Local Gems: Discover South LA

A wealth of cuisine, culture, architecture, art, history, and outdoor activities line CicLAvia’s brand new, 6-mile route through South Central, Florence-Firestone, and Watts, along the legendary Central Avenue in South LA.

When you explore the open streets with us on February 23, you’ll have the opportunity to experience these neighborhoods in a new way, and discover (or re-discover) LA history right around the corner.

Community Landmarks

The most prominent sight to many is Watts Towers, a remarkable work of public art that was built primarily out of recycled “found” materials, by an Italian immigrant who worked for 30+ years to construct them. They run regular tours and draw tourists from all over the world.

The towers are a striking part of the skyline and will be located just a block from the Watts Hub.

Ted Watkins Memorial Park is 28-acre facility in South LA and a monumental piece of history. It’s home to numerous after school recreational activities for youth (baseball, flag football, basketball and soccer are offered year-round), as well as the Promenade of Prominence Walk of Fame celebrating the accomplishments of community leaders. The park also features a swimming pool, skate park, walking path, fitness zones and Farmer’s Market.

Both the Hayes Motel (just off the route) and the Allum Drug Store on Central have historical roots in the Green Book, a Jim Crow-era guide for black travelers to find shops and amenities that were welcoming and safe (as featured in the eponymous film).

Take a look at the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building, designed in 1928 by James H. Garrott, one of LA’s most notable African-American architects at the time. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a city Historic-Cultural Monument.

Near the route along 40th Street, you can pass by the Ralph J. Bunche House, a modest Victorian bungalow duplex that is the boyhood home of Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, the first person of color to win the lauded Nobel Peace Prize. Thomas Jefferson High School, on 40th near Hooper, has produced more prominent jazz musicians and composers than any other public or private high school in California.

Another piece of history along the route is the Dunbar Hotel, once the most prestigious hotel in LA's African-American community. A nightclub at the Dunbar was the center of the Central Avenue jazz scene in the 1930s and 1940s, hosting Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Lena Horne, and many other jazz legends. The hotel was also visited by W. E. B. Du Bois, Joe Louis, Ray Charles, and Thurgood Marshall.

At the northern end of the route lies Bowers Retail Square, named to honor African American business icons and entrepreneurs Alice and Horace Bowers. They expanded their small dry cleaning into a block-long complex filled with several businesses along this South LA corridor.

The Central Avenue Jazz Park honors the area's rich musical history, and hosts a yearly jazz festival.

Local Shopping

There is an abundance of food options along the route; Central Ave will feel like an on-going smorgasbord of different cuisines.

Granny’s Kitchen is a popular local spot for those seeking Southern cooking. Restaurante Y Pupuseria Lemus is known in the neighborhood for its Salvadoran fare. And Tacos Los Carnales is a perfect place to end the day, perhaps with a follow-up sweet potato pie (a specialty) at 27th Street Bakery. And the community-oriented Northgate Market has a hot food bar that locals love.

Jealous of everyone cycling? Stop by Moreno Bike Shop or Anthony’s Bicycles to see if you can find your own fit.

As always, you’ll find food trucks and booths from neighborhood groups at our Hubs along the route.

Unique Art

The streets of South Los Angeles are peppered with murals, sculptures and statues, some painted by local street artists and others installed or created by internationally known figures. Take every opportunity to look around, through alleyways and side streets, to catch artwork that drivers so often miss.

The We Are Watts monument located on 103rd street located between Compton Ave. and Graham was conceptualized and designed by the Watts Towers Arts Center Artists-In-Residence team. There are several works around the Watts Tower Arts Center, such as The Magic Wall and the Welcome to Watts sculpture.

Be sure to see the Watts Labor Community Action Center - an organization that works to improve the quality of life for the residents of Watts and neighboring communities. The main exhibit at the Center is the three-part Civil Rights Tour, featuring a scale model slave-hold as well as an array of photographs memorializing the Civil Rights Movement. It features the photographic collections Countdown to Eternity by Benedict Fernandez, The Panthers by Howard Bingham, a sixteen and a half foot bronze statue by Nigel Binns named The Mother of Humanity, and an exhibit named "Americana: The Hall of Shame."

Off the route, but not far, the California African-American Museum (always free of charge) stands out among a lot of public art and sculpture in the surrounding Exhibition Park.

Explore South Central, Florence-Firestone, and Watts with us at CicLAvia—South LA on Sunday, February 23, and discover your own gems!