Light Rail in the City of Angels
February 2, 2010 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to riding Chicago's L system so often I can sense my stop in my (literal) sleep, I think I'm finally ready to tackle Los Angeles' underutilized & unappreciated Metro & Metrolink system for some day trips between Ventura County and LA proper. What are some can't miss attractions that are A) easily accessable by rail in a city of cars and B) fairly safe for a tiny semi-lost solo female and C) totally awesome?

There's lots of maps on the Metro site, but since I don't know LA very well (or, you know, at all) I have a hard time figuring them out. I'm an obsessive planner, though, and if y'all will just point me in the right direction (there's THIS AWESOME THING ner THIS STOP on THIS LINE) I can figure out the rest.

I grew up in the Valley but got around just as well as you imagine someone who can't drive would. I've taken the Metro before, usually just to Union Station. It's been years and years since I've been to Los Angeles alone.

I'm visiting family late this month and instead of being bored to tears in the 'burbs, I'd like to flaunt my new big city street smarts and do some sightseeing during the day while my hosts are at work.

I like craft beer, obscure electronic music, lowbrow pop art, local/seasonal/pretentious gourmet food, cupcakes, speakeasies, weird inexpensive clothing, plus a bunch of other hipster d-bag interests you're free to mock me for.

I know for a fact I'm going to go to Little Tokyo on the Gold Line, shop for octopus and natto and red bean buns and knockoff Hello Kitty merch at the Little Tokyo Mall, and eat lunch at Mr. Ramen. My outdated teenage knowledge pretty much ends there. What else can I do?
posted by Juliet Banana to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I posted this on a previous thread.

The South Pasadena stop on the Gold Line is in a super cute area you would probably enjoy - there are little shops to explore and an old drugstore with a soda counter.
posted by something something at 6:22 AM on February 2, 2010

All right! I was a college student in LA with no car, and I thoroughly encourage exploration of the city by public transportation. It's definitely possible, although you sometimes have to allow extra time to get where you're going.

2nd South Pasadena on the Gold Line. There is also a Gold Line stop in Chinatown, which could be neat, although I never got around to exploring that area.

The Red Line will take you right into Hollywood. If you get off at Hollywood and Vine, you can walk two blocks south to Sunset Blvd. You'll be right near Amoeba Music, which is a fun place to search for obscure electronic music - or any other genre, really, new or used. They've got DVDs, posters, and other neat stuff too. You'll also be near the ArcLight, which is a very classy place to catch a movie. You get a reserved seat, you may be able to take beer in to the film (I've only heard rumors, and was underage last time I went, so I wasn't able to investigate), and you have above-average chances of seeing a celebrity (I saw Penn of Penn and Teller when I went).

Maybe slightly outside your interests: The Griffith Observatory can be reached by a weekend shuttle from the Vermont/Sunset Red Line stop. I don't know if you're much for astronomy, but the Art Deco architecture is pretty neat. Griffith Park has trails too, if you like hiking.

The Green and Blue Lines go into sketchier parts of the city. I'm not familiar with them.

This should do for a start, although I might come up with more in a bit.
posted by sigmagalator at 7:12 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Big ups to Old Town in Pasadena, although it's pretty white-washed -- it's very pretty and there are some cute restaurants and shops, and the ride is absolutely lovely.

I realize that I'm giving this to you likely backward because I'm thinking of it in the opposite direction, but I used to live off of the gold line and regularly took the train around. You already know about the awesomeness that is Little Tokyo (down to the red bean buns!), so I'll spare you that part (although you need to check out a little store called "Cools" in the Little Tokyo Mall, it's next to Oomasa restaurant).

Upfront Warning: Many of these neighborhoods are a little if not moderately scary during the day, but crowded enough that you'll be fine -- but are NOT to be ventured into at night. That said, I am not tiny, but I was often a lost solo female, though, and I deeply enjoyed roaming around on the train. I've given you a little scale of 1-5 to help judge. Be sure to carry money for a taxi and a well-charged cell phone with a good cab company (I suggest LA Yellow Cab number -- and tell people where you are going! This is not to scare you, just -- safety first and all that.

In Pasadena:

You GOTTA go to the Huntington. I don't even want to tell you anything about it except that they have botanical gardens that are NOT to be believed, it's just one of the best, most awesome secret great days in Los Angeles. You will have to take a bus for a short while, or you can walk for 1.5 miles from the gold line. Bring a friend! Or don't! It's just plain great.

Awesome Factor: 5
Safety Factor (Day and Night): 5

Highland Park/Mt. Washington:

Off of the Gold Line is Mt. Washington (get off at the Ave. 45 stop). You can check out the Southwest Museum -- they have some awesome Native American artifacts, but actually I think the coolest thing is the tunnel entrance that goes to the top of the hill. It's also a REALLY cool, unique LA neighborhood. There are some great bars/restaurants in the neighborhood, including El Buen Gusto #3, which is on Figueroa St. If you've never had pupusas (El Salvadorean food) before, you need to have them there. Or try the platanos con crema y frijoles for a sweet treat. Oh man, I am suddenly totally craving that.

Awesome Factor: 4
Danger Factor in the day: 1
Danger Factor in the evening: 3

Downtown LA/Union Station Stop:

If you take the Gold Line into Union Station there are some great things right there:

- Union Station itself is teh awesome.

- Across the street is Olvera Street. On weekends they often have awesome cultural events, like folks doing traditional Mexican and Aztec folk dances in the square. But really what you want to go for are the taquitos at El Cielito Lindo, on the closest edge of Olvera Street in relation to Union Station. It's just a stand. Make no mistake -- I am not fucking around. If you do nothing else but eat these taquitos the entire time you live in or near Los Angeles, you have done just fine. There's also an AWESOME candle shop -- here is someone's Flickr set of it. SO PRETTY, amirite?

- Of course there's Chinatown. There are some pretty good restaurants, but my favorites are Won Kok and Hop Louie. Hop Louie's probably a better bet, since it's in the wacky little Chinese Mall, and Won Kok is on a side street -- but I figured I'd mention 'em both!

- Phillippe's. I cannot say enough about this place. NINE CENT COFFEE. Delicious Beef Dip Sammiches. Been around since (supposedly) 1908, I think. It's the good stuff! My dad used to take me when I was a kid and I felt like I was in the heart of the old city.

Awesome Factor: 4.5
Danger Factor (Day): 2
Danger Factor(Night): 5. STAY AWAY AFTER DARK!

Alvarado St.

This may not be for the faint of heart, but also has some seriously interesting architecture and "urban life" to check out. You can take the red line into Alvarado St. by getting off at MacArthur park. I've done this before during the day and it's been fine. The reason you'd do this would be to go to Langer's for their Pastrami sandwiches (can you tell I am CRAZY ABOUT FOOD yet?).

Stay OUT of the park and only go during the bright daylight hours!

Awesome Factor: (depending on how you feel about urban craziness, it's either a 5 or a 1, but Langer's gets a solid 5 for being super tasty).
Danger Factor, day: 3.

I'm running out of time, but a few other things worth a mention:

I'm sure someone can give you a run down of awesome places to check out in Koreatown.
Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles is accessible from the Hollywood/Vine red line stop.

Oh man, have fun!
posted by pazazygeek at 7:16 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh! Clothes! No personal experience, but I had friends who swore by the Fashion District for Halloween costumes or any other cheap, funky needs. It can be a bit of a rough area, and it's also not directly accessible by Metro Rail. But you could get off the Red Line at 7th St/Metro Center and take the E DASH bus, or take the Gold Line to Little Tokyo and then take the D DASH. The DASH is a quarter, runs often (but only in the daytime), and is very useful for travel in particular regions of LA. Because the routes are shorter, I found the downtown DASH to be more reliable than the citywide Metro bus, as long as I didn't need to go too far. The weekend schedule is slightly reduced; D doesn't operate, but E does. As to exactly which stop to get off at, the Fashion District site I linked to has a pretty poor map on it, but it claims you can order a free print copy. Might be worth a look!
posted by sigmagalator at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would second Pazazgeek's comments except for this: Westlake/MacArthur Park and the area around Philippe's aren't all that bad. You don't want to fall asleep there at midnight or anything, but if your business isn't bothering anyone, no one's going to bother you while you do your business.

However, Langer's has limited hours so the MacArthur Park safety question may be irrelevant. But Philippe's . . . I could see it being shady over there in years past, but these days I wouldn't worry.
posted by kensington314 at 11:09 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Re. Griffith Park - you don't need the shuttle, you can easily hike up into the park (as far as the Observatory if you're in ok shape) from the Hollywood and Western Red Line stop. The park and especially the observatory buildings are amazing, and totally safe for a woman on her own.

Oh, and for low-brow pop art, get off the Red Line at the Vermont and Sunset stop and walk along Hollywood Boulevard a block east to the Wacko store and Luz de Jesus gallery.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2010

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