Hawthorne is a city of approximately 85,000 residents located in the southwestern part of Los Angeles County.
It’s conveniently located between many of Southern California’s largest interstate highways, giving visitors easy access to many of the area’s attractions.
Just minutes inland from many of the region’s most stunning beaches and coastal towns, Hawthorne is popular with beachgoers and sun lovers alike, who would rather not pay the tourist prices commonly found in hotels just a few kilometers away.
Here are 15 fun, educational, and engaging activities in and around Hawthorne that rank high on many travelers’ itineraries.
1. Beach Boys Monument
While not so well-known outside of die-hard music-loving circles, Hawthorne was where the Beach Boys started.
The Wilson home where the band’s founders grew up was once located on West 119th Street near downtown, just a stone’s throw from the monument that now commemorates their impressive rise to global stardom.
Most guests won’t need to stop at the official California Historic Landmark for more than half an hour, but it’s a worthwhile stop for those looking to experience a unique take on American pop culture.
Wilson’s home was demolished decades ago to make way for a new highway, but the monument is easily accessible from Highway 105.
2. Hawthorne Historical Society Museum
Local historical societies in small towns across the country are often overlooked by all but the savviest traveler, but for those interested in learning about an area’s history, they are an important community resource that should be tapped.
The Hawthorne Historical Society Museum was established in 2011 as a non-profit organization. Since then, it has been preserving and highlighting the city’s unique past.
Located in Jim Thorpe Park on Prairie Avenue, the museum houses a small but impressive collection of local historical memorabilia.
The facility has limited hours, so check online or give them a call before heading there.
3. Interplanetary Helicopter Tour
Smaller neighboring cities like Los Angeles and Hawthorne are spread over a wider land area than most Midwestern and Northeastern cities.
That means a lot of driving between multiple attractions, at least for those who choose to travel by car rather than helicopter.
Star Helicopter Tours is one of the premier air tour providers in the Los Angeles area; their base is on West 120th Street in Hawthorne.
Flights are available in a variety of package options to suit most schedules and budgets. They cover the Pacific coast, Hollywood, downtown areas and many others.
4. Eagle Rider Rentals and Tours
Eagle Rider Rentals and Tours is one of the largest motorcycle tour companies in the world. In addition to offices in Europe, Australia and other US cities, they also have stores in downtown Hawthorne.
Whether you’re a licensed motorcycle enthusiast looking to rent a motorbike or experience a rush from the back seat with an experienced guide, motorcycle tours are often the most exhilarating activity of many travelers’ vacations one.
Their main line of products includes bikes from Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda and others – all of which are regularly maintained by professionals to ensure a fun and safe outing.
5. Continental Food Market
Located on Prairie Avenue in Hawthorne, the Continental Gourmet Market features Food Network host Alton Brown, who rides his motorcycle across the country to try the famous empanadas.
Apparently they are as good as everyone says. Unlike their Mexican counterparts, they’re made with Latin American spices, ingredients, and recipes that keep hungry customers coming back time and time again.
The market specializes in specialty foods from Argentina, Chile and Peru. They also operate a thriving catering business and a wide variety of takeaway items such as gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and traditional South American barbecue.
What could be more satisfying on an empty stomach than a hot cup of Latin American coffee and a cup or two of sweet and hot churros?
Not much, according to previous guests who decided to stop at Azucanela for a morning or afternoon to pick me up.
Azucanela is part coffee shop, part bakery, part traditional café. The restaurant is decorated in an authentic Latin American style, creating a cool, festive ambience often found elsewhere.
Located on Inglewood Avenue in Hawthorne, the restaurant offers an extensive menu, comfortable seating and efficient staff to keep things flowing even during peak hours.
7. Westdrift Manhattan Beach Golf
With so much to see and do around Hawthorne, time is often limited for travelers looking to make the most of their vacation.
While golf is one of Southern California’s biggest draws, even many die-hard enthusiasts are reluctant to spend four or five hours on the course away from friends and family.
Located on Parkview Avenue in Manhattan Beach, just 10 minutes west of Hawthorne, Westdrift Manhattan Beach Golf is the perfect alternative to a full-length 18-hole course.
Playing time on the 9-hole course rarely exceeds 90 minutes, but it has manicured greens and fairways like those usually seen on larger, more exclusive courses.
8. Al Watan Halal Restaurant
Located on Inglewood Avenue in Hawthorne, Al Watan Halal Restaurant is one of the most popular Middle Eastern restaurants in the area.
Its menu includes authentic entrees such as grilled meats, tiki masala, naan and tandoori dishes. Previous guests noted that their experience far exceeded their expectations.
Al Watan usually offers popular specialties such as lamb pulao on certain days of the week, usually only on Fridays, making this a great time to visit for those looking for something special.
The dishes have various traditional sides. According to past diners, the portions are very generous considering the reasonable price.
9. Old Town Music Hall
Located in El Segundo, just minutes west of Hawthorne, Old Town Music Hall is a must-see for music lovers of yesteryear.
The lobby has been an iconic live entertainment venue dating back to the late ’60s. It specializes in classic and silent films, complimented by live music, and is staged at one of the largest Wurlitzers in the world.
Featuring thousands of individual pipes, this impressive instrument delivers powerful music, creating a dramatic atmosphere that truly enhances the cinematic experience.
Seats in the historic hall tend to fill up quickly, so plan ahead if you’re going to see a show during peak hours.
10. Cuban coffee and cake
Southwest Los Angeles County is home to a variety of restaurants with international influences, with the most popular ones featuring Cuban and Latin American cuisine.
Guests who have tried many of them claim that Café Cuba & Cakes is as authentic as you might find without boarding a plane and heading to the small island nation just 90 miles off the coast of South Florida.
Part restaurant and part cold coffee shop, with menu items ranging from dark Cuban coffee and savory rellenos to minced potato balls and sweet baked goods.
Located on Hawthorne Avenue, the restaurant has comfy chairs and fast Wi-Fi.
11. Dune Park
Despite its incredible natural beauty, many Southern California attractions can start to look remarkably similar after a few days, but Manhattan Beach’s Dune Park is a real standout.
The otherworldly dunes in the park look more like what you’d see in an Arabian desert or a sci-fi movie; they’re one of the region’s most unique natural attractions.
The summit of the largest dune is nearly 100 feet high. It is easy to reach by following the path that winds to the top.
The park also includes a playground with swings, climbing structures and a carousel.
Just a few minutes west of Hawthorne, this is a great place to watch the sunset.
12. Randy’s Donuts
Since 1953, Randy’s Donuts in downtown Los Angeles has been one of the city’s most iconic and enduring foodie spots.
It has appeared in many movies and music videos over the years. It’s hard to miss, as it has a 30-foot fiberglass donut on the roof.
Randy’s architecture is reminiscent of the chrome and flash days of the 50s. Every year, it attracts thousands of doughnut lovers from all over the country to experience the local quirky and delicious American flavor.
You’ll find plenty of classic donuts in a convenient location, just 15 minutes from I-405 from Hawthorne.
13. Light Gate
While it’s only really “unlocked” twice a year, Manhattan Beach’s Gates of Light is a fun attraction whenever you find yourself in the area.
The Gates of Light is a unique piece of contemporary art strategically positioned to capture the sun’s rays perfectly for only two days a year – once in late January and another in mid-November.
It is during these days that the glass centre of the gate refracts light into a stunning vibrant spectrum.
This piece made a big splash in 2015. It adds an interesting element to the coastal city’s already impressive lineup of natural and artistic attractions.
14. Redondo County Beaches
A 15-minute drive south of Hawthorne, Redondo County Beach is a popular spot for surf, sand and sun lovers.
Municipal Beach stretches for more than a mile along some of the most scenic Pacific coastlines in the region. It features a variety of extras, including parks, covered rest areas, playgrounds and lifeguards on duty most of the year.
While warm sunny days at the beach tend to be the most popular activities, there is a multi-use trail along the coast that is popular with cyclists, runners, walkers and all-around stunning ocean views welcome.
15. Manhattan Beach Arts Center
The nearby seaside town of Manhattan Beach is best known for its beaches, but it’s also home to many notable cultural attractions.
The Manhattan Beach Arts Center hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including arts and crafts fairs, live entertainment productions, and guest speakers designed to engage the community.
Located on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and close to other area attractions, the center is convenient for those looking to spend a day at the beach and other more engaging cultural activities.
Depending on traffic, Manhattan Beach is usually less than a ten-minute drive from Hawthorne.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Hawthorne, CA, CA
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