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Visiting Olvera Street
Olvera Street is a fun place to visit
If you're looking for things to do in LA, how about a visit to historic Olvera Street. I hadn't been there in many years, so my friend and I decided to go there last weekend (end of October 2012) while they're celebrating the Day of the Dead. We had a really good time, and I'll tell you all about our adventure.
Visiting Olvera Street in Los Angeles is like taking a mini Mexican vacation. Highlights include shopping for unique Mexican products, listening to live music, eating authentic Mexican food, and admiring the architecture.
All photos © 2012 Lynda Makara
Taking the Metro Line to Olvera Street
We've never taken the train and we wanted to avoid the hassle of driving and paying for parking, so we decided to take the Metro Line to Olvera Street. It goes into Union Station, pictured here, which is right across from Olvera Street. Make sure to leave the station by the Alameda Street side. We didn't realize that and left by the Vignes Street side and we had to take a long hike back to where we needed to be.
Just before you exit Union Station, there's an information desk where you can pick up a visitors map of Los Angeles.
The pros and cons of taking the Metro Line
Fortunately, the experience is mostly positive.
- It may be cheaper to take the train if there are only a couple of people going. You can buy a one-day pass for $5 and take as many train rides as you want.
- You can park and ride. Many of the stations have free parking lots.
- The trains run frequently. During the peak hours they run about 12 minutes apart and at other times it's 20 minutes.
- The trains and the stations are very clean. I did not see any trash or graffiti on the trains or at the stations.
- It's easy to plan your trip with Metro's online trip planner. Enter your destination and you'll get a detailed itinerary of which trains to take and how much it will cost.
- This is more of a gripe than a con, but I didn't realize you have to buy a TAP card and pay an extra dollar. The fare gets loaded onto the TAP card, a plastic card the size of a credit card. They call it TAP because at various locations you have to "tap" it onto scanners to get through turnstyles. Once you have the TAP card though, you can hang onto it and just reload it.
- There are panhandlers boarding the trains. At the smaller stations the turnstyles are open and anybody can get on the train without paying. There's a large fine for those who get caught. Unfortunately, the day I went there was nobody checking fares. Nor did I see any security guards around.
Map of Olvera Street and surrounding area
This is a picture of the map I picked up at Union Station showing the location of Olvera Street. You can see it's located near Alameda and Cesar Chavez Avenue, close to the 101 freeway. If you'd rather drive, you can get more information on driving and parking here.
The dotted lines on the map indicate the route for Metro rail lines.
Union Station as seen from Olvera Street
This is the view of Union Station as seen from Olvera Street. They're right across from each other.
Olvera Street on YouTube
Watch this short video narrated by California travel expert Veronica Hill for highlights of Olvera Street, the birthplace of Los Angeles.
Some things to see around the Plaza on Olvera Street. These sights will greet you when you arrive.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Eating lunch on Olvera Street
When it comes to dining on Olvera Street, there are so many choices it's hard to decide on just one place. Do you go for the legendary taquitos at Cielito Lindo, the killer carne asada tacos at La Noche Buena Restaurant, or the homemade tortillas and superb carnitas at La Luz Del Dia Restaurant. For something sweet, how about Mexican hot chocolate at Casa de Sousa or churros at Mr. Churro.
We really wanted to sit indoors and rest our weary feet so we ended up at Las Anitas Mexican Restaurant which is at the other end of Olvera Street, right across from Cielito Lindo. It's small but the décor is really cute. The walls are all painted different colors and so are the chairs. And, oh yes, the food was good too--fresh, homemade and authentic. We ended up getting crispy beef tacos, cheese enchiladas, beans and rice. Vegetarians take note: Las Anitas is the only restaurant on Olvera Street to offer vegetarian dishes.
We left fortified for some serious shopping.
Shopping on Olvera Street
Be prepared to shop when you come to Olvera Street. There are over 80 stores packed into this one little block. You'll find loads of jewelry, leather goods, souvenirs, dolls, Mexican decorations, novelties, pottery, clothing, hats and purses.
We were on the hunt for embroidered peasant blouses and ceramic sugar skulls.
Take a look at the shops on Olvera StreetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Things that caught our eye while shoppingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Celebrating Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos or All Souls Day on November 2
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is an important Mexican religious holiday. And what better place to celebrate it than Olvera Street. The festivities begin on October 25 and continue through November 2. The hours are from 7 to 9 pm nightly. The dead are remembered with elaborate altars, exhibits, live entertainment and a nightly procession, which you can view in the video below.
Dia de los Muertos procession 2012 on Olvera Street. Part of the nightly celebration for Day of the Dead.
You won't want to miss this short YouTube video capturing the procession for Dia de los Muertos.
Live music on Olvera Street
There just happened to be a mariachi band playing in the Plaza the day we visited. We listened to them for a while after our shopping spree. Then we headed home on the Metro, tired and happy.
For more information on visiting Olvera Street
Upcoming Olvera Street events. There are things happening year round on Olvera Street. Here's the latest:
This information is from CalleOlvera.com/events
The history of Olvera Street in text and photos
© 2012 Lynda Makara