Beaches & Beach Towns,  Beyond LA,  LA Tourist Attractions

Best Southern California Beaches: Huntington Beach & Pier

While we’re a site about fun things to do in Los Angeles site, we feel Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA, needs to be in our roundup of Southern California’s best beaches.

There are a number of reasons.  For one, it’s difficult to demark where Los Angeles ends and Orange County begins.  They are all part of the same sprawl and your Los Angeles vacation could easily pull you down into Orange County.  Another is that it’s a beautiful 9.5 mile long stretch of beach known for its excellent year round surfing conditions.  It has pristine sands and it’s one of the few beaches in Southern California where bonfires are permitted.  It’s also been named the best beach in Orange County by the Orange County Register.

Huntington Beach is also the place to go if you want to gaze at some offshore oil drilling platforms.  I know that sounds like and odd thing to want to do, but they are rather interesting to look at out there against the setting sun in the Pacific ocean.  There is a handful of people that call them an eyesore and object to them but they don’t deter millions of people from flocking to Huntington Beach and the beaches and water are clean.  If you are traveling with your furry friend, the Huntington Dog Beach is just a bit to the north.

travel guide
Wind Surfing at Huntington Beach with an offshore oil drilling platform in the background.

Other than surfing, the center attraction is the 1000 foot long pier hat was built in 1904.  The pier and nearby area is a hub of activity.  At the end of the pier is a retro Fifties style diner (at least inside) called Ruby’s Diner.  Though it is well out past the shoreline, the address is 1 Main Street, Huntington Beach.  The diner tells people to come to it in the summer and have the best seats for watching the U.S. Open of Surfing.

The U.S. Open of Surfing is a week long surfing competition held annually in the summer on the south side of the pier.  It’s the largest surfing competition in the United States and attracts over 500,000 people.  As part of the event notable people in the surfing world are added to the Surfing Walk of Fame and the Surfer’s Hall of Fame both directly across from the pier.

At the mouth of the pier is a large courtyard called Pier Plaza that is home to a number of events  including an open air arts and crafts market each Friday called Art-A-Faire.  During our visit we were also able to watch a full brass band playing in the area.  There is never a lack of things going on.

Downtown Huntington Beach (i.e the area near the pier) has an active art center, a picturesque shopping district, cafes, restaurants, clubs and the International Surfing Museum.

Key events going on in the Huntington Beach Pier area include: A Fourth of July Parade that’s been held every year since 1904; the Cruise of Lights Boat Tour is held in Huntington Harbour each Christmas season and each February there’s the Surf City USA marathon with over 20,000 runners and lots of car shows.

Every Tuesday night the Tuesday Surf City Nights event features a farmer’s market, entertainment, food, and rides for children held along the first three blocks of Main Street by nearest the pier.  Huntington Beach is a happening place!

Surf City USA

If you remember the Jan and Dean Song, Surf City, Huntington Beach is the city they wrote the song about.  Though if I recall the word right “I’m going to surf city gonna have some fun.  I’m going to surf city cuz it 2 to 1.  Two girls for every boy…” it seems the California girls were a bigger draw than the waves.

Huntington Beach trademarked the Surf City nickname and has profited from its use in merchandise and licensing.  It also drew them into a legal battle with Santa Cruz California which also claims the title of being Surf City USA.

After Huntington Beach trademarked the “Surf City USA” name, Santa Cruz politicians tried to prevent the trademark from being registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The short version is that Huntington Beach sent cease and desist letters to Santa Cruz vendors that were selling merchandise with the Surf City name.  These vendors sued Huntington Beach to protect their use of the name.

The parties then reached a confidential settlement in January 2008, in which neither side admitted liability and all claims and counterclaims were dismissed. The Santa Cruz surf shops continue to print T-shirts, and the Huntington Beach Visitor’s Bureau retains the right to use the trademark.

Which city is the real Surf City USA is still debated and the answer you will get to that question depends on which of the two cities you are visiting.  Surfer Magazine says Santa Cruz is the real Surf City USA.  Others point out that the Jan and Dean song that made Surf City famous predated the official use of the name by either town was sung about Huntington Beach.

Should you choose to visit Huntington Beach over the other beaches up in Los Angeles?  That depends on your Southern California vacation itinerary and your interests.  If most of your vacation activities are up in Los Angeles, it will take you an hour to drive down to Huntington Beach in light traffic (which is rare in LA).  In that case you might want to consider Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach or Santa Monica Beach.  But if you are huge on surfing and surfing history, the Surf City USA is the only choice!

We hope this helps you with your California vacation planning.  Be sure to browse the site for other fun things to do in Los Angeles and please share it with your friends to help them have a great vacation too!

More photos after the break….

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach Pier at sunset
Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach south of the Pier
Ruby’s Diner at the end of Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach
The area above and below the mouth of Huntington Beach Pier is always a hub of activity

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