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We’re big time defenders of the City of Angels, so we bristle when we hear locals joke that public transit sucks. Actually, the city’s Metro system covers 1,500 square miles and includes nearly 16,000 bus stops, 93 subway and light rail stops, and a ridership of 350,000 people daily, so really, the joke is on them.

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While a car is still the most convenient way to get around Los Angeles, it’s not always the most desirable; the freeways are constantly clogged, parking can be difficult and/or expensive and many locals drive like they’re completely crazy. Meanwhile, the subway is clean, affordable ($1.75 each way) and stress free (but be safe when traveling at night). Assuming downtown as a starting point, here are six awesome L.A. adventures to have completely via subway/light rail.

Santa Monica Pier | Photo by Jason Heidemann

1. The Expo Line to Santa Monica (eta 55 mins)
Even cynical Angelenos took notice when the much-anticipated Expo Line opened in 2016, officially connecting downtown L.A. to beachy Santa Monica by light rail. This line drops visitors within a stone’s throw of all the action. Fuel up at Philz Coffee or the Refinery, both of which specialize in custom-made coffee. With java in hand, stroll the century-old Santa Monica Pier, a megawatt tourist and locals hangout boasting all kinds of attractions, including an end-of-the-road Route 66 marker and gift kiosk, the death-defying Trapeze School of New York and Pacific Park, a mini amusement park whose rides include the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel. Afterward, surrender to the call of Will Rogers State Beach or hit up the Third Street Promenade shops and do lunch at Flower Child, a Cal-healthy eatery with an irresistible beach chic vibe.

Langer's Deli, pastrami, Los Angeles, California

Langer’s Deli | Photo by Jason Heidemann

2. The Purple Line to MacArthur Park (eta 15 mins)
Perhaps the most buzz-worthy public project in Los Angeles right now is the Purple Line extension that will eventually drop visitors off at key hot spots that include LACMA, Beverly Hills, Century City and UCLA. In the meantime, hop on board and ride the rails to Westlake Station and MacArthur Park, a public park dating back to the 19th century whose centerpiece is its stroll-worthy lake. Circumnavigate the MacArthur Park Lake and do your best to avoid all the bird poop along the way. Afterward, join the queue at Langer’s Deli, an old-school Jewish deli whose signature item is its piled-high and (utterly drool-worthy) pastrami sandwich. Be prepared to wait. From here, walk 10 minutes to Wi Spa, a 24/7 Korean bathhouse that costs a mere $25 and was hilariously profiled on Conan. Its cold/hot tubs, steam saunas etc. are amazing. Remember: You aren’t allowed to wear clothes (but neither are the celebs!).

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California

Aquarium of the Pacific: Photo by Jason Heidemann

3. The Blue Line to Long Beach (eta 60 mins)
Want to be whisked from one big city to another? While Long Beach pales in size and stature to L.A., it boasts nearly half a million people, making it larger in population than Atlanta, Miami and Minneapolis. The Blue Line cuts a mostly industrial path to coastal Long Beach, but does promise stellar (and snow-capped in winter) rear mountain views along the way. A downtown arrival puts visitors in close proximity to a ton of attractions. Start at the fantastic Aquarium of the Pacific, which is among the nation’s best and guarantees close encounters with sea otters, penguins, sharks and other maritime critters. Afterward stroll Shoreline Aquatic Park and then hit up the nearby Pike Outlets, which includes usual retails suspects like Restoration Hardware and H&M. Afterward visit lively and revitalized Pine Avenue and grab some grub at mod BBQ and brew joint Beachwood.

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Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, California

Manhattan Beach | Photo by Jason Heidemann

4. The Green Line to Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach (eta 75 mins)
We admit, this itinerary takes a little gumption. Ride the Blue Line to the Willowbrook stop and make the simple transfer to the Green. Exit at end station Redondo Beach. From here, hail a $5 Uber/Lyft and have your driver drop you at M.B. Post, a buzzy brunch spot in breezy Manhattan Beach. Start with the bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits, which will pretty much blow your mind and order any entree; they’re all great. Afterward, stroll the pier and visit the scrappy and free aquarium at the end, which boasts moray eels, leopard sharks and starfish. Next, follow the bike path for 2 miles to Hermosa Beach and admire the surfers, bikini-clad volleyball players and eclectic beach homes. In hippie-chic Hermosa, check out winsome shops like Curious and Gum Tree, have a beer along Pier Ave and satisfy your sweet tooth at Danish owned Paradis Ice Cream.

Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, City Hall

Old Town Pasadena | Flickr CC: Graham

5. The Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena (eta 40 mins)
The beauty of Los Angeles is its diversity of regions and communities. Thus, it’s a pleasure to hop the Gold Line at Union Station downtown and arrive in pristine Pasadena a short time later. While the Gold Line boasts numerous stations of interest (Chinatown, Heritage Square, Highland Park, etc.), the home of the Rose Bowl is its biggest prize. Exit at the Del Mar Station and make an immediate beeline for Copa Vida for excellent coffee. A rare find is Distant Lands, an excellent indie bookstore devoted exclusively to travel tomes. The entire Old Town is filled with indie retailers like this one and also familiar chains (cough, cough Pottery Barn). For lunch, do the yummy lunch buffet ($11.99) at Tibet Nepal House Restaurant and don’t leave town before snapping a selfie in front of overly ostentatious City Hall.

Hollywood, California, Los Angeles

Hollywood, California | Flickr CC: 4grandma

6. The Red Line to Hollywood (eta 25 mins)
The city’s most comprehensive subway line offers numerous detours. But of course, you came here to see Hollywood, didn’t you? Put on your most sturdy walking shoes and ride the rails to the intersection of Hollywood/Vine. This will drop you in the heart of Tinseltown and within stone’s throw of numerous attractions. Go ahead and seek out your favorite celeb on the Walk of Fame and snap a selfie in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, but be mindful of Hollywood’s other treasures, as well. See a movie inside the Dome Entertainment Centre at the original Arclight Cinemas, spend a couple of hours leafing through vintage records at Amoeba, check out the delightfully quirky Museum of Broken Relationships and marvel at vintage theaters like Pantages and the El Capitan. When you get hungry, make room for a meal (or at the very least a cocktail) at Musso & Frank, the oldest eatery in Hollywood. The vintage vibe is unreal. For a sweet treat visit Pie Hole, home to the best pies in Los Angeles (the Mexican chocolate pie will blow your mind).

DTLA, Los Angeles, Walt Disney, Frank Gehry, California

Walt Disney Concert Hall

BONUS: Any line to DTLA
If you’re not based downtown, consider riding the Metro to it! Despite the fact that Los Angeles became decentralized decades ago, downtown (aka DTLA) has come roaring back in recent years and is now in the midst of a cultural renaissance and building boom. Where to begin? Do lunch at Grand Central Market, a sprawling food hall packed with vendors and cheap eats. Stroll the historic core and marvel at architectural stunners like the Bradbury Building and the Eastern Columbia Building, nose around The Last Bookstore, marvel at the oddities at Clifton’s Cafeteria, eat doughnuts and fried chicken at Birdies, check out the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live, take a selfie in front of the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall, reserve a ticket to the free and Instagrammable Broad Museum, have a whiskey tasting at super-secret speakeasy Jackalope and hang poolside with A-listers at the Standard and Ace Hotels. You can easily spend a day or an entire weekend exploring DTLA.

Tagged: California

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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