From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (15)
Liz Ohanesian

It's easy to hate Metro's Orange Line. After all, the San Fernando Valley route is a bus. Sure, it rides on a designated road, but it's still smaller than a train. You think rush hour on the Red Line is packed? Try making the North Hollywood Orange Line transfer after work, when you can't squeeze through the door. You'll wait for another ride to arrive and still get stuck wedged between sweaty armpits. During the Valley summers, it's a kind of hell that might make you prefer sitting on the 101 at 6 p.m.

The Orange Line's biggest advantage is getting people out of the Valley. If you're heading downtown or to parts of Hollywood when the traffic is thick, this is a good option. Overall, the line is geared more toward work/school commutes than day-tripping or pub-crawling. Its journey hits two community colleges, multiple corporate/industrial areas and a Metrolink station. It also provides access to street buses that reach Cal State Northridge. Moreover, there are multiple parking lots along this line, allowing commuters to drive and ride to work.

There are two different paths you can take on the Orange Line. The buses stick to the same course until they reach the Canoga Avenue station. From there, one will veer south to its terminus at Warner Center. Another will head north, making a few more stops until it lands in Chatsworth, where you can catch a Metrolink or Amtrak train. As the buses twist through the southern section of the Valley and turn into its western end, you will get a good glimpse of 818 life. Below, we highlight some of what you can see and do at each stop.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (9)
Liz Ohanesian

1. In North Hollywood, visit Blastoff Comics. 
The Orange Line's North Hollywood terminus will drop you off at Lankershim and Chandler. You can either transfer to the Red Line here or roam around NoHo, home of theaters, bars, restaurants and a lot of people who like actors. If you decide to wander, head to Blastoff Comics. This small, tidy shop carries a solid variety of comics as well as new and classic sci-fi titles and vintage pulp novels. The store goes all out for Free Comic Book Day. On May 7, it will host the second annual Blastoff ComicsFest at nearby Federal Bar with special guests, a beer garden and more. Blastoff Comics, 5118 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 980-2665, blastoffcomics.com.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (10)
Liz Ohanesian

2. At Laurel Canyon, shop at Tashkent Produce. 
Despite its name, the produce selection here at Tashkent is small, but there's a lot of other stuff crammed inside the Russian market. Check out the assortment of snacks and sweets if you need a quick pick-me-up for your travels and explore the shelves filled with jams and other delights. Although the market is small, there is a deli counter tucked inside the space, so you can get prepared meals as well. When I stopped here on a Sunday, it was quite busy, but the line moved very quickly. Tashkent Produce, 5340 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 752-7222.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line
Liz Ohanesian

3. When at Valley College, check out the Freeway Lady. 
Kent Twitchell's "Freeway Lady" is back. Long ago the mural, inspired by Twitchell's grandmother, stood tall near the 101. Nearly 20 years after the piece was painted over, the famed L.A. muralist modified and repainted the beloved piece at Valley College. If you want to see this stand-out piece of public art, walk through the school's parking lot located across from the Orange Line stop and head to the Student Services building. It's on the side facing Fulton Avenue. The official ribbon-cutting event for the mural is on April 14. Los Angeles Valley College Student Services Center; 5800 Fulton Ave., Valley Glen. lavc.edu/revitalizingvalley/Public-Art-at-LAVC.aspx.
 

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (11)
Liz Ohanesian

4. When at Woodman Avenue, pick up some lahmajoun from Sweet 1 Bakery.
Sweet 1 Bakery is a tiny bakery counter attached to Kabob Factory in a small Oxnard Street strip mall adjacent to the Orange Line's Woodman stop. When you pop in here, make sure you get lahmajoun, "Armenian pizza" as it's advertised. These thin, meat-topped snacks are both inexpensive and filling. They're also delicious, soft and savory, reminding me more of the lahmajoun that my grandma made than the packaged variety you normally find at Armenian grocery stores. Sweet Bakery Grocery and Kabob Factory, 13670 Oxnard St., Van Nuys. (818) 781-1282.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (12)

5. When at Van Nuys, catch a bus to Ventura Boulevard. 
The cruel irony of the Orange Line's Van Nuys Boulevard stop is that it drops you off in a sea of car lots. You are fairly close to the Van Nuys Courthouse, if that's your destination. Otherwise, this is a good spot to catch a bus and head to Ventura Boulevard. Once there, you can head over to stores such as Guitar Center, Iguana Vintage Clothing or the Sherman Oaks outpost of Earth 2 Comics. If you want to go on a longer walk, head toward Sepulveda and you'll find Sherman Oaks Galleria, now less of a mall and more a collection of restaurants and shops surrounding ArcLight Cinemas and Public School 818. Alternately, you can catch the Rapid 750, which will take you across Ventura Boulevard.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (14)
Liz Ohanesian

6. When at Sepulveda Station, go for a bike ride. 
The Sepulveda Station is right next to L.A. Fitness, a gym chain that's pretty good about situating its outposts near Metro stops. If, however, you would rather get your exercise outdoors, hit the Orange Line Bike Path. The path actually starts in North Hollywood, where it runs off to the side of the busway, but, since it is quite long, you might just want to ride for a shorter stretch of the route. The path isn't heavily crowded, although you will see a good amount of bike shorts–and-helmet–wearing riders here on Sunday afternoons.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (16)
Liz Ohanesian

7. At Woodley, visit the local park. 
One thing the Orange Line does well is provide easy access to major recreation areas, which is largely the result of its route along the Sepulveda Basin. Here, you're steps away from Woodley Park, which was hosting a large Sizdah Bedar Festival on the day I walked around the area. The Woodley exit also provides access to the Japanese Gardens and Woodley Golf Course. If you decide to head to the park for a last-minute picnic, you can pick up food at Vallarta Supermarket, which is also near this Orange Line station.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (18)
Liz Ohanesian

8. Continue your park adventure via the Balboa station. 
Like Woodley, the Balboa station offers quick access to nature. Your exit is next to Anthony C. Beilenson Park, which locals previously knew as Balboa Park. This sizable park is home to Lake Balboa and offers a lot of amenities, such as pedal boat and bike rentals along with fishing opportunities. 6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys. laparks.org/Dos/aquatic/balboa/index.htm.

From NoHo to Chatsworth, 18 Cool Things Along the Metro Orange Line (2)
Liz Ohanesian

9. When at Reseda Boulevard, go to Paladino's.
Paladino's is a Valley staple. While its calendar boasts everything from karaoke to Latin music nights, I always associate the place with tribute bands. For years, this has been a destination to check out hard-rockin' tributes like The Iron Maidens. While the love for metal is strong, you can catch homages to other genres here, too, like Musehead, a salute to both Muse and Radiohead.

As with all late-night spots, remember to keep track of time when you come here by Metro. The Orange Line does not run 24 hours. Prepare to find another way to get home if you miss the last departure. Paladino's 6101 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 342-1563, paladinosclub.com.


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