BY: DIANA SANGLAB
The Los Angeles Metro Rail connects different parts of Southern California to Los Angeles, and includes a single line that can bring any Long Beach resident to the heart of Downtown LA. Long Beach has Cambodiatown as a cultural neighborhood. Neighboring cities like Artesia has Little India. LA, however, has a rich history with more than 100 different districts and neighborhoods. With an all-day Metro Rail and bus pass costing five dollars, there is little excuse as to why some wouldn’t explore LA with their free time.
Here are a few districts that are full of intriguing sights just a rail hop away.
Besides the delicious dim sum and cheap goods, various temples are located within the area and visitors are more than welcome to light up candles to pray for good luck and prosperity. Now that the new year is here, it means that Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and 2014 means it's the year of the horse in the Chinese zodiac. For those who are into herbal medicine, Chinatown has plenty of shops dedicated to natural and “traditional” medicine. Film buffs are also encouraged to visit various parts of the district to see where movies like “Rush Hour,” “Freaky Friday,” “Anchorman” and “Gangster Squad” have been filmed. Many galleries are also scattered throughout the district and display unique artworks. The district even has a self-guided walking tour for visitors, and also offers “The Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour” every first Saturday of the month. Chinatown offers plenty of opportunities for dining and culture appreciation, continuously growing the district.
To Get Here: Use the Blue Line, then connect to the Red or Purple Line, and get off at Union Station. From there, take the Gold Line to the Chinatown stop.
Check out: Thien Hau Temple, Chinese American Museum
Considered the fashion destination of LA, the 100-block district offers a multitude of styles for everyone and it even has textile and flower shops. This is one district you can’t miss if you love window shopping for clothes. Organized like a big shopping outlet, the womenswear takes up almost half of the district, and the menswear section is split up into two different areas. Accessory shops are right next to the well-known Santee Alley—a block with a festive vibe known for knock-off brand name items. Experiment with fabrics and do not be afraid to try new things. The fashion district is known for wholesale business, but there are still plenty of independent retail stores that allow for fashionistas to claim one-of-a-kind clothing. Most places don’t accept every method of payment so remember to bring a lot of cash. Keep in mind that this is a business-oriented area that is not very customer service-based. If you do not know where to begin, there is also an official LA Fashion District App that is downloadable for both iPhone and Android.
To Get Here: Use the Blue Line and get off at 7th Street Metro Center. Hop onto a DASH bus along the D or E route for 25 cents per way.
Check out: San Pedro Wholesale Mart
In the middle of a very modern city lies a hybrid between the past and the present. For those who are interested in experiencing a more traditional sense of Japanese culture, there are a few temples throughout the district, a couple of gardens and the Japanese American National Museum. There are three major plazas to visit for shopping and dining—Japanese Village Plaza, Weller Court and Little Tokyo Galleria. The Japanese Village Plaza is a treat on its own with a small market, plenty of snack shops, and general stores featuring cute and traditional Japanese trinkets. Visitors can sit under huge umbrellas and a watchtower while enjoying the ambiance and food. Weller Court offers more restaurants, a bookstore, and Marukai Market—a market of imported Japanese candy and other foods. With various options for sushi, shabu shabu and other restaurants surrounding the area, Little Tokyo allows for a fun experience of modern and traditional Japanese culture through food, shopping and sightseeing.
To Get Here: Use the Blue Line, then connect to the Red or Purple Line and get off at Union Station. From there, take the Gold Line to the Little Tokyo stop.
Check out: Kinokuniya, Mitsuru Cafe
This corner of the city offers less of a traditional and historical look compared to Little Tokyo and Chinatown, but that does not mean this hub is not representative of Korean culture. Although this district is only a few square miles wide, there are plenty of family-owned restaurants and hip cafes that create a unique vibe only obtainable in Koreatown. The district offers pedestrians a pleasant city backdrop for walks, with visitors often weaving in and out of the different shopping areas. Fans of Korean pop music could also visit a couple of plazas within walking distance to buy their favorite groups' CDs, posters, or other goods. K-pop is never lacking here, with popular songs blaring through stereos and music videos playing on big screens. Within these plazas are also small shops with tasty treats and bookstores, as well as fashion and beauty products imported straight from Korea.
To Get Here: Use the Blue Line, then connect to the Purple Line and get off at the Wilshire/Western Avenue station.
Check out: Haus Dessert Boutique, Castle II KBBQ and Music Plaza
NoHo Arts District
Only five minutes away from Universal Studios, North Hollywood is the place to go for fans of the arts and theater. The NoHo Arts District features diverse art galleries and professional theaters that display and showcase new and classic forms of art. With plenty of venues for live music and other shows, NoHo is filled with opportunities for entertainment for everyone in the party. There is a huge selection of restaurants here, too—from Greek to Thai—all within a reasonable price range. NoHo features plenty of nighttime events, but it is still a pleasure to visit during the day with small boutiques sprinkled throughout the area.
To Get Here: Use the Blue Line, then connect to the Red Line and get off at the North Hollywood Station.
Check out: The Federal Bar