For most people ships conjure images of adventures in faraway exotic places. Which at least partially explains the current popularity of cruises. And these images of ships, whether real or fancied carries over to their ports of call as well.
Which also explains why San Pedro has always enjoyed a distinct, diverse and different personality from the rest of Los Angeles and environs.
With its heritage of commercial fishing, its headlands commanding wonderful views of the nearby ocean and the kind of people it has attracted has all combined to make it a grand place to visit
Certainly it has many attractions and properly so most have to do with the sea and the people who have made a living from it.
Our recent explorations of San Pedro included visits to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, the restored S.S. Lane Victory, a cargo ship of World War ll vintage, the aquarium at Cabrillo Park and the military museum at Fort MacArthur.
The S.S. Lane Victory is the last operating Liberty Ship dating back to World War ll. It is open daily to visitors who may inspect the ship from stem to stern and from bridge to engine room. In 1988 the Ship was turned over to the U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans World War ll and in the next two years was restored after thousands of hours of work by a force of volunteers.
During the summer of this year the Ship took thousands of visitors on a day long trip to Catalina Island. At berth 94 in San Pedro the Ship is open daily to visitors and is a sure delight for young people as well as adults. Self guided tours include a walk through what is a floating museum with photos and material on World War ll as well as models of the various kinds of cargo ships built during the War. This Writer found a model of the C3 class cargo ship that returned him, and several hundred other G.I.'s, to the U.S. from Europe in 1945. The $3 adult fee and $1 for children includes an hour of free parking.
Well before you are inside you can hear the gleeful sounds of children at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. It is located adjacent to the ocean at Cabrillo Beach and has the largest collection in the world of Southern California Pacific sea life. Besides its exhibits the Aquarium offers tours, classes and programs on a regular basis. For this Writer who has visited aquariums from Monaco to Maine to New Jersey to Corpus Christi, Texas the Cabrillo Aquarium was a very pleasant surprise since it does not get the publicity and public notice it should. Actual admission is free but a donation of $2 for adults and $1 for children is suggested.
The Aquarium is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday thru Friday from noon to 5 p.m., closed Mondays. Adjacent Cabrillo Beach is an added attraction offering swimming, water play and picnic sites. It has two beaches one with the surf of the ocean and the second within the harbor great for children. For more information on continuing special events check their website at www.cabrilloaq.org.
For people who are used to traveling long distances for almost everything in Southern California receive a pleasant surprise on a visit to San Pedro. It is a compact community and everything from Ports O'Call Village, Fort MacArthur Military Museum, the Aquarium and Point Fermin Lighthouse and Park are only minutes apart in traveling time.
Point Fermin Park has a spectacular setting as the southernmost place in Los Angeles with wonderful views of the coast and Channel Islands. It is also where the recent 'Taste of San Pedro', which attracted thousands of visitors, was held. Adjacent Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in l874 making it one of the oldest on the west coast. It is currently going through an extensive renovation and will reopen for visitors when finished.
Next door so to speak to the Park is the Fort MacArthur Military Museum. Again children will love this place. The Museum is located inside the thick concrete walls of the Fort built prior to World War l for defense of the harbor from the sea. One room displays the history of the Fort during two World Wars with photos and historical data.
Just a short walk from the Museum is the Marine Mammal Care Center. Here visitors can view rescued animals from the sea which are either sick or injured. We viewed both seals and sea lions in R & R and listened to 'complaints' from a few. The Care Center is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No admission fee.
Still in walking distance is the pavilion that displays the six ton Korean Bell of Friendship. It is a gift from the people of South Korea to Los Angeles. The gift made in 1976 marked the bicentennial of U.S. Independence. This is also a wonderful place to view both the rugged ocean shoreline as well as the immense Los Angeles Harbor complex.
Save plenty of time when visiting the Los Angeles Maritime Museum which is located in what originally was the Ferry Building. This is where people for 22 years, from 1941 to 1963, took the Ferry to Terminal Island. Now it is home to the largest maritime museum in California. With its long naval tradition there is, naturally enough, one whole room devoted to carefully accurate models of the warships that once had their home berths in San Pedro. And a special exhibit of the USS Los Angeles, a World War ll heavy cruiser which was built in San Pedro.
Movie buffs will enjoy a model of the S S Poseidon which was used in the making of the film "The Poseidon Adventure". The model is 22 feet long, battery powered, and cost $30,000 to build. After the movie was completed it was donated to the museum by 20th Century Fox.
There is also a model of the HMS Bounty and still photos of the cast of characters including Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. The MGM movie was actually filmed off San Pedro and at Catalina Island.
Also on view is a San Pan model used in the "The Sand Pebbles" which starred Steve McQueen. Or you can relive the voyage of Columbus with models of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.
Currently the Museum is featuring an exhibit tracing the 100 year history of the Al Larson Boat Shop. It has been a part of San Pedro's maritime history for a whole century and is Southern California's oldest shipyard.
The Museum is located at Berth 84 at the Foot of Sixth Street and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information check the web at www.lamaritimemuseum.org.
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