California State Route 91, one of the major roads into the South Bay, ends in Gardena, California. Situated on the outer edge of the South Bay area, sandwiched by the 405 and 110, it is proudly nicknamed “Freeway City.” But this in-between position causes it to be often underestimated as a destination. It’s a tough position to be in, but Gardena has cultivated a some distinguishing features. Although it’s mostly an industrial sub-urb, a place for people to live, there’s an uncommon entertainment available.
At around 60,000, Gardena is certainly no small town, but compared to its nearby neighbors like Carson or Torrance it’s not as packed. According to 2010 Census data, it’s also notable for its high concentration of Japanese Americans. This can be evident around town, along Artesia Blvd. or Redondo Beach Blvd., where many Japanese businesses can be found offering unique products and wares. That includes a Murakai Forum and Daiso Japan for specialty goods and groceries to go along with a wealth of restaurants and bakeries.
Gardena is not just a landing site of Japanese immigration. It’s actually much bigger than that; even amongst the South Bay’s trademark diversity, Gardena ranks at the top. Not just in the region, but in all of Los Angeles county. According to the LA Times, only nearby West Carson ties it in diversity index rankings. It’s one of the accidents of history and chance that so many migrant peoples were taken up by diasporic winds, scattered and settled within this city’s boundaries.
Following the arrival of railroads and population boom in the Los Angeles area in the 1880s, Gardena, California became a notable landing spot in the South Bay for its greenery. It was renowned for its acres of berry fields, most especially its strawberry crops. The presence of this industry gained the area notoriety as “Berryland,” and with it came festivals, parades and more. Unfortunately, little remains of this history. With World War I came a need to develop land, and over time the crops were pushed out by development.
Things To Do
It’s hard to talk about Gardena without mentioning the casinos. It’s the only city that allows such establishments to exist, but it’s not overrun with slot machines in the way of Las Vegas. Instead, it’s merely home to Normandie Casino and Hustler Casino, both fixtures of the area. Hustler Casino is owned by the eponymous magazine, and those driving down Redondo Beach Blvd. will have a hard time missing it. It’s one of the few lights-and-nightlife spectacles in the South Bay. It has been known to host regular visits from professional poker players like Phil Ivey and Ted Forrest.
High stakes card games may not be your thing. Gardena, luckily, also has the allure of The Music. Every Summer, Gardena plays home to a quickly growing jazz music festival. Since the show’s inception in 2003, it has taken over Rowley Memorial Park and hosted the likes of Marcus Johnson, Kevin Toney and Jessy J.
Like the beach? You’ll find that commute to either Manhattan Beach or Redondo Beach is less than 20 minutes. With so many activities in our beach community, you’ll be able to participate in all of them with very little travel time.