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Friday, March 11, 2016

Riding the Rails in the SGV: What to do Along the new Gold Line Foothill Extention

Residents along the foothills in the eastern end of the San Gabriel Valley have been waiting decades for this day. The Gold Line extension has finally opened, bringing light rail east from Pasadena to the edge of Glendora.

As the traffic woes of Route 66 and the 210 Freeway continue to build, this will provide just a bit of relief valve for those crowded roads as workers can now commute easier to jobs in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and beyond without having to drive.

This also opens up many more opportunities to get out and enjoy our region without the hassles of traffic, worrying about having too many drinks or finding a place to park. You can find dozens of articles this week about what there is to do near the new Gold Line stations but a problem I've found with them is that nothing they list is remotely within walking distance...Din Tai Fung is great but it's two miles from the Arcadia station and the Santa Anita Racetrack is almost as far; we love Old Town Monrovia but that's another mile hike and uphill at that; Slaw Dogs is one of the few good places to eat in Duarte but be prepared for another two mile jaunt.

With that in mind, here are our suggestions of attractions, sights, and places to eat and drink within walking distance (our limit is two blocks) of the new stations (follow the links for more information)...

Arcadia - Going east from the former eastern terminus of the line, the first station is in the town that Lucky Baldwin built.  Santa Anita Racetrack is here but that's about a mile slog from the station.  Nearer is Arcadia Regional Park (formerly known as Santa Anita County Park, two blocks south on Santa Anita Avenue) where you can picnic, climb trees (really, a place you can still do that!), lawn bowl, and even golf 18 holes.

Outdoorsy types can hit up the REI store, right next to the station, for all their equipment needs.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Nearer the station, you can grab some Mexican food and a margarita at Villa Catrina, just west of the station, across Santa Anita Avenue.  Of course, Arcadia is known for Chinese restaurants but the pickings are slim around the station. Asian food fans will love the Korean barbecue at Young Dong Garden, on Huntington Drive just west of Santa Anita. There's an old-fashioned, double-drive thru In 'n Out just northwest of the station at Santa Anita and Colorado Boulevard.  You can pick up sandwiches at Claro's Italian Market and Deli and have a picnic across the street in the park. Don't forget to have an incredibly good Liege waffle, some ice cream, and a great cup of joe at Taza, just west of Santa Anita on Huntington next to the Jiffy Lube on the corner.

A block or two to the east, on Huntington Drive, a lot of people like the beer and sandwiches of Matt Denny's Ale House (I'm not one of them) and there are a number of chain restaurants like BJ's Brewhouse, Claim Jumper, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, plus a very solid Chinese restaurant...Gold Dragon.

Monrovia - The city has big plans for it's station and will eventually develop the entire stretch on Myrtle to connect it to Old Town Monrovia about a 1/2 mile north.  For now, a new park and plaza at the station provides occasional entertainment at the attached amphitheater and kids can burn off energy at the new playground.

The old train station is yet to be developed but it should be a very nice place to stop in a few years.  Bill Monroe (the town's namesake) and other names from local history are buried at Live Oak Cemetery, one block west on Duarte Road.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - For now, places to eat are very limited within walking distance. Aside from the Jack in the Box, across the street, there's a taco stand next to the adjacent car wash; a donut shop and burger stand a block south, and a dive bar that serves a better than expected breakfast (Tall Pines) a block north, near the 210 Freeway.

More is planned.  Expect to see food trucks take up the slack soon and Paul Kalemkiarian, owner of the Wine of the Month Club, has secured the right to develop the area around the station parking lot.  Expect a wine bar and cafe in the near future.

One block south, just past the donut shop, is Pacific Plate Brewery, a small purveyor of some mighty fine craft beer to wet your whistle.

Continuing on from Monrovia, be sure to look on the left side of the train before it gets to the next station to get a glimpse of the massive train yard for the Gold Line trains.

Duarte - This is a 'waiting for future development' station but there's still a little bit here.  Directly across the street is the City of Hope, one of the worlds premiere cancer research and treatment hospitals.  Between the station and the hospital itself is an outstanding rose garden to wander through.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Not too much around here but there are a couple of Mexican restaurants and a decent burger stand a couple of blocks west at the corner of Duarte Road and Buena Vista Avenue. On the other side of the 210 Freeway at Buena Vista is an outlet of the Old Spaghetti Factory housed in an historic Duarte schoolhouse.

Irwindale - This is mostly just a commuter stop and start point. Thousands of workers are expected to commute to jobs at the adjacent Miller Brewery (no tours, sorry) and the large Southern California Edison complex. The giant parking structure is in hopes that a lot of other workers will start their commutes to Pasadena and Los Angeles from here as well.  It would do well to get those cars off the 210 before clogging up the choking points at the San Gabriel River.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - You're in a decidedly blue collar neighborhood here but that doesn't mean there's nothing to eat. McDonald's and Farmer Boys sit next to each other across the freeway. Callahan's is a decent watering hole with decent food, as well, a couple of blocks south. Picasso's server some more upscale food at it's deli one block south but closes before dinnertime as does Chica's Place across the street.

Azusa - Humble Azusa is primed to give the other stations on this segment a run for it's money in the dining and drinking sweepstakes.  Just a few blocks south of the entrance to the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (or Azusa Canyon, as it's known to locals), the train lets you out at the entrance to a monumental sized Target store and a block east of the pretty, old City Hall and Civic Center.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Right now, Azusa probably has the best and most varied selection of great places to eat within walking distance of the station.  A block south on Azusa Avenue is a burgeoning restaraunt row featuring City Cafe, Congregation Ale House, Bambino's Pizza, and Max's Mexican Cuisine who also serves one of the best margaritas in Southern California.  On the other side, a very short block west, you have Canyon City Barbecue, a donut shop, Cocinero's Express (for tacos and such), and Flo's Coffee Shop for breakfast and lunch.  On the other side of City Hall is California excellent slightly above fast food place with beer and wine on tap...Taco King, and Tom's Burgers. Adjacent to the station is Tardino's Italian Deli and Kanpai Sushi.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Simon Sheck under CC BY 2.0 license

Azusa/Glendora - Won't anyone think of the kids? Well, Metro did here by putting the last station on the line here, across the street from two colleges. Students of Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University can now take the train to classes helping to ease up congestion in their massive parking lots.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Other than college cafeterias and snack bars, there's really nothing adjacent to the station. A burger shack sits two blocks east on Foothill Boulevard and you can walk two long blocks south to Citrus and Alosta where you can find many chain outlets like Chick Fil A, McDonalds, and Applebees.

There you go, all the good places you can hit with your $1.75 basic fare.  If you've got more time and a thirst for more, you can go beyond to Pasadena, downtown L.A., Long Beach, Hollywood, and beyond.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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