Accessible Travel in Los Angeles
I’m a native. I was born downtown, on Hill Street, in the middle of Chinatown. I’ve lived here my entire life…over half a century.
My Los Angeles can be cleaved into two neat sections by the 110 Freeway. On the ocean side of it are the westsiders, the other inland side is the home to the eastsiders. Downtown sits neatly in the center begging each side to pay attention.
The Westside is the famous side. Home to Hollywood, Venice, and Santa Monica, it’s where all the tourists flock to check off their list of sites…Santa Monica Pier? Check. Grauman’s Chinese Theater? Check. Venice Boardwalk? Check. Original L.A. Farmer’s Market? Check.
I’m an eastsider. I rarely go west of the 110. Oh, there are some worthy sights to see over there…I love the Farmer’s Market and the Getty…but it’s a rare day when I go to that crowded, overbuilt, and hectic part of town.
We eastsiders would rather go to the beaches of Orange County than those in the South Bay. Give me Laguna Beach over Santa Monica or Venice any day. We tend to take our outdoor pleasures in the tall mountains of the Angeles National Forest over the hills of the Santa Monica range. The pubs of Pasadena call to us more than the bars of Hollywood.
A big bonus is that our sites are usually free from the tourist hoards that descend on those areas to the west each summer too.
Here are my top 5 spots of the “other “ Los Angeles (and environs) that travelers to this area should make an effort to see while in town.
Huntington Library and Gardens (Pasadena) – Henry Huntington was a local railroad magnate. The famous Red Cars of his Pacific Electric Railroad connected such far-flung locales as San Bernardino and Santa Monica. It gave Los Angeles a thorough and modern mass transit system and was popularized in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
Though the railroad is long gone…shame about that, really…his estate lives on with magnificent gardens and a mansion that has been turned into one of the world’s leading art museums.
Insider’s Tip - Henry and his wife are still here, too. Follow the old citrus groves to the quiet north end of the property to find their elaborate mausoleum.
The beach – The best beaches also lie on our side of the 110. They get progressively better as you move down the coast. The big city beaches of Long Beach have no waves because of the breakwater but have lively neighborhoods in downtown and Belmont Shore. Accessible minibuses connect the various seaside neighborhoods so you can spend the day at Alamitos Bay and take in a show at Pine Square later. South of Long Beach, we like to go to the pocket sized Seal Beach…where crowds rarely materialize on this beautiful but short stretch of sand…for dinner, drinks, and dessert. Keep going and you’ll end up at the surf capitol of the world, Huntington Beach; the multi-million dollar homes of Newport Beach and the Balboa Fun Zone; and then the Mediterranean flavored artist colony of Laguna Beach with its chair accessible boardwalks and ramps.
Insider’s Tip - The beaches of Alamitos Bay, especially where the calm waters of Horny Corner meet the sailing school (at the corner of Ocean Bl. and Bayshore Ave.) …are hard packed enough for a wheelchair to roll on. This is also where they film “Dexter” for Showtime.
Amusement Parks – Yes, the king of them all…Disneyland…is over on this side down in Anaheim. Nearby is the other amusement park built by berry farmer, Walter Knott, to entertain guests waiting in line for his wife’s fabulous chicken dinner. Knott’s Berry Farm makes a great, uncrowded alternative for the very busy mouse kingdom nearby.
Insider’s Tip – More, smaller, amusement parks reside east in the Inland Empire. Castle Park in Riverside and Scandia in Ontario offer great thrills at bargain prices.
Ethnic Food – L.A. is one of the most ethnically diverse cities on the planet. It stands to reason that you can get remarkably authentic delicious ethnic food too. Everybody knows about the Mexican food (this did used to be part of Mexico) but there is much more. The San Gabriel Valley…just east of downtown L.A…is widely known for its heavy Asian influence. From dumpling houses to Hong Kong Cafes; Thai restaurants to Vietnamese Pho houses…we’ve counted over 30 different ethnic styles of food here…Armenian, Italian, French, Indonesian, Korean, Greek, Mediterranean, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and even Nepalese are just a few examples.
You want it; chances are you’ll find it here.
Insider’s Tip – For a great variety of ethnic fare, try the three-block stretch of Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia known as Old Town. You’ll find Mexican, Cuban, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Lebanese, Spanish, English, Indian, French, Southern Barbecue, and American fast food along with a surprising number of pubs crammed into such a small, walkable area. Every Friday night they have a farmers market and festival.
Recreation and Sports – This side of L.A. is also home to several sports teams. While the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, and Kings all reside in the central area of downtown, we also have the Angels and Ducks for baseball and hockey in Anaheim, plus the minor league affiliates of the Dodgers and Angels to the east in Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino, respectively. Minor league hockey is played by the Reign in Ontario.
Besides the beaches, there are a lot of recreation opportunities here. Hiking, camping, and skiing are available in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. You can even pan for gold. Golfing is available at dozens of courses. Almost every park has tennis courts and a good number have pools.
Insider’s Tip – Adaptive snow skiing is available at Bear Mountain resort in Big Bear. The beautiful west fork trail along the San Gabriel River, north of Azusa, is wheelchair accessible.
Next time you’re in Los Angeles, take an extra day or two to explore my side of town.
About Darryl Musick
Born into a family of travelers, Darryl Musick carried on this tradition when he got married and started his own family. He evolved into a travel writer when he could not find any reliable information about wheelchair accessible travel…a necessity since his son uses one. Darryl has been writing since 1995 about travel in general and wheelchair travel in particular.
Author of the e-book Golden State Eating: Nine Tales of California Food Destinations, he also produces a blog, The World on Wheels, documenting his family’s adventures.
His articles have been published in Vagabundo Magazine, Emerging Horizons, Bootsnall.com, Uptake.com, and Disabled Dealer Magazine.
A Southern California native, Darryl lives with his wife and son in the San Gabriel Valley, just east of Los Angeles.
You can learn more about them at their blog at http://wheelstraveler.blogspot.com. Check out his book at:
Golden State Eating: Nine Tales of California Food Destinations