San Pedro is perhaps LA’s best-kept secret and a serendipitous welcome for visitors. Home to the Port of Los Angeles and its bustling Cruise Terminal, this seaside destination is steeped in maritime history and aquatic attractions.
San Pedro has a vibrant waterfront, and Berth 93 is home to the World Cruise Center at The Port of Los Angeles, the busiest passenger port of call along the West Coast. It served as the backdrop for Aaron Spelling’s television series “Love Boat,“ and current-day passengers can set their own course for adventure aboard a pleasure cruise to Baja California, the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, Alaska and the Panama Canal. Many passengers book pre- and post-cruise options to explore Los Angeles, using San Pedro as their home base.
The waterfront is also home to several other attractions, including a 10,000-ton ship-turned-museum that served as an ammunition carrier during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Housed in a streamlined, modern building constructed in 1941 by the Public Works Administration (WPA) is the Los Angeles Maritime Museum—the largest maritime museum in the state—with more than 700 ship and boat models and hundreds of artifacts. Several waterfront memorials add to the landscape and pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the various branches of the armed services.
A mile-long stretch of sand is home to Cabrillo Beach, a popular outpost for swimming, surfing, SCUBA diving and volleyball. Angelenos and visitors enjoy coming to this locale, hoping to spot massive gray whales as they make their way from Alaska to the warm waters of Mexico. Observing grunions, silvery fish that emerge from the water during a full or new moon to lay their eggs, is another popular pastime along these velvety sands. Nearby is the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, with its 38 saltwater aquariums containing sea creatures of all types, including crabs, sharks, eels and octopi. Touch tanks and interactive exhibits add to the free-admission experience.
It’s also possible to enjoy the open waters on a high-seas adventure with Spirit Cruises. Enjoy an hour-long harbor voyage while viewing some 50 points of interest, from massive cargo ships and million-dollar yachts to frolicking sea lions sunning themselves on buoys. No two cruises are alike.
Perched high atop an ocean bluff is the Korean Friendship Bell, an imposing bell given as a gift to the people of Los Angeles by the people of the Republic of Korea in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. Patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok and cast in 771 A.D., the bell is housed under a pagoda-like structure and is rung just four times a year: Fourth of July, Korean Independence Day, New Year’s Eve and every September to mark Constitution Week.
A vintage trolley coated in a bright red hue connects the waterfront attractions, stopping at the base of Sixth Street, the start of San Pedro’s charming downtown district. Historic buildings along this avenue house art galleries, coffeehouses, delightful pubs, chatty bistros, wine bars and more. Among its many gems is the Warner Grand Theatre, a lavish, art deco movie palace that opened to the public in 1941. During its heyday, it was the gathering place for first-run movies and was the first sound-equipped theater in LA’s South Bay region. Today the Warner Grand, which continues to be restored to its original grandeur, is managed by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and is home to foreign and classic film series, as well as special events.