Union Station: A Look Within
Second to LAX Airport, Union Station is Los Angeles‘ main transit hub. Most who arrive here scurry off to catch the train or bus, missing out on the beauty of the highly regarded architectural station. Handsome Spanish colonial and art deco details are abundant at this stop – from the crafted seating in the waiting area to the ornate ceiling and chandelier designs. To experience Union Station in depth, check out an LA Conservancy tour.
801 N Vignes St, Los Angeles, CA + 213 683 6729
Union Station: Across the Way in El Pueblo
Roots of LA culture begin in El Pueblo. Tourists and locals flock here for affordable merchant shopping and Mexican meals, especially along bustling Olvera Street (Calle Olvera), a short walking distance from Union Station. Mexican-American culture is dominant throughout El Pueblo. Cherished points of interest include quaint restored homes designated as cultural institutions, including Avila Adobe and Sepulveda House. Entering these tiny homes is like stepping back into LA history. Beyond Mexican culture, El Pueblo also features the hidden brickhouse gem, Chinese American Museum. This venue visually chronicles Chinese-American historical contributions. An official guided walking tour of El Pueblo, the oldest neighborhood of LA, is available.
Located just east of downtown, the Chinatown Gold Line stop alone provides a colorful feast for the eyes. Commissioned artist Chusien Chang conceived a multi-cultural experience with the structure; it’s comprised of circular symbols representing Chinese and Mayan philosophies and Mexican-American immigration stories. Away from the station, there are several cultural highlights to experience, such as the heavily Chinese pagoda-filled New Plaza, the Taoist attraction of Thien Hau Temple, and rustic Old Italy buildings.
Southwest Museum Station
After a careful walk across the road from the Southwest Museum Gold Line stop, we find the station’s namesake, a significant cultural LA landmark. Paying homage to artifacts and art of Native American Indians in California and the West region, the Southwest Museum, part of the Autry National Center of the American West, is well worth a visit. Only an hour or less is needed to view the collection, which is the second largest of Native American objects in the United States. Fossils, handmade pottery and tools, and traditional costume are just some of the ancient treasures to view. Come on Saturday, the only official entrance day of the week. The Southwest Museum is located in the Mount Washington neighborhood.
Little Tokyo/Arts District Station
This aptly named stop is where we find the Japanese American National Museum. Founded in 1992, the museum is a magnificent architectural piece on the outside and a fascinating treasure within. The ‘common ground’ exhibit and permanent collections have featured distinguished samurai armory, unique 8mm home movies, traditional Japanese kimono, and a variety of moving items related to Japanese internment camps of the 1940s. Catch a delightful exhibit at the museum, like the crowd-pleasing 2015 Hello Kitty exhibit, featuring exclusive artwork of the cute kitten and elaborate HK inspired costumes, including a piece worn by singer Lady Gaga.
200 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA +213 625 0414
Mariachi Plaza Station
Catch one of the best views of downtown LA and hear festive Latin music at the Mariachi Plaza station. Originally, Mexican mariachi bands congregated here to play and promote. Nowadays, a variety of Mexican and Latin American styles are pumped through the station’s sound stage. Besides music, there are weekly market gatherings with local merchants selling original art pieces, such as colorful pottery and jewelry. While here, it’s worth the while to do a self-tour of the immediate area.