On Day 20, we drove from Zion National Park to Laguna Beach, CA, a route pretty devoid of pit stops! We were very glad to arrive in such a kid-friendly mecca of attractions, restaurants, and beaches!
Having grown up in the area (and returning to visit relatives every year since), we are quite familiar with Laguna Beach and its surrounding areas, and we’re convinced it’s one of the best beach towns in America. Below are our favorite picks for families:
Best Public Beach:
Main Beach is lively and fun (and perfect for a post-breakfast or dinner stroll), but to escape the summer crowds, we recommend heading south to Aliso Creek Public Beach. Aliso Creek is on the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) just outside of Laguna in South Laguna. (The Montage Resort borders it on the north-end, a wonderful hotel which caters to children more than you’d think; if it’s in your budget, this is a wonderful hotel option). At Aliso, you’ll find a parking lot (eliminating long walks to the beach while carting all your stuff), bathrooms and showers, a playground right on the beach, and over a mile of sand. (The creek that feeds into it is inviting to kids, but there’s no wading allowed.)
Again, Main Beach boasts a fun park along the boardwalk, but for pure kid fun, we prefer Bluebird Park on the Laguna hillside. From Hwy 1, take Cress Street up the hill (directions). At Bluebird, you’ll find extensive play structures (with new, space-age-esque designs) for the toddler set as well as older kids, fun slides built into rocky hillsides, a rocket, and scooter/bike paths. (Sometimes gets busy with the kids’ club located adjacent to the park.)
Best Local Event:
If you’re in Laguna during the summer months, be sure to check out the Sawdust Festival! Located right on Laguna Canyon Road (Hwy 133), this art festival features the booths of local artists (from pottery to fine art to jewelry) and gives kids plenty to look at! Be sure to check out the glass blowing demonstration and stop by the kids’ art booth to let your children try their hand at the project of the day! (Admission: $7.75 for adults, $3.25 for kids 6-12, free for under age 6.)
Best kid-Friendly Restaurant:
Ruby’s Diner, located at 30622 Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) is fast, fun, and kid-centric. Designed like an old-time diner, kids will love the shakes and malts, burgers, and onion rings (as well as their own chef hats). On nice days, ask for outdoor seating: they’ll take you up to the roof!
Best Toy Store:
Main Beach Toys is a great place to stop while browsing art galleries and shops in Laguna (so kids can actually touch some stuff!). Be sure to stop here before hitting the beach, too: they carry lots of sand and water toys.
Date last visited: July, 2010.
Distance off the interstate: Laguna Beach is about 30 minutes from I-5.
Directions: From the 405 or I-5, take Hwy 73 exit to Beach Cities to Hwy 1 into Laguna.
Up Next: We take the kids (and nephew Homer) to Pretend City in Irvine, CA!