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Day trip: Leimert Park Village

Overview of Leimert Park Village with downtown Los Angeles in the distance.

The late filmmaker John Singleton once dubbed this Los Angeles neighborhood the “Black Greenwich Village.” Leimert Park Village, a historic hub of Black culture, arts, and activism, has been called home by music legends Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles.

Today, Leimert’s heart still beats strong, and its key artery is a two-block, pedestrian-friendly stretch of Degnan Boulevard lined with Afro-centric shops and eateries and an eclectic array of sidewalk vendors. Check out our 10 picks on or near Degnan for an afternoon village stroll.

a residential street in Leimert Pak Village, Los Angeles

1. Get a feel for Leimert Park’s residential district with a short neighborhood walk north of West 43rd Street along either Edgehill Drive or Creed Avenue. Spanish Colonial–style homes (pictured above) and small apartments built in the 1930s line streets shaded by mature jacaranda trees that rain down purple every spring. 

2. Anthony Jolly debuted his Hot and Cool Café coffeehouse in 2018, and it’s quickly become a hub for community activists and artists. The shop specializes in coffee imported from Ethiopia. Try the signature Karkarsa—a medium-bodied brew with a hint of pomegranate—and the tasty breakfast burrito.

Aziz Diagne owner of Aziz Gallerie in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles

3. New to the village in 2020, Aziz Gallerie, on nearby West 43rd Street, is run by Senegalese multimedia artist Aziz Diagne (pictured above), who counts Michelle Obama among buyers of his bold, contemporary works. Contemplate the painted African prayer covering much of the floor. The gallery also offers art classes.

4. The Vision Theatre opened in 1931 as a grand movie palace topped with a soaring spire reminiscent of an oil derrick. Now a performing arts center undergoing major renovations, the theater is closed to the public, but the exterior is worth a look for fans of art deco design. 

Misir woy served at Azia Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles

5. Depart Degnan Boulevard for a stroll around the block to Azla Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine, a casual, mother-and-daughter–run spot dishing up Ethiopian fare, vegan style. Try the tasty misir woy (pictured above), a traditional lentil stew with a spicy kick. 

Wrap served at Ackee Bamboo restaurant in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles

6. Tiny Ackee Bamboo’s Jamaican jerk chicken sandwiches and wraps (pictured above) make for an easy grab-and-go lunch (outdoor dining parklets line Degnan Boulevard), but don’t overlook the tasty combo plates of tender oxtail and barbecued short ribs. 

Sika, a store in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles, is packed with  African clothing, sculptures, masks, musical instruments, and intriguing odds and ends.

7. After fueling up at Hot and Cool Café, cross Degnan Boulevard over to Sika, where shop proprietor Sika Dwimfo can usually be found kicking back in a lawn chair near the front door, welcoming guests inside. The dimly lit, incense-scented space is packed with African clothing, sculptures, masks, musical instruments, and intriguing odds and ends.

8. The tree-shaded Leimert Plaza Park dates to 1928 and hosted countless festivals, demonstrations, and music performances until the park gates were locked indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sole Folks, a store in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles

9. Opened in 2020, sleek footwear boutique Sole Folks speaks to your afternoon shopping stroll with high-end, high-dollar sneakers. If you lack LeBron James’ bank account, peruse the selection of sports-, BLM-, and pop culture–themed designer clothing and accessories. Prince “Purple Rain” T-shirt, anyone? 

Eso Won Books in Leimert Park Village, Los Angeles

10. L.A.’s premiere Black-owned and Afro culture–focused bookstore, Eso Won Books has had author signings ranging from Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates to Presidents Clinton and Obama. Eso won means “water over rocks” in an Afroasiatic language, and you’ll hear chill jazz music while browsing a thoughtfully curated selection of new releases, classics (think MLK’s Strength to Love), and seriously good bargain books. At press time, up to four customers at a time were allowed in the store. 

Confirm hours and availability of businesses, attractions, and events before you visit. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.  Free Los Angeles Central & Western Area maps are available at your Auto Club branch.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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