INCORPORATED IN 1907, Hermosa Beach once dubbed itself "The Aristocrat of the California Beaches" in an effort to attract high-society settlers. But with its white sandy beaches, views of Santa Catalina Island, Malibu and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, not to mention a name that means "beautiful" in Spanish, it was inevitable people from all social strata would flock here.
Instead of becoming an exclusive resort, the town became a magnet for surfing pioneers, volleyball players, beatniks and jazz musicians, who helped shape its laid-back vibe. The freewheeling spirit can be seen in the hodgepodge of architecture styles around, including Southwestern adobe, Cape Cod cottage, Craftsman bungalow, stately Victorian and, more recently, sprawling McMansion.
In August, the International Surf Festival and Hermosa Beach Open volleyball tournament attract more than 100,000 people to the heart of this 1.3-square-mile city, but this weekend will see an equally enthusiastic crowd attend the biannual arts and crafts fair Fiesta Hermosa (fiestahermosa.com), along Pier Avenue from Saturday to Monday. Parking is notoriously difficult, even on a regular weekend, so the easiest way to attend Fiesta Hermosa is to take the free festival shuttle bus, departing from a lot at Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Doolittle Drive.
But as you'll see below, there's more to Hermosa than sand, surf and sun.
DRINK IT IN
The 10,000-square-foot New American restaurant/wine bar Brix@1601 (1601 Pacific Coast Highway,  698-0740) has brick archways, stone fireplaces and leather booths. Chef Michael McDonald's menu has standards such as moules frites and braised short ribs, but where Brix really shines is its extensive wine selection, including esoteric glasses from spots such as Slovenia.
Making waves in the design community of late is Walteria Living (1093 1/2 Aviation Blvd., walterialiving.com), run by Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, his wife, Anita, and designer Kathleen Walsh. The company's line, which includes such products as Motherbaugh's Black Forest wallpaper collection and Walsh's porcelain Chihuahua night light, blend humor, high design and kitsch.
The Lawn Bowling Club (861 Valley Drive,  374-7405) was founded in 1936 and meets three or four times a week. The informal club is open to the public and furnishes equipment and instruction to beginners. Players attempt to roll slightly asymmetrical balls closest to a smaller white ball.
PLAY'S THE THING
The 500-seat Hermosa Beach Playhouse (Pier Avenue at Pacific Coast Highway,  372-4477) won a Los Angeles Conservancy Award for Restoration in 1984. Its current production, "Tracers," a documentary collage about the Vietnam War, written by veterans, ends June 8.
With its no-flip-flops dress code and sleek, contemporary decor, Blue 32 (1332 Hermosa Ave.,  376-2600; bluethirtytwo.com) feels less like a frat house and more like a real grown-up nightclub. Go early for dinner -- the venue switches from chill restaurant to hot club at 10 p.m. -- and skip the line at the door.