Santa Monica Pier (LA area)
This one is often on movies! It’s a wooden pier that has a lot of action and a Ferris Wheel ($5 per person/per ride or you can purchase wristbands for all the rides all day). The atmosphere and activities available are exactly what I had hoped for. You can drive around for a while looking for a cheap parking meter and then walk a ways to the action or I have found it better to just pay for the pier parking that is right there. When I was there in February 2011, the parking rates were $1 each half hour with a maximum of $6 a day. If you arrive after 4:00 pm you pay the $6 and get refunded for any amount you did not use if you leave before 10:00 pm (so they can eventually let the attendant go home). It also has a beautiful beach that is very easy to access. There is great “high end” shopping on the Third Street Promenade (about one block from the pier).
|From the end of the pier looking back toward the beach.|
|View from Ferris Wheel (night time)|
|Under the Pier - nice spot for pictures.|
Redondo Beach (South of LA)
This has a large more modern pier that loops around an area of the beach. It has many shops and places to eat. There are great views! The beach area that I discovered was kind of small but the pier itself is worth a visit. It’s also a great spot if you like to watch boats. There are many picture opportunities and bring some bread for the birds - they are very interesting! I fell in love with a Farmers Market that they have year round on Thursdays! http://www.redondo.org/depts/recreation/facilities/farmers_market.asp. You do have to pay for parking unless you find a spot further away and walk.
|Great Farmer's Market on Thursday mornings!|
|My favorite farmer's market find! I go back every time I can to get some more :-)|
Newport Beach (Orange County)
Mission Beach (San Diego)
This is like a carnival on the beach! There is a roller coaster and other fun rides along with many shops and places to eat. It has a great sandy beach that is very easy to get to. Parking is mostly free – it’s sometimes difficult to find an open spot but it’s manageable. It's also not far from Seaworld.
Venice Beach (LA area)
Otherwise known as "Muscle Beach". The beach is very nice! There are a lot of interesting shops, places to eat, and artist tables. You can even have your palm read :) It's a beach that I am glad to visit but it's also the home of many homeless and panhandlers. The main parking area (which I think we paid to park at) is close to the “Muscle” area and is great for kids to experience. My little ones started to get a little scared the more we walked away from that. It’s beautifully put together (wonderful bike path along the beach) but the site of sleeping people in makeshift homes and the occasional human fecal matter was something they did not enjoy. It is a great place if you want to experience something more than the usual “beach atmosphere”.
|My kids loved the sand castle but not the guy sleeping next to it waiting for donations.|
|Unfortunately, the most common product you will see advertised at this beach...|
|"Borrowed" picture - looks cleaner than what I would have been able to take myself.|
|Freakshow - Yep it's the place from the TV Show|
|You can see some of the shows entertainment for free: two-headed turtle.|
|Like I said - great beach and bike path!|
|Exploring sea life in the rocks|
I like Laguna because they have a mix of beach and rocks (where we like to explore - and they are not clearly separate from each other). They also have easy access restrooms, a kids play area and shopping.
La Jolla (South of San Diego)
Parking is free but very hard to get! This is a beautiful area to visit so it's worth the walk. I will let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.
|My kids love playing on these and they make cute pictures.|
|And you can swim with the seals!|
|Small swimming area|