The 16 Best Things to Do in San Pedro, California

Beach views
Jose Amaral Jr / Getty Images

If you ever take a cruise from the Port of Los Angeles, you might be looking for things to do while "stuck" in San Pedro. Although the San Pedro neighborhood where the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal is located is a bit off the main tourist trail, there's still plenty to see and do.

Industrial fishing has been significantly reduced in recent years, and many of the canneries have closed, but this is still a fishing town, and it has a bit of that fishing village air (as in style, not smell) about it. The residential areas closest to the waterfront are modest cottages with an East Coast feel.

Unlike most of the coast in Southern California, San Pedro has a scenic, craggy shoreline with cliffs. Point Fermin juts out to the south from the eastern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula before the coast cuts north into the Port. Although the Pacific Ocean is to the south, most of the waterfront attractions in San Pedro face east into the harbor channel. From the hills in San Pedro, you can look across the harbor to downtown Long Beach.

The primary attractions in San Pedro are related to three areas, the waterfront and nautical attractions; the strategic military role played on water and land through the city's history and the related historic buildings; and the thriving arts community.

01 of 16

Visit the Point Fermin Lighthouse Historic Site and Museum

Lighthouse at Point Fermin
Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

The Point Fermin Light House was built in 1874. Its stick-style Victorian architecture is apparent in its gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams, and hand-carved porch railings. A showpiece of its time, the original light in the dome was a 2100 candlepower light with a Fresnel lens. During World War II, the dome was updated, replaced, and finally put out of use when coasts were kept dark to prevent enemy attacks. In 1974, the dome was rebuilt back to its original specifications, and the lighthouse was opened to the public as a museum. The L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks operates the Point Fermin Lighthouse. Donations are suggested for visiting.

807 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731-7131, USA
Phone +1 310-241-0684
02 of 16

Appreciate the Korean Friendship Bell

The Korean Friendship Bell at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro
Ryan Stavely/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro was a gift to Los Angeles from the people of the Republic of Korea for the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. Patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok from 771 A.D., the Friendship Bell honors U.S. veterans of the Korean War. Suspended from a specially designed pagoda built by Korean craftsmen on a hill above Pt. Fermin Lighthouse in Angel's Gate Park, the 17-ton bell is 12 feet tall and 7 1/2 feet in diameter. The bell has no clapper inside. It is rung by striking it from the outside with a log that swings from cables. The bell is rung four times a year, on New Year's Eve, Fourth of July, Korean Independence Day (Aug. 15), and Constitution Week in September.

3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731-6969, USA
Phone +1 310-548-7705
03 of 16

Learn About Coastal Defense at the Fort MacArthur Museum

Fort MacArthur in San Pedro was a U.S. Army post that guarded the Los Angeles Harbor from 1914 to 1974. The Fort MacArthur Museum is located in the historic Battery Osgood-Farley at Angeles Gate Park, formerly the Upper Reservation of Fort MacArthur. The Battery was constructed between 1914 and 1919 and housed two 14-inch disappearing guns named Osgood and Farley. Exhibits in the museum trace the role of the Army in defending the coast from invasion from the World Wars to modern missile defenses.

From the 1920s through World War II, the Battery of big guns at Fort MacArthur grew, including 14-inch railway guns that could fire up to 27 miles. After 1945, most of the big guns were scrapped, and in 1950 Fort MacArthur became part of the Nike surface to air defense system, administering over 18 missile launch sites in Southern California until 1974.

Originally organized into three campuses, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Reservations, only the Middle Reservation is still used by the U.S. military. Transferred to the Air Force in 1982, it is still used as a housing and administrative facility for the Los Angeles Air Force Base.

The Upper and Lower Reservations were both deeded to the City of Los Angeles. The Lower Reservation was dredged to form the Cabrillo Marina. The Upper Reservation became Angels Gate Park. Its barracks now house the Angels Gate Cultural Center, the Center for Marine Studies, the Marine Mammal Care Center, a seasonal Hostelling International L.A. youth hostel, and the Fort MacArthur Museum.

3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731-6969, USA
Phone +1 310-241-0846
04 of 16

Peruse Artists' Studios at Angels Gate Cultural Center

Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, CA
Angels Gate Cultural Center

Angels Gate Art is a re-purposed military barracks home to a village of artist studios and public galleries. The complex is located at Angels Gate Park near the Fort MacArthur Museum, high on a hill overlooking the Korean Friendship Bell and Pt. Fermin Lighthouse. Galleries are open regularly, and studio open-house events are organized a couple of times a year. Admission is free.

3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731-6969, USA
Phone +1 310-519-0936
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05 of 16

Lounge at Cabrillo Beach

Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, Los Angeles
steve_is_on_holiday / Getty Images

Cabrillo Beach is a mile-long stretch of sand and rocks split into sections by craggy cliff formations and a long break wall. The small cove to the right of the break wall is especially popular with windsurfers. It's a great place to explore the tide pools any time, but the high tide can cut off the western strip of the beach below the cliffs from the main beach. During grunion season, from March through July, the silverfish come up onto the beach to spawn at the new and full moon. Cabrillo is also one of only two beaches in Los Angeles County that have fire pits.

Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles, CA 90731, USA
06 of 16

Learn About Sea Life at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Cabrillo marine Aquarium

Benny Chan / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks in a Frank Gehry-designed complex near Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. The Aquarium showcases Southern California sea life in hands-on, family-friendly exhibits, including a crawl-under aquarium and a Mud Walkthrough tunnel. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. During grunion season, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium hosts several evenings of educational presentations followed by a visit to the beach to watch the grunion run.

3720 Stephen M White Dr, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA
Phone +1 310-548-7562
07 of 16

Browse, Shop, and Eat at Ports O' Call Village Marketplace

Ports O' Call Village, San Pedro, CA
Kayte Deioma

Ports O' Call Village in San Pedro is modeled after an East Coast fishing village with lanes winding through restaurants, shops, and fish markets. Although the vacancy rate in the village is unfortunately high, there is still plenty to do and good food to be found. Ports O' Call Village is located along the main channel of the Port of Los Angeles, so you can watch the ships, including major cruise lines, traveling in and out. Harbor tours and whale watching excursions depart from Ports O' Call. The entrance to Ports O' Call is marked by a statue modeled after the Gorton's Fisherman.

1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, CA 90731-4408, USA
Phone +1 310-832-4251
08 of 16

Ride the Waterfront Red Car Trolley Line

The Waterfront Red Car Line Trolley serves harbor-side attractions in San Pedro
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The Waterfront Red Car Line is an antique trolley car that serves the attractions along the San Pedro waterfront in Los Angeles. There are four stops at the L.A. Cruise Terminal, 6th Street Downtown, Ports O' Call, and 22nd Street Marina. Red Car 1058 is an original restored 1907 Red Car from the Pacific Electric line. Trolleys 500 and 501 are reproductions of cars that ran in the 1920s.

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09 of 16

Immerse Yourself in Maritime History

Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro
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The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is located in the Municipal Ferry Terminal building on the San Pedro waterfront at the foot of 6th Street. It shares the same extended free parking lot along Harbor Blvd with Ports O' Call Village. From 1941 to 1963, a ferry ran passengers from this building across to Terminal Island to work at canneries, shipyards, and military bases. Exhibits inside the Maritime Museum include San Pedro's cannery history, the life and work of commercial divers, art created by sailors at sea, and photos and artifacts from the USS Los Angeles.

84 Foot of 6th St Berthing, San Pedro, CA 90731-3349, USA
Phone +1 310-548-7618
10 of 16

Learn About a Landmark Fireboat

The state-of-the-art Fireboat #2 at Fire Station 112 in San Pedro
Kayte Deioma

The Ralph J. Scott is a 1925 fireboat, a national historic landmark. It was retired in 2003 and replaced by the high-tech Fireboat #2. Both vessels can be seen at San Pedro's Fire Station 112, located between Ports O' Call Village and the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal.

The 99-foot Ralph J. Scott sits on a cradle behind the fire station. State of the art for its time, it has six four-stage pumps that can produce 10,200 gallons of water per minute. On the water, ready for action under the clay-colored concrete shelter, Fireboat #2 is the world's most powerful and technologically advanced fireboat for marine firefighting.

Fire Station 112 has exhibits on both boats and the history of marine firefighting in L.A. on the outside of the west side of the station.

11 of 16

Tour a Navy Battleship

USS Iowa
Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

The USS Iowa was commissioned in 1940 by the U.S. Navy and served as a battleship for 50 years before retiring in 1990. In addition to her many battle missions from World War II to the Persian Gulf, the ship transported President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, and President George H.W. Bush—more presidents than any other ship.

The ship is now a floating museum on the L.A. waterfront operated by the Pacific Battleship Center. It is located at Berth 87 next to Fire Station 112.

250 S Harbor Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90731, USA
Phone +1 877-446-9261
12 of 16

Hop on a Cruise

A cruise ship docked at the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal, also known as the World Cruise Center
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The Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro is home to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal, also known as World Cruise Center. It is operated by Pacific Cruise Ship Terminals. Between 800,000 and a million passengers embark each year on cruises to Mexico, Hawaii, northbound up the West Coast, and beyond. Offerings range from quickie weekend cruises to Ensenada to multi-week repositioning cruises. Eleven major cruise lines originate or stop at the World Cruise Center.

The terminal, which hosted the original "Love Boat" TV series from 1977 to 1986, was modernized and expanded in 2010 to accommodate the most modern mega-ships. The terminal can handle the processing of three cruise ships at once.

You'll probably only be visiting the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal itself if you're taking a cruise, but you can watch the ships come and go from the nearby Cruise Ship Promenade or Ports O' Call Village or enjoy the musical Fanfare Fountains out front. The Waterfront Red Car Trolley has a stop at the terminal.

If you are coming or going from the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal and have a few extra hours, most of San Pedro's attractions are nearby along the waterfront and can be reached via the Red Car (if it's running).

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13 of 16

Admire the Fanfare Fountains

The Fanfare Fountains at the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal in San Pedro
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The Fanfare Fountains are two 100 by 250-foot pools next to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal with 40 programmable water jets and 18 streams that shoot up to 100 feet in the air. The water and light shows are choreographed to 22 different songs throughout the day. At noon and 8 p.m., the fountains play every 10 minutes for an hour. Otherwise, they play every half hour from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Free one-hour parking is available at the L.A. Cruise Ship Promenade lot on Swinford Street off Harbor Boulevard (just past the Catalina Express gate). You can also reach the Fanfare Fountains from the Waterfront Red Car Line Friday through Sunday.

600 N Harbor Blvd, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA
Phone +1 310-732-3508
14 of 16

Tour a World War II-Era Merchant Cargo Ship

San Pedro's SS Lane Victory
g01xm / Getty Images

The SS Lane Victory is a World War II merchant cargo ship built in 1945 that continued service through the Korean and Vietnam wars and ran commercial operations between wars. It is a national historical landmark owned and operated by the United States Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II. The ship is open to the public as a museum and memorial to Merchant Marine sailors and Navy Armed Guardsmen who have served. The SS Lane Victory is completely staffed and crewed by volunteers. The cargo holds of the ship now contain museum exhibits on the tools and technology used by sailors in the 1940s and historical documents and photos that tell the story of life as a mariner. Visitors can also tour the engine room, shaft's alley, midship's house, ​wheelhouse, gun deck, and more.

The vessel is kept in shipshape to still sail out every summer for several "Victory at Sea" reenactment excursions where the ship mock-battles with fighter planes off the coast of Catalina Island. Plan ahead if you want to participate, as these all-day events only take place once a month, July through September.

The ship was moved in 2014 from the end of the Cruise Ship Promenade across from the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal to the new Cabrillo Way Marina at the end of Miner Street (Harbor Blvd becomes Miner St). You can visit the SS Lane Victory for a small fee. Free parking is available in front of the ship.

Berth 52, 2400 Miner St, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA
Phone +1 310-519-9188
15 of 16

Drive Through the Port of Los Angeles

AERIAL Cargo ship loading dock in California, USA stock photo
simonkr / Getty Images

The Port of Los Angeles is located in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, about 20 miles from downtown L.A. Calling itself "America's Port," the Port of Los Angeles moves more containers than any other port in the country, although the Port of Long Beach next door moves more tonnage (and New Orleans, Houston, and New York-New Jersey move more raw materials).

The Port of Los Angeles covers 7,500 acres along 43 miles of waterfront if you count all the ins and outs of its multiple channels. Although administratively separate, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach combined rank just below Singapore and China for container goods moved. However, the ratio of imports to exports is reversed.

The port is south-facing bordering on the community of Wilmington to the north. The residential area of San Pedro is to the west, and the Port of Long Beach is to the east. The Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institute sits on an artificial island between the two ports.

You can drive around the ports, but make sure you have a good GPS, since the roads through the islands and peninsulas of the ports dead end and go every which way. Another option is to take a Harbor Tour by boat. The tours don't go very deep into the port, but you get a good impression of the giant cranes and cargo ships. The Harbor Tours of the Port of Los Angeles depart from Ports O' Call Village.

Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
16 of 16

Take a Walk at White Point Beach

White Point Beach in San Pedro
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On the west side of San Pedro sits a little-known combo of beautiful rocky beach and trail-rich bluffs at White Point Beach and White Point Nature Preserve. The beach is one of the few places on the Palos Verde Peninsula where you can park close to the water since most of the coastline has a cliff. The rocky beach is great for exploring the tide pools.

On the opposite side of Paseo del Mar, there are miles of trails on the 102 acres of restored coastal sage scrub habitat at the Nature Preserve. The preserve is part of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. They operate a Nature Center in an old Cold War assembly building, which holds various interpretive exhibits and is now surrounded by native plant demonstration gardens.

White Point Beach, Los Angeles, CA 90731, USA
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The 16 Best Things to Do in San Pedro, California