Nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains, the community of Azusa exemplifies the neighborly atmosphere and historic character that has been lost in so many Los Angeles neighborhoods. Although visitors recognize the Route 66 pass-through town by the iconic "A" drawn on the hillside, locals know it as a treasure trove of unique local restaurants, bargain shops and outdoor recreation, including hiking and mountain biking through the San Gabriel Canyon.
Families are drawn to this foothill city 27 miles northeast of Los Angeles for its affordable housing and laid-back atmosphere. However, you also find a thriving student population around Azusa Pacific University, one of the top private universities in the country. This mixed population has led to a diverse community where ideas, cultures and faiths peacefully coexist.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Explore Alosta and Azusa Avenue to find a dining scene with character as you pass restaurant after restaurant serving up authentic international cuisine for the average folk. Trendy chains make their home near the university, but the rest of the town carries a mixture of barbecue and pizza joints alongside a spread of authentic Mexican eateries that personify the community's heritage. You won't find anything too exciting when it comes to nightlife; some of best eating establishments double as nightlife hot spots, while a few dive bars serve up cheap beers throughout the city. If you crave cocktail lounges and dance clubs, you can always take a short drive to Hollywood.
Step into Max's Mexican Cuisine for a genuine piece of Mexico, where you can order your chile verde burrito in Spanish without a problem. Be sure to try the chicken enchiladas, and don't miss the pomegranate and melon margaritas made extra strong. Be warned; this place gets packed on Friday nights.
If you're craving pub food, stop by Congregation Ale House to order the juicy rib eye burger. Don't pass on the sweet potato fries served with the house's specialty rosemary garlic mayo. This is the place to come for the city's best selection of ales and ciders, and the Tuesday night trivia never fails to draw a crowd.
For a more casual night, join the locals at Maria's Bar for a laid-back, vintage vibe. Stop by during happy hour for Maria's famous $2 beer specials.
History & Culture
Though it was originally inhabited by the Tongva people, Mexican settlers arrived in the area in 1841 and set up the Rancho el Susa. When wealthy English immigrant Henry Dalton purchased the land in 1844, he built a winery, vinegar house and distillery. Dalton handed the land over to a banker named Jonathon Slauson in 1880. After planning the city, Slauson founded Azusa in 1887, and it became incorporated in 1898.
Brush up on your history at the museums in neighboring cities like Glendora and Monrovia. For a taste of local culture, don't miss the Western-themed Azusa Golden Days, a week-long festival complete with a craft fair, 5k run, pancake breakfast and other family-friendly activities.
Explore the neighborhood by car or bus with easy access to the 210 freeway that cuts through Azusa and other Foothills cities. Hop on to the 605 from the 210 for quick ride to downtown Los Angeles, and expect a 40-minute commute with some congestion. You can also enjoy free street parking throughout Azusa when you get home from work. For a quick ride home from Maria's Bar, call Speedy Xpress cab or another taxi service, but keep in mind that Uber only services the area a few miles west.
Foothill Transit buses make frequent stops along the main avenue and connect to Metro buses further along their route.
A bike lane lines a small section of Azusa Avenue, but the city's speedy traffic creates a less than ideal environment for city biking. However, an abundance of bike trails await you in the canyon for recreation. Thanks to Azusa's streamlined retail areas and ample sidewalks, running errands on foot rarely presents a problem.
The overall cost of living in Azusa falls well below average for the Los Angeles metro area due to the city's remote location. Plenty of apartments line the streets, with an average one-bedroom apartment going for around $900.
Those looking for public transportation to downtown Los Angeles can expect to pay a one-time fee of $1 for a TAP card along with $1.25 for a Foothill Transit bus and 50 cents for a transfer to a Metro bus. Those who want to get around in their own cars will experience gas prices around 8 percent above the national average. If you go out for a pint, get ready to pay $6 to $7 for your favorite ale.
Azusa rests just minutes from some of the city's best shopping, but you can find all the necessary amenities without leaving town. The strip malls and humble storefronts along Azusa and Alosta stand as a bargain hunter's dream, with outlets, dollar stores, local pawn shops and thrift stores scattered among auto shops and hair salons.
No overpriced boutiques or high-end malls make their homes here, but a unique shopping experience awaits at University Promenade, a chic shopping villa centered around a movie theater. Stop by this student hangout to explore discount clothing retailers, grab some frozen yogurt and hunt for deals at the dollar store.
Just across the street, the Foothill Swap Meet gathers every weekend, featuring a sprawling flea market of vendors who carry everything from produce and Mexican spices to longboards and thrift decor. Pay the $1 admission fee, and get ready for a lot of walking as you travel tent-to-tent for bargains.
Bride-to-bes visit Nica's Bridal Boutique on Footbill Boulevard for a large selection of wedding and bridal party dresses. Nica's has been a part of Azusa for over 20 years, creating custom-made dresses for women of all ages. From first communion to prom to wedding, Nica's helps you find your next special occasion dress.
Those in the market for a used rifle or electric guitar should check out Wimpey's Pawn Shop. The shop owners offer fair prices, and this place sells everything from golf clubs and iPods to watches and rings.
For your weekly groceries, pick up some bulk meats and spaghetti at Costco, or find gourmet cheeses at Fresh & Easy. Be sure to check out the local farmers market for fresh produce, bread and hummus.
Azusa's San Gabriel Mountains and a collection of public parks provide endless opportunities to hike, bike or just sit down for a picnic on the grass. Hiking up to the "A" has become a favorite local activity for a nice workout and panoramic views of the city, and additional hiking from this point brings you to the expansive canyon and San Gabriel River on other side. Make a trip down the canyon for endless adventure hikes and fishing. If you prefer mountain biking, start off at the Azusa Bike Trail, and head to the San Gabriel River Bike Trail for a challenging course.
Closer to home, you'll find Northside Park, an athletic haven where you can play horseshoes, Frisbee golf or soccer with neighbors. Be sure to take advantage of the lighted tennis courts and softball field as well while your kids take in the playground. Feel free to exercise your pooch in the grassy areas as long as he remains leashed.