Monday April 16, 2012
What other rail line in the world can make such lofty claims?
First stop, perhaps following a quick but decisive shopping trip to the Jewelry District near the 7th St./Metro Center, is Staples Center -- just a saunter from Pico Station. Watch major sporting events (Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Sparks), attend concerts, eat nachos, have fun. Or at the nearby LA Live entertainment center see a movie, dine in style or visit a club to rock out ... or learn how to do so at the Grammy Museum.
And then there's Jefferson/USC -- a station named for one of the finest universities in the world. The University of Southern California isn't just a place to get a great education. At the nearby L.A. Memorial Coliseum we can watch USC play UCLA (and root for the best team), knowing that the Coliseum was site of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics and Super Bowls I and VII. USC also has lots of entertainment open to the public, including lectures, concerts, theater, film and the annual Los Angeles Festival of Books every spring. Check out the USC Arts and Events Calendar to find out what's going on. As you might expect, USC also has a respectable assortment of coffee places (Ground Zero Café), lots and lots of fast food (California Pizza Kitchen, Carl's Jr. etc.) plus a couple of upscale restaurants on or near campus (Moreton Fig, The Lab gastropub). So eat well and be merry. A Coliseum defeat could await
At Expo Park/USC the famous Natural History Museum -- home to the youngest known T Rex baby -- continues its annual fluttery Butterfly Pavilion through the summer; the Rose Garden continues its annual rose show into the heat of summer; the California African American Museum continues its show Promises of Freedom from the Arthur Primas Collection, a significant assemblage of African American Art, and the California Science Center continues its blockbuster Cleopatra Exhibition, which opens May 23 and stretches into the fall. And if Cleopatra isn't enough, the Space shuttle Endeavour will this fall land in L.A. (aboard an airplane, not a rocket) and settle in at the Science Center, where it will make a permanent home.
Just north of USC (Jefferson/USC Station or Expo Park/USC) is the Historic West Adams neighborhood of Queen Anne mansions and craftsman homes. The neighborhood was developed by railroad magnate Henry Huntington between 1880 and 1930 and for a time it was the wealthiest district in the city. Although the movers and shakers have since departed, residents once included downtown businessmen and later wealthy African Americans, such as "Gone with the Wind" actor Hattie McDaniel -- the first African American to win an Academy Award -- Joe Louis, Little Richard and Ray Charles. The neighborhood is now experiencing a renaissance of sorts and many of the homes on the southern end near USC have been refurbished. Also nearby is the Shrine Auditorium: a massive Moorish Revival building that was home to the Academy Awards in the 1940s and then again from 1988 to 2001. It still hosts high-profile awards shows and various concerts.
Heading west on Expo the neighborhoods are residential. A jewel in one of the neighborhoods is the beautiful West Angeles Church of God in Christ at Expo/Crenshaw.
Final stop on the Expo tour is at La Cienega/Jefferson where the Culver City gallery scene has erupted in a flurry of color and creativity. Once an industrial area -- actually, still an industrial area -- the artists have moved in and several dozen galleries are attracting not just art lovers, but restaurants, as well. Galleries generally are open afternoons, Tuesday through Saturday. For a list of galleries in the neighborhood go to ccgalleryguide.com.
Stop by the famed Blum + Poe gallery (Did you see Jim Poe discussing contemporary art on "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago?) or cruise the galleries at your leisure. One particularly charming place is the Mark Moore Gallery on Washington Boulevard, about a 10-minute walk from La Cienega/Jefferson.
And then there's chocolate. Just steps from the La Cienega/Jefferson Station is the Sees Candy factory. It's the place where the "I Love Lucy" TV show filmed the famous Lucy and Ethel episode in which Lucy, in a new job packaging chocolate, tries to keep pace with the speeding conveyor belt by eating as much candy as she packs. Alas, we are not allowed to participate in the candy making or packaging process but we can take a deep breath of cocoa-scented air and know that all is right in the world when you have great transit and chocolate. Or, at least, one of the two.
When the Culver City Station opens this summer -- last stop on Expo Phase 1 -- it will provide additional entertainment opportunities, including a seriously cool museum, restaurants, theater and dozens of sites from the golden age of movies. So stay tuned for more great destinations, coming soon.
And while there may not be such a thing as a free lunch, there will be free rides on Expo April 28 and 29, as Expo opens to the public during a weekend of public celebration.
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