Known for its mild year-round climate and artist community, the seaside resort town of Laguna Beach beckons families to enjoy its scenic beaches and kid-friendly attractions.
Of the 22 public beaches in Laguna Beach, downtown Main Beach is the best known and ideal for families because it offers so many nearby amenities. There is a wooden boardwalk, several grassy areas, a playground, beach volleyball and basketball half-courts, restrooms, showers, and walking paths at the north end. You'll find information for water temperature and surf posted at the historic lifeguard tower. (Pacific Coastal Hwy. between Broadway and Ocean Ave.)
In love with sea lions? The Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine mammals back into the sea. You can visit for free and visit sea lions that are on the mend. Volunteers are on hand to answer questions and share the story behind each patient's recovery. (20612 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949.494-3050)
Take the kids on a three-hour eco-adventure with La Vida Laguna Kayaking to Seal Rock, a nature sanctuary and home to a colony of California sea lions. Along the way, you'll paddle through kelp beds, float over hidden reefs, explore coves and may even spy a dolphin or whale. Kids ages 3 to 7 can ride in the middle of a tandem kayak for free. (Fisherman's Cove, 673 N. Coast Hwy.; 949.275-7544)
Wear water shoes to explore some of Laguna Beach's best tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park. The park offers family-friendly guided walks, on which you might spy hermit crabs, starfish, sea anemones, scallops, and other sea critters. Also inside the park, you'll find restrooms and two kid-friendly restaurants, Ruby’s Shake Shack and The Beachcomber Cafe. (8471 N. Coast Hwy.; 949.494-3539)
When do you want to inject culture into your visit? Free for kids 12 and under, the Laguna Art Museum offers a popular “Art Detective Game” scavenger hunt with questions and clues relating to the museum’s artworks. If your child loves hands-on creativity, there's also a free drop-in kids' art studio on the third Sunday of the month from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. (307 Cliff Dr.; 949.494-8971)
Laguna Beach has some of the most magnificent hiking trails in Southern California. The easy 3.5-mile Laurel Canyon Loop Trail in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park brings you past wildflowers and jagged rock formations as it makes a slow ascent to a canyon peak. At the top, the climb rewards with a panoramic view of the coastal canyon. (18751 Laguna Canyon Rd.)
Kick Back at a Cool Playground
When you need some downtime at a good playground, head to Bluebird Park. This whimsical space offers one playground for toddlers and another for older kids, as well as.bathrooms, a drinking fountain, and picnic tables. The main draw is the collection of cool playground equipment, including slides built into a hillside, climbing ropes, a new-age merry-go-round, and a four-story rocketship tower. On Sunday evenings in the summer, you can catch the "Music in the Park" summer concert series.
If you're a fan of old-time candy stores, put the Candy Baron on your must-stop list. This well-loved institution in downtown Laguna Beach is chock-a-block with huge barrels of saltwater taffy, licorice, gummies, caramels, and every classic and novelty candy imaginable. (231 Forest Ave.; 877.798-2339)