It’s been at least eight years since I last visited San Pedro. Last month, I was invited on a media tour of the port city, along with other media personalities, to experience what San Pedro has to offer.
Please note that this post is a condensed version of the entire trip.
Sirens Java & Tea
This quaint cafe located in downtown San Pedro hustles and bustles as locals and visitors alike stroll in and out to grab their morning joe. Owners Ray and Yolanda Regalado are a husband and wife team who honors law enforcement, firefighters and first responders, and the cafe is a personal tribute to Yolanda’s three firefighter brothers, one of whom was killed in the 1970s. Yolanda was there to welcome us this morning under the memorial wall dedicated to first responders and military, with a mosaic created by Julie Bender.
Sirens is an homage to these fallen first responders and military, but also pays tribute to the mythological “sirens” who beckoned to sailors at sea. Yolanda’s father was a fishing boat captain who settled his family in San Pedro, from Costa Rica.
There, we converged for coffee and breakfast bites including breakfast burritos from The ChoriMan, and Sirens’ signature coffee named Mermaid Kiss which comprises white chocolate and raspberry.
The beverage was a tad too sweet for my non-sweet palate, but its aroma and dessert-like quality will definitely appeal to those with a sweet tooth. You can have this either hot or cold.
San Pedro Trolley
After breakfast, a red trolley is waiting for us. This is also the mode of transportation for us, the rest of the day. The red trolley is a complimentary service provided by the San Pedro Property Owners Alliance for those visiting the city. The trolley stops at notable attractions as well as convenient parking locations to make your visit a breeze.
San Pedro Fish Market
Founded by Mackey Ungaro, his son Henry, and his nephew Tommy Amalfitano, the first location, opened in 1956, was originally named Vista Seafood. In the late 60s, it was relocated to its current location along the beautiful waterfront and renamed San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant. Three generations later, the market continues to thrive, serving families who come from all over, to enjoy the cornucopia of fresh seafood available.
We were led on a tour by none other than Tommy Amalfitano himself. He walked us through the various “rooms” where a myriad of live crab and lobster tanks, as well as the plethora of fish and other goodies are laid out for the picking.
Go early as it gets packed very quickly, especially during the weekends. San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant is open 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.
Harbor Breeze Cruises
Next, we walk through the myriad of people enjoying their seafood, and boarded a boat for a harbor cruise. It was a beautiful, but warm, day with a cool breeze in the air.
Our captain welcomed us aboard and periodically would point us in the direction of all the sights as we sailed along. Some seals were perched on a buoy, and our captain circled around it several times, making sure we all had the opportunity for a photo op.
Hopping back on the trolley, we headed to this indoor arts and crafts market with an array of local artisans showing off their wares.
Besides art and craft — there were books, clothing, accessories, homewares — there are also several vendors who are selling edible goods such as candied nuts, cupcakes, as well as artisanal pickles.
Across the way from Crafted is Brouwerij West, a Belgian-style brewery, offering Belgian craft beers brewed on site. We sampled a handful of their most popular brews.
If you’re hungry, there are several food trucks parked outside where you can order your grub to pair with your beer. Since we were headed to lunch, we did not try any of these.
There is a lot of history behind Pappy’s, a seafood restaurant in downtown San Pedro. Upon arrival, we were ushered into the back room where a wonderful spread was laid out for our lunch.
Included on the menu: an impressive seafood tower, hush puppies, an assortment of tacos, and much more. My favorites were the raw clams and shrimp; fish and chips, and the ceviche.
Warner Grand Theater
After lunch, we stopped at this historic movie theater opened on January 20, 1931. Its design was a collaboration between architect B. Marcus Priteca and interior designer, Anthony Heinsbergen. The theater’s art deco style is still a sight today. We sat in the seats soaking in the lavish appeal of days gone by. I was in awe of the intricate detailing of the ceiling, columns and walls within the theater.
Korean Friendship Bell
When we first moved to southern California, we took a day trip to San Pedro, and one of our stops was the Korean Friendship Bell. The bell was a gift from the South Korean government to the US in celebration of the bicentennial and as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
These days, the bell is struck five times a year: on New Year’s Eve, Korean American Day (Jan 13), Independence Day, Korean Liberation Day (Aug 15) and Constitution Day (Sept 17). Visitors may plan their trips to witness the ceremonial ringing of the bell on the first Saturday of each month at noon. It is struck 13 times using a large wooden log.
Ernest Lee, the Executive Director of the Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee was on hand to guide us on this tour. He even allowed us to personally strike the bell — we embraced the bell after striking to feel its vibrations. This was definitely an experience of a lifetime!
USS Iowa Museum
The USS Iowa was originally commissioned in 1943 and served during WWII, the Korean War, as well as the Cold War. The museum offers daily tours where visitors can see the largest guns on a US Navy ship, officers’ ward room, President Roosevelt’s cabin, enlisted berthing, mess halls, and more.
Craig Post, Public Programs Director led us around the battleship with stories that awed and delighted us — I especially loved the story of Victory the dog! This is especially fun and heartwarming if you have kids. You can read all about Victory here.
What we didn’t get to see was the new exhibit, Lost at Sea: The Explorations of Dr Robert Ballard, which is now open to the public. The price of an admission ticket will grant you access to this impressive exhibit. For more information about this glorious exhibit, please click here.
After we disembarked the USS Iowa, it was time to head to dinner at one of San Pedro’s legendary restaurants, J Triani. This restaurant has been in business for decades and serves Italian cuisine.
I was exhausted by this point, but the restaurant made sure we were all fed. The bread basket was filled with some very tasty bread which we couldn’t resist.
Appetizers arrived next, and one of my favorites include the fried calamari.
After that fun-filled day, it was now time to get back in the car and head back to Orange County.
The next time you’re looking to spend a day somewhere close by, think San Pedro. There is a lot to do, and so many stops to enjoy good food along the way. Best of all, it’s not that far a drive.