L.A. never ceases to amaze me. Although it’s smoggy, over-populated, and traffic-plagued, the fact that there’s never a dull moment in this city definitely works in its favor. There’s always something new to discover here – whether it’s a new restaurant, a new museum with beyond dope exhibits, places we’ve passed by a gazillion times without really taking the time to fully appreciate them, or neighborhoods we know of or have driven through without ever really poking around before…until now.
Last month on one of Jave’s rare Saturdays off, I told him that I had a cool adventure planned for the day.
“Don’t tell me what it is, Carmel. I just wanna show up for it,” he replied.
And so we headed 45 minutes southwest to San Pedro, an L.A. community that’s partially home to the Port of Los Angeles. Now, being a born and bred Angeleno, this was by no means my first visit to San Pedro, but it was my first time really exploring the neighborhood in any real depth. And I have to say, San Pedro is one of those places in L.A. that makes you feel like you’re not even in L.A. anymore. I feel similarly whenever we visit Rancho Palos Verdes or Malibu, for example.
To elaborate, San Pedro has this part industrial, part small beach town kind of vibe where, reminiscent of San Francisco, cars park on sidewalks, where it’s not uncommon to see drivers cruising in classic cars, and where locals are the antithesis of the Hollywood crowd.
Whether you’re a SoCal local or an out-of-towner looking to get a different perspective of L.A., here are some spots worth savoring in San Pedro…
Point Fermin Lighthouse
Phineas Banning (who you’ll read more about below) petitioned the federal government to construct the Point Fermin Lighthouse which was built in 1874 with lumber from California redwoods. Looking at the lighthouse, you can see that it looks more like a regular house than a lighthouse; it was designed by Paul J. Pelz in a style known as Stick Style Victorian.
Located in Point Fermin Park, the Point Fermin Lighthouse is one of three Stick Style Victorian lighthouses still standing – the others are the East Brother Light Station (now a B&B) in the San Francisco Bay and the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in New Jersey. Today, the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To plan your visit, be sure to check Point Fermin Lighthouse’s website for hours and tour info.
Korean Bell of Friendship
Located on a hill behind the Point Fermin Lighthouse, your adventure to San Pedro just won’t be complete without a visit to the Korean Bell of Friendship. The bell and its pavilion known as the Belfry of Friendship, are located in Angel’s Gate Park and were donated to the people of L.A. by the Republic of Korea in 1976 in celebration of the U.S.’s 200th anniversary and as a sign of friendship between the two countries.
Designed in the style of the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla (aka, the Emille Bell) in the National Museum of Gyeongju, the Korean Bell of Friendship is only struck five times a year, and a visit to see it will transport you to South Korea.
When Jave and I walked into CRAFTED, it was love at first sight. As its name suggests, CRAFTED is an artisan market located in a massive warehouse that houses booths for over 100 artists, crafters, and food vendors. Although we arrived at the market just before closing, we were impressed by the variety of crafts and food products available for purchase – everything from handmade soaps and fresh preserves to clothes and unique paintings.
My favorite section of the market is the bookstore where you can buy books for $2 a pop or 3 books for $5 with all purchases being made by the honor system. The market fosters community by hosting live music and events including DIY demonstrations.
Just across from the marketplace you’ll find BROUWERIJ WEST, a 15,000-barrel regional craft brewery that offers tours and tastings. The place was packed, so we just peeped in and kept it moving. Plus, I’m not a huge beer fan. But if you’re into beer, BROUWERIJ WEST is definitely worth a visit.
USS Iowa (BB-61)
While Jave and I didn’t visit this renowned battleship during our most recent visit to San Pedro, we previously toured the ship during the Tall Ships Festival a few years back, and I’m including it in this post because it’s well worth checking out when visiting San Pedro.
The USS Iowa served in the Atlantic during WWII, and it even carried President Roosevelt and some of his cabinet members to Algeria to the Tehran Conference in 1943. The battleship was also briefly deployed during the Korean War. These days, the ship serves as a museum highlighting what life at sea was like for sailors over the past 70 years. For visitor information, visit USS Iowa’s website.
Banning Museum – BONUS
While San Pedro has a historic house-turned-museum of its own – the Muller House – since it’s only open the first and second Sundays of the month, we opted to head to Wilmington, a city just next door, to visit the Banning Museum. This house was once owned by Phineas Banning, a businessman known as “the Father of the Port of Los Angeles”, who moved to L.A. from Wilmington, Delaware.
After purchasing hundreds of acres of land for a whopping 50¢, Banning built a Greek Revivial styled home on the land that served as a primary residence for him and his family until the mid-1920s, after which it was acquired by the City of Los Angeles. Tours of the home are offered regularly for $5/person, and provide insight into what life was like for a wealthy businessman in L.A.’s early days.
Although our Saturday adventure was quite eventful, we’ve only scratched the surface of San Pedro. During future visits, we’re definitely looking forward to learning more about this community, sampling its many restaurants, and exploring the sites we missed this time around.