We went to California this summer. I instantly fell in love. I certainly wasn’t expecting to, and maybe that’s why I did. I’ve been to many beautiful places and I just couldn’t see how California could compare. Well it does, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I still can’t put my finger on exactly why. There’s a reason there’s like, a gazillion songs about California. Going there, dreaming about there, never leaving there… I get it now.
California’s many diverse cities could hardly be classified as “less traveled” for Hipmunk, but there are definitely less traveled by me. I can happily say I want that to change! We stayed in Anaheim and explored Disneyland and the nearby Orange County beach communities of Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. Our small taste of the Golden State has inspired a future family road trip; we definitely want to explore San Francisco and the nearby areas of Sunnyvale, CA, and then take that legendary drive down the Pacific Coast Highway.
If you’re planning to visit Orange County with kids, here’s a little taste of our trip:
Where we stayed…
Our home base was Anaheim and Disney’s fantastic Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. It stands alongside the excellent quality of Disney hotels that we’ve become accustomed to during our many visits to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Disneyland Resort is much more compact than its Orlando cousin, and we loved the fact that we could easily walk to and from our hotel and both parks –Disneyland and California Adventure Park — and the hopping Downtown Disney, of course.
What we did…
Though you can easily spend a whole week at Walt Disney World and see nothing else of Florida, Disneyland’s smaller size means you can cover more ground in less time. We were delighted to take a day to explore some of the nearby beaches, and we loved the fact the local communities had such unique personalities.
The glorious Dana Point beach and the on-site Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel was our first stop of the day. It’s amazing to think such a luxurious hotel could be so family friendly, but I think that boils down to that laid-back California vibe that exists everywhere–even at a 5-star hotel.
Laguna Beach is a great mix of beach and carefree California culture. We spent our entire time dodging waves on the beach (hold hands tightly–the waves are big and strong!) but one day I hope to return to meander through the local boutiques and galleries that sets Laguna Beach apart as a beachy and artsy community.
From there we headed onwards to Newport Beach for a taste of how the 1% lives with a cruise along Newport Harbour up to Corona Del Mar state beach. The kids were delighted to see sea lions squatting on the sailboats we passed. I was delighted to sip local Zinfandel on board Hornblower Cruise‘s luxe 100-foot yacht, The Mojo.
Our last stop for the day was by far my favourite–Huntington Beach. Now, this is the California beach of my imagination–thanks to a lifelong diet of movies and TV. As the sun set we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores by the bonfire that was all arranged by The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel. When we return this is where we’ll stay. I was charmed by the cosy and comfortable beach rooms, ocean views, and the fact that they have a complimentary laundry room for guests to use, complete with free detergent (environmentally-friendly detergent, natch).
**many thanks to Hipmunk for supporting this post**