Backyard Bird Watching
I always thought that bird watching was well, for the birds. It seemed like you needed the prerequisite binoculars and a lot of patience to wait for the bird to come along – not something that sounds fun with kids. When we moved into our home a few years ago we discovered that it was a haven for the birds – especially in the spring. We bought a Local Birds of Orange County laminated, fold-out guide at the bookstore and have been avid bird watchers ever since. The kids compete to see who can identify the birds at the feeder and especially the different varieties of hummingbirds that zoom around our yard chasing each other. Backyard bird watching requires almost no effort and is surprisingly engaging for the kids.
Strawberry Picking at Tanaka Farms
Tanaka Farms in Irvine has a variety of farm tours throughout the year geared towards children. Strawberry picking is a favorite because the weather is still cool enough that the kids can have fun picking strawberries without wilting in the hot sun.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
The gray whale migration is from January – April and the dolphins are here throughout the year. We try to go whale watching once a year and I can say from experience that seeing the whales, which are generally few and far between, is not as exciting for little children as seeing a pod of dolphins swimming with the boat or sea lions lounging on a buoy. It’s now the end of the migration and you are more likely to see the mother whales and calves, which are the last to leave Baja, heading back to Alaska for the summer. There are two whale and dolphin watching companies in Dana Point; Dana Wharf and Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari. Captain Dave’s is a catamaran with limited space to move around so I would not recommend this for on-the-move toddlers.
Tide pooling is a year-round activity here but it’s nice in the spring because the beach is not so hot and crowded yet and parking is readily available. My favorite spot to visit the tide pools is at the beach in front of the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. This amazing resort sits on the cliff in South Laguna Beach and has beautiful public walkways on the cliffs and down to the beach. All of the walkways are handicap accessible. The resort has public restrooms near the pool. Parking is adjacent to the hotel at the small Treasure Island Park and is not visible from the highway. Check out this salt water tides website to find the best days for low tides.
San Clemente Pier
The pier in San Clemente is also a year-round destination but the summer crowds can make parking on the weekends very frustrating so we take advantage of the beautiful spring weather as much as we can. My kids never get bored here. Sometimes we bring take-out breakfast burritos and then play football or another game on the beach. Other days we eat an early dinner on the pier, watch the surfers and then just take a stroll. Other activities include a walking path that is jogger stroller-friendly, fishing off the pier and watching the Amtrak Surfliner train which has a stop at the pier.