When you think of California, your mind ultimately fixates on the big cities.
From the glitz and glam of Los Angeles to the eclectic and vibrant San Francisco, it's easy to see why.
But what about the smaller cities that litter the Golden State?
Sure, they might not have the same allure, but that doesn't mean they don't pack a punch.
Take Monterey Park, for example.
It might be a small city, but it still emanates the unique California charm that you can't help but admire.
Nestled in the San Gabriel Valley and only seven miles away from downtown Los Angeles, Monterey Park is a city with a ton of heart and plenty to see and do.
Here are the best things to do in Monterey Park, CA:
Visit the Vincent Price Art Museum
The Vincent Price Art Museum is a hidden gem in Monterey Park and an absolute must-visit.
Located inside the Ease Los Angeles College campus in Avenida Cesar Chavez, this art museum has operated since 1957.
Named after the late great actor Vincent Price, the art museum currently holds more than 9,000 pieces of art between seven galleries and 100 exhibits.
The museum also features rotating exhibitions that focus on contemporary and popular art—something different from your traditional museums.
Some notable pieces include Native American art and exciting works from Europe, Africa, and other places worldwide.
If you enjoy art, then visit the Vincent Price Art Museum.
The best part is you can enter for free.
Go Hiking at Edison Trails Park
Experience the great outdoors at Edison Trails Park.
Located on South Garfield Avenue, this 11-acre park is in the middle of Monterey Park, perfect for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Edison Trails Park is home to walking trails, tennis courts, a playground, and a fitness center.
It's perfect for an afternoon of exploring and getting some exercise.
Enjoy some fresh air as you hike through the 1.5-mile easy trail filled with natural greenery.
Other amenities within the parklands include a kids' playground, picnic areas, and several washrooms.
Visit the Garvey Ranch Observatory
The Garvey Ranch Observatory is a must-visit for anyone who loves stargazing and astronomy.
The Los Angeles Astronomical Society runs the Garvey Ranch Observatory, which is home to a telescope-production workshop and an eight-inch refractor.
The pioneer Richard Garvey donated his ranch to the City of Monterey Park with the stipulation that people use it for education and recreation.
Besides stargazing, you can also see many artifacts related to Monterey Park's history inside the Garvey Ranch Observatory.
The site is open to the public on certain evenings throughout the week for people who want to observe the night sky.
You can also join guided tours on certain days of the week.
Play Sports at Barnes Park
Situated right at the city's center, Barnes Park is a popular site to visit among locals and visitors.
Barnes Park is a vast public space that features amenities such as tennis courts, free-play areas, and an amphitheater.
There are also basketball courts, baseball fields, a playground, and several picnic areas.
Barnes Park is the perfect place to relax, unwind, play some sports, or socialize with the community.
Many local events and celebrations happen in the park throughout the year, so check the schedule before your visit.
Try Fine Chinese Cuisine at Happy Family Restaurant
Whether or not you've tasted Chinese cuisine before, try the dishes at Happy Family Restaurant while you're in Monterey Park.
Located on North Atlantic Boulevard, this restaurant specializes in plant-based Chinese dishes that are healthy and delicious.
The Happy Family Restaurant has served fantastic food for years, which locals and tourists love.
The menu features a wide variety of options, including soups, appetizers, seafood, noodles, rice meals, and vegan options.
Each meal uses high-quality and fresh ingredients, prepped by a professional staff.
Relax at the Harmony Spa of Monterey Park
Touring Monterey Park can be exhausting.
If you need a break from all the walking and exploring, then head over to Harmony Spa of Monterey Park.
Located on West Garvey Avenue, the Harmony Spa of Monterey is a full-service boutique spa that offers various relaxing and healing massages.
Try out their signature massage, combining Swedish, deep tissue, and Shiatsu techniques, or choose the traditional Thai massage.
The spa also offers facials, waxing, aromatherapy, and other beauty treatments.
Whatever you need to relax and unwind, the Harmony Spa of Monterey Park will relax and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.
Play a Round or Two at the Monterey Park Golf Club
California has excellent weather and landscape for golf, and the Monterey Park Golf Club is the perfect place to play a round or two.
The Monterey Park Golf Club is a true gem in the Southern California golf scene.
The beautifully landscaped and well-maintained course offers players a challenging but enjoyable game.
Whether you're a beginner or an experienced veteran, there's something for everyone at the Monterey Park Golf Club.
If you don't have much time, the golf course offers a short nine-hole course to satisfy your urge to play.
The Monterey Park Golf Club also has an on-site cafe offering quality coffee, snacks, and a variety of dishes like hot wings, burgers, fries, and more.
There's also a scenic patio overlooking the golf course, perfect for enjoying a meal or drink after your game.
Dine at the Luminarias Mexican Restaurant
If you're looking to dine while basking in the beautiful views of Monterey Park, Luminarias Mexican Restaurant is the perfect place for you.
This modern Mexican restaurant is on top of a hill overlooking the entire city.
The Luminarias Mexican Restaurant is a one-of-a-kind eatery well-known for its beautiful surroundings and exquisite Latin and Mexican fusion menu.
Their menu features both classic and contemporary dishes that will tantalize your taste buds.
On top of that, you'll also see the stunning views of the city and the entire San Gabriel Valley.
The Luminarias Mexican Restaurant serves quality drinks like champagne, cocktail, and wine.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Watch a Show at the Historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse
If you're into the theater, catch a live production at the Historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse.
Situated in nearby San Gabriel—a short ten-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park—the playhouse is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Built in 1927, the theater was modeled after a 17th-century Spanish Mission, giving it a unique and historic charm.
Today, the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse functions as an entertainment venue and an outreach organization for artists and enthusiasts.
The playhouse is home to various live productions throughout the year, including musicals, ballets, operas, symphonies, dance performances, Broadway classics, mariachi, and more.
The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse also showcases kid-friendly shows and silent movie nights from time to time.
Visit the Vincent Lugo Park
Since you're in San Gabriel, stop by the famous Vincent Lugo Park, the largest park in the area.
Located at the corner of Wells and Ramona streets, the park spans 25 acres and is perfect for a leisurely afternoon picnic.
Vincent Lugo Park is also great for families, as it features a playground and a wide area for fun and games.
The park also has an exercise course, perfect for getting your blood flowing or working up a sweat.
However, the most iconic feature of this historic park is the La Laguna de San Gabriel, also known as Dinosaur Park.
Named as one of America's nine coolest playgrounds, the Dinosaur Park is perfect for kids (and kids at heart).
The playground features a massive tyrannosaurus rex, an apatosaurus, a stegosaurus, and several other dinosaurs.
But if you prefer picnics, head over to the nearby picnic area featuring ten tables and a barbecue.
Visit the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Located on Oxford Road in San Marino—a 16-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park—the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Southern California.
The art collector Henry Huntington previously owned the 600-acre ranch, filled with artistic and natural wonder.
The Huntington is a research library that houses a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and other materials that will introduce you to the area's history.
There's also a peaceful, 120-acre botanical garden perfect for a leisurely walk.
The place also has three on-site art galleries that showcase works by American and French artists.
Some of these pieces even date back to the late 1600s.
Whether you're looking to learn about the area's history, enjoy a scenic walk, or admire some beautiful artwork, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens are worth a visit.
Enjoy the Peaceful Wilderness at the Beaudry Loop
Located in the Beaudry Terrace in Glendale—a 28-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park—the Beaudry Loop is the perfect hiking trail for those who prefer longer hikes.
The Beaudry Loop features a breathtaking landscape that overlooks the Los Angeles Basin.
This six-mile trail starts in Glendale and travels in a loop.
The trails are relatively easy the majority of the way.
You will come across stunning views of both the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles.
The Beaudry Loop is perfect for day hikes as you can see the beautiful view and feel the energy of the great outdoors.
Visit the Ramona Museum of California History
Located on South Mission Drive in San Gabriel—a short nine-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park—the Ramona Museum of California History is an iconic and well-known museum in the entire state.
This museum is unique as it showcases only items of significant importance to the long and rich history of the Golden State.
Browsing each exhibit, you'll see items such as 1800s clothing and grooming products.
You'll also find interesting artifacts related to significant events, such as the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Photos, documents, and other mementos help provide context and background information for each exhibit.
The Ramona Museum of California History is a great place to visit to get a real sense of what life was like in California.
Have Fun at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
Located on South Santa Anita Avenue in South El Monte—a 13-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park—the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is the prime destination for families looking for a fun and exciting time.
This place is the ultimate recreation area, spanning 1,492 acres and filled with various outdoor activities for everyone.
The Whittier Narrows Recreation Area features a military museum, shooting ranges, a horse center, an urban farm, a disc golf course, a tennis court, and a basketball court.
There are also lakes for fishing, tracks for BMX bikers, horseshoe pits, fitness par courses, fitness zones, hiking trails, picnic areas, public restrooms, and more!
These are only a few of the things you can do at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area.
See the LA Lakers at Crypto.com Arena
Complete your Monterey Park visit by catching a Lakers game at the Crypto.com Arena, formerly known as the Staples Center.
This world-renowned arena is on South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles, a 15-minute drive from downtown Monterey Park.
As the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Crypto.com Arena is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of California.
It is a great place to watch a basketball game, but the arena also hosts other shows like concerts, movies, live performances, and more.
So, if you're a sports fan or just looking for a fun time, check out the Crypto.com Arena.
Due to its proximity to LA and other vital areas, Monterey Park is a prime vacation destination with many fun activities and trips inside and out of the city.
From fine dining with a view to fun-filled parks, museums, and an action-packed arena, there's something for everyone in Monterey Park.
So, what are you waiting for?
Start planning your Monterey Park trip today!