● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Tobias Peciva.
While popular beach destinations like Santa Monica and Malibu get a steady stream of fun and sun fanatics each summer, there’s another Southern California town riding the tourism wave. Just 35 miles south of Los Angeles in Orange County, Huntington Beach is celebrating 100 years of California Dreamin’ in 2009.
In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, this stretch of beach became synonymous with the surf lifestyle sweeping the West Coast, hosting the first U.S. West Coast/Surfing Championship in 1959. In 1992, Huntington Beach officially adopted the nickname “Surf City USA®” and continues to preserve the legacy and culture of this California tradition.
The span of Huntington Beach is quite large, however, the action tends to happen close to its famous pier, located near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street. In recent years, the city has welcomed a variety of new shops, restaurants and hotels, a sign of the neighborhood’s continued vitality. Mixed in with antique stores, coffee spots and skater dude retailers are a few notable places to visit, including the International Surfing Museum, Surfing Walk of Fame, and Surfer’s Hall of Fame.
On either side of the pier, visitors to Huntington Beach will find plenty to do on one of the three area beaches. In addition to surfing, you’ll find outdoor activities like swimming, volleyball, boating, pier fishing, and kayaking to name a few. Toes on the Nose, a local activities business, can set you up with a few bikes for the day to “get-a-round-round.”
Did I mention Huntington Beach is also a great place to bring the family dog? In fact, one of the premier hotels in the area, the Hilton Waterfront Beach Front Resort, offers the “It’s a Wonderful Dog’s Life” package for guests traveling with furry friends. The VIP treatment includes a special welcome gift, use of a Hilton pet bed, a 20-minute walk, two sweatshirts, and no extra pet fee. Best of all, a portion of the package price is donated to the local charity, Preservation Society of Huntington Dog Beach. This partnership helps the organization maintain the mile and quarter-long beach where dogs have the freedom to roam and enjoy the fresh air. The hotel also provides a list of helpful information for pet owners, from pet grooming services to the nearest animal hospital.
After a long day of outdoor adventure, you and your brood will no doubt have an appetite for dinner. If you’re taking out the whole family, check out the casual atmosphere at Duke’s on PCH, named after the surf legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who first popularized surfing back in the 1920s. If you’re looking for something a little more romantic, make a reservation poolside at Shade’s Restaurant and Bar at the Hilton. Another option to consider is The Californian at the neighboring Hyatt Regency, boasting a contemporary menu of California cuisine and wines in a Mediterranean-inspired atmosphere.
Even if you pack up the trailer or motor home, you’ll find Huntington Beach to be a gracious host, with set-ups right along the famous beach for easy access. After dinner, take the kids out to one of the beach fire pits and toast a few marshmallows under the stars. By car, air or camper, Huntington Beach makes the perfect summer Southern California getaway. •
Post card from Huntington beach
Spark Woodfire Grill
Huntington Beach Beer Co. & Restaurant
Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
International Surf Museum
Surfer’s Hall of Fame
Huntington Beach Art Center
On PCH between Seapoint Street
and 21st Street
7111 Talbert Avenue
Norma Gibbs Butterfly Park
16641 Graham Street