Water, water everywhere… Los Angeles may be flanked by miles and miles of glorious Pacific coastline, but sadly most of its beaches are not really suitable for young children’s water play. Chilly temperatures, pounding waves and poor water quality cross many a beach off the “recommended” list.
However, no family trip to LA is complete without checking out the surf, dude, so here are a few toddler-friendly beach suggestions to keep you and your youngsters safe, happy and wet.
• Seaside Lagoon, Redondo Beach
Young children can enjoy a secure splash-around at the Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach. This sandy, shallow, saltwater harbor is enclosed so there is room for your little one to frolic in the water without running astray.
It sounds strange but the water is actually warmed by a nearby steam generating plant, making it a pleasant pool for your toddler to paddle in. Approximately 200,000 gallons of ocean water flow through the lagoon per hour – chlorinated on the way in, de-chlorinated on the way out. Complete with lifeguard supervision, a large stretch of sand, a grassy patch, a playground, and Ruby’s snack bar, it’s a popular spot for the toddler set.
Seaside Lagoon is open daily in the summer months from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. It’s located on the southwest corner of Harbor Drive and Portofino Way. To get there, exit the Harbor Freeway (110) at Torrance Boulevard and go west. Take Catalina Avenue to the other side of the Redondo Beach Pier, then take Beryl to Harbor Drive until you see the lagoon.
• Marina Beach, Marina del Rey
Marina Beach is also commonly known as Mother’s Beach, which tells you something about its kid-friendly appeal. Set in a protected inlet, this wide sandy beach offers calm, shallow waters for your toddler’s splashing pleasure. When the surf appeal wanes, you can switch gears to the playground, complete with swings, climbers and a cool pirate ship.
With several nearby restaurants, you can make a day of it – depending on moods and nap needs, of course.
Marina/Mother’s Beach is at the corner or Admiralty and Palawan Way, just in front of the Marriot Marina Beach Hotel in Marina Del Rey.
• Leo Carillo Beach, Malibu
While not a great swimming beach per se, the tide pools at this Malibu beach are a source of endless fascination for most beachcombing babes. As the tide retreats, warm pools of wonder are formed, teaming with sea creatures including muscles, clams, sea anemones, starfish and hermit crabs. You might even get lucky and spot dolphins, seals, sea lions or even whales swimming by the coast. If your budding nature nut tires of the sea life, there’s always the cool cave and rock formations to admire.
Located 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1), right near the border of Ventura County. Take the Kanan-Dune exit off the 101 freeway and head north until you see the signs. Parking cost $10.
• Avalon, Catalina Island
Technically part of Los Angeles County, this island gem is well worth the journey over – in fact, the journey may be just as fun as the destination for your little one. A high-speed catamaran ferries the family from Long Beach to Avalon in about an hour, so you can make it a daytrip or make plans to stay a while. This surprisingly casual, old-fashioned beach town is pedestrian-friendly – no cars are allowed, although the noisy golf carts can be annoying.
You and the kids can mark your territory on the sandy patch by the green pier right in the heart of town, convenient to fish and chip stands and ice cream shops. Or take a pleasant 15-20 minute stroll along the charming waterfront to Descanso Beach just behind the iconic Art Deco Casino (not the gambling kind). See the Catalina Express (www.catalinaexpress.com) for details on how to get there.
• Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace
Perhaps this is cheating as it’s not an authentic ocean-front beach, but if it’s toddler-friendly water play you’re looking for, Hansen Dam Recreational Area won’t disappoint. This San Fernando Valley recreational facility includes two man-made lakes – 9 acres for fishing and boating fun plus a 1.5 acre wave-free swimming hole, much of it knee-deep for youngsters to revel in without getting in over their heads. Two water slides will keep older kids entertained, and there are hiking trails, horse riding and golf available to round off your day’s activities. With a large expanse of white sand and plenty of picnic tables, you’ll soon forget that this isn’t a “real” beach.
Hansen Dam is open year round. Call 818-8696-6514 for operating hours, which vary according to the time of year. To get there, exit the Foothill Freeway (210) at Foothill Boulevard and go west to the entrance.