15 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach (CA)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Many people come to Huntington Beach just to enjoy the gorgeous surf breaks and the sandy beach here that stretches for almost 10 miles along the coast line of the city. As such, this city is now one of the most well loved on the West Coast, and you will find a mix of a laid back surf town here that blends seamlessly with a vibrant culture and exciting nightlife scene.

There are a range of period attractions here, especially in the downtown area where you will find historical houses that date from the 19th century, as well as iconic local landmarks like Huntington Beach Pier and the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. Around Huntington Beach you will also find spectacular local attractions that are not just limited to the beach such as the Bola Chica Ecological Reserve, and the Shipley Nature Center. Whatever you choose to do however, the beach is never far away in case you just want to hang out on the sand and enjoy the sun and surf.

Lets explore the best things to do in Huntington Beach:

1. Sunset Gondola

Sunset GondolaSource: sunsetgondola
Sunset Gondola

It may feel as if you have been transported to Venice, Italy, but you can actually get an authentic gondola ride in the middle of Huntington Beach.

The area around Huntington Harbor is made up of picturesque islands, inlets, and canals, and with Sunset Gondola you can float around and take in the beauty of this part of the United States from the water.

The gondolas that are used for this experience were actually built in and imported from Italy, so know that you are getting as close to the authentic Venetian feeling as possible outside of Italy, and the vessels are all operated by award winning gondoliers.

There are packages around various holidays like Valentine’s Day, and you can bring your own snacks for the trip.

2. Bolsa Chica State Beach

Bolsa Chica State BeachSource: flickr
Bolsa Chica State Beach

Bolsa Chica State Beach used to be called ‘Tin Can Beach’ in the 1960s, but thankfully the cans have gone and instead you will find one of the best loved strips of sand in the Huntington Beach area.

Bolsa Chica is known for its outdoor activities that include surfing some of the perfect barrels formed by the large waves here.

For something a little more laid back, you can enjoy fishing here as well as bird watching.

There are picnic areas dotted all over Bolsa Chica and if you are looking for a way to take in the local scenery, then you can go for a walk on the purpose built trail that runs along the beach and stretches for over eight miles.

3. Bella Terra

Bella TerraSource: tsamusic
Bella Terra

Modeled after a beach town, Bella Terra is also a shopping and entertainment complex that is perfect for families, couples, or single travelers alike.

As well as a wide range of shopping options here, you will also find a number of delicious dining options, from fine dining to quaint cafes.

If you have finished shopping and dining then you can also enjoy the theaters and live entertainment shows that take place at the amphitheater here.

If you want to enjoy some fresh air at Bella Terra, then you can also find outdoor gardens and scenic fountains.

4. Huntington Harbor

Huntington HarborSource: flickr
Huntington Harbor

Huntington Harbor lies at one end of Huntington Beach and is known for its cluster of five individual islands.

Between the islands and the harbor itself you will find serene waterways that lead to a vibrant area of beachfront.

Along the beachfront you will find shopping and dining options galore, and if you want to take to the water then you can charter a private boat that will take you on a scenic trip around the canals.

If you prefer to go it alone, then you can also rent a kayak and paddle around yourself.

As you are on the water, you can expect a wide variety of sea life as well as a huge number of different species of birds, so anyone interested in the local flora and fauna should keep their binoculars at the ready.

5. Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra

Huntington Beach Symphony OrchestraSource: hbsymphony
Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra

If you are a music lover then you will love the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra, which has a huge number of different genres on offer to suits the tastes of different patrons.

Concerts are held throughout the year and there is also a youth choir that performs along with the orchestra at some of their shows.

As such, make sure that you check what’s on when you are in town so that you don’t miss one of their famous concerts.

6. International Surfing Museum

International Surfing MuseumSource: tripadvisor
International Surfing Museum

Anyone who is a surfing aficionado should not miss the International Surfing Museum on a trip to Huntington Beach and even if you are a novice surfer, this is still a great place to learn all about this great sport.

The mission statement of this small but comprehensive museum is to teach visitors all about the historical and cultural significance of surfing, and to that end you will find permanent and rotating exhibits here that tell the story of the history of surf.

As well as period surfing memorabilia, you will also find rare and painstakingly restored surfboards and there are even quirky pieces like motorized surfboards on show.

If you have come to Huntington Beach to get out on the water yourself, then the museum is also a great place to find out where the best surf spots in the area can be found.

7. Huntington Central Park

Huntington Central ParkSource: flickr
Huntington Central Park

Huntington Central Park covers 300 acres which make it the largest state owned park in the entire Orange Country area.

As a result, you can expect to find a huge range of activities here such as fire pits if you want to have a barbecue and scenic grassy lawns and knolls where you can play Frisbee or just enjoy the outdoor scenery.

Walking trails run all over the park and you can walk or jog here easily as well as enjoy the flower gardens that showcase the local plant life perfectly.

8. Surf City Comedy Club

Surf City Comedy ClubSource: groupon
Surf City Comedy Club

For some laughs in the Huntington Beach area look no further than the Surf City Comedy Club where you will find local established comedians as well as some of the most talented newcomers in the area.

The club is well known for featuring a brand new line up every Saturday night which means that you will always find someone new in town.

As well as hearing some jokes, you can also have some food and a few beers with the performance, making this a great night out in Huntington Beach.

9. Huntington Library

Huntington LibrarySource: flickr
Huntington Library

The Huntington Library is not just a place to borrow books, but is actually also made up of art collections and botanical gardens all on the same site.

The library was founded by Henry E. Huntington from which it takes its name, and has collections of 18th and 19th century art from Europe, as well as pieces of American art from the 17th through until the 20th centuries.

Also on the property, you will find 120 acres of gardens including a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden, and even a Desert Garden with an impressive array of cacti.

10. Shipley Nature Center

Shipley Nature CenterSource: flickr
Shipley Nature Center

The Shipley Nature Center is dedicated to preserving the environment in the Shipley area and has the aim of educating visitors on the beauty of this part of California for generations to come.

The nature center is set on 10 acres of land inside the wider Huntington Central Park and is filled with local plant and wildlife.

Docents can give you are a tour of the center and answer any questions you may have and there are a number of shaded areas where you can sit and enjoy this ode to nature.

11. Old World Village

Old World VillageSource: flickr
Old World Village

To get away from it all and go back in time, consider a trip to Old World Village.

This area was actually created in the 1970s and is designed with a huge dose of nostalgia in mind.

Here you will find cobbled streets as well as shops, dining options, and entertainment outlets, and there are also a huge range of specialty local shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs.

If you happen to visit at the right time then you will also find seasonal events such as dachshund races and Oktoberfest.

12. Surfriders Academy

Surfriders AcademySource: tripadvisor
Surfriders Academy

Huntington Beach is famous for its love of surfing, so with that in mind why not sign up for a surf lesson at Surfriders Academy and try out this amazing sport for yourself? The talented staff here are adept at training beginners, and many of the participants here find that they can stand on their boards from the very first lesson.

You can choose from either individual or group training sessions here and safety is paramount here, so you can learn to surf in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

13. Newland House Museum

Newland House MuseumSource: surfcityfamily
Newland House Museum

For a look at the local history of Huntington Beach in more detail, head to the Newland House Museum where you will find a 19th century abode that sits on 500 acres of land.

The home was painstakingly restored some years ago and has a huge collection of antique items that belonged to the Newland family, including their ten children.

The grounds of the house where used as a farm, and you can tour both these and the house to learn how the people here would have lived and worked in days gone by.

Newland House also has the claim to fame of being the oldest house in the Huntington Beach area and is now overseen by the local Historical Society.

14. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological ReserveSource: flickr
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is also known as the Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge and used to be a part of a Mexican land grant in the days of old.

Now the land has an interpretive center on it that visitors can tour to learn more about the conservancy programs in the area.

There are galleries dedicated to animals and marine life and you can also see taxidermy exhibits of other local wildlife.

Hiking is popular in the area as is bird watching and wildlife photography is also enjoyed here thanks to the gorgeous vistas on display around the reserve.

15. Surfers’ Hall of Fame

Surfers' Hall of FameSource: flickr
Surfers’ Hall of Fame

If you want to see a monument to many of the greatest surfing icons of all time, then you need to come to the Surfers’ Hall of Fame.

If you have been to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, then this may seem familiar to you, as the Hall of Fame is modeled on the famous theater as it also has the hand and footprints of may surf champions here, still preserved in cement.

The Hall of Fame is close to the famous Huntington Beach Pier, and if you happen to be here at the right time then you can see the annual surfing championships that are held there.

15 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach (CA):

  • Sunset Gondola
  • Bolsa Chica State Beach
  • Bella Terra
  • Huntington Harbor
  • Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra
  • International Surfing Museum
  • Huntington Central Park
  • Surf City Comedy Club
  • Huntington Library
  • Shipley Nature Center
  • Old World Village
  • Surfriders Academy
  • Newland House Museum
  • Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
  • Surfers' Hall of Fame