More Los Angeles Adventures for Kids – South Bay Beaches

Genie Davis September 22, 2010 No Comments

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In my last article I talked about some great Hollywood area family destinations. And of course there’s Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Sea World to the south of LA proper. 

But one of the best things about a trip to LA, or if you live in Southern California and are looking for an awesome day’s adventure is the beach. But not just any beach, the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula

A lovely spot for the little ones is Hermosa Beach at 22nd Street. There’s a play ground, plenty of wide white sand, and for lunch or brunch, Martha’s Restaurant. This locals favorite has curly fries, omelettes, lots of kids meal standards, great salads and soup. Reasonably priced, with plenty of outdoor seating and crayons for the kids. Parking is hit or miss on the street, but because of the restaurant there’s plenty of coming and going. In Manhattan Beach we like 26th Street. More bountiful white sand, a small, hilly, grassy park and clearly marked boogie board versus swimming/wading areas. From the Manhattan Beach location it’s an easy walk on the pleasant Strand paved walk way – great for strollers too – to the pier, and the Roundhouse Aquarium. 

The Roundhouse Aquarium Manhattan Beach

Residents of the Roundhouse Aquarium

The aquarium is a sweet spot for kids. Small but exceedingly well maintained, this destination offers a view of local marine life. Our kids were introduced to sunflower stars, tube anemones, and the wonders of a touch tank right here. The touch tank lets kids stroke sea stars, sea urchins, anemones, and rays. The round house contains ten small aquarium areas, each with a different display of fish and invertebrates. There’s a garibaldi tank and a living reef with amazingly colorful sea slugs and star fish. A specimen table lets kids touch shells and skeletons. The biggest and most impressive tank is a thirty five hundred gallon Shark Tank that holds three species of sharks that are found right in the Santa Monica Bay. 

Best of all, here you’ll find the Kids Kelp Corner, a great interactive play space for kids and families. There are books to read, stuffed animals with a marine theme, puzzles, murals and exotic whale bones. There’s a story time on Sunday morning – hear a sea tale and make a take – home craft. It was here that my kids first learned the importance of keeping the beach trash free after hearing a story about an octopus tangled in a plastic bag. On Saturdays there’s an event called Feeding Frenzy, at 12:30 pm they feed the residents of their shark tank. 

Food choices around Manhattan Beach pier are varied, there’s Mama D’s for excellent pizza and inexpensive pasta; and Good Stuff for salads, pancakes and sandwiches. A locals favorite with a long line always so be prepared to wait is Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. The name says it all and the kids will have plenty of treats to chose from. 

Hermosa Beach Pier has another set of treats for kids. The pier is long and relaxing with many benches and at its base you’ll find skate boarders to watch and a classic surfing statue to admire. The pier adjoins the plaza with family friendly Hennessy’s Pub. Outdoor tables line the plaza and the roof, which offers great water front views. Along with the burgers and sandwiches for adults there are of course kids meal favorites. 

Sea Lab Jellies - Roundhouse Aquarium Manhattan Beach

Sea Lab Jellies at the Roundhouse Aquarium

A short walk south from Hermosa pier plaza will bring you to another kid-entertainment marine mainstay, Sea Lab right at the edge of Hermosa and Redondo Beach. Staffed by the LA Conservation Corps, Sea Lab offers docent led tours of tanks and aquariums both inside and out. Larger than the Round House, this educational opportunity is a nice partner to it. A native plant nursery grows local indigenous plants which are planted by staff to replace less healthy plant life; sea life rescues of birds, fish, and other marine life are carried on by volunteers and creatures nursed back to health right on site. In addition to frequently changing aquarium exhibits that range from sea horses to jelly fish, large marine life from rays to sharks are kept outdoors; on the excellent tours of the facility, visitors are allowed to gently touch many of these occupants. The location began in the seventies as the Edison Marine Research Laboratory, a fish protection system for the power plant. It was converted into a coastal science education center, and remains dedicated to research, rescue, and marine life education. While its focus is a bit more scientific than Round House, it is an equally enjoyable experience for all ages. 

Hermosa Pier - Southern California

Hermosa Pier - Southern California

Continuing south to Redondo Beach pier, here you’ll find a carnival atmosphere on the weekends. There are paddle boats and kayaks to rent, roaming mariachis at fish stands where you can select your own crab or lobster, cotton candy and ice cream vendors. Lots of fishermen too and a kite store where you can enjoy displayed kites or buy your own. Several times a year the pier sponsors a kite flying festival, and in the summer there are concerts on the pier. Kids will be most attracted to the old fashioned Fun Zone on the lower level; a small tilt a whirl is augmented by skee ball, foos ball, and a variety of quarter-devouring games. Be forewarned, the prizes here are well, a bit unique. We’ve seen everything from birthday candles to long since razed hotel chain soap products in the grab bags! But it’s still hard to pass up a skee ball game or two. 

In the Hollywood Riviera neighborhood five minutes drive or a fifteen minute stroll from Redondo Pier you’ll find upscale shops and cute cafes, including a truly enjoyable sandwich, salad and pastry shop with either take out or table service called Dolce Vita. Italian in name, the food is German in origin, with rich strudels and noodle dishes. A walk along the Strand here ends at the foot of the Palos Verdes Peninsula which is the starting point for more beach adventures in a part of Los Angeles you may not have been familiar with – until now.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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