Small is beautiful

Find hometown charm in leafy Uptown Whittier, California

Whenever a Los Angeles friend of mine needs to unwind, he hops in his car and drives to Uptown Whittier. Though only 10 miles east of L.A.'s Civic Center, the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood reminds him of his leafy little hometown in Missouri. On Friday mornings, moms roll strollers down Bailey Street as they shop for organic asparagus at the weekly farmers' market, then stop for gelato at Mrs. Freeze and maybe watch a matinee at the glamorous art deco Whittier Village Cinemas.

Casita del Pueblo.
An eclectic collection of Mexican folk art, from hand-beaded jaguar heads to Day of the Dead papier-mâché icons. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 6744 Greenleaf Ave.; 562/693-2844.

Little Old Bookshop.
A gazillion fine used books, stacked floor to ceiling, where book lovers browse for hours. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 6546 Greenleaf Ave.; 562/698-1934.

Whittier Certified Farmers' Market.
Two dozen farmers sell fresh produce; this month, look for lemons, avocados, and strawberries. WHEN: 8-1 Fri. WHERE: Bailey St. between Greenleaf Ave. and Comstock Ave.

Havana House Cigars & Lounge.
It's more about the lounge than the cigars at this popular bar. The house special is the Bay of Pigs, made with beer, Clamato juice, and pepper sauce. WHEN: 2-12 Mon-Fri, 12-12 Sat-Sun. WHERE 7020 Greenleaf Ave.; 562/698-2245.

Whittier Village Cinemas.
A beautiful 1930s movie house showing the latest films. When: 11:30 a.m.-midnight daily. HOW MUCH: $8, $6 ages 3-11. WHERE: 7038 Greenleaf Ave.; or 562/907-3300.

Uptown Mexican Cafe.
The pico de gallo is fresh, the guacamole chunky, and the carnitas are perfectly charred on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. An added bonus: The dazzling Whittier Village Cinemas is next door, making this a great stop for pre- or post-movie dining. WHEN: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 7040 Greenleaf Ave.; 562/945-5877.

Mrs. Freeze.
Homemade gelato, along with specialty treats such as the Gelanita, a granita fruit slush with gelato on top. WHEN: 2-9 Tue-Fri, 12-9 Sat-Sun. WHERE: 6556 Greenleaf Ave.; 562/698-1881.

Info: From I-605, exit at Whittier Blvd. east and follow signs to Uptown. Whittier Uptown Association (562/696-2662)

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