We recently returned from a Family Vacation to California, and we were able to start out in Coronado (more on that to come!), and ended up in the cute beach town of Santa Barbara. This was our first time in Santa Barbara, and boy was it amazing! The Spanish architecture, the beautiful coastline. It truly is like the Mediterranean of California! We instantly fell in love!
Staying at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore in Santa Barbara was such a treat! The hotel grounds were unlike anything I have ever seen before! So stunning with all of the amazing foliage and Spanish tiles and details. We had a great time exploring the property, and of course the kids enjoyed the pool, and Butterfly beach, that was only steps away from the Resort! Be sure to continue reading for all of my 5 reasons to stay Beachside on your next Coastal Vacation!
We enjoyed our time in Irvine, and loved doing some activities that made us feel more like locals than visitors. We had some great recommendations from DestinationIrvine.com, and I’m excited to share some of the fun things we were able to do!
Here are 4 Things to Do in Irvine that make you feel like a Local:
1) Irvine Spectrum:
The Irvine Spectrum is one of California’s most popular shopping and dining destination. They are more than just a place to shop, the Spectrum also has a carousel and a 108 foot tall Giant Wheel designed in Italy. We had a great time riding the Giant Wheel, and walking around the Spectrum. The mall is quite impressive, and is a popular spot to hangout for locals.
We also headed to dinner at Pho Saigon Pearl for some Vietnamese comfort food. Pho noodle soup is a family favorite, and my kids and husband all loved it. Their broth was very flavorful, and I am very picky when it comes to my Pho broth. Their ingredients all were very fresh, and the restaurant was very popular.
Pho Saigon Pearl
Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center
2700 Alton Parkway, Suite 121
I have been on a big Ramen soup kick lately, so when we were at the Diamond Jamboree we came across Ajisen Ramen. We headed there for lunch, and I got the Ramen with Pork and it hit the spot.
Pretend City is a pretend magical interactive “city” for children, where they can play “grown-up” by going to work, buying the groceries, visiting the doctor, collecting their pay from an ATM.
My kids thought it was pretty cool that they could work at a restaurant, and check-out at the grocery store. They punched their timecards and at the end got paid their pretend money. I feel like the museum catered the most to kids about age 2-6, but my 8 year old also had a really fun time!
Irvine Regional Park is not your average park. It is a beautiful public park, but so much to offer! We went on a train ride, paddle boats in the pond, and they also have surrey bikes you can rent. We noticed a lot of locals there enjoying the afternoon at the many playgrounds and walking trails. They also have a small zoo!
This is a great place to stay while visiting California, since it’s not too far from the beach and a quick drive to Disneyland. Irvine is a very nice and safe area, and we really enjoyed our time there!
We couldn’t help but let the kids try out the Photo Booth area in the lobby of the Embassy Suites. Can you even handle Thomas in those nerd glasses?! Ha!
We loved the location, and my kids thought the breakfast buffet and snack time was the best thing ever! They loved picking out their breakfast each morning, and it is great for a family on a budget to have breakfast included! You can spot my cute family eating breakfast if you look really close. My husband is in the yellow shirt.
They have an indoor pool, which is always a favorite of the kids, and I also enjoyed using their fitness center while we were there.
We were able to get a King size suite, which was nice to have a separate room from the kids, and they all slept out on the pull out sofa bed in the living room area. I love having some separate areas and more than one TV to make it feel a little less like travel, and we can all retire for the night without interrupting each other. It was a great place to stay with our young family!
Thank you so much Destination Irvine for all the great recommendations for fun family activities and places to eat, and Embassy Suites Irvine for the lovely stay! (all thoughts an opinions are my own) I can’t wait to come back! (Luckily I have a quick trip back at the end of the month!)
Sandy’s Beach Grill is the perfect Beach side restaurant right off the Pier, and beautiful ocean views. The location and ocean view definitely add to the experience! The cuisine is inspired by the region and the menu has the basic burgers and fries, sandwiches and salads, but also holds a but of sophistication in each dish.
Their layered seafood cocktail has lobster, shrimp, and an orange chili sauce. And, I am completely convinced that it was invented just for me. It was heavenly, and this seafood lover was so pleased!
The popcorn shrimp was also very good! A nod to buffalo chicken wings shrimp style, which is exactly my style, and my husband got the fish and chips, and my eight year old got the pork tacos, which he exclaimed was the best he’s ever had! There was a great selection for kids, and Sandy’s is definitely a new family favorite that we will come back to time and time again!
Oh, and I can’t forget the best part! Their homemade churros were to die for! They came out freshly cooked, and nice and hot with a chocolate sauce to dip them in. The inside has some fresh lemon zest which gave it a nice flavor! I also stole a few bits of my families Sandy’s signature s’more they ordered, and I am still dreaming about it. I didn’t know if it was something I’d like, but boy was I wrong, it has a graham cracker brownie with chocolate ice cream and a marshmallow fluff. I loved it! I could have eaten that a few times over. They really mastered taking the basics to a whole new level at Sandy’s.
This popular new restaurant in downtown Huntington is an Italian food lovers dream come true. It is very authentic, and everything is homemade with the best organic ingredients. It has a very Italian vibe, (the waiters even spoke Italian) and was a popular spot. The ambiance was very nice, and I’ll admit I was a little worried to go with the kids, but it was actually a very family friendly place, my kids enjoyed their homemade pizzas, and gelato of course! And, I even saw another family or two with young children. I got the lobster ravioli which was homemade and very flavorful. I never skip a chance to try a creme brûlée, and theirs did not disappoint.
We enjoyed some lovely appetizers including a burrata salad with greens, tomatoes, and olives, but the real star of the show for me was the meat, cheese, and olive platter they put together for us. The Italian meats and cheeses were good and authentic and hit the spot!
If you are a true homemade Italian food lover, this is the right spot for you.
3) Another great spot that I also highlighted in a previous Huntington Beach Travel post is Pete’s Sunset Grill.
The location is beautiful at the Hyatt Regency, and the name is accurate, they face the ocean with some beautiful sunsets! The food is inspired by local favorites and from destination surf spots around the world.
One of my favorite things we ate, maybe in the entire trip was the Druken Goat Cheese appetizer. When I read Goat cheese I was thinking it would be the typical soft goat cheese, but instead it was a Spanish goat cheese that came in slices topped with raw honey and marcona almonds. It was amazing, my kind of dish! I will definitely be recreating this one in the future until I can get back to Pete’s and have it again! The restaurant is very kid friendly and has a kids menu for the little ones.
4) If you are looking for a good breakfast spot, breakfast at the Watertable right off the lobby at the Hyatt Regency is a great choice!
I got the zesty lemon blueberry pancakes, and normally I’m a savory breakfast person, but they were so good! The rest of my family go their breakfast buffet with a large variety of options. Made to order omelettes, fruits, cereal. A great option since there is something for everyone!
The Fish Camp restaurant is exactly what you’d think of when you think of a beach town restaurant. There are large fish hanging on the walls, and fresh seafood on display. I like the set up of ordering at the counter then sitting down. When eating with a family sometimes the waiting can be an issue, or if you are pressed on time with all the exploring, it is nice to get to business and get the food out quick!
It was just the right place for our seafood loving family. My two youngest are quite the crab connoisseurs, and shared the king crab legs. They licked each shell clean, and had happy bellies.
They offered shrimp skewers and scallops which made me happy, and my eight year old loved the salmon, and husband ended up with sushi.
It was nice to have a little something for everyone, and some fresh vegetable options for the family. Eating somewhat healthy while on vacation is still important to me, and it was nice to see them get in a few vegetables amongst all our vacation treats.