21 Things To Do in Manhattan Beach with Kids

Kids can get up close to marine life. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Aquarium
Kids can get up close to marine life. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Aquarium
5/11/21 - By Matt Matasci

Though at first glance they're very similar, each of the Beach Cities in the South Bay has a distinct flavor and vibe. Manhattan Beach is considered the most family-friendly of the Beach Cities with some of the best schools in the country, over two miles of pristine beaches, and oodles of activities for kids and adults alike.

With spacious parks and nautical playgrounds, a compact and walkable downtown area by the beach, and a historic pier and aquarium, Manhattan Beach is a great city to experience with kids.


Manhattan Beach is a gorgeous seaside city.

Here's a sweeping view of the beach, pier, aquarium, and city! Photo courtesy of City of Manhattan Beach

The Best Beach Activities for Kids in Manhattan Beach

1. A Day at the Beach

Manhattan Beach has some of the best beaches in Southern California. They're clean, have lifeguards on duty in the summer, and while they do get crowded, they are spacious enough that you can always find a place to set up camp. Head for the north side of the pier, because the south side is reserved for surfers.

2. Plan a Visit To Roundhouse Aquarium

Do your kids love to learn about the world around them? The Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier has exhibits that highlight different types of marine life, including a Rocky Reef Tank, Kelp Forest Tank, and our favorite, the Tide Pool Tank that gives kids the chance to (gently) touch animals like sea stars. 

3. Ride The Strand

Much of Manhattan Beach is very hilly, which doesn't make for the best cycling experience. However, the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (known as The Strand by locals) is flat and separated from traffic and pedestrians, making it one of the best family-friendly bike rides in Los Angeles. Ride from one end of the city to the other and finish up the day with a picnic by the sea. If you don't want to bring bikes to the beach, Hermosa Cyclery rents everything from bikes of all sizes to rollerblades, jogging strollers, and scooters.

4. Learn To Ride the Curl with Surf Lessons

Manhattan Beach is one of the birthplaces of modern surfing and offers lessons for kids of all ages and abilities. There are many different organizations offering lessons, including Learn to Surf LA, Campsurf Youth Surf Lessons (for kids as young as four), and Perfect Day Surf Camp. Maybe you want to try something a little different? Stand up paddleboarding is another option with lessons offered Learn to Surf LA.

5. Beach Camp

In the summer and on school holidays, send the kids away for a few hours each day to a beach camp where they can play games and enjoy the city's great beaches. Champ Camp's beach activities include beach baseball, dance parties, volleyball, boogie boarding, kite flying, and more!

6. Zen Out with Yoga Summer Camp

Another cool camp in Manhattan Beach is Yoga Summer Camp. Breathe and Learn host a camp that takes advantage of the city's coastal location with half of the lessons taking place right on the beach.

7. Go Fishing on the Pier

The Manhattan Beach Pier is photogenic and fun for just exploring, but it's also a great place to take the kids fishing. There are a wide variety of fish species that can be caught right off the side of the pier and you'll always find locals casting their lines off the end near the aquarium. Because it's a public pier, even adults don't need a license to fish, so if you have the gear, you can make an impromptu trip.

Things To Do with Kids in Manhattan Beach: Botanical Gardens

Stroll through the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy of City of Manhattan Beach

The Best Non-Beach Activities for Kids in Manhattan Beach

8. Find Your New Favorite Book at {pages} A Bookstore

Downtown Manhattan Beach's {pages} A Bookstore has a great selection of books for all ages and regularly hosted author events and twice-weekly storytime pre-pandemic. Here's hoping those events return soon!

9. Spend an Afternoon Playing at Polliwog Park

Polliwog Park is not just one of the best parks in Manhattan Beach, it's one of the best parks in all of Los Angeles. This spacious and well-manicured park is built around a large pond area that is home to a wide variety of wildlife that kids love to watch. The playground is one of our favorites in town, too.

10. Explore the Flora of Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden

While you're at Polliwog Park, be sure to hop over to the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden to wind down a bit. Quiet walking paths allow for self-guided tours, with plaques describing the varieties of flowers, bushes, and trees that landscape the garden. 

11. Slide Down To Sand Dune Park

Near the north end of the city is one of the most popular sandy spots in Manhattan Beach—and it's not a beach. Known as the Sand Dune Park, it's notable for its 100-foot sand dune that local adults use for exercise and kids use for sliding down. Because it's so popular, the city has enacted a reservation policy to limit the crowds. 

12. AdventurePlex

This awesome indoor play space operated by the city is filled with mazes, tunnels, ropes courses, outdoor rock climbing walls, an indoor gymnasium, and a toddlers-only play zone. Drop-off programs are available when parents need a break. 

13. Search for Iron Butterflies at Veterans Parkway

Winding through the heart of Manhattan Beach is the Veterans Parkway, which is built between Valley Dr. and Ardmore Ave., the former right of way for LA's sprawling trolley network. Walk along this wooded path and look for seven stainless-steel (ok, they're not iron, but the joke made itself) butterfly totem poles that illustrate the stages of a butterfly's life. 

14. Dive Right in at Begg Pool

If your kids are too small to swim at the beach or you're just looking to cool off without the hassle of all that beach sand, schedule a visit to Begg Pool in Polliwog Park. Families can make reservations for lap (ages 7 and up) or recreational (all ages) swim times.

15. Find the Public Art Outside

Manhattan Beach has a robust public art program with sculptures and installations found all over town. Turn it into a scavenger hunt and try to locate as much public art as you can! Check the city's website for a list of public art and photo opp locations.

16. Check Out the Art Inside at Manhattan Beach Art Center

Budding art lovers can view works created by locals as well as international artists at the Manhattan Beach Art Center, which is right across the street from Polliwog Park. If the Manhattan Beach Art Center isn't enough to satiate your hunger for art, head to Downtown Manhattan Beach and pay a visit to the very stylish Riley Arts Gallery.

Things To Do with Kids in Manhattan Beach : Visit the Farmers Market

Pick out perfect berries at the Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of City of Manhattan Beach

Great Snacks, Food, and Treats for Kids in Manhattan Beach

17. Have Mickey Mouse Pancakes at The Kettle

The Kettle is a great place to grab breakfast before a day at the beach—chocolate chip pancakes and Mickey Mouse pancakes are big favorites for kids. 

18. Have More Pancakes at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

While we're on the topic of pancakes, another great breakfast spot right in the heart of Manhattan Beach offers a mouth-watering selection of pancakes. Whether you go for standard buttermilk pancakes or something a little more adventurous like macadamia pancakes or pineapple coconut pancakes, Uncle Bill's is a local family favorite for a good reason.

19. Cool Down with a Treat from Manhattan Beach Creamery

As you head back up the hill to your car after a day playing in the surf, the Manhattan Beach Creamery is there to be your lifesaver. 

20. Shop for Local Produce at the Downtown Farmers Market

Head Downtown and explore the many different vendors set up inside Metlox Plaza, every Tuesday from 11am-3pm.

21. Gum Tree's Whimsical Kids Gifts and Cute Cafe

There's plenty of great shopping in Downtown Manhattan Beach as well as at shopping malls like Manhattan Village and El Segundo's The Point (which is closer to Manhattan Beach than the main part of El Segundo), but the one shop you can't miss is Gum Tree. This shop has homewares and gifts for all ages and features a large selection of toys and gifts for kids. Plus, the adorable shop is located in an old beach bungalow and has a fantastic cafe serving breakfast and lunch.