Where to Eat and Play In and Around Manhattan Beach CA

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There are so many beaches in California, each one with its own distinct personality. Manhattan Beach CA, with its busy city vibe, active beaches, chic restaurants, and shops, is quintessential Los Angeles, sans the traffic and pollution.

View of the ocean in Manhattan Beach CA.
View of the ocean in Manhattan Beach CA. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Great Things to Do in and Near Manhattan Beach CA

When my “baby” went off to college on the entire other side of the country – at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, a 6-hour plane ride across the United States from our home in Connecticut – I knew it meant we wouldn’t see him as often as I would like. So when I got a chance to spend a little time in Southern California, I jumped at the chance to be near him, even if it was final exam week for my freshman student.

Heading to Manhattan Beach always feels a little like a homecoming to me. When my kids were tweens, we would house-swap with another family who lived in neighboring Hermosa Beach, which is more of a beach town.  We would spend summer weeks biking the California coastline from El Segundo to Palos Verdes.

Manhattan Beach, in the southwestern corner of Los Angeles County, is a great spot for exploring the best of southern California. I used it as my base and then spent a week driving back and forth to USC to bring food to my son while he suffered through mid terms.  We were able to fit in some time to discover some yummy food and fun things to do in and around Manhattan Beach.

Surfer crossing the street in Manhattan Beach CA.
Surfer crossing the street in Manhattan Beach CA. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Things to Do in Manhattan Beach CA

1. Stroll the Strand

The best thing to do in this beach city is, of course, go to the beach. You don’t even have to get wet swimming in the Pacific Ocean. You can stay on the sand, playing beach volleyball or just watching all of the games going on.

Biking the Strand is one of my all time favorite things to do in SoCal.  The beachside sidewalk and bike path run for miles in either direction. Admire the ocean views or gawk at the multi-million-dollar mansions along The Strand.

2. Walk the Manhattan Beach Pier

This is one of the best places to catch a gorgeous sunset on the Santa Monica Bay. Shop your way down Manhattan Beach Blvd which ends at the pier. There are plenty of parking lots and curbside parking meters nearby. Don’t miss the Volleyball Walk of Fame.

Sun setting over the Manhattan Beach CA pier.
Sun setting over the Manhattan Beach CA pier. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

3. Watch the Sun Set from Downtown Manhattan Beach CA

Nicknamed the “Pearl of the South Bay,” Downtown Manhattan Beach is just steps from the beach, which makes it a great spot for enjoying one of California’s classic sun sets while sipping a cocktail or enjoying dinner.

There guitars everywhere at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Manhattan Beach CA.
There are guitars everywhere at McCabe’s Guitar Shop. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Things to Do Near Manhattan Beach, CA

4. Rock out at McCabe’s Guitar Shop  

There is more to Hollywood than movies. It’s also a music mecca. Bars like The Whiskey, Roxy and the Troubadour launched classic rock bands like The Doors, Steppenwolf and Led Zepplin. You can drive by those places with kids, but you can’t go in until they are 21. That made them a no-go with my still-20-year-old college student. (I didn’t ask if he had a fake ID. Some things you just don’t want to know.)

But all ages are welcome at McCabe’s Guitar shop, where they can take a lesson or even take in a concert. McCabe’s has been a Santa Monica icon since 1969. It’s laid back and welcoming, perfect for budding musicians and music appreciators. Decorated with guitars, sitars, banjos and mandolins, it’s fun just to poke around.

Autographed chalkboard at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Manhattan Beach CA.
Autographed chalkboard at McCabe’s Guitar Shop. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

The concert series is a line-up of acoustic performances by guitar greats. When we were there, we saw Terry Reid, a veteran performer, who entertained us with music and wonderful stories of what it was like to be in the music business in the Hollywood of the 1960s. It’s also a great spot for a girl’s night out.  I took a BFF to see Australia’s Got Talent winner, Joe Robinson, who played two guitars at the same time.  If it sounds like I am a fan, I am.

If you’re hungry, grab some authentic Mexican food at Lare’s, located just a few doors down from McCabe’s. Packed with  locals, Lare’s has the best guacamole and Mexican menu anywhere. The mariachis play upstairs and downstairs so you won’t miss out wherever you sit.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Take the stairs!  Discover the 2nd floor where classes are taught and the walls are covered in pictures of iconic musicians who have played the McCabe’s stage.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Redondo Beach with Kids

Enjoying pancakes at The Griddle Cafe with my son. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

5. Eat Pancakes at The Griddle Cafe

This Hollywood hot spot sells ginormous pancakes. They are a MUST EAT and a MUST WAIT (like an hour to 90 minutes wait) but oh, so, worth it! This is a fun place to take your college student and their friends when you visit for parent’s weekend. The pancake orders come in threes – three 12-inch diameter pancakes stuffed with all sorts of options: frosted flakes and strawberries (Hear Me Roar); coconut, pecan, butterscotch chips (Scotch on the Rocks); caramel, walnuts and streusel (The Golden Ticket). Filling, fabulous and fun.

Fish at Monsieur Marcel at the Farmer's Market in Manhattan Beach CA.
Fish at Monsieur Marcel at The Grove Farmer’s Market. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

6. Shop at Monsieur Marcel in the Farmer’s Market

Shelves are curated with artisanal finds like cucumber jalapeno jam from Vermont, high demand matcha tea ($50), small batch bourbons and delicious chocolates.  After you have stocked up on unique gourmet items, go next door to the seafood restaurant and select the fresh fish you would like to have prepared for your meal. Don’t miss the raw scallops (I know, I was scared at first too) and be sure to ask the manager for wine suggestions.  She knew it all.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Ask for tastings and/or a tour and they will oblige.  We would have missed out on some of the seasonal and highlighted items if we had not had a tour. 

2023 Chevy Equinox parked at Tenaya Lodge, near Yosemite.
The 2023 Chevy Equinox helped me travel more responsibly on my solo hiking trip to Yosemite and Mariposa. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Responsible Road-Tripping

Road-tripping is an incredible opportunity to embrace responsible travel and leave a positive impact on the environment and the communities along the way. While responsible road-tripping can include sustainable travel elements like reducing your carbon footprint by driving an electric vehicle, even if an electric vehicle is not in your garage there are many other ways to travel responsibly. Responsible travel is about conscious choices that minimize the negative impacts of travel. Choosing local hotels and services, and engaging locals in conversation contribute to a positive travel experience.

Unless you’re a local, chances are you will fly into LAX and rent a car. After all, this is California, where the car is king. If you’re not driving electric, choosing a vehicle that offers safety features to assist in courteous driving is a solid alternative. For example, Chevy loaned me a 2023 Chevy Equinox for my first solo hiking trip to Mariposa and Yosemite, CA. It was not electric, so instead I looked for other ways to contribute to responsible travel.

Several years ago, on a road trip in Northern and Central California, I drove the bigger Traverse. Take the Traverse, shorten the length a bit but keep the roomy interior and you have an Equinox. The Equinox is loaded with safety features like lane keep assist, following distance alert and adaptive cruise, warning me if I needed to give other drivers more room on the highway. I especially appreciated the assist while traveling alone. Intelligent stop/start shuts off the engine when power isn’t needed (like at a stoplight), which saves fuel and power. The engine starts back up once driving resumes.

Beyond safety features, I looked at ways that GM, Chevy’s parent company, engages local communities and found that their Ultium cell battery plant in Tennessee is committed to replanting local vegetation around the site perimeter and they sponsor youth sports across the US.

Also, GM’s Sustainable Workplaces teams and interior designers repurpose local oak, cherry, hackberry and beech trees displaced by construction. They enlist a local Tennessee small business Good Wood to design unique furniture pieces and wall treatments from the reclaimed wood to be used in common spaces in the new Ultium plant.

General Motors Commitment: Our Plan to Protect the Environment | General Motors (gm.com)

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
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