San Pedro, with its steep hills and panoramic ocean views, reminds me of San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. Other similarities: I can tour a Navy warship, search for whales and dolphins off the coast and get a look at mega-ships bound for destinations around the globe. During my recent visit, I found even more reasons to pop into town. The annual L.A. Fleet Week, which celebrates America's sea services, will drop anchor here Aug. 31 8/31 through Sept. 3, bringing live entertainment, ship tours, flyovers and military displays. Other family-friendly events include a walk-run across the Vincent Thomas Bridge and a cookoff among Navy, Marine and Coast Guard teams. The tab: Unlike the City by the Bay, San Pedro is relatively inexpensive: I spent less than $600 for a two-night summer-season weekend stay.
I wanted an easy weekend away that wouldn't break the bank, so I booked a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Pedro-Port of Los Angeles. (They need to shorten that name!) My bill for two nights was $483, but if I had stayed midweek, I would have paid only $144 a night. The hotel, at the Cabrillo Marina, has recently updated its public areas and rooms. Other pluses: a free shuttle to and from the World Cruise Center, where ships depart for destinations around the world. And parking is free. Be sure to reserve well in advance; it books up quickly.
Hey, it's a seaside town, so why not have fish?. My pick was Pappy’s Seafood in downtown San Pedro. The fish and chips, seafood stews and other finny foods come from local fishermen, which made me feel as though I were supporting sustainability. And they were delish. Pappy’s is in a remodeled space that once held Papadakis Taverna, a 37-year San Pedro tradition. The name pays homage, but there's no relationship.
The biggest game in town — literally and figuratively — is the USS Iowa Museum, the West Coast’s only battleship on display. The Iowa, built in 1940, served the nation for more than 50 years. A tour lets visitors experience a sailor’s life on a gunship in World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War. There's a new museum here too. An exhibit, "Lost at Sea: The Explorations of Dr. Robert Ballard," will have previews during Fleet Week and opens to the public Sept. 4.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Any time is the right time to take a whale-watching trip. Our two-hour LA Waterfront Cruises trip didn't encounter any whales, but we saw dozens of dolphins skimming the waves. And what can be better than a look at the Southland from a couple of miles out at sea? It gives you a new perspective.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Pedro-Port of Los Angeles, 2800 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro; (310) 514-3344. Wheelchair-accessible.
Pappy's Seafood, 301 W. 6th St., San Pedro; (424) 224-5444. Wheelchair accessible.
Battleship Iowa Museum, Pacific Battleship Center, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Los Angeles; (877) 446-9261. Admission $19.95 ($17.95 online) for adults, $16.95 ($14.95 online) for seniors and military, and $11.95 ($9.95 online ) for kids ages 6-11. Limited wheelchair accessibility.