Last Thursday it was off to Manhattan Beach for the day. I figure since I have the time these days I might as well go sightseeing and Manhattan Beach is a mere 13 miles from my house. After a lazy morning at home, I hit the road around 11:00 and was on the beach by 11:35- not bad. I had never been to Manhattan Beach before, all I knew was that it was very close to LAX and for some odd reason I was under the impression that it was going to have a crazy-busy, very "LA" feel to it- more so than a hip, Southern California, beach volleyball feel to it. Well, it proved to be all of the above, and more...
Before I left I had read that the Manhattan Beach Open was starting there that day so I was a little worried about the parking but thankfully I ended up finding a spot on the main thoroughfare-Manhattan Beach Blvd, where the parking was free and the walk down to the beach was a breeze. The Blvd leads down to the pier and when I got down there I found out there's not much on that pier except a small cafe, a free mini aquarium and tons of people fishing- not so exciting, especially compared to some other piers in Southern California. It was however a great view for me to gain some perspective on this whole LA beach scene thing: Surfers to the South of the pier, Boogie boards to the North (that's the 'rule') with the Volleyball tournament scattered all over the south end of the beach. It was still early in the day when I made my way off of the pier and over to the sand with the athletes to watch a few minutes of the preliminary rounds, but it wasn't long before a guy walked by me with a Subway sandwich when I got really hungry all of a sudden. I peeled myself away from that very relaxing, sunny, mellow volleyball area and headed back up Manhattan Beach Blvd in search of some food.
Downtown Manhattan Beach is a dining, drinking and shopping mecca and it's all a 1/2 a block away from the beach which I guess is what makes this particular "beach" town so popular with the little Missie's, family vacationers and Hollywood types who feel they want a breath of fresh air but don't want to stray too far from chaos. I grabbed my sandwich and made my way through the sweaty crowds to get back to the beach. This time I was headed over on the North side of the Pier away from the games so I could eat my turkey sub in peace. I must have walked for at least 10 minutes; the beach was packed with groups of campers, families with little babies and packs of young giggly teens - I wanted no part of any of that so I walked, and walked until I found a quiet place to sit. The beach front itself is about 2 miles long and equipped with all the essentials: lifeguards every 100 yards, semi-big surf , plenty of sand and volleyball nets as far as the eye can see.
After I scoffed down my sandwich and lounged a bit, I strolled back over to watch the ladies play some ball, then took a leisurely stroll around town to soak up the Manhattan vibe. Oddly enough, this place wasn't doing it for me. The crowds were too thick, my feet were dirty from the sand (not the cleanest beach in Southern CA), the retail frenzy felt way too enmeshed with the actual beach and I got a sense that take away the US Open and this area could easily drift into more like a Hollywood cocktail party feel and less like a beach volleyball town feel (unless you stick close to the shore). Manhattan Beach may be known as the beach volleyball capital of the world but with it, has also been tagged as one of the wealthiest and politically conservative zip codes in California. I do believe I may have been feeling that when I wandered the streets which is why my day was cut short and I was on the road and home again by 3.
But, all in all I will definitely take C.Love back there with me in the off season for a cocktail and some dinner; I'd like to see the place when it's not the height of summer. I did notice a number of very cool looking outdoor bars right on the main drag that were calling for me to sit down and enjoy the view... there just wasn't any room to sit. Next time.
As far as beaches alone go, I rate it a 6 on my scale 10 and I'll explain my criteria soon... (for the record, Malibu and Zuma Beach was rated an 8)