The Hedrick family had a blast on the Southern California coast. We visited a lot of cool and interesting locations. While some places were geared toward the adults, we could not forget about Jai and his interests. If you are traveling to the area, we put a list together of some of our favorite family friendly spots.
Tourmaline Beach- San Diego was a dream vacation for Jai. It helped that the friends we were staying with were only a 3-minute walk from Tourmaline Beach. This beach seemed to be where surfers would come to catch waves, so it was really cool to watch the action. Jai also liked building sand castles and collecting different sea plants and stones. To be honest Jai had a great time at each of the beaches we went to. What kid wouldn’t?
Here are some other sandy spots we went to:
Pacific Beach- It had cliff lookouts next to lots of restaurants and shops.
Black’s Beach- You can watch paragliders from the cliffs/bluffs at the top or the bottom. Beware there is a bit of a trek climbing down for the most direct route. Also depending on your comfort level, at the bottom lies a nice flat, “clothing optional” beach. Jai had no problem seeing nude people. We actually think he wasn’t aware that their were naked people walking around. He never mentioned anything to us.
Children’s Pool Beach- The appropriately named Children’s Pool is a great enclosed beach where kids will really enjoy themselves. The beach itself is a little small when all the tourist come, but can be worth it when you get a glimpse of a Harbor Seal relaxing on the beach with you. https://www.sandiego.com/beaches/childrens-pool
We also checked out cool recreation areas to let Jai run free.
Mission Bay- One big area to explore is Mission Bay. They have playgrounds, a few different sporting events happening at any given time, lots of watersports activities, and the list goes on for lots of family fun. https://www.sandiego.org/explore/coastal/mission-bay-beaches.aspx
Belmont Park- This is another area wrapped up in Mission Bay. This area has the fun amusement section including an arcade, carousel, rollercoaster, and tasty boardwalk food. http://www.belmontpark.com/amusementpark/
Balboa park- There is too much to do in only one day. We recommend enjoying it for 2 (or more) days. It offers many museums like the San Diego Natural History Museum. Jai saw a sign with a dinosaur on it and begged us to go inside. The museum had a fun & colorful dino section and many animal skeletons. It is small enough to get around and look at everything without being super tired. Balboa park also houses a wooden carousel, a mini-train and the famous San Diego Zoo. https://www.balboapark.org/
Old Town San Diego- Jai loves playing make-believe and his fantasy dreams came true when we visited Old Town. He pretended to be a settler in the wild west. Old saloon buildings are now either small museums or artisan shops. In the town square there are old canons and lots of running space. It’s a great place to grab lunch and walk around. http://www.oldtownsandiegoguide.com/
Baked Bear- San Diego gives you great options for many types of desserts, but our favorite was this ice cream-cookie sandwich shop! You were able to put any type of ice cream between a variety of cookie flavors, brownies or both. You were even able to add a topping like hot fudge or caramel. Jai went into a sugar induced coma. http://www.thebakedbear.com/
LA to SD
On our road trip to San Diego from Los Angeles we stopped at a couple beaches with two different vibes.
Long Beach- This area seemed hidden by the city buildings, but once you found it you could see how long and flat the beach. It seemed like you were in a lagoon, because of how still the water was. We were right next to a marina and could see boats docking or leaving. Jai immediately jumped in the water because he could tell the waves were soft, almost non existent. It was also very shallow. It’s the perfect beach to let your kid run free and not worry so much about the dangers of the ocean. http://www.visitlongbeach.com/attractions/
Huntington Beach- There is no way you can miss Surf City, USA! There are lots of people walking around on the boardwalk and pier, and everything around you is so brightly colored. Even the water was an electric blue dotted with surfers on their boards trying to catch the best waves. The pier goes out pretty far and a diner is at the end if you are hungry. We sat with Jai in the middle of the pier to watch all the surfers. Jai learned a new term, wipeout. This is definitely a popular beach for people to stretch out on the sand and play volleyball. https://www.surfcityusa.com/#/gallery/recent
If you drive when there is not much traffic, you can surely find areas perfect for the kids. We had the help of friends showing us the best spots to keep Jai amused.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County- So far this has been my favorite Natural History Museum. The different animal exhibit halls were very interesting to look at. Each animal had its natural habitat depicted around it using a mix of 3D material and paint. It’s a bit surreal when you look at it from different angles. The Gemstone exhibit was extravagant and even Jai was attracted to the shiny stones. Of course, this visit was for Jai and he found his nirvana very quickly in the Dinosaur hall. Most museums we visited had one room with a few fossils, but this place had a many rooms filled with dinosaur remains. Jai was most excited about seeing a longneck, sauropod, which is his favorite type of dinosaur. This section was very interactive as well. It had lots of areas where we were encouraged to touch and press buttons. The cherry-on-top during this visit was the T-Rex dinosaur puppet show. Children are greeted by a paleontologist and a hungry feathery T-Rex. Jai thought the show was hilarious and appreciated the information. Another fun area was the Discovery Lab for kids. As a parent it was nice to take a break from walking and let Jai roam free to look through microscopes and dig for fossils. https://nhm.org/site/
La Brea Tar Pits- It’s still an active tar pit site where they are finding fossils from the Ice Age. There is a small museum where you can see just how massive the Mammoth was and how hard it is to pull yourself out of tar. There are areas around the park marked with bright cones to show some tar coming out of the ground. Beware, it is very sticky and hard to get off. You are also able to visit some of the dig sites to see how they excavate their findings. As a bonus you are right next door to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Craft & Folk Art Museum, and up the road is the Zimmer Children’s Museum. https://tarpits.org/
Santa Monica Pier- Piers are always a fun place for kids. This one also had a fun amusement park area with bumper cars, a roller coaster, and lots of spinning rides on top of it. You can pay per ride or buy a pass for the whole day. Close to the amusement area is an arcade full of games for adults and children. Like any good pier you have musicians singing or playing instruments and crowds gathering around to watch, sing and dance along. This was a fun place to people watch and eat our yummy ice cream. We even saw a seal pop it’s head out the water a few times. Below the pier is a nice beach where you might see some people trying to flex their muscles. http://santamonicapier.org/
Dockweiler State Beach- Our last day in Los Angeles we spent at Dockweiler State Beach. It’s the only beach in Los Angeles where you can grill hotdogs and s’mores over a built-in fire pit. Jai was looking forward to this beach all day because he loves s’mores, but I think he really enjoyed himself because it had the perfect sand to build castles and forts with. We were treated to the most amazing sunset of pink, blue, orange and the city of Malibu in the background. Another unique quality about this beach is that it is right by LAX airport and large airplanes are flying over you every few minutes! We could see Dockweiler Beach from the air as we left to fly to Thailand. http://beaches.lacounty.gov/dockweiler-beach/