When the new Metro Gold Line extension rumbles into Boyle Heights this summer, it will bring visitors from all over the city to a neighborhood that has long been a threshold for newcomers. Named for Irish immigrant Andrew Boyle, it has been home to Jewish, Japanese and Mexican arrivals over the last century. Today, the predominant Mexican community has shaped this bluff above the L.A. River into a vibrant center of cultural pride where bright murals, handmade tamales and mariachi tunes await. Along the area's main artery, named for labor leader Cesar E. Chavez, you'll find trendy fashion boutiques next to traditional botanicas.
In the evenings, mariachi musicians for hire in silver-studded charro suits gather in Mariachi Plaza (Boyle Avenue and 1st Street) -- a stop along La Linea de Oro, as the Gold Line will be called in these parts -- waiting to be whisked off to a wedding or party. Just steps from the plaza, hip newcomer Eastside Luv (1835 E. 1st St.,  262-7442, www.eastsideluv.com) serves up house-made sangria, cabaret and Latin rock bands.
A thriving homegrown arts scene includes Casa 0101 (2009 E. 1st St.,  263-7684, www.casa0101.org), a theater and cultural center run by Josefina Lopez (who penned "Real Women Have Curves"), and neighboring Brooklyn & Boyle (2003 E. 1st. St.,  780-9089), a literary salon and gallery space featuring exhibits by multicultural artists. At Teocintli (2717 E. 4th St.,  266-2117), you'll find T-shirts and accessories emblazoned with Chicano iconography -- such as Frida Kahlo or the Virgin of Guadalupe -- designed by local craftsmen and women.
Sweet and spicy
Neighborhood favorite El Gallo Bakery (4546 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave.,  263-5528, www.elgallobakery.com) has been baking conchitas and other delectable pan dulce (sweet breads) for 60 years. For something spicy, head to Moles La Tia (4619 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave.,  263-7842, www.moleslatia.com), where chef Rocio Comacho crafts inventive Oaxacan mole dishes.
Take a rest
Feed the geese and take a lakeside stroll at serene Hollenbeck Park (415 S. St. Louis St.) or find tranquillity in the pews at Our Lady of Solitude Church (4561 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave.), a pillar of the Mexican American community since 1925.