Find seaside relaxation, upscale shopping, and plenty of family fun in this South Bay town.
by Erin Mahoney Harris
The well-heeled South Bay community of Manhattan Beach combines the laid-back vibe of a seaside town with the upscale dining and shopping of Beverly Hills. Every summer, its beautiful sandy beaches host the Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament and the International Surf Festival. In addition to surfers and pro athletes, the city is home to lots of families, which means there’s plenty of stuff to do with the kids on a warm summer day.
There’s no question about the most popular meal of the day at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave.; 310-545-5177; www.unclebills.net), a neighborhood favorite that has a line out the door on weekends and serves decadent breakfast dishes like thick-sliced cinnamon raisin French toast and waffles stuffed with crumbled bacon.
Hidden just outside Manhattan Beach city limits, on an industrial street in El Segundo, is Scooter’s Jungle (606 Hawaii St.; 888-516-1983; www.scootersjungle.com), an incredible find for any parent looking for a place to play. Enormous inflatable slides, elaborate climbing structures and bounce houses galore make this a popular birthday party spot. Open play days fill up quickly, especially during school vacation, so it’s best to arrive early.
With its quaint roundhouse structure and pretty turquoise accents, the Manhattan Beach pier (2 Manhattan Beach Blvd.) is a charming landmark and popular fishing destination, while down below is prime seashell-hunting territory. The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium (310-379-8117; www.roundhouseaquarium.org) at the end of the pier is free to the public and open weekdays after 3 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to sunset on weekends.
Neighborhood ice cream parlor and candy shop Manhattan Beach Creamery (1120 Manhattan Ave.; 310-372-1155; www.mbcreamery.com) serves handmade scoops in intriguing flavors like Strawberry Goat Cheese and Maple Bacon Crunch, as well as plenty traditional options that appeal to a kid’s palate. The selection changes daily and seasonally, with 28 choices at any given time.
One of the South Bay’s largest and most popular outdoor play areas, Polliwog Park (corner of Redondo Ave. and Manhattan Beach Blvd.; 310-802-5410; www.ci.manhattan-beach.ca.us) encompasses 18 acres and is home to a picturesque pond, rose garden, amphitheater, and multiple playgrounds with structures appropriate for all ages. Sloping green lawns and shade trees make it a great picnicking destination, and gazebos can be reserved for birthday parties and special events.