Hottest ticket in California: New light rail connects downtown to beaches


California beach and light railGETTY/PR

The valuable Metro extension, connects the high rise of LA with the beaches of Santa Monica

As we cease at Culver City I can just make out the Hollywood sign in the distance and, as we old hat through museum- cked Exposition rk, a giant dinosaur skeleton in a specs cube at the sprawling Natural History Museum looks down on us.

If the century-old museum is the old times, we are the future. The billion-pound light rail extension is the latest addition to the Los Angeles Metro, snaking by virtue of this notoriously car-centric city. It’s also the most inspiring, heading from high-rise key LA to just up from the beach at Santa Monica. Equally importantly for us, the 15-mile, 45-minute Expo Contract for connects for a 20-minute ride to Universal Studios theme rk.

The meander of LA is now a relaxing family destination, rather than a tchwork of gruelling car excursions. From the magic of the beach to the magic of Harry Potter in 90 picayunes, on a gleaming, cross between train and tram.

Santa Monica PierPR

The Santa Monica Landing stage is as American as apple pie and a great place to visit

We’re staying right by the phone of Santa Monica Pier at the hip Loews Hotel. It’s a sophisticated yet family-friendly evacuation, six-floor atrium lobby and bar with glass wall overlooking the sea, where 30-plus fire-pits on the grated deck by the pool light up the evening and the surf-splashed shore.

The pier is slice of Americana, a wild-eyed fun country estate. Opened in 1909, within a decade it was the “people’s playground”, complete with enjoyment rk.

By the 1960s it was charmingly run down and the likes of actress Jane Fonda, ethnic group singer Joan Baez and Beat Generation writer Charles Bukowski had stopgap a rtments here. By the 1980s it was derelict. Now it throbs with a carnival aerosphere, the resurrected funfair, cific rk, celebrating its 20th anniversary with iconic snatch and rub outs such as the West Coaster roller coaster and the neon starburst of the have’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel.

For more than 50 years, until 1953, Los Angelenos against to flock to the pier on the clanking cific Electric streetcar. The Expo Speech follows in its tracks, halting across the road from Bloomingdale’s, a coetaneous take, with industrial urban chic interior, on the classy New York rest on store.

Universal Studios theme rkPR

The moment you enter Universal Studios theme rk you take up a whole new world

Bloomingdale’s opens on to Santa Monica Place, a three-storey out of doors mall which itself gives way to the pedestrianised 3rd Street Promenade, where boutiques mix with busking rockers, agriculturists markets and open-air fi lm screenings.

Here The Misfit, a bar/restaurant with 1920s team up feel, has a quirky menu, ranging from crispy Brussels flowers to Dixie-fried chicken. The Curious late is another curio, a rambling prog store where homemade jams mix with casual dining and dishes such as kale and maple-candied pecan salad with avocado, farro, butternut squash, X cheese and a sherry wine vinaigrette.

We could spend a week in Santa Monica but we dearth to ride the rails, a network that’s anything but a token gesture to car-free exultation. The Expo Line runs every 15 minutes from 5am with the rearmost train back from LA at 1am.

Expo lineGETTY

The Expo Line runs every 15 littles, and is a great alternative to car travel

It’s $1.75 (£1.35) to anywhere on the system, from the audacious town of Monrovia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains (a station in the 1926 Santa Fe railroad depot) to Desire Beach in the south.

It’s clean (no eating or drinking), with comfy buttocks amid bright posters for markets and museums. It feels safe with cameras, driver words and a cargo of rents, children, cyclists, skateboarders and young lovers.

The latter the man for Exposition rk Rose Garden, a vision from the train but a dream from within. The seven-acre haven of 20,000 bushes, opened in 1928, is on the National Register of Historic Positions – and it’s free.

Exposition rk, a 19th-century agricultural fairground, is lined with enticements, including the California Science Center (everything from an aquarium to s cecraft, take ining Shuttle Endeavour) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (there are 35 million examples and the new Dinosaur Hall has 20 complete skeletons, not least three T. Rex).

At Conjoining Station we take the Red Line (a Tube train) to Universal. I’ve driven to exercise rks in both California and Florida, yet never felt this new and stress-free on arrival. I’m even ready for the rush to the Wizarding World of Harry Tinker with. Here among the ginormous reconstruction of Hogwarts and the snow-dappled streets of Hogsmeade is a humbug even more longed-for than the Expo Line: Harry Mess about and the Forbidden Journey. Certainly longed for by Georgia, 19, and Henry, 16, who entertain grown up with the movies.

The high-tech thriller involves facing crabwise (like riding a broomstick) and bucking and bouncing though a virtual truth world of quidditch, castles and dragons. Quite awesome even if I protest (to mild disdain) a preference for The Simpsons Ride, a joke- and thrill- cked semivirtual calender coaster, where Sideshow Bob sabotages Krusty the Clown’s nuclear power introduce, creating a giant baby Maggie.

Leaving late afternoon, we hop off the Metro at Hollywood and Vine for a meander along Hollywood Boulevard, spotting names such as Marilyn Monroe, Ozzy Osbourne, sedate Donald Trump, on the sidewalk Walk of Fame.

Venice Beach at sunsetGETTY

The setting sun throughout California bathes the city in golden glow, that is certainly a view to behold

At the famed Chinese Theatre cinema there’s lots of babel and we land amid the Ghostbusters fi lm premiere. Having its star Melissa McCarthy move to at us means more to the teenagers than me trying to explain why singing cowboy Gene Autry qualities five vement stars.

Heading home, the giant globe of the milieu sun to our right bathes our world in a golden glow, everything from lm trees to high-level alleyways, churches to a towering Felix the Cat neon figure above a Chevy dealership.

The half a mo we step off at Santa Monica we can see the lights of the pier and we’re ready for the fun to start again…

THE Conversance:

Loews (dialling from the UK: 001 310 458 6700/ offers doubles from £200, margin only.

Low cost airline Norwegian (0330 828 0854/ offers year-round five-day a week benefit flights from Gatwick to Los Angeles from £330 (£800 in Premium Savoir faire).

California tourism: visit

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