When people hear Los Angeles, they picture things like the rich and famous strutting down famous boulevards and paparazzi swarming restaurants.
There’s so much more to the city, though, within and beyond it’s borders. The greater Los Angeles area extends for miles, bringing many, smaller cities into its embrace. One such city is Commerce, California.
The origin of Commerce began in ranch land owned by Spaniard Antonio Maria Lugo in the 1800s. Near the end of the century, the future city began to industrialize.
The railway came to town in 1887 and the factories in the 1920s. A further push for industrialization in the 1940s inspired the future city’s name: Commerce.
The city was home to a large Chrysler assembly plant for forty years before it closed. Commerce wasn’t incorporated as its own city until 1960. It survived the further, widespread deindustrialization of the ‘70s and ‘80s
Where is Commerce, California?
Commerce is a city tucked into the sprawling megalopolis of Los Angeles. It’s bordered by East Los Angeles, but is a city in its own right, rather than a neighborhood of the greater LA. From Commerce, it’s about 15 to 20 minutes to get into the heart of LA – Chinatown or Skid Row – by car.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is 30 minutes away and Beverley Hills is 45. The nearest station on the LA Metro is Atlantic on the L line, located on East 3rd Street in northern East Los Angeles.
As of the 2020 census, Commerce is home to 12,378 residents, a number it has maintained for over 30 years.
So close to the city center, Commerce is in Los Angeles County itself – the most populous country in the whole USA, despite Commerce’s own small population.
What is Commerce famous for?
Every town needs to be known for something and Commerce’s history isn’t particularly glamorous as it contains one dubious story.
The “Sleepy Lagoon murder” was the name given by the newspapers to a police case in which a man named José Gallardo Díaz was found severely injured next to Sleepy Lagoon, a swimming spot along the Los Angeles River.
He died shortly after being discovered and his murder has never been solved. The repercussions were huge, though, as the LAPD arrested 17 Mexican Americans without solid evidence, 12 of whom were sentenced to San Quentin Prison.
The convictions were overturned two years later, but the original miscarriage of justice was echoed in the ensuing Zoot Suit Riots, the race riots of 1943. A movie made in 1981 named Zoot Suit loosely based itself around the trial.
Happily, there haven’t been any notable or macabre-inspiring incidents since.
Things to do in Commerce, California:
Shop ’til you drop at the Citadel Outlets. You can leave the shocking price tags of Rodeo Drive behind and still shop all of your favorite brands at outlet prices in the center of the city.
The outlets are home to over 130 brands, nestled right below Downtown. They have five star amenities beyond their luxury brand names, including center-wide free WiFi, free bag check, and even mobile charging stations.
If you really want to spoil yourself, have a break from all the shopping in their VIP Lounge where they serve glasses of champagne.
The Commerce Casino is a hotel, dining, and casino luxury experience. It boasts the most amount of table games in Southern California. Ante up for Texas Hold ‘Em, 7 Card Stud, Pai Gow Tiles, Omaha Hi/Low, and more.
They also have lots of California Games to choose from as well. Alongside betting and regular poker tournaments, The Commerce also hosts live fight nights.
Make it a full experience by staying in one of their majestic hotel rooms, book a treatment at the spa, and dine in one of their restaurants.
The Bicycle Hotel & Casino
An alternative to The Commerce, the Bicycle Hotel and Casino is another betting house that also has real table games, offering both poker and California Games.
They also host regular tournaments in different poker variations. What sets The Bicycle apart is that they have their own in-house brewery, The Bike Brewery, serving food and drink 24 hours a day.
Though perhaps in the morning you’d prefer to stop at their in-house Starbucks, first. Can’t decide between the two casinos? Have a go at both – you never know when you’ll win big!
In the heart of East Los Angeles and in the north end of Commerce, Salazar Park is a community hub that has a variety of amenities for visitors of all ages.
For the sports-minded, there are tennis and basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, a swimming pool, and sports classes, including swimming, cheerleading, and martial arts.
For anyone looking to just sit back and enjoy the day, you can stroll around the park and bring a picnic lunch. Admire the many murals painted inside and out in this municipal space.
Big Al’s Pizzeria
Everybody has a favorite pizzeria they can always rely on, and if you haven’t tried Big Al’s yet, you’re about to change your mind. Big Al’s Pizzeria has been twice rated in the top 100 restaurants in the entire country on Yelp. Twice
It’s home to the half-and-half pizza, an excellent option for two people who can’t compromise, or one very hungry person who can’t make decisions.
The also serve wings which come with the option of seven different homemade sauces or try their smoked beef brisket sub. Finish off with one of the desserts from Cinamom’s Goodies, including their Oreo crème baklava.
Steven’s Steak & Seafood House
For a more refine meal, look to Steven’s Steak & Seafood House. A Commerce institution, it’s been open for 70 years, serving the community since 1952.
The bulk of their menu is protein: indulge in a dry aged porterhouse steak, prime rib, Australian lobster tail, or a surf and turf trio: beef, chicken breast, and shrimp scampi.
All plates come with a soup or salad and pasta made in house. They also have a list of fire-baked pizzas made in their own pizza oven.
When you’re done eating (or maybe before), enjoy one of their outdoor concert series with live music or attend a salsa class, hosted on site!
Angry Horse Brewing
Down the road in Montebello is Angry Horse Brewing. They’ve been making and serving craft beer since 2016.
They brew every flavor imaginable from your usual IPA down to Belgian golden ales, saisons, and Russian imperial stouts.
Head down to the brewery with everyone – Angry Horse is both child and dog friendly. While they don’t have a kitchen, they do often have food trucks or pop-up vendors serving tasty local treats.
If you don’t have time to stop in for a cold one, you can order cans or crowlers for click-and-collect.
Vincent Price Art Museum
On the campus of East Los Angeles College (ELAC), the Vincent Price Art Museum is a non-profit art and culture organization open to the general public, partnered with the Latinx Arts Alliance.
Back in the ‘50s, famous actor Vincent Price was a regular visitor to ELAC, meeting with faculty and students and giving commencement speeches.
Noting the college’s then-lack of art experiences available to students, he donated 90 pieces from his own personal collection.
Since, the teaching art collection has grown to include over 9,000 pieces and has hosted more than 100 live shows. Admission is free.
The Vineland Drive-In theatre is a way to travel back in time and to the movie theatre without leaving the comfort and safety of your own car.
The theatre plays movies every night and is cheaper than going to your local, modern IMAX theatre. Children under 5 can go for free.
You’re not sacrificing choice, either, as Vineland plays all the new and recent releases. Tune in to the movie’s sound on FM radio and chow down on snacks from their concession stand. Just don’t get popcorn all over the car!
Churros Don Abel
A usual way to get your sweet fix is to visit the local ice cream shop, but Commerce has an even better option. Churros Don Abel is a well-known food truck serving up absolutely mouth-watering churros, fried to order.
Choosing what to get is simple: order either 10, 20, or 30 churros and get them plain or covered in sauce.
You have the choice between cajeta-fresa, a type of caramel drizzle, or lechera, a creamy, milk-based sauce.
They’re open 11 to 11, so you can go for an early treat or a late-night snack.
Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
On the far side of Montebello is the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a sprawling 1,492 acre park and one of the largest recreation areas in LA county.
It is split by the Pomona Freeway, replete with hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and several lakes. On the water, you can go out on paddle, pedal, or motorized boats.
There’s also BMX tracks, shooting ranges, and tram tours. Right across the street and part of Whittier is the American Military Museum, for a break from the sun and some interesting exhibits.
There’s a vehicle fee only on the weekends, so it’s free to visit in the week.
Monterey Park Golf Club
Enjoy the outdoors while working on your swing. The Monterey Park Golf Club is home to a 9-hole public golf course. No membership to worry about – just book a tee time and bring your clubs.
Youths can also refine their skills thanks to their Golf School which offers programs at each grade level for junior golfers.
On the course, the advanced auto-tee system at Monterey Park means you don’t have to lug a bucket of balls around with you through the course, making it all the more relaxing once you finish your round of golf and cool off at the cafe and patio lounge.