I had recently read that Los Angeles was fast becoming a bicycle-friendly town with the addition of more than 40 miles of pathways which in turn has produced midnight bike rides, East Side bike rides, women’s bike rides and, only in LA, nude bike rides.
So when a wedding invitation arrived announcing that the location of one of my favorite second cousin’s wedding would be in the Los Angeles area, Marina Del Rey to be exact, I realized that this would be my opportunity to rent a bike and explore the area.
Close by the Los Angeles airport, LAX, Marina Del Rey is a perfect location offering easy access to the hotel I’d be staying at for the wedding as well as the opportunity to venture out to locations south or north of the Marina.
Having spent ample time in a northerly direction towards both Venice and Santa Monica in the past, it was a no brainer that I’d be biking south down as far as Manhattan Beach at the very least and Redondo Beach should I get that ambitious and not be suffering saddle sores as well.
Being the good traveler from years spent traveling with my wife, the former Travel Editor at the Chattanooga News-Free Press, I knew the travel drill. First off I caught a sale on Southwest Airlines,which had landed at the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport at Panama City Beach this past year.
Next I checked out the biking deal at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the Marina where the wedding weekend was being held. No bargain there, but I moved on to Plan B which was, of course, to Google bike rental shops near the marina.
Online I found the exact bike rental shop that supplied the hotel at a rental price that was more than half the hotel’s price. Was there life before Google? Doubtful!
I was also informed that with the rental comes a free ice cream when you turn in your bike. Top that National “any car in the lot” Rentals!
A short history lesson for those who have never stayed or even heard of Marina Del Rey. Located on the Westside of Los Angeles it is actually a man-made phenomenon; Marina del Rey comprises 807 acres, of which 1/2 is under water.
The Marina was “born” after successfully surmounting major development problems that span several decades and was formally dedicated on April 10, 1965. Now 47 years later there are more than 6,000 recreational boat slips available in the various marinas that curve around this one square mile of land that is home to fewer than 11,000 Angelenos.
During the day and on weekends during season the population triples. It must be because the crowd waiting to get a sandwich at the Mendocino Farms Restaurant in the Waterside shopping Center appeared to be at least a thousand. Okay maybe closer to 100 inside and out.
For those who don’t bike but enjoy walking, there are a number of parks at the Marina including the 10-acre Burton W. Chace Park for picnics and barbecues. Admiralty Park has a self-guided exercise path for fitness enthusiasts, while Aubrey E. Austin Park offers beaches and spectacular views. For a meditative setting try the more intimate Harold Edington Park.
Best news for bicycle enthusiasts such as me is the awesome fact that the longest continuous coastal bike route in Los Angeles, which is also the most popular, is a 22-mile round-trip classic spin that stays Oceanside almost the entire time and passes multiple marquee communities.
Excellent scenery awaits the bicyclist on this quieter stretch of the South Bay Beach Bike Path. A good tip is to avoid the Venice Beach weekend crush by hopping on the paved bike path at Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey.
I began my first excursion by heading out along a path that took me across Ballona Creek and shortly found myself riding across the sand on a paved path carved out of the wide sandy beach that runs along the Pacific Ocean.
While the path was not crowded on a Friday morning of a holiday weekend, locals rode as though they were heading down the famous “101” freeway. Fast and faster. Sometimes three abreast coming towards me while another biker decides to go around them coming in my direction and, oh yeah, on a serious curve on the path.
Be warned that if you are an occasional outdoor biker like myself (I do most of my riding on a recumbent bike at the gym or attend a spin class) don’t be put off by those rolling speed jockeys. Just remember that you want to make the journey because there is an ice cream reward at the finish.
The following day I headed out along the canal that empties into the Los Angeles River System. Follow it and it will bring you to the Gold Line, the LA train system. Hop on with your bike and head to downtown Los Angeles.
Once downtown you have a number of museums to choose from as well as an IMAX Theater and soon it will be home to the space shuttle Endeavour.
If you want to explore the Marina and you are in the area between late June and Labor Day as I was, there is the WaterBus. Call it a miniature ferry boat if you choose, but by all means choose it.
The WaterBus makes seven stops at virtually all the marinas and can take an hour to make a full trip from point to point. The fare is nominal, $1.00. My opinion is that if you can get anything in California for a dollar, do it!
While I did not make the full trip I did enjoy the short hop from the location hard by the hotel, #3 at Waterfront Walk to Burton Chase Park, the #2 boarding location. From there it was a pleasant walk to the Waterside Shopping Center with its many first class shops and restaurants.
The uniqueness of Marina del Rey and its location near the airport meant I did not have to rent a car nor bear the scars of driving the Los Angeles freeways. It made a perfect destination for a long weekend as well.
Furthermore, I would not have a problem coming back with no purpose other than just to kick back in true Southern California style in weather even the Beach Boys couldn’t sing about enough.
Where to stay
Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey
4375 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, California 90292 USA
Phone: +1 (310) 823-1700
A smaller property but well maintained with a superb staff. The hotel sports a beautiful pool set in lovely gardens with access to a walking path that runs alongside the marina. There is also a better than average Health Club that provides steam rooms as well.
Where to Shop and Eat
Waterside Shopping Center
There is a selection of upscale shops including my favorite candy store, See’s Candies.
The aforementioned Mendicino Farms Restaurant was my choice because of their emphasis on fresh and wholesome options. It is really worth the wait and they give you generous sampling of their side dishes plus a chance to be caught up in the sort of traffic one might find on the freeways!
For those bourgeois folks like myself who aren’t too proud to “tote” some grocery snacks through the lobby of the Ritz, check out Ralph’s a longtime supermarket staple in California.
Daniel’s Bicycle Rentals
13737 Fiji Way
Call ahead as I did and speak to Daniel or Joe, two excellent purveyors of information for helping you plan a day-trip on your rental bike. The free ice cream is the real icing on the cake!
Transportation in the Marina
1 (310) 628-3219
Great fun for young and old and a neat way to see all of the marina.