

The museum is small, almost more of a gallery-type space. But the content provided, in my opinion at least, is thoroughly interesting. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and children. A+D is open Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends from noon to 6 p.m.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Western station. Upon exiting the station you'll see a covered bus stop with Rapid logos and a route map for the Rapid 720 bus. Board the 720 (headed west to Santa Monica) bus and get off at the Wilshire/Fairfax stop. The museum is located on the southeast corner of Wilshire and Orange Grove, adjacent the Petersen. Address: 6032 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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The Hammer Museum (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)
WILSHIRE/WESTWOOD:

Hammer Museum

The Armand Hammer Museum operates as a satellite of UCLA's campus, and while the museum's collection is not terribly large compared to other museums around the region, the Hammer Museum's varied exhibitions (like the highly acclaimed Made in L.A. exhibition last summer) make up for it. Exhibitions are kept sharply current, owing to the museum's curation by UCLA's Art and Architecture department.

Present exhibitions include the contemporary abstract expressionist Maya Hayuk, as well as work by Wael Shawky portraying the Christian crusades from an Arab perspective. More information on the exhibitions (including future ones) may be found at the Hammer's exhibitions page.

The museum is open to the public between the hours of 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. On weekends the museum closes at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Admission for adults is $10, though the museum includes a laundry list of people who may enter the museum for free, too. Admission is not charged on Thursdays. If you show your TAP card (as you should) you'll get $5 off.

Directions: Exit the Purple Line at the Wilshire/Western station. Upon exiting the station you'll see a covered bus stop with Rapid logos and a route map for the Rapid 720 bus. Board the 720 (headed west to Santa Monica) bus and get off at the Wilshire/Westwood stop. The museum is located on the northeast corner of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Further Information:

Getting to the Purple Line isn't hard, and Metro's website has a map which includes parking information throughout the network. Westsiders can connect in from the Metro Expo Line, which takes you right into Downtown. Angelenos to the south can ride the Blue Line to 7th/Metro, and those who live along the Gold Line can use it to get to Union Station.

A warning to Valleyites: The North Hollywood and Universal City station parking lots are filled very quickly on weekdays, so be prepared to look for parking around the station. Alternatively, you can usually find lots of street parking around the Laurel Canyon Orange Line station, and then ride that one stop to the North Hollywood Red Line station.

Purchase a day pass for your TAP Card; it's only $5. If you don't have a TAP card, a day pass and TAP card combo will cost you $6. Day passes make sense if you're going to more than one stop along the line, and especially if you'll be transferring to the 720 bus to see more of Wilshire.

Related:
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Expo Line
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Gold Line (Part 1)
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Gold Line (Part 2)
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Red Line (Part 1)
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Red Line (Part 2)

Matthew Tinoco lives in West Adams and studies journalism at USC. He is usually found on a bus, train, or bicycle. Follow him on Twitter: @onthatbombshell