Hawthorne is a city of about 85,000 residents located in the southwestern portion of Los Angeles County.
It’s conveniently located between many of Southern California’s largest interstate highways, giving visitors easy access to the abundant attractions found in the area.
Hawthorne is just a few minutes inland from many of the area’s most amazing beaches and coastal towns, making it popular with beachgoers and sun-seekers who’d rather not pay the tourist rates common at hotels a few kilometers away.
Below are 15 fun, educational, and engaging things to do in and around Hawthorne that rank highly on many visitor’s itineraries.
1. Beach Boys Monument
Though it’s not so well-known outside diehard music lover circles, Hawthorne is where the Beach Boys got their start.
The modest Wilson home where the band’s founders grew up was once located on West 119th Street near the downtown area, just a stone’s throw from the monument that now memorializes their impressive rise to global stardom.
Most guests won’t need to spend more than a half-hour at the official California Historical Landmark, but it’s a worthwhile stop for those looking to experience a unique bit of American pop culture.
The Wilson’s home was demolished to make way for a new highway decades ago, but the monument is easy to reach from the 105 freeway.
2. Hawthorne Historical Society Museum
Local historical societies in small cities and towns across the country often get overlooked by all but the savviest travelers, but for those interested in learning about an area’s history, they’re great community resources that should be taken advantage of.
The Hawthorne Historical Society Museum was established as a not-for-profit organization in 2011. Since then, it has been preserving and highlighting the city’s unique past.
The Museum is located in Jim Thorpe Park on Prairie Avenue and includes a small but impressive collection of local historical memorabilia.
The facility has limited hours, so check online or give them a call before heading over.
3. Star Helicopter Tours
Los Angeles and smaller adjacent cities like Hawthorne are spread over a large land area that’s much more expansive than most Midwestern and Northeastern cities.
That means lots of driving between multiple attractions, at least for those who choose to travel by car instead of helicopter.
Start Helicopter Tours is one of the LA area’s premier aerial tour providers; their base is located on West 120th Street in Hawthorne.
Flights come in a number of package options to suit most schedules and budgets. They cover the Pacific coast, Hollywood, the downtown areas, and many others.
4. Eagle Rider Rentals and Tours
Eagle Rider Rentals and Tours is one of the world’s largest motorcycle tour companies. In addition to offices in Europe, Australia, and other American cities, they have a shop in downtown Hawthorne.
Whether you’re a licensed motorcycle enthusiast looking to rent a ride or someone who’d feel more comfortable experiencing the rush from the back seat behind a seasoned guide, motorcycle tours are often one of the most exhilarating activities of many traveler’s vacations.
Their staples include bikes by Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda, and others – all regularly maintained by professionals to ensure a fun and safe outing.
5. Continental Gourmet Market
Located on Prairie Avenue in Hawthorne, Continental Gourmet Market had the distinction of hosting Food Network host Alton Brown, who drove across the country on a motorcycle to try their renowned empanadas.
Apparently, they’re as good as everyone says they are. 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 huge variety of takeout grub, like gourmet sandwiches, homemade soup, and traditional South American BBQ.
What could be more fulfilling for an empty stomach than a hot cup of Latin American coffee and a sweet, warm churro or two?
Not much, according to previous guests who decided to stop by Azucanela for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
Azucanela is part coffee shop, part bakery, and part traditional café. It’s decorated in authentic Latin American décor, giving it a cool and festive vibe not typically found elsewhere.
The restaurant is located on Inglewood Drive in Hawthorne and features an extensive menu, comfy seating, and efficient staff that keep things flowing smoothly even during peak times.
7. Westdrift Manhattan Beach Golf
With so much to see and do around Hawthorne, time is often in limited supply for travelers intent on making the most of their vacations.
Though golf is one of Southern California’s biggest draws, even many diehard fanatics would rather not spend four or five hours on a course away from their friends and families.
Located on Parkview Avenue in Manhattan Beach, just ten minutes west of Hawthorne, Westdrift Manhattan Beach Golf is the perfect alternative to full-length 18-hole courses.
The 9-hole course rarely takes longer than 90 minutes to play, but it features manicured greens and fairways like those usually found on bigger, more exclusive courses.
8. Al Watan Halal Restaurant
Located on Inglewood Avenue in Hawthorne, Al Watan Halal Restaurant is one of the area’s most popular Middle Eastern eateries.
Its menu features authentic entrées like kabobs, tiki masala, Naan bread, and tandoori dishes. Previous guests have noted that their experience far outweighed their expectations.
Al Watan often has popular specials on certain days of the week, like lamb pulao, which is often served exclusively on Fridays, making it a great time to visit for those looking for something extra special.
Dishes come with a variety of traditional sides. According to past diners, the portion sizes were more than ample, considering the reasonable prices.
9. Old Town Music Hall
Located in El Segundo just a few minutes west of Hawthorne, the Old Town Music Hall is a must-visit attraction for music lovers from yesteryear.
The hall has been an iconic live entertainment venue dating back to the late ‘60s. It specializes in showcasing classic and silent movies with a live music compliment, performed on one of the largest Wurlitzers in the world.
The impressive instrument features thousands of individual pipes pumping out powerful music, lending an air of drama that really enhances the movie experience.
Seats at the historic hall tend to fill quickly, so plan ahead if you’ll be catching a show during peak times.
10. Cafe Cuba & Cakes
Southwest Los Angeles County has a variety of internationally influenced restaurants, and those featuring Cuban and Latin American cuisine are among the most popular.
Guests who’ve tried many of them claim that Café Cuba & Cakes is about as authentic as you’re likely to find without boarding an airplane and departing for the small island nation just 90 miles off the South Florida Coast.
Part restaurant and part chill coffee shop, its menu items run the gamut from dark Cuban coffee and savory rellenos to meat-filled potato balls and sweet baked goods.
The restaurant is located on Hawthorne Boulevard and features comfy chairs and fast Wi-Fi.
11. Sand Dune Park
Despite its incredible natural beauty, many of Southern California’s sights can start looking pretty similar after just a few days, but Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach is a true standout.
The park’s otherworldly dunes seem more akin to what you’d see in an Arabian desert or a sci-fi movie; they’re one of the area’s most unique natural attractions.
The largest dune’s summit is nearly 100 feet high. It is easily reachable by following a path that winds to the top.
The park also includes a playground with swings, climbing structures, and a merry-go-round.
Just a few minutes west of Hawthorne, it’s a great place to catch a sunset.
12. Randy’s Donuts
Since 1953, Randy’s Donuts in downtown LA has been one of the city’s most iconic and enduring culinary attractions.
Over the years, it has been featured in a number of movies and music videos. It’s hard to miss because there’s a 30-foot high fiberglass donut on its roof.
Randy’s architecture is reminiscent of the chrome and flash days of the ’50s. Every year, it draws thousands of donut lovers from all over the country, who come to experience a quirky and tasty local tidbit of Americana.
Expect a big selection of classically made donuts at an accessible location, just 15 minutes from Hawthorne right off the I-405.
13. Light Gate
Though it’s only truly ‘unlocked’ two times per year, Manhattan Beach’s Light Gate is a fun attraction to visit, regardless of when you find yourself in the area.
The Light Gate is a unique piece of contemporary art that’s been strategically positioned to capture the sun’s rays perfectly on just two days annually—once at the end of January and again in the middle of November.
It’s on these days that the gate’s glass center refracts the light into an amazingly vibrant spectrum of colors.
The piece was dedicated in 2015 to much fanfare. It has added an interesting element to the coastal city’s already impressive lineup of natural and artistic attractions.
14. Redondo County Beach
Just an easy 15-minute drive south of Hawthorne, Redondo County Beach is a popular attraction for lovers of surf, sand, and sun.
The municipal beach stretches for more than a mile along some of the area’s most scenic Pacific coastline. It features a variety of additional amenities, including a park, covered seating areas, a playground, and lifeguards on-duty for much of the year.
Though whiling away a warm sunny day on the beach tends to be the most popular activity, there’s a multi-use trail following the coastline that’s popular with bikers, runners, walkers, and all-around lovers of majestic ocean views.
15. The Manhattan Beach Art Center
The nearby coastal town of Manhattan Beach is most well-known for its beaches, but it’s home to a number of prominent cultural attractions as well.
The Manhattan Beach Art Center hosts a variety of year-round events, including arts and crafts expos, live entertainment productions, and guest speakers aimed at engaging the community.
The center is located on Manhattan Beach Boulevard near other area attractions, making it convenient to visit for those looking to combine a day at the beach with other more engaging cultural activities.
Depending on traffic, Manhattan Beach is usually less than a ten-minute drive from Hawthorne.