Exploring this city with your kids is a grand adventure that gets even better when you combine the fun with a bit of history. Angels Flight has reopened (again, and for realsies this time!) and little ride is the perfect combination of all those things, in a package that’s perfect for short attention spans. The 116 year old funicular railroad is the shortest in the world, carrying you up Bunker Hill and down again so you can see the city and save yourself a couple of steps. Read on to find out all about riding this tiny train.
First, a Little History
Angels Flight is the world’s shortest railroad which first took flight in 1901. The railway’s two cars, Olivet and Sinai, shuttled residents up and down Bunker Hill (because would you have wanted to walk that hill in the restrictive clothes of the day?). By the middle of the 20th century the railway had carried over 100 million passengers, but the railway closed in 1969 for “urban redevelopment”—to make way for skyscrapers. Olivet and Sinai did not take flight again until 1996 when Angels Flight reopened just south of its original location where the top of the track is adjacent to California Plaza (on Grand Avenue) and the bottom just across the street from Grand Central Market (on South Hill Street).
In 2001, Sinai broke loose in an accident that resulted in a death and several injuries and the railway remained closed for the next 7 years. In 2013 the railway closed again to repair wear and tear. This year, Mayor Eric Garcetti teamed up with a private engineering firm and the Angels Flight Railway Foundation to ensure the safety of the railway and it reopened—after much anticipation—this month.
Start on Hill Street and be sure to get an Instagram worthy shot of the railway from across the street. Look for the statue of the California Condor perched besides the railway and read about how these amazing creatures almost became extinct. Then, walk right through the turnstile and board. You will pay your fare once you’ve reached the top. Make sure your tiny travelers have a good view and remind them to stay seated for safety (it’s short, but steep). Once you’re at the top, let the kids explore California Plaza, where they can check out the beautiful water court and run up and down the stairs to get out a few of their wiggles before getting back on the rail.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Of course, you could take the stairs down, but your train loving tots will totally want to ride back. The ride down to Hill Street moves a little more quickly, so be aware if any of your explorers are sensitive to speedy motion.
While You’re Here…
While you’re having a historical adventure, take advantage of all of the wonderful things the neighborhood has to offer. On the bottom of the ride there is Grand Central Market, which just turned 100. The kids will have worked up an appetite (because when don’t they?) and there is a plethora of options for the entire family from the classic Sarita’s Pupuseria to Wexler’s Deli. If you have the full team, send one person to order while someone else stakes out a table, lines are long and tales scarce.
Afterward, take a walk and explore the city by foot. Perhaps head south to Pershing Square or the Downtown Central Library. In addition to California Plaza you’re also a short walk away from MOCA downtown and the Broad Museum. The Walt Disney Concert Hall and Grand Park are also just a few (long, but worth it) blocks away.
Flashback Fares and When to Ride
The Angels Flight fare is $1 each way. But if you show your TAP card, it is 50 cents per passenger. If you’re driving in, you can search for street parking or use one of the local parking lots downtown. Otherwise, while you’re in a railway state of mind, why not take the bus or Metro? There are plenty of lines that head downtown. The Railway is open daily (that’s every single day of the year including holidays!) from 6:45 a.m.-10 p.m.
356 S. Olive St.
Online: angels flight.org
Have you taken a ride on Angels Flight? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section, or see your sweet snaps on Instagram!
—written and photographed by LeTania Smith