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Can You Visit the Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles?

Can You Visit the Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles?

Hollywood, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills — these are the big sights in L.A. But there’s a whole other world in the underground tunnels of Los Angeles.

The underground tunnels of Los Angeles bring Prohibition-era life alive for visitors willing to venture down an elevator shaft. Want to know more about the secrets of the 1920s?

Let’s dive in and explore this underground tunnel system!

What Were the Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles Used For?

On Jan. 17, 1920, the Volstead Act officially banned the manufacturing, consumption, transportation, and sale of alcohol in the U.S. However, Prohibition proved difficult to enforce. During the 1920s and ‘30s, 11 miles of service tunnels in Los Angeles became the city’s bar scene. Probably reinforced by corrupt city officials, these illegal hang-outs were popular spots for entertainment. 

Today there are still a few bars open to the public, like Townhouse in Venice and King Eddy Saloon. Cesar Menotti, who opened Townhouse, cleverly disguised the illegal speakeasy in the basement by establishing a grocery store on street level. A trap door in the produce section could bring down two guests at a time. 

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Neon speakeasy sign.
Explore the prohibition era speakeasies in the tunnels underneath L.A.

Are the LA Underground Tunnels Open to the Public?

You can visit the underground tunnels of Los Angeles, but officially, they are closed. City employees will use these passageways as shortcuts between buildings. You can access them as well by finding an elevator behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street. Once underneath the city streets, you’ll see miles of pipes and railway tracks. Graffiti covers the walls. In some places, it might even feel like an apocalyptic encounter.

Cartwheel Art Tours is a growing business that actually offers tours of the underground tunnels of Los Angeles. For $85 per person, you can enjoy this two-and-a-half-hour tour. They also create custom tours to discover and explore the city itself. It might be better to explore the underground tunnels in a group like this if you scare easily, as the passages can be creepy.

Stairway to underground tunnel in LA.
While tunnels are officially closed to the public, it is still possible to explore parts of them independently.

Where Is the Entrance to the Underground Tunnels?

Visitors can access the entrance to the underground tunnels behind the Hall of Records. Read the rules and hours posted outside the elevator door before venturing down.

The Los Angeles County Hall of Records is located at 320 West Temple Street. There’s also an elevator at 222 North Hill Street. Once you take the elevator down, turn right. There, you’ll find an escalator that takes you up to where you can start walking through the tunnels.

Just remember these tunnels are officially closed to the public. You might pass a city employee walking between buildings, but there probably won’t be much activity.

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Should You Visit the Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles?

For anyone interested in U.S. history, particularly during Prohibition, the underground tunnels of Los Angeles are certainly intriguing. There’s also plenty of local folklore. Just make sure to venture out carefully.

No one maintains the tunnels, and the terrain is rough in some areas, so wear appropriate close-toed shoes. Still, you’re sure to find great photo opportunities. You might even find a secret door to an unknown speakeasy of the 1920s.

Are you curious now about the underground tunnels of Los Angeles? Are the illegal speakeasies, graffitied walls, and a centuries-old transportation system calling you? If you’re traveling to Los Angeles, consider exploring this historic landmark. Make sure to stop by King Eddy’s or the Townhouse, too, and read more about the history there. What are you excited to explore in Los Angeles?

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