By Kristina Pritchett

It’s the middle of July and kids have been out of school for a month, colleagues return to the office sun kissed and smiling and friends have been posting their adventure photos across social media platforms. Yet, current schedules, projects, summer camps and budgets hold priority over sipping on sugary drinks on a tropical island or hiking Mount Whitney. Sound familiar?

Luckily, Dana Point is a local crown jewel destination location in itself with generous options for those with a staycation on their summer schedule.

Below are a few options for local residents looking to stay put and off Interstate 5 for their vacation.

  1. Deciding where to eat could be the biggest dilemma while planning a staycation. With restaurants like Luciana’s, Gen Kai, StillWater Spirits & Sounds, Luxe’s Martini Bar & Restaurant, options are endless in the Lantern District. Most of the restaurants along Pacific Coast Highway offer outdoor seating, so take advantage of the mosquito-free warm breezes and scenic ocean views.
  2. Whether it’s a casual stroll or a walk with a purpose, The Dana Point Headlands offers one-of-a-kind views as well as an education. In the Headlands is the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center. It offers interactive modules to learn about a variety of topics, including which animals may be seen in the area. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The first three Saturdays of the month, docents lead different walks that are free and open to the public, and there’s a children’s event once a month.
  3. On Saturdays, head out to the farmers’ market right behind La Plaza Park to grab some delicious treats. In addition, there is a craft fair every first Saturday of the month.
  4. If creativity is flowing through the long daylight hours, many local businesses offer continuing education options to expand one’s intellect and skill set. Kenny’s Music lessons can train the next Buddy Guy, Nitra Strauss, Steve Harris, Jennifer Hudson or Ginger Baker.
  5. Into fitness, mind and body? Check out iHeartYoga’s jam packed schedule for free yoga classes. Start the day at a class in Lantern Bay Park. If evening options are more realistic for those sleeping in, iHeartYoga offers evening classes Monday through Wednesday.
  6. When some think of Dana Point, they think of the water. In the Harbor, there are a few businesses that offer different types of activities. Get a new perspective on local scenery with Dana Point Parasail or stick close to the water with West Wind Sailing, Dana Point JetSki & Kayak Center or Capo Beach Waterfront.
  7. Hop aboard a tall ship at the Ocean Institute. The ocean education organization offers ocean science and maritime history programs with interactive exhibits. They offer sails on different vessels that vary in time and prices.
  8. If feeling lazy, people watchers can sit back and observe paddleboarders, kayakers and boats sail by near the open entrance of the Harbor. There are plenty of seating options available across the bridge on Island Way with picnic tables and grassy spots for picnics.
  9. Head down to the beach. Capistrano Beach Park and Doheny State Beach have different options for everyone. Whether it’s sunbathing, reading the newest bestseller, working off lunchtime tacos in a game of beach volleyball, renting a bike or building a campfire, these local beaches offer a plethora of free entertainment.
  10. Before heading to the beach, grab some grub at one of the many local eateries, such as Boneyard Beach Café for sit down or take out. Across from Capo Beach, there are plenty of dining options including Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant, Sunsets Bar & Grill and Good Choice Sushi by the Sea.
  11. Local parks in this area provide the perfect backdrop to any occasion, and are also free of cost. Grassy picnic areas like Pines Park is perfect for games and frolicking kids as well as a community of dog owners.
  12. While in Doheny State Beach, head to the Doheny State Beach Visitor Center/Interpretive Center. Inside guests can check out the tide pool, ocean environment tanks, displays and more. The Center is open Wednesday through Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Every Thursday at 1 p.m. there are fish feedings with the park’s aquarist.
  13. Throughout the week, the Dana Point Library provides free activities for kids. From events like Read to a Dog, story time and more, little ones can be entertained with interactive events.
  14. Along with Monarch Beach Resort’s restaurants and golf course, the Miraval Life in Balance Spa has more than a dozen massage and facial treatments for those feeling more stressed than serene.
  15. Want to enjoy live music while dining out? Multiple restaurants in the Monarch Beach area provide live entertainment while serving up food. Some options include Brio Tuscany Grill and Salt Creek Grille.
  16. Some parks families can head to for a day of fun include Sea Terrace Park, Sea Canyon Park and Salt Creek Beach Park. Throw a Frisbee, play guitar, bring a sketchpad or bring a blanket for stargazing. Sea Terrace hosts the city’s concerts in the park every Sunday while Salt Creek has two concerts in August.

The city of Dana Point offers a free trolley service to get residents and visitors around the city. The trolley route includes stops in all of the areas listed above. For more information about the trolley, the route map and more, visit www.danapointtimes.com.

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