The hottest new way to get around Los Angeles
At first glance, there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about the Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line light rail, which debuted in May.
The $1.5 billion westward expansion doesn’t reduce the city’s notorious traffic, nor does it offer captivating views. It’s not even lightning quick; the 15-mile ride from Downtown LA to Santa Monica takes 48 minutes.
But against all expectations, the Expo Line has become LA’s latest buzz. The 19-stop journey has drawn so much fanfare that its rail cars are sardined with transit riders.
The hype is actually well deserved: the cheap and easy trip from bustling downtown to beautiful beaches connects flourishing neighborhoods along the way that are otherwise hard to reach. Permanently packed with a cast of LA characters — who have waited five years for this commute — a ride on the Expo Line is worth the $1.75 ticket (or $7 for an all-day pass). And avoiding idle hours in bumper-to-bumper standstills? Priceless. Here’s how to make the most of your journey.
Start at the Downtown Los Angeles terminus. The area’s notable revitalization has deemed it “America’s Next Great City” by critics like GQ, and businesses like Faith & Flower restaurant and The Broad museum have helped it prosper in just a handful of years. Now DTLA is banging out new attractions like the OUE SkySlide, which opened in June. The clear, all-glass slide suspended 1,000 feet above the sprawling city begins on the 70th floor of the US Bank Tower and extends 45 feet down. It thrills for only a few seconds, though SkySpace, an open-air observation deck with 360-degree panoramas on the same level, allows for lingering.
Back on the ground, once-dilapidated Pershing Square is undergoing a renaissance of its own. With a complete $1 million redesign in the works (courtesy of international design team Agence Ter), the outdoor park has become home to massive art installations, like artist Patrick Shearn’s “Liquid Shard,” a kinetic sculpture of silver strands that drift in the air.
Brooklyn-based flea-food market Smorgasburg has already opened at Row DTLA, a 30-acre, reimagined complex in the Arts District slated to feature 100 new shops and restaurants in century-old buildings.
The ongoing, industrial project, which debuted in July, truly embodies the neighborhood’s speedy gentrification.
Before heading to the downtown station at 7th Street/Metro Center — which has been transformed into a brand-new, $160 million outdoor courtyard and shopping destination called The Bloc — grab a bite at the city’s most buzzy Italian joint.
Kettle Black, a former bank-turned-restaurant helmed by star chef Sydney Hunter, opened in August. If you’re bunking here before progressing to the next stop, stay at the Ace Hotel, a stylish retreat that helped spearhead the Downtown LA movement when it opened in 2014 (from $299).
Next stop, Culver City!
Eleven stops and 35 minutes after Downtown LA, get off at Culver City, known for movie and TV studios where classics like “Gone With the Wind” and “Citizen Kane” were produced. The Sony Pictures Studio Tour offers two-hour guided visits that take fans behind the scenes, including to the sets of game shows like “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
Head back to the Culver City station for The Platform, the city’s hottest new attraction.
The 50,000-square-foot retail and restaurant space across the station is made of shipping containers stacked four stories high. Among high-end boutiques like Linda Farrow and Tom Dixon x Curve, several notable businesses are run by New Yorkers, including Magasin, a menswear boutique opened by Josh Peskowitz, the former men’s fashion director of Bloomingdales.
Join stars like Robert Downey Jr. at The Platform’s trendiest restaurant, The Cannibal, which is led by executive chef Francis Derby (formerly of Momofuku and Gilt). There’s also Van Leeuwen, a gourmet ice cream shop with humble beginnings as a food truck in Brooklyn. A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Tyra Banks and Kirsten Dunst have already been spotted shopping since it opened in March.
Onward to Bergamot Station, an eight-minute ride from Culver City. There’s very little to see here, but therein lies the charm. The industrial area feels old-school thanks to a dated station, old warehouses and dusty railroad tracks. The highlight is a collection of independent galleries that attract local hipsters and artists. Explore more than 30 tourist-free galleries where you can intimately view (and buy) plenty of contemporary and fine art before the area becomes a crowd magnet. Bergamot is in the initial stages for a major redevelopment project with plans to include a hotel, museum and more.
The last stop is Santa Monica.
The line finally ends at open-air shopping center Santa Monica Place, chockablock with retail, restaurants and sprawling beaches. End your journey at the iconic pier, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. At night, the spot is Instagram-worthy, with 174,000 LED lights recently added to the Ferris wheel. Every Friday in October, the pier screens movies for free at a series called Front Porch Cinema. After the event unleashes thousands for their long commutes home, you’ll appreciate the Expo Line like a true local.
This article was published by New York Post.
Feature photo of The Platform, a retail and dining complex atop the Culver City station, by Katie Gibbs.