With 1.5 miles of sandy shoreline, the Los Angeles County city of Torrance is technically a beach town. But the South Bay hub is increasingly known as a bustling city unto itself, with a multicultural heritage, a cool nature preserve, and a burgeoning beer scene.
A good place to start is Torrance Beach. Part of the Santa Monica Bay, the sand here is often less populated than the beaches in nearby Redondo and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Rent a bicycle or surfboard and pick up snacks at Perry’s Café & Rentals. Nearby, check out the Madrona Marsh, a 43-acre seasonal wetland where reptiles and small mammals make their homes in pop-up vernal pools and micro habitats. Bring your binoculars: The Audubon Society uses the Marsh for its annual bird census, and bird and nature walks are offered daily.
Torrance has a strong multicultural presence, too. Take one of the free tours at the Chen Art Gallery, which houses more than 1,000 Chinese artifacts, all from one family’s private, rare collection—including a Qing dynasty imperial throne room and a Ming dynasty bedroom. Torrance’s Japanese population, meanwhile, is second only to Honolulu in the U.S.; shop with the locals at the flagship Mitsuwa Marketplace, an immersive supermarket experience with specialty eateries, bakeries, and boutiques selling Japanese cosmetics, videos, and more.
Another don’t-miss shopping stop is the Del Amo Fashion Center, notable for being one of the largest malls in America and for making cameos in such movies as Valley Girl, Jackie Brown, and Bad Santa. For another kind of mercantile experience, browse the 200-plus vendors Torrance Antique Street Faire, held on the fourth Sunday of every month (on other days, check out the vintage furniture in its retail store).
A more contemporary addition to the city is its growing craft beer scene. Check out the tasting rooms of the dozen-plus local breweries such as Red Car Brewery, named after Torrance’s old trolley line; The Dudes’ Brewing Company; and nano-brewer Zymurgy Brew Works & Tasting Room, which offers DIY brewing events.
For old-school beer culture, go to Torrance’s Bavarian-style Alpine Village, home to a big Oktoberfest each fall, and a year-round resource for happy hours and sausages, coupled with a fun gift shop. Come for the weekly Sunday Champagne Brunch that boasts an abundance of German specialties like Sauerbraten and Jäger Schnitzel.