Why not take a trip down to Huntington Beach this summer?

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Lauren West/File

There’s nothing like going home for the summer after a long, difficult semester, and this summer has been no different.

If you come down to Huntington Beach, or HB, there are a lot of things you can do and see to stay entertained. The most popular spot has to be Downtown HB, or in other words, the beach itself.

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When you grow up somewhere, sometimes the place can lose its charm, and for me, Huntington Beach — also nicknamed Surf City, USA — was that way for a long time.

Growing up, I often felt out of place in Downtown HB, where all the cool kids, surfers and skaters hung out in their bikinis and Billabong shorts, while I could be spotted in my layers and wearing Converse All-Stars even in the sand. For a long time I avoided it, but going back with my best friend has helped me see a lot of the charm and appeal it has to offer now that I’m a little bit older and wiser. I’ve also learned to not care so much about “fitting in” to whatever beach or surf culture is supposed to look like.

They say you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and coming back to HB has been both a homecoming and a vacation all in one.

Even if you’re not a strong swimmer or you’re not a fan of getting your hair wet, there are plenty of things to do in Downtown HB that don’t involve surfing.

Today the temperature was only in the mid-to-high sixties with a breeze, and while we were afraid of being cold, it really was the perfect temperature for meandering downtown.

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First thing’s first: we had to go to the pier. Walking along the Huntington Beach Pier always has had a nostalgic feel, and being able to share that with my friend was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

On the pier you can see different vendors selling kites and trinkets, as well as fishermen set up with their rods and gear for the day. If you look over the edge, you see volleyball players on the sand and, in the ocean, plenty of surfers looking to catch that next gnarly wave. Everywhere you look there’s the ocean, the salty sea breeze and people smiling, talking and milling about.

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At the end of the pier is the best part: Ruby’s Diner.

Ruby’s Diner is an iconic part of SoCal culture, especially the location on the pier. Ruby’s is set up like a ’50s diner, with burgers and shakes and chocolate-flavored Cokes (It may sound weird, but it’s delicious!), and it’s really a must-see HB staple.

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Once you’re done with the pier, you have to go down into the sand and walk along the shoreline. Today it was fairly deserted, and we were able to dip our toes into the pleasantly cool water, squealing as it lapped around our ankles, leaving traces of damp sand and foam.

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as the feel of damp sand between your toes as you walk along the beach, letting the salty spray of the ocean style your hair however it wishes — mermaid chic, if you will.

After you’re done with the beach, the rest of Downtown HB is your oyster: filled with tourist shops and other restaurants, bars and cafes, it’s a fun environment and a nice place to end the day. Try coming by on a Tuesday so you don’t miss the street fair: there are all sorts of pop-up shops and places for food and entertainment — even a rock climbing wall and a live band!

Looking back on today, I’m so glad that I was able to rediscover a part of my hometown that I had previously dismissed. Downtown HB is a wonderful place to visit, especially in the summer around the Fourth of July, when there is a large parade and fireworks that can be seen from the ocean. When you’re looking for ways to get out of Berkeley and the Bay Area this summer, why not give Surf City, USA a try?

Lauren West is the assistant blog editor. Contact Lauren West at [email protected].