Consider Torrance Southern California’s best-kept secret. Only 12 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport, this small town feels a world away from LA.
Torrance boasts uncrowded beaches and stellar local restaurants and breweries. Stroll, shop, and eat your way through a walkable historic district, or discover a bit of nature in the heart of the city.
Dive into its inspiring history and thriving art scene. Shop outside at the lively farmers’ market or indoors at the sixth-largest mall in America.
Whatever you choose, you’ll find a laid-back vibe and slower pace in this sunny SoCal town.
Here’s a two-day weekend itinerary to the best places to eat, things to do, and places to explore on a getaway to Torrance.
- Day One in Torrance
- Day Two: Exploring Torrance’s Bounty, History, and Art
- Day 3: Shopping and Beach Day
- Morning: Beach Day
Day One in Torrance
Where to Stay in Torrance
With its central location, Best Western Plus Avita Suites makes a convenient home base for exploring Torrance. Rooms feature a sitting area, large-screen television, microwave, and small refrigerator. I especially liked the large desk and ergonomic chair, perfect for working while traveling.
The best part of the room was the bed, with a cloud-soft mattress that offered the perfect support for a refreshing sleep.
The free breakfast options include make-your-own waffles and breakfast sandwiches, as well as an assortment of cereals, pastries, juices, tea, and coffee.
Dinner: MB Grille
Enjoy sophisticated flavors and elegant presentations in a casual atmosphere at MB Grille. Located at the Del Almo Fashion Center, the restaurant specializes in sustainably caught fish and seafood.
Start with spicy calamari or the sublime poke nachos, which pairs tender poke with crisp fried wonton chips.
Entrees include a range of fish and seafood, from parmesan-crusted halibut on a bed of cheesy mashed potatoes to lobster-crab cake sliders. The Grille also dishes up juicy steak and chicken, fresh salads, and pasta. A curated wine list complements the meal (ask your server for pairing recommendations).
Day Two: Exploring Torrance’s Bounty, History, and Art
Breakfast: Local Kitchen
Fuel up for your morning explorations at Local Kitchen, a tavern in Old Torrance serving generous breakfast portions. The dining area resembles a gentleman’s study, with dark wood shelves filled with books and knickknacks lining the walls.
The eclectic breakfast menu includes quesadillas and burritos stuffed with eggs, cheese, and pico de gallo; steak and eggs; French toast; pancakes; and other favorites. Everything is made from scratch.
Local Kitchen’s menu also features mimosas and other morning cocktails.
Morning: Farmers’ Market
Sixty farms bring their produce to the Torrance Certified Farmers’ Market at Charles H. Wilson Park every Saturday and Tuesday. Local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen sell an astounding array of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, meats, fish, plants, cut flowers, and more.
One section is devoted to prepackaged items, such as cheese, fudge, and ramen kits. If all that food makes you hungry, head for the hot food section for ready-to-eat tamales, noodles, kettle corn, and much more.
The market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Look for parking in the park parking lot or the First Presbyterian Church lot across the street.
Lunch: Torrance Bakery Cafe
Well-known for its baked goods and wedding cakes, the Torrance Bakery also boasts a modest lunch cafe featuring made-from-scratch soup, sandwiches (made with their own bread), and hearty salads. Three doors open to the street at Torrance Bakery; the third door belongs to the cafe.
The award-winning lunch spot offers a selection of specialty cold sandwiches and grilled paninis, such as spaghetti meatball or pesto turkey, made with house-roasted turkey. There are a few tables inside, but most diners take their lunch to go or eat at the tables lining the sidewalk.
Afternoon: Walking Tour of the Historic District and Film Locations
Spend the afternoon strolling Old Torrance and exploring the town’s history and use for film sites.
Head south on El Prado Avenue, and you’ll come to El Prado Park, the first park in the new town of Torrance. Founded by Jared Sidney Torrance in 1912, the city was designed to be a working man’s paradise, with Mission Revival-style homes, parks, and a walkable downtown. Over the years, its charm and architecture have remained intact and helped make it a popular source of Hollywood for filming locations.
One of the most famous film locations is Torrance High School, located at the southern end of El Prado Park. Built in 1917 and on the National Registry of Historic Places, the high school can be seen in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Medium,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Not Another Teen Movie,” “She’s All That,” and other movies.
I’ll admit to a little thrill at seeing one of Buffy’s haunts!
Walk northeast along Post Avenue for a sample of the Mission Revival architecture common in the residential areas. At the corner of Post and Cravens Avenue stands the 1936 Art Deco-style building that houses the Torrance Historical Society and Museum. It was once home to the town library. Inside, you’ll find exhibits on life in early Torrance, rotating temporary exhibitions, and the most extensive collection of Louis Zamperini memorabilia in the world. The Torrance hero enjoyed fame as an Olympic athlete, WWII veteran, and subject of the bestselling book and movie “Unbroken.”
Just down the alley to the northwest (going toward Engracia Avenue) is one of the city’s murals. Painted by Kent Twitchell, “Six Los Angeles Artists” pays homage to artists and features six of his friends from Otis College of Art & Design.
Head back past the Historical Society and walk another block to El Prado Avenue to return to Torrance Bakery.
If you have time, visit the Torrance Art Museum (you’ll have to drive). Check the TAM website for hours and a glimpse of the exhibits that are currently on display. The small museum presents a variety of modern and contemporary artwork.
Dinner: Madre! Oaxacan Restaurant and Mezcaleria
Madre! Oaxacan Restaurant and Mezcaleria founder Ivan Vasquez missed his mother’s cooking, so he opened a restaurant using her recipes and traditional ingredients. The Oaxacan flavors transport diners to Mexico with moles, tamales, enchiladas, and other favorites.
My traveling companion and I wanted to try a little of everything, so we ordered one of the shareable plates that offer enough for two.
Live music on most nights and an extensive mezcal list round out the experience. Finish your meal on a sweet note with light-as-air churros and chocolate sauce.
Evening: A Play at the Torrance Theatre Company
Sit back and enjoy live entertainment performed by the Torrance Theatre Company. The six-play season runs from August to June, with shows at the intimate 48-seat theater in Old Torrance or at the James Armstrong Theatre, which seats 500 guests.
The professional-quality shows include classic and contemporary plays with a mix of dramas, comedies, and musicals. In a world of screens, I found sitting so close to the actors in the small theater to be a special treat.
Day 3: Shopping and Beach Day
Breakfast: 21 Square Bar + Kitchen
Savor breakfast classics with a California twist at 21 Square Bar + Kitchen, located inside the Torrance Marriott Redondo Beach hotel. The menu ranges from simple eggs, bacon, and breakfast potatoes to carne asada chilaquiles made with scrambled eggs, queso fresco, and roasted tomato salsa.
The most popular item is the avocado tartine, a hearty version of avocado toast. Fresh greens are piled high on grilled bread spread with avocado, then topped with a fried egg and accompanied by avocado chunks.
The restaurant also serves dinner and offers a well-stocked bar. Choose a table inside or outside in the open-air lounge.
Morning: Beach Day
No visit to SoCal is complete without a trip to the beach. So, when it’s time to catch some rays and play in the surf, head to Torrance Beach. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but that’s what keeps it free of crowds.
The sandy strip stretches 1.5 miles between Redondo Beach and the Palos Verde Peninsula. The beach features lifeguards, restrooms, showers, a concession stand, and volleyball nets. It’s also ADA-equipped with ramps and beach access mats for wheelchairs.
Watch the surfers, join a volleyball game, or take a dip in the ocean.
Torrance Beach is also the start of The Strand, a 22-mile-long, paved multi-use path along the coast. If you forget sunscreen or want a souvenir, the shops along South Catalina Avenue, just a block and a half from Miramar Park, cater to beachgoers.
Lunch: Red Car Brewery and Restaurant
Named after the iconic red trolley cars that roamed Southern California from 1901 to 1960, the Red Car Brewery and Restaurant is the go-to place for wood-fired pizza, fresh salads, sumptuous burgers, and craft ales. The chef sources as much as he can from the local farmers’ market.
Pair the popular Red Car Salad (mixed greens, heirloom tomatoes, blue cheese, and candied pecans) with the thin-crust Margarita pizza and the South Bay IPA, a hoppy brew true to the English tradition. The beer is brewed on site, next to the bar.
Finish your lunch with a decadent brownie or a slice of airy, delightfully creamy cheesecake.
Afternoon: Shopping at Del Amo Fashion Center
The Del Amo Fashion Center is the sixth-largest mall in America with more than 250 specialty stores, including large retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Nike. I could have wandered for hours!
The mall also features a movie theater, more than a dozen restaurants, a playground, and tourist information at the California Welcome Center. Regular mall hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. the rest of the week.
If you love to shop, the Del Amo mall might be all the justification you need for a SoCal weekend getaway, but don’t overlook Torrance’s other charms, from its outstanding restaurants to its clean, uncrowded beach.