Always bring quarters. On the short list of things to keep in the car for a Sunday road trip, please remember quarters. Besides bottled water, sunscreen, and hats, we also keep quarters. And a small kite. If trunk space permits, please consider a picnic blanket, and some bicycles. But quarters are a priority. Sometimes quarters will allow you to park in good places. About Manhattan Beach: I had heard about a big sand dune that people ran up and down and decided to take a Sunday family road trip to check it out. Tucked into a very cute neighborhood a few miles south of LAX is a small park next to a National Guard center. The park consists of a huge, steep wall of sand and a play area for toddlers. That’s it. While that may not sound like much, it turns out that climbing this sand hill is an invigorating experience, even if you only climb up once. No special clothing or shoes are necessary, just join the many other adults and children making their way to the top. Leg muscles you may have forgotten about are called into action, and at the moment is starts to feel demanding, you’ve made it to the top. Yeay! At the top is quaint little street that leads straight to the ocean. I decided to take the stairs back down the sand dune hill, but my husband ran down and said it had almost the sensation of skiing. We watched some folks go up and down the hill several times for a hearty workout. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to go back.

Continuing south, through the neighborhood, we located Manhattan Beach Blvd., at the end of which is a pier. At the end of the pier is the Roundhouse Aquarium. Here’s where the quarters come in handy. The parking right along the beach requires lots of quarters, every day of the week, and there were plenty of parking spaces, perhaps because not everyone who would have liked to park there had quarters.Don’t be intimidated by the crowds on the pier: they aren’t all going to the aquarium. And yes, you’re in the right place. The first time I saw the little building at the end of the pier, I didn’t know it was the aquarium. I looked up and down the beach and even under the pier wondering where the aquarium was. That little round structure is it. Perhaps because we have come to think of an aquarium as being the size of a theme park, and as expensive, it was hard to imagine that the Roundhouse Aquarium was large enough to contain any fish. For a bite size, and free museum, it’s quite nice. Pop in a pet some sea urchins, cucumbers, and stars. Watch the baby rays and search for the sarcastic fringe head. Consider it an opportunity to focus on a few of the wondrous creatures of the sea.

The colder days being what they are, a strong wind was blowing and there weren’t many people on the beach, so we got the butterfly kite out of the trunk and easily got it into the sky, extending the line all the way. It was a beautiful way to conclude the afternoon outing.
Please note that there is a bike path and a separate footpath running along Manhattan Beach, affording another opportunity to get some exercise and fresh ocean air.Notes:

Sand Dune Park: the corner of 33rd St. and Bell Ave. (left off Rosecrans) Free parking.

Roundhouse Aquarium: end of pier at the end of Manhattan Beach Blvd. Open to public: weekdays 3pm – sunset, Sunday 10am – sunset., Tel: (310) 379-8117, cost: Free. Beach Parking: $1/hour (quarters only)