Last weekend, on a day that was not so fun, I found one silver lining in the middle of life’s metaphorical hurricane. My trip required a drive on California State Route 110, also known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
One of my very first freeway driving experiences was on 110 from South Pasadena to Los Angeles. The narrowness of this winding stretch of ancient roadway was downright petrifying to a new driver, but by the grace of God, my parents and I survived. Now after many years of driving experience, I find this drive rather fun, and wonderfully scenic as the scenery transforms from wooded suburbs of South Pasadena to the rolling hills around Chavez Ravine to the bright lights of Downtown Los Angeles. Continue further south down Interstate 110 and you eventually hit the San Pedro and Terminal Island port areas.
The California 110 stretch between Pasadena and LA is credited as being California’s first freeway, and the oldest in the United States. The first segment, a small stretch from the its current northern terminus at Glenarm Street to Fair Oaks Avenue opened on December 10, 1938. More segments were added to the initial construction, with most of the 8-mile stretch of what is called Arroyo Seco Parkway opening by December 1940. Considered a wonder of engineering at the time, it was built to accommodate the fast growing number of automobiles and provide a more direct route from Pasadena to Los Angeles. It was originally designed to transport about 27000 vehicles per day on its six lanes. Today, this Depression-era build is sorely outdated, as it now services a daily estimated 122,000 vehicles going well above the intended 45 mile per hour speed limit on its terrifyingly narrow lanes. Nevertheless, this historic highway is one worth driving both for its historic value, as well as the exciting stops that can be experiences along the Parkway, as well as the Interstate 110 extension through Los Angeles to the port cities.
I will be driving down memory lane in this post, as most of the photos were taken pre-Covid. Sadly, at time of writing, some of the places highlighted here are indeed closed due to the ongoing pandemic, including Dodger Stadium. However, a pandemic can’t stop the Dodgers from making it to the World Series, so here’s wishing them luck as they take on Tampa Bay in their quest for the title.
UPDATE: Make that the 2020 World Series Champions Los Angeles Dodgers. After an exciting game 6 on October 27, they won the championship for the first time since 1988. Congratulations to the Boys in Blue! Sincerely, a Cubs fan.
Tucked in an area of Los Angeles known as Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the third oldest major league ballpark in the United States, behind Fenway in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Construction started in 1959 following the Brooklyn Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles in 1958. The first game played at the newly constructed stadium was in 1962 against the Cincinnati Reds. The stadium boasts a capacity of 56000 cheering fans and unbeatable views of the San Gabriel Mountains and clear Southern California skies. For our family, including this Cubs fan, Dodger Stadium is an electrical place where many memories are made.
We’ve celebrated many occasions, such as birthdays, Father’s Day, and Independence Day, at Dodger Stadium. Many a date or family fun night has taken place there, and we’ve even had school fundraiser nights where we cheered for the Dodgers while raising money for Science Camp. Just one of the many benefits of living in the Greater Los Angeles area. And we can’t forget the food. Dodger Stadium is famous for their Dodger Dogs, a 10-inch Farmer John pork hot dog wrapped in a steamed bun. There are also many other ballpark delicacies that can be enjoyed, such as garlic fries, carnitas fries, and nachos, preferably served from a helmet and topped with plenty of jalapenos. On one of our last trips, we enjoyed a churro sundae in a helmet, along with an order of deep-fried Oreo cookies. I had a bit of a tummy ache after, but it was worth it. Especially since that particular game involved some pretty dismal playing by the Dodgers.
Downtown Los Angeles and Staples Center
I typically hate driving through downtown, usually because the traffic sucks legendarily and it involves something mundane like jury duty, however there are a few points of interest that I would totally recommend braving the traffic for.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is one such venue. Located on Grand Avenue, this architectural work of art by Frank Gehry opened in 2003 and has since become an LA icon. It is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the L.A. Master Chorale. Emily and I were fortunate to be able to visit the Disney Concert Hall as part of a school field trip for her orchestra class. The students were able to watch an actual rehearsal by the LA Philharmonic, and were treated to a number of their current season’s concert pieces. The acoustics within the hall were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and the building itself was stunning inside and out. Once things open up, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a must do for any music lover.
On the other side of the freeway is Staples Center and L.A. Live. Staples center is home to the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, Los Angeles Sparks, Los Angeles Clippers, and the current NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Being the entertainment center of the world, as it boasts, Staples Center has also hosted many a concert and other special events. I’ve seen a few games played at Staples, but my son loves cheering his Clippers on at their games. This has been a birthday treat for him the past several years.
Exposition Park is one of my favorite weekend excursions. It’s home to several museums of scientific and cultural importance, with the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum being a must see. The Natural History Museum is the largest natural history museum in the Western United States, and contains 35 million specimens in their displays and research archives, spanning 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history. The main building, with its traditional rotunda and marble walls was opened in 1913. Additional areas were built as time went on. The kids particularly love the Dinosaur Hall, which opened in 2011, and the Nature Lab on the bottom floor and the adjoining Nature Gardens, which opened in 2013.
Also within Exposition Park is the California Science Center, a hands-on science museum great for kids and adults alike. From space and physics to oceanography and medical science, there’s so much to see and learn just in the regular exhibits. In addition, the Science Center also typically has special exhibits to check out. Last year I took the girls to see Dogs! A Science Tail, a temporary exhibition that opened in March 2019. They absolutely loved it, along with the IMAX movie, “Superpower Dogs” narrated by Chris Evans, aka Captain America. Another amazing exhibit, one of national and historical significance, is the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Retired after it’s last orbital flight in 2011, Endeavour is now housed at the California Science Center. This piece of American space exploration history is a sight to behold up close, and is an easy drive down 110, exit Exposition Boulevard.
The park itself is lovely for walks, and there’s a beautiful county-owned rose garden that’s been featured in several television shows, such as “Bones” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And if you plan your weekend poorly, you might even get to catch a bit of a USC game at the historic LA Coliseum, right across from the Natural History Museum. We once went on a weekend when they were playing, which created a parking nightmare and to make the day even worse, they won.
Here’s to a time when weekend plans were many, and there were endless options for family fun down the 110 Freeway. Life in California will eventually open up once again, and when it does, there will be many opportunities to really explore Pasadena, Los Angeles, and the cities around the 110 corridor. For now though, the drive itself is a fun trek. The Arroyo Seco Parkway portion of California 110 is a National Scenic Byway, National Civil Engineering Landmark, State Scenic Highway, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. For this cranky camper, it is a connector from life in the Pasadena area to fun and adventure.
To plan your trek, and for current Covid 19 information, please visit the venue sites:
Dodger Stadium: http://www.mlb.com/dodgers/ballpark/information/guide
Staples Center: check out your favorite sports team website
Natural History Museum: nhm.org
California Science Center: californiasciencecenter.org/
National Scenic Byways, from http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/arroyo_seco_parkway.html
Librarian, M. (2013, March 21). Arroyo Seco Parkway At 70: The Unusual History Of The “Pasadena Freeway,” California Cycleway & Rare Traffic Plan Images. Retrieved from https://metroprimaryresources.info/arroyo-seco-parkway-at-70-the-unusual-history-of-the-pasadena-freeway-california-cycleway-rare-traffic-plan-images/852/