Disneyland/Places to go along the beach
We will be in Disney in August and my daughter is turning 15. We have rented a car as she would like to go to the beach. Any suggestions as to how to plan an itinerary to drive from Disney to Venice and/or Santa Monica Pier? Restaurants that are reasonable but nice for her birthday dinner?
Thanks for your advice!
It's a good 45 miles from Disneyland to Santa Monica or Venice. Santa Monica is an iconic SoCal landmark, and you could have some good times there. There is also shopping nearby at Santa Monica Place, which is also quite famous. You'll get there by going north on I-5 to the 10 westbound. Exit at 4th Street, and park on the pier. If you don't get off on 4th Street, it's difficult to find your way back to the pier. On the way to Santa Monica, once you pass the 110 freeway, you can see the Hollywood sign on your right. Even though the letters are 50 feet tall, it's sometimes tricky to see, so let your passenger get a photo. It's smaller than it looks on TV.
Venice Beach is more of a circus freak show. You have performers, vendors, and visitors, all stretching the limits of normalcy to the breaking point. But, despite the weirdness, it's rather fun to take it all in, as long as you get to leave Oz at the end of the day.
One fun option is to go to Santa Monica Pier, rent a couple bikes, and ride south to Venice Beach. You can eat on Santa Monica Pier at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. If you do that, it's almost required that you see the movie Forrest Gump first, so you'll get all the references.
If you go home in the evening, take a different route: Go south on the 405 to the 105 west. You can then go south on the 605 to the 91 east, which merges with the 5 south. Why such a circuitous route? This takes you by LAX, and if you take this in the evening, a couple of things will happen: Whoever is not driving can take a quick shot of the airport and the ocean from the transition road between the 405 and 105. Secondly, as you head east on the 105, you can see all the airplanes lined up to land at LAX, up to 100 miles away. Twin lines of airplanes, stretching to Palm Springs.
An alternative is to go to Huntington Beach from Disneyland. It's closer, and almost as iconic as Santa Monica. Take the 5 south to the 55 south, until the freeways ends. Go straight on Newport Blvd to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). If you go right, you can go to the HB Pier, where they have a cool 50's style diner called Ruby's right on the pier. There are lots of little surf shops and restaurants to explore in the area. If you take Newport Blvd straight past PCH, you'll wind up on Balboa Blvd, which takes you to the Balboa Pier section of Newport Beach. This is an upscale beach town, with a shopping center known as Fashion Island. The Balboa Pier area has a lot of shops and restaurants, as well as a Fun Zone carnival area. There is also a Ruby's at the end of Balboa Pier.
Lots of choices, have fun choosing!