Hermosa Beach, California
Just far enough away from high-profile Hollywood is the South Bay community of Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo beaches. Those travelers anxious to enjoy California's sunny weather and gorgeous beaches away from the high-maintenance and crowded city center can pack their beach bags and head to this residential enclave known for its white sands and active pier scenes.
Hermosa Beach is the center of the universe for some die-hard beach volleyball players, including amateurs and professionals, and there always seems to be intense serving and spiking action on the 1.5-mile stretch of sand. The community takes pride in its abundance of outdoor beach activities, which include surfing, swimming, paddleball and, of course, sunbathing. The bustle of activity is reminiscent of songs by the Beach Boys or reruns of Baywatch. The Strand is the place to see and be seen both during the day and come nightfall. By day, this paved boardwalk that borders the beach is a thoroughfare for bikers, bladers, joggers and strollers. At night, the Strand is a great people-watching spot as crowds fill the restaurants and bars. Kids going through videogame withdrawal will find relief at the Hermosa Penny Arcade located on the pier as well.
It is easy to celebrate a low-key beach week without ever leaving Hermosa Beach and the neighboring beaches - Manhattan, Redondo and Long. However, many will find the lure of nearby Los Angeles, glamorous Beverly Hills and starlit Hollywood hard to resist, which is fine as they are all a short drive from Hermosa. It is possible to spend the day touring the nearby neighborhoods and still get back to the beach to ride a few more waves before the sun goes down. Then, head to a bar on the Strand in the appropriate attire, i.e., shorts and flip-flops, to celebrate happy hour with the lifeguards getting off duty.
Beach House Hotel at Hermosa Beach
Web site: www.beach-house.com
The luxe amenities, attentive staff and noise-insulated walls trick you into thinking you're the only guest at the Beach House Hotel. Even with 96 rooms, this beachside getaway maintains a homey atmosphere thanks to the doting staff. The rooms are large and comfortable, and come nightfall, you'll hope that the temperature takes a dip, offering the perfect excuse for snuggling in front of a fire in the wood-burning fireplace - just one of the special touches that make each room dreamy.
Hotel Queen Mary
Web site: http://www.queenmary.com
Enjoy all of the excitement of a cruise without ever leaving port at the Hotel Queen Mary aboard the world's largest ocean liner. The mammoth Queen Mary was dry-docked in 1967 and opened as a hotel and tourist attraction in 1971. Staying in a first-class stateroom gives kids a porthole into life on a ship from the early 20th century - quite different than the modern cruise ships of today. Young Harry Potter fans should enjoy the ship's haunted history, explained at the "Ghosts and Legends of Queen Mary Show." Signposts around the boat mark official ghost-sighting spots and the hint of a ghoulish encounter is sure to elicit some goosebumps from little ones and adults alike.
The Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club
Web site: http://www.hotelportofino.com
Indulge your high-style, yachting fantasies at the romantic Portofino at Redondo Beach. Each room has a private balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the soft sounds of the ocean to drift into your room while providing expansive views of the Santa Monica Bay or the Pacific Ocean. Dinner is served at the Breakwater-Steak, Jazz & Seafood, a restaurant that beckons you to feast on the surf-and-turf and relax to the gentle music. The private marina is lined with fabulous boats perfect enough to inspire your wanderlust - and a morning trip to nearby Catalina Island.
Surf City Hostel
Web site: http://www.surfcityhostel.ws/
Travel like a college student and relish the cheap living and chill attitude at the best deal on the beach. The name - Surf City Hostel - says it all, so don't expect lush rooms or much privacy in the dorms or shared doubles. You can expect bare but clean rooms and an international mix of college students and twenty-somethings. Don't worry: there is no curfew at Surf City (a rule common at many other hostels), but you'll want to get some sleep to take part in the volleyball games, surf competitions and city tours with your new group of friends.
Food & Drink
The Bottle Inn Ristorante
Web site: http://www.thebottleinn.com/
The Bottle Inn has everything you would expect from a fine Italian restaurant: an extensive and noteworthy wine list, ambience, history, a delicious house dressing and a menu brimming with pasta, basil and cheese. This unpretentious treasure has been serving Italian treats for 28 years and its experience shows in the consistently good food, helpful staff, 4-star wine list and heaps of accolades over the years. Pretend you're in a Mediterranean village and dine al fresco on the patio - a great location to watch the dolphins swimming off the shoreline of the Pacific.
Best Irish Bar
Web site: www.hennesseystavern.com
While it may not be the most authentic Irish pub, the fun factor and great view of the beach make Hennessey's a great watering hole. With locations around the state, the Hermosa Beach outpost is a favorite with locals and tourists heading off the beach for a happy hour or recovering from the night before at breakfast. The menu is more American than Irish, but does contain fish and chips, Irish "nachos" (heaps of sliced potatoes served nacho-style) and a nouveau Irish-Mexican-American fusion breakfast.
Best Family Dining
Web site: http://www.eatgoodstuff.com
Good Stuff is not only a favorite breakfast joint in town, it is also a favorite lunch spot and dinner destination. The vast menu features staples with a creative twist like mahi mahi and eggs, teriyaki hamburgers and Dijon turkey meatloaf - all pleasing to the palette and the wallet. Offering 3 meals a day, at the 3 beaches of the South Bay area, it is no wonder that this place is always packed. Good food, good service and good location ... Good Stuff really does have the goods.
Comedy & Magic Club
Web site: http://www.comedyandmagicclub.info
Off the beaten path and away from the glitz of Hollywood, this small comedy club might seem unremarkable until you look at the schedule, which boasts some of the biggest names in comedy. Many well-known comedians appear here - announced and unannounced - to test out new material and prepare for upcoming shows. Robin Williams surprised audiences with an unannounced visit that lasted for a week while other favorite funny guys who have made appearances include Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Jim Carrey.
Best Cultural Destination
Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA)
Web site: http://www.molaa.org/
California culture reflects its sister to the south - Latin America - and the Museum of Latin American Art (known as MoLAA) in Long Beach celebrates the rich art and history of this land. The permanent exhibition, "Latin American Artists: A Contemporary Journey," is a retrospective of art from this region from the past 50 years. The best part is that MoLAA features a rotating show, so no two visits are exactly the same - there are constantly new pieces that are on display or borrowed from other museums. Past temporary exhibits have focused on well-known painters such as Diego Rivera as well as lesser known artists from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Argentina.
Best Outdoor Activity
Web site: http://www.surfacademy.org
What better way to appreciate the sun, sand and surf of the south bay beaches than atop a newly waxed surfboard? Even novices can enjoy the sensation of riding an awesome wave and wiping out - a necessity in the early stages of learning. Students work with their peers at Saturday Women's Surfday, Sunday Family Surfday, masters classes and Kid's Surfcamp. Innovative teaching methods, like video replay of each surfer's greatest triumphs and biggest challenges, and a strong staff make this academy special, and students will want to excel to the head of the class - and to the top of the next wave.
Best Day Trip
Web site: http://www.visitcatalina.org
Boats depart from Newport Beach, Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point; for jet-setters who don't want to waste any time traveling, helicopter trips are also a possibility. The myriad of outdoor activities or the quaint social center of the island at Avalon offer the best of both worlds. Snorkeling, scuba, horseback riding, kayaking and hiking are all great outdoor options that can be capped off with some window shopping, gallery hopping and a gourmet meal in Avalon. Bring a camera as photo opportunities present themselves at almost every turn; shutterbugs should be on the lookout for grazing buffalo.
Best Kid's Activity
Web site: http://www.pacpark.com
Southern California is home to a number of theme parks, both modern extravagant mega-parks like Disney and smaller historical boardwalk parks along the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Park falls into the latter category and while it is a drive from Hermosa Beach, it is a worthwhile adventure for amusement park lovers and a classic addition to a beach vacation. Action rides like the steel roller coaster are perfect for daredevils and there are options for the timid and weak of stomach, including bumper cars and swings. The finale is a ride on the solar-powered Pacific Wheel, which glides up to heights of 130 feet offering a bird's eye view of the Pacific Ocean and sprawling coastline.