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Family Travel Files Ezine Family Vacations Resource
Best Beach Spots for a Southern California Family Vacation. Just as no two families are alike, no two California beaches match the perfect beach formula. Except for sand, sun and surf the options for fun remain varied. We have selected a few for the fun of it.Playa del Rey Beach bikeway south of Marina del Rey

I admit I like Santa Monica because of the birdman on the pier and the Ferris wheel but parking is pricey and the beach can become crowded. Recently on one of my FitBit power walks I discovered an awesome (not crowded) beach minutes from LAX, and south of upscale Marina del Rey. Playa del Rey, with its undulating bike path, sea view benches, and lazy surf is a secret well kept by locals. There are no grand beach resorts hugging the beach and as near as I can tell parking is free.

Santa Barbara - Beach Volleyball, Horseback Riding, and McConnel's Ice Cream. 
For many families Santa Barbara is summer. The area offers a rich mixt of culture, dinning shopping and beach time fun. Summer activities include beach time fun - swimming, kayaking, surfing, stand up paddling, and beach volleyball.  One of the best family beaches in the area is East Beach with life guards on duty and an abundance of restroom options. Rent bikes or canopied peddle carts at the corner of Cabrillo and State and take a spin along trails just for those peddling.  Parking is free if you get there early in the day. But pay-to-park options are nearby.  East Beach Grill in the Cabrillo Bathhouse building offers tasty choices including a breakfast. (1400 Cabrillo Blvd Santa Barbara, CA 93190 (805) 564-5418) Off beach bonus: Think about adding a horseback riding adventure to your family beach vacation. Circle Bar B Riding Stable just north of Santa Barbara has been making family fun in the saddle happen for more than 70 years. This is the place to relax or “chill-ax” as a teen might say and enjoy the coastal mountain trails, canyons and waterfalls of the Santa Ynez Mountains.  Gregarious wranglers skilled in helping all ages and skill sets make certain that everyone has fun. (Circle Barb Stables on 1800 Refugio Road, Goleta, Ca. (805) 968-3901 or circlebarbstables.comDiscovery: Downtown Santa Barbara is the home of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams perhaps creamiest and most decadent ice cream along the coast. Hint – salted caramel chip is the place to start unless of course you need a chocolate fix then of course choose the dark chocolate orange. ( California Beach Days with Kids

Laguna Beach – Sun, Sand, and Art. 
In addition to being one of Orange County's most fashionable art colonies, this seven-mile span of coast has miles of cool, clean water and countless rocky coves waiting to be discovered. This is the place for playing beach volleyball, surfing, skim boarding, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, tide pooling, and picnicking. A favorite with families is Aliso Creek County Beach because of its fishing pier, restrooms, lifeguards and a snack bar. Off beach bonus: Go for the beach and stay for the art. Each summer three major art festivals take place in Laguna Beach - Festival of the Arts, Art-A-Fair, and the Sawdust Festival. The city showcases more than 500 artists and the festivals offer more than 300 hands-on art workshops as well as dozens of special events. Discovery: Heisler Park off Cliff Drive has a pathway along the top of the bluff which offers awesome views of the sea and the coves below. The park also has restrooms, lawn bowling, and picnic tables. (Laguna Beach Visitors Center 381 Forest Avenue Laguna Beach CA 92651. (949) 497-9229 or Jolla Summer Beach Days Southern California

La Jolla – Beach Time, Shopping, and Snorkeling. This beach area was dubbed by "the jewel" and it is obvious why. Today it offers visitors a sophisticated beach atmosphere complete with shopping and nightlife. While there are several beaches from which to select three  make the grade for families and each is staffed year-round with lifeguards. La Jolla Shores Beach has a playground, park, volleyball courts and Scripps Shoreline Underwater Preserve. La Jolla Cove located near the shopping district is a smaller beach with huge rock formations that block large waves making it a more comfortable place for families with small children. Children's Pool Beach has clear, clean sand and is a popular snorkeling spot. Off beach bonus: In addition sun, sand, and sea Mission Beach has a lively boardwalk area or add a trip to Stephen Birch Aquarium Museum at The Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Ellen Browning Scripps Park, and the Torrey Pines State Reserve. San Diego Zoo, Sea World of California, and the Space Theater and Science Center in Balboa Park are also in the vicinity. Discovery: The San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve at La Jolla Cove is a popular spot for scuba-diving and snorkeling because of the underwater visibility.  (San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau (619) 236-1212 or
San Onofre- Surfing, Camping, and a Clam Dig. San Onofre is California vintage beach made famous by The Beach Boys during the ‘60s. You will find sunshine and sea breezes, windswept bluffs and native vegetation, and awesome starry nights. The 20-mile coastal span includes three beach areas - Trestles, Old Man's and Trails with good facilities and a safe, clean, sandy beach. Add a luscious California morning mist waking the sun, a picnic by the sea, a few Pacific sunsets and a perfect family vacation has been created. San Diego is sweatshirts and sunscreen; ice cream and tacos; San Diego is fun for families of all ages. Off beach bonus: Located in beautiful Balboa Park, the 100-acre San Diego Zoo cares for more than 4,000 individual animals representing 800 different species. It is recognized as one of the finest zoological parks in the entire world. The variety of interesting programs and animal encounter is endless. Discovery: Families may take behind-the-scene tours, participate in mini wildlife workshops or make a visit at night. (2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, 92101. (619) 234-3153, 236 - 1212 or Beach Resort San Diego, California

Coronado - Sailing, Skakeboards, and Beach Volleyball. Find the historic hotel Grand Coronado and the beach will be at your feet. Coronado Beach is always on the list of America's finest beaches. It is wide, clean, and family-friendly. Set along the edge of the delightful turn-of-the-century community of Coronado it exemplifies the best of Southern California. The entire beach is patrolled by lifeguards. Play volleyball at the beach, build a beach fire, try skateboarding in town. Silver Strand State Beach is south of Coronado on a seven-mile stretch that connects with Imperial Beach. It includes both the San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean sides of the strand. It offers quiet and glorious sunsets, and plenty of beach space. Recreational activities include camping, surfing, swimming, body boarding, jet skiing, sailing, water skiing, as well as fishing and beach volleyball. The bay side has a nature preserve and is a popular sailing and swimming area because the water is warmer and smoother than the ocean side. Off beach bonus: There is a ten-mile path leading north to Coronado. It is ideal for bicyclists, joggers, walkers and skaters. Discovery: The Navy SEALS train on this beach. (Coronado Beach (619) 435-4179 and Silver Strand State Beach (619) 435-5184 or

Santa Cruz - Kites, Sandcastles, and Surf.  South of San Francisco along the coast discover the wonders of a twenty-nine mile stretch which makes Santa Cruz a great place for any type of coastal activity. Hiking, picnicking, volleyball, surfing, and building sand castles are just some of the activities available. Off beach bonus: The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the most popular seaside amusement park on the west coast. Located at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz, the park features rides, games, restaurants, and free summer beach concerts. (Santa Cruz Boardwalk (831) 426-7433, or toll-free 1-800-833-3494

Content researcded  posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Bike image by Nancy Nelson-Duac with additional images courtesty San Diego North, San Diego CVB, Carlsbad. Copyright updated 2017.
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