I would like to avoid San Juan Capistrano for Sunday mass as it is more of a "circus" than a contemplative setting.
Even though I said "September is gorgeous" in S. California, realistically it would be MUCH better for me in the summer, like the early/mid July, as I am a school teacher. I understand hotel rates are at their premium at that time but if we go inland a little we might be able to get a good rate, though at the same time I would be willing to pay more to stay on the "beach" (and share a room).
My favorite beaches are Newport and Laguna. Is there any chance we can hit Laguna without it breaking the bank?
I have never been to Catalina Island (kids went for school field trip but Mom has never been ) so I would LOVE to go there. Otherwise I have hit most of the suggested destinations when on "family vacations" but that is not to say I wouldn't enjoy going again.