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Visiting Olvera Street

Updated on February 2, 2015

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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
Blessing of the animals muralPlaza Methodist ChurchA magnificent old treePico HouseLa Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles
Blessing of the animals mural
Blessing of the animals mural
Plaza Methodist Church
Plaza Methodist Church
A magnificent old tree
A magnificent old tree
Pico House
Pico House
La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles
La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles

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 Street

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Things that caught our eye while shopping

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A fantastic ceramic sunDay of the Dead dollsCeiling full of starsDay of the Dead wall hangingDay of the Dead skullLife size skeleton man
A fantastic ceramic sun
A fantastic ceramic sun
Day of the Dead dolls
Day of the Dead dolls
Ceiling full of stars
Ceiling full of stars
Day of the Dead wall hanging
Day of the Dead wall hanging
Day of the Dead skull
Day of the Dead skull
Life size skeleton man
Life size skeleton man

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.

Upcoming Olvera Street events. There are things happening year round on Olvera Street. Here's the latest:

olvera street events 2014
olvera street events 2014

This information is from CalleOlvera.com/events

The history of Olvera Street in text and photos

© 2012 Lynda Makara

I hope you enjoyed visiting Olvera Street with me. Thank you for your comments and questions.

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    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I have fond memories of Olvera Street from a trip visiting relatives who lived in LA when I was growing up. Thanks for the virtual tour - it still looks a lot like I remember it from so many years ago.

    • LotusLandry profile image

      LotusLandry 3 years ago from Southern California

      Beautiful and informative lens - from Angels with Angles.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      Looks like an interesting place to visit the next time we are in LA...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't get to LA very often but this looks like a fun destination. Lot of interesting things to see and do.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 4 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Looks like there is so much colorful artwork to be enjoyed! I think I would really like that. And the shops sound like fun too. Glad you had a wonderful day. Blessings! :)

    • Lynda Makara profile image
      Author

      Lynda Makara 4 years ago from California

      @Dragon 40: I understand your feelings. I left for many years but came back to be with my family. As long as I'm here I might as well enjoy all the good things SoCal has to offer, like the fantastic weather, Disneyland and of course Olvera Street. Thank you for the blessings.

    • Dragon 40 profile image

      Ken McVay 4 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

      I can't say anything nice about LA - or most of California, for that matter. I'm a native Californian who left in 1967. I never could stand SoCal...the traffic, smog, etc., but I blessed your lens because it deserves it - you did a great job. Happy New Year from chilly Vancouver Island.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      We love Olvera Street. Our house is only 6 miles away, but we usually take the train to Union Station ... much easier. Your photos are very nice!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      This looks like quite an experience to have! Thanks so much for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • rooshoo profile image

      rooshoo 4 years ago

      Wow, what beautiful colors. This is a very pretty and well put together lens!

    • Lynda Makara profile image
      Author

      Lynda Makara 4 years ago from California

      @LiteraryMind: Oh dear, sorry for the confusion but Olvera Street is in Los Angeles (LA), not Louisiana. But it is a fun place to visit next time you're in Southern California.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This looks great. I never heard of Olvera Street in New Orleans. If I ever get a chance to go back to New Orleans, I will visit.