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Olvera Street

Olvera Street

The “unwalkable” city’s most walkable street


An Aztec dancer texts on her smart phone between performances; tourists ride stuffed burros, waving sombreros to the folks back home; luche libre masks compete for shoppers’ attention with piñatas, Day-Glo guitars and Day of the Dead skeletons. Strolling mariachi musicians work the crowds, enchiladas rancheras and spicy shrimp burritos beckon from sidewalk cantinas. A bustling marketplace meant to evoke romantic “Old Los Angeles”, Olvera Street is the recreated heart of the California dream.


Laid out near the site of the 1781 founding of Los Angeles, Olvera Street was named after Augustin Olvera, the first Superior Court Judge of Los Angeles and is a California State historic Landmark. Just a few steps away from Union Station, Olvera Street is easily accessible by Metro Rail and the MetrokLink commuter trains. It’s a family-friendly, car-free promenade that draws tourists and locals with its mix of kitsch and culture, Catholicism and California history. Lining this short, shaded alley are street vendor stalls, museums, restaurants and adobe homes that celebrate the Mexican heritage of Los Angeles.

Between bites of your last taquito and your first churro --- fried pastry dough rolled in sugar and cinnamon – drop by the Avila Adobe, the oldest surviving residence in Los Angeles. Its roof is sealed with tar from the LaBrea tar pits, and it’s three-foot thick adobe walls are a cooling refuge in summer.   On the other side of Olvera Street, you’ll find America Tropical, the politically controversial mural by David Siqueiros that was painted over by indignant city fathers in 1937, and recently resorted to its provocative glory by the City of LA, in collaboration with the Getty Trust. An interpretive center puts the mural into social and artistic context. Admission is free. Two other noteworthy museums at the top of Olvera Street are the Chinese-American Museum, celebrating the culture and contributions of Chinese-Americans and the Old Plaza Firehouse, which evokes the history of horse-drawn firefighting in L.A. (We wonder what the response times were like back in the traffic-free 1890s).

Round out your day on Olvera Street with a handful of cactus candy from a Mexican candy maker who’s been in business since 1940, then greet the sunset with a margarita at Casa La Golondrina restaurant, located in LA’s oldest brick house. It’s often jammed with local politicos schmoozing and fundraising, so it may be your best opportunity to complain to your city council members while they’re in a mellow mood.

For more Olvera street insider tips, check out Day Eleven in L.A. Adventures, the first guidebook to touring Los Angeles by rail.


Written by David Madsen — November 15, 2013

Union Station Los Angeles


   Union Station, LA’s architectural masterpiece that recalls the golden age of railroading, is still a vital transportation hub. Amtrak, MetroLink and LA Metro Rail’s Gold, Red and Purple lines all converge here. So the next time your train travels bring you to downtown Los Angeles, we recommend that you take a few minutes to tour Union Station.

Like so much of LA, Union Station was built on the past – several bocks of the original Chinatown were demolished to make way for its construction in 1938. Union Station was designed in part by father and son architects John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson who also played major roles in the building of other LA landmarks such as USC, the Coliseum and City Hall.

    Thousands of passengers heading for the cross country trains of the Santa Fe Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads as well as the local street cars of Pacific Electric, passed through Union Station's cavernous yet elegant Mission Revival-art deco halls. As you tour the building pay attention to details such as the marbled floors, designed to evoke the feel of Native American rugs. Many classic movies have been filmed here, including the dystopian epic Blade Runner, in which Union Station was re-imagined as the LAPD headquarters of the future. Probably the best cinematic tour of Union Station is, appropriately, the 1950 William Holden-headlined detective thriller Union Station, in which cops, kidnappers and a blind heiress chase each other through the station’s tracks, hallways and underground corridors. The original restaurant was the last of the famous Harvey Houses, cafes built by railroad restaurateur Fred Harvey, whose mission was to bring civilized dining to the American traveling public.

    Dodger fans – and who in LA isn’t these days? – will appreciate the Dodger Stadium Express bus that links Union Station with the ballpark, bypassing the hellish stadium parking lot.  And despite LA’s reputation as a freeway-addicted metropolis, Union Station is the fifth busiest Amtrak station in America.



Written by Elisa Makunga — October 07, 2013

How Many People Visit Los Angeles Every Year?

Did you know?

630,000 Seattle Residents

546,000 Portlandians

3,024,000 Bay Area Residents

2,016,000 San Diegans

1,426,000 New Yorkers

1,113,000 Sacramentoans

756,000 Chicagoans

1,609,000 Mexicans

675,000 Canadians

383,000 Australians

372,000 UK Residents

Visit Los Angeles every year!  How much better for their sanity, their wallets, their health and the planet's future if they rode the rail system.

LA Electric Travel is the only guidebook company exclusively devoted to exploring the Los Angeles area by rail.







Written by David Madsen — February 09, 2013

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