8 things to do in Manhattan Beach
Officially known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, this 22-mile bicycle path traces nearly the entire extent of LA's westward-facing coastline. The segment in Manhattan Beach is particularly well-kept: Bicyclists stick to the path in the sand while pedestrians can tackle the manicured walkway above—perfect for snooping on the stunning oceanfront real estate.
Follow Manhattan Beach Boulevard all the way down to the ocean and you'll be greeted by this 928-foot pier. The 1920 structure is a popular spot to see surfers catching waves below, along with sweeping views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south and the Santa Monica Mountains to the north. It also marks the center of the busiest beachfront in the coastal city, a stretch that's stocked with volleyball nets and home to the Manhattan Beach Open, whose winners are commemorated on the pier's walkway.
While this pint-sized aquarium can't compete with larger institutions, it more than makes up for it thanks to its location. Situated at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, the free, two-story structure houses touch pools and tanks with eels, starfish, jellyfish, octopus and more. In additition to its specimens, the aquarium and research lab also hosts parties, field trips and a summer camp.
Sand dunes aren't unexpected in a beach community, but a 100-foot-tall sandy slope a few blocks inland? It looks like a mirage that appears out of nowhere in the middle of a neighborhood park. The hill attracts climbers of all ages, from bodybuilders to children having fun in the sand. Walk or jog up the warm sand to the top of the hill for vast views and killer calves.
While we doubt most people visit the Beach Cities for this grassy median, it's a worthwhile and charming walk if you're in the area. The 3.5-mile trail meanders between Ardmore Avenue and Valley Drive in Manhattan and Hermosa. Despite its proximity to the road and its distance from the water, the lush, leafy trail still feels serene as it makes its way through the beach communities.
The view of the Chevron refinery and the occasional plane coming in and out of the nearby LAX may not make this the prettiest of beaches, but consistent waves make this a favorite for surfers. Newbies love the sandy beach break (just mind your etiquette and watch out for the occasional flying board), while winter wave hunters can brave overhead waves. Remember to bring those quarters for the coin-metered parking lot—enter from 45th Street—with a five-hour limit. Early birds get the worm (and less crowded waves) with free parking before 10am.
Your head will spin at all the options for fun available at Polliwog, the largest park in the South Bay. Three well-shaded play areas include a lighthouse structure, countless swings and so much more. Nearby, you’ll find a picnic area with plenty of tables and barbecues, as well as three gazebos, a nine-hole disc golf course, an exercise area, an amphitheater where concerts and other special events often take place, the city’s historical museum and a dog run. At the center of it all is a large pond, home to ducks and geese. When summer rolls around, you can also enroll the little ones in swimming lessons at nearby Begg Pool.
Born from a desire to educate the public about resource conservation, this public garden has showcased drought-tolerant plants since 1992. Peruse the grounds and you'll find a trickling waterfall, a small amphitheater and wildflower beds that support birds and butterflies.