Sun, Sand in So Cal

When Betty Gregg was planning her 85th birthday celebration, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club was her destination of choice. San Diego is a quick flight or easy drive for most of her family, now living up north, and her early October birthday would likely mean good weather—none of that pesky summer coastal fog. In fact, LJBTC has been her family’s go-to spot for decades. Her late husband, a marine in World War II, was stationed at this beachfront resort during the war; they vacationed there as a couple; and as her children and grandchildren grew up, the family spent long hours lounging on the sand, frolicking in the surf and eating s’mores under the stars.

“Besides having family significance,” recounts Gregg’s daughter Betsy Jaques of San Anselmo, “the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is easy. Once you get there you don’t need your car: the beach is right there, as well as tennis, golf, kayaking, surfing—whatever anyone wants to do.” As expected, Gregg et al. had a great time, as noted by her five-year-old great grandson, who asked, “So Grandma, can we come back next year?”

The sunny, desertlike climate of Southern California has lured visitors for decades. The 1940s orange crates picturing sun-drenched valleys have been replaced by reality TV shows trumpeting year-round fun in the sun, but really, what’s not to love? First there are those beaches: miles and miles of white sand, groomed, maintained and dotted with public restrooms; then you have the amusement parks—Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Balboa Fun Zone, San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, and LegoLand, to name a few.

In the following pages we present a few of our favorite family-friendly So Cal places to stay; the photo ops and lifelong memories are up to you.


Where to Stay

San Diego

La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club
A top pick destination since 1935, LJBTC is quite popular. With only 90 guest rooms, including 54 oceanfront rooms and suites—make reservations early. Guests enjoy use of the private club, tennis clinics, and a par-3, nine-hole golf course as well as the beach.  800.640.7702,

Hotel del Coronado
The 28-acre oceanfront resort, an old-time Hollywood favorite, recently underwent a $150 million dollar face-lift. Besides walking in the footsteps of Marilyn, Clark and the Duke, kids can take part in the hotel’s four-hour surf camp, teens can opt for a specially designed spa treatment and the entire family can rent boogie boards, take a kayaking tour or play volleyball. The city of Coronado also offers a world-class skate park with 16,000 square feet of ramps, bowls and jumps. 800.468.3533,
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Across from the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines Golf Course and overlooking the Pacific, this 175-guest-room lodge welcomes little visitors with children’s chaise lounges at the pool, kid-size robes in the rooms and a library stocked with board games and a pool table.   858.453.4420,

Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa
This hotel nestled on 15 acres by the Pacific welcomes families with a “Did You Forget” closet stocked with shampoo; baby swings; a complimentary childproofing of the room; welcome bags for the kids; and kickboxing and yoga classes. General manager Kathleen Cochran has even been quoted as saying “here, we want kids to be seen and heard.”



Orange County

Crystal Cove
For a truly unique Southern California experience, stay on the beach in one of the Crystal Cove State Park’s historic cottages. Originally built as a South Seas movie set in the ‘30s, these beachside cottages have been renovated and are now part of our national park system. They are rustic, remote and highly sought after, so make reservations early. 800.444.7275,

The Balboa Bay Club & Resort
The self proclaimed “Host of the Coast,” this four-diamond Newport Beach hotel shares 15 prime waterfront acres with the Balboa Bay Club, a venerated private recreation, social and yacht club and a Southern California landmark since 1948. For guests planning to visit Disneyland, the resort offers a package including a rental car, two tickets to bypass the entry-line chaos (additional tickets
available through the concierge), and a boxed picnic lunch. 888.445.7153,

The Island Hotel
For those who consider shopping a sport, the Island Hotel in Newport Beach is centrally located right next to Fashion Island—a 1.3-million-square-foot open-air shopping center with movie theaters, fine dining and nearly 200 stores. Perched on Newport Center Drive, above the bay and ocean, the Island Hotel has 295 rooms including 19 luxury suites; many have sweeping coastal views and a balcony or patio. While Dad takes the kids to the pool, Mom can enjoy the 4,000-square-foot spa. 866.554.4620,
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
Three outdoor pools, a par-3 golf course and a central location make this resort a family favorite. Within walking distance of the Hyatt are the shops and attractions of Balboa Island and the aquatic park at Newport Dunes. Large or multigenerational families might opt for the hotel’s Villa Suite, a 1,570-square-foot, three-bath, apartment-style unit with private pool, three bedrooms and a kitchen.  949.729.1234,

Surf and Sand Resort & Spa
During the summer, this newly renovated hotel has kids covered with extra amenities like a welcome coloring book and sand pail at check-in. Available at no extra charge is the hotel’s  “Snores and S’mores” package, which lets kids ages 4 to 9 “camp out” in the room with a little pop-up tent and sleeping bags; a chef-made s’more will be delivered. Don’t miss the family movies screened on the pool deck at 2 p.m. and dusk or the poolside treats like frozen watermelon on a stick or mac-and-cheese. 888.869.7569,

Montage Laguna Beach
This luxury hotel known for its great service (and linens) offers a family day with special guided activities, complete with a complimentary family album commemorating the event. If there isn’t enough time for a full day of family fun, let the kids spend an afternoon or morning with the children’s club Paintbox, designed for ages 5 to 12, offering themed activities like Groovy Tuesday (disco dancing and make-your-own-tie-dye shirts) and Surf’s Up Saturday (sand castle contests and beach blanket bingo). On one Saturday each month parents can indulge in a poolside lunch while kids and teens participate in the “Art of Etiquette” package with Diana Olson, whose clients include Emma Roberts and Lisa Rinna.  866.271.6953,

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Located halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, this newly renovated resort is perched on a bluff high above a two-mile stretch of white sand. The kids’ program (for ages 5-12) offers a full menu of activities including swimming, tennis, boogie boarding, and arts and crafts. Full day rate $80, half day $55. Surfing lessons are also available through their onsite program.  949.240.2000,

St. Regis, Monarch Beach
Located in Dana Point, this 400-room luxury resort not only offers seasonal daytime kid fun but Kidz Night Out on Fridays, which gives little ones a chance to mingle while eating pizza, playing games and singing Karaoke. During daylight, the activities include children’s yoga, etiquette classes, wave riders, cruising on a pirate ship and father and son tee–as in time on the links. Prices vary per program, basic Sandcastle Kids Club costs $80 full day, $50 half day. 949.234.3200,