Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Huntington Beach--My 3-year-old's Alternative to Disneyland

I love going to the beach--playing in the sand, feeling the waves on my feet, looking into the horizon. During our December trip when the sand was cold (the high temperature was around 58) and the water was very chilly, we had a blast.

Huntington Beach is a hidden gem.  Despite being off-season, the local surf shop was open with cheap wetsuits for rent and a large bag of sand toys to borrow.  Many shops are friendly and accommodating. This quieter beach has reasonably priced parking and a few shops to browse without being an overcrowded tourist trap.  Known for wind and surfing, Huntington Beach hosts many surf competitions and usually is a great place for kites.  Additionally, the large pier, filled with local fisherman, is fun to stroll along ending with Ruby's diner (be sure to grab a snack while taking in the view).

For our younger children, this was the first time they had seen the ocean and were delighted as the waves rolled in and out.  Our older children were not deterred by the cooler temperatures and dived right in (renting wetsuits helped).  Everyone loved hunting for seashells, burying each other in the sand, and watching the crabs.  My three-year-old enjoyed driving his monster truck through the sand.  My nine-year-old built a sand castle.  The seven-year-old chased crabs into temporary traps.  My eleven-year-old never left the ocean.  The baby explored the texture of the sand (and even tasted it).  I was enamored by the sound of the ocean and practically hypnotized by the waves.

After playing for a few hours, we packed up and walked along the pier to Ruby's www.rubys.com.  This diner offers unique burgers (my husband's favorite is the cobb burger), milkshakes, fries (regular or sweet potato), and other diner staples. Our kids enjoy sitting upstairs, ordering off the relatively large kid's menu, and being occupied by the cardboard menus which turn into cars and surfboards with decorative stickers.  Meanwhile, the views of the ocean are unparalleled and the price is reasonable (though you may want to consider splitting a meal, especially at lunch, or just ordering fries and a milkshake).  This is one of those places our kids still talk about it.

When vacation was over, our three-year-old named Huntington Beach as his favorite part of vacation (not Disneyland or the motel swimming pool).  Many guide books will tell you the same.  That is why, even off-season in cooler weather, I still recommend spending a day at the beach.  I also think children (and adults) need a break from the amusement parks and have a slower day to explore and play.  Ideally, families will plan a beach day mid-vacation to allow everyone to reenergize.  My only caution, be sure to use plenty of sunscreen so that the rest of your vacation will not be spoiled by sunburn!


  1. Makes me jealous I'm not on the beautiful Orange County coast! Enjoy the trip.

  2. I agree, sometimes the kids just like the pool or the beach the best. Kind of crazy. Growing up down there that is also the beach we would most likely frequent. Maybe not as well known as Laguna, or Malibu but definitely good enough.

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