Beyond Main Beach -- An Unexpected Family Day In Laguna Beach

Beyond Main Beach — An Unexpected Family Day In Laguna Beach

Check out our picks for unexpected family activities in Laguna Beach.

Families love Laguna Beach. They flock to Main Beach for its playground, the basketball and volleyball courts, and (typically) calm surf. They line up at the gelato stands and ice cream shops sprinkled through town. They eagerly explore the farmer’s market, tasting local produce and connecting with locals. 

But those beloved mainstays aren’t all there is for families to do in town. The city is also full of lesser-known family activities — from the beaches to the green belt. Check out our picks for unexpected family activities in Laguna Beach, below. Each entry is paired with a nearby food or drink option to help you maximize the experience.


Meet The Locals At The Pacific Marine Mammal Center

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is a Laguna Beach field trip mainstay and an excellent example of Laguna’s conservation mindset. Open to visitors daily, the center rehabilitates sea lions, harbor seals, elephant seals, and other distressed species, before releasing them back into the wild. 

If you’re looking for that combo of meeting cute animals and the engaged citizens helping to preserve them, this is the place to visit. 


Heading out of Laguna Canyon and toward the beach, visit Another Kind Cafe at The Hive, where the Vietnamese coffee is turbo charged, the phô is healing, and the hospitality is warm and welcoming. If you feel like a beer, Laguna Beach Beer Company is just steps away. 

Get Inspired At Narrative Gallery

Just across Coast Highway  from Main Beach, Narrative Gallery is the sort of creative wonderland that will inspire young minds and make them fall in love with the arts. Starring an eclectic collection of art from Theodor Geisel — Dr. Seuss — a stroll through this gallery is a reminder of Laguna’s creative heritage while paying homage to the unique way that Geisel and other artists, from Keith Haring to Salvador Dali, viewed the natural world. 

If Seuss’s candy-colored images demand a sweet treat, Narrative Gallery is just steps from Chantilly Ice Cream, the Candy Baron, and multiple gelato stops.  


Just a few doors down on Park Avenue, Brussels Bistro features burgers and fries that are sure to please the kids, along with the most famous mussels in town. Plus, if the adults in your party have had a long day, the list of European beers is superb. 

Ride The Trolley… Just For the Fun Of It

If you ride the free trolley on a summer weekend, you’re sure to meet a local family chatting up strangers while licking ice cream cones with no particular agenda at all. Over the past few years, riding the local trolleys just for the joy of it has become an activity all its own for Lagunans “in the know.” There’s a certain passive pleasure that comes from watching the world go by, meeting new people, and basking in old school charm on these historic trolleys. For parents, the fact that you can see the city without having to think about finding a place to park is a huge perk. 

Not only are the free trolleys are a great way to get around, but on a summer evening, they can also be an activity all their own. 


The potential trolley stops for a treat are endless but one of the lesser-known options is hopping off at the stop right by Montage Resort and enjoying a tea with cookies or even a full breakfast in the property’s sweeping lobby and adjoining restaurant. 

Enjoy Open Spaces At Moulton Meadows Park

In the ranking of Laguna’s parks and public spaces, Moulton Meadows is definitely the unsung hero. It’s versatile, uncrowded, and provides access to Laguna’s iconic “Green Belt.” Much like Top of the World park, to which it’s connected via fire trail, Moulton Meadows has tennis and basketball courts, wide, sloping lawns, and a playground structure. For families, this is the chance to get a whole lot of energy out, then double down on activity by hiking the web of nearby trails all together. 

If you want to get a sense of the city from above while enjoying one of its best (and lesser known) parks, this is the spot for you. 


There aren’t any permanent dining options at Moulton Meadows (or Top of the World), but the park is without a doubt Laguna’s best place for a picnic-sans-sand. Heading down the hill, try the rooftop seating area at Ruby’s Diner, just down the hill on coast highway. Nothing can quite match the taste of a thick milkshake on a warm day. 

Take Up Skimboarding At Aliso Creek Beach

Aliso Creek is another one of those Laguna locales that can be a lot of things to a lot of people. It features a play structure but also one of the most user-friendly beaches in the county — with parking on site, attentive lifeguards, and fire pits. Skimboarders from novice to pro level will be happy on the shore-break and people looking for an easy float in the Pacific will be happy with how easy it is to wade past the wave line. 

If you want to feast on the sand, there’s no better place in the city. Bring the hot dogs and a cooler to make a day of it. Alternately, the Lost Pier Cafe, right on the sand, is one of the most exciting new dining options in the city. Order the beloved breakfast burrito before your first skim session of the day, or go “Full SoCal” with the avocado toast. 


The cinnamon roll at Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, just a short walk inland from Aliso Creek Beach, is historic. While on the property, play cornhole or check out the free music for families on Wednesday nights. 

These entries aren’t all there is for families to do in the city, of course. Sawdust Art Festival is a true “must visit” and there are enough kid-friendly beaches to fill an article all its own. Still, these options will get you started. Eventually, you’re sure to end up following your instincts to find the right adventure for your family — whether it’s in the hills, the beaches, or the city — in one of the easiest cities to explore in all of California. 

About the Author

Steve Bramucci

Steve Bramucci

A Laguna Beach ambassador, Steve Bramucci’s writing has appeared in the pages of USA Today, Afar, Outside, Huffington Post, COAST, OC Register Magazine, and other online and print outlets. His novel, Ronald Zupan and the Pirates of Borneo!, publishes with Bloomsbury in 2016. Follow him on Twitter @stevebram.

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