Adjacent to the city of Whittier (the town named for the great 19th-century poet, John Greenleaf Whittier), South Whittier is a peaceful suburb with strong connections to its noisier neighbor.
An hour away from central LA, the area has a peaceful laid-back suburban vibe and contains a lovely greenbelt of parks. South Whittier is well-known for its many hiking trails, as well as its excellent athletic facilities.
Perhaps the best thing to do here is to get some exercise and relax in the fresh air. When you’re done, be sure to check out the nearby museums and galleries in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs.
Here are the 13 best things to do in and around South Whittier.
1. Get a Pizza at Pizzamania
Every district of LA has its local foodie pilgrimage-spot and Pizzamania is South Whittier’s. Serving the community with top quality pizzas for over 30 years, this joint is known for exceptional food, as well as a great atmosphere. People regularly travel from outside South Whittier just to eat here.
With an all-American pizza parlor with screens for sports and arcade games for the kids, you can easily while away a whole afternoon here between slices of excellent pizza.
Check out the beer selection at the attached bar and chow down on South Whittier’s finest.
2. Visit Whittier Art Gallery
This Art Gallery is just North of Whittier Boulevard in neighboring Whittier. An unassuming little art space, it opened its doors during the Great Depression and has retained a brilliant historical archive documenting one of America’s most difficult eras.
Many energetic up-and-coming artists exhibit their work here. From photography to sculpture to some experimental ceramics, many mediums are on display. Don’t let its local unpretentious atmosphere fool you, it has exhibited many internationally renowned artists.
3. Relax at the Fejjab Spa
This spa and treatment center is host to every manner of modern relaxation treatment you’ve never heard of.
This tranquil site of luxury will soothe you after an exhausting day of activity in the California sunshine. Get a consultation and leave the parlor as soft and hairless as a newborn babe. Their excellent little shop stocks many products to keep you that way long after you leave.
If you’re traveling with a partner, book in for a couple’s massage and spend some luxurious time together.
4. Check Out the Stained Glass at South Whittier Catholic Church
A hidden gem in the center of South Whittier, the local Catholic Church is an important part of the community and has some spectacular stained glass. If you are strolling around the neighborhood, pop your head in to have a look at this local beauty.
With glass that combines the aesthetic of both traditional medieval-style depictions of the saints, and a Piet Mondrian-esque modern art aesthetic, these colorful windows are a real treat.
5. Santa Fe Hathaway Ranch Museum
Five minutes east of South Whittier you’ll discover the Sante Fe Hathaway Ranch Museum. This ranch is one of those oddball museums which showcases one of the more obscure corners of history. Oil-drilling, ranching, and farming equipment are all on display here for anyone interested in how the land was once used.
Many interesting antiques and blown out old cars are scattered haphazardly across the site. The rusting old oil towers are particularly cool and give the park a sort of apocalyptic feel.
It’s free to visit and makes for an interesting afternoon stroll.
6. Hike Turnbull Canyon in the Puente Hills Preserve
The Puente Hills, or Whittier Hills as they are known locally, are the foothills of the spectacular San Gabriel Mountain range. Providing some gentler trails than elsewhere around LA, Turnbull Canyon is a local favorite.
Turnbull is the subject of many local legends and was once forbidden land for Native Americans. It was known as “the dark place” in the local lingo. Many modern legends have also arisen about the area and the site was supposedly subject to spooky occult activity in the 1930s. Interrogate a local to find out more.
If you don’t scare easily (or even if you do) the gentle slopes of this lovely canyon don’t seem so spooky in the Californian sunshine, and the hills are bursting with poppies and lupins in the spring.
7. Pio Pico State Historical Park
Pio Pico Park, 10 minutes north of South Whittier was once the mansion of the Mexican governor.
Set in five acres of historic grounds and awash with fruit trees and local birds, the park and buildings are idyllic. Its onetime owner, the fantastically wealthy Pio Pico, was a firebrand Mexican politician known for his controversial politics in the 19th-century.
The museum gives you an overview of the life of this politician, the last Mexican governor of California. It also details the Mexican-American war and the many important events which occurred in the surrounding area.
8. Go Antiquing at King Richard’s Antique Center
Cross over from South Whittier into Whittier and you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of bizarre items and luxury goods. King Richard’s Antiques is one of those rare shops you’ll want to browse even if you have no intention of buying anything.
This store is enormous and stocks everything, from 20th-century posters to antique Chinese Porcelain. Beautiful pre-owned jewelry is one of the highlights of this megastore.
Spend too long in this cave of wonders and you’re in danger of somehow walking out with a vase or an antique typewriter, but that’s all part of the fun.
9. Keep Fit at South Whittier Adventure Park
In the center of South Whittier, the local adventure park is a fun way to get fit and relax amongst the locals. Baseball fans won’t want to miss the park’s great sports area which has strong modern facilities and buzzes on the weekend.
Many local arts groups, as well as fitness fanatics, run educational programs here so the area is almost always busy.
With an excellent jungle gym for kids, it has convenient amenities and plenty of ways to keep fit.
Try the track and outdoor exercise stations for a bit of a workout, and in hot weather go for a run through the cooling jets in the water park area.
10. Hike to Hsi Lai Temple
Above South Whittier, in Hacienda Heights, a Taiwanese Buddhist temple commands awesome views of the LA area.
The temple’s name means “coming to the West” and the Venerable Master Hsing Yun set it up in the 1960s to spread Buddhist ideas. The temple is a working monastery which aims to inform and educate the local population. It runs some great classes on Buddhist teachings and meditation if that’s your sort of thing.
Even if you’re not religiously inclined, it’s worth the hike to see the fantastic pagoda-roofed multiple-building complex, one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the western world.
11. Walk the Whittier Greenway Trail
South Whittier’s famous Greenway Trail takes you 16.6 km up into Whittier City and beyond.
Rollerblade, bike, run or walk this leafy and pleasant trail which follows what was once the Western Pacific Railroad. If you don’t fancy walking the whole way, there are gym equipment stops along the trail, as well as shaded areas to relax in.
It gets pretty busy here on the weekends, but it’s a great workout and the old trees that line the trail are truly lovely. Stop for a cool drink in Whittier town when you are done (and maybe get a taxi back).
12. Get in Some Rounds at the Candlewood Country Club
In the heart of South Whittier, Candlewood club offers residents hot meals, cold drinks, and acres of rolling green. This classy golf club was founded in the 1920s and has calm community air.
With a great restaurant and bar adjoining the lovely grounds, a trip here is bound to make you feel a bit fancy. Its 18-hole golf course is well maintained by a team of friendly staff and is shaded to protect you from the burning midday sun.
The club is popular, and non-members may struggle to book a time to play here, so make sure you plan in advance. There is also a strict dress code which you’ll need to adhere to.
13. Visit the Skyrose Chapel and its Surrounds
Ten minutes from South Whittier in Whittier City, is the much-lauded architectural landmark, Skyrose Chapel. This ultra-modern church was designed by architects E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings, who have received great praise and attention.
The building’s great height and forest of beams are supposed to invoke feelings of the infinite. Although it is a modern build, it is composed primarily of natural materials, like wood, stone, and glass. Its simple grandeur is best experienced at dawn and dusk when the sun hits its large glass front, lighting up the interior.
The adjoining Rose Hill Memorial Cemetery is also worth a look. Many people come here to find the graves of notable famous people and the attached chapels and mausoleums are all architecturally significant builds from different 20th-century art movements.