Labor Day may be behind us, but summer doesn’t have to end when October rolls around. In fact, beach residents will tell you that September and October are some of the best months in this not-so-little (over 35,000 residents) beach town. School is back in session, you don’t hear the word “marine layer” on a daily basis, and the summer tourist crowd dies down, but there is still a buzz of activity. Manhattan Beach is a classic SoCal beach town that attracts over 3.8 million visitors annually and, chances are, most of them are coming to spend time at the wide, sandy beach.
A Day at the Beach
A benefit of a post-summer beach day is that parking is easier. Look for street parking or a lot with longer-term parking – we like 26th Street at Bruce’s Beach, but you might have to wait for a surfer to get their gear off, while you wait for a space. Here’s a list of all the parking lots.
If you park in town, stop by Becker’s Bakery & Deli (1025 Manhattan Ave & FYI, It’s closed on Monday) for sandwiches to take down to the beach and maybe a cookie treat. I like to get “The Natural.” If you need some beach toys, hit Manhattan Meats (1111 Manhattan Ave) next door. Surprisingly, they have sturdy beach shovels that have last us two summers.
If you’re visiting on a Tuesday, make sure and check out the Manhattan Beach Farmers Market. Open from 11am-4pm, you can find locally grown fruits, vegetables and flowers as well as a variety of artisan hot and prepared foods. The pupusa line is usually packed with kids and Dave’s Korean has amazing tempah and pickled cucumbers.
Once you have your food, walk down to the beach and do some people watching or grab a boogie board and hit the ocean. If you’re looking to surf, popular spots are by the Manhattan Beach Pier or El Porto Beach. In 2011, El Porto was named one of the best surf spots in LA by LA Weekly. Lifeguard stations are located along the entire length of the beach. Recently, when the riptide was strong, lifeguards were doing Baywatch-style rescues to swimmers and boogie boards who were stuck too far out from the shoreline. It was impressive.
For a break in beach activity, take a walk or bike ride on the Strand. The bike path runs from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes. A separate 2.1 mile walkway, reserved for pedestrians, runs alongside the bike path and is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
The Roundhouse Aquarium is fun for kids and is located at the end of pier. It’s free and inside are both viewing and touch tanks with marine fish and invertebrates. There’s also a kid’s area with books and puzzles. Hours: Mon-Fri: 2-8pm and Sat-Sun: 9am- 8pm.
If you’ve stayed all day at the beach and need a casual, sandy-kid friendly dinner, try El Sombrero, Mama D’s or RICE, if they like sushi. After dinner treats can be found at the Manhattan Beach Creamery. The Cream’wich is over the top, but so good. The city of Manhattan Beach has a good list of local hotels. Shade Hotel is the only hotel located in downtown Manhattan Beach.
For excellent brunch or dinner, try The Strand House.
Mark your Calendars
The City of Manhattan Beach puts on an impressive number of fun (and often free) events for resident and visitors. In the summer, there are free concerts in Polliwog Park. Now that it’s fall, it’s time for Pumpkin Races and Holiday Fireworks.
Pumpkin Races – October 25. Watch handmade pumpkin racecars race side-by-side as they compete to make it to the finals.
Holiday Fireworks – December 13. The biggest event in Manhattan Beach where almost everyone comes out and watches fireworks go off over the pier. Voted best Holiday Fireworks Show in the Nation on Travel Channel’s Jingle Brawls in December 2013.
TRIVIA: Flip a Coin and Name it Manhattan
// In its earliest days, Manhattan Beach was part of the ten-mile ocean frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo, which means “Round Clump of Willows.” At one time the area was called “Shore Acres” by George Peck, who owned a section of the north end of town.
// In 1901, John Merrill bought the south portion and called his section Manhattan after his old home, New York City. Peck and Merrill, unable to agree on a city name, flipped a coin and Manhattan won.
// Manhattan Beach officially became a self-governed city on Dec. 2, 1912, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the seaside town’s status as an independent municipality. Before that, Manhattan Beach was a part of the city of Los Angeles. The move allowed Manhattan Beach to open its own school system, police force and fire department. After World War II a large influx of people came as a result of the desirability of the area for year-round living.
//While you might know that the land in Manhattan Beach was formerly sand dunes. Did you know that during the 1920s and 1930s, builders leveled uneven sandy sites and excess sand was sold and shipped to Waikiki to convert their rocky beach into a sandy beach? The sand was also used to build the Los Angeles Coliseum and portions of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Written by Heather Koopman