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Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Red Line (Part 1)

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It doesn't happen that often, but occasionally I come across someone who is surprised when I tell them that I ride the subway—not because riding the subway is taboo, but simply because they didn't know that Los Angeles even had a subway system. Well, it does, and the Metro Red and Purple lines transport hundreds of thousands of passengers every day through some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the country.

Metro's Red Line runs between Downtown L.A. and North Hollywood, traveling through Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood, Hollywood, and Studio City on the way. Getting to the Red 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, so if you're exploring or transferring, you'll want one.

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Below I've included five of the Red Line's 14 stations. This part one guide covers the areas surrounding the line between Union Station and the Wilshire/Vermont station. The rest of the line will be included in next week's part two guide.

The Red Line's terminus is Union Station, a station which I detail in the Gold Line Part 1 guide.


A variety of options around the Civic Center/Grand Park Station (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)

City Hall Observation Deck

Something lots of Angelenos don't realize is that the 27th floor of L.A.'s City Hall is a free, open to the public observation deck. Although the deck is more of a terrace, circling around the 27th floor, it still offers you some amazing 360-degree views of Los Angeles from more than 400 feet in the air.

On one side you can view Downtown in all of it's vertical glory, but as you pan around you can easily see the hills of Mt. Washington to the Northeast, as well as an amazing look at East Los Angeles on the other side of the L.A. river.

It's worth your time, especially considering it's free. And you'll get an inside view of City Hall as you make your three-elevator trek up to the 27th floor!

Directions: Exit at the Civic Center station and take the Hill Street exit from the station. Once you're outside, walk towards City Hall. The public entrance is around the back of the building, at 201 North Main Street, closest to the intersection of 1st and Main. Once inside, you will proceed through the metal detectors. Tell the security officer that you're visiting the observation deck. The officer will issue you a pass and might or might not instruct you to use the elevator up to the 22nd floor, where you will transfer to another elevator to the 26th floor. After reaching the 26th floor, you'll walk up a "grand" staircase into the the Tom Bradley room, where you can use any of the doors leading to the outside to access the deck.

Grand Park

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Grand Park is an amazing work of public infrastructure that deserves to be recognized as a crucial addition to Downtown in recent years. The park, which stretches four entire city blocks between Spring Street and Grand Avenue, is Downtown's largest public open space, offering a location for tons of free events promoting civic unity and pride.

Grand Park's website includes an extensive event calendar, which covers everything happening in the park. Among other events, like Zócalo Public Square's frequent idea forums, the park hosts a farmers' market every Tuesday and is presently running a summer concert series.

To cap it all off, or should I say cool, Grand Park has a delightful water playground where children can safely play in mist. Parents can relax at the tables alongside the water park with a refreshing hot coffee from the adjacent Starbucks.

Directions: Exit the train at the Civic Center station and take the Grand Park exit. This places you in the middle of the park. The Starbucks and water feature are just across Hill Street, away from City Hall.

Los Angeles Music Center

Without a doubt, the complex of theaters and concert halls that make up the Los Angeles Performing Arts Center are a cultural highlight of Downtown Los Angeles. Listen to the LA Philharmonic at the architecturally revolutionary Walt Disney Concert Hall, or watch an opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion across the street.

If neither of those are your thing, the Center Theatre Group has you covered, providing three amazing theaters for you to catch the latest theatrical performances. The Center Theatre Group is of special mention, too, especially considering the shows they produce are current and often the U.S. premiere.

The Music Center is also currently producing the free Active Arts at the Music Center, allowing families to experience the Music Center in a unique way. Events include Dance Downtown, Drum Downtown and Ukulele Jam Sessions.

Get out and experience Downtown at its best at the Music Center. You won't be disappointed. Tickets are available here under "Performances & Tickets".

Directions: Exit the Subway at the Civic Center station and make your way to the Grand Park exit. Once above ground, walk across Hill Street and make your way through Grand Park towards the large fountain (away from City Hall). The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall are located at the intersection of 1st and Grand, with the rest of the Music Center being located along Grand. Address: 135 North Grand Avenue Los Angeles.


A slew of goodies around the Pershing Square Stop (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)

California Plaza

California Plaza is a clean and peaceful place to relax, often with dancing water, on Bunker Hill. The plaza, which is served by a number of food options, is a nice place to grab lunch with a friend or catch up on some light reading. Children also are welcome, so long as they aren't too rambunctious, and will likely be amazed by the slew of giant buildings.

The plaza is also a public venue, hosting dozens of events throughout the summer, dubbed Grand Performances (not to be confused with Grand Park). The performances range from summer concerts to panel discussions. All performances are free and often include a bike valet if that's your thing. Don't ride on the plaza though; that's a major no-no. I happened to learn this while taking pictures for this article.

Directions: Get off the subway at the Pershing Square station. Exit the station towards the 4th/Hill Station exit. After exiting, you'll be at the foot of Bunker Hill, on top of which is California Plaza. Walk north on Hill, away from 4th street without crossing, and you'll quickly be greeted with a staircase which you can walk up, cross Olive, and then take an elevator up a single floor to California Plaza. OR you can take Angels Flight, the historic funicular railway that goes directly up to the plaza from Hill Street that I detail in my next entry.

Angels Flight

Angels Flight is a relic from a Los Angeles that largely doesn't exist anymore. The funicular railroad, meaning it's been built on a steep grade, originally opened in 1901. In short, it was built to shuttle people from the (at the time) residential Bunker Hill into some of the more commercial districts of Downtown. Nevertheless, in 1969 Angels Flight was closed as Bunker Hill was controversially redeveloped from a historic residential neighborhood into the skyscraper rich district it is today.

But in 1996 the short railway reopened, providing Angelenos an opportunity to glimpse into the past of Bunker Hill. Nathan Masters, the writer for KCET and USC's LA as Subject presentation, provides a concise and detailed history of the railroad over at KCET's website.

The ride is 50 cents one way.

Directions: Exit the train at the Pershing Square station, and make your way to the 4th/Hill station exit. The railroad's base is on Hill Street, between 3rd and 4th street. You don't need to cross 4th street, just head the opposite direction. Address: 350 South Hill Street, Los Angeles.

Grand Central Market

Originally opened in 1917, Grand Central Market is Los Angeles' oldest and largest open-air market. The market is a fantastic spot in Downtown to grab a bite to eat and just relax while surrounded by reminders of old Los Angeles.

The market's website provides a list of its numerous food options, including everything from gelato to tacos. Yelp is a good resource to distinguish what the best food options are, though I've honestly never experienced anything bad from the market.

Like so many other areas of Downtown, Grand Central Market is on the uptrend, with lots of new trendy options opening almost weekly. An LA Weekly article from July 23rd details the opening of Olio Pizzeria, on the heels of Valerie's Confections and G&B Coffee opening earlier this year.

Directions: Exit the subway at the Pershing Square station and climb the stairs leading to the 4th/Hill exit. The Market is located closer to 3rd street, on the opposite side of the street from the station exit. Cross Hill, and turn left. Address: Approx 324 South Hill Street, Los Angeles.

The Last Bookstore

Although its ironic name is perhaps a bit on the dreary side, The Last Bookstore is easily the most creative independent bookstore I've ever visited. The store is divided into two levels. The first level stocks an eclectic mix of new and used books that fall into the traditional categories one would expect inside a bookstore: art, architecture, language, etc. The second level is a mecca of used books, organized often by nothing other than color.

In addition to being one of the most creative bookstores ever, The Last Bookstore also features open mic nights every Monday, as well as the occasional author signing and seminar. Events information may be found on their web calendar. Here's a link to their highly rated Yelp page.

Directions: Get off the train at the Pershing Square station, and exit the station at the 5th/Hill + Pershing Square exit. The Last Bookstore is located at the intersection of 5th and Spring, two blocks due southeast (because of Downtown's funky grid) of the exit. Walk along 5th Street, crossing over Broadway. You'll want to switch to the northern side of 5th Street, too. The Bookstore is located at 453 South Spring Street (you can enter from 5th though) and is directly opposite the Alexandria hotel.


MOCA Grand Avenue is the museum's main Downtown campus. MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, is renowned for housing one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the United States.

The Grand Avenue campus is the museum's largest campus and is used to display about 5,000 pieces of artwork from after the year 1940. In addition to these works, MOCA Grand Avenue also has space for some rotating exhibits, currently including a Urs Fischer exhibit and space exhibit "RETNA: Para mi gente".

Admission to the museum is $12 for adults. Students with ID are charged $7, and children under 12 are free. The museum's Grand Avenue campus is open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday. Hours and more information can be found at here.

Directions: Get off the train at the Pershing Square station, and make your way to the 4th/Hill exit. The museum is located on Grand Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd streets. Walk from the station exit along 4th Street without crossing Hill. Turn right on Grand Avenue. The museum is located on the south side of the street, so there's no need to cross Grand. Address: 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles.


Considering I included Phillippe's in the Gold Line Part 1 guide, I feel obligated to include Cole's in this one. Plus, it made our best classic restaurants in L.A. list. Like Phillippe's, Cole's claims to be the origin of the French Dip sandwich. As I stated before, I personally prefer the Phillippe sandwich to Cole's, but many others disagree with me and prefer Cole's. Don't get me wrong though, it's still a very tasty French Dip.

Directions: Detrain at the Pershing Square underground terminal, and exit at the 5th/Hill + Pershing Square portal. Cole's isn't located right next to the station, but it's still easy walking distance. Walk south along 5th street until Main, where you'll turn right and head south, one block to 6th. Cole's is located on 6th Street, in between Main and Maple streets (one street further than Main.) Address: 118 East 6th Street, Los Angeles.

Downtown L.A. ArtWalk

Although the Downtown L.A. Art Walk only takes place once a month, it's an event that must be experienced to fully understand the transformation that Downtown Los Angeles has undergone over the past decade or so. The event takes place every second Thursday of the month and occurs largely in the neighborhood dubbed "Gallery Row." Gallery Row occupies stretches of Spring and Main streets between about 2nd and 9th streets, but often you can find more if you venture outside of that designated area.

The event officially begins during the afternoon, but generally the best experience is held when you go at night with a group of friends. There are tons of galleries containing almost any type of visual (and occasionally performing!) art you can imagine.

Gallery Row is also home to a ton of food options to enjoy while you're art-walking. A personal favorite of mine is Syrup Desserts, which makes some of the best crepes in L.A. Browse around though; you can find almost anything within a couple blocks. The Art Walk's website even includes a Downtown Directory, and the Art Walk lounge offers more information pertaining to the galleries open on that particular Thursday evening.

Directions: Exit the Pershing Square station at either exit, and make your way southeast towards Spring Street. Spring, and adjacent Main Street, are the epicenter of the DTLA Art Walk. The Artwalk Lounge is located at 634 South Spring Street.


Fig at 7th Development (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)


Adjacent the 7th Street/Metro Center station lies a recent development in Downtown called "Figat7th." The shopping complex provides city goers with a place to spend money on clothing, sporting goods, and a slew of other things. The site is home to the city's first "City Target", which near as I can tell is exactly like regular Target stores except underground. Among others, the development is home to a Sports Chalet flagship store and is slated to open a Zara flagship in the near future, too.

Food is highly prevalent both in and around the development. Within Figat7th is Juicy Lucy Burgers, Mendocino Farms, Oleego BBQ, and a many others that can be found in Figat7th's directory.

Directions: Get off the train at the 7th/Metro Center station, and take the Figueroa Street exit. Figat7th is on the opposite corner of the station exit.

Brigham Yen, a Downtown relator and journalist, keeps an updated blog entitled DTLA Rising that details the many developments happening around the area. His website is an invaluable resource when figuring out what is being opened in Downtown. If you're planning to visit, check out his website first to see what's around.


Langers Deli and MacArthur Park Lake (Photos by Matthew Tinoco).

Langer's Deli

When it comes to world famous pastrami sandwiches, Langer's Deli is the renowned king. It also made our best classic restaurants in L.A. list. The deli serves its sandwiches with a thick cut of pastrami, some slaw, and two slices of delicious rye bread. When you go, order #19 with some fries. It's the Langer's standard.

Although I've never actually ordered anything other than the sandwich and fries, there is an entire menu of items that one would expect to find at a Jewish deli. Yelp will be of more help. Tip: Keep your wallet close while you're walking around Westlake between the station and the restaurant.

Directions: Get off the train at the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. Once you exit, turn left and walk along Alvarado. The restaurant is right at the corner of 7th and Alvarado, just south of the station exit. Address: 704 South Alvarado Street.

MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park's reputation is perhaps a slight bit undeserved. While, yes, you can purchase fake IDs, fake Social Security cards, and almost anything else of questionable legitimacy, MacArthur Park also offers a gorgeous view of Downtown L.A., lots of tasty L.A. Street food, and a host of public events.

The park's Levitt Pavilion provides a seismically sound hosting ground for cultural events like dance productions and concerts. The website includes a calendar with information about these events, like the 2013 summer music festival. Also adjacent the pavilion is a well-populated playground for children.

Regardless of the park's 'hoodness,' make sure to get some street food. There are vendors everywhere in and around the park. Whether you're craving a greasy, bacon-wrapped, onion and jalapeño-topped hot dog or some asada tacos, there isn't a place better in Los Angeles to dine on a dime than MacArthur Park.

Directions: Exit the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. MacArthur Park is right across the street. Levitt Pavilion is located on the north side of Wilshire.


Some Koreatown Restaurants. (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)

Korean Food

The Wilshire/Vermont station is located right in the heart of Koreatown, a neighborhood known for both being one of the most dense in Los Angeles and being ground zero for amazing Korean food. There are restaurants everywhere, and a walk along Wilshire Boulevard will reveal many of the normal trendy eateries (think Chipotle...).

But a walk off Wilshire into the neighborhood itself reveals more Korean and other Asian-style eateries than one could have ever imagined. Check out Soot Bull Jeep, a Korean BBQ establishment on 8th Street, for some amazing BBQ foods. Speaking to this restaurant in particular, don't view its B rating from the L.A. County Board of Health as a deterrent. The interior charcoal pits smoke the place up so much that you'll leave smelling like BBQ for days. But it's completely worth it for the the best Korean short ribs in Los Angeles. Soot Bull Jeep is best with a group.

Other good, more calm restaurants include Kobawoo House and Seongbukdong, each excellent Korean restaurants that offer more than purely BBQ places.

Directions: Exit the (insanely deep) Wilshire/Vermont station. Koreatown is highly walkable, and all the restaurants I listed above are right near the station. Soot Bull Jeep is located at 3136 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005; Kobawoo is at 698 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90005; and Seongbukdong's address is 3303 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020.

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)

Matthew Tinoco lives in North Hollywood and studies Journalism at USC. He is usually found on a bus, train, or bicycle and aspires to know everything about Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @onthatbombshell