While Disneyland is the perfect destination for families visiting Southern California, there are golden treasures all throughout Los Angeles. One hidden gem and a local favorite is Manhattan Beach.
At first glance, Manhattan Beach may seem made for adults — bars, fancy restaurants, and specialty boutiques abound — but don’t let that fool you! There is plenty of fun for your froglets and their friends. This relaxed, small beach town just provides an authentic experience of what life in LA is really like.
Since its just five miles south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), it's a perfect place to spend the day or even a few hours. Morning, noon or night, here are some of our favorite spots!
Family-Friendly Manhattan Beach Spots
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially on vacation! Start your day at The Kettle. This local favorite serves up a delicious smorgasbord of breakfast eats, from fluffy pancakes to savory, veggie-filled omelets. Little ones will probably opt for the Mickey Mouse pancake on the Kids Menu, although we recommend also ordering one of their freshly baked muffins to split with the whole family as well. Open at all hours, and for all ages, The Kettle is the perfect first stop for fuel and fun.
If a sit-down meal doesn’t sound ideal, there are plenty of grab-and-go options as well! Jamba Juice and Noah’s Bagels are great choices to start the day.
Don’t worry about getting an early start in Manhattan Beach — there will be a lot to do throughout the day and you don’t want the froglets to overhop themselves.
Hop tip: Check out the parking structure off of Highland Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard. It accepts coins and cards, and there is typically plenty of parking before 10 a.m.
There are several options for the afternoon, depending on what you and the kids prefer:
Option 1: The Beach!
Once you finish breakfast, head back to the car and unload your towels, snacks, water, chairs and sunscreen. It’s time to hit the beach! Walk down to the sand and find yourselves a spot to set up camp! If you’re looking for shade stay near the pier — you can hang out directly underneath the structure, or position yourselves to stay in the shade next to it.
If your froglets aren't pond-savvy swimmers, the afternoon waves are typically smaller than early morning or at sunset. We recommend always checking with the lifeguard on swimming conditions, even if you’re just hanging out along the shoreline.
The sand in Manhattan Beach is soft where it’s dry and neatly packed closer to the water, a perfect solution for laying out in the sun while the kiddos dig holes and build sandcastles!
The only not-so-fun part of this option: the trek back up to the car. However, there is an adorable ice cream shop on the way back up! The Manhattan Beach Creamery is another local hotspot, ideal for cooling off with a sweet treat before heading back to the car.
Detour or Option 2: The Roundhouse Aquarium
If you decide to cut your beach day a little short or find that you have some extra energy, head to the top of the pier and check out the Roundhouse Aquarium. Admission is free! The entire Frog Family will get a kick out of the touch tank, along with the larger exhibits full of colorful tropical fish. There are plenty of friendly volunteers on hand to answer questions and share a more in-depth look into the Pacific Ocean marine life.
Most of the Manhattan Beach frog fun happens in the daytime, but there’s a lot to be said about an evening picnic! Polliwog Park is the perfect spot to enjoy the cool summer breezes coming from the ocean.
From the gigantic playground to the ducks swimming in the pond, to the occasional summer concert performance in the park amphitheatre, there is no shortage of family fun here.
If you love the sun, surf and sand, Manhattan Beach is the perfect place to be. While there are plenty of beaches to choose from in the South Bay and all along the coast, there is something about Manhattan that evokes the simplicity of the seaside, without the traffic, rowdy party kids and heavy crowds that seem to overtake other LA beaches.
Have a question about Manhattan Beach or another Los Angeles-area attraction? Drop us a line in comments below!
Related: What to Do and See in Los Angeles