Los Angeles without a Car: 9 Superb Attractions
Los Angeles has changed. Nearly 90 miles of light rail and subway now connect the diverse neighborhoods of the City of Angels, freeing locals and visitors alike from bumper-to-bumper car traffic and difficult-to-navigate freeways. From Hollywood to Long Beach, Downtown L.A. to Pasadena, there’s a Metro Rail–convenient destination for every interest and budget. Here are our top 9 Los Angeles–area attractions that are within a 10-minute walk of a Metro Rail station.
David Madsen and Elisa Makunga are the authors of L.A. Adventures: Eclectic Day Trips by Metro Rail Through Los Angeles and Beyond.
800 W. Olympic Blvd. (entrance on Figueroa Street)
The Grammy Museum is one of Los Angeles’s unsung treasures. Its four floors are dedicated to the history of popular music, from the first homemade bottleneck guitar to the latest technology-driven hip-hop and dance music. Special exhibitions have covered everyone from Roy Orbison and Barbra Streisand to Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and John Lennon. The museum often puts on large-scale themed exhibits as well, devoted to topics such as rock-and-roll photogragraphy and the history of hip-hop. But the evening programs are truly special, presenting dialogues with and performances by living legends of rock, jazz, blues, soul, reggae, country, funk, and more in the intimate, 200-seat Clive Davis Theater.
Metro Station: 7th Street/Metro Center or Pico
Walking Time from Station: 8 minutes
700 Exposition Park Dr. (at the California Science Center)
In 2012, the California Science Center became the permanent home of the space shuttle Endeavour. This battle-scarred behemoth of the space age is truly awe-inspiring, every one of its 20 orbital missions etched into its indestructible hull. Many of the museum docents are veterans of the space program who are happy to share personal insights and memories. Moving the shuttle to the Science Center was a major endeavor in itself—power lines, stoplights, and even palm trees had to be removed to make way for the spacecraft as it was towed through L.A.’s streets.
Metro Station: Expo Park/USC
Walking Time from Station: 5 minutes
Old Town Pasadena is a lively, walkable neighborhood that offers world-class dining, shopping, theaters, and art galleries. A stroll through Old Town is also a study in Southern California’s history immortalized in architecture. Take note of the Pasadena City Hall (pictured), a Palladian-inspired example of the distinctive California-Mediterranean style. Fans of the television show Parks and Recreation will recognize the building for its role as the Pawnee City Hall. If you want to combine food with historic attractions, Melting Pot Tours offers guided strolls through Old Town that give you insight into Pasadena’s past as well as its rising star chefs.
Metro Station: Memorial Park in the heart of Old Town
Within a short walk of the Hollywood/Highland Red Line Metro Station, you can reach many of the attractions for which Hollywood is famous: TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s), with its collection of movie stars' footprints in cement; the Egyptian Theatre, where showman Sid Grauman staged the world’s first red carpet premiere; Madame Tussauds wax museum; the Dolby Theatre, where the Academy Awards are presented; and the El Capitan Theatre, where you can catch a free taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live. As you walk around, look down—you’re trekking along the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame, where celebrities both enduring and forgotten are immortalized. All this tourism is bound to work up a thirst. We recommend you head to the long-running Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd.) for an incomparable martini.
Metro Station: Hollywood/Highland
In Koreatown can you find numerous reasonably priced spas. Far from an exclusive experience reserved for the wealthy, a Korean spa is a welcoming environment where family and friends gather to get healthy and socialize. Open 24 hours, the three-level, 48,000-square-foot, kid-friendly Wi Spa offers affordable luxury for families and couples. Designed like a traditional Korean bathhouse, the facility has five different coed saunas plus a kids' zone with comic books and video games. A full menu of services includes Akasuri body scrubs, aromatherapy massages, mineral mud treatments, and vitamin C facials.Metro Station: Vermont/Wilshire
Walking Time from Station: 10 minutes
111 S. Grand Ave.
Set aside the Hollywood sign and this Frank Gehry–designed stainless-steel fantasia just might be the most recognizable symbol of Los Angeles. In addition to its architecture, the concert hall is famous for having unbelievably good acoustics. On most nights, those heavenly sounds are provided by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by firebrand musical director Gustavo Dudamel. If you visit during the day, wear sunglasses—the glare from the reflective surfaces of the hall can be seen for blocks. A concert is the best way to experience the site, but you can also take a guided or self-guided audio tour lasting about an hour.
Metro Station: Civic Center
Walking Time from Station: 6 minutes
On Olvera Street in the oldest part of the city, you can see América Tropical, a restored mural by artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. This faded but still powerful indictment of American imperialism was painted over in 1934, two years after its unveiling. Eighty years later, the Getty Trust and the city of Los Angeles brought the mural back, along with an interpretive center and a viewing platform. While you're in the area, sample Olvera Street’s Mexican restaurants, visit the five free museums that line this historic square, or take part in a street festival with traditional dancers like the one pictured.
Metro Station: Union Station
Walking Time from Station: 5 minutes
In Little Tokyo, the Japanese American National Museum (100 N. Central Ave.) stands next to the Geffen Contemporay at MOCA (152 N. Central Ave.), part of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The first institution presents the cultural history, art, music, dance, and even home movies of Japanese Americans, with a special emphasis on the internment camps where Japanese Americans were held during World War II. The building that now houses the Geffen museum was originally a hardware store and warehouse; it was renovated by local star architect Frank Gehry of Walt Disney Concert Hall fame. The museum is noted for its controversial exhibits and large-scale installations.
Metro Station: Little Tokyo/Arts District
Walking Time from Station: 3 minutes
South Pasadena’s Mission Street is a patch of small-town America in the middle of the big city. The historic thoroughfare remains a haven for independent business owners selling homemade baked goods, wine, books, and more. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy soda fountain (1526 Mission St.) has been serving up shakes, phosphates, ice cream floats, and sundaes for more than a century. Just off Mission you'll find a comfortable library with an ample lawn, shady streets lined with Craftsman bungalows, and magnolia trees inhabited by wild parrots. Every Thursday, there’s an outdoor farmers' market right at the Metro station, where locals gather to buy fresh, organic California produce, dine on Santa Maria barbecue, and watch open-air movies.
Metro Station: South Pasadena