I recently discovered that there is a word, solivagant, which means someone who wanders alone. In 2015, two solivagants married. My husband and I met via a global travel community and bonded over our love of wandering. When our son was born in 2017, we promised to travel with our baby and to show him the world.
Life threw us a few curveballs and by age two, little Alexandre had only visited two foreign countries. We decided to make up for the lack of international travel by exploring nearby locales by car, like this visit to Huntington Beach with our toddler.
After researching the best places to travel in the USA with a toddler, we decided on Huntington Beach, California. Surf City USA (as it’s otherwise known), is only a few hours away from our home in Scottsdale. We planned to visit Southern California in August to escape the brutal Arizona summer.
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The small city of Huntington Beach, California fit our criteria it is walkable, kid-friendly, and directly on the water. I heard that Huntington Beach is affordable and that it has a variety of good restaurants.
Laguna Beach was a close second choice but it lost to Huntington Beach because Laguna Beach appears to be more expensive. Moreover, Laguna Beach is known to have rocky beaches and fewer good family resorts.
Where to Stay in Huntington Beach with a Toddler or Baby
Of all the kid-friendly Huntington Beach hotels, we chose to stay at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach because of its reputation for catering to young guests. Three travel sites listed this Hyatt resort among the top ten family-friendly Huntington Beach resorts. The Hyatt Regency, in particular was listed as one of the best hotels in Huntington Beach for families because it has a variety of kiddie pools, children’s slides and a children’s program.
For those visiting Huntington Beach with a baby or toddler, the Hyatt Regency hotel provides cribs and diaper pails. Most importantly, it is located across the street from a sandy beach.
If you prefer to not use a hotel crib, here are the best portable travel cribs for babies.
Note: There is no microwave available to heat prepared food in the standard Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach guest rooms. I had to use the ground floor whisky bar to heat a boxed meal for my son. They were very accommodating despite the inconvenience for everyone. Despite lacking a microwave, our room did have a refrigerator and coffee maker.
I contacted the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach hotel by phone during the planning process. When we asked about the age requirement for Camp Hyatt, the receptionist told us that the minimum age is 3 years old but recommended that we lie about our son’s age. Our son is small for two and there is no way that he could pass for three.
While we were at the hotel, however, Alexandre was able to participate in several fun things to do with the Club Hyatt. We fed the fish in the Koi pond almost every day and we were invited to join in with building sandcastles and making crafts.
After touring the clubhouse and chatting with the staff at our Huntington Beach resort, I realized that the real requirement to sign up for this kid’s club is that the child is potty-trained. We may plan to return to this resort when Alexandre is older so that he can enjoy everything that the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach children’s program has to offer. They were very welcoming and have a diverse program including nighttime activities and pool parties.
Here are more tips on traveling with a potty training toddler.
Best Things to do in Huntington Beach with a Toddler
During our Huntington Beach family vacation, we didn’t have a fixed schedule. On most days we ate breakfast in our hotel room and then explored the hotel grounds or did an activity.
Alexandre was fascinated by everything in the new environment and this ended up being one of the best Huntington Beach toddler activities. He enjoyed riding the hotel elevator, running in the grass near the fountains, looking at the flowers and talking about the artwork. He also loved the outdoor fireplace and small shopping area.
2. Play at Huntington Beach
After pool time and lunch we would try to make it to the beach, which was convenient as our kid-friendly Huntington Beach hotel was right across from the sandy beach. Like most toddlers, my son loves to slide so on a quiet afternoon, we went from the Hyatt to a fun Huntington Beach park, just a few blocks away at 9th street and Pacific Coast Highway. This playground was one of our son’s favorite things to do in Huntington Beach.
The 9th Street playground is walking distance from the Hyatt but we took the bus because I didn’t feel comfortable walking on the Pacific Coast Highway with the little munchkin because of the fast moving traffic.
To get to the toddler-friendly Huntington Beach playground we took the Orange County public bus#29 and then walked down the boardwalk. I put Alexandre in his favorite elephant backpack because it has a tether and a few pockets for supplies.
I did consider using the hotel transportation to get to the playground. The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach has a shuttle bus that services Main Street and Disneyland. Other destinations may be requested through the concierge for a small fee but the options are limited and they do not have car seats.
Find the best car seats for travel with a baby or toddler in our Amazon Shop List – Travel Car Seats
I opted for public transportation due to convenience and because my son was excited about the new adventure. The bus was clean and there were very few passengers. Our driver was helpful and friendly. The adult fare is $2 but young children are free. I was given a free return trip pass but didn’t need it because my husband came to pick us up.
Don’t miss all these best tips for Disneyland with a baby!
3. Downtown Huntington Beach
Aside from time playing on the beach, exploring Downtown Huntington Beach is a fun activity with kids. I am a fan of having a stroller available because my son, like all toddlers, will eventually want to be carried. I used the Summer 3DLite travel stroller to get around when we were not in the car.
See all the best travel strollers for toddlers.
4. Enjoy the rest of Surf City, USA
During the week that we were in Huntington Beach with our toddler, several events were taking place including the US Open of Surfing and the Orange County Fair. The streets were always bustling and our toddler loved walking around even without a destination.
We watched surfers and visited the International Surfing Museum. I highly recommend the Huntington Beach Night Market. There was even a petting zoo!
Best Day Trips from Huntington Beach with Kids
We took a few day trips during our Huntington Beach holiday with a toddler. One trip was to visit Laguna Beach and the other was for Whale Watching in Newport Beach.
1. Laguna Beach with a Toddler
With a nice playground on the sand and some kid-friendly restaurants, Laguna Beach was a fun day trip from Huntington Beach. We also wandered into a few galleries that were very welcoming to us.
The Sawdust Art Festival was taking place in Laguna Beach while we were in Orange County. There were many high-quality items for sale including artisan products. Some child-friendly activities were available but they were more suited to a slightly older children than to a toddler.
Our toddler enjoyed walking through the narrow streets and viewing all the merchandise and demonstrations. In Laguna Beach, there is the Pacific Marine Animal Rescue Center that I hoped to visit but we didn’t make it.
Whale Watching with a Toddler
Huntington Beach whale watching was a very fun thing to do with a toddler! We saw the back of a whale entering a deep dive. Even though Alexandre wasn’t able to see it well because it was so far away, he was thrilled when I pointed it out to him.
He was more excited about the dolphins and sea lions that were easier to watch. All three of us love being on the water so, after the Huntington Beach whale watching excursion, we took the car ferry to Balboa Island.
3. Balboa Island
Balboa Island is a quaint picturesque community in Newport Beach, California. There is a pier, boardwalk and a few shops. Our toddler mostly enjoyed watching the small boats. He even got to see a rabbit hopping around in someone’s front yard!
Travel Tip: In Balboa Island, we could not find a diaper changing station in any of the establishments that we visited and, therefore, had to change a wet diaper on a secluded bench on a quiet street. Bring one of these best diaper change mats like this portable change mat so you don’t have to worry about finding a change table!
Eating in Huntington Beach with a Toddler
Every restaurant that we visited in Orange County except the ice cream parlors had high chairs. Children menus and child cups were also widely available.
At the Hyatt resort, we ate at Pete’s Sunset Grille, Tower 15 Pizzeria and Watertable. Watertable is more upscale while the others are casual spots in the courtyard by the shopping area. We only ate breakfast in our room but Watertable is open for breakfast.
At the resort, we also had snacks by the outdoor ground floor fireplace. My son was fascinated with it and the gentle heat was welcome during the cool California evenings.
I also visited the local Walmart for supplies once during the week. It is very close to the resort; I thought about using the bus but took an Uber alone to limit the time away from my husband and baby.
Learn more about taking an Uber with a Baby or Toddler here.
Huntington Beach with a Toddler Packing List
You don’t need a lot for a chill family beach holiday like this one, but here are some travel essentials that will come in handy for a week in Huntington Beach with a toddler:
- If you are planning on doing meals in the hotel, a portable travel high chair will help keep your baby or toddler in one place!
- A spill proof snack cup is a must, so toddlers can have a snack on-the-go and you can avoid constantly cleaning up what gets dropped.
- A lightweight travel stroller is perfect for toddlers that get tired or for doing naps on the go. A stroller travel bag will help protect it if you are flying.
- Your toddler will have the best time on the beach with these toddler beach essentials, including a wide brim toddler sun hat and toddler sunglasses. Be sure to learn about sun safety for toddlers before you go and consider bringing a beach tent to help protect their sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
- If your toddler has outgrown a crib, bring one of these portable toddler beds to help him get a great sleep!
- If you are sharing a room in the hotel, give your baby or toddler their own space and help them sleep at any time of day with a SlumberPod.
Overall, we had a great time enjoying the many fun things to do in Huntington Beach with a toddler. We definitely recommend a similar Orange County itinerary for your next family vacation.
This guest post was written by Trisha Simone
This guest post was written by Trisha Simone. Trisha is a pediatrician who was born in New York but spent part of her childhood living in Jamaica. She met her husband, who was born in France, in Montreal via Couchsurfing. Collectively, they have traveled extensively around North America, Europe and several other countries. They now live in Scottsdale, Arizona with their two-year-old son, Alexandre.