Colorful San Pedro is a funky dockside community with a style all its own, a maze of winding streets, craft shops and ethnic haunts. Ports o' Call Village is probably its major attraction, an elongated stretch of specialty shops, restaurants and eccentric attractions right next to the water.
Several of the merchants in the complex were recently heard to lament that business has been slow, especially weekdays. I visited on a Friday and found the crowds to indeed be sparse. That's a shame, because this destination can provide one of the best free day trips in the area.
11 to noon: Ports o' Call Village is divided into three parts, though the newest section, Asian Village, won't be open until late November. Meanwhile, divide your time visiting Whaler's Wharf--a replica of a New England whaling village complete with crooked roofs and a church steeple--and the hub of the complex, Ports o' Call Village, where the majority of shops are.
The village walkways are paved with brick, and classical music plays quietly in the background through speakers. Among the more interesting shops are Hudson Ruggles in the Ports o' Call Village and Ortega's Trading Post in the Whaler's Wharf. Hudson Ruggles strives, according to 30-year employee Connie Kaloper, "to carry crafts made in the USA." These include such items as nautically themed lamps and figurines, Frankoma pottery from Oklahoma, cranberry colored glassware from Fenton of West Virginia and collectibles ranging from porcelain thimbles to rare shells.
Ortega's Trading Post reminds me of places you see in the Southwest. This means lots of American Indian jewelry, colorful serapes, turquoise money clips, handwoven rugs and high-quality cutlery from a manufacturer called Gutmann. They even have axes and machetes for sale.
There are dozens more shops to browse. Yuri's Collection has beautiful folk art from Peru. At shops such as Village Glassblower and the Glass Act, you can watch the craftsmen ply their trades, glassblowing and glass-etching respectively. There's food galore, too. At Ann's Village Bakery, a favorite among locals, you get great pull-apart cinnamon rolls and apple pastries. C'est Cheese is a gourmet food store run by a well-traveled man, Mr. Yun, who will sell you wine, cheese or healing Korean herbs. And don't forget all the fish markets, where fresh catch is put out on icy beds for inspection. The biggest by far is the San Pedro Fish Market, but any of the markets will sell you a fish and clean it for a $1 surcharge.
Noon to 1: Almost everyone who comes here takes a harbor cruise, and you should too. I went for a ride on the good ship Karin Lynn with my wife, three hardy Swiss tourists and a couple from Harrisburg, Pa. (The ships, which hold well more than 100 passengers, don't go out if there are fewer than six.)
The ride is uneventful but interesting. Among points of interest you will pass are Terminal Island Federal Prison, massive dry docks, huge tanks filled with petrochemicals, a nine-mile breakwater and the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Swiss seemed jazzed to see Royal Caribbean's magnificent Viking Serenade in the Port of Los Angeles, but I couldn't help wishing I were on it, steaming for Honolulu. The highlight for me would have to have been the three sea lions I saw on a buoy just outside the channel. My wife liked sailing under the Vincent Thomas Bridge, because she had to drive over it to get to San Pedro.
1 to 2: With all the food concessions and restaurants in the Village, it's tempting to eat there. But you'll better capture the flavor of San Pedro at nearby Ante's, an institution for nearly 20 years.
Owner Ante (Tony) Perkov is Croatian, or more specifically, Dalmatian, from Tribunj on the Adriatic coast. (A scenic picture of Tribunj appears on his menu.)
Dishes such as sarma -stuffed cabbage rolls, cevapcici --little charbroiled skewers of spiced beef--and stewed pork ribs with sauerkraut are absolutely delicious, as are the soups, salads and specialty desserts.
A meal at Ante's should convince you that San Pedro is an exotic destination by Southern California standards.