Who doesn’t love the sunny days you’ll find in Southern California?
And if you check in to the oceanfront Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, you can expect the ultimate family beach vacation. It’s one where the kids are having fun, mom and dad are relaxed and you all connect while experiencing #bucketlist adventures.
Your clan can learn how to catch a wave, fly a kite on the beach, build sand castles or toast s’mores over an outside fireplace on your guestroom patio. Later, glimpse a Blue whale in its natural habitat, witness a pod of stampeding dolphins, or report a Garibaldi sighting while snorkeling in the Pacific.
The resort’s Beach Butlers offer personalized services so parents can enjoy a stress-free day under the sun. Services include setting up beach chairs, umbrellas and towels, offering and assisting with food and beverage service and providing transportation to and from the beach on the complimentary beach shuttle.
Forgot the sunscreen? Not to worry. Beach butlers are also fully equipped with sunscreen and tanning lotion.
Seeking the next level of relaxation? The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers a full menu of services including massage, facials and body treatments. Choose from a selection of treatments designed to soothe, recharge and rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit. The Spa also offers wellness classes including yoga and Pilates.
Fun for the Family
The Eco-Adventure Center is dedicated to showcasing Southern California’s natural wonders. Fifteen excursions showcase the local surroundings and are led by expert naturalists. Families can learn about the blue whales on a whale watching adventure, discover the native fish and underwater creatures on a snorkel excursion, or experience riding the waves during a body boarding activity.
The resort features great dining, two outdoor swimming pools, two whirlpools, a playground area, basketball court, ping-pong table, and tennis courts. Throughout the summer, poolside movies are presented every Thursday evening and a selection of children’s movies is available for in room viewing.
Quick, what's the difference between a big resort hotel and the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City?
Answer: A story.
The wizard's creator, L. Frank Baum, was a frequent visitor to Coronado, California, and the town's beating heart, the Hotel del Coronado ("The Del" to the locals). His visits were so frequent, in fact, that his editor arranged for the rental of a separate house—off of "The Del" property—so that he might get away from the perpetual distraction of the hotel and get some writing done. The hotel and his whimsical experiences there clearly influenced his imaginings of Oz; some of Baum's illustrations of the Emerald City even look suspiciously like the iconic Queen Ann-style hotel.
Coronado still retains much of what attracted Baum (not the least of which is its own, amazing story), and it has also developed an even richer offering of experiences, accommodation, dining choices, and activities that (fortunately for his editor) didn't exist in Baum's day. And because families have always been such a part of the Coronado story, much of that new growth is still family-friendly.
The crown jewel of Coronado is, of course, the Hotel Del Coronado.
Before it was completed in 1877 there was little more than dust and scattered tufts of pampas grass. But the dreams and vision that brought forth the grand hotel spread outward, and shortly the whole island was transformed into the lush, green, and (relatively) tranquil community you see today.
A stroll through the exquisite Coronado neighborhoods is a hint of the island's military presence on its north side. Many current and former navy personnel have homes here, and that military precision shows in the beautifully kept homes and immaculate landscaping (you could bounce a quarter off the lawns). But perhaps a better way to stroll the area around the Hotel Del is to tag along with Coronado Touring for a truly fun and fascinating walking tour. The grand and historic feel of the Hotel Del suggests a great story all its own, and a couple of hours with Coronado Touring confirms it.
You'll even see "The Oz House", Mr. Baum's former "off-site" residence. If you can do this early in your Coronado visit, you'll then see the place with a sense of wonder you might otherwise miss (how else would you know about the secret message in the sand dunes?).
The walking tour begins in the Glorietta Bay Inn, which is itself significant in the story, as it's principle building was the home of Coronado's greatest benefactor and "savior" of the Hotel Del dream, John Spreckels. The Glorietta is a terrific option to the Del Coronado, as you are just across the street from the Del but can choose from luxurious and historic rooms in Spreckels's original house or more modern and affordable rooms of various sizes throughout the rest of the hotel. The entire property is immaculately kept and the friendly staff clearly take their cue from, Claudia, the Glorietta's gregarious and hospitable manager.
The vivid and fascinating history of the island lends a richer tone to everything else you experience afterward. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Del, Clayton's Coffee Shop could be just a nifty 50's-themed diner (albeit with great food and sumptuous milkshakes), but now it feels like a time machine and you wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Baum himself at the counter reading the day's paper over a coffee and apple pie.
Two more blocks along Orange Avenue will find you transported back to that golden age of theatre at the incredibly restored Village Theatre and two blocks back on Orange Avenue from Clayton's will satisfy that old fashioned summer yen for handcrafted ice cream at the Moo Time Creamery.
And of course many of the shops at the Hotel del Coronado itself recapture that historic feel, like at Spreckels Sweets & Treats, where you can get (among loads of other things) the same fudge or saltwater taffy that Frank Baum undoubtedly sampled.
But while Coronado Island certainly honors its rich history, it has grown up nicely with terrific contemporary offerings. Head south along the narrow peninsula (Coronado is technically not an island) where you'll find the contemporary and luxurious Loews Coronado Bay Resort one of Parents Magazine's "10 Best Family Beach Resorts".
The sheer luster in the recently refurbished interior betrays the many family-oriented amenities, including poolside movies (at just one of the three pools!), a dedicated kids' activity desk, and rides in one of their authentic Venetian gondolas. And it's just a short walk or free shuttle to the quiet Silver Strand State Beach, which might seem like your own private beach, relative to crowds at Coronado Beach.
Further along Orange Avenue from the Hotel Del on the north side of the Island you'll find a host of shops, restaurants, and activities surrounding the Ferry Landing. Nearby the Ferry Landing is the sumptuous Coronado Island Marriott Resort, with exquisite views over the bay to the beautiful San Diego skyline, rejuvenating spa treatments, a private water taxi across the bay for guests, and a lush pool and outdoor restaurant that you may find difficult to leave to explore Coronado.
But explore you must, for no matter where you stay, your own Coronado story is waiting to be written.
"Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland"
And every day her loveliness,
Shines pure, without a flaw;
New charms entrance our every glance,
And fill our souls with awe!
- L. Frank Baum
WHEN TO GO:
The locals are spoiled in San Diego, and even during what they call "June Gloom", the weather is pleasant (if not fully sunny till noon). That said, the best months for weather are June through September. You'll find better deals and smaller crowds outside those months.
THINGS TO DO:
You'll find plenty to keep the whole family busy on Coronado, but here are number of things to consider in your itinerary:
- Gooey fun: After dinner S'mores on the beach at Hotel Del Coronado.
- Haute Culture: and evening at the impressive Lamb's Players Theatre
- Discovery: Kayak tour with a state park naturalist at Loew's Coronado Bay Resort.
- Gluttony: The indescribable decadence of the Hotel Del Coronado Crown Room Sunday brunch.
- Toodling: Pedal the family around the island on a 4-person surrey bike, available at your hotel or shops around town.
- Learning: Get the full and fascinating story on the island at the Coronado Museum of History & Arthttp://coronadohistory.org/.
Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
Glorietta Bay Inn
Hotel del Coronado
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
Where will you venture this year?
What sounds appealing? A warm, sandy beach? An active, alpine adventure? Here are seven ideas to consider as your family plans for the year ahead.
1. Consider Costa Rica.
More than a quarter of this Central American country is composed of natural and conserved territory, making it an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. Surfers give the richly diverse nation top marks as do adventure lovers who visit the small country for river rafting, hiking, biking, canopy tours and volcano watching.
Families can take advantage of wildlife or culturally-focused volunteer vacations, clan-friendly resorts and beachside boutique accommodations. Pura vida, the local’s friendly attitude and approach to life, provides a hospitality-rich backdrop.
Contact: www.visitcostarica.com; AustinAdventures.com.
2. Amazing Alaska.
Still America’s last frontier, our 49th state offers year round adventure for families. Scope for whale tails while cruising the Inside Passage, celebrate more than 100 years of sled dog racing on the Iditarod Trail or explore the far reaches of Denali National Park. Learn about Alaska’s native culture, hike and bike in the backcountry or make wildlife watching the centerpiece of your adventure. A favorite among anglers, wade the state’s rivers and streams and you’ll return home with amazing fish stories and pictures to prove your prowess. A free vacation planner is available to help get you started.
3. Float The Grand Canyon.
Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors. This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year. From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments. You’ll want to go back for more.
4. Cruise the Caribbean.
Now rated fourth in the country in cruise traffic, the addition of Galveston as an important point of departure, offers sea-faring travelers expanded opportunities. Four cruise companies – Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Princess – offer itineraries ranging from four to eight nights on board ships bustling with activity and entertainment.
Cruise companies eager to lure parents with young children as well as multigenerational clans, provide a smorgasbord of kid-thrilling options ranging from wave machines and super slides to teen lounges and zip lines. Deals abound, particularly for those with flexible dates.
5. African Safaris.
Multigenerational families celebrating a “milestone moment” are among those seeking the excitement and adventure found on safari. And more tour operators, eager to capture this growing segment of the market, are creating itineraries that cater to both ends of the age spectrum. The chance to observe a lion stalking his prey, a wildebeest migration or to learn the customs of the Masaii people are experiences more families are putting at the top of their lists.
Contact: FamilyAdventures.com; AustinAdventures.com; Wilderness-Safaris.com.
6. The Bahamas.
You’ll find grand resorts in a bustling enclave as well as small getaways on tiny spits of sand just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred environment from among 700 islands surrounded by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, boating or just relaxing on soft, sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to consider a visit to this breathtaking archipelago.
7. Get some altitude!
Are you ready to embrace winter sports? Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn sleigh headed to cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.
Grab the sunscreen. Gather the towels and beach books. Yes, it's goodbye snow. And, hello warm, sandy beaches. As readers share their favorite beaches, get ready to choose from this list or share your own special spots.
1. Club Med, Punta Cana. Dominican Republic.
“There was something about relaxing on that beautiful stretch of white sand beach with the coconut palms swaying in the breeze. I think about it all the time,” muses Dayton, Ohio-based Diana Duncan. Her two children loved the children’s club that included a slew of age appropriate activities.
Diana and her husband Matt took to the trapeze, learning circus skills, when not kayaking, playing tennis or building sand castles on the beach with the kids. “My only regret,” admits Duncan, “is that I ate way too much of their famous white chocolate bread!”
Susan and Rich Andrews have been traveling to South Florida every year for decades. “Our long time family favorite is Bal Harbour because there is something for everyone.”
A luxurious seaside enclave, families take to the wide open beaches, walking paths and chic but comfortable ambience. Upscale restaurants and shopping abound. The Bal Harbour Kids Beach Camp is a collaborative partnership with the Miami Children’s Museum, and available to guests of both the Sea View Hotel and ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa, as well as village residents and their guests. Children have the opportunity to paint, learn about international cuisine, music and how to grow a garden.
3. Sag Harbor, NY.
“My favorite beach is still my home town stretch of sand here on Long Island,” explained Sharon Elizabeth. “The beaches on the east end of Long Island are some of the most magnificent in the world. My favorite is Sagg Beach, near Sagaponack.”
According to Elizabeth, Sagg Beach is pristine, wide and a great place for family picnics and relaxing days playing in the surf. Located near the historic whaling port of Sag Harbor, the area, widely known as “The Hamptons”, offers plenty of water-related recreation as well as top-notch dining, museums, parks and bike paths.
4. Destin, FL. –
When I was a child, we spent many a holiday on the white beaches of Destin and my memories are so wonderful,” explains Mary Ellis, who makes her home in Milwaukee, WI.
“As a result I was quick to take my own three children to this pristine location where there is so much for families to do! Between snorkeling, hiking, diving and just relaxing on the 24 miles of powder-soft white beaches, our family vacation never seems quite long enough,” says Ellis.
Cannon Beach, OR
Maxie Wade has long enjoyed flying kites with her kids on this wide beach on the north coast of Oregon where gulls float overhead and bon-fires melt s’mores and keep the sea breeze chill at bay. Cold water temperatures mean swimmers may only get ankle deep. Rather, families gather to collect shells, explore tide pools, watch storms roll in or stroll the day away enjoying the salt air. Just off shore and towering 235 feet over the beach, Haystack Rock is home to nesting seabirds. It is one of the largest sea stacks on America’s Pacific Coast.
Are you ready for a getaway? Plan your own classic American holiday. Here are fun-filled ideas to help you create an iconic family vacation:
Take a Road Trip.
A concept often parodied on television and in the movies, the family road trip continues to be a source of fun and happy memories for clans across the country. Play games, sing songs, tell stories along the way. Access the American Automobile Association’s plentiful and user-friendly information on road conditions, weather, deals, discounts, and gas prices. They can also help with roadside assistance, travel planning and maps.
Contact: 1 (800) 332-6119; www.AAA.com.
Make your way to the Mountains.
Fill your lungs with pine scented air. Raft the rivers, wonder at the wild life or travel by horseback into the backcountry. A visit to a mountain destination like Jackson, WY will offer you and your family the best of the great outdoors paired with a glimpse into our western heritage. Take in the rodeo, a cowboy cookout, visit the hot springs and the Grand Teton National Park.
Contact: 1 (888) 838-6606; www.jacksonholewy.com.
Head to the Beach.
You may have a family favorite or build sand castles on the beach closest to home. However, if you are looking for a new sandy spot, consider the annual list created by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. For the last 20 years, “Dr. Beach” has used 50 criteria, including water, sand quality, safety and environmental management, to rank seaside playgrounds. Beaches in New York, Florida, California, Hawaii and North Carolina top the lists. Contact: www.DrBeach.org.
Relax at the lake.
With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a family favorite. In addition to boating, swimming, fishing and a wide range of water sports, generations of lake lovers enjoy hiking in the nearby state park, biking, mini-golf and water parks as well as access to plenty of restaurants, music and other kid-friendly attractions.
In Montana, Whitefish Lake is a family favorite. With Glacier National Park in the neighborhood, you can't go wrong.
Visit a National Park.
Celebrate our freedom and the beauty of our land within one of our 392 national parks. With so many historical and natural wonders to discover, consider heading to the National Park Service’s web pages, specifically designed to help regular and first time visitors plan a meaningful trip. There you research park activities as well as camping, back country, lodging and educational options. Across America each day there are special events, institute and field schools as well as volunteer opportunities. Check for fee free days and Junior Ranger programs for the kids.
Get Sporting at the Wintergreen Resort. Wintergreen, VA.
Parents can join their kids for group golf lessons and then head to the course to refine their skills. This is a family-friendly resort on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers up a range of easily accessible sporting options. With 45 holes of championship golf as a cornerstone, families can enjoy a holiday that includes a children’s program at The Treehouse, hiking, fly-fishing and an award-winning tennis program.
Contact: 800-926-3723; www.wintergreenresort.com
Port Aransas, Texas Offers a Reasonably-Priced Beach Vacation during These Economic Times
Many families in Texas (and beyond) enjoy vacationing in Port Aransas, as the island on the southeast part of the state offers a truly economical trip for families of any size.
Historically, Port Aransas (referred to as “Port A” by Texans) has been one of the state’s top beach destinations. Not as far south as South Padre, Port Aransas is approximately 4 hours from Austin/ Central Texas so the distance is drive-able for most (which is appealing for many families). The island offers quite a few options for family accommodations. An ideal location to park your family for a visit is at Port Royal, situated out of town on Highway 361.
Located on the more secluded beach, the walk from condo to beach spot is a quick jaunt over the boardwalk (close enough for a quick bathroom trip while on the beach). Another option I highly recommend is Beachgate, which is located on the busy public access beach. Beachgate III, the most recently-renovated building on property, is the best bet. You have several options, depending on the size you need. You can reserve just one condo, which is 2 bedroom/2 bath, and can sleep up to 8 people (2 king beds, 2 futons and an air mattress). Also, you can reserve two condos on the same floor, which are adjoining, and you have 4 bedrooms/4 baths. This option is ideal for multiple families traveling together or a family reunion. There are 4 floors in Beachgate III (2 condos per floor).
You’ll find a lot of benefits to both locations for a family vacation. You can drive up, park your car, and not get back in until it’s time to leave (a huge plus for us families with young kids!). Both condo properties have fully stocked kitchens and plenty of space to entertain, including spacious dining areas and living rooms. I recommend bringing all your food and drinks and feeding your family in your condo. That way, you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to take down to the beach with you, as well.
If you’re at Port Royal, it will be a 20-minute roundtrip to the grocery store in Port Aransas. When your troops get tired of the beach, you also have the option of swimming in the two Beachgate pools, which are great for young kids because they are fairly small and shallow. There are also hot tubs next to each pool. My kids enjoyed hanging out on the beach all day and finishing up the evening in the pool. At Port Royal, you’ll find this a perfect spot for off-season, also. We visited in February and, although we could not enjoy the beautiful palm-tree lined pool, we could certainly enjoy the three hot tubs alongside the pool area. Each one is large enough for a family to enjoy.
Highlights of Port Royal:
1. Quiet section of the beach and very peaceful during off-season.
2. Beautiful pool area with slides, hot tubs and poolside dining (in the summer). 3. Spacious and modern condo unit that could easily sleep a family of six. 4. DSL plug-in Internet access.
Highlights of Beachgate:
1. Easy access to the beach (no boardwalk or dangerous streets to cross with kids)
2. Large renovated condos with full kitchen, dining area, living area and 2 bedrooms with king bed in each. Each bedroom and living room has a flat-screen cable TV. 3. The property offers an array of different sizes and styles of accommodations, from large condos to small suites. 4. For those of us that work while on vacation, there’s high-speed wireless Internet in each condo.
A few important points to consider:
1. At Port Royal, each condo is individually owned. Therefore, you can’t be sure what type of unit you will end up with unless you’ve been there before and can request a certain unit. Some will be more modern and comfortable than others, depending on the furniture, furnishings and kitchen. They have 1, 2 & 3-bedroom condos.
2. If you like a busy beach, you’ll prefer Beachgate. If you like a more peaceful location on the beach, you’ll prefer Port Royal, which is at marker #68.
3. The exterior is less appealing than the interior at both (I’d always rather have a nicer interior than exterior, if I had to choose). But the condo we were given at Port Royal was beautiful and modern. Beachgate III is nicely renovated.
4. Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen, buckets and shovels for the beach. You’d rather not have to purchase these items onsite.
My top two suggestions on your family vacation to Port Aransas are: Fins Grill & Icehouse is a relaxed restaurant if you enjoy eating right on the water. The grill has laid-back options such as appetizers, seafood and burgers. You can ask for a table outside that puts you right on the back patio, overlooking the bay. From here, you can watch the boats come and go out of the marina.
During your stay, make sure and rent a golf cart dune buggy from Coastal Ed’s in town. Coastal Ed is a great guy and very helpful. Your kids will love riding the dune buggy on the beach and around town. Coastal Ed’s has open-air carts (versus others that will be more closed) and is gas-powered vs. battery-powered.
You’ll have a great day cruising the beach in your bright yellow ride!
Port Royal Ocean Resort
6317 State Hwy. 361,
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Beachgate CondoSuites & Resort
2000 On the Beach Dr., Port Aransas, TX 78373
Fins Grill & Icehouse
420 W. Cotter, Port Aransas, TX
Coastal Ed’s Coastal Cruisers & More
513 N. Alister St.,
Port Aransas, TX 78373 361-749-7001
Marika Flatt has been a freelance travel writer since 2002, writing for publications such as GoodHousekeeping.com, Austin Lifestyle magazine, Austin Woman magazine, ChickVacations.com and Plate & Vine. She lives with her husband and 3 children (who love to travel) in Austin, Texas.
Port Aransas, Texas Offers a Reasonably-Priced Beach Vacation during These Economic Times
Beachgate CondoSuites, the Ideal Location for Families
Many families in Texas (and beyond) enjoy vacationing in Port Aransas, as the island on the southeast part of the state offers a truly economical trip for families of any size. Historically, Port Aransas (called “Port A”) has been one of the state’s top beach destinations. Not as far south as South Padre, Port Aransas is approximately 4 hours from Austin so the distance is drive-able for most (which is appealing for many families).
The island offers quite a few options for family accommodations but an ideal location to park your family for a visit is at Beachgate CondoSuites. Located on the public access beach, the walk from front door to beach spot is just about 100 yards (close enough for a quick bathroom trip while on the beach).
You’ll find a lot of benefits to Beachgate for a family vacation. You can drive up, park your car, and not get back in until it’s time to leave (a huge plus for us families with young kids!). Beachgate condos have fully stocked kitchens and plenty of space to entertain.
I highly recommend Beachgate III, the most recently-renovated building on property. You have several options, depending on the size you need. You can reserve just one condo, which is 2 bedroom/2 bath, and can sleep up to 8 people (2 king beds, 2 futons and an air mattress). Also, you can reserve two condos on the same floor, which are adjoining, and you have 4 bedrooms/4 baths. This option is ideal for multiple families traveling together or a family reunion. There are 4 floors in Beachgate III (2 condos per floor).
The condos are very spacious, clean and the property tries to accommodate guest’s needs as much as possible. I recommend bringing all your food and drinks and feeding your family in your condo. That way, you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to take down to the beach with you, as well.
When your troops get tired of the beach, you also have the option of swimming in the two Beachgate pools, which are great for young kids because they are fairly small and shallow. There are also hot tubs next to each pool. My kids enjoyed hanging out on the beach all day and finishing up the evening in the pool.
Highlights of Beachgate CondoSuites:
A few important points to consider:
Beachgate CondoSuites & Resort
2000 On the Beach Dr., Port Aransas, TX 78373
Phone: 361 749 5900