Los Angeles by Metro RailLos Angeles by Metro Rail anaheimer Sun, 01/08/2017 - 16:51
Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolitan area with an amazing array of attractions and activities. The area is infamous for its long grids of streets and freeways and until recently it wasn’t very friendly to public transit.
But things are changing for the better. It is now possible to visit many of the iconic places in LA by rail or by express bus. So, get your backpack, phone and camera ready and follow me on this exploration tour.
But be warned: There is so much to see and do, you will probably need several days to complete this itinerary.
The station was built in 1939 as a consolation of several terminals and is considered the largest station in the West. Its main building is registered as National Historic Place.
As you arrive at Union Station, you will disembark from your trail and end up at a long hallway connecting the West and East portals. Follow the signs to your next ride. The metro rail lines are underground. The connecting trains are on the upper level.
But before you jump on the next tram, you may want to take a break and have a meal at one of the restaurants or snack shops – located at either East or West portal.
You can also grab a bike from the “Bike Share” program and explore the city at your leisure. Pricing for bike rentals is $3.50/30 minutes but you can get a discount if you buy a monthly or annual pass.
Tip: If you are planning on several trips on the metro system, buy a 1-day or 7-day pass that works for all rail lines and buses.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Tip: Make sure to exit from the Alameda street exit. The monument and adjacent Olvera street are right across the street from Alameda.
This historic district was first established in 1781 and used to be the center of Los Angeles during the Spanish and Mexican rule. It is home to many historic buildings and statues and home to the famous Olvera Street (Calle Olvera).
At Olvera Street, you can stroll along a narrow street and enjoy shopping at the colorful street vendors or grab a bite of authentic Mexican food. During my visit, I had lunch at El Paseo Inn. I enjoyed some very tasty enchiladas while watching people from their patio overlooking Olvera street. The service was excellent and friendly.
There is a Plaza at the center of this district and hosts many events throughout the year. For a listing of events go here.
On a side alley from Olvera street, you will see a sign for Avila Adobe – the longest-standing structure in LA. The Adobe was built in 1818 and is open to the public. The tour is free of charge and takes you through the various rooms in the house and has a well-kept cactus garden in the courtyard.
Tip: Olvera street open at 10 am, so if you arrive early at Union Station, come back to this lively place for lunch or dinner.
While here, you can just stroll around and enjoy the architecture and statues or you can visit the Japanese American National Museum, James Irvine Japanese Garden, two Buddhist Temples or the Japanese Village Plaza.
The area is also full of Japanese restaurants and shops. The all-you-can-eat buffet at Oiwake Restaurant offers a large variety of Japanese cuisine or you can sample great Sushi and Saki at Tenno Sushi.
Civic Center / Grand Park
Tip: Red and Purple lines take the same route from Union Station to Wilshire/Vermont station.
From this station, you can walk to places like Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles City Hall, or just spend some time at Grand Park.
The park is an oasis in the center of the city with beautiful fountains, pink-colored benches, and snack shops. During the summer months, free music and events are held here. Kids especially love the interactive splash pads and the new play area. The park welcomes visitors with a sign in almost every world language.
Tip: If you bring your kids to play here, make sure they have a change of clothes. They will definitely get wet.
The park is basically a long promenade that connects The Music Center on one end and the historic LA City Hall building on the other end.
LA city hall was built in 1928 as is still in use by the city government to this day. It was featured in many TV shows and movies like Superman, Dragnet and V (the series).
As you exit the station, stay on 5th ave and walk to Oue Skyspace observation tower. It is located at the top of the tallest building in LA and offers a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding area.
From this vantage point, you can see the Hollywood sign and the snow-capped mountains behind it. In the opposite direction, you can see all the way to the ocean. And in between, you can gaze down at the other tall buildings and Pershing Square.
The observation tower also has a glass slide that could be thrilling to try, but it is very short. I don’t think it is worth the extra ticket.
Note: The observation deck is permenantly closed as of October 26, 2020. It is now home to Vista Patio restaurant.
There is no time limit to your visit. You can zip through the 360-degree view or you can relax on the lounge chairs strategically located on both levels.
Pershing Square Park itself is worth visiting. It was renovated recently with modern art and fountains. There is always something happening here. In the winter months, an Ice Rink is set up for some winter skating.
A few steps away from the park you will find a very interesting place called “The Last Bookstore”. Even if you are not a book lover, this place is worth a visit. The store has a huge collection of books in every category. The second floor has more books and some art and craft shops. Sofas and benches are available everywhere so can visit with an interesting book.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is located in the middle between Civic Center and Pershing Square stations, so you can get to it by walking from either station. It is the only museum dedicated to modern art from 1940 and later. Right outside the museum, you can find a big metal sculpture made our of old airplanes.
If you are hungry for breakfast, there is a very nice restaurant right next to MOCA. The Grand Café at the Omni hotel serves a delicious breakfast buffet with a made-to-order omelet station. It is a little pricey, but worth every bite.
FigAt7th, LA Live and Staples Center
The FigAt7th mall is one of the newest shopping centers in downtown. You can find stores like H&M, Victoria's Secret or Target. You can also find a food court with dining places like California Pizza Kitchen, George's Greek Grill and Starbucks.
LA Live is an entertainment complex with several live music venues, movie theaters and restaurants. It is also home to the Grammy Museum. If you like watching the music awards, then you must visit this place to learn about the history and winners of the Grammy’s.
And while you are here, you can’t miss the Staples Center - home of the Lakers and Clippers – and many touring concerts and events.
7th Street Metro Hub
Or you can take the Expo like to connect to USC, The Science Center and other museums, Culver city, and Santa Monica.
The red line continues on to Wet and North Hollywood and Universal Studios.
The blue line heads south towards downtown Long Beach. This line also connects to the green line to take you into Los Angeles Airport.
The purple line stops at 3 stations in this business and residential district: Wilshire/Vermont, Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Western. Shops and restaurants extend through several city blocks, but the center is around 8th and Western. Venture into side streets to discover some interesting gyms.
Koreatown can surprise with it specialty shops and entertainment venues. You can find unique toy shops or restaurant supplies, Karaoke bars and places of worship.
Some of the must-visit places are:
Sing your heart out at The Shrine Karaoke bar with its Egyptian-themed interior and great tasting Korean dishes.
Sample L.A.'s best biryani at Bangla Bazar & Restaurant – an out-of-place Little Bangladesh strip mall.
In the market for stationary? Go to Daiso – a Japanese chain store.
Stock up for your projects at Top’s Art Supplies – a family-owned business with interesting displays.
To get your fill of Korean BBQ, try Sun Ha Jang – famous for their BBA duck.
If you love K-pop music and culture, you can find the latest music and trends at the Music Plaza in Koreatown. Lots of CDs, accessories and posters to choose from.
On the edge of Koreatown (on S. Western Ave), you can catch the latest Hollywood movies or a Korean flick at the CGV Cinemas Theaters. Right next to the theater you enjoy a Japanese meal at the Curry House.
LA Convention Center
The LA Auto Show is held here every year with a huge display of the latest models from all manufacturers. At this show, many carmakers unveil their concept futuristic cars.
Other shows and conferences include LA Fitness, Classic Auto Show, America's Got Talent Auditions and US Naturalization Ceremonies.
Exposition Park and Science Center
The next stop on the Expo Line is the Expo/USC station. As you leave the station, you can cross the street to the north to visit the University of Southern California (USC) or go to the south to visit several museums, including the Science Center.
USC is a private research university that was established in 1880. Walking through the mostly pedestrian campus, you can enjoy the largest collection of Romanesque Revival buildings and beautiful gardens and fountains.
To learn more about the campus and various buildings you can take a self-guided tour. See details here.
The California Science Center is a premier science museum with several permanent exhibits and a few touring exhibits.
It is the final resting place for the Shuttle Endeavour. After making several trips to space and then traveling through the streets of LA, the shuttle is on display for all curious minds to gawk at. You can read a full article about the Science Center here.
Tip: if you are entering the Science Center from the Expo/USC station, then you are not going through the main entrance. You should go through Exposition Park, through the gates, through the ground floor and out the other gate to get to the main entrance plaza and the box office.
Also in Exposition Park, you can find the Museum of Natural History. You can take a trip through 4.5 million years of history told by specimens, fossils and dioramas. An abundance of interactive exhibits makes this museum fun for kids and adults alike. Read more about it here.
Finally, the park itself is famous for its rose gardens. As you pass through, enjoy the sights and smells of the multicolored roses.
The metro station is located right under the shopping center with the same name. The center is also home to the iconic Dolby Theatre and Chinese Theatre. The Oscars are handed out to best films every year at the Dolby theater.
Also at this center, you can find department stores like Forever 21, Guess, Gap, Hot Topic and fun centers like Dave & Busters and Lucky Strike Live. For lunch or dinner, visit places like Cabo Wabo Cantina, Cho Oishi, Hard Rock Cafe or Trastevere Ristorante.
Tip: The famous Hollywood sign is very prominent from several locations in this mall. It is a golden opportunity for some amazing photos.
Existing Hollywood and Highland center, you will be on one of the busiest streets in the US. People from across the globe come here to stroll along Hollywood Blvd. to look for their favorite celebrities on the Walk of Fame.
Tip: as you walk around on Hollywood Blvd., you will notice a lot of movie characters walking around or acting up – like Spiderman, Batman, etc.. Be aware that if you ask to pose with them for a photo, you are expected to pay a tip.
A few blocks away you can find entertainment places like Madame Tussauds, Wax Museum and Guinness World Records Museum.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and La Brea Tar Pits
From the Hollywood and Highland area (or most of Hollywood Blvd.) you can take the 217 bus all the way to the museum at Fairfax / 6th street intersection.
LACMA is the largest art museum in the western USA. It holds more than 150,000 pieces of art filling 9 buildings in the sprawling campus. Go here for a map.
The museum’s collections cover periods from ancient to modern and cultures like, South East Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Ancient Egypt.
Next to this museum, you will find the La Brea Tar Pits. Bubbling asphalt has been seeping from the ground for tens of thousands of years. Many unlucky animals got trapped in those tar pits and left their bones for future scientists to study.
To learn more about the Tar Pits, you can visit the museum that was built around them.
The Grove and Farmers Market
While visiting, you can catch a movie at Pacific Theaters or dine at one of the fine dining restaurants. Some of the distinguished eateries here are Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, Maggiano´s Little Italy or Morels French Steakhouse.
But for a real treat, go the LA Farmers Market adjacent to the Grove. The market is famous for fresh produce and lots of food vendors. At the food court. You can find all kinds of cuisines like Chinese, Japanese, American Grill, Greek, and Middle Eastern. See all the vendors here.
Tip: It is hard to find an empty table during busy lunch or dinner times - but there is an upper-level seating area that many people miss.
After a day of fun, take the 217 bus back to Hollywood, hop on the Red Line and head back to Union Station. Make sure to get on the one going to Union Station and not to North Hollywood – unless you are planning to venture to Universal Studios.
Tip: From any of the destination mentioned in this article you can get back to Union Station by taking a combination of buses and rail lines. Use Google Maps and select the public transit option to find the fastest route.
Universal Studios Hollywood is the longest-running still active movie studio in the world. It has many shows and rides based on popular movies. The newest addition to the studios “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” opened recently and provides Harry Potter fans with lots of new attractions.
The City Walk is right outside the park gates with a 3-block of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues.
Some of the venues here are Wolfgang Puck Bistro, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Hot Topic, Fossil, Sketchers and IFLY indoor Skydiving.
If you have time, you can explore other great destinations in Southern California by rail.
Or you can use the Pacific Surfliner going north to Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. At Pismo Beach, you can enjoy some 4-wheeling adventures at Oceano Dunes.
California Science CenterCalifornia Science Center anaheimer Mon, 02/22/2016 - 16:45
The museum has great fixed exhibits like Creative World and Ecosystems and special temporary exhibits like Journey to Space. Special exhibits usually require a ticket you can purchase at the ticket booth.
Along with the exhibits, the museum has a large format Imax theater that showcases films with scientific themes. Some are shown in amazing vivid 3D.
The best attraction at the museum nowadays is the Endeavour final resting place. You have to go through Ecosystems to get the Endeavour display. The first time I entered this hall I was surprised at the spaceship’s huge size. It dwarfs the throngs of people gazing up at it.
On the walls surrounding Endeavour, you can experience a space station module, a space shuttle engine and many photos and videos of the shuttle missions.
Before you get to Endeavour you have to pass through Ecosystems. It is worth lingering here for a while so you can experience Earth’s Forest, River, Island and Extreme zones. You can also zoom in onto the L.A. zone for more intimate details about our own environment.
And don’t forget to visit Creative World. This is a place for the whole family to interact and create. You build structure and see the effect of earthquakes on your creation. Or you can see how the wind lifts the wings on an airplane in wind tunnel. How about making some model car move with the power of solar energy or finding the perfect angle for a sailboat in the wind?
A great area for younger kids is the Discovery Room where they can play with hands-on toys and experiments or use preloaded iPads with educational games. They can also visit the Air and Space area and pretend to be astronauts piloting the Endeavour.
During my visit I watched the Journey to Space Imax 3D movie. It felt to me like I was in the space shuttle and then visiting the space station. The view of our Earth from above is breathtaking.
Plan your visit and learn more about the center at the official website here: www.californiasciencecenter.org.
The Science Center is located next to the University of Southern California (USC) at Exposition Park. Admission is free unless you want to watch an Imax movie or visit one of the special Exhibits.
Imax movies tickets are $8.50 and the Journey to Space exhibit is $6.50.
You can avoid traffic and parking fees by riding the metrolink expo line which takes you directly to exposition park – a few step away from the museum.
California Science Center700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Descanso GardensDescanso Gardens anaheimer Sat, 11/21/2020 - 08:52
The Gardens are spread out over 150 acres of hills, meadows, lakes, and streams.
The botanic collections are divided into distinct areas; some, like the Oak Forest, look like pristine woodland, while others like the Camellia Collection and Rose Garden are more landscaped.
The admission fee is about $15 for a single visit and around $80 for an annual membership. If you buy the single visit ticket and change your mind, you can apply the purchase fees toward a membership.
And there is a good chance you will change your mind. The collections are so vast and appealing that you will need multiple visits to see everything.
So what can you see and do at the gardens? Get a full list of gardens.
You can stroll through the rose garden, which boasts of a collection of 1600 roses from around the world.
When things go back to normal after Covid-19, you can ride the Enchanted Railroad through the park and visit the Boddy House.
You can also relax on benches throughout the park with great views of streams, waterfalls, and ponds with ducks.
Descanso Gardens also hosts several fun events for the whole family. One of the most anticipated events is the Enchanted Forest of Lights – which will return in 2021.
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Ph. (818) 949-4200
Inn of the Seventh RayInn of the Seventh Ray anaheimer Sun, 04/14/2019 - 08:54
After taking winding highway 27 to the Topanga State Park we veered left onto Old Topanga road to reach this well-hidden gem.
After checking in, we were guided to our table at the Creekside with plenty of shade from the towering old sycamores. The sound of running water down below added to the ambiance to make this spot perfect for a late afternoon meal.
Our party enjoyed Shrimp and Papaya Wraps and Turkey ArtichokePanini sandwiches with sweet potato fries.
On the weekend, the Inn serves a buffet-style brunch with many breakfast, lunch and dessert choices.
While waiting for your meal, you can descend down a short flight of stairs to the creek level to enjoy the scenery and take some photos.
This place has been called the most romantic dining in LA. Many a couple met her or had their wedding or anniversary.
No one knows for sure the full history of this spot, but it rumored that Chumash Indians used the intersection of 2 creeks as a meeting place. Later it was used as a private retreat for Aimee McPherson founder of the Foursquare Church. In 1973 the property was restored by the current owners and transformed into this wonderful dining destination.
Topanga State Park is right next door, so you can stop by after lunch for some stunning views and great hikes.
For a more rewarding hike with amazing ocean view go to Tuna Canyon Park. Read about it here.
The Getty CenterThe Getty Center anaheimer Sun, 03/21/2010 - 12:57
The Getty Center is located in Los Angeles and houses the main Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the administrative offices.
The Museum has 5 Pavilions. The Exhibition Pavilion houses traveling collections of art while the other 4 Pavilions house the permanent collections. You can find the oldest art collections at the North Pavilion while the newest collections are located at the West Pavilion.
The art collections are extensive and diverse. It includes paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts and photographs. Some of the artists represented are Monet, van Gogh, Renoir and Munch.
Tip: before your start your exploration of the center, watch the video tour. You can also watch the same video at: http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/videoDetails?cat=4&segid=10.
The center’s architecture itself is a piece of art nestled on top of a hill with great vistas. The courtyards between the buildings are filled with ponds and fountains. The Pavilions are connected by glass-enclosed bridges and open terraces.
Tip: Grab an audio tour device at the reception desk. They have audio tracks in several languages. Most pieces of art have a number next to them. When you punch the number on the device you will be rewarded with a brief description and highlights about the object.
From the main plaza you can walk down a tree-lined walkway to the central garden. A stream crisscrosses the walkway and goes over a waterfall into the center pond.
For families with kids, don’t forget to visit the activity center where you can create art with your children. All materials are provided free of charge for your enjoyment.
You can try the Café style dining with a menu that includes sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas and pasta, tacos and burritos, and grilled items. Wine and beer are also available.
For a full-service dining experience, with a view of the Santa Monica Mountains, go to the restaurant. The menu is a fusion of Mediterranean and California cuisine.
If you prefer, you can have a picnic on the lawn adjacent to the Central Garden or at any of the Getty Center's public seating areas. You can also pre-order a picnic lunch from the Café at the Getty’s website.
Admission and Parking:
A large parking structure is located at the bottom of the hill and costs $15. Entry to the center is free. No reservations are needed.
Once you park, you will ride a tram to the top of the hill where all the center buildings are. The tram ride itself is part of the fun for families with children.
The Getty VillaThe Getty Villa anaheimer Sun, 03/21/2010 - 17:24
The Getty Villa is located in Pacific Palisades near Malibu. The building is a replica of the Villa Dei Papiri which is a Roman country house that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The buildings and surrounding Roman-style gardens transports you through time and lets you experience life as a rich merchant in ancient Rome. The architecture of the Villa was designed to resemble an archeological dig.
Tip: before you start your tour through the Villa, catch a 12 minutes video about the history of the museum and its collections. You can also catch it at www.getty.edu before your visit.
The Villa houses a great collection of sculptures, pottery and jewelry from antiquities. The main cultures represented are Etruscan, Greek and Roman – with artifacts arranged by themes. For example, you will see Gods and Goddesses in one room and the Trojan War in another.
The family activity center is a must for visitors with kids. It offers quick art projects and a chance to decorate a Vase from the Greek or Roman times with your own decorations. The vases are replicas and the markers are erasable – so don’t worry about spoiling an expensive piece of art.
Tip: After parking in the parking structure, many visitors make the mistake of climbing the stairs all the way to the top, missing the gardens and the main courtyard. After the first flight of stairs turn right into a balcony with a clear view of the ocean then climb the small ramp to the main garden with a very long pond and fountains surrounded by statues. If you miss that entrance to the Villa, make sure to exit into that direction to enjoy the views.
Dining choice at the Villa:
You can dine at the Café which serves casual Mediterranean cuisine with comfortable seating indoors or outdoors. We decided to eat on the outdoor patio to enjoy great food and take in the views and architecture. Umbrellas provided protection from the sun for those who need it.
You can also grab a coffee and a snack from the coffee shop next doors.
If you prefer to be closer to nature, you can bring your own food or pre-order a picnic lunch at the Getty website and enjoy at one of the picnic areas.
Although entrance to the Villa is free, your still have to pay $15 for parking. You will also need to make reservations online at www.mtn.museumtix.com. The booking process may look like you are buying tickets for a show, but don’t worry, the tickets are free and you will not be asked for a credit card. You have to have the tickets to enter the Villa - one for each member of your group.
Entering the Villa grounds might be a little tricky. The only way to enter is to go north on PCH, watch out for the tiny gate right of off PCH. If you miss it, you have to go further down PCH and find a safe way to double-back to before the gate. The best bet is to reprogram your GPS navigation and find the best way back.
- The Getty Villa (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum)
- Seeing the Getty Villa (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum)