Sometimes it feels like my children are hardly ever in school. Here we are just getting settled from Christmas vacation, and now have a 3-day weekend every month leading up to Spring Break in April. Though it is nice to stay at home to catch up on much needed rest, organization and plain good old fashioned family time, it is nice to have the option for a quick escape. Southern California offers several quick road trips from Las Vegas as great family travel destinations. Only 4-hours by car or an hour by plane, consider Anaheim, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Carlsbad or the Newport Coast is easy and a great change of scenery.

Anaheim– Where the House of the Mouse is located….that’s right, Disneyland. The Happiest Place on Earth just got happier with the latest renovations to Disney’s California Adventure including the newest addition to the Disney family, Cars Land. Disneyland is a great spot to hit up with or without your little entourage, and many choices to dine and stay, on and off the resort. My three favorite hotels: the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel and the Anaheim Hilton. All three are beautifully appointed and quite convenient. You can also spend a day at the Angels Stadium, and catch a Major League baseball game, or National Hockey game at The Pond.

{Disney’s California Adventure at night.}

Dana Point- The Ocean Institute is a world class facility meant to teach and inspire respect and curiosity about oceanography, sea life and its impact on our environment. A wonderful place to visit with the kids featuring hands-on learning, tide pools, and a tour on an old world merchant ship that the kids refer too as a “pirate ship”. Dana Point itself is lined with beautiful beaches, and famous for surfing. Be sure to check out The Strands, Salt Creek, Doheny and Baby Beach. My favorite spots: Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and Dana Point Harbor. Hop, skip and a jump away are quaint beach towns San Juan Capistrano famous for the Mission, old train depot, and petting zoo, and San Clemente with boutique shopping, and sunset dining on the Pier.

{Featured: The Ocean Institute and Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel}

Laguna Beach– Known for its beautiful stretch off beaches and thriving art scene. Beyond the obvious boutique shopping and contemporary dining options, don’t miss the Pageant of the Masters and unique art galleries and museums. My favorite spots to hang: The Montage Laguna Beach and Surf and Sand for sunset cocktails and ocean view dining. For a little bit of local’s flair, check out the Royal Hawaiian and the Sandpiper.

{Sunset cocktail at the Montage Laguna Beach}

Carlsbad– A little further south will lead you in the beach towns of North County San Diego. Carlsbad is an upcoming area of fun shopping and dining, and perfect little beaches with boardwalks and bike riding. This area of So Cal is becoming famous for its micro-breweries just as Nor Cal is famous for the wineries. The big to-do around these parts is Legoland, if you have little ones, which is actually quite impressive, clean and easy to navigate. Along with the theme park, there is also a great aquarium and water park to keep the whole family entertained. If you are looking for a family friendly resort with a bit of luxury, the Four Seasons Aviara is one exit away from Legoland and offers their guests the comforts of a home away from home. With a seasonal calendar full of activities to rock with or without your little entourage, the Four Seasons Aviara is one of my top picks for hotels in this area.

{Kids Bar featuring popcorn and candy sushi at the Four Seasons Aviara}

Newport Coast- One of my favorite places to hang is in Newport Coast. The historic Crystal Cove beach is the perfect place for me and my family during the summer. Restored to maintain its place in time when it was established in the early 1940’s, it is truly a family friendly beach. Take the fam to the Beachcomber for lunch, just be sure to put your name in as soon as you arrive as the wait could be up to an hour depending on the season. If you were lucky enough to bring the nanny or the grandparents, order their lunch at the Beachcomber to-go, and sneak your way around the back to enjoy a quick cocktail. Little shops and cottages line the paths and music of the era plays through loud speakers. I adore this beach. I also love the proximity of the Newport Coast area to places like Fashion Island, Balboa Island and Corona Del Mar. With a family of 6, the Marriott Newport Coast is the prime location for us as it provides a full kitchen, washer and dryer in a condo-like setting with plenty of activities for the kids, pools and bar-b-que areas. The Resort at Pelican Hills is a romantic place to escape on a date night for a sunset cocktail. Then head out to Javier’s or Maestro’s Ocean Club for dinner.

{Mojito at the Beachcomber and Crystal Cove beach signs}

Quick trips to escape the monotony of the desert. There really is no excuse to not love Las Vegas when you can change your latitude in a matter of an hour or so.

This is a non-sponsored post, however, I do work with some of the mentioned hotels and theme parks from time to time. All words and opinions are my own.