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Next Weekend: Manhattan Beach is the perfect blend of two coasts

Two developers walk into a bar—one from the East Coast, one from the West Coast—and flip a dime to name what would become Manhattan Beach, incorporated in 1912. This high-end community, nearly coined Shoreacre, balances NYC chic and Southern California cool. Its walkable town center buzzes with boutiques, bistros, and beach panoramas.

What to do

Manhattan Beach is the official home of beach volleyball with a legion of nets waiting to be mastered by professionals and amateurs alike; first come, first served. Stroll the pier to see the Volleyball Walk of Fame. 

If you love another kind of serve and volley, Manhattan Country Club is westdrift’s sociable neighbor; arrangements can be made to play a match on one of 18 tennis courts. Maria Sharapova has practiced here. Although I didn’t see the Grand Slam champion, I think I heard her bodacious backhand. 

At the westdrift, a personal concierge will make arrangements for whatever floats your boat, or board. Charmed by The Beach Boys tune about surfin’ Manhattan, I dove into a beginners lesson with One Wave Surf ($100 for 1.5 hours). A pre-paddle yoga flow was followed by the thrill of riding waves. If I can do it, trust me, you can too. 

The beach was heavenly; my toes enjoyed the softest sand since a walk on Waikiki. Surprise: It is the same sand—shipped across the Pacific Ocean in the 1920s and 1930s to rebuild Honolulu’s iconic beach.

                                                 westdrift Manhattan Beach hotel (photo Eric Zener)

Where to stay

I opted for an urban oasis stay (one mile from the shore) at westdrift Manhattan Beach where organic design is inspired by homes in the Hamptons and the Manhattan Beach Pier. Sausalito-based artist Eric Zener’s water series swimmingly graces wall space throughout the hotel. A favorite decor element was my bed’s headboard, influenced by a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag. 

From the private balcony of my luxe room, I watched golfers and geese navigate a nine-hole, par-three course. (These sweet greens are also a designated Audubon Sanctuary, welcoming 14 types of winged ones.) Rentals and lessons are available, as is something new to me…glow-in-the-dark golf. I played around; luminescent balls and flagsticks put an extra spin on my game. As it was night, there were no birdies.

The merriment continues in the spacious lobby, with foosball, shuffleboard, and quaint vignettes for conversations and craft cocktails. A savvy in-house mixologist blends flattering ingredients for East Coast sips and West Coast nips, including my choice: 52nd & Broadway. On tap with Tito’s handmade vodka, Giffard Ginger of the Indies, lime juice, simple syrup, and candied ginger garnish. 

With ample activities for exercise, burning off indulgent calories is relatively easy. The hotel offers complimentary bicycles to explore the area, a pool for laps (or lounges), and a CrossFit-style onsite fitness center. I chose to cruise The Strand—a pleasant 22-mile biking, running, roller skating, and walking path that mostly follows the coastline, passing dreamy oceanfront abodes. 

                                                          El Segundo Brewing Company taproom (photo Eli Buck)

Where to eat and drink

Nothing tastes better after a workout than a cold one. Sometimes that is just aqua, and sometimes that H2O is enhanced with barley, hops, and malt. Thirsty, I bellied up to the bar at El Segundo Brewing. The sixth independent production brewery to launch in L.A.—there are now nearly 100 in the Los Angeles Brewers Guild—is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. They consistently bottle, most famously, Citra Pale Ale and Mayberry IPA, along with a flow of other rotating suds including barrel-aged stouts and barley wines. 

It’s generally a wise idea to complement libations with nosh. More than 50 food purveyors (within a few convenient blocks) await fine diners and casual consumers. A myriad of commendable choices focus on what’s fresh locally and inspired globally. 

The Strand House has a knockout ocean view and sensational seafood like pan-seared Branzino with black truffle risotto, Hon Shimeji mushrooms English pea nage, and crispy leeks. Pop into Mangiamo’s bar for a bubbly aperitivo and eyeing passerbys. M.B. Post serves up comfort food with panache—plates are sharable, but you may not. Feast on tacos (a SoCal specialty) or The Mothershucker (five oysters, six littleneck clams, one pound of mussels, one whole lobster, one and a half pounds of Alaskan king crab, and one pound of jumbo shrimp cocktail) at Fishing with Dynamite, awarded a Michelin Plate for their eminence.

Manhattan Beach has a glistening personality that lives up to its nickname "The Pearl of L.A.'s South Bay.” Just 15 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport, this hamlet is a year-round playground with a pretty perfect climate and outdoor recreation to the max.     

Story by Danica Farley

Lead image courtesy of Frank Mckenna

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