If you were one of the many listeners of Long Beach rapper Vince Staples’ EP “FM,” you could hear L.A. radio host Big Boy giving a quick shout-out to Whittier, “where the girls are prettier.” If you grew up in neighboring cities, such as La Habra or Pico Rivera, you probably heard that phrase at a house party or two.
It may not be as famous as Santa Monica or Hollywood. But Whittier’s appeal — particularly Uptown Whittier — extends far beyond an iconic shout-out in a song. The family-friendly streets of Painter and Greenleaf are lined with towering, deciduous trees that might feel foreign in Greater Los Angeles County but are right at home in this neighborhood-driven community with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants that strongly encourage strolling.
11 a.m. First stop is the Whittier Art Gallery, at 8035 Painter Ave. This is no ordinary community art space. It’s small, intimate and beloved for a collection that always manages to surprise as it celebrates and spotlights local artists. On Saturday mornings, there is a writing club where locals workshop their stories with colleagues, one of the many events held each month. Watch the website for events, exhibitions, and callouts (and cash prizes) to artists: whittierartgallery.org/events.
11:30 a.m. Head north on Painter Avenue until you hit La Cuarta Street, and then head west toward popular Lee Owens Park, at 7954 Greenleaf Ave. On one end is a basketball court, next to it is a big plot of grass popular with dogs (and their owners) and, on the north end, there is a fun, little jungle gym for kids.
11:45 a.m. After walking through Lee Owens Park, head north on Greenleaf until you hit the Green Leaf Thai Cuisine, at 7756 Greenleaf Ave. Keep an eye out, because if you aren’t careful you might pass this quaint little restaurant. The wooden interior and various Southeast Asian ornaments create a unique aesthetic for this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Local favorites include the stir-fried black pepper beef and pad Thai noodles, with perhaps a rice dish to complete your lunch. (If you’re not driving, I recommend ordering hot Gekkeikan Junmai sake for some liquid tranquility.)
1 p.m. Let’s walk off that Thai food: Continue north on Greenleaf, and you’ll pass several shops that have been hometown staples for decades. Soon, you’ll hit a slice of history: The Whittier Depot at 7333 Greenleaf Ave, a historic train depot built in 1892 that currently houses a railroad museum. (If you want to go inside, you need to go on a weekday. It’s closed on weekends.)
Congrats, you’ve made it halfway through Uptown Whittier. Drained by the journey? Nearby coffee shops such as Chillin’ and 145 Coffee — just a few doors from each other, at 7041 Greenleaf Ave. and 7021 Greenleaf Ave., respectively — can quench your thirst and deliver a quick caffeine fix.
1:30 p.m. After passing some of uptown’s sprawling restaurants and bars, you will find the coolest comic shop in the neighborhood. Undercity Comics at 12920 Philadelphia St. has the latest editions in superhero comics, graphic novels and custom-made action figures. (Undercity Comics also rents out a studio for aspiring podcasters for $15 an hour.) This little store has something for comic fans both young and old to geek out over.
2 p.m. Finish your trek by visiting the Whittier Museum, at 6755 Newlin Ave. The first floor showcases Whittier’s history through photos dating to the 1880s, contributing to the museum’s Wild West look and feel. The second floor has vivid oil paintings from prominent Whittier artists such Wanda Riske, and across the hallway is a memorial for the nation’s 37th president, Richard Nixon. While many may recall Yorba Linda as Nixon’s birthplace, Whittier was where he grew up before pursuing a career in politics. In the middle of the museum stands a life-size statue of the former president sitting in the Oval Office, which is so realistic it eerily makes you feel like you’re looking at a ghost.