Home to the busiest container port in the United States, the San Pedro district of Los Angeles, California, entices visitors with a multitude of attractions and activities. Explore picturesque harbor and beaches, learn about maritime history, or experience the rising arts scene. Allure abounds here.
Climb to the Top of the Lighthouse
Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse, located in the park off of West Paseo Del Mar, was the first navigational light in San Pedro Bay and is one of the oldest lighthouses on the west coast. The Victorian-style lighthouse, now a museum, is surrounded by flowering gardens and paved walkways which lead to ocean viewing pavilions. Well-informed volunteers provide guided tours through the museum, though the hours are limited, so be sure to check the schedule. A narrow stairway leads to the top, where sightseers are rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views. Outside the lighthouse, visitors can enjoy the rolling lawns, playground and picnic areas. Paved pathways invite joggers and cyclists to take in the ocean views. Whale watchers may spot a California gray whale during the migration period from January through mid-April. Free parking is available just outside the park and on Shepard Street.
Wander through the Cabrillo Beach and Aquarium
Cabrillo Beach is split into two sections. The first beach is outside the breakwater and faces the ocean and the cliffs of San Pedro. The second beach is inside the breakwater -- this wide, sandy beach has a view of the port and the container ships heading out to sea. Off this beach, there is a jogging/biking path, playground, park and picnic area where families and friends often gather. A fishing pier parallels the breakwater and wind surfers test their skills on the ocean. On a clear day, visitors can see the outline of Santa Catalina Island from the shore. The park area across from the beach houses the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, which displays the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world. The aquarium is an educational and research facility with saltwater aquariums, touch tanks and interactive exhibits that appeal to all ages. There is a paid parking lot that provides spaces for both the beach and aquarium, but free parking is also available on the hill overlooking the park on Stephen M White Drive.
Visit the Korean Friendship Bell
As you drive along Paseo Del Mar, a pavilion emerges high on a hill on the approach to Gaffey Street. This ornately decorated pavilion houses the Korean Friendship Bell located in Angel’s Gate Park. Donated to the United States from the Republic of Korea to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial and honor veterans of the Korean War, the recently restored bell and belfry stand on the cliff-side overlooking the ocean. The massive bell is rung by striking it with a large wooden log that hangs from the belfry ceiling. On the outside of the bell, four pairs of goddesses are carved in relief to symbolize the spirits of freedom, independence and hopes for peace and prosperity in both countries. The bell pavilion has recently been repainted, and the vibrant greens, reds, blues and yellows of the structure are particularly striking against the blue backdrops of ocean and sky.
Explore the San Pedro Arts District
The burgeoning San Pedro Arts District on 6th Street attracts visitors with its eclectic combination of restaurants, performing arts venues and art galleries. A walk down the street, beginning at Pacific Avenue, allows patrons a look into the windows of artist work spaces. Whether you're interested in contemporary photography, fine art, digital imagery or neon sculpture, you can find it here. Take a moment to reflect on the work and enjoy foods that suit almost any taste -- from English pubs to sushi places -- and before heading to the theater. Small, experimental spaces have been welcomed, and the street is anchored by the newly restored Warner Grand Theater. The Warner Grand is a 1,500-seat historic art deco movie palace that originally opened to the public in 1931. It hosts screenings of American classic and foreign films and live performances.
Tour the Maritime Museum and USS Iowa
At the foot of 6th Street, in berth 84 of the main channel, is the Maritime Museum. This attraction combines land and sea tours to encourage visitors to explore the history and delights of the Los Angeles Harbor. The Angels Gate tugboat provides patrons and students with a narrated tour of the busiest container port in the United States. On land, submarine art and history exhibits detail the LA Harbor's fishing, canning and commercial diving industries. The museum also includes artifacts from the USS Los Angeles heavy navy cruiser, which was active from 1945-1975. For those interested in battleships, a quick jaunt up the block brings visitors to the USS Iowa, an imposing naval ship built in 1940 that saw 50 years of active service. A guided tour of the ship covers crew living areas, the Captain’s Cabin, the “big gun” exhibit, the Admiral’s Bridge, various decks and the fantail.