If you want to get a true feel for the spirit of Huntington Beach, plan to spend an evening by a bonfire. In all, there are more than 500 fire rings spread across 10 miles of beaches at Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and Huntington State Beach. If you’re interested in snagging one of these rings, you’ll need to plan ahead. They’re all first-come, first-served—no reservations. And they tend to get grabbed up quickly, especially on summer weekends. So, stake your claim early in the morning, and plan to be in it for the long haul. The fire rings are open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The first rule of the fire rings is: Don’t leave your ring unattended. You can pile up all the stuff you want around a ring, but if you leave it unattended, someone else may move your stuff and lay claim to the area.

You may want to be neighborly and offer to share a fire ring with another group. There’s plenty of room for everyone; make new friends!

What to bring (and not to bring)

Now that we’ve covered the rules of the rings, it’s time to think about what you need to make your beach bonfire a roaring success.

Fire

A great bonfire needs to start with a fire. You can use either wood or charcoal in the fire rings at all three parks. You cannot burn wood pallets or treated wood, however. And you can’t dig your own fire ring or use a charcoal grill on the beach.

To get that fire blazing, you’re going to need dry wood (or charcoal), kindling (twigs, leaves, moss), newspaper, and possibly starter fluid. And don’t forget the matches (you’d be surprised how often this happens). Bring twice as much wood as you think you’ll need; a big bonfire needs lots of fuel. You can buy firewood at grocery stores and concessions near the beach, or ask the concierge at your hotel to help you source some.

Comfort

You can go as simple as a blanket in the sand, or as elaborate as a folding table, chairs, and a canopy. It really depends on the style of your group and how much lugging you want to do. Don’t forget blankets, sweatshirts or sweaters, and long pants. The beach can get chilly once the sun starts to set.

Food and Drinks

There’s something about the beach that makes everyone extra hungry. So, plan to bring lots of food to cook over the open fire. Hot dogs, corn on the cob, and marshmallows are always crowdpleasers. And there are a seemingly endless variety of s’mores recipes to try, so be sure to pack all the fixings.

Bring plastic or paper cups for beverages; glass and the beach is a bad combination. Fill those cups with any beverage you like, as long as it’s non-alcoholic. Alcohol is strictly forbidden on the beaches.

Don’t forget to bring napkins, plates, cutlery, and condiments. You don’t want to have to hike to a store once the fire’s going. And remember the trash bags and clean up after yourself. There’s nothing worse than hitting the beach early in the morning only to stumble over the detritus from the previous night’s bonfire bash.

Entertainment

Sure, the crashing of the waves is a magical sound, but no bonfire is complete without music. Ask your group to bring their guitars, harmonicas, ukuleles, or bongos. Have everyone sing along, clap, drum, whistle, or dance to the music. If instruments aren’t your thing, create the ultimate playlist (don’t forget some Beach Boys tunes), load it on your phone, and connect up to a portable Bluetooth speaker. Even the tiniest of speakers can put out enough volume to keep the fun flowing around your bonfire.

Stock up and settle in for an old-school beach bonfire. You’ll be taking part in a Huntington Beach tradition that’s lasted since the 1950s for one good reason—it’s just plain fun, no matter how old or young you are.

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