Traveling as a family with small children is never easy. I wish I could just let go and do it more often and not worry about how hard and exhausting it is going to be. It’s almost always worth the fun and memories made, but there are just so many variables and logistics to figure out that sometimes just the planning itself starts to make my brain hurt. We had only taken one trip since Quincy was born, and that was to visit family back in Ohio and West Virginia where we grew up. But to “vacation” (and I use that term loosely since travel with small children is never really a vacation) and stay at a hotel or resort means figuring out a whole slew of things: where will everyone sleep? Is there a crib or high chair available? Is the property family-friendly? Are the rooms baby-proofed? How many stairs are involved? Is there a refrigerator for keeping milk cold or a microwave for easily heating food? — the list goes on and on. And that is exactly why I love staying at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. It is the most family-friendly place I have ever stayed! If you’ve been a reader for a while, you might remember our first stay here when I was very pregnant with Quincy. It was the most amazing visit and I was so glad we had the opportunity to go back and experience it as a family of five.
First of all, The Ranch is BEAUTIFUL. Scenic, peaceful, and a literal breath of fresh air — I feel relaxed as soon as we check in. It is gorgeous but relaxed rather than intimidating (especially if you have children and start to have an anxiety attack at the thought of taking your wild boys somewhere nice). I’ve been in the fall and now in the spring and it is lovely in both seasons. We stayed in a 2 bedroom cottage so there is a bedroom for the boys (or we could split them up and put them in their own rooms and use the pull out couch down stairs for ourselves). This is key for us because our kids go to bed — and are their best selves because of it — by 7 to 8 from youngest to oldest. And when you’re “on vacation” you don’t want to go to bed when your kids do.
Another thing I love about The Ranch is that they think of everything! They baby proof the outlets in the rooms, they add a baby gate to the stairs. They provide a highchair and travel crib upon request. There is a mini fridge and microwave, which is so convenient (essential) with little kids. And they have room service — so while we did breakfast in their beautiful restaurant, we chose to do dinners in our room, which was easier on all of us.
Their food is delicious, by the way. I’ve never had a bad meal there. And there was plenty to pick from for the kids too (and mine are picky.) Aside from a golf course and pool, they have bikes available to rent, a games court, corn hole (bags to some of you), and fire pits for making s’mores — they even have s’mores kits available so you don’t have to worry about a thing! I think roasting marshmallows was my kids’ favorite part. Lots of memories made over a fire. Oh, and there’s a SPA (praise hands emoji on repeat). My husband and I both took an hour away to enjoy a massage, which neither of us had indulged in since Quincy was born. The service was fantastic and the massage was one of the best I’ve had.
That brings me to the service at The Ranch. It is impeccable. Everyone is so helpful, happy to assist, and genuinely want to make your stay the best possible. I can’t speak high enough about each person I’ve encountered during both of our stays — from the valets to the servers to the front desk — everyone is just lovely. Such a nice thing that you don’t find often enough these days.
Some other family-friendly favorites in Laguna Beach:
The Tidepools at Treasure Island Beach (below the Montage): We tried to do this last visit but El Nino made the tides wonky and we really couldn’t catch a low tide. But this time it was very cooperative and we walked out and checked out all of the sea creatures in the tide pools. Charlie and Calvin loved this — I wore Quincy in our sling. It is a bit slippery and has some sharp rocks, so good swim shoes or non-slip footwear is recommended. But no one fell in our group 🙂 There is a volunteer docent there to guide and explain the sea life too, which was wonderful.
Playgrounds: Laguna has some beautiful playgrounds. There is one on Aliso Creek Beach, which is where we roasted marshmallows and played during our first visit (the waves are a little intense at this beach, FYI). There is another great playground called Bluebird Park that was really fun. This one was the boys’ favorite spot, full of cool equipment and interesting pieces to play on. But my personal favorite was Alta Vista Park (also called Top of the World Park). It really does feel like you’re on top of the world and the views are spectacular. It is a sand playground, has restrooms, and also has a trail to hike or walk. It is where we took that family photo at the top of the post.
La Sirena Grill (South Laguna): We ate lunch here twice, that’s how good and kid-friendly it is. There is casual outdoor seating where your kids can be kids and you don’t stress, there are LOTS of beers on tap, and the tacos are outstanding. Highly recommend!
Crystal Cove State Beach: This is a great beach for a family hang on the north end of Laguna. The waves are more manageable and the beach is big and well-kept.
Ruby’s at Crystal Cove: Laid back, great views, even better milkshakes. But not a ton of parking and can be long waits depending on the time of day.
Heisler Park: This is another beautiful spot for Laguna views (is there a beach in Laguna that isn’t stunning? I haven’t found one yet.). This has a half mile paved path, which is great for walking with a stroller, as well as beach access and lots of green space making it a great spot for a picnic.
I’ve also heard great things about the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, but we never managed to get there ourselves. Next time!
Laguna Beach has quickly become my family’s happy place. We’ve made some wonderful memories here in the last 18 months with our two visits and stays at The Ranch. It is the perfect getaway if you are in Southern California, especially Los Angeles, because it is such a great escape from the city. Everything is clean and fresh and lovely. And it is a quick drive, but far enough to stay overnight and make a weekend out of the trip. It is also a great place to visit if you’re driving or flying from far away places. You can do all there is in Laguna but also take day trips down to San Diego or up to Los Angeles. Or you can stay on property for all of your activities and meals and never be bored. We are already planning our next visit!
Huge thank you to The Ranch for hosting our stay and giving us a much needed mini family vacation.
Do you have a “happy place” that your family likes to visit on repeat? Or a favorite activity or place in Laguna that we should add to our list?