The Secret to the Perfect Family Vaycay


Sun, sand and LEGO bricks: there’s no denying that a perfect family getaway can and should include all of those things. If, after a day of exploring the LEGOLAND Florida Resort, you’d like to lounge with a poolside cocktail while the kiddos splash around with floating LEGO bricks, you should book now at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat. We did, and we’re here to tell you, it is so cool it just might make your (LEGO) head pop off. Read on for the scoop.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Where It’s At

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which opened in early April of 2017,  is located near the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Florida. Unlike the LEGOLAND Hotel, the Retreat is not adjacent to the LEGOLAND Resort, but is essentially across the street. While it is walkable, do yourself a favor and save the steps for exploring the park. You can either drive over to the lot and park for the day (parking fee is included with your stay) or hop on the free shuttle service. Guests of the Beach Retreat get early admission to the park, so you can beat the crowds regardless of which transport you choose.

photo courtesy by  LOCK + LAND, Chip Litherland for LEGOLAND Florida Resort

The Lay of the Land

At the Beach Retreat’s center is the lighthouse. It lights up at night and it’s easy to see: follow it to find the pool area (which includes a big play structure and plenty of lounge chairs), Sandy’s Castle Restaurant,  Bricks Beach Bar and the gift shop, Palm Tree Traders. The bungalows are grouped around the lighthouse in horseshoe-shaped coves all with names after LEGO Minifigures, and many with water views. It’s like a little Florida village that is designed to look like it is built out of giant LEGO bricks (or to make you feel like a minifig family. You decide).

photo: Amber Guetebier

Checking In

You know what is easier than getting out of your vehicle with all the kids and luggage to check into your hotel? Cruising in through the drive-through check in. Just roll on in, give your name and you’ll get your key and a map right then and there.

Tip: If you have littles and a lot of luggage, park your car and walk to find your room first. At check in you’ll be instructed which lot to park in, but with a lot of bags and kids, it can be easier to locate the room first then relay back for bags, as the parking lots are not right next to most of the rooms (which makes it more resort-like and quieter!).

photo: Amber Guetebier

The Rooms

Each bungalow room can sleep up to 5 people: there’s one king-sized bed for mom and dad (and let’s be real, whoever else climbs in at 3 a.m.) and a smaller nook that has bunk beds for the kids. The bottom bunk also has a trundle, so you can get three kiddos in there. You’ll have a small sitting area outside your room, but the highlight is that each cove of the Beach Retreat has bungalows all facing a central grassy area and play-structure. That means you can relax with your morning cup of coffee (or evening glass of wine) and the kids can keep the party going with their fellow Bungalow buddies.

Bonus: You’ll find lots of little amenities in the room built with kids in mind. Parents will appreciate the toilets with seats that convert to a smaller size; low hanging hooks for towels and the little signs letting kids know the room has been cleared of sea monsters.

photo: Amber Guetebier

The Pool

Ask any kid what they want in a hotel and the chances are they will say “a pool!”  and LEGOLAND Beach Retreat does not disappoint. The pool area includes floating bricks for building (a LEGOLAND exclusive), a beach volleyball court (on sand!) a large play structure and plenty of chairs for lounging.

Eat, Drink & Build

Eat breakfast and dinner buffet-style at Sandy’s Castle Restaurant. There’s also a full menu with plenty of choices for kids and grownups alike. Breakfast is included with your stay. For lunch or poolside snacks, including pizza and chicken wings, hit up Bricks Beach Bar. (Grownups 21 and up: we highly recommend the “Fish in a Bag” cocktail.) The kids will love the giant LEGO sandcastle just inside. With bins of bricks surrounding the epic castle, they can build before, during or after dinner.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Don’t Forget! LEGOLAND Florida Resort

With all the reasons to chill and play at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, you might not want to leave. The beauty of LEGOLAND is that it is a relatively small amusement park, and you can cover it with the kids in just a couple of days. Plus the park closes relatively early, which means there’s plenty of time for dinner, pool, play and recharging for the next day’s adventure.

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat
100 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, Fl 33884
Online: legoland.com/florida/legoland-beach-retreat
Rooms start at $135/night; ticket packages are available

Will you visit LEGOLAND’s latest accomodations? Tell us about it the comments below. 

—Amber Guetebier



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Bike, Boat & Bask in the Sunshine at Redondo Beach


It’s no wonder Baywatch and scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed in Redondo Beach. The quintessential beach town and picturesque locale boasts a laid-back vibe where you and the fam can soak up the seaside fun and plenty of adventures from taking a dip in a lagoon or whale watching to cruising the town and the shore on bikes–– with the added perk that everything in the heart of Redondo is accessible via a short bicycle ride! Read on for our guide to the best place to stay and where to play and dine in Redondo Beach for your next family vacay.

STAY

photo: Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

Shade Hotel Redondo Beach
Unpack your bags at the well-appointed, brand new and beautiful Shade, a boutique luxury hotel with the perfect location in the heart of Redondo Beach. Kids get cake pops and adults get champagne upon entering their room––a sweet touch to kick-off any vacation for any age. The guest rooms are sleek, hip and modern, while also being cozy and kid- and dog-friendly. The complimentary “Beach Breakfast” each morning includes delicious gourmet breads, muffins and pastries, fruits and parfaits and of course coffee and OJ served at the hotel’s Sea Level restaurant that has plenty of outdoor seating with ocean views –– not a bad way to start the day!

photo: Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

Additional free amenities are the use of a rooftop pool with sweeping views of the Pacific (perfect for watching the sunset), free yoga classes on the aquadeck, Strand cruiser bicycles and free WiFi. The environmentally conscious Shade Hotel also plants a tree in your honor for every day you pass on housekeeping, with the philosophy that “trees give shade, Shade gives trees.”

The balcony from a marina front room at Shade grants a glorious vista of the boats and the ocean––and sunsets can be enjoyed right from your room. Another lovely touch: rooms facing the marina have a private balcony soaking tub, so you can relax in the bath while absorbing the sea breeze. Yes, please.

Shade Hotel
655 N. Harbor Dr.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
Online: rb.shadehotel.com

PLAY


Park Your Car & Bike Everywhere… Seriously.
One of the very best aspects of a family trip to Redondo Beach is that you can literally ride your bike everywhere… even with little ones. When you stay at Shade, you’re only about a five to ten minute bike ride away from Redondo Beach Pier, whale watching and water sport rentals, Seaside Lagoon, the beach… it’s all just a few short pedals of the bike up the road!

Redondo Beach is equipped with bike paths that have their own traffic signals for cyclists. You’ll feel safer that you and your kids aren’t riding on the same street as cars.

Go to Marina Bike Rentals (a three minute walk around the corner from Shade) to rent all types of bikes for your crew. They have kids bikes, cruisers, multi-speed bikes, tandem bikes, kid’s trailers, and Kazoo Tag-alongs that attach to the back of an adult bike for a kid to ride behind (shown above).

From Marina you can ride in either direction on a bike path: twenty miles north along The Strand as far as the Santa Monica Pier or south 2.25 miles through Redondo Beach.

Cycling around Redondo Beach is an added vacation perk that’s so much fun for kids and adults alike. No need to pile in and out of the car and look for/pay for parking.

Insider’s Tip: Be sure to ask the folks at Marina Bike Rentals to give you a basket to attach to your bike (for purchases you may make en route) and locks for when you arrive at your destination–– both are included with the rental fee.

Marina Bike Rentals
505 N. Harbor Dr.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
Online: marinabikerentals.com

Redondo Beach Pier
The Pier has old-fashioned appeal as it was originally built in 1889, and reconstructed in 1995. There are dozens of souvenir shops and food vendors and locals dub it a west coast “Coney Island” filled with novelties including funnel cakes, churros, popcorn and the freshest seafood in town.

Insider’s Tip: Enjoy free concerts on the Pier July-September and free movies on the boardwalk in June.

Visit the quirky, 70’s-era, Redondo Fun Factory on the Pier before it closes. Kids will love playing the vintage quarter arcade games (beat them at Pac-Man!), Skee-Ball and riding the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Redondo Beach Pier
100 W. Torrance Blvd.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: redondopier.com

photo: Visit Redondo

Seaside Lagoon
The Seaside Lagoon is an appealing haven for kids and families. This large saltwater lagoon boasts play equipment, lifeguard supervision, a snack bar with food from Ruby’s Restaurant, volleyball courts and both sand and grassy areas to set up shop. Every Friday in July this summer, there will be a summer movie shown at the Lagoon. Seaside Lagoon opens May 27, 2017-September 4, 2017.

Insider’s Tip: This is a great locale to watch fireworks on the 4th of July.

Seaside Lagoon
200 Portofino Way
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: visitredondo.com

photo: Visit Redondo

Whale Watching
Take the fam on a peaceful whale watching excursion on “The Indian,”a 65-foot, 42 passenger vessel at Redondo Beach Sportfishing. The friendly crew make the journey fun with their narration of the tour to spot Gray whales during their migration. You’ll probably catch sight of many dolphins and sea lions on the excursion too. An added bonus: along for the ride on each whale watch adventure is a trained Naturalist of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium/American Cetacean Society, who walks around the boat educating passengers about the marine life.

Insider’s Tip: Make sure everyone uses the restroom before boarding the boat. Excursions are three hours, minimum. Pack snacks and water to stay hydrated.

Redondo Beach Sportfishing
233 N. Harbor Dr.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: redondobeachsportfishing.com


Hit the Beach
Put the “beach” in Redondo Beach by taking your sea lovers to build castles in the sand and dive in the waves just south of the Pier. Avenue C Beach typically has less crowds and it’s equipped with volleyball nets for a sporty time in the sand.

Redondo State Beach
Pearl St. and Esplanade
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: californiabeaches.com


Feed the Turtles & Climb Trees at Hopkins Wilderness Park
This 11-acre park is perfect for kids who love to climb trees. The site has four ecological habitats: forest, meadows, streams and a pond filled with turtles you can feed. Pack a picnic and soak up the serenity.

Insider’s Tip: Bring change to buy turtle food from the dispenser near the park entrance, so kids can feed the turtles.

Hopkins Wilderness Park
1102 Camino Real
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: redondo.org

Monkey Around at Veterans Park
Stop by this scenic park before or after your beachgoing adventures to let the kiddos play on the playground while you take in the ocean view. On Thursdays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. there’s a farmers market here in the Park where you can buy fruits and vegetables, baked goods, plants and more.

Veterans Park
309 Esplanade at the corner of South Catalina Ave. & Torrance Blvd.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: redondo.org

EAT


Turquoise Restaurant
Dine on authentic and delicious Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food right in Redondo Beach’s Riviera Village at Turquoise. The menu is bursting with healthy, organic dishes you can enjoy family-style. Kids can share the sandwiches, which are big enough for two. Order the littles the organic peanut butter panini which comes topped with grape molasses and grilled green apple slices. Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and hummus at this bright and cheery spot with friendly service, where you can also pose for a pic in front of the huge photograph of Greece on the restaurant’s back wall.

Turquoise
1735 S. Catalina Ave.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: turquoise-restaurant.com

IShabu Shabu
Japanese hot pot is one of the latest trends in dining out. Order up your ingredients at Ishabu Shabu: locally sourced beef, seafood and veggies, then cook them in the broth of your choice in a hot pot in front of you. Be sure to indulge with the strawberry mojito and the decadent, oversized Brick macaron ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

IShabu Shabu
1212 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. #200
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: ishabushabu.com

photo: Joan S. via Yelp

The Green Temple
Vegetarians unite at The Green Temple where the zen vibe is as refreshing as the veggie cuisine. This restaurant has been a cherished part of the community for over 15 years and they pride themselves on sourcing their ingredients from local farms. Kids can opt for the “junior portion” of many dishes and they’ll devour any variety of the quesadillas while you gobble up the vegetarian edition of The Blue Plate: a flavorful homemade veggie burger topped with mushrooms, onions and gravy and served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. Hydrate with an array of fresh squeezed juices or rejuvenate with a Dragon Shot––an herbal extract prepared to result in an array of outcomes from opening your heart to strengthening your immunity.

The Green Temple
1700 S. Catalina Ave. #103
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: greentemple.net

photo: Captain Kidd’s

Captain Kidd’s Fish Market
Renown for serving Redondo Beach’s freshest seafood since 1976, Captain Kidd’s affords visitors the opportunity to custom design their meal by choosing their cut of fish including swordfish, halibut and Arctic cod or seafood selection of crabs, lobsters, clams and mussels from the fish case, choosing how they’d like it prepared and adding on any array of side dishes from garlic french fries to macaroni salad. Kids can order from the “mini pirates” menu from a selection including fish and shrimp and kid-faves: corndog, grilled cheese and more. Captain Kidd’s has three patios for dining with a view and they’re dog-friendly.

Captain Kidd’s Fish Market
209 N. Harbor Dr.
Redondo Beach, Ca 90277
online: captainkidds.com

For more information on all Redondo Beach has to offer, go to visitredondo.com.

Where’s your favorite place to go in Redondo Beach? Tell us in the comments.

–– Beth Shea

All Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

 



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9 Hotels with Amazing Perks Just for Mom


If old-world California style with laid-back, luxury accommodations and unique activity offerings (mermaid pool aerobics, anyone?) sounds like your thing, then look no further than the iconic Hotel del Coronado, located in Southern California just off the coast of San Diego. With a spa that knows what a mom needs (their Mother’s Day offerings include Mommy & Me manicures, anti-aging facials, and a gemstone massage), and a Sunday brunch that some say is the best in the country (the gourmet bloody mary bar is adjacent to the design-your-own-donut station), the Del is the perfect escape for a solo artist or a mom with kids in tow.

If you’re flying solo  splurge on a 50-or 80-minute poolside Cabana Swedish Massage for $210 or $285.

If you’ve got kids in tow … turn the kiddos loose on a one-or three-hour excursions for the kids for a little alone time, then reconvene on the beach for a California clambake or s’more roast

1500 Orange Ave
Coronado, Ca 92118
1-800-468-3533
Online: hoteldel.com

photo: Hotel del Coronado



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