Editor’s note: With the opening of the Expo Line’s extension to Santa Monica, locals have a new way to explore neighboring areas. The Daily Press will publish a weekly travelogue about what to eat, see and do near each of the stations along the Expo Line, continuing this week at the Expo Park/USC stop.

Reasonable people will disagree on the location of Southern California’s beating heart.

Some might say it’s among the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles or atop Griffith Observatory, which offers glorious views of said skyline. Others might find it at Disneyland or at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, both prominent indications of the city’s role in the entertainment industry. Still others might point to the region’s iconic beaches, which attract millions of local residents and tourists from around the world each year.

Here’s another idea: What about the area around the Expo Line stop at Expo Park/USC?

The transit station is just steps from one of the most well-known institutes of higher education in the world, a place where academics and technology meet business and culture in very concrete ways. The University of Southern California is home to classes, seminars and numerous events, not to mention students from around the globe.

The station is also immediately adjacent to the Exposition Park Rose Garden, which is often used as a gateway to nearby museums and other venues but which is truly a destination in its own right. It’s a serene seven acres of solitude, a place where fragrant, brightly colored flowers and buzzing insects make the hustle and bustle of L.A. feel much farther away than they actually are.

Then there’s the cluster of attractions surrounding the garden: the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which highlights billions of years of Earth’s past; Memorial Coliseum, where the Los Angeles Rams will play temporarily during construction of their new football stadium in Inglewood; and the California African American Museum.

But don’t forget about the California Science Center, a free and interactive museum for visitors of all ages. Exhibits cover everything from aerospace and ecosystems to stem cells and toys, giving children the chance to explore new subjects through hands-on features while providing plenty of engaging information for adults.

The science center currently houses the Endeavour space shuttle, whose 25 journeys into space included missions to the International Space Station and a service trip to the Hubble Space Telescope. The 122-foot-long, 57-foot high spacecraft, which traversed more than 122 million miles, now serves an educational purpose at the museum’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion.

Even movies are geared towards learning and exploration at the museum, whose seven-story IMAX screen displays vibrant visuals in a series of rotating feature films. It’s the perfect medium for soaking in the stunning scenery of America’s landscapes, which are highlighted in “National Parks Adventure 3D.” The approximately 45-minute movie captures breathtaking footage in the country’s national parks, a fitting tribute that coincides with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt’s mother and wife died on the same day? Did you know that he camped with naturalist John Muir in Yosemite and found comfort in nature, laying the foundation for more park designations? And did you know that there are now enough national park lands in the U.S. to cover England three times over? There’s always more to learn, more to explore, more to discover, more to enjoy.

As you take off your 3D glasses and exit the theater, you’ll marvel at the vast beauty of America’s nature and start planning your next trip into paradise. Then you’ll walk back through the museum and meander into the rose garden as you head towards the Metro station and think, “For now, this paradise will do just fine.”

The California Science Center, located at 700 Exposition Park Drive in Los Angeles, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is free, but there are fees for IMAX Theater tickets and other special exhibitions.

The Expo Line now has 19 stations covering 15.2 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. A regular one-way fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for riders using a TAP card. A daily pass good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. Visit taptogo.net for more information.

jeff@smdp.com

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