Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in San Gabriel, CA

  • Published 2023/01/05

Known as the “Birthplace of the Los Angeles Region,” San Gabriel has a rich history, diverse community, and vibrant arts and culture scene worth checking out when exploring the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, California.

The city owes its reputation to the establishment of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1771, the fourth of the 21 California Missions that laid the foundation for the development and growth of Southern California.

History buffs will find plenty of old buildings with a storied past in the Mission District of San Gabriel, and there’s the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse for arts and culture enthusiasts.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, there are scenic parks with recreational amenities.

San Gabriel also boasts an outstanding restaurant culture plus remarkable shopping destinations.

Read more about the best things to do in San Gabriel, California!

Tour the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Exterior of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Angel DiBilio /

A trip to San Gabriel is not complete without visiting the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, the “Pride of the California Missions” for its thriving agriculture industry.

This California Historic Landmark on South Mission Drive features a bell tower and outside stairway that’s distinct from the other Missions, and it’s designed in the Spanish-Moorish style of architecture.

Constructed with stone, brick, and mortar, it has withstood the test of time and continues to serve as a Roman Catholic parish and museum today.

Church bells of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Nagel Photography /

Walk through the compound of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and dive deep into its past and significance in California.

Browse exhibits displaying relics, documents, and religious artifacts, and have a closer look at an assortment of tools that people used during the Mission days.

The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel includes a mission cemetery, indoor and outdoor kitchens, a gift shop, and a garden.

Facade of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Stephanie Le /

Indulge Your Cravings at Newport Seafood

Established in 1988, Newport Seafood is an excellent option if you’re dining with family and friends since it serves food in large portions.

This family-run Chinese restaurant showcases many flavors and cooking styles inspired by Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisines.

The founders sold its original location in Orange County and moved to Los Angeles County, opening a new site in San Gabriel in 1996 and another in Rowland Heights three years later.

Don’t miss the culinary experience Newport Seafood offers on West Las Tunas Drive, which heaped positive reviews from media publications, television channels, and other online platforms.

Dig into its many mouthwatering signature dishes, including the ever-popular Newport Special Lobster, Newport Style Elephant Clam, French Beef, and Clams with Basil Sauce.

You can find the restaurant on Las Tunas Drive.

Savor Chinese Cuisine at MIAN

MIAN is a top-notch restaurant with four locations across Southern California, famed for its authentic Sichuan-style noodles and traditional dishes.

It’s a creation of esteemed chef Tony Xu, who’s also behind the outstanding Chengdu Taste established in 2013 in the San Gabriel Valley.

The first MIAN opened in 2016 and received a Michelin Bib Gourmand, which shows how excellent and satisfying the dining experience here is.

Take a journey to China’s Sichuan Province as you savor the “bold, pungent, and spicy flavors” in MIAN’s menu items.

Don’t worry if you have a low tolerance for spicy food; the restaurant offers different spiciness levels for its savory noodle recipes.

MIAN is located on West Valley Boulevard.

Take Photos of the San Gabriel City Hall

Exterior of San Gabriel City Hall

Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another historic building to see in the Mission District is a Spanish Revival building that houses the city’s administrative offices.

Walter P. Temple donated the site of the present San Gabriel City Hall to the city in 1922, and the building’s construction was completed a year later.

The family of Temple has significant contributions to the region’s history and growth, like the founding of Temple City.

Drop by and snap pictures of the San Gabriel City Hall as you observe the distinct features of this charming building on South Mission Drive.

For more sightseeing, check out the 1922 Arcade Building nearby, which currently shelters various retailers and businesses, and the former Bank of San Gabriel built in 1915 across Santa Anita Street, which houses Lunas Mexican Restaurant.

Step Back in Time at the Ramona Museum of California History

In the past, hundreds of parlors were organized in California, and one of those was the Ramona Parlor #109, gathered in the San Gabriel Grapevine Room on Mission Drive.

Today, it’s the only parlor that oversees its own California history museum.

The Ramona Museum of California History stands across the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse on South Mission Drive.

Have a closer look at the displayed memorabilia, photos, tools, and other artifacts to gather more interesting facts about the early days of the Golden State; most of the items were donated by members dating back to 1887.

The Ramona Museum of California History also hosts events like historical outings, tournaments, and fund-walking.

Catch a Performance at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Exterior of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Angel DiBilio /

The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is the city’s hub for arts and culture, where many excellent performing arts groups deliver various experiences for audiences.

John Steven McGroarty built this facility in 1927 for his iconic “Mission Play” about the California missions founded by the Franciscan Fathers.

The exterior of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse was patterned after his favorite mission, the San Antonio de Padua in Monterey County.

Head to the courtyard and view the replicas of all the Missions installed on the theater’s north side.

Entrance door of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Kit Leong /

Inside, stand in awe of the majestic, hand-carved ceiling and lantern-like chandeliers that light up the theater.

The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse combines Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences in its interior design.

Lastly, be entertained by musical, theater, or dance performances on stage!

See this majestic and historic facility on South Mission Drive.

Water fountain in front of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Angel DiBilio /

Taste Vietnamese Cuisine at Golden Deli

Golden Deli is a restaurant serving authentic home-style Vietnamese food in San Gabriel Valley since 1981.

Starting as a Chinese fast food buffet, it nearly closed down after a few years due to a lack of profit until it shifted to Vietnamese cuisine.

Golden Deli has been featured in magazines and made it to lists of best and essential restaurants in Los Angeles.

Among its menu highlights is the pho, a Vietnamese dish with rice noodles made tasty with beef or chicken broth.

Savor the rich, smooth flavor of the pho cooked slowly in large industrial pots.

You can also order rice and grilled meat plates, banh mi sandwiches, beef stew, and Vietnamese spring rolls.

Enjoy a feast at Golden Deli located on West Las Tunas Drive!

Hang Out at Blossom Market Hall

Blossom Market Hall opened in December 2021, providing a new place where people can chill, socialize, and dine.

It houses more than 10 diverse food vendors in a former 1949 Masonic Lodge in Mission District along South Mission Drive.

Meet several local chefs and have your fill of their delectable food.

Catch live entertainment on stage at the food hall or unwind at the Wi-Fi lounge.

Drop by the art gallery on the second floor and appreciate the talent of local artists featured in the current exhibit.

Shop and Dine at San Gabriel Square

Night scene at San Gabriel Square

Kit Leong /

San Gabriel Square is the commercial center of the Asian community in Southern California.

Browse different retail shops, jewelers, and specialty gift stores at this 12-acre, 220,000-square-foot outdoor shopping area.

Fill your shopping bags with Asian goods at the Ranch 99 Supermarket.

Signage of San Gabriel Square

Kit Leong /

Discover unique flavors from different regions of China in the number of restaurants you’ll find at the square.

Score great deals and meet new faces at San Gabriel Square on West Valley Boulevard, along the city’s Golden Mile District.

Shops at San Gabriel Square

Kit Leong /

Inspire Your Green Thumb at the San Gabriel Nursery & Florist

As one of Southern California’s largest and most complete garden centers, the San Gabriel Nursery & Florist is a haven for master gardeners and gardening enthusiasts along South San Gabriel Boulevard.

Fred and Mitoko Yoshimura founded the nursery in 1923 as Mission Nursery, and since then, it has been family-owned and operated.

Enjoy a leisure walk at the San Gabriel Nursery & Florist, where many plants and flowers flourish.

Take photos of the beautiful, fresh flowers and spot rare and “hard-to-find” plants.

You may also discover plants and flowers you can grow in your garden from the two-acre retail nursery and find other gardening needs at the supply center.

Learn more tips and get recommendations from the knowledgeable, friendly staff of the San Gabriel Nursery & Florist.

Searching for a gift for someone special?

There’s also a gift shop and a full-service florist with in-house designers offering plenty of pretty floral bouquets, plus orchids and indoor plant baskets.

See a Sculptural Playground at Vincent Lugo Park

Whale sculpture at Vincent Lugo Park

Einbierbitte, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Dominguez is an artist from Mexico known for his many impressive concrete sculptures, especially his works on imaginative children’s playgrounds.

In San Gabriel, you can see his final masterpiece at Vincent Lugo Park, a must-visit site, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Dominguez created the La Laguna de San Gabriel in 1965, featuring 14 oversized cement sea creatures with unusual shapes and looks.

Represented in the gigantic play sculptures are the several signature elements Dominguez has developed during his stellar career.

Dragon sculpture at Vincent Lugo Park

Einbierbitte, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2009, the La Laguna de San Gabriel was included in the California Register of Historic Places.

Bond with the kids in the quirky playground, also known as Dinosaur Park, at Vincent Lugo Park.

Breathe the fresh air, catch some sun, and enjoy laid-back hours at this scenic and fun park at the corner of Wells and Ramona Streets.

The grounds of Vincent Lugo Park

Einbierbitte, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a Picnic at Smith Park

Near the Mission District on West Broadway is the lovely Smith Park dedicated to the indigenous people Gabrielino-Tongva and their descendants residing in the San Gabriel Valley.

They were known as great hunter-gatherers and craftspeople inhabiting present-day Los Angeles County and Orange Country.

The early infrastructure of the region and the missions were a result of their labor.

See a hand-painted 6’x18’ entrance tile mural at Smith Park by local artist Dixie Giering, which offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Gabrielino-Tongva.

There are also replicas of village structures included in the park expansion.

Order a takeout or prepare a basket of your favorite snacks and drinks to munch at the picnic areas.

There are plenty of trees that provide shade to park-goers and playgrounds to entertain children.

Enjoy a game of pickleball or tennis at the lighted courts, or take a dip at the outdoor pool on warmer days.

You can find Smith Park on West Broadway.

Other Things to Do Nearby

San Gabriel is conveniently located near other prominent areas in the San Gabriel Valley that attract tourists from around the globe.

Below are some of the attractions you can visit that are around five to seven miles from San Gabriel.

Go Sightseeing at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Chinese garden at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Noah Sauve /

See three sites in one place at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens on Oxford Road in San Marino.

It was a private estate turned into a public institution that became accessible to the public in 1928.

Today, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens promotes the humanities, the arts, and botanical science.

The library houses over 11 million items from different periods, including manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and digital files.

Tea house at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Noah Sauve /

Some notable materials in the collection are displayed in three library exhibition halls.

Inside the art museum, browse through impressive works representing British, European, American, and Asian art.

Complete The Huntington experience with a peaceful stroll in the botanical gardens, sprawling 130 acres of 16 breathtaking themed gardens.

Grounds of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

blacograf /

Tour the Streets of Old Pasadena

Buildings at Old Pasadena

Michael Gordon /

Old Pasadena is a nationally registered historic district spanning 22 blocks in Pasadena, giving off an authentic downtown experience and modern conveniences at the same time.

There are many things you can do here, from shopping and dining to engaging in self-care and enjoying various forms of entertainment.

Explore more than 200 retail stores and specialty boutiques, or hop on a gastronomic journey in the many restaurants and other food establishments that dot the streets of Old Pasadena.

Shops at Old Pasadena

Lando Aviles /

There are also museums and galleries you can check out, plus live music and special events for entertainment.

Located off Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Old Pasadena has plenty of parking options and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Trolley ride along Old Pasadena

Wangkun Jia /

Take in Picturesque Views at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

A gorgeous waterfall at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Ken Wolter /

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is worth the stop in Arcadia for its manicured gardens and landscapes, wildlife, and historic buildings.

This 127-acre botanical garden and historical site sits on land where the historic Rancho Santa Anita was.

Travel back in time the sight of historical structures like the Queen Anne Cottage, the Reid-Baldwin Adobe, and the Santa Anita Depot.

Trail lined with flora at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Lex Vros /

Explore the pathways winding through the beautiful gardens where several lush plants thrive and colorful flowers bloom.

Or take a tram tour to learn more about the arboretum and its encyclopedic collection and features.

Embrace nature at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden on North Baldwin Avenue!

A peacock at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Kit Leong /

Final Thoughts

Widen your knowledge and pique your interests while having a great time in many of San Gabriel’s beloved top sights and attractions.

In between visiting these tourist spots, tickle your taste buds with the huge variety of cuisines you can explore in the exceptional restaurants and other dining options scattered across the city.

Top it off with satisfying treasure hunting in its famed shopping destinations.

Plan a trip now and try these best things to do in San Gabriel, California!

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