Things to Do in Manhattan Beach: For a Day or a Weekend

  • 01 of 11

    What You Need to Know About Manhattan Beach

    View north from Pier, Manhattan Beach California
    ••• Manhattan Beach from the Pier. Stephen Saks / Getty Images

    Manhattan Beach is one of the Los Angeles area's most intriguing beach towns. It has everything you would expect from a California beach scene: lots of volleyball nets, a cheerful pier, and surfers riding waves as soon as the sun rises.

    Sand is the only thing you'll see between the surf and luxurious oceanfront homes. A paved walkway provides an easy oceanfront route for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy the beach scene when they're not soaking up the sun or people watching.

    Manhattan Beach is at its most upbeat any time the sun is shining, but it can also be mysterious and beautiful in the fog. May through July, the area is prone to overcast weather, especially during June gloom

    Things to Do in Manhattan Beach

    From shaking the sand out of your shoes to discovering local boutiques, Manhattan Beach is a mecca for surf, sun, and shopping. There's so much to do in this little town. You can enjoy a beach picnic while watching locals play volleyball or watch the sunset as...MORE you stroll along the pier.

    Manhattan Beach Tips

    Several shops in downtown Manhattan Beach rent beach gear, including boogie boards.

    You'll find public restrooms at several locations along the waterfront.

    If you want to be in Manhattan Beach for more than a day, you can ​use this guide to find your perfect place to stay

    Parking in Manhattan Beach

    Finding a parking spot in Manhattan Beach can try your patience at best, or at worst make you want to tear your hair out. If parking places are full near the pier, try the parking lot north of Manhattan Beach Blvd. off Highland, which is a bit less-known.

    Or you can do what the locals do: Head for the city-owned Lot 8 on Ardmore Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets. It's four blocks from the pier, has no meters and a two-hour time limit.

    If you don't mind paying but want to stay more than two hours, level P2 of the Metlox Structure has a ten-hour time limit. You can get into it from Valley Drive or Morningside Drive.

    This map from the city of Manhattan Beach may also help.

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  • 02 of 11

    Check out the Manhattan Beach Pier

    Manhattan Beach Pier
    ••• ©2011 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    The red-roofed, hexagonal-shaped building at the end makes it one of the prettiest piers on the Santa Monica Bay, and it's also home to a small but fun aquarium. The Manhattan Beach Pier juts 928 feet into the ocean, giving you can get a good view of the ocean and the coastline there.

    This picture shows a typical day at the Manhattan Beach Pier, with lots of things going on and lots of people enjoying it. You might even notice a few people fishing out near the end.

    Not surprisingly, given its good looks and location near Hollywood, the Manhattan Beach Pier has appeared in many films. Its cameos include the scene in "Point Break" where Keanu Reeves buys his surfboard, the final shot of "Falling Down" when Michael Douglas' character is reunited with his family, and in the 2004 film Starsky and Hutch, Starsky stretches underneath the pier. In the movie "Tequila Sunrise," Mel Gibson's character lives on the beach nearby.

    You'll find the Manhattan Beach...MORE Pier at the end of Manhattan Beach Blvd. There are plenty of parking lots and curbside parking meters in the vicinity, and we always find it helpful to have a good supply of quarters on hand.

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  • 03 of 11

    Take a Stroll on the Strand

    Taking a Walk at Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    My favorite Manhattan Beach pleasure is a simple one. Just walk down to the beachside sidewalk—commonly called The Strand—and take a stroll. You can walk for miles in either direction and never run out of things to see.

    If you go north of the pier, you can walk for several miles along Manhattan Beach waterfront. If you go south, it's about a two-mile walk to the Hermosa Beach Pier and downtown Hermosa Beach.

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  • 04 of 11

    Play Volleyball on the Beach

    Sunny Day on Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    You'll find lots of volleyball nets on Manhattan Beach, and on weekends, they're quite busy.

    In summer, beach volleyball tournaments take place in this area near the pier, including the Manhattan Beach Open, a professional event whose winners are honored with bronze plaques in the "Volleyball Walk of Fame" on the Manhattan Beach Pier.

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  • 05 of 11

    Go Surfing at Manhattan Beach Pier

    Manhattan Beach Surfer
    ••• Kaitlyn Edwards/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    It's a common sight to find people surfing, boogie-boarding or paddle-surfing near the Manhattan Beach Pier.

    The annual International Surf Festival is held here and in the neighboring towns every summer.

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  • 06 of 11

    Go Biking, Blading, Running or Skateboarding Beside the Sea

    Riding Bikes at Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Biking, running, skating, walking and almost any other form of non-motorized locomotion you can think of are popular in Manhattan Beach.

    In fact, you'll find two separate oceanfront paths, one for the folks on wheels and another for the folks on foot. If you want to rent a bicycle to cruise Manhattan Beach, you'll find several rental shops in nearby Hermosa Beach.

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  • 07 of 11

    Gawk at Super-Luxuious Oceanfront Homes

    Oceanfront Mansions in Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    When you see houses like these, it's not hard to believe that Fortune magazine rated Manhattan Beach one of the most expensive coastal towns in America. 

    If you're curious how much a place like these would set you back, take a look at Zillow.com's current estimates.

    Fortunately, walking and gawking at these mansions is free.

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  • 08 of 11

    Go Shopping (or Dining) in Downtown Manhattan Beach

    Sunny Day in Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Uphill from the beach and just a block away is a charming downtown. Its streets are lined with local boutiques and restaurants. It has a nearly urban vibe that's a nice complement to the shore. When you want to get away from the water for a bite to eat, head to downtown for some local flavor (pun intended). You can check out all the shops and eateries at the downtown Manhattan Beach website.

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  • 09 of 11

    Check out a Manhattan Beach Walking Street

    Walking Street in Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Streets like this one are a charming bit of Manhattan Beach living. In the area sometimes called the Sand Section of town, houses face each other across a wide sidewalk, their garage entries banished to alleys between them. It makes for a charming look, especially when the homeowners dress their front yards up with lovely landscaping. Most of these houses were built in the early twentieth century, but these days, mega-houses that fill their lots to the edge are taking their place with alarming regularity.

    You can find some of these streets running between Manhattan Avenue and the beach, south of the pier.

    If you're considering a vacation rental in Manhattan Beach and think this looks like fun, you're right. The magic words you'll see in the listing are "walk street" or "walking street," but not all such streets are quite so close to the ocean as this, and you should check a map to be sure you know exactly what you're getting.

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  • 10 of 11

    Watch a Manhattan Beach Sunset

    Manhattan beach surfer silhouette
    ••• Denise Taylor / Getty Images

    We began our tour at the Manhattan Beach Pier, and we'll end it there, on a rare day with a colorful sunset. This kind of color appears less often than you might think, especially because of the foggy air layer over the ocean which swallows the sun's rays long before it reaches the horizon.

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  • 11 of 11

    Beware of June Gloom

    June Gloom at Manhattan Beach
    ••• ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    It's not all fun in the sun at Manhattan Beach - or anywhere else along the Southern California coast. A weather phenomenon commonly called June Gloom can keep the coastal area underneath low-lying clouds for days and weeks on end. It happens when warm temperatures inland cause the air to rise, pulling in a foggy marine layer off the ocean that's so thick it never burns off.

    Some years, it starts early with May Gray preceding the June conditions and in the worst years, such as one we experienced when I was a Los Angeles resident, it hangs on into July. By then, residents have almost run out of cute names and are usually just saying: "July? Why?"