World-Class Waterfront Family Adventure Awaits in Oceanside

Surfers Oceanside Pier

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Wyland

In the middle of what was one of the hottest Southern California summers on record, our dehydrated bodies craved cool breezes and our minds sought sanctuary. We yearned for the steady sounds of the Pacific’s thunderous waves to lull us to sleep and the joy-filled sounds of giggling children frolicking on the shore to ignite our imagination, so we loaded up the car and headed south to Oceanside, California for a quick weekend tryst.

An easy two hour and 30 minute drive from Los Angeles deposits bare toes on powder-white sandy beaches lined with quaint, family friendly spots for refueling, rental shops stocked with any type of water toy you could wish for, and an infectious beachy attitude. At first glance, Oceanside appears to be a sleepy coastal community, but with a population hovering around 170,000 and a California Welcome Center that sees more than 80,000 tourists annually, San Diego County’s 3rd largest city provides family adventure travelers a wide variety of activities and amenities.

We pulled into the SpringHill Suites’ entrance and were immediately greeted with the smell of salt air and an inviting, modern lobby teeming with friendly and knowledgeable Marriott staff. Just steps from the beach, this gorgeous property offers families a whole host of amenities including a rooftop pool, a game room, free breakfast, and panoramic views from your balcony, overlooking the scenic Oceanside Pier.

springhill-suites-oceanside
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

Each one of this LEED-certified property’s rooms features a microwave, refrigerator, laptop safe, and separate areas for working and relaxing, which came in handy for those few brief moments when mom had to work. And the thoughtful, kid-friendly touches to the room, like a bathroom sink step stool and welcoming stuffed animals did not go unnoticed by these frequent travelers.

SpringHill Suites Oceanside
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

Although we could have happily hung out in our comfy room for the rest of the afternoon, the beach was beckoning, so we slid on our flip flops and headed downstairs for some much-needed sun therapy. In exactly 3 minutes our trio of toes were emerged in the salty Pacific, watching surfers skillfully sway and spin the whitewater, while young hands patted down tilting towers of sand to create cafe au lait colored palaces.

After an hour or so of quiet observation, our inner-explorer took over and we made our way over to Wheel Fun Rentals to put our muscles and our minds to work.The Strand beach straddles the pier and its main leisure artery, The Strand is the perfect three-mile bike path for families looking to get a front seat view of Oceanside’s sparking topaz waters, and is just short enough to ensure short legs don’t have monumental meltdowns.

biking-oceanside-1
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

A day of driving with a kid, mixed with sand, sun and cycling fun finally began to wind down our clocks, so we headed across the street to Hello Betty Fish House, serving up an energetic, casual vibe that is as enticing as their signature Ring of Fire margarita. The sun set on our table crowded with mouth-watering cuisine that affectionately reflected the eclectic personality of this cozy corner of the west coast, and being right next door to our hotel made it convenient to roll our over-stuffed bellies to bed.

hello-bettys-fish-house-oceanside
Photos Courtesy Kerem Hanci

Day two of our beach weekend getaway was reserved for one thing, and one thing only – to get on a boat – so we donned our best captain-of-the-ship attire and zipped over to the Oceanside Harbor. Whether you’re looking to rent watercraft for a low-key family kayaking or high-octane power boats, family-owned Boat Rentals of America has got you covered, and Oceanside Harbor Village‘s collection of waterside restaurants and shops makes for the perfect refueling pit stop and unwinding oasis.

boating-oceanside-harbor-1
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

As our electric boat glided out of its slip and our daughter’s new best friend Ariel had taken her seat next to the captain of the ship, we immediately felt our bodies melt into relaxed-mode and with it melted away all of the hustle and bustle of LA life. We gazed with admiration as regal California pelicans dove for heaping helpings of halibut, laughed until our eyes watered at the raucous performance of a herd of zany harbor seals and it was then, in those moments that we reconnected with each other and with the wondrous world around us.


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Beyond Legoland: Outdoor family fun in Carlsbad, California

Ask any parent and they will tell you; Carlsbad, California is synonymous with uber-kid destination, Legoland, but if that’s all you see while you’re there, then you’re missing out on a ton of awesome outdoor fun. Known as the “Village by the Sea”, Carlsbad offers 7 miles of pristine Pacific beaches, a year-round summer climate, and nearly 50 miles of well-kept hiking and biking trails.

Situated 87 miles south of Los Angeles, and 35 miles north of San Diego, Carlsbad is the perfect weekend family getaway destination offering world class golfing, inspiring cultural arts events, and inventive cuisine. So, when our family had the opportunity to visit this little gem of a seaside city, we threw our bathing suits in a bag and hit the road.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later we had arrived, the kid was itching to get out and the adults were in need of a leg stretch, so we broke out the phone in search of a large green space. Technology led us to Hosp Grove Park, a sprawling 53-acre city park that invites its guests to bike, hike, or picnic under the shade of thousands of beautiful, towering Eucalyptus trees.

Hiking Hosp Grove Park

Separated into an East Grove and a West Grove, there’s plenty to explore on any one of its five well-maintained, unpaved trails. The West Grove three-mile loop ushered us up and down kid-friendly slopes, through eucalyptus-scented groves, and rewarded us kindly with a beautiful scenic overlook of the Buena Vista Lagoon.

Piled back in the car with tired feet, we headed to our home for the next two nights, the Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach and arrived just in time to catch their happy hour at Bistro Bar and devour a delicious steak dinner at the hotel’s Carlsbad Beach Bistro Restaurant. With satisfied tummies, we walked out the hotel’s front doors, strolled across the street, and were treated with a breathtaking sunset; the perfect end to a perfect day.

Sunset at Carlsbad Beach
Photo Courtesy of Kerem Hanci

The Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach is situated 400 feet from the rugged cliffs of Carlsbad Beach offering up outrageous Pacific views and tons of family-friendly amenities. All of their 161 deluxe rooms include a microwave, refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, complimentary WiFi, outdoor heated pool and whirlpool, complimentary shuttle service within five miles, and evening ping pong tournaments in their outdoor gazebo.

Ping Pong at the Hilton Inn Carlsbad

The next morning we awoke rested and ready for another day full of outdoor adventure, but not before we zipped downstairs to fuel up on mouth-watering omelets prepared by Executive Chef Ricardo Vargas, signature waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit, and a gallon of dark roast coffee. Then, we slathered on the sunscreen, filled up the gas tank, and set out in search of more scenic Carlsbad satisfaction.

First up on our agenda was a morning tryst through the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, boasting over 50 acres of land dedicated to growing the radiantly charming Ranunculus flower, a member of the buttercup family, all of which were in full bloom. The Flower Fields Foundation provides further discovery opportunities for kids of all ages by providing hands-on sustainability, musical, and artistic educational programs for children.

Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
Photo Courtesy of Kerem Hanci

Fully inspired by the vibrant hues of mother nature’s blooms, we pointed our compasses towards the wide open waters of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. A delicate and crucial 500-acre watershed in the heart of a booming north San Diego county metropolitan area, this vulnerable coastal wetland is home to a wide array of wildlife including juvenile fish, crabs, hundreds of species of marine life and waterfowl, including an array of threatened and endangered species.

We used the Carlsbad Lagoon to outfit our family with life jackets and kayaks primarily due to its convenient central location on the lagoon, and launched our vessels westward inland. Coasting past sand dune full of native flora and hidden beaches inviting us to stop for a rest, we charged on, delighted by graceful pelicans gliding across the water’s surface ready to catch an unlucky striped mullet in mid-leap.

Kayaking the Carlsbad Lagoon

Admittedly, our family had been to Carlsbad before, to visit said aforementioned amusement park because of our only offspring’s desperation for waiting around in lines all day to ride rides that made her squeal with excitement. But, I sure am glad we were able to come back to discover a whole other side of Carlsbad; the Big Outside.

Meandering Among the Majestic Monarchs – A Recharging Family Roadtrip

The day-to-day grind of being a work at home mom can definitely get overwhelming and trust me, I’ve had more than a few Calgon moments over the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself very lucky. My husband and I have thriving freelance businesses which allow us the luxury of maintaining our own schedules which in turn, give us more family time, but sometimes the itch to unplug and recharge becomes so great that we just have to “get out of dodge”!

kid portrait

So, needless to say, when my mom told me she was headed up north to Pismo Beach for some meetings, I cleared our schedule and we jumped in the car! Pismo Beach is a sleepy little beach community a few hours north of Los Angeles, up the famous Pacific Coast Highway, nestled in between wine country, state parks, majestic mountains and white sand beaches. It offers peaceful solitude, lazy walks, monumental sunsets and an awe-inspiring Monarch Butterfly grove!

Sometimes, the very act of changing your scenery can adjust your outlook and it was just our luck that our hotel was steps from the white powder-sand beach, the boardwalk and a huge pier, perfect for watching the sunset. Since birth, I have had an affection for the sounds of moving water. When I was younger, I had a secret place I would go to when I needed to be alone. It was basically just a drainage ditch dressed up with rocks and foliage. To me, it was a babbling brook where I could sit in silence for hours contemplating my teenage angst. I think I got it from my mom. She is happiest when the sound of the surf is within earshot.

Family Beach Portrait - Pismo Beach

We whiled away most of the weekend just spending time with each other, searching for sea glass, building sandcastles and running in the surf. On our way back down to Los Angeles, we made sure to stop at the Monarch Butterfly Grove and it just so happened that it was Western Monarch Day. We seriously couldn’t have been luckier!

As we entered the butterfly grove we walked into a full blown festival complete with art activities for the kids, a drum circle, CAKE and educational exhibitions. They brought to life “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and had magnifying glasses for the kids (and adults) to see, up close and personal, the life cycle of the Monarch, starting from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis. It was a beautiful day full of moments we will keep close to our hearts forever.

Kid Face Painting

There’s a very delicate line we must constantly walk, it’s a sweet balancing act between expecting independent play while mommy works and both of us losing our minds. I must say that the outdoors is not only a place for V to run, jump, explore and discover, it’s a shining beacon of sanity for me! If we are cooped up in the house for too long, we both start to lose our minds and so it is into the woods we go (even if mom’s on deadline).

Kid Hiking Outdoors

The one thing I’ve learned with our newest adventure in parenting is, when the walls start closing in, it’s exponentially more beneficial to all of us to simply stop and get out on a trail, even if for an hour. There truly is nothing that hits the reset button more quickly than a nature walk. The crunch of the leaves under foot, a distant woodpecker knocking, the sun warming the back of our necks, all aid in calming our minds and bringing the smile back to our faces.