EXPO LINE

It only took 63 years, but public transit between DTLA to Santa Monica is back! While the Expo Line’s “Phase 1” — which connected Culver City with Downtown LA —  officially opened operations in June of 2012, it wasn’t until last month that the eastside and westside were really connected.

The Expo Line “Phase 2” added 7 new stops last month — expanding from the Culver City station all the way to downtown Santa Monica. For Angelenos, this is HUGE news: instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic alongside everyone and their brother/mother/dog trying to get to the beach on a warm sunny summer day, anyone coming from downtown can now get from DTLA to DTSM in roughly 47 minutes – even during rush hour! – and forget worrying about the parking (hallelujah!)

We decided to take this month’s post on the road (literally) and explore the new Expo Line extension and all its new stops have to offer. All aboard!

Stop 1: Culver City Station

Culver City has long been known as a center for movie and television studios (MGM Studios, Sony Pictures), or an area people move to once Santa Monica and Venice become too expensive. But thanks to an up-and-coming art scene, the 2012 opening of the Expo Line at Culver Junction (the light rail from Downtown LA to Culver City), and a thriving downtown full of gastropubs, wine bars and pedestrian-friendly streets, Culver City seems to be morphing into a popular destination beyond movie productions and reasonable rents.

This Westside neighborhood, bordered by Venice, Marina del Rey and Baldwin Hills, may no longer quite be “The Heart of Screenland,” but there’s a lot to do within its five square miles: a multitude of hikes, beautiful bike trails and intimate theatres, as well as a popular downtown and the hip Helms Bakery District.

Check out our whole Culver City day here!

 

(Culver City Station is located near the intersection of National & Robertson Blvd)

Stop 2: Palms Station

Palms is a quiet, up-and-coming neighborhood tucked between Culver City and West LA. It has been growing slowly, behind the scenes of it’s more popular neighbors, downtown Culver and Mar Vista, but it has a lot to offer those who are willing to dig a little beyond the blocks-upon-blocks of apartment buildings and tired storefronts.

The Palms Expo stop lets you off right near at the corner of National & Palms Blvd and there are a lot of options within a few blocks walking distance. For example, the darling Motor Avenue Farmers Market  takes place every Sunday from 9am-2pm and there are several little ‘mom and pop’ shops and restaurants between the Expo stop and the Market.

We decided to stop into one of our very favorite breakfast spots in the neighborhood, C&M Cafe, for a coffee and some of their delicious, homemade granola – with soy milk and berries, of course! While they (very recently) moved their location, they are still in the area and are still cooking up some of the most delicious breakfast sammies (we HIGHLY recommend the “Wake Up Call”) and scrumptious baked goods around town.

(Palms Station is located at the corner of National Blvd & Palms Blvd)

Stop 3: Westwood/Rancho Park Station

The neighborhood of Westwood has long-been synonymous with UCLA, known primarily as the home to the world famous university. Although Westwood Village was once a hub of nightlife – with movie theaters, nice restaurants and lots of foot traffic – these days it’s now often overlooked for the nearby Santa Monica Promenade or West Hollywood. But the neighborhood offers more than just cheap college pizza joints and UCLA apparel shops. This is a central point for the Persian community in Los Angeles, as well as long-standing neighborhood establishments, little-known green spaces…and, most importantly, Diddy Riese (need we say more?)

For more on our Westwood day, click here.

(Westwood/Rancho Park Station is located at the corner of Westwood Blvd & Exposition Blvd)

Stop 4: Expo/Sepulveda Station

Little Osaka is more popularly known as “Sawtelle,” a neighborhood named after the boulevard where Japanese businesses began to settle in the early 1990s. Located in West Los Angeles (sandwiched between Santa Monica and Westwood), there’s more knock-your-socks-off good food in a three blocks radius than you might find in entire U.S. cities.

As ramen has become increasingly popular in Los Angeles, so too has the Sawtelle neighborhood. Gone are the days when Westsiders bemoaned the lack of quality Asian food on their side of town – Little Osaka has it all. Although Japanese food still reigns supreme, you can find superb Korean and Vietnamese food, and the neighborhood is now expanding beyond its traditional Asian boundaries.

For more on our Little Osaka day, click here.

(Expo/Sepulveda station is located at the corner of Sepulveda Blvd & Exposition Boulevard in west LA)

Stop 5: Expo/Bundy Station

A few blocks from the Expo/Bundy station is a small but mighty Japanese market that is well-worth a visit. Located in a corner, nondescript, multi-use building below a dance studio and a Party City, Marukai Market can be easy to miss.

We had a fun time perusing the plethora of snack options – from ready-made sushi rolls to a whole aisle of fermented vegetables and shelves upon shelves of yummy-looking Japanese sweets…but our favorite section was the home goods/beauty section. We found snail face masks, lots of interesting workout gadgets, and green tea…well, everything!

(Marukai Market: 12121 W Pico Blvd)

Stop 6: 26th St/Bergamot Station

Santa Monica is probably one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Los Angeles, with its famed boardwalk, shopping promenade, and that neon-glowing, solar-powered ferris wheel seen in oh-so-many TV shows, movies, and aerial shots of the city (it was also named one of the coolest ferris wheels in the world in 2013). But this is our version of Santa Monica, all the lesser-known, locally beloved spots far from the Third Street Promenade and the throngs of tourists. In fact, we didn’t step foot on the promenade or Main Street during our Santa Monica day, opting instead for the special spots we favored during our years as residents in this sun-speckled, beachside neighborhood. If you’re using our blog as a guide, get ready to discover all the places you won’t find in guidebooks or “Top 10” lists.

For more on our Santa Monica day, click here.

(26th St/Bergamot Station is located near the intersection of 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard)

Stop 7: 17th St/SMC Station

The 17th St/SMC (Santa Monica College) station is the second expo stop across the Santa Monica border. There are lots of things to walk to just a couple blocks north on Santa Monica Boulevard, but we had a hankering for a cold beverage, so we hopped over to Chomp Eatery for a couple smoothies.

You may have seen the rainbow colored “unicorn melts” that Chomp is known for (Google it if you haven’t – they’re pretty magical!), but we can’t help but crave their selection of green smoothies. We decided on the Matcha Green Tea Protein and the Green Dream. Each was served in a take-home glass mason jar. They also have a mean selection of burgers, sandwiches (unicorn and otherwise) as well as some delicious looking juices – some sold in light bulbs (what?!).

*Insider’s Tip: breakfast served all day!

(Chomp Eatery: 1612 Santa Monica Blvd)

Stop 8: Downtown Santa Monica Station

Once you make it to the end of the Expo line in downtown Santa Monica, there is no lack of options for pretty much anything you may want to get into – this side of town is teeming with beaches, bars, restaurants, the pier, the boardwalk, surf shops… the list goes on!

We bee-lined it up Colorado to one of our favorite westside poke shops to build-our-own masterpiece. And boy did we! We got the Salmon Yuzu Bowl with kelp noodles ponzu-lime sauce and added avocado, cucumber and pickled ginger. #moreplease!

(Sweetfin Poke: 829 Broadway)

The Details:

The new 6.6 mile extension (from Culver City to Santa Monica) now means that the Expo Line runs all the way from downtown Los Angeles to the beach (Yes! Just like a real city!) It takes about 47 minutes to get from DTLA to Santa Monica, and if the grid-locked 10 freeway just isn’t your jam (or you don’t have a car! are ethically opposed to cars!), this is a most fantastic option. More here.

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