Laguna Beach has a history of being a top vacation destination within Southern California, beginning with the earliest stars of Hollywood. Known for its pristine coastlines and bustling art scene, Laguna Beach is a mecca for creativity and thrives on being a community of open-minded individuals. It is a known haven for the LGBTQ community. The city elected the state’s first openly gay mayor in 1982. Today, Laguna continues to welcome everyone. Parents of all types are seeking out destinations that welcome their family, and Laguna Beach does just that. There is plenty for all families to do in this quintessential SoCal destination.
Things to Do
Start simple and rent. Main Beach Toys offers rentals of beach toys, chairs, and even body boards. So there’s no need to over pack that suitcase, Main Beach Toys has you covered.
If your little one appreciates a slide, Bluebird and Top of the World (Alta Laguna Park) have fantastic playgrounds. At these places, the little ones to have fun while providing epic water views for the adults. Aliso Beach also has a playground as well as fire pits—for early-evening bonfires, public bathrooms, and easy parking.
Whale watching is also a great way to teach the family about marine life. Laguna’s coastline has more dolphins than Florida and Hawaii combined. The marine reserve in Southern California, allows the kelp forest to grow, and sea life to come to feed.
There are plenty of things to do in Laguna Beach that are entirely free of cost. Home to some of the most pristine tide pools in all of California, the marine reserve is filled with sea stars, crabs, anemones and even octopodes. The best beaches to experience the tide pools are Treasure Island, Main Beach and Shaw’s. Docents are available at Main Beach and Treasure Island on most weekends to teach the public.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center offers a chance to see seals and sea lions up close. They are there for rehabilitation, before going back into the wild. Pro-tip: get there closer to 3 p.m. as that’s when the animals get fed. Docents are available to answer questions.
Art lovers can visit the Narrative Gallery, featuring original work of none other than Dr. Seuss, and the Nat Geo Gallery—one of only seven in the country—has large-scale stunning photos from all over the world.
Active families can hike to Barbara’s Lake, the only freshwater lake in Orange County. The flat, easy hike is perfect for young kids. Hike Willow is another outdoor hiking option with several points along the way where visitors can use their cell phone to call in and learn about interesting facts and info about the area. The cool sandstone rock of ghost rock is also on this trail and is a highlight for kids. La Vida Laguna has water activities and lessons for almost all ages, with kayaking available for kids as young as four years old.
Where to Eat
Quick grab-and-go options great for the kiddos include Active Culture, a natural foods café and yogurt shop founded by a local family, offering a healthy food alternative. The shakes and smoothies will satisfy your youngster’s sweet tooth without all the added sugar.
Sergio’s Empanadas serves artisan-style empanadas that are perfect for satisfying the tummy between meals. Taco lovers can head to Rasta Taco, California’s original made-to-order taco cart, and Laguna Beach is home to its first brick-and-mortar location. Guests can order and pick up food from the take-out window and enjoy their meals on the outdoor patio.
For sit-down meals, Slice is a pizza and beer spot that is perfect for both adults and kids. Everyone loves pizza and parents typically love beer. Zinc Café has comfortable outdoor dining with an upscale menu that can appeal to both kids and their parents. The breakfast menu is extensive and includes mimosas to help get the day started. Avila’s El Ranchito is a family-owned and -operated Mexican restaurant in the heart of Laguna on Pacific Coast Highway with a gorgeous traditional Mexican menu in addition to a kid-friendly menu.
Best Places to Stay
For the kid-friendly luxury resort stay, the Surf and Sand is located on 500 feet of California’s coastline and offers private oceanfront balconies, coastal dining, and an award-winning spa. For something a bit different, there’s the original homestead of Laguna Beach: Nestled in the Aliso and Wood Canyons,
The Ranch at Laguna Beach resort is situated on an iconic piece of land where canyon and sea meet. The Ranch also happens to be California’s only National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Located just three blocks from Main Beach is an affordable paradise that offers 21 rooms.
Laguna Beach House recently underwent a $1.5 million reinvention that includes chic coastal décor and vintage furniture to create the feel of a beach cottage. In the lobby, guests can start their day with coffee, enjoy complimentary wine hour at sunset and indulge with cookies and milk before bedtime.
The Inn at Laguna Beach is directly on the beach and walking distance to downtown. The luxury boutique is in most photos of Main Beach due to its sheer presence.