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L.A. Coast Drive Tour
A Central California Coast Road Trip
Explore the Los Angeles coast with stops in beach towns like Venice, South Bay, Hermosa, and Manhattan, and sites along the way at Exposition Park, Hollywood Park, University of Southern California, the beautiful peninsula of Palos Verdes, and San Pedro’s interesting harbor area.
Day 1: VENICE BEACH / SANTA MONICA / L.A.
Venice Beach is the town of “what’s happening now.” Originally built to resemble Venice, Italy with canals and gondolas, they were paved over when oil was discovered nearby and the automobile arrived. Six canals still exists out of the 16 miles that were dug in early 1900s.
The two-mile boardwalk stretching from Washington to Ozone Avenue along Ocean Front Walk is where you want to be on the weekends to experience what some call “an open-air carnival.” It is where the people of the area and world-class street entertainers are doing their thing and having fun at it.
Murals seem to be everywhere in both Venice Beach and Santa Monica, especially in Venice’s Windward Avenue area, between Main and Venice Beach Boardwalk. The Social and Public Art Resource Center, 685 Venice Blvd., (310) 822-9560, has information about them. In Santa Monica, check the mural along Lincoln Blvd. Get information from the Santa Monica Arts Division, (310) 458-8350.
Visit the Museum of Flying, 2772 Donald Douglas Loop North, Santa Monica Airport, admission fee, (310) 392-8822, at the former Douglas Aircraft Corporation. The museum features vintage aircraft such as the “New Orleans,” built by Douglas and one of the first planes to fly around the world, and WWII greats like the P-51 and P-40.
Take I-10 east to Vermont, then south to Exposition Park, the LA Coliseum, and University of Southern California (USC). The park covers 125 acres and includes the 105,000-seat coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympic Games. For many years, it was the home of the former Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. At 900 Exposition Blvd. is the excellent Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, third largest in the U.S., (213) 763-3466, admission fee, call for hours of operation.
The outstanding California Museum of Science & Industry is just around the corner at 700 State Drive, (213) 744-7400, and is a fun learning experience with lots of interactive exhibits. An IMAX Theater brings the wonders of natural science alive. The California African-American Museum, featuring artwork, artifacts, culture and history of African-Americans is at 600 State Drive, (213) 744-7432. Several blocks south on Century Blvd. is one of southern California’s premiere horse racing tracks, the Hollywood Park Racetrack & Casino.
The LA Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association play their home games at the Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. The Staples Center is also home to the Women’s National Basketball Association team, the Los Angeles Sparks, the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings and the Arena Football League’s Los Angeles Avengers. Take Manchester west to Lincoln Blvd. and turn right (north) to Marina del Rey Harbor, the largest man-made marina in the world, (310) 305-9545, and Fisherman’s Village, at 13763 Figi Way, (310) 823-5411, with neat shops and excellent restaurants.
Day 2: SOUTH BAY BEACH TOWNS
Spend the day experiencing the birthplace of California’s beach culture, the South Bay Beach towns of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. All are on Vista Del Mar/Highland Avenue that runs along the coastline. Access is on Rosecrans Avenue west from Highway 1, south of the LA Airport.
Each town has a pier with shops, bait and food stands, plus beautiful ocean views (for parking, buy a day-long permit from booths in the area and park in a municipal lot. It’s cheaper than a parking ticket). This is “primo” territory for professional beach volleyball. Contact (310) 540-5858 for schedule.
Two of the top tournaments in the country are held in Manhattan and Hermosa. Be sure to spend time “strolling” the broad boulevards along the waterfronts fronting the towns. In Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, it is named The Strand. These are favorite paths for bike riders, rollerbladers, runners and walkers. Ask your Best Western host for suggestions on restaurants in the area.
Day 3: CATALINA ISLAND
Spend the day touring on Catalina Island, the beautiful off-shore island 22 miles west of California’s coastline. It is accessible on Catalina Express from the Catalina Island San Pedro Terminal, Berth 95, (800) 464-4228 or (310) 519-1212. They also depart from Long Beach at the Queen Mary Landing. Call for current fares and scheduled departure times, each way takes about one hour. You can depart as early as 7 a.m. and return between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Once on the island, travel is only by golf carts (rental fee) or bicycles (rental fee), or walking – free. Avalon is the port of entry and main island community with plenty of attractions, ranging from the Avalon Casino to the Zane Grey Home and old Wrigley Mansion and the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens. Santa Catalina Island Company, (310) 510-2000, offers land and sea cruises on and around the island.
The Santa Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, #1 Green Pier, Avalon, 90704- 5044, (310) 510-1520, has information to help plan your day.
Day 4: PALOS VERDES / SAN PEDRO
Take I-110 (Harbor Freeway) south and exit on Highway 1 to Palos Verdes Drive west along the Palos Verdes Peninsula for one of the more impressive drives in the LA area. Along the way check out Lunada Bay through Palos Verdes Estates. The historical Point Vicente Lighthouse & Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, (310) 377-5370, admission fee, provides information and artifacts on the region.
Abalone Cove County Beach, (310) 832-1179, includes a marine ecological reserve with tide pools and a great view of Catalina Island. The all-glass Wayfarers Chapel, 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, (310) 377-1650, built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd, is a place of meditation with an incredible view. Take Western Avenue north to Palos Verdes Drive North and go left to 26300 Crenshaw Blvd. and the South Coast Botanic Gardens, (310) 544-6815, admission fee, an 87 acre layout of exotic plants from around the world.
Return to Palos Verdes Drive and follow it to Gaffey, taking it to the end and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen White Drive, (310) 548-7562. Point Fermin Park, 807 Paseo del Mar, (310) 548-7756, is a 37-acre park on top of the bluff with the 1847 Point Vicente Lighthouse nearby. A favorite site for whale watching in December-March. Stop at the Ports O’Call Village, (310) 831-0287, Harbor Berth 77, where a New England and South Seas-style seaport village has been built. Harbor cruises are available through Buccaneer Cruises, (310) 548-1085.
Also here is a unique attraction, the S.S. Lane Victory, Berth 53, (310) 519-9545, a former WWII cargo ship that has been outfitted for cruises on the weekend. It is also a National Historic Landmark. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum, foot of 6th Street at Berth 84 on the Los Angeles Main Channel, open Tuesday to Sunday, admission fee, has an outstanding collection of model ships, including a large cutaway of the Titanic. A fun trip!
Day 5: LONG BEACH / NAPLES
Plan the day in Long Beach, one of the busiest ports in the U.S. and home to an enormous oil field. Take I-710 south to the harbor and the former great ocean liner Queen Mary. It is proudly anchored at 1126 Queens Highway, Pier J, admission fee, (562) 435-3511 or (800) 437-2934. Tours of the vessel take you deep into the engine rooms, as well as the bridge and elegant staterooms. Take the Queens Way Bridge over the LA River to Shoreline Drive and Shoreline Aquatic Park, and Shoreline Village for shops, restaurants and a turn-of-the-century carousel.
The Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 East Ocean Blvd, open Wednesday to Sunday, admission fee, (562) 439-2119, noted for its contemporary art and sculptures and excellent rotating exhibits is east of the Convention Center. The Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Council, at 1 World Trade Center, #300, (562) 436-3645, has helpful information on the area. In the Long Beach Plaza, north of the waterfront is the Long Beach Children’s Museum, 445 Long Beach Blvd., admission fee, with lots of hands-on interactive exhibits.
North of downtown you can experience a slice of life as it was under the Spanish at the Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site, 4600 Virginia Road, (562) 570-1755. The site features an 1844 adobe ranch house. Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Ranch & Gardens, 6400 Bixby Ranch Road, (562) 431-3541, is a sister facility.
The adobe ranch house here, built in 1806, has four-foot thick walls and is one of the oldest existing houses in southern California. Complete the day by visiting Naples, designed like nearby Venice, to resemble its counterpart in Italy. Naples still has its canals and you can cruise them with Gondola Getaway, 5437 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 433-9595.