Underground LA: The city’s best subterranean spots

Head underground in LA with our list of the best secret places to be below street level in the city—especially during rush hour traffic.

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The Edison

The Edison Photograph: Scott Atkinson Newell


Head to the city's secret places to discover a whole new Underground LA. As an Angeleno you know all the city's best places to see and be seen—from the hottest restaurants and bars to pool parties and popular hiking trails—there's bound to be a few celebrity sightings as well. Though sometimes escaping the bustling cityscape (without really leaving LA) is just what you need. Here, your list of the best places to take cover—literally—and be underground in LA.

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Metro

  • Price band: 1/4

Metro’s at-grade light rail lines are painfully visible as they hold up traffic signals, but its network of underground tunnels is still a secret to some Angelenos. It’s understandable, for the subway commits two cardinal sins as it seals away the sunlight and induces earthquake paranoia. Also, it’s not a car. But Metro will shuttle you underneath Hollywood and Downtown without any of the nightmarish traffic snarls. It’ll get you home from a drunken night in Koreatown until 2am on weekends. And it services some unexpectedly sophisticated-looking stations. It’s possible that “nobody” takes the subway in LA, but maybe it’s really just for those in the know.

  1. Various locations in LA
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Echoplex

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  • Critics choice

This big, low-slung space is situated underground beneath the Echo, though technically it's a separate venue with a different entrance. The fare is similar to that offered above-ground: local indie acts, the occasional residency by LA luminaries, and touring artists who draw bigger crowds (Ed Harcourt, Built to Spill). And like the Echo (or another underground spot we can think of...), it can be sweltering hot, especially when crowded. But! There's good stuff on tap, and you can get Two Boots pizza delivered to you during a show. Though we've never been there, we can't say we've heard tales of music, beer and 'za in Hell.

  1. Echo Park
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The Del Monte Speakeasy

  • Price band: 2/4

Located in the basement of Townhouse in Venice, the Del Monte Speakeasy has been a hidden hideout since 1915. During Prohibition, Townhouse secretly operated the space located underneath a grocery store that served illegal hooch smuggled from the former Abbot Kinney Pier through underground tunnels. Today, the hooch is done, replaced instead with fancy-pants handcrafted cocktails, as well as live entertainment including local bands, comedy, jazz and vaudeville acts. Check the website for the schedule of upcoming shows as opening hours vary.

  1. Venice
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The Edison

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This 11,000-square-foot power-plant-turned-Downtown hot spot deftly melds industrial architecture and Art Deco chic. Restored artifacts are casually displayed; silent video montages, projected on the wall, revisit the early work of film legends; bartenders handcraft classic cocktails. But nothing's stuffy here—it's a scene almost every night of the week—with DJs, a live band on Thursdays and party lounges with names like Tesla and Generator, paying homage to the building's past. The dress is "Old-World style," code for look smart—no flip flops, tennis shoes, baseball caps, T-shirts...you get the idea.

  1. Downtown
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Basement Tavern at the Victorian

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Getting to Santa Monica's Basement Bar is an adventure in itself. When arriving at the popular Victorian on a weekend night, navigate through throngs of recent UCLA grads hanging out on the porch to get to the popular underground bar. Enter through a "secret" passage in the parking lot and head downstairs the Basement Bar. Enter through the Victorian's underground 2,000 square-foot wine cellar that's been transformed into a speakeasy-style bar where bourbon is the drink of choice. Surrounded by plush green couches, a vintage chandelier hangs low—adding a bit more sparkle to the dimly-lit bar. Blackboards chalked with the drink menu and the deer taxidermy on the wall give this underground spot a relaxed vibe. Happy hour is nightly from 5-8pm and all night on Sunday. Stick around for the live music playing almost every night. And if you're hungry, neighboring restaurant La Vecchia Cucina offers some late-night Italian bites at this somewhat hidden Main St speakeasy.

  1. Santa Monica
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