You’ve cleaned out the guest room and checked the air mattress for leaks — it’s the holiday season and your house may soon be packed with visiting friends and family.
If you have time to fill this holiday season, take the opportunity for you and your guests to experience Los Angeles in a new way: Go Metro to Los Angeles’ best attractions. A new TAP card and a Metro Day Pass cost only $8 and will take you and your guests to many places across Los Angeles County. It’s also an excellent way to give your visitors a chance to explore on their own while you rest up (because let’s face it, hosting can be tiring), but it also works if you have other obligations, need to fit in different sightseeing tastes or don’t feel like driving.
If you’re looking for a few Metro day-trip ideas this holiday season for you or your visitors, we have you covered. Today, we start with a few suggestions in downtown Los Angeles. “DTLA” is an excellent spot for visitors since it’s centrally located and contains about a dozen neighborhoods, each with their own allure and attractions. DTLA is served by five Metro Rail lines with seven rail stations and more than thirty bus routes, including the Metro Silver Line. If you’re ambitious enough, you can walk end-to-end in about an hour.
TRIP PLAN 1: Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo & Olvera St.
Begin: Civic Center / Grand Park Station Station (Red/Purple Line)
End: Union Station (Red/Purple Line, Gold Line)
Exit Civic Center/Grand Park Station from the Metro Red or Purple Line. Grab some coffee and take a walk through Grand Park up to Bunker Hill before exploring the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) – Grand Ave., where Metro riders can get 2-for-1 admission. On your way, make sure to stop for a few photos outside of Walt Disney Concert Hall — you can’t miss it.
After you’re done perusing the art at MOCA, it’s about a 15-minute walk downhill to Little Tokyo by way of 1st Street, past a variety of civic buildings including the L.A. Times Building and City Hall. (Alternatively you can take the Metro Local 30 at 1st and Broadway and exit at 1st and Judge John Aiso).
In Little Tokyo, visit the Japanese Village Plaza or other nearby establishments for a taste of the culture. Many businesses in the area offer discounts to Metro riders with valid TAP cards, including restaurants like Far Bar, Chado Tea Room, and Kagura Downtown; the confectionery shop Fugetsu-Do; and clothing and gift stores like POP Little Tokyo and the Little Tokyo Gift Shop.
Food options in the area range from traditional Japanese cuisine such as sushi and ramen to Korean BBQ and other American-Asian cuisine fusions (mmm wasabi fries). After lunch, get back to museum hopping by checking out the Japanese American National Museum. Both offer special discounts to Metro riders.
The last stop of the day is Los Angeles Union Station and Olvera Street at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, considered the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” The trip from Little Tokyo only takes about 10 minutes. Just walk one block to the Little Tokyo Gold Line Station and take the northbound train one stop to Union Station. A stroll through the station itself is worth a trip on its own, but since you’re nearby, the historic plaza and Mexican marketplace is just across the street. Olvera Street recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the early days of Los Angeles and is home to the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles.
When it’s time to call it a day, just cross Alameda Street to Union Station, which connects to the Metro Gold, Purple and Red Line and buses.
Please see another trip plan for visiting DTLA’s Historic Core after the jump!
TRIP PLAN 2: Historic Core
Begin: Pershing Square Station – 4th Street Exit (Red/Purple Line)
End: Pershing Square Station – 5th Street Entrance (Red/Purple Line)
Start your day with some people watching and tasty eats by taking the 4th Street exit at the Red/Purple Line Pershing Square Station and walk north to the revitalized Grand Central Market. Food options are pretty wide open at this historic open air market — you can find just about anything, like pupusas, sticky rice, Texas B.B.Q., Berlin currywurst, oysters and egg sandwiches with a cult following.
Walk through the market to exit on Broadway and enter the historic core of Los Angeles. Once the home of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles before Hollywood took the spotlight, Broadway hosts over a dozen of historic theaters including the Los Angeles Theater, the Million Dollar Theater and the Orpheum Theater, and historic buildings such as the Bradbury Building (across from Grand Central Market). More information on the historic street can be found here.
A newer place to check out — though some might argue it’s also a remnant of a bygone era — is The Last Bookstore, a two-story used bookstore that hosts over a hundred thousand books, a record store, artist space and intriguing art pieces. It’s located on 5th and Spring Street.
With a few good books in hand, head down a block to 6th and Main St. to visit Cole’s French Dip, which claims to be home of the original french dip (along with its competitor Philippe’s in Chinatown). The french dip is worth it but don’t skip the spicy garlic fries! Metro riders save 15 percent on their food bill by showing their TAP card
To end the day, head back to Pershing Square for ice skating at the Pershing Square Holiday Ice Rink (open Nov. 13 to Jan. 19). Situated under the skyscrapers of downtown L.A., it’s arguably one of the best set holiday ice rinks in Los Angeles, especially in the evening. Metro riders receive $1 off admission by showing their TAP card.
When it’s time to head back home for hot chocolate or eggnog (because what else do you drink after ice skating?), the 5th Street entrance to Pershing Square Station is across the street.
Other downtown Los Angeles tourism resources:
Have suggestions for a Metro day-trip in a different neighborhood? Let me know in the comments or email me here.