I often wish that I lived in California. From the coast to the desert, and everything in between, there is a place to suit everyone’s taste. I am fortunate that my parents are snowbirds and have a home in Palm Springs, so our little family decided to travel there this spring and use their place as a home base for a quick trip to the coast. With two kids in the car and LA traffic to contend with (have mercy!), we wanted to drive somewhere close-ish (under 3 hours driving time) and have easy access to the ocean. We are a beach family by nature, and breaking out of the Palm Springs 105 degree heat was in order. We chose Laguna Beach for our sojourn, and it was the perfect 3-day getaway!
I had been to Laguna Beach many years ago when I was around 9 years old, but only had vague memories of the beach. Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city located in Orange County in southern California between Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel. The beach area itself is a marine reserve and conservation area, so environmental preservation is a top priority for locals – and it is beautiful!
Though we had checked out a bunch of different options for hotels, we decided to stay at the Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel because of the location. The hotel is located just across the PCH from a fabulous section of beach (most important!), it is walkable to Main Beach Park and the main shopping area, it has a Ralph’s (grocery) close by, and is close to Bluebird Park in Bluebird Canyon – one of the best playgrounds I have experienced in my career as a mother of two!
Our three-year-old is not fond of long walks, but we brought our umbrella stroller so it was easy enough to get around. The sidewalks in Laguna can be a bit difficult with strollers – some areas are easy to navigate, while other areas are very narrow or lined with parking meters and other obstacles – so I would suggest leaving the BOB and larger strollers at home. If your babe is smaller and can fit in a carrier or wrap, even better!
As I mentioned, Bluebird Park in Bluebird Canyon is a super fun spot for the little ones. When the kids tire of the beach (a rare occurrence with our two), its a short hike up the hill from the beach to get to the canyon. The park has many play structures, a hillside with built in slides and tunnels, large art pieces like a turtle that kids can climb on, fields and BBQ/picnic areas, and so on. The walk up from Cress Street has no sidewalk, so beware! Also, beware when crossing the PCH when in Laguna Beach and other towns/tourist spots along the ocean in Orange County. Unless you are at a controlled intersection (your safest bet), the only way to cross safely is at a pedestrian-controlled lit crossing, and when you push the walk buttons you hear a recording, “use extreme caution, cars may not stop!”. That’s just how it goes when a major highway runs through your beach town!
The Laguna Beach art scene is a thriving one, as is apparent from the many galleries and public art installations. The beach town is well known for its yearly Pageant of the Masters, described as “Ninety minutes of ‘living pictures’ – incredibly faithful art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.” Unfortunately for us, the pageant takes place in July/August so we were too early, but I would have loved to see da Vinci’s The Last Supper recreated by live subjects!
We were blessed with some magical sunsets while we visited Laguna Beach, and had a wonderful sunset dinner at Mozambique on our last night. Our hotel concierge recommended Mozambique to us, but I was worried that it would not be suitable for young kids. We decided to go at happy hour since the atmosphere at most higher-end restaurants is more casual during this time, and Mozambique was perfect. I was pleasantly surprised that they had a kids menu and crayons ready to go, as well as a toucan and a couple of parrots at the entrance that our kids loved. Other kid-friendly places where we grabbed a quick bite were Wahoo’s Tacos and Johnny Rockets across from the Main Beach Park (for the shakes, yum!).
After our quick side trip, we headed back to the desert for more heat before going home. If you are in the desert area (or in southern California), I highly recommend taking a day, two-day, or three-day trip to the coast. There are so many little towns and areas to explore – and we’re already thinking ahead to which one to visit next time! Have you been to Laguna Beach or other seaside spots in Orange County? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!