Escape to Surf City, U.S.A.
(Huntington Beach, CA)
Photo Courtesy - HBMVB
Huntington Beach Hotels
Basking in the hot sun, drifting in and out dreamy snoozes while laying comatose on the sand, cooling in the Pacific waters, moseying up to Main Street for lunch and a cold one – the antithesis of the daily grind. Welcome to Huntington Beach, California, also known as Surf City U.S.A., where the warm sun arrives as early as April and hangs around well into October. This classic southern California beach town, the coolest city in Orange County, offers a fine array of oceanview accommodations, myriad of delicious restaurants serving various cuisine, vintage beach-style cafes, a lively night scene, and even a long stretch of beach inviting dogs to live it up. But all that’s just the tip of the sandcastle. In addition to its 8.5 miles of sandy shoreline, HB is a perfect vacation hotspot that won’t break the bank!
Huntington Beach earned its ‘Surf City U.S.A.’ nickname from holding annual professional surfing competitions going back to 1959. The city continues that tradition, hosting the U.S. Open of Surfing every July when the greatest surfers in the world converge on its beach to compete and take in the classic summer scene. This year the free event is scheduled for July 17-26 at the pier.
This is a town deeply rooted in history – HB celebrated its 100th birthday on February 17th of this year, and at the honor and invitation of The Tournament of Roses, entered a float in the world famous Rose Parade on January 1st. The annual Huntington Beach Independence Day Parade, believed the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi River, has been a longstanding tradition for what will be 105 years this July 4th. Included in the event are floats and bands, community and equestrian groups, celebrities and dignitaries - President Franklin Roosevelt was a Grand Marshal. Parade festivities run from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 and draw large crowds, so arrive early. And the day is capped off with a mesmerizing pierside fireworks show at 9:00 p.m. Bring your chairs, blankets and sunscreen to take in the daytime and evening events.
In addition to frolicking in the surf and lazing on the sand for hours, Huntington Beach offers several free beach volleyball courts with nets, hundreds of fire rings for BBQs on the sand, pier fishing, or boating and kayaking in the harbor. For those in need of more physical activity, you can bike, jog or rollerblade along the beachside path stretching nearly 15-miles into neighboring Newport Beach. Perhaps something more educational and cultural appeals: visit the International Surfing Museum to see some of the sport’s most significant artifacts, including an original surfboard of pioneer Duke Kahanamoku; or hike the trails through Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve where nearly 200 bird species visit every year. In HB, you can even arrange to hold your wedding on the sand.
Being that this is such the ideal sun and surf town, surfing music ruled here in its heyday. In fact, legendary surf-music duo Jan and Dean were regular performers at the old Golden Bear venue, which was located on the corner of Main & PCH (where the Pierside Pavilion now stands). Others who graced the Golden Bear stage at times included Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. Jan and Dean’s Dean Torrence, a local HB resident, is also credited with convincing the city council to adopt its nickname, and even donated their 1963 hit Surf City as the city’s official theme song.
Downtown is where most of the fun and action happens. Main St begins at Pacific Coast Hwy and the pier, and is lined with boutiques and surf shops, restaurants and cafes, bars and pubs. For fine dining with breathtaking water views try Duke’s or Savannah At the Beach next to the pier, or on the corner of Main and PCH up on the second level eat at Spark Woodfire Grille (rated the city’s finest) or the lively Fred’s Mexican Café. Perq’s plays live nighttime blues and rock Thursday-Saturday, and the Huntington Beach Beer Co. & Restaurant pours a variety of micro-brews to compliment their food menu. Sidewalk cafes along Main St serve terrific breakfast with lots of outside tables to take in the soft, morning sea breeze. The downtown & pier plaza scene is alive and electric from noon to night, quiet and relaxing in the morning.
Sleeps in Huntington Beach near the water include the 4-Diamond rated Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa and Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, both offering plush comforts with stunning ocean-view rooms. The more modest can snooze for less at the Best Western Huntington Beach Inn, Huntington Surf Inn, or the Sun ‘n Sands Motel. All aforementioned establishments are located on PCH. And those with RVs can park it by the sand at either Bolsa Chica State Beach RV Camping or Sunset Vista RV Campground. Keep in mind that summertime accommodations and RV spots book up well in advance, so plan accordingly.
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Access to Huntington Beach is easy – Orange County John Wayne Airport and Long Beach Airport are each just 15-minutes away, and Los Angeles Int’l is a 40-minute drive; all are located just off the San Diego (405) freeway, which runs right through HB. Exit at Beach Blvd or Goldenwest St and go south to the ocean to reach the historic downtown/pier area.
With its 8.5-mile sandy coastline, Huntington Beach the ideal place to spend your day, weekend or extended vacation. Dean Torrence, speaking of his hometown, proclaims, “When we think of the song Surf City, it’s a description of the California beach lifestyle and everything a seaside paradise stands for.” So be warned - many a visitor have become locals.
By Michael Henderson
Huntington Beach Links