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Huntington Beach, Calif., is every bit the iconic SoCal beach city it is known for — it even has the registered trademark of Surf City USA to prove it. The city, located approximately 32 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport, serves as a perfect introduction to California’s laid-back beach style, as well as a nearby gateway to some of its most popular attractions, including Disneyland Resort. Whether clients are seeking a relaxing day in the waves, strolling through downtown or cozying up to a bonfire on the beach for a short one- or two-day trip, Huntington Beach is certain to satisfy their demands.
Day OneCheck into the Hilton Waterfront Beach ResortThe Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort is exactly as its name describes — fronting the waters of the Pacific. Occupying such a prime spot along the famed Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) has its advantages: The hotel offers impressive views of the ocean, as well as close proximity to Huntington Beach’s popular downtown area.
The AAA Four-Diamond property is as equally suited to business groups as it is to leisure travelers, especially families. It boasts such family-friendly amenities and touches as a children’s menu and various children’s activities, including a Sunset Bonfire With S’Mores with Toes on the Nose.
The property features 290 newly renovated guestrooms, all of which come with ocean views, including 24 oceanfront suites with wrap-around balconies. The Standard King guestroom that I stayed in during a recent visit was cozy and inviting, with all of the amenities that I enjoy most, including a private furnished balcony; a 32-inch LCD flat-screen television; gourmet coffee and tea; and a personal mini-fridge.
The hotel also offers 21,500 square feet of meeting and events space, as well as a heated pool and whirlpool; a full-service restaurant, Shades Restaurant & Bar; a fitness center; an on-site tennis court; and an on-site sand volleyball court. www.waterfrontresort.com
Cocktails at 25 DegreesAfter checking into the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort and unpacking a bit, clients will probably want to unwind either by the Hilton’s pool or by heading to downtown Huntington Beach — or both. If they decide to travel downtown, I’d recommend a stop at 25 Degrees.
Aside from serving up savory burgers, this bar/restaurant also delivers inventive cocktail combinations, including a decadent Guinness Milkshake made with Guinness beer, a house-made chocolate sauce and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. A nightly happy hour takes place from 3-7 p.m. and also includes discounted small plates and beer specials.www.25degreesrestaurant.comDinner in DowntownAfter consuming a spiked shake or two at 25 Degrees, clients will find more than enough dinner options to satisfy every appetite in the surrounding downtown area. For Mexican cuisine, many locals favor Fred’s Mexican Cafe (www.fredsmexicancafe.com) for its fresh fish tacos and diverse margarita menu. Clients who crave Pacific-Rim-accented dishes along with trusted American favorites, such as a Kona-spiced rib eye, will want to make reservations at Duke’s Huntington Beach (www.dukeshuntington.com), located right at the beginning of the Huntington Beach Pier. Be sure to remind clients to save room for Duke’s famous hula pie at the end of their meal.
Following a filling dinner, taking a leisurely stroll along the pier or beach or walking back to the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort is a helpful way to shed just a few of the calories consumed.
Day TwoCatch the Sunrise Waking up early to see the sunrise along the beach is an amazing sight no matter which beach you’re at but it’s particularly scenic at Huntington Beach, especially from the comforts of your own private balcony at the hotel.
Birding at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve or Going to the Dogs at Dog BeachWhether your clients are bird enthusiasts or dog lovers, Huntington Beach offers two locales to suit either preference.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a birder’s paradise, with nearly half of all birds found in the U.S. having been spotted here, including 321 of Orange County, Calif.’s 420 bird species in the past 10 years alone. During my recent morning visit to the reserve, I was awed by the sight of so many different birds — some of which even made spectacular dives into the marshland waters to retrieve their breakfasts. Because of my inexperience as a bird watcher, I was also grateful to have the assistance of Jim Robins, a volunteer docent with the Bolsa Chica Conservancy. Robins took special care to point out the different birds and wildlife surrounding us. The nonprofit Bolsa Chica Conservancy works tirelessly to ensure that the wetlands are preserved and maintained.www.bolsachica.org
If your clients would rather hang out with animals of the canine variety, Dog Beach, which is also located along PCH, is an ideal spot. This one-mile stretch of beach is a rarity among SoCal beaches, even the dog-friendly ones, because it allows dogs to be completely off leash. One of the best things about strolling through Dog Beach is people (and dog) watching. The beach is even better for clients who choose to travel with their pet in tow (the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort is pet friendly, even offering a special Wag It at the Waterfront pet program). Dog Beach is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.www.dogbeach.org
Brunch at the Sugar Shack CafeAfter doing some bird and/or dog watching, it’s likely that your clients will be starved for some breakfast. One of Huntington Beach’s most beloved breakfast and lunch spots is the Sugar Shack Cafe, located on Main Street. The family-owned restaurant, which has been open since 1967, is a favorite among local surfers for its hearty breakfast offerings, including its famous Keppler’s Special which consists of scrambled eggs on an English muffin, topped with avocado, tomato, bacon and Hollandaise sauce, with a heaping helping of hash browns on the side.www.hbsugarshack.com
Head Over to the International Surfing MuseumLocated just a short walk from the Sugar Shack Cafe is the International Surfing Museum, a must-visit for any surfing or skate enthusiast. The small museum is chock-full of surf and skate memorabilia from the days of Duke Kahanamoku, often regarded as the grandfather of modern-day surfing, to today’s Silver Surfer. www.surfingmuseum.org
Antiques Shopping in Downtown Huntington BeachNot far from the International Surfing Museum is where you’ll find the historic, family-owned M.E. Helme Antiques shop, which is filled to the brim with unique finds, from “Mad Men”-esque handbags from the 1950s to collectible toys and furniture. The building housing the shop dates back to 1904 and is listed in the National Register of Historic sites. 714-960-1902
Lunch and Chocolate Tasting in DowntownAfter a leisurely lunch in one of downtown’s many eateries, you might want to make a quick stop at the local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to take in a fudge-making demonstration, or simply to satisfy your sweet tooth with one of the shop’s nearly dozens of homemade chocolate flavors.http://rmcf.com/CA/HuntingtonBeach00029/
Beach BonfireIf your clients haven’t already made plans to lounge on the beach, they should definitely make it a point to participate in a beach bonfire at Huntington Beach. Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort guests can book a Sunset Bonfire With S’mores with local tour op Toes on the Nose through the hotel for a cost of $150 for up to eight people, making it an ideal family or small group activity. The bonfire includes a s’mores kit, beach chairs and towel service. Likewise, if clients are interested in other beach activities, from renting a beach cruiser to learning how to surf, Toes on the Nose can also provide that as well. www.waterfrontresort.com/docs/WaterfrontAdvBrochSummer09.pdf
A guestroom at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort // © 2010 Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort
A Guinness milkshake from 25 Degrees // © 2010 Deanna Ting
Mahimahi fish tacos from Fred’s Mexican Cafe // © 2010 Deanna Ting
It’s not uncommon to spot birds at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. // © 2010 Deanna Ting
It’s a dog’s life at Dog Beach. // © 2010 Deanna Ting
The M.E. Helme Antiques shop is filled with unique items. // © 2010 Deanna Ting
Clients can participate in a fudge-making demonstration at this outpost of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. // © 2010 Deanna Ting