Destination: DTLA via LA Metro

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People often ask if Los Angeles natives such as myself would ever frequent riding the Los Angeles Metro’s newly completed Expo Line (it joins the 4th Street/Santa Monica station to Downtown LA’s 7th Street/Metro Center). For whatever reason, my go-to answer would be no, that I was used to the predictable nature of Los Angeles traffic, that I knew I would eventually reach a destination within 25 to 50 minutes. Plus, I know the ins-and-outs of this City by way of alternate side street routes, short cuts, etc. should we be required to get away from the 10 Freeway commuter gridlock.

So when family friends expressed interest in joining the kiddies and me on one of our summer adventures in Downtown Los Angeles during the week, but wanted to travel using the Metro, I hesitated.

“Come on, it will be fun for the kids and the adults can relax for not having to find parking.”

“I know where to park.”

“We would have to find parking lots to accommodate two cars at three different places. That could add up.”

He was right. We had planned to revisit Pershing Square, the Last Bookstore of LA, the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, MOCA-Geffen in Little Tokyo and the A+D Museum in the Arts District. No way was driving my car to three different parking lots going to be smart.

Still, I was stubborn.

“I installed the Best Parking Spots app on my phone so I wouldn’t have to stress out about hunting down the $8 lots. Plus, we’d have to walk everywhere, and Downtown is huge.”

“Come on, you’ll like it. You already walk everywhere in Santa Monica. Why wouldn’t walking in Downtown be any different? The trains will certainly help. Plus, I know what to do when we have to make transfers to another line.”

I love driving, I love having control over where I was going, and I loved the idea of having some control of when I was leaving (not considering, of course, traffic delays). I also knew he was right, that it would probably be easier to use Light Rail to go to Downtown LA as a group, to reach these intended destinations.

Apparently my friend, a D.C. transplant who has already taken his wife, son and visiting family members to Downtown Los Angeles events from the Westside, was a fan of using the LA Metro as an alternative means of transportation. My friends were also one of the lucky Santa Monica residents who took advantage of the Buy One, Get One Free promotion offered by LA Metro when the completed Expo Line opened back in May. I, however, was one of the stragglers who didn’t fill the TAP Card with $20 (which the Program matched dollar-for-dollar) when the offer became available, so I didn’t have a $40 TAP Card for every member of my family to use for this day trip.

“It’s only 1.75 per person, plus kids 5 and under ride free. If you insist on using your car, meet us at the 17th Street/Santa Monica station and park your car there for $2.00.”

Sounds like a compromise. “Okay.”

We met at the 17th Street Station in Santa Monica because that was the middle point between the two family residences, parked our cars at the all-day lot for $2, loaded up two of my TAP Cards for one-way trips to Downtown LA, and started our LA Metro adventure.

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After we made our 7th Street/Metro Center transfer onto the Red Line, we got off the Pershing Square Station.

I unexpectedly enjoyed this vantage point of Downtown Los Angeles. Who would have thought this existed under the Downtown I already knew like the back of my hand?

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The Station exit eventually led us to our first destination, Pershing Square and environs. (Click on the links to read more about my recent Pershing Square and The Last Bookstore of LA outings).

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We managed to work up an appetite after our two-hour excursion here, but the kids wanted to eat somewhere other than the Grand Central Market, so we ditched our plans to visit the Market and the Bradbury Building and continue our trip north to Union Station using the Metro Red Line.

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After lunch, we hopped onto the Metro Gold Line to our next destination, Little Tokyo/Arts District, to check out the A+D Museum off 9th Street. Along the way, we admired the murals and other artistic works found in the area.

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Somehow, our shortcut through the Arts District foiled our plans to patron the A+D Museum, which was about to close within the hour, so we decided to make future plans to visit A+D Museum the following week (using our cars). As a consolation prize, we took a linner break at the Pie Hole to replenish our bodies with slices of pie, coffee and freshly squeezed juice.

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“We still have time to check out MOCA-Geffen since they’re open late on Thursdays,” my friend reminded me. So off we went to Little Tokyo to visit MOCA-Geffen. Unfortunately, the museum was closed as the temporary exhibitions were in the process of being installed. It also seemed that preparations were being made for the Tanabata Festival, which was scheduled for the following day.

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“No worries,” my friend’s wife exclaimed, “I know a cool place where we can relax for a bit.” We walk five blocks west to the nearby DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown Los Angeles where we were promptly led to the Kyoto Gardens, a half-acre sized serene rooftop garden that I haven’t seen in at least 15 years. The beautiful venues even this local forgets can still mesmerize…

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“We want Mochi Ice Cream!” the kids exclaimed. Marukai, an authentic Japanese grocery store at Weller Court (an ethnic Japanese shopping center in Little Tokyo), was nearby. We were fortunate to have found a walkway from the Hotel which led us directly to Weller Court, wherein we admired traditional, modern and contemporary Japanese decor during our second linner break.

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“Look, City Hall is within view. Do you think we can walk to it? We’re between the two Metro stops.”

“Maybe. The kids would enjoy the Grand Park’s Treehouse Playground. Let’s do it.”

Awesome, because as the kids ran around (where do they get their energy?), us adults enjoyed each other’s company under the tree-shaded seating area.

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Evening finally came upon us, so it was time for us to go home to have dinner with my husband. After a two-block upward hike to the Civic Center Station, we bought our fare, hopped on our train, made our transfer and returned to Santa Monica, where our cars were patiently waiting for us.

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The verdict? I’d have to say that while I found myself feeling helpless at not having my beloved car at my disposal, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the sights today. The different art installations along the Downtown LA Metro Stops, for example, were amazing to look at. I never would have known they existed had I not used the trains in the first place, let alone gone off the different train stops along the way. Walking through the different neighborhoods of Downtown LA also helped me take in what I normally would have overlooked had I been in my car quickly passing by. I never would have noticed the sticker covered ATM (or skimmer) or the makeshift rubber tire totem pole at the Arts District had I not been traveling on foot.

Once I let go of pining for my car, I embraced the experience of the train commuter. Sharing this relaxing experience with my family and friends, all while appreciating the newly gained perspective of the City, albeit passively and with purposeful timing of taking things slow, may very well convince this Los Angelean to consider taking the LA Metro more often.

There is more of my City to discover after all.

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———-

17th Street/SMC Metro Station
1610 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404
323-466-3876
metro.net/about/art/locations/colorado17th-street/

7th Street/Metro Center/Julian Dixon Station
660 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
metro.net/about/art/locations/7th-Metro/

Pershing Square Metro Station
Hill Street between 4th and 5th Streets, near Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles.
metro.net/about/art/locations/pershing-square-station/

Pershing Square
532 South Olive Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213-847-4970
laparks.org/pershingsquare

The Last Bookstore of LA
453 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213-488-0599
lastbookstorela.com

Union Station (Metro)
800 North Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
metro.net/about/union-station/

Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro Station
1st Street and Alameda Street (Temporary Address)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
metro.net/about/art/locations/little-tokyoarts-district/

The Pie Hole
714 Traction Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213-537-0115
thepieholela.com/arts-district-la/

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-625-4390
moca.org/visit/geffen-contemporary

Kyoto Gardens
DoubleTree by Hilton
120 South Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-629-1200
doubletreeladowntown.com/our-hotel/kyoto-gardens

Marukai Market
Weller Court
123 Astronaut E. S. Onizuka Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
facebook.com/pages/Weller-Court-Little-Tokyo-LA/255487854529571

Grand Park LA’s Treehouse Playground
Grand Park’s Event Lawn
200 North Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-972-8080
grandparkla.org/fun-family-activities-around-grand-ave

© Copyright 2012-2016 by Deborah Kuzma, californianative.com and californianativeblog.wordpress.com. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah Kuzma, californianative.com and californianativeblog.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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