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Try This Perfect Kid-Friendly Southern California Itinerary

Fashion and family blogger Paige Rangel shares her action-packed adventure through Santa Monica, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Dana Point

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Posted a month agoby Jessica Sebor

Influencer Paige Rangel shares her modern approach to motherhood on her blog The Love Designed Life. Recently, the fashion-minded Phoenix resident took a five-day vacation to Southern California and decided to do it her way: as a solo parent with all her kids in tow.

Rangel, a Los Angeles native, was thrilled to start things off by showing her children around her favorite spots in Santa Monica. The crew then headed south to Terranea Resort, which offers beachside luxury for couples and families in Ranchos Palos Verdes. The family ended their vacation in the Orange County seaside city of Dana Point, where they saw hundreds of dolphins frolicking alongside the boat on a whale watching tour. Read more about how Rangel balanced SoCal luxury with activities that also appealed to children.

What are three highlights from your trip?

If I had to narrow it down, it would be riding bikes to the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, archery at Terranea Resort, and dolphin spotting with Captain Dave's Whale Watching in Dana Point.

What were some of the best things you ate in Santa Monica?

As a mostly plant-based eater, I was in foodie heaven! We started our trip with lunch at Kye's Feel Good Food after we touched down, and the burrito-style Asian fare was so unique and yummy. I was surprised how much the kids loved it, too. Our dinner at Birdie G's under the glass atrium outside was magical, both for the unique menu and the atmosphere. The vegan breakfast burrito at Uplifters Kitchen was insane, and I would eat at The Hive every single day if I could. Between the savory breakfast bowls and the sweet acai bowls, it's a plant-lover’s paradise.

What did you learn during your tour at the Heal the Bay Aquarium on the Santa Monica Pier?

This was such a cool hands-on experience for the kids. They got to hold starfish, pet stingrays, and stand next to a whale's rib bone! We learned about why some jellyfish glow in the dark, how sea anemones explore their surroundings, and so much more. My kids could've stayed for hours, asking questions to the knowledgeable staff and learning about the ocean life that lives just beyond the pier.

What else did you do in Santa Monica?

We explored the 3rd Street Promenade and did a little shopping on Montana Avenue. The Santa Monica Farmers Market was a personal favorite stop of mine, as I used to visit it often when our family lived in the area many years ago. It's one of the best farmers markets in the country! We also walked on the Santa Monica Pier a bit, but we ran out of time to ride any rides. We hope to go back again one day to do that—perhaps when the kids are a bit older.

Can you describe your stay at Terranea?

Terranea is the most beautiful spot tucked away just south of Los Angeles in Rancho Palos Verdes. I was surprised how family-friendly it was—we saw several other families during our stay and there was plenty for the kids to do. It is the type of luxury resort that has it all: multiple restaurants, a waterslide at the main pool, an adult pool, shopping, and beautiful grounds to walk around. It truly feels like an escape.

Any favorite activities at Terranea?

Archery was our favorite! The location right on the private beach could not be beat. All three kids and I participated and had a great time shooting not only targets but also “zombies.” We loved the main pool, and the kids went down the waterslide about 100 times. In the evening, we toasted s'mores and walked around the property and used the stargazing map to find constellations.

You ate at RAYA, right?

Everything about the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is magical, from the interior design to the beautiful floral arrangements. When we walked into RAYA, we were greeted by the most spectacular ocean view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. We were lucky enough to get a table by the window where we watched the surfers out in the wake as the sun set. The service was also excellent, but the kids would probably say their favorite part of the evening was dessert.

Tell us about your whale watching tour in Dana Point.

We took the early boat with hopes of seeing some whales. It was a bit chilly at that hour, even in late July, so I would recommend long pants and layers on top. No luck for us that day as far as whales go, but we did see hundreds of dolphins and they swam right up alongside our boat. The kids were fascinated by the underwater viewing pod, where they could actually see the dolphins swimming! We also got to see sea lions closer to the harbor and learned some history of Dana Point from our captain along the way.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to recreate your trip?

This itinerary was the perfect little tour down the coast of Southern California. If you're flying, fly into LAX, rent a car, and then fly out of Orange County. Our entire trip over these three stops was five days long. However, if you can manage, I would suggest at least two days in each location to really maximize all the potential fun along the Southern California coastline.

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