Above a booth at Uncle Bill's Pancake House, a small mural celebrates the glories of a summer day in Manhattan Beach.
Glance from your macadamia nut pancakes and you'll see artist Sarah Napolitano's painting of a sailboat out on the bay. Nearby, surfers ride waves that roll onto a broad, sandy beach sectioned off by volleyball courts.
An early-arriving family carrying a cooler treks across the sand, looking to settle in for the day, and bicyclists on the Strand oceanfront walkway cruise past a bikini-clad roller-skater with a ponytail poking out of her baseball cap.
Walk down to the beach after breakfast, and the mural comes to life. Volleyballers dig and spike as a parade of humanity ― pedaling, sprinting, strolling, and rolling ― passes by a lineup of beachfront dream homes. Homeowners here trade a bit of privacy for views that make the area's outrageous real estate prices seem not so crazy after all.
Joining the procession is a canine cavalcade ― an endless stream of golden retrievers, puggles, and other designer dogs. Even the mutts seem to know how lucky they are to have landed in this purebred Southern California beach town.
Most of us will have to content ourselves with visits to Manhattan Beach rather than permanent residence. But with a pair of hotels ― including the newly opened Shade Hotel ― just a few minutes from the Strand, you can get a taste of what it's like to live here.
Even if you just come for the day, you'll find Manhattan Beach offers not only a vibrant beach scene but also a walkable downtown filled with boutiques and restaurants. Downtown's also home to the long-anticipated Metlox project, a new upscale retail development that's changing the face of the city.