From Big Ship to Road Trip

Marriott Costa MesaNightswimming

While I prefer the indulgence of a 7- to 10-day vacation, there’s a lot to be said for the pair of mini-vacations that book-ended the kiddies’ summer break. Shortly after school let out, we went on the family’s first-ever, three-day cruise to Mexico and recently returned from a two-night “staycation” in the OC at a high-rise Marriott in Costa Mesa, right down the street from the South Coast Plaza mega-mall.

Being a very close-knit family, the cozier the accommodations the better. The Marriott room was a suite with a king bed separated by French doors from an adjacent room that had a sleeper sofa and kitchenette. After a quick change of clothes, it was off to dinner at a local Southwestern grill called Z’Tejas (bueno, please put one in L.A.!) followed by a night swim in the hotel’s heated pool.

After sleeping in a bit longer than the usual Saturday (9 a.m.!), we drove to nearby Balboa Island for a small breakfast at a quaint throwback grocery called Hershey’s Market, where the kiddies dug into Frosted Flakes snack-packs, hard boiled eggs, Tillamook cheddar cheese and chocolate croissants. Though we left our minivan parked on a side street, a short car ferry shuttled our clan over to the peninsula for a little R&R at the beach. Later that afternoon, we strolled the local streets, ate corn dogs and pizza, bought some classic wax soda bottles in an old fashioned candy store and played some games in an old-timey arcade.

Balboa Island Car FerryCar Ferry_Ferris Wheel

Seafood was a must for our Night 2 dinner so we chose a place called Bluewater Grill overlooking a waterway in Newport Beach. I had a delicious panko-breaded calamari steak & chips while Irene enjoyed a miso glazed black cod entrée; Xander and Athena inhaled shrimp skewers and Troy noted the healthy quality of his blackened fish “dipping sticks.” Their kids’ dessert was a very innovative “Cup of Dirt With Worms” – a serving of vanilla ice cream with Oreo cookie crumbles and gummy worms. With appetites fully satisfied, we went back to Balboa Peninsula to walk the waterfront promenade a bit more, shopped for souvenirs and took a whirl on the ferris wheel.

On Sunday, T, A & X hit the pool for a final swim while I checked us out of the hotel. Then it was back up the 405 and home to L.A., but not before a lunch pit stop in Long Beach: The LBC’s Crab Pot provided the perfect end to our OC “staycation.”

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