The Curious, Secret Underground Tunnels in LA

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Why you should care

The city’s best history lesson is hidden under its heart.

When people think of Los Angeles, they usually think of Hollywood, the beaches and bodegas of Venice or the mansions of Beverly Hills. But there is a hidden LA — from another time — that can be found in the center of the city, an area that was largely neglected for decades, a place where historic buildings were abandoned and lost.

When revitalization of the downtown area began in the early 2000s, some fascinating finds were uncovered — including a series of long tunnels underground. These were used for an old train line and ran to Prohibition-era speak-easies and up to majestic hotels. For the past two years, Cindy Schwarzstein, founder of tour company Cartwheel Art, has been taking people into some of these hidden subterranean spaces, sharing stories of an underground often overlooked chapter from the city’s history, at a time when alcohol was illegal.

Schwarzstein says she’s fascinated by how these old tunnels that were forgotten for decades are just now being rediscovered. Being underground offers a unique glimpse into the city’s past. The best part? There are still more hidden tunnels yet to be refound.

Go There: Underground LA Tour

  • When: Tours run every Saturday from 3 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $85
  • More information: www.cartwheelart.com/hotel-indigo-underground-la/
  • Pro tip: Be prepared to see anything. Schwarzstein once did a tour with a paranormal medium, and they both experienced a strong ghostly presence at the same time in a corner of a speak-easy.

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