Costa Mesa California with the Grandkids

Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa California. Max Hartshorne photos
Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa California. Max Hartshorne photos

Costa Mesa California: Skateboarding, the OC Fair and the Chargers!

By Max Hartshorne
GoNOMAD Editor

Sofie Cosme enjoyed getting a chance to browse the Gucci store at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa California.
Sofie Cosme enjoyed getting a chance to browse the Gucci store at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa California.

I had time this summer to do something every grandparent should try to do at least once in their lives–I took my grandchildren to Disneyland and on a California vacation.

I couldn’t have picked a better destination–Southern California offers so many opportunities for fun activities, from biking along a boardwalk to watching dolphins and whales and even meeting NFL players in person. All within an easy drive from LAX.

Sprawling Orange County

Costa Mesa is a city of about 113,000 in sprawling Orange County, home of Disneyland, the antique shops of Old Orange, and the seacoast towns of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

We had help from the people at Travel Costa Mesa who set us up in the Residence Inn by Marriott condo that gave my 14-year-old grandson Nathan his own floor to set up his X-box and enjoy his cherished solitude, while Sofie and I had our own bedrooms downstairs.

The hotel’s small pool was a refreshing spot for us, where we could relax and have fun. And I got to spend some quality time racing across the pool with Sofie, who is 10, while Nathan was occupied in the hotel.

Go Chargers!

Up close with Whitney Richardson, a rookie defensive end on the Los Angeles Chargers.
Up close with Whitney Richardson, a rookie defensive end on the Los Angeles Chargers.

We began on a Saturday morning with a special treat.  The NFL Los Angeles Chargers have their annual training camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.

If you have grandchildren or children, you know what they are like at around age 14. Tough. Tough to relate to, tough to reach.

But when it came time to join a group of other kids to pass, punt the ball and do agility challenges, the distant lad became quite animated.

Nathan ran back to the car to change into workout clothes and gave the whole course his best shot.  Diving for passes into a sea of styrofoam balls, jumping as far as he could and running the quarter-mile, he loved every minute of it!

The course was set up by Electronic Arts, giving each participant a scorecard on each activity.  The staff and all of the Chargers staff were especially welcoming and encouraging.

Nathan enjoying the Charger's training camp in Costa Mesa California.
Nathan enjoying the Charger’s training camp in Costa Mesa California.

Welcoming the Fans

The Chargers went all out to make the fans a part of the process of Charger’s training camp.  I enjoyed watching the players during their scrimmage, wondering how such small players could really be NFL starters.

But then when we got a chance to meet a few tight ends and wide receivers, we saw how tall and huge they really are!

Time for the Tackle Box

After a rousing workout and some autographs from the players, we headed down the road to a new restaurant, the Tackle Box at SOCO and The OC Mix.

The homemade clam chowder was superb, and the place has a great vibe with cement counters and friendly staff. website

In the same plaza as the Tackle Box is the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. You might recall that name–Jones is the animator who created Bugs Bunny and a slew of other cartoon characters. This center is devoted to helping nurture and encourage young cartoonists.

Shopping at the South Coast Plaza

The South Coast Plaza is a tremendously large, multi-story mall with the kinds of stores you mostly browse–I mean, who buys $800 Gucci sneakers or a $1200 jacket at Chanel?

Sofie was enthralled gawking at the high-end stores and wanted to spend time in all of them, even if only for a photo op. She finally settled on some nice new clothing from H&M and Forever 21, after taking as long as she wanted to for shopping, trying on and browsing.  That’s what Grandparents do, right? Wait and shop and pay.

Big pizza slices hit the spot at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA.
Big pizza slices hit the spot at the Orange County Fair

OC Fair in Costa Mesa

Costa Mesa is also the home of the Orange County Fair, one of the biggest fairs in the state that happens every year since 1894.  We queued up for the security gate checks and soon we were walking the midway, in search of the biggest pizza slices I’ve ever seen.

Like any big fair, the OC was a bit overwhelming, and we found solace and fun by riding the chairlift that goes the length of the fairgrounds. We could take in the views and see what was happening on the ground from our lofty perch.

I tried to get the kids interested in visiting Heroe’s Hall, devoted to the Greatest Generation of World War II, but my idea was vetoed in favor or a few more rides. Oh well.   At least we didn’t get stuck ‘winning’ any gigantic stuffed animals we’d have to drag home with us!

Learning skateboard tricks at the Costa Mesa Skatepark.
Learning skateboard tricks at the Costa Mesa Skatepark.

Skateboarding in Costa Mesa

The city of Costa Mesa is famous for something else. It’s the home of skateboarding, and many professional skateboarders and BMX bike racers make their homes here.

Not only do the boarders live here, but there is a fantastic skateboard park at 900 Arlington Drive, and there is even a school to learn how to shred!

We met professional skater Joey Lopez at the park on a Sunday morning, and after Sofie donned elbow and knee pads she was ready to jump on a board.

Joey’s Shreducate Academy outfits guests with everything they need and Joey puts on his own show just demonstrating what he can do on the boards.

Costa Mesa has a lot more to offer visitors, with our without grandchildren. On my next trip, I’d like to take in more sites like the Lyon Air Museum at John Wayne Airport and Heroe’s Hall at the OC Fair.

Find out more about the city at Travel Costa Mesa.

Our trip was sponsored by Travel Costa Mesa but the opinions expressed are the author’s own. 

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