13 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach, California, with Kids

Just 16 miles from Disneyland, this sun-soaked Southern California coastal town is one of the state's premier family vacation spots.
Huntington Beach Pier (Photo: Joe Katchka)
Huntington Beach Pier (Photo: Joe Katchka)

A Southern California coastal town soaked in sunshine and bathed in sea breezes, Huntington Beach is one of the state’s premier family vacation spots for picture-perfect sandy beaches and outdoor activities tailor made for families. Add a blossoming food scene and terrific beach resorts and there are virtually limitless things to do in Huntington Beach with kids. Oh, and it’s just 16 miles from Disneyland, too!

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1. Sample All Five Beaches

Huntington City Beach (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)
Kids love to play at Huntington City Beach (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)

Pack all your beach essentials, because with five Instagram-worthy beaches stretching across 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline, Huntington Beach is one of the very best West Coast vacation destinations for building sand castles and jumping waves. Like ice cream flavors, each beach has its own distinct taste, but clean public restrooms and pristine sand are unifying factors. 

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Located at the city’s south end, Huntington State Beach sprawls across a sizeable 121 acres, with beach volleyball and barbecue grills throughout. Bird watching is popular here, so keep your eyes open for Snowy Plovers and California Brown Pelicans. 

Wheelchair-accessible Huntington City Beach is a haven for shoppers and diners just steps from the pier, while pet-friendly Huntington Dog Beach is the place to let your family dog frolic in the salty sea air. Rounding out the string of five beaches, Bolsa Chica State Beach is fun for families and surfers, while peaceful Sunset Beach attracts serenity seekers.

2. Experience Huntington Beach Pier

Jutting into the Pacific Ocean, the 1,850-foot-long Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest recreational piers on the West Coast, a bona fide hub of beach culture. Not only can you watch surfers, you’re so close to the action you can actually hear their conversations too.

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If you or the kids want to try your hand at fishing, Huntington Beach Pier is the place to do it because there’s no fishing license required at this popular fishing spot. Local catches include mackerel, perch, sardines, and corbina. 

3. Learn to Surf

Surfing in Hungtington Beach, California (Photo: Joe Katchka)
Learning to surf is one of the best things to do in Hungtington Beach, California (Photo: Joe Katchka)

With a nickname like Surf City USA, it’s no surprise that one of the most popular things to do in Huntington Beach is learning to catch a wave. Book a family lesson at Little Surf Co., where seasoned instructors convey respect for the ocean and a can-do attitude. You and the kids will be hanging 10 in no time. 

4. Zip around Parks and Playgrounds

When the kids need a break from the sand, one of the best things to do in Huntington Beach with little ones is to let them romp at the All-Inclusive Playground. With a rubber surface that is ADA-compliant and equipment that allows wheelchairs, it’s designed to accommodate different learning styles and abilities.

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Huntington Beach’s Huntington Central Park has a free summer concert series, a playground with a zip line, and a garden that showcases drought-tolerant plants. The largest city-owned park in Orange County with more than 343 acres of property, the park is also home to an equestrian center with more than 400 horses, including rescue and therapy horses. Take a docent-led tour or visit on the first Sunday of every month from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to learn to groom these beautiful creatures. 

For an outdoor activity that’s a little different, head to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, the largest saltwater march along the state’s coast, where you can explore five miles of wetland trails.

5. Light the Night 

In Huntington Beach, the beach fun doesn’t stop when the sun sets. In fact, there are more than 500 free beach fire pits available across all five of its beaches, all of them available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Bring firewood, a lighter, and a blanket in case it gets chilly for a DIY experience. If you’d like something more VIP, however, the Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel, will set you up with everything you need for a classic evening bonfire, right down to the marshmallows.

6. Hit the Water in Huntington Harbour

Learn to paddle at peaceful Huntington Harbour (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)
Learn to paddle at peaceful Huntington Harbour (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)

Rent a kayak or SUP to explore the calm waters of Huntington Harbour, or book a private cruise with a captain from Prince Charters LLC for a special occasion. 

7. Visit an Interactive Art Studios

At Mayu Silk Art, owners Phil and Star bring the ancient art of water marbling into the 21st century. Suitable for all ages and abilities, here you can design and make your own one-of-a-kind water-marbled silk scarves, bandanas, or t-shirts, utilizing eco-friendly materials.

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During your studio experience, you’ll squeeze acrylic paint into a water bath, floating the colors in custom-built water marbling trays while using combs and rakes to create unique designs. You’ll have a colorful, handmade souvenir to take home. 

8. Surf on Over to a Surf Museum

The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is a love letter to this sport. Its collection of surfing memorabilia includes significant artifacts such as Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboard and the record-breaking largest surfboard in the world. 

9. Pedal Away

Biking the coastal path in Huntington Beach (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)
Biking the coastal path in Huntington Beach is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon with the kids (Photo: Visit Huntington Beach)

A flat, car-free Huntington Beach bike trail runs alongside the Pacific Ocean, and cycling is a fun way to soak in the sights. Beach concessionaires rent bikes with helmets, tandems, electrics, and surreys. They’re easy to find and a fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon with or without the kids.

10. Escape the Heat with Indoor Fun

Huntington Beach’s popular Off The Wall Social is an entertainment complex with everything from arcade games to bowling, just right for those rare rainy days or when you need a break from the sun. Try your luck at corn toss, bumper pool, or laser tag. There’s a full menu of food and drink, including cocktails for adults. 

11. Stay at a Beachfront Resort

You can’t miss the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, an enormous beachfront property with more than 500 immaculate rooms and suites, a swimming pool with waterslides, onsite bike rentals, and a full-service spa. The beach concierge can set you up with surf lessons, and if you’ve got a mermaid lover in your family, book the hotel’s Mermaid Magic package that transforms your into one of the mythical sea creatures.

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You don’t have to leave the hotel to experience delectable dining thanks to the hotel’s restaurant Watertable, where a farmhouse vibe, locally sourced ingredients, and a children’s menu should entice even finicky eaters. To top it off, a free seasonal shuttle to Disneyland makes spending a day with Mickey easy. 

12. Enjoy the Delicious Dining Scene

Huntington Beach is a hotbed of delicious eats, with a food scene as big as Pacific waves during a winter storm. Here are some popular establishments to consider.

  • Ola Mexican Kitchen serves Mexican comfort food, from tacos to house-made tortilla chips with chunky guacamole. 
  • At Bluegold, farm-to-table food comes with a stunning ocean view. Breakfast is available until 3:00 p.m., with mouth-watering goodies such as tender milk rolls served with wildflower honey, granola French toast topped with mounds of whipped cream, and fluffy omelets stuffed with a variety of fillings. 
  • Kai makes a splash thanks to its menu of Japanese specialties. Don’t pass on the Black Angus Shaking Beef, charred beef tenderloin cooked in a wok with flavorful accents like pickled chili and delicate watercress adding dimension. 
  • If you’re a chocaholic, Bella Sophia Chocolates is a wonderland of hand painted bonbons. From tempting chocolate-dipped marshmallows to luscious dark chocolate truffles, a visit to this family-owned shop is an edible delight.
  • Able Coffee Roasters is a local coffee shop selling small-batch roasted organic coffee and non-caffeinated drinks and snacks with plenty of kid-appeal. Founded by a behavioral therapist turned chef, the employees are individuals with autism and other disabilities.

13. Celebrate the Seasons with Festivals Galore

With a boatload of annual events crowding the calendar, seaside Huntington Beach might as well be called Festival City. Sunset Beach Art Festival, held on Mother’s Day weekend, has loads of activities for kids and vendors selling handmade goods. The Huntington Beach 4th of July celebration is the largest Independence Day festival west of the Mississippi, featuring a parade and fireworks. 

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For dog lovers, Corgi Beach Day takes place bi-annually in fall and spring at Huntington Dog Beach. This adorable breed of dog is celebrated with a corgi kissing booth and numerous dog-themed activities and contests. And Magic on Main Street is an annual holiday happening during Christmas vacation season with entertainment and free seasonal refreshments spreading Yuletide cheer. 

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison Tibaldi has written for publications including CNN, Business Insider, FamilyVacationist, HGTV, USA TODAY, and Travel Weekly. As a former early childhood educator, she is interested in the way kids experience the world, and thinks that travel is the best education for young minds. Tibaldi is based in New York City.