Scenic Drive in California: Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway


Sam and Dave Merrill

While there's much to appreciate on the drive along the parkway itself, much of the richness of the Arroyo Seco culture is to be found among the historic houses, museums, and outdoor recreational areas found just beyond its exits.

: The parkway's southern end is in downtown Los Angeles. Before starting your drive, take time to explore El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, where the city was born in 1781. Among the more than two dozen historic adobes and other structures is the oldest surviving house in L.A. Don't miss Olvera Street, a festive pedestrian-only Hispanic marketplace and dining area. Nearby is Chinatown, another fascinating ethnic neighborhood to explore.

Elysian Park: Now follow the parkway north, soon passing Dodger Stadium (home of the L.A. Dodgers baseball team) located near 600-acre Elysian Park, the oldest public park in L.A., filled with hiking trails, scenic vistas, and picnic grounds.

Los Angeles River Center and Gardens: A bit farther north is the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, situated at the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco. Along with landscaped courtyards and river gardens, there's a bicycle "staging area" where cyclists can handle vehicle maintenance and rest or picnic along several area bike routes.

: Just beyond is the Lummis House and Garden State Historical Monument (El Alisal). This was the residence of Charles Lummis, father of the Arroyo Seco cultural movement of the early 20th century. Built of arroyo rock, the home includes original furnishings and native gardens.

Highland Park Historic District: Prominently visible from the parkway is the Southwest Museum, L.A.'s first museum (dating from 1907), perched in the hills above the arroyo. It's a treasure trove of Native American artifacts, collected by Charles Lummis throughout the Southwest. It's located in the Highland Park Historic District, which is rich in early 20th-century Craftsman-style architecture.

Pasadena: When reaching Pasadena, you'll have your choice of several outstanding attractions to tour. Old Town Pasadena, the historic core of the city, is located on Colorado Boulevard between Pasadena Avenue and the Arroyo Parkway. The Gamble House on Westmoreland Place is a landmark example of the Craftsman architectural style and is open for tours.

Among Pasadena's premier museums are the Norton Simon Museum of Art, the Pacific Asia Museum, and, in adjacent San Marino, the Huntington Museum and Gardens, a repository of invaluable artworks, manuscripts, and exotic flora from around the world. Pasadena is also the site of the Rose Bowl, home of UCLA Bruins football and of the annual New Year's Day Rose Bowl game.

Who knew the West's first freeway had so much to offer? Enjoy the drive along the Arroyo Seco, and learn a bit about the Arts and Crafts era while you're at it.