Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Expo Line
It's been just over one year since Metro completed Phase 1 of the Expo Line, and in that year the line has been largely hailed as a success. Although the entire line is yet to be completed (Phase 2 connecting to Santa Monica is scheduled to be completed in 2015), Phase 1 provides great access to some of L.A.'s best activities.
Westsiders can connect to the Expo Line at the Culver City station. Parking is free and plentiful. First-time Metro users may purchase a TAP card for $1 at the machines and then load that card with the desired fare. Fares are $1.50 each way (so load at least $3.00!), or you can pay $5.00 for a Day Pass, valid on all Metro buses and Rail for the entire day (advised if you're planning to go to more than one destination).
Each Expo Line Station also features public art displays, to which Metro provides a guide here.
As you scroll down you'll be exposed to some of the sights around six of the Expo Line's 12 stations. Happy riding!
Los Angeles Public Library:
The 7th Street Station is just two blocks away from L.A.'s awe-inspiring, gigantic Central Library branch. LAPL central is home to 6.5 million volumes of books alone, not to forget its slew of digital resources and audio visual holdings. The library provides an accessible space for studying, reading, and simple browsing around the many volumes throughout the library's dizzying array of floors.
The building, constructed in 1926, was victim to an arson attack in 1986, which, although devastating to the library's collections, many view as a blessing in disguise. After the attack, Los Angeles spent several years rebuilding and expanding the library into its present form. In 1993, L.A. reopened the library to the public, showcasing the building's massive new eight-story atrium dedicated to former Mayor Tom Bradley.
If you're tired of books, the Library has a small yet charming cafe on the main floor near the Flower Street entrance. Outside the library on Flower Street sits the relaxing Maguire Gardens, a well-kept park offering some great views of Downtown's skyscrapers, as well as Café Pinot, one of Downtown's many tasty options.
Directions: Exit 7th Street/Metro Center station towards the Flower Street entrance. Head up the stairs, and upon exiting you'll be at the intersection of 7th and Flower. The library is located on the southwest corner of 5th and Flower.
The 7th Street station is right in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles and offers those who do not live in DTLA easy and cheap access into the heart of the city. Downtown is a highly walkable neighborhood teeming with cultural, culinary, and shopping opportunities that can keep anyone occupied for, well, a very long time. This district is one that is consistently on the rise and also one that can only be explored for one's self.
I advise you to take a weekend day and ride the train into Downtown just for a day and explore the city on foot. You'll be amazed at what you'll see, including spaces many don't even realize Los Angeles has. Whether it's the Broadway Theatre District, the Expansive Art District, (Art) Gallery Row, the Jewelry District, Fig@7th, Chinatown, the Garment District, the Toy District, or Bunker Hill, Downtown's sheer diversity and urban charm is something very different from the traditional notion of "L.A." It's something every Angeleno needs to experience.
Directions: Exit at the 7th Street Metro Center station and start exploring! The Metro Red/Purple Lines also provide access throughout Downtown and can be connected to at the 7th/Metro station.
L.A. Live (Photo by Danny Thompson Jr via Flickr)
It's hard to believe that this area used to be just parking lots, but in the time since the Staples Center opened in 1999, the adjacent area has been developed into one of L.A.'s major entertainment hubs.
Paired with the Staples Center and a 54-story Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott, L.A. Live features an exceedingly plush Regal Cinemas complex, which the company has dubbed its West Coast flagship. Also making a statement are the Grammy Museum, dedicated to the history of the awards show; the Nokia Theatre/concert venue where the Primetime Emmy Awards are held; and a large (if not trying too hard to be Times Square) plaza plastered with several large LED screens advertising L.A.'s greatness.Mid- to high-end dining is plentiful, including Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Katsuya, Lawry's Prime Rib, Rock'N Fish, Rosa Mexicano, The Farm of Beverly Hills, Trader Vic's, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, and Yard House.
Directions: Exit at Pico Station and head toward the lights, Staples Center, and giant hotel.
Photos by Matthew Tinoco
EXPO PARK/USC STATION
A no-brainer on the Expo Line is Los Angeles' amazing Exposition Park, which is home to L.A.'s Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, the California African American Museum, Los Angeles' own Air and Space museum, L.A.'s charmed Rose Garden, the Memorial Coliseum, and L.A. Sports Arena.
Originally constructed as a home for the 1932 Olympics, Exposition Park remains a hallmark of L.A. civic pride. While here, you're just as likely to spot hundreds of children on a school field trip to the museum as you are to see an old married couple strolling through the Rose Garden. The park provides wide-open green spaces (perfect for running children) as well as plenty of picnicking benches and even L.A.'s oldest living palm tree.
Children especially love the Science Center with its numerous hands-on activities and experiments. Beyond that, the museum also has L.A.'s finest IMAX theatre and serves as Space Shuttle Endeavour's final destination. To see Endeavour, you'll need a timed ticket, which can be easily reserved here.
Food options are plentiful, largely thanks to USC's neighborhood presence. Most of these are near the Exposition/Figueroa intersection.
Directions: Exit at the Expo Park/USC station and cross Exposition Boulevard to the south, at which point you'll be poised to enter the park through the Rose Garden.
Earlez Grille (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)
An icon of Crenshaw, Earlez Grille is known for producing some of the best hot dogs and chili in Los Angeles, as well as being one of the spaces that best represents South Los Angeles. The restaurant, which has received shout-outs from rappers and city politicians alike for making great food, has a menu as diverse as its clientele. Although a hot dog-heavy list, Earlez also makes some delicious sandwiches, burgers, and BBQ. Unlike other restaurants of its kind, Earlez Grille also produces some fantastic vegetarian and vegan food. Vegetarians may find sanctity in their veggie and tofu links, as well as the best vegetarian chili known to man.
As LA Weekly notes, ordering can be a process. The menu is on a TV screen that changes, though generally just asking the employees what they'd choose yields the best results.
Directions: Exit Expo/Crenshaw. There is a giant sign that says "Chili Factory" immediately across the train tracks. Walk toward it. Address: 3630 Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.
Although Leimert Park is not directly connected to the Los Angeles Rail System for now (the Crenshaw Line is scheduled to open in 2019 and will provide a much lauded Leimert Park stop) a quick two-stop bus ride to Crenshaw/Vernon places you into the cultural heart of black Los Angeles.
Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine is a personal favorite, where they make exactly what one would expect from a Jamaican restaurant. You can't go wrong with an order of their many stews and curries, and the restaurant's relaxed atmosphere is a great introduction to Leimert Park's teeming cultural atmosphere.
Directions: Exit the Crenshaw Station and make your way to the northwest corner of the intersection (across from the West Angeles Cathedral) and wait for either Metro Rapid 710 or 740 headed south. Exit at Vernon (two stops south), which places you in the heart of the highly walkable Leimert Park district. Ackee Bamboo is located at #100 4305 Degnan Boulevard, just north of Vernon.
Photos by Matthew Tinoco
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook:
If you fancy yourself more of an outdoors type (and Runyon is just too crowded), take a hike up to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The overlook is a quick walk from the La Cienega/Jefferson station and provides spectacular views of the Los Angeles Basin. Be prepared though: the walk up has just under 300 stairs and can easily take your breath away.
Once you've reached the top (and caught your breath!), enjoy some of the best views of the city from LAX and Santa Monica to San Pedro and Downtown L.A. The park also provides several amenities for the more athletically inclined, including well-maintained walking and jogging trails, several drinking fountains, and the world's cleanest public restrooms.
For the historian in you, the park has a visitor's center that shows a short video on the park's short history, as well as some information on the L.A. River, local climate, and some of the native plants.
Enjoy the view from the top!
Directions: Exit at Jefferson/La Cienega and walk south on La Cienega, turning right when you reach Rodeo. Walk west on Rodeo (which turns into Jefferson right away) until you reach Hetzler Road, where you will see a large sign that says "Trailhead." Keep on walking! Approximate address: 6060 Jefferson Boulevard, Culver City, CA..
Ballona Creek Bike Path:
Adjacent to the station is one of L.A.'s best bike rides. The Ballona Creek Bike Path offers a straight, car-free bicycle path from Culver City to Marina del Rey. It even made our list of the top 10 bike rides in L.A. Although the path is somewhat bumpy on the Culver City end, after about a mile of some low-key cycling the path smooths out and makes for comfortable cruising all the way to the beach. Once you've arrived at the beach, you can continue south all the way to Palos Verdes, or you have the option of detouring before you reach the beach to head north, around the Marina, to Santa Monica.
Directions: Upon descending the stairs at the station, look for signs that point to the Expo Line Bike Path. It starts under the station, almost exactly under the "To Downtown" tracks. Follow this path for about a block until it crosses over Jefferson Boulevard, where you will see Ballona Creek and the start of the bike path leading down into the creek (It's more of a wash at this point. It gets prettier. I promise.). Approximate address: 5805 Jefferson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.
If you've exhausted yourself with biking and hiking, treat yourself to some chocolate at See's Candies' ground zero. This large complex of black and white buildings is the site of a well-stocked candy store, the company's headquarters, as well as (most importantly) the site of the See's Candies factory. Although the company no longer offers tours of its factory, one can't help but feel like Charlie outside Willy Wonka's chocolate factory while standing outside, eating your free samples, smelling the delicious scent released by the manufacturing of mouthwatering morsels.
Directions: Walk south on La Cienega Boulevard from the station. You can see the giant See's Candies sign from the station's elevated platform. Address: 3431 La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)
CULVER CITY STATION
The Museum of Jurassic Technology:
Although most Westsiders will not need to ride the train to this destination, the museum's proximity to the Culver City station demands its mention.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is, to say the least, the oddest collection of stuff in the world. It's difficult to find a common thread across the museum's many exhibits, ranging from portraits of Soviet space dogs and "Sculpture in the Eye of a Needle" to an exhibit detailing the various forms of cat's cradle and Jurassic creation theory.
You really just need to go see this one for yourself. Enter without expectations, because there are no expectations that can compare to the oddness that are housed within the museum's exhibits. There's no way to describe it, and the museum's highly rated Yelp page offers similar insights.
Directions: Exit the Culver City station and walk west on Venice Boulevard. The museum is about two blocks from the station at 9341 Venice Boulevard. There is no official admission charge, but there is a suggested donation of $8 dollars, and you will get the stink eye if you don't pay up.