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Life's a Beach Day Trips

What’s a trip to Los Angeles without a trip to the Pacific Ocean? At some point you’ll want to pack the family in the car, including the grandparents, and whisk them off to the beach. Nothing lifts the spirits and excites the imagination like waves crashing ashore or watching the sun go down beyond the azure horizon.

Get out the sunscreen, and head to a beach. With over 450 to choose from along the California coastline it shouldn’t be hard to find a couple that fit your family’s interests and available time. Here’s a little bit of information about west coast beaches in general and a few suggestions. But you’re on your own from here, hodaddy.

Did you know?

  • There are over 1,000 miles of California beaches along the California coast and approximately 118 beach cities.
  • Beaches are dynamic landforms altered by wind and waves in a continual process of creation and erosion.
  • Longshore transport can deliver up to a million cubic yards of sediment annually to a single beach.
  • California beaches range in sand quality from coarse to fine sand, rocks to pebbles.
  • The coastal waters near the beach in the Pacific Ocean seldom top 75 degrees –even on the warmest summer day in Southern California.
  • The color is not usually clear though in some locations you can see a few feet in depth. Don’t expect the clear blue “Bahamas” water.
  • Most beaches do not allow alcoholic beverages on them—San Diego is the exception. Picnics are encouraged, and “leave no trace” clean up protocol is heartily encouraged.
  • Beaches are mostly public and usually you have to bring your own beach chairs, umbrellas, hats and gear. Restroom and parking facilities vary by beach.
  • The climate is a major factor in attracting millions of people to California’s beaches, so expect crowds. The Pacific Ocean's affect keeps the air temperatures enjoyable throughout the year. On windy days, even in the summer, you may need a sweatshirt, with a hood!
  • What’s there to do at the beach? Surf, of course. Wakeboard, sun bathe and read, play volley ball, collect rocks and shells, build sand castles, body surf, have a bonfire, snorkel and deep sea dive, kayak, ride bikes, and, of course, people watch.
  • Visitation hours vary by beach; wave and weather conditions change constantly (hourly!) so check them out right before you visit and pack accordingly.

Specific Beach Trips and Attractions

Long Beach and the Queen Mary
How big is she? How old is she? Who built her and how long did she sail for? You can learn about the fascinating history this GIANT ocean liner has. Come aboard the legendary Queen Mary. Book the Behind the Scenes Guided Tour of the historic ocean liner and World War II troopship, and see restored areas that have been under wraps since its final voyage in 1967, including the Isolation Wards and the aft Machine Rooms. The Queen Mary is located at the south end of the 710 Freeway, on the water in Long Beach. 1126 Queen's Highway, Long Beach. (562) 435-3511.

Venice Beach
Even Fodor’s calls a trip to this bastion of weirdness a must visit for first-time tourists. Inspired by its Italian namesake, it is long since gondolas on its inland waterways. By the 1950’s Venice was seared on the map as a favorite hangout for beat generation personas including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg and others. In the 60’s the area morphed into LA’s ground zero for the hippie movement. Today? Well you judge for yourselves. One visitor describes Venice as “an almost surreal assemblage of every L.A. stereotype—and then some.” So, expect anything and everything during your stop over here. To reach Venice Beach is easy; take the 405 Freeway from either direction to Venice Boulevard. Exit West and drive until you reach sand.

Santa Monica Beach and Pier
At the foot of Colorado Avenue, through the world-famous arch and sign, lies the historic Santa Monica Pier, which dates to 1909. Clean and safe the Pier is a unique adventure—a thrill for the family to relive the historic atmosphere of a beachfront carnival. See a National Historic Landmark—the 1922 Looff Hippodrome Carousel. Talk about nostalgic! This is where Paul Newman's character worked in the movie The Sting. Stroll the Ocean Front Walk (south from the Pier to just below Bay Street). There are three 11-foot wide boardwalks here that extend into the sand allowing disabled members of your family closer access to the ocean. Ride the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel in Pacific Park, or play in the old-fashioned Arcade with over 200 games. All of this will surely make the “parental units” in your group nostalgic for the “good ol' days.” Or take on a unique shopping experience at Downtown Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. Visit their twice weekly Farmer's Market, go shopping at some of LA's most trendy shops, or enjoy a fabulous dining experience all at the Promenade. From the north or south on the 405 Freeway, take I-10 West. Drive west on I-10 and exit freeway at 4th/5th Street exit. Go north on 5th St. to Colorado Ave. Make a left on Colorado Ave. and drive straight to the Pier at Ocean Avenue. If the parking lot is full, make a left turn on Ocean Avenue and proceed two blocks. Make a right turn on Seaside Terrace. Follow sign to Pier/Beach parking.