Los Angeles is a fun and exciting city. It’s also one of the most spread out and largest in terms of square miles. You may think you need a rental car to enjoy the city as a visitor or even waste money on cabs, but you can easily leave your transportation issues to the city’s subway system without a second thought.
Finally, Los Angeles has a clean, efficient subway system that is slowly being discovered by residents and visitors. Although the system doesn’t go everywhere, it does have a wide range and with some planning, you can stay in one area, and use only the subway to visit the various other major tourist destinations in the city.
The city also has a vast bus system, but this is a bit slower and sometimes a bit scarier than the subways so we will concentrate on planning a trip without having to use the bus. The Metro.net site has all the information you need including schedules, route maps and fare information. There are several lines, we will concentrate on the Red Line, which runs from Universal Studios to Downtown LA, stopping in Hollywood, the Gold Line which runs from Downtown LA right into Pasadena and the Blue Line which runs from Downtown LA to downtown Long Beach and the ocean. They offer a 24 hour, all day pass for $5.00 per person, cheaper if you are a senior, student or disabled. The trains stop about 1 AM, so its not a viable option for late night partying, unless you party until 5 AM when the trains resume running.
Where To Stay
We would recommend staying in Universal City at the Hilton or Sheraton atop Universal City, as that puts you right at Universal Studios, the tour as well as CityWalk, the free outdoor retail experience with restaurants, stores, movies, etc. There is a subway stop at Universal Studios that allows you to visit the other sights we mention in this article. It also puts you close to Warner Bros. Studios which actually has 3 studio locations in the area and has a great tour, much more intimate than Universal and real. You see whatever is filming that day, no staged shows and attractions.
Alternatively, we would suggest staying in Downtown LA at The Standard, Hilton Checkers (a great small hotel next to the huge LA Public Library) or the timeless classic The Biltmore. All are centrally located in the new hip downtown Los Angeles. This area, a ghost town for 50 years, is being renovated and boasts the largest intact collection of early 1920’s theaters and buildings in the entire country. Because the area was so bad, for so long, most went undeveloped while the rest of the city tore down its history. The LA Conservancy offers walking tours of the buildings and areas. These hotels put you near downtown subway stops. The area is quite safe during the day, but is a bit sketchy at night as some areas empty out completely
What To See
Everyone wants to go to the beach when they come to Los Angeles. Without a car, you have two main options. You can take the Blue Line train, from downtown LA straight to downtown Long Beach, it leaves you off at the front door of the Aquarium of the Pacific in view of the Queen Mary docked in the harbor. And only steps to the beach and to the wonderful seaside village areas.
If you want to go to Santa Monica or Venice, they have express buses that run from downtown to the Venice and Santa Monica, making minimal stops. Other than rush hour, it takes only 40 minutes. You can also take the Amtrak or Metrolink train up the coast to Ventura or south to San Diego.
Sights To See
Pasadena via the Gold Line train
Norton Simon Museum
Old Town Pasadena shopping district
Kidspace Children’s Museum
Downtown Los Angeles via the Red Line Train
MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art
Downtown Los Angeles arts district with galleries and studios
Hollywood via the Red Line train
Hollywood and Vine
Hollywood Blvd. tourist area
Hollywood Wax Museum
Hollywood History Museum
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (connect to Purple Line train for this)
There are many options for travelers coming to Los Angeles without a car, check google maps for info as they now include subway and train maps as an overlay. Also call the hotel directly and advise them you are using the subway, they can offer tips and some will offer free passes or similar incentives. Also, don’t be scared to ask questions. People in Los Angeles can be very friendly and helpful, and will be happy to help guide you.