Manhattan Beach is home to so many attractions iconic to Southern California. A picturesque beach, passionate surfers, a scenic pier, cyclists riding along a beachfront bike path, palm trees, sand volleyball courts, restaurants full of inspired dishes made from locally-sourced food, lively bars, boutique shopping, and spas all can be found in this charming and walkable town.

If you are short on time but in need of a beach escape, Manhattan Beach is a hassle-free place to recharge. In fact, it is my top choice for a day trip from Los Angeles. Winter can be an optimal time to visit as you will likely find clear blue skies, fewer travelers, and easy parking.

What’s more, Manhattan Beach is only a 15 minute drive from the Los Angeles International Airport, and 35 minutes from West Los Angeles. Once you have arrived at Manhattan Beach, relax into a slower pace of life in this small beach town.

Where to wander

Manhattan Beach is ideal for on-foot exploration. To orient yourself, find the intersection of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue. From there, you’ll find activities and attractions in every direction.

To the West, down the hill is the beautiful Manhattan Beach pier. Walk to the end, marvel at the panoramic views, and spy on surfers catching waves just below your feet. Where the pier meets the shore, you can rent bikes and ride them north or south along the beachfront bike path. You even can ride to Hermosa Beach, another lively SoCal beach town less than two miles away.

Manhattan Beach boasts many little stores to explore and along Manhattan Avenue are a few I find quite special. The Manhattan Beach Creamery always calls my name with its ice cream sandwiches, colorful displays of candy, and comfy outdoor seating. Shore Fit is a boutique that sells designer yoga pants and vibrantly colored active wear. Aviator Nation is a vintage surf-inspired sweats-and-tees shop. And Pages: A Bookstore, an independent bookshop, is full of current best sellers and classic reads.

Viewfinder Tip: Because Manhattan Beach has become such a culinary hotspot, be sure to make dinner reservations before your arrival.

Where to eat and drink

As you promenade around Manhattan Beach you’ll find many restaurants and bars. I would encourage you to try any you find appealing. That said, I do have some faves.

Fishing with Dynamite is the star of Manhattan Beach. It is a small and cozy eatery with a very friendly staff. You can order fresh seafood platters featuring oysters, lobster, and other shellfish. The rest of the menu includes seafood dishes such as clam chowder, crab cakes, and shrimp po’boy sandwiches, as well as hamachi (yellowtail sashimi on top of avocado-shiso puree), and grilled octopus in date-tomato ragu. Equally intricate cocktails and a selection of international wines complement the food nicely.

Little Sister, just across the street from FWD, also is a must. The food is a mélange of Southeast Asian cuisine, done with the precision of a master chef. Saigon Lemon grass beef, Vietnamese coconut chicken curry, Balinese-style fried meatballs, and Cambodian chicken are among the things I like to order, but my favorite dish has to be the salt and pepper lobster in butter-fried shallots, fried chilies and garlic. Imagine all those flavors dancing on your tongue.

  • A seafood platter at Fishing with Dynamite

The Strand House is the place to go for a meal and drinks with the best view in town. Large windows facing the beach surround the dining room. The menu includes a mix of high-end surf and turf items, as well as wood-fired pizzas and vegan dishes made with produce from local farms. Cocktails such as the Cherry Smash (a Cosmo with vodka, house-made cherry syrup, fresh lemon, and mint) are served at the upstairs bar. And on the weekends, the downstairs converts into party-central, with a live DJ and bottle service.

Where to get pampered

Finally, for a next level in relaxation in Manhattan Beach, Trilogy Spa is a full-service day spa where you can indulge in serious self-care. Treatments such as body scrubs, wraps, hydrating facials, and a variety of Swedish and deep-tissue massages await. Beyond the labyrinth of treatment rooms are lockers, showers, a sauna, and an outdoor terrace where you can spend the entire afternoon.

Manhattan Beach is an optimal destination to visit on a romantic getaway, with friends, or with family. I’m not sure who wouldn’t enjoy themselves here.

What do you look for in a winter beach getaway?