Any Southern California trip has to include a stop in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA, so nicknamed after Jan & Dean’s song Surf City. It’s also the home of the US Open of Surfing. Even if you’re only stopping for a day, there’s a lot of family fun you can squeeze in to make the most of your trip.

One of the first things that should be on your list is surfing. Even if you’ve never tried it before, Huntington Beach is the place to experience it for the first time. My son and I aren’t the adventurous type, and we were both nervous about the idea of surfing, but we were determined to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. I shared with Canadian Family some of the lessons learned from my son and I surfing for the first time. Some may not be what you think.

family travel Huntington Beach Bridge

Take a lesson and grab a board. Plan this early in your day while your fresh and your adrenaline is pumping. We only spent about an hour with our experience but it was a great thrill and a perfect way to start our Huntington Beach day trip.

family travel Huntington Beach surfing

After your own surf experience be sure to to head to the famous Huntington Beach pier to watch real surfers do their stuff.

family travel Huntington Beach Day Trip Surfing Beach

Being so close to the center of town, Sessions West Coast Deli is the perfect midday refuel option. I love the laid back beach feel of the deli’s intimate interior and the fresh sandwiches. My son enjoyed a Baller, pork and beef meatballs complimented by red pepper marinara, smoked provolone, wild baby arugula, razor onion, and basil aioli on a ciabatta bun. I went meat-free with the Summer Zephyr with tomato, wild baby arugula, fresh mozzarella, basil aioli, pickled red onion, and balsamic reduction on a French roll. You would be amazed at how fresh ingredients can change your whole food experience.

family travel Huntington Beach west coast deli lunch

family travel Huntington Beach west coast deli

Our sandwiches were pretty filling even with our big post surf hunger but if you’re still looking for a treat head over to The Ice Cream Way. No boring pre-scoped flavours here as you customize your creation. Choose your base including vegan/gluten/dairy-free options, add your floavou and you can even include mix-ins and toppings. Once you’re happy with your mix it’s frozen in front of you in under 60 seconds using nitrogen. Cool right?

Even if you can’t name a famous surfer a trip to the International Surfing Museum is worth it to see the Guinness Record Largest Surfboard hanging on the wall outside.

So enormous that it had to be lifted into the sea by a forklift truck, the mega surfboard measures 12.83 m (42’ ft 1.5 in) long, 3.37 m (11 ft 1 in) wide and 0.41m (1 ft 4.4 in) thick – again outdoing Snapper Rocks’ 12 m (39 ft 4 in) by 3 m (9 ft 10 in) board.

This board was also used to break the record of most people riding a surf board previously held by Snappers Rock, Queensland, Australia in 2009 with 47 surfers. Huntington more than surpassed this record with 66 professional surfers raging in age from 15 to 79.

The boardwalk along the beach makes a great walk but it makes an even better Segway ride. That’s what my son and I did in the afternoon with the folks from Surf City Segway, another first for us. This wasn’t so much a tour in the traditional sense but it was a great way to cover the expansively beautiful beach. A great family adventure activity even if you don’t label yourself adventurous. The Segway was easier to ride than I expected but you should know kids have to be at least twelve to participate.

family travel Huntington Beach segway tour

If Segway isn’t your thing, you can also cover the coast line by bike. Our friends at Toes on the Nose at the Hyatt Regency also rent bikes for this purpose. Don’t forget to take a walking tour of Huntington Beach’s historic downtown do a little shopping. I loved the new Pacific City, walking distance from Huntington Beach Pier and main street. The mix of shopping and dining with outdoor gathering spots will sure to be a family favourite hub.

family travel Huntington Beach sunset

We grabbed dinner at Ways & Means Oyster House, including my delicious hand crafted Westie Sour cocktail. You’ll get your seafood fix here with oysters, boats (containing a mix of seafood), poke, fish, calamari and more. You’ll also find some land-based dishes too.

family travel Huntington Beach Pacific City Oyster Bar

The best way to end your night is with a fresh baked cookie soft serve ice cream sandwich from Saint Marc.

family travel Huntington Beach Pacific City Saint Marc Ice cream sandwich

family travel Huntington Beach Pacific City ice cream sandwich

That’s a pretty full day but your experience in Huntington Beach may call you to extend your visit, have another surf lesson or take advantage of the many other dining options we haven’t even touched on yet. If the beach is calling, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa or the Shorebreak Hotel are both right on the Pacific Coast Highway and gives you easy access.

See more about our California road trip experience here:

Thanks to the folks at Visit California and Visit Huntington Beach for their hospitality during this visit.