This May, Angelenos will finally be able to venture to the beach via light rail thanks to the Expo Line. For now, though, your trip runs from Seventh Street/Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles to downtown Culver City.
For our first two Metro destination lists, we covered the Red and Purple Lines, which make their stops in commercial and/or entertainment districts that can bring in the day trippers. The Expo Line, like others that we'll be traveling in the coming weeks, is a bit different in that it's geared toward getting people into the city's core or to hyper-local points of interest, such as schools. That said, you're more likely to find residential neighborhoods than bar-crawling zones off lines like the Expo. Still, the Expo is preparing to become a major public transportation route; eventually, this will be how you connect to the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.
In the meantime, here are some of the places you can visit off the Expo Line.
1. When at Seventh Street/Metro Center, drink cold brew or a brew at Whole Foods.
It's easy to diss Whole Foods; its Grand Avenue spot is the quintessential sign of downtown gentrification. I tried to ignore this place but could do so no longer. I caved because of coffee. Well, coffee and beer.
There's a lot going on at the downtown Whole Foods: vegan-friendly eats, a Chego stand and a juice bar, for instance. I made my way to the coffee bar, where they have in-house cold brew as well as on-tap offerings from Stumptown. Then we headed into the Eighth Bar — yes, a full bar inside a grocery store — where my husband grabbed an IPA that was pretty tasty. The Eighth Bar serves brunch on weekends and has happy hour specials during the week. I started to think about the repercussions of grocery shopping after happy hour. How much can one drunk girl spend on olives and cheese? We might soon find out. Whole Foods, 788 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 873-4745, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/downtownlosangeles.
2. Stop at Pico to get to Los Angeles Convention Center.
Perhaps you're heading to the Los Angeles Convention Center to meet your favorite drag stars at RuPaul's DragCon. Or maybe you're going to hang out with your cosplayer pals at Anime Expo. There are tons of reasons to head out to LACC and few of them involving driving downtown. Having been to more conventions than I can count, I can tell you from experience that you are almost always better off taking the Metro. Traffic sucks and parking can be expensive, especially if you're heading here for a big event such as Anime Expo or E3. If you drive, you will be ready to go home before you line up for your ticket.
You can take either the Expo or Blue Line to hit the Pico exit and take a short walk to LACC. At $7, a day pass is cheaper than what you would spend on gas and parking, plus the unlimited rides will allow you to head outside of the Convention Center/L.A. Live area for lunch or dinner. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., downtown. (213) 741-1151, lacclink.com.
3. Take 23rd Street to get to the Reef.
Marketed as a "creative habitat," the Reef is a workspace/showroom/event complex geared toward art and design projects. L.A. Mart is here, although access to the showrooms is often limited to people in the interior design–related fields. (Check the website for shopping events that are open to the public.)
The Reef also is home to occasional conventions and other events that are general admission. Recently, Los Angeles Comic Book and Sci-Fi Convention (formerly at the Shrine) held shows here. This May, the Los Angeles Bicycle Festival will take place at the Reef. The venue is accessible by both the 23rd Street (aka Los Angeles Trade Tech/Orthopedic Institute) station on the Expo route and the Grand/LATT Blue Line exit. If you're coming from the Westside, the Expo Line is a better option. The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, downtown. (800) 586-8124, the-reef.com.
4. Don't drive to the Shrine — take the Expo Line to Jefferson/USC.
Heading to a show at the Shrine? Take the Expo Line to the Jefferson/USC stop. Like Los Angeles Convention Center, the Shrine is in an area where heavy traffic can put you in a terrible mood before you make it to the event. Conversely, the walk to the venue from the station is fairly short and gives you a chance to catch up with friends instead of screaming at the jackass who almost hit you.
If you are heading here for a concert, make sure you keep track of the time. L.A.'s Metro rails do not run 24/7. You'll want to be mindful of the schedule so that you can make your transfers back home before the system shuts down for the night. Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall, 665 W. Jefferson Blvd., University Park. (213) 748-5116, shrine auditorium.com.
5. When at Expo Park/USC, visit the California African American Museum.
Exposition Park is accessible from two stops on this line, but the one that bears the Expo Park name will let you off closest to the California African American Museum. Make sure you venture inside when you're in the neighborhood.
CAAM made its debut in 1984 and underwent major renovations near the turn of the 21st century. Today it houses beautiful and intriguing works that you can view for free. Their "Coloring Independently" show, which closed in late February, provided a fascinating look into African-American films of the 1940s through an exhibition of stills. The museum typically features multiple shows to explore. It's also home to a research library that's open to the public.
While you're in the neighborhood, you can wander over to the California Science Center, stroll through the nearby Rose Garden or head to the Coliseum. California African American Museum, 600 State Drive, Exposition Park. (213) 744-7432, caamuseum.org.
6. When at Expo/Vermont, check out the Natural History Museum.
Of the two Exposition Park exits on this line, Expo/Vermont is the one with closest access to the Natural History Museum. A true symbol of Los Angeles' development into a cultural center, NHM opened in 1913 as the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art. Today it's a destination for curious people of all ages. There are various child-centric programs at the museum. For the adults, the First Fridays series brings together education and entertainment.
While the dinosaur hall and animal-centric exhibitions are clearly the showpieces here, my favorite spot to explore is "Becoming Los Angeles." The permanent exhibition documents the city's history from the time of the missions through the present day. It's a dense yet easy-to-follow collection that looks at various aspects of the city's history and evolution. If you call L.A. home, this is worth your time. 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org.
7. When at Expo/Western, gorge on the tortillas at Los Alcatraces.
Los Alcatraces is steps away from the Expo/Western station and easily identifiable by the calla lilies painted on its exterior. The small sit-down restaurant serves Mexican and Central American food and the memory of its tortillas stuck with me well after I swallowed the last bite.
These soft, fluffy tortillas are far more filling than their small size would indicate. I ate mine with pollo de la plancha. It made for a lunch that could have sent me into a food coma were it not for the amount of walking that Metro riding entails. Make sure to check out some of the local murals while you're burning off your meal. Los Alcatraces, 3773 S. Western Ave., Exposition Park. (323) 733-1379.
8. Learn at the Lula Washington Dance Theater while at Expo/Crenshaw (also, your route to LAX is under way).
Expo/Crenshaw is in a state of transition right now. At some point in the not-so-distant future, this will be the transfer point for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor. When completed, that line will take you through Leimert Park, into Inglewood and over to LAX. Right now, there's a lot of construction near the station.
Lula Washington Dance Theatre, the long-established dance studio and touring company, is located near this stop. The school teaches styles ranging from ballet to urban ballroom and offers classes for youth and adults. Contact the studio for more information on available classes.
Prior to construction, this was the stop for beloved hot dog spot Earlez Grille. Unfortunately, this was one of the local business displaced in the process of Metro Expansion. However, Earlez Grill has, via its Facebook page, noted that it will be reopening soon at 39th and Crenshaw. That's still within walking distance from the Metro. Hang tight. Lula Washington Dance Theatre, 3773 Crenshaw Blvd., Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw. (323) 292-5852, lulawashington.org.
9. At Farmdale, play at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex.
Even when it looks as if rain might soon fall, Rancho Cienga Sports Complex is bustling. The large outdoor-indoor activity center features playing fields, basketball courts, an indoor pool, tennis courts and more. It's part of the L.A. Parks system and offers organized activities for various age groups.
The complex isn't visible from the Farmdale exit. The Metro will drop you off in front of Dorsey High School. Walk around the school and you'll find your destination on Rodeo Road. You should also note that Rancho Cienega is located in between the Farmdale and Expo/La Brea stops, so you can access the facility from either exit point. Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, 5001 Rodeo Road, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw. (323) 290-2663, laparks.org/dos/reccenter/facility/ranchocienegarc.htm.
10. At Expo/La Brea, walk down to Adams for food and nightlife.
Long-running Mid-City venue Fais Do-Do hosts Peepshow Menagerie's burlesque shows, Club Soulside's mix of vintage tunes and various other parties and events. If you're heading here, the closest Expo Line stop is Expo/La Brea. As with the Shrine, make sure to time your travels precisely so that you aren't stuck at a Metro station after the trains stop running and be prepared to grab an Uber or Lyft if you plan on closing out the party.
For those who don't mind walking nearly a mile in each direction, try hitting up Delicious Pizza, the hip-hop–themed restaurant affiliated with record label Delicious Vinyl. The pizza place frequently hosts DJ sessions, like Reggae Sundays. If you're looking for either Armenian or Mexican baked goods, head across the street to F&J Bakery/A. Partamian Bakery. Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., West Adams. (323) 931-4636, faisdodo.com. Delicious Pizza, 5419 W. Adams Blvd., Mid-City. (323) 424-3014.
11. Visit Daniel Rolnik Gallery near La Cienega/Jefferson.
The art-gallery scene on the Culver City/Los Angeles border is mostly located within walking distance of the La Cienega/Jefferson station. The mix of art here is eclectic and, quite often, geared toward big budgets. If, however, you want to support artists but don't have thousands of dollars to drop on a piece for your home, head to Daniel Rolnick Gallery, which recently moved to Culver City from Santa Monica.
Rolnik tends to show up-and-coming artists as well as more established folks with cult popularity. He has worked extensively with John "Let's Paint TV" Kilduff and Bwana Spoons. The selection inside his space includes small pieces and art toys, i.e., pieces that sell at relatively low prices. There is also an assortment of other related odds and ends, like books and stickers. The gallery is located on La Cienega but is situated off the street, so pay close attention to the signage. It's open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Pro tip: Make sure you exit on the west side of the La Cienega station, lest you accidentally end up on Fairfax (the walk back to your route can be long, and confusing). Daniel Rolnik Gallery, 2675 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City. (310) 729-3399, danielrolnikgallery.com.
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12. When at Culver City, quench your thirst with a refreshing Jamaican drink at the Jerk Stop.
There are plenty of reasons to head to downtown Culver City. You should certainly check out the Museum of Jurassic Technology, particularly if you want to impress out-of-town friends with a weird and beautiful local museum experience. You might want to hang out with friends at local bar Carbon. Or maybe you're just heading home from a day in downtown Los Angeles.
When you're walking around the neighborhood and feel a thirst building in your throat, don't go for a soda. Instead, head to the Jerk Spot, in a small shopping center near the Culver City station, and get a Pine & Ginger. The homemade drink mixes pineapple and lots of ginger for a juicy thirst-quencher with bite. The homemade sorrel is also a refreshing drink. The Jerk Stop, 9006 Venice Blvd., Culver City. (310) 815-1160, jerkspotla.com.