Find your darkest sunglasses and take the kids to Malibu Beach, where they can play in the surf and watch birds and you can pretend to be a celebrity on the shores of some spectacular pieces of real estate. Technically two main beaches, Surfrider Beach at the pier nabs surfers and tourists, while Malibu Lagoon State Beach draws nature seekers and more dedicated beachgoers.

Atmosphere: The surf culture is prominent here, as is the practice of spotting celebrities from under their wide-brimmed sun hats. Travelers usually stop at the pier to take photos as proof they’ve visited, and families head to the lagoon for a less touristy experience.

Parking and Entrance: To park near Surfrider Beach, find a spot on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or park in one of the pay lots north of the pier. You may need to walk down a few stairs to get to the sand. For Malibu Lagoon State Beach, park in the $12 day use area. It’s a long walk in along the saltwater marsh, so remember the stroller or wagon.

Nice Walks and Views: Walk along the sportfishing pier and watch the surfers competing for waves at this popular spot. From the pier, you can rent fishing rods. Older children might like a tour of the historic Adamson House and gardens (near the state beach) but be sure to put babies and toddlers in a carrier or stroller.

Activities for Toddlers: The waves are usually small enough at the pier for beginning waders. Plus, the lagoon has lots of plants, birds and sea life to explore. Once your toddler is done with the sand, drive north from the state beach to Malibu Bluffs Park, a scenic playground near Pepperdine University.

Bathrooms: There are well-used bathrooms near the pier and only Porta-Potties at the state beach.

Perks for Parents: Join the hundred other surfers in the water to catch one of Malibu’s long rides, but know that you’re in local territory. For a civilized day excursion, try the Getty Villa, a small but pretty museum that has plenty of outdoor areas and stairs to keep the kids entertained.

Where to Stay with Kids: Casa Malibu Inn on the Beach, a motel with gardens only a few minutes from the sand, is one of the better-priced options in the area. (22752 PCH) For more selection or value for your money, stay in Santa Monica or camp at Leo Carrillo Campground.

Baby-friendly Restaurants: In walking distance from the pier, there are both fancy restaurants and fast food. For a healthy picnic, stop at Pacific Coast Greens on your way to the beach and grab something from their deli. (22601 PCH)

What Else to Do: Drive east through Malibu Canyon, Topanga Canyon or Zuma/Trancas Canyon and admire the cliffs, mansions and tiny towns.

Photo by tensaibuta