Family-Friendly Day Out

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For parents, summer generally means more time with little ones. From exploring the wilderness to learning more about local sea creatures, an insider shares her picks for quality family time.

Supervising park ranger Barbara Norton educates Lisa’s daughter about native  plants at the Nix Nature Center. | Photo by Jody Tiongco
Supervising park ranger Barbara Norton educates Lisa’s daughter about native
plants at the Nix Nature Center. | Photo by Jody Tiongco

Morning: Start the day with an active and educational visit to 7,000-acre Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, where families can explore the local environment. The Nix Nature Center offers hands-on kids’ exhibits and information about the park. Activities like scavenger hunts and craft projects encourage creativity and spark curiosity. Take an orienting walk on Mary’s Trail; the short loop is easy enough for youngsters.

“A lot of our families just love hiking here,” says Lisa Roberson-Beery, co-president of the Laguna Beach Parents Club. “There are appropriate trails for different ages.” On-site volunteers can recommend child-friendly routes for longer hikes.

On your way back down the canyon, stop by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC). Its viewing area is open to visitors every day, except major holidays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; docents are on hand to answer questions. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about the sea lions and seals being cared for at the center. “If your kids love animals, this is always a fun thing to do,” Lisa notes.

PMMC also features educational programs for all ages, such as Mommy and Me (designed for toddlers and mothers), which teaches participants about marine mammals as they sing songs, color and partake in other  fun activities.

If it’s a Saturday, stop by the Laguna Beach Public Library for Children’s Craft Open House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when kids aged 12 and younger can create fun, seasonal projects. Afterward, fuel up for the beach with falafel at the nearby Adonis Mediterranean Grill, a favorite lunch spot for Lisa and her family.

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Afternoon: A visit to one of Laguna’s famous tide pools, available at seven different spots in town, is sure to keep the kids enchanted. “Exploring the tide pools is a lovely summer activity,” Lisa says. She suggests going to the Heisler Park pools when the tide is low, as docents are available to inform visitors about the tidal habitats and answer questions. “It is so fun and educational,” she says. “It is a real treat. Last time, we saw an octopus there.” You’re also likely to encounter hermit crabs, kelp snails and fish.

The playground at Bluebird Park | Photo by Jody Tiongco
The playground at Bluebird Park | Photo by Jody Tiongco

Evening: On Sunday, Bluebird Park is the place to be for the annual summer music in the park series from 5-7 p.m. The park features a children’s playground with a rocket ship-style play structure, swings and more. Bring your blanket and picnic, or order from Gina’s Pizza, Z Pizza or other restaurants that deliver to the park.

“Arrive early,” Lisa advises. “If you get there late, you will feel overwhelmed. Everyone goes to it; it is that much fun. If your family is spending the afternoon down at Bluebird Beach, send a representative to hold a spot.” Keep in mind, though, that setting up for the concerts is not allowed until 3 p.m.

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