Credit: Erik Hale

All Aboard! Your Guide to Exploring the Best of Downtown LA Via Metrolink

Hop on the Train and Discover Everything From Museums and Restaurants to Shops and Historic Sites

One of the benefits of living in SoCal is the proximity to some of the most happening areas in the country. For example: Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. But, navigating the I-5 and I-405 freeways between these areas is no easy feat. Thanks to Metrolink, however, getting to and from Los Angeles has never been easier. With dozens of train stations spread across Orange County—including the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC)—this rail service allows expedited access to all the amazing sightseeing, shopping, dining and nightlife that LA has to offer. Metrolink also offers hundreds of connections to other transit services to help you explore other SoCal cities! guide to DTLA

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It’s time to head on over to the ARTIC for a day of exploring The City of Angels! But before you do, check out our specially curated itineraries! These will help you plan the perfect LA day trip based on your interests.


Getting to LA with Metrolink

Downtown LA Guide
Credit: Erik Hale

While there are tons of train stations all over SoCal, we recommend starting your journey from the state-of-the-art ARTIC Station. With its centralized location in the heart of Orange County, ARTIC acts as a transportation hub, bringing together multiple modes of public transit, including charter buses, rideshare services and rail-to-rail transport, all courtesy of Metrolink. From here, riders can purchase tickets, grab a bite to eat and find everything they need before boarding the brief 45-minute scenic train ride to Los Angeles’ historic Union Station. With roundtrip tickets between these two stations going for less than $20 and tons of special offers and everyday discounts to capitalize on, Metrolink trains are both the easiest and most affordable way to access the city. 

Simply buy your tickets at the station or ahead of time through the Metrolink mobile app (on the App Store or Google Play), and enjoy a traffic-free, spacious and smooth trip to the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Adults can ride on weekends for $10, with up to three children who can ride for free!


For the Foodie

French Dip at Philippe

Credit: Philippe The Original

First stop: food! It’s no secret that Downtown Los Angeles is home to some of the very best spots for dining, with enough delicious eats to fill an itinerary of feasting for a full day. And to kick off this exquisite culinary escapade, we recommend hopping off the Metrolink at Union Station to arrive at Philippe the Original for one of their famous French dip sandwiches. Situated in the heart of DTLA, this iconic eatery boasts a culinary legacy that spans over a century. Renowned for its mouthwatering dip, Philippe tantalizes taste buds with tender slices of premium meats stacked in fresh-baked bread and dipped in savory au jus—the perfect first taste of LA after stepping off the train.


Drinks at Traxx Bar & Restaurant

Union Station is one of LA’s most recognized landmarks, so it’s no surprise that their very own deco-inspired restaurant, Traxx, is an excellent choice for some afternoon drinks. While the roaring 20s-style elegance and delicious food are worth the trip alone, Traxx’s true selling point is its incredible bar program. Mixing both timeless classics as well as perfectly balanced originals, the bartenders here are true craftsmen. They pour sophistication and innovation into every glass. With housemade bitters and accouterments and featuring artisanal spirits from local distilleries, Traxx is the perfect stop for drinks before continuing your culinary adventure through downtown. Feel posh with a tarragon gimlet and Waldorf salad. Or, call it a late lunch with a classic martini and truffle parmesan fries. You can’t go wrong here! guide to DTLA


Grand Central Market

Credit: Grand Central Market

Once you’ve had a chance to digest, enjoy a free and seamless transfer onto LA Metro’s subway to take you to the historic Grand Central Market from Union Station. Here, you can sample some of the inspired treats served in this sprawling food hall near Pershing Square Station. Boasting a rich history dating back to 1917, this bustling marketplace is a foodie’s paradise. From sweet sensations like McConnell’s ice cream to mouthwatering LA originals, such as the acclaimed Ramen Hood, Grand Central Market is home to over 40 unique vendors, artisans, purveyors and entrepreneurs, each one offering artisanal creations for foodies from all over to enjoy.


For the Culture Connoisseur

Explore the Iconic Bradbury Building

Fine dining and delicious eats are abundant in downtown Los Angeles. But the historic heart of this sprawling city is also home to some of the best museums and cultural cornerstones in the country. For those looking to dive into the history and artistic excellence that LA is known for, this is the itinerary for you—and it begins at the beautiful Bradbury Building. This Romanesque Revival and Victorian era marvel, built in 1893, remains frozen in time. Its iconic courtyard lobby stretches over 50 feet in the sky! Towering marble staircases, ornate railings and open-cage elevators combine to create a spectacle of engineering and artistic excellence. It’s no surprise that famous directors, artists and photographers have featured this famous building in their works for over a century.

Local Insight: To book a guided tour of the Bradbury Building, click here.


Visit the Broad Museum

Downtown LA Guide
Credit: Erik Hale

No cultural tour of LA would be complete without visiting one of the most iconic museums in the city: The Broad. Showcasing everything from mystifying, century-old collections to multimedia modern masterpieces, the rotating calendar of exhibits does not disappoint. With so many world-class artists on display, including the mind-bending Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms exhibit, it’s hard to believe that general admission to this center is free (but reservations are encouraged)! So be sure to check it out during your deep dive into the cultural heart of Los Angeles. The museum is located a quick hop over the Hope Street bridge from the Metro A Line Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station.


Explore + Shop Historic Olvera Street

Museums and historic sites are not the only way to explore the rich culture of Los Angeles. In fact, downtown LA’s Olvera Street pays homage to California’s Latin roots in a uniquely authentic way. This carefully preserved stretch of DTLA, located just across the street from Union Station, is often hailed as the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” Pedestrians can witness the city’s origins via a sprawling Mexican market, beautiful stucco buildings and dozens of shops and museums. The market features a wide array of vendors selling delicious food and handcrafted goods. Many of them have been here for decades, making this a perfect spot to refuel and explore in the afternoon. Grab a taquito and take a stroll down this charming street before heading to your next stop.


Visit Historic Chinatown

Downtown LA Guide
Credit: Erik Hale

From Mexico to China in less than ten minutes, Chinatown is a quick 8-minute walk from Olvera Street—also very close to Union Station. We recommend ending your trip with a visit to this renowned downtown neighborhood. It’s full of twinkling golden lanterns, towering arches and the buzz of a thriving community. LA’s Chinatown is a near-century-old neighborhood that teems with life and cultural intrigue, drawing in both tourists and locals year-round. Be sure to explore some of the incredible artisanal shops and indulge in some authentic street food in this neighborhood. Visit Steep LA for a tea cocktail before loading up on to-go dim sum treats at Long’s Family Pastry—and save room for a street vendor sweet bun while you’re walking back to catch the Metrolink train home.


For the Art Enthusiast

Walking Tour of Union Station

Downtown LA Guide
Credit: Erik Hale

Downtown Los Angeles is filled to the brim with incredible art and architecture. From mesmerizing museum exhibits to massive public works, an art tour of LA is an ideal day-trip itinerary. What’s more inspiring is that you can begin exploring the second you step off the rail at Union Station, a pivotal starting point in any guide to DTLA. Home to everything from towering monuments and sprawling murals to sparkling mosaics, Union Station has incorporated art into its beautification efforts since the beginning. Visitors are welcome to explore on their own. Or, they can pick up one of several maps that take you through each exhibit speckled throughout this epochal building.

See LA through the eyes of local artists as you walk down the Passageway Art Gallery. Here, you’ll learn about the vibrant history of Chinatown in the Waiting Room Gallery. You’ll also spot James Doolin murals on the main and third floors of the station. After, take a breather in a Christopher Sproat sculptural granite chair as you’re waiting for the Metro D and B lines.


MOCA Los Angeles

Credit: Elon Schoenholz

At the core of Los Angeles’ art scene is moving and powerful contemporary art, and Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) proudly displays some of the very best. From stunning sculptures, such as Nancy Rubins’ towering stainless steel creations, to Michael Heizer’s stunning 1969 landscape film prints, MOCA is a sprawling mecca of ingenious and inventive contemporary works, making this a must-see for any art connoisseur. MOCA is located off the Civic Center/Grand Park Station. It’s just a quick hop north of Union Station on the Metro A Line.

guide to DTLA

The Grammy Museum

Credit: Rebecca Sapp

No art tour of LA would be complete without exploring the city’s rich musical history, and The Grammy Museum, which is also close to Union Station, is the perfect place to start. This museum boasts incredible exhibits that celebrate artists across eras and genres. The collections here serve as one of the largest multimedia collections of music memorabilia. From groundbreaking historical explorations, such as their ever-popular “Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit,” to artist-centric displays, such as the new “Shakira, Shakira” exhibit, The Grammy Museum is unlike any other and a highlighted feature in our guide to DTLA.


Walt Disney Concert Hall

Downtown LA Guide
Credit: Erik Hale

Once you’ve had a moment to soak in some knowledge about the history of music, head on over to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to experience live music in a building designed by Frank Gehry. Spanning nearly 4-acres, this complex features some of the most sophisticated engineering of any concert hall, designed with acoustic excellence in mind. Hosting some of the best classical, contemporary and jazz ensembles and home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Walt Disney Concert Hall should be on every music connoisseur’s bucket list. If you’re lucky, you might grab a seat at the rescheduled performance of Natalie Merchant in early June! The Metro Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station is just across the street. Plus, the Civic Center/Grand Park Station is a short one-block walk from the venue.

guide to DTLA

For the Shopaholic

The Last Bookstore

Credit: The Last Bookstore

Spectacular art, delicious food and a rich history are undoubtedly some of LA’s finest offerings. But, the city is also renowned for its wide array of incredible shopping destinations. From designer outlets to charming pop-ups, perusing the aisles of one of LA’s many boutique, thrift or specialty stores is equal parts cathartic and exciting. The Last Bookstore is no exception. It’s is largest new and used book store in California and is an essential stop in any guide to DTLA. The 22,000-square-foot shop carries a wonderful collection of books, art, records, comics, collectibles, toys and trinkets. Located in a century-old bank building not far from the Metro Pershing Square Station, The Last Bookstore promises hidden secrets between the aisles, a famous book tunnel, a mammoth head (of course), and even vaults and ghosts!


The Bloc

Once you’ve had a chance to pick out some new reads and fun knick-knacks, elevate your DTLA shopping spree with a trek to The Bloc. One of the city’s premier entertainment plazas, this open-air landmark is on the same block as the 7th Street Metro Center. The multi-tiered retail center spans a full city block. It’s home to dozens of retailers, designers, cafes, eateries and jewelers. The space, renowned for its gorgeous open-concept design, is also home to The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an American cinema where you can eat, drink and view all in the same space. Splurge on a blowout at Drybar and maybe even shop for glasses at Eyes on the Bloc. The Bloc is truly one of the most vibrant and lively shopping centers in Los Angeles. guide to DTLA

guide to DTLA


Capturing the quintessential sun-soaked, minimalist aesthetic of the arts district, ROW DTLA is a fashionista’s paradise. Bringing together six buildings that span over 32 acres, this retail mecca merges shopping, dining and entertainment under one stretch of stunning modern architecture. Restored warehouses, expansive office spaces, art studios, fine dining establishments and more come together to create an avant-garde shopping destination. Peruse vintage co-op Arcade, ethical clothing at Bel Kazan and swimwear at Coast by Coast, then head to Café Dulce for an artisan doughnut before redeeming yourself for a provisions shop at the 7th St. Produce Market.



Santee Alley

For those of you still standing, round out your shopping excursion by heading to Santee Alley for some of the best bargains around. This massive outdoor shopping strip, also located near the 7th Street Metro Center, is home to over 150 vendors. You’ll find everything from fine jewelry to handcrafted leather goods and even electronics and antiques. But what really sets Santee Alley apart is the incredible access to high-quality, name-brand goods offered at incredible discounts—sometimes going for as low as 70% below retail value. With deals this good, this Fashion District destination is always bustling. Be sure to save some energy to explore this unique retail paradise, a must-visit in any guide to DTLA.

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Erik Hale is the visionary and publisher behind LOCALE Magazine. He launched the magazine in 2010, wanting to give the community of OC a premiere lifestyle magazine that knew all the native knowledge behind OC. “Six years ago Ashley and I sat at a table scratching the name LOCALE (among some other names) onto a sheet of paper,” says Erik, “coming up with story ideas and basically dreaming. Everything we imagined has happened and we have been blessed with so much more. I am so grateful as we start another year for my family, my two wonderful children, my health, our amazing writers, designers and photographers, our advertising partners and you.”




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