Day 6! I loved this day so much…the beaches and THE BIG SURPRISE! We drove from Laguna Beach to Anaheim; telling our kids it was “on our way to San Diego”. Don’t you go north to go south? :)~ Well, they had no idea what direction we were going, so it worked for us.
Before Anaheim we did make two stops. One to Victoria Beach to see the Pirate Tower, and, one to see the cliffs and tide pools of Crystal Cove/State Park. Laguna may be the most beautiful beachy place on American soil.
Victoria Beach/Pirate Tower
We got straight into bathing suits and water shoes before breakfast because our first stop of the day was to Victoria Beach, south five minutes from our hotel. A quick FYI- you will need to pack water shoes to walk most of the beaches we visited this trip. These are no places for flip-flops as they’ll get wrecked guaranteed.
Victoria Beach is down an obscure set of stairs in a residential area. So there is some searching for it, but this website I referenced in my research earlier in the Summer definitely helped us find it. Well, his lens perspective seems wonky now that I have been there and looking back on his site, but he tells you were to go, address included. There are a lot of stairs, and the parking is on the major street a block or two away, which is also a highway. Though it was free for two hours. So depending on your activity level, you may need to look into this area further if you need assistance with path ways.
The second you hit the beach from the stairs the views are picturesque. Truly beautiful. The beach is rather large, which wasn’t expected. You are facing a long-span of beach to the left and cliffs to the right. We had seen a lot of locals hanging out and walking towards the left, so of course, we went right. Wow, JUST WOW! We started off our walk along the surf. The water was so blue, looked lushly weighted as it was rushing over these volcanic like rocks. It seemed like a dream, really. Then to the right we saw another gathering of rocks, a man-made wall and there was the Pirate Tower! Super awesome!
The Pirate Tower was constructed for a former senator at the beginning of the last century as a walled in spiral staircase, but was adopted later by the next residents and the neighbors with pirate lore. It is nestled in the cliffs by what looks like a built out area where people had made a wading pool of some sort. Then to the right beyond the tower were a collection of jagged rocks that housed the greenest sea moss and tide pools. The tide was active, and the waves rolling into the cracks of the rocks would fill up the basins created between the rocks and exploded out on the outer side. it was absolutely beautiful mayhem. The booming sound of the waves surfacing above was spectacular!
Crystal Cove State Park
From Victoria Beach we headed to Crystal Cove State Park. I hadn’t researched much about this location. Only learned that they had a huge state park with a natural beach that had various entrance points, some tide pools and a large beach. During our last afternoon on Laguna’s Main Beach we looked up this area just to get a handle of what’s to see, how to get there. Well, this was way more than we expected.
We went into the state park via the Pelican Point entrance, parked in lot 2. Parking is $15. Now, this is a little fuzzy, but I think this lot was for the Reef Point part of the beach. The walk from the parking lot to the beach was magnificent. You aren’t really sure what is waiting for you as you park. The lot is surrounded by desert like spaces and to get tot he beach you walk to a boarded walking path. It really looked like a desert. Along the way there were signs by the conservancy explaining what wildlife is in the area, like coyotes, and the ‘dry’ vegetation, and what not to do, like do not touch or take anything from the beach that is protected. This means things like NO taking shells, and, NO touching sea life. Reading the last sign there is when we noticed a purple hummingbird in a sparse tree. Super cool to see such a colorful animal in a dead environment like that.
As the path goes to sand, you can walk to the left or straight. First we went straight; saw a panoramic view of below. WE WERE SO HIGH UP ON A CLIFF! Then we went down to the beach on the other path walking along the cliff. This path was fun, but if you have mobility issues I believe there is a paved path from another parking lot I saw online. The path went from flat, to steep, to a gnarly wooden staircase that basically broke off onto a huge mass of rocks. We loved it! The rocks were jagged, scattered and cracked like no where I had ever seen before. Everything looked and felt like a desert, but with ocean water feet away. So unexpected.
There was a twelve-foot uprooted tree/drift wood that was laying across a section of the rocks. The waves were gracing over the rocks slowly, leaving tide pools of all types of creatures behind. We saw minnows and other silvery fish, crabs and hermit crabs, snails, and we even got to see a huge sea slug! He was about 5 inches long, black, and fluttering like seaweed from beneath whenever the water floated over him!! We had never seen one of those before. SO COOL! (I am still giddy re-living this right now!)
We ended up looking around the rocks for an hour or more, there were so many tide pools around as it went to a large stretch of beach/sand. When we looked down the beach we realized we were the only people there! We walked down to the left side to set up our site with towels and snacks, then went right into the water. We swam around for an hour or so, then got our things together to hike back up the cliff to our car.
This was the most surreal place I had ever been. It felt like I would go there often if we lived nearby. I also think this was the most typical Californian location…natural, rugged, beautiful, hot. Authentic in every way.
Surprise! Trader Sam’s and Downtown Disney
Our kids definitely knew beforehand that Anaheim was home to Disneyland, and a stop for us along our drive in So Cal. So, naturally they did ask if we were going to the Disneyland parks. Which we fake explained no; how we couldn’t afford going this leg of the trip, but since we were so close to the city we’d spend a night so we could go to dinner and shop around Downtown Disney. The reality was that we were in Anaheim for three nights, going to the two parks for a full day each. Our plan was to take them to the park instead of breakfast that first day to really stun them.. but..
We arrived at the Indigo Hotel Anaheim around 3PM. This location was spot on perfect for this leg of our trip. It was a ten minute walk to Disneyland, if that. We jumped right to swimming because it was so hot and humid there. The pool and hot tub were pretty decent, and we got to hang out in the cabana with some drinks, which was pretty and relaxing. From the pool area you could see the back of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride! Super fun.
When we got on the elevator from the pool the girls noticed an advertisement that shared the price of Disneyland tickets per day for both parks, and all the combo ticket prices. Our kids were like “woaHhhh” when they saw it. Which made us reply, “I know, right?”. And that little seed of doubt, ‘maybe my parents couldn’t really swing it’, shadowed over their faces. WHICH WAS PERFECT!! mwuahahaha! :}
At Trader Sam’s we got to sit on the deck, which was perfect. The weather was now breezy. The tiki torches were all ablaze, and they had a live Hawaiian band playing, who were excellent! All the elements just right for Polynesian food and cocktails outside. We ordered a ton of stuff by the way, and I mean A TON. It was all so good! plus. My husband has food allergies that can be a bummer for him when we eat Asian food, so when we find a place that doesn’t inundate us with it he goes overboard sampling. Like the five dishes of gyoza/dumplings he ordered.
During dinner the girls talked further about Disneyland, which we couldn’t help as the entrance to Disneyland from the Disneyland Resort was literally in our view. Like it is huge and lit us up! So. The reveal came out by chance around the service of dinner. We had a few cocktails in us, a lot of gyoza, so when our oldest daughter started to compute how much going would be out loud, I replied, “I know, now add another day to that because Disney California Adventure is across the way, right?”. So she factored that in. Our daughter was floored just knowing how much two days cost there. This was so great!
So, my husband said to her, “Don’t forget to add in snacks, drinks and meals. Then it gets crazier.”. She looked at her sister all disappointed, “how much does food cost then?”. I motioned to her, like, see why we can’t go? My husband and I looked at one another all sly like two awesome parent foxes. Then with our internal dialogue we telepathically spoke like, “so that bright Disneyland sign for the entrance is making me want to tell them so bad! You too, right?”. He obviously said yes. 🙂 I mean, telepathically.. Just as quick as we smiled to one another, I turned to the girls and replied, “Super expensive. Then there is Starbucks and all the Pixar Fest themed food that is around that I would need to see and eat.” Then I took a sip of drink as my husband said, “I have been dying to see Carsland. And ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again.”. My reply came out so fast. “I know, me too. So just imagine how much fun tomorrow is going to be!”, turned to our kids quickly, ” Hey. I brought your Minnie Ears, you know.”.
They looked at us confused. It was noisy from the band and all the people (it was slamming!). Then it registered and they FREAKED the eff OUT! Like literally got the whole deck excited along with us! It was so awesome! There were tears, screams of joy, hugs, disbelief, and just odd noises; and that was just from me… 😛
So happy how it went down! Because the rest of the dinner we talked about what we researched for them, and oddly HOW MUCH THEY KNEW about the parks’ rides! Those are definitely my girls.
Dinner at Trader Sam’s was fun otherwise too. The cocktails even funn..er. We had some interesting drinks like we shared the uh ah. This was fun but not my favorite. It came in a castle shaped tiki cup adorned with sugar cubes and cinnamon. Our waitress lit the rum soaked sugar cubes and we all took pinches of cinnamon to sparkle in the fire as she chanted something. It was super fun. Then I got the piranha pool which was strawberry and blue curacao slush (in a piranha tiki). My husband got the hippopotomaitai (no tiki mug), and the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki rum (you know you all just sang that!!). I grabbed the piranha tiki cup as my sole souvenir of my trip.
We walked Downtown Disney as we planned. I wasn’t exactly impressed with this area, but our girls were ecstatic, so that got me going. We walked into the downtown area to find a band playing; who were real good! We walked into each store trying on all the Halloween ears one could get their hands on. All the decorations up for Pixar Fest were so clever. They had modern art topiaries at each seated area set to each Pixar film with alternating Pixar music piped in softly. My favorite character made of bushes was Edna Mode though, her topiary was hilarious.
We huddled together as we watched the fireworks display that was visible from over at Disneyland. It was so great from our spot! Also, another live band was playing in the restaurant nearby, which made for great fireworks music.
We ended our night walking back to the hotel. It was that close! This was a pretty rad busy day, a great day.
Day 7 up next, our first visit to Disneyland!