Beaches are a dime a dozen in Southern California, and chances are you have your favorite beach spot that you head to time and time again. But variety is the spice of life!  It’s time to check out a new scene.  One of our favorite beach towns boasts fantastic shopping, delightful comfort food, and even an awesome free aquarium. Nestled along the Southern California beach belt is Manhattan Beach, and beyond all the glitz and glam, this town is surprisingly packed with family-friendly activities. Make your next sandy outing a trip to Manhattan Beach, and see why it is one of the Pacific Coast’s well-kept (and well-rounded) secrets.

manhattan beach

Start the Day Off Right
Downtown Manhattan Beach, which is basically a stretch of Manhattan Avenue, tastefully houses some scrumptious, decadent, laid-back, comfort food that the kiddos will rave about for days.  Brunch your world upside down at Manhattan Beach Post, where rustic tapas and vintage vibes meet what used to be the location of an old postal office; it’s the perfect backdrop for the family to enjoy a whimsical Saturday morning.  The kiddos will drool over the Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits with maple butter, the amazingly ooey gooey Sticky Buns with pecans and brown sugar baked and served in its own cast iron skillet, the Truffle Honey Laced Fried Chicken, and a twist on the classic French Toast stuffed with chestnut honey and pears.  One bite and the kids will surely go postal for these creations!

Be sure to make reservations either online at their website (it’s a popular spot) or by calling them directly, and reservations are held for 20 generous minutes in case you are struggling to find street parking.  If you call ahead to warn them you’re running late, they will extend it to 30 minutes.  They are open Monday to Thursday from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Friday 11:30 am – 10:30 pm, Saturday 10:00 am – 10:30 pm, and Sunday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm.

Manhattan Beach Post
1142 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach
Phone: (310) 545-5405
Online: eatMBPost.com

manhattan beach post

Grab Some Grub to Go
But if you want to hit the beach and just need snacks to pack, we’ve got just the place.  Fuel up with some tasty treats at Beckers Bakery. Ninjago, Princesses, Toy Story, Justin Bieber and superheroes are just a few characters that glaze the cover of the cookies baked here.  If you’re not in the mood for cookies, don’t fret: they have a plethora of cupcakes, cake pops, cakes, pastries for a morning meal, and deli sandwiches for lunch or dinner on the go.  They are closed Mondays, open Tuesday to Friday from 7:00 am – 6:00 pm and Saturday to Sunday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Beckers Bakery & Deli
1025 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach
Phone: (310) 372-3214
Online: beckersbakeryanddeli.com

beckers bakery

Get Hands-On at the Aquarium
Burn off all that sugar at the Roundhouse Aquarium located at the end of the pier.   This small but intriguing place is also free. The kiddos will love this hands-on aquarium/marine studies lab.  The friendly staff is eager to answer any questions from little curious minds.  Little ones will squeal with excitement as they experience spiny brittle starfishes, spider crabs, and a wolf eel.  Be sure to check out the horn shark eggs on the second level; these corkscrew-shaped eggs are a bizarre yet royal sight to see.

Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium
2 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Manhattan Beach
310-379-8117
Online: roundhouseaquarium.org

roundhouse aquarium

Get Sporty at the Beach (and Beyond)
Manhattan Beach is also a powerhouse for beach volleyball players.  Armies of volleyball nets line the sand for afternoon play.  So bring a volleyball and let the little ones bat the ball back and forth like the pros do.  If trekking beyond the beach beckons, there is also the impressive Polliwog Park that boasts a Rose Garden, a huge pond, plenty of playgrounds, and even the city’s historical museum.  You can also leisurely stroll the Manhattan Beach Botanical Gardens, where various flowers and plants will make you forget that you are beachside.  Wait, we’re not done! Do the unconventional and take the kiddos to play on the 100-foot sand dune at the Sand Dune Park.  It’s completely decked with picnic tables, a merry-go-round, and a playground with gorgeous panoramic views of the city.  Families with kids 12 and under do not require reservations, and it’s open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.  (If you’re planning a big kid or grown up only outing, patrons aged 13 and over need to make online reservations for their sand dune time.)

polliwog

From Toy Shops to Beachwear
Downtown Manhattan Avenue is also packed with fun boutiques for the whole family.  Stop by the Landis’ Labyrinth Toy Shop to check out fun, hard-to-find toys and games for the kids.  They carry a symphony of puzzles, trucks, dolls, figurines and other knick-knacks.  It’s one of the last (and best) of its kind: a unique toyshop selling items not seen in your usual chain toy stores.  Nostalgic adults will dig revisiting some childhood favorites.  Also browse Aviator Nation for cute beachwear including vintage sweatshirts, t-shirts, and accessories.

Landis’ Labyrinth Toy Shop
919-E Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach
Phone: (310) 374-4554
Online: landislabyrinth.blogspot.com

Aviator Nation
206 10th Street, Manhattan Beach
Phone: (310)373-3444
Online: aviatornation.com

toy shop

Parking
Metered street parking is pretty much your only option, but if you get there early around 9:00 am you will likely beat the crowds to snag a great spot.  The majority of the meters take credit card but there are some sections that still only take coins.  Check out this parking map to plan ahead to minimize the restlessness of kiddos cooped in the car.

What did you explore on your last visit to Manhattan Beach? 

– Sommy Rhee

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Photos credits:  Sommy Rhee, yngvar via Creative Commons and Urban Outbacker via Creative Commons