Surf City USA Day Trip – 7 Family Friendly Things To Do in Huntington Beach

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While you can definitely fill a full week relaxing in Huntington Beach, California, if you only have a limited amount of time to play in Surf City USA, no worries. We have the perfect itinerary for a full day of family-friendly fun in this casual and cool Pacific Coast community.

My family and I stayed in the beautiful Irvine and Costa Mesa areas while visiting Southern California this summer, the perfect home base for a vacation in Orange County. The Costa Mesa Marriott is 10 minutes from Huntington Beach, so we had just a short, 20-minute drive back to the hotel after a full day of fun. For information about things to do in the Irvine and Costa Mesa areas, be sure to visit my post: Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty.

Our friends at Visit Huntington Beach hosted our visit for the day and helped us coordinate a schedule that included a combination of water sports, good food and relaxation that was perfect for me, my 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. If you are planning a girl’s getaway, romantic weekend or vacation with younger kids, they have a lot of other ideas about things to do in the area – so be sure to check them out for ideas before you arrive.

A DAY IN HUNTINGTON BEACH

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1. Learn to Surf – When in Surf City USA, you gotta surf! After all, Huntington Beach has the most consistent waves on the West Coast. If you don’t know how to hang 10, surf lessons from Toes On The Noes is the perfect thing to do in Huntington Beach.

Located at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in the Retail Courtyard, Toes On The Nose offers lessons for those of ages 6 and up with any level of experience. As first timers – we were so excited about the opportunity to hit the waves with a little help from the pros. 

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After putting on wetsuits (provided by Toes On The Nose), we walked across the street from the hotel to the beach with our two instructors, Brock and Paul. Our 2-hour morning lesson started with a brief explanation about technique and we practiced going from the paddling position to standing on our surf boards while we were still on the sand.

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Then we hit the water. Jackson went up immediately and Annie was soon to follow. It took a few more tries for me – but it turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I wasn’t going to win an award for style, but I had a blast riding a wave all the way in to the beach.

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Brock and Paul were so patient and nice. They’ve both been surfing for a long time, especially Brock who started surfing when he was just a little one in preschool. It’s clear they are in their happy place when in the ocean. Even though they are clearly very experienced, they seemed to really enjoy surfing with us rookies and were excited for us when we got up on our boards. We all enjoyed getting to know them…it’s always awesome to meet people who are living their dream.

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After a while, it was clear that Jackson was really progressing quickly. Brock took him out to work one-on-one with him so he could experience as much as possible before the end of our lesson. It was so fun to watch Jackson feel the thrill of catching waves on his own. While Paul and I watched him from the beach, Paul told me that he could tell he had the bug. Paul got it when he was 13 years old and has been hooked on surfing ever since. He could tell Jackson was heading there.

Jackson stood a little taller when Brock and Paul asked him to come see them next time we visited Huntington Beach so they could go surfing together again.

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While surf lessons are a bit of a splurge – it’s totally worth it if you’ve never done it before. I also felt so much more comfortable knowing the kids had experienced surfers with them who knew about rip currents and how to be safe while having fun. Our instructors really maximized our time in the water, giving us the chance to catch waves immediately by telling us when to pop up…timing is everything.

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Many thanks to Brock and Paul and Toes On The Noes for an epic morning.

Jackson said it was lit.

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2. Ride Bikes Down the Boardwalk – After your surf lessons, rent bikes at Toes On The Noes (they also offer hourly and daily bike rentals) and cruise down the Boardwalk. There’s an 8.5 mile paved beach path perfect for pedaling around. It’s a great way to soak in the sun, the views and the relaxing vibe of Huntington Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We worked up an appetite after hitting the waves, so we rode our bikes from the Hyatt to Sandy’s Beach Grill for lunch. Bike rentals come with locks and you’ll find bike racks all along the paved path, so you can stop to shop or eat or just relax on the sand.

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3. Have Lunch at Sandy’s Beach Grill – While on your bike ride down the boardwalk – stop in Sandy’s for a bite to eat. This casual restaurant serves authentic California cuisine and is right by the iconic Huntington Pier. We had delicious scallops and mushroom flatbread at a table with a great view of the ocean. It was so yummy and relaxing and we were able to lock our bikes up on a bike rack right outside the restaurant. Check out my full review of Sandy’s Beach Grill in the post, 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

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4. Stand Up Paddleboarding at Huntington Harbor with OEX Sunset Beach. We fell in love with Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year in Florida. So much so, that we bought our own paddleboard before we left Sandestine! We don’t get the chance to go out as often as we’d like in Houston, so whenever we are by the water – we always try to squeeze in some time to SUP. OEX Sunset Beach, a kayak and SUP rental shop only a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Sandy’s Grill, is a great place to grab a board and get on the water.

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Since we’ve been stand up paddleboarding before, we each got our own paddleboard – but two people can easily fit on one board if you are new to the sport and have younger kids. OEX Sunset Beach also offers lessons if you want to learn before you head out on your own, but SUP is really easy…you just have to find your balance. While it’s a lot of fun, relaxing and a great way to explore – it’s also a great workout. We went out around 3:30 p.m. so we had two hours to play. OEX Sunset Beach closes at 5:30, so all kayakers and paddleboarders have to be in by then.

The harbor is beautiful and there were a lot of kayakers and paddleboarders out on the water. We had fun exploring the area and looking at the boats and homes along the way. Paddleboarding is very calming to me. I love falling into the rhythm of paddling as I glide across the water. The kids love it, too. It’s a great way to see the water from a different perspective and while we didn’t talk a lot – it’s fun to experience SUP together with your family.

We went pretty far out, around several bends in the Harbor and before we knew it, it was time to head back. It was a little windier then we anticipated and because we were going against the wind on the way back, we made it back with only about 10 minutes to spare! With tired arms, tighter abs and full hearts – we turned in our equipment.

Tip: Parking is limited in their parking lot but you can park for free along the highway. You can also store your valuables in the shop (car keys, etc.) so you don’t have to worry about taking things on the paddleboard.

5. Shop at Pacific City If you have time and want to do some shopping, Pacific City is a fun place to visit. Right on the Pacific Coast Highway – they have big stores like Free People and LUSH (our favorite bath products!) as well as smaller specialty shops. We went after we finished SUP and before dinner and really enjoyed CherryHills Market. They also have restaurants and live entertainment. While we just visited for an hour, we could have been here much longer.

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6. Eat Dinner at Cucina Alessa – Just a short drive from the Boardwalk to Main Street is a delicious Italian restaurant, perfect for dinner. While you don’t want to wear a bathing suit or cut offs, it’s not too fancy. We were very comfortable. Jackson got lasagna, I ordered lobster ravioli and Annie had pasta with grilled shrimp and everything was delicious. We heard that all their handmade pastas are yummy – especially the Butternut Squash Ravioli. For a full review about Cucina Alessa, see my post: 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

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7. Bonfire on the Beach – While there are several public fire pits available for use on a first come, first serve basis on the beach each evening, there’s a special area across the street from and between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels where you can reserve a private bonfire. Waterfront Adventures, part of the The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, allows you to enjoy watching the sunset on the beach and making s’mores by the fire without any of the fuss. They provide the beach chairs, fire pit, wood, soft drinks and water, and all the fixin’s for s’mores.

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This was an amazing way to end the day. We just showed up on the beach and checked in with the attendant at about 8:30 p.m. Our private fire pit was already set up. During the evening he continually checked on us and kept the fire going so all we had to do was get comfortable and curl up by the fire. We loved visiting together about our Huntington Beach adventures in such beautiful surroundings.

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Tip: Be aware that the beach closes for everyone at 10:00 p.m. Starting at about 9:45 p.m. police vehicles begin to patrol the beach – so be prepared to pack up or pay a fine!

The kids happily dozed off during our ride back to Costa Mesa after the Bonfire. Before they were out like a light, both of them smiled and said…”Today was the best day. Ever.”

So, yeah. This mom’s kinda loving Huntington Beach.

What is your favorite thing to do in Orange County?

As guests of  Visit Huntington Beach our meals and activities were provided in order for us to experience Surf City USA area attractions. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

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Hydrating with BODYARMOR SuperDrink

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My kids participate in a lot of sports. Lacrosse, soccer and swim team are a few outdoor sports they are involved with right now. Living in Houston, where it stays hot and humid most of the year, we have to be mindful about keeping hydrated during these activities. It’s an ongoing challenge for all of us.

I have a hard time keeping down fluids when I run, so I struggle with finding a balance between staying hydrated and keeping cramps and nausea at bay. My kids…well – they are just lazy! They get pretty warm at lacrosse games, especially my son who wears chest pads and a helmet, but “forget” to drink fluids. I’m usually on the sidelines screaming “Hydrate!” as much as I’m yelling “Go team!”

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We usually stick to water because I’m not a big fan of all the artificial ingredients in some sports drinks and my kids really don’t like the way they taste. I mean, if I’m going to the trouble of working out to keep healthy – I’d rather not load up on a bunch of chemicals while I’m actually doing it! Sometimes water just isn’t enough though. During one a sprint triathlon last summer when it hit record high temps in H-Town….heat was a real issue. I realized during that race that I needed electrolytes in a big way so I alternated between drinking water and the sports drink they gave out at all the water stations.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out a new sports drink line by BODYARMOR. SuperDrink by BODYARMOR has natural flavoring (no artificial sweeteners or color) and provides hydration with a combo of potassium blended electrolytes, 10% coconut water and B vitamins. Sounded good to me, but would the kids like it?

At last weekend’s swim meet, my son and daughter both gave them a try. BODYARMOR SuperDrink comes in 8 flavors. We tested 6 of them: Strawberry Banana, Mixed Berry, Orange Mango, Fruit Punch, Blackout Berry and Tropical Punch. The verdict? They loved the taste (and I did, too!)

They are light and refreshing. Sweet…but not too sweet. After I drank one I felt – well…hydrated! My daughter’s favorite was Strawberry Banana. Jackson liked all the berry flavors. I’m partial to the Orange Mango.

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I don’t always say this after trying out a new fitness related product, but BODYARMOR SuperDrink is going to become a staple in our house. The 16 oz bottles are perfect for throwing in the gym bag and I think it’s cool that they are also gluten free and don’t contain caffeine. I did a search online at DrinkBODYARMOR.com and they carry these sport drinks at Kroger, Target and HEB, all places close to my house. Check out the site to see where to get them by where you live. And while you’re online, be sure to print this BODYARMOR coupon (I did!) so you can save some cash while keeping cool this summer.

Be well. Be safe. Be fierce.

I was given samples of BODYARMOR SuperDrink for free in order to review. I received no compensation for this post and all opinions stated are my own. 

 

 

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My Triathlon Experience

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Success!

Tanya and I finished the Cypress Sprint Triathlon last Sunday. We’ve been training all summer and crossing that finish line was such a rush…an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Any time I finish a race, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon (I ran the Hawaii marathon in 1999), I celebrate the fact that I finished. While I always aim to better my time, just being in the race and finishing is the most important thing to me.

This is especially true with triathlons. With three different events combined in one, it’s the chance to exercise many muscles and mental strength. I love the challenge! Even though I participated in a Sprint Tri (Towne Lake) for the first time last year over Labor Day, I had my doubts about whether or not I would be successful this time. The swim was 550 meters, 150 meters longer than the race I did last year. Plus, I didn’t spend a lot of time running during my nine-month work contract from September 2013 (right after my first triathlon) to June 2014. I did cycle a bit in the spring (Ed and I trained for the Houston to Austin MS150 but we didn’t end up participating because the event date conflicted with our trip to Disneyland) but I didn’t exercise much between April and June.

With only a short time to train, I really focused on swimming. It’s my weakest link and the part I fear the most. It took a bit to build my endurance in the water back up. Since I don’t have a strong freestyle stroke, I end up swimming breast stroke for a lot of the race, which is fine but a lot slower than if I was able to do an even freestyle. After we attended the pre-race clinic the weekend before the race, I was more fearful of the open water swim then ever before. I’m not sure why, but I got in the lake and choked. Eye-level with the top of the water, the distance between me and the last buoy seemed an ocean length away and I felt exhausted before I even started.

I spent some more time in the pool the week before the race and while waiting in line for my wave to start, I was nervous, but a little more confident. It helps me when I concentrate on getting to each buoy (this course had one at every 100 meter mark) instead of focusing on the swim finish. I like that it’s the first part of the race so I can get it over with and not spend time worrying for the entire race!

While I had some people lap me from the wave that started after me (waves started every four minutes and there were four waves after mine), I held my own. While people swimming over you can be a little unnerving, knowing what to expect helps calm your fears when it happens!

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I look pretty serious in this picture, but I was very happy that the swim was behind me when I got out of the water. I was concentrating on catching my breath and making up time during transition. I love to cycle and I was gearing up for the ride in my mind already.

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After I finished the 14-mile bike ride, I started the last leg of the Tri…the 5K run. I didn’t do any brick workouts this year (i.e. alternating between running and cycling in one work-out) so my legs were like lead. It took me about a mile to work out the heavy filling in my thighs, so I ran a little slower than I normally do. The crowd support was so good at the end of the race, I was inspired to sprint to the finish line even though I was completely spent.

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For me, training for running and triathlon events keeps me focused on staying active everyday. It’s so important for me to have a goal so I can keep motivated and keep moving forward! Since losing a lot of weight two years ago, it’s so important to me to stay as healthy as I can.

I’m already looking forward to my next Sprint Tri! I’ll be working on bricks and swimming to try to improve my time as well as re-focusing on nutrition for overall health.

I highly recommend participating in a Sprint Triathlon. While there are incredible triathletes at these events, the community is very supportive of first-time folks and those, like me, who have a goal to finish the triathlon, not win. There are athletes of every shape and size (although at 4’10” I’m usually one of the shortest!) and ability level. I’m a pretty competitive person, but with triathlons, I truly believe that everyone who finishes is a winner.

There’s a great Tri coming up in Clear Lake that I wish I could attend. The 7th Annual Clear Lake International and Sprint Triathlon is on August 23, 2014 in League City, Texas at South Shore Harbor and Resort. It offers both an International Course with a 1.5K Swim, 28.8 mile bike and 10K run as well as a Sprint Course with a .5K swim, 14 mile bike and 3.4K run.

The Sprint course has a shorter run, great for those who are new to running or not as strong in this area. I love that this event takes you over the Kemah Bridge and provides views of Clear Lake and NASA Space Center. It sounds like so much fun and I’m definitely putting this event on my list for next year! Who knows, by then maybe I’ll be ready to take a stab at the longer course?!

Is participating in a Tri on your bucket list? What are your fitness goals this year? Do you participate in running, cycling or swimming events? Do you have any tips for training? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you to New Creative Media for sponsoring this post and supporting my health and fitness goals. While I was provided compensation, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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