California is an enormous place, and as such there is a vast variety of things to see and do. This statement is equally applicable when it comes to families with children. Up and down this famous west coast state there are myriad kids oriented activities and fun times to be had for the whole family. From world-renowned tourist attractions to stunning wildlife parks, families will not be disappointed on their next California holiday. So, with that being said, let’s have a look at some of what’s on offer.
Advice from the San Diego Tourism Authority
Before we break down some of the specific highlights available in California, we wanted to bring you some excellent advice from the San Diego Tourism Authority, who have some tips for what time of year to visit, attractions to enjoy, and locations to see. San Diego is one of California’s most sought after destinations and contains many top attractions.
We started off by asking them what makes San Diego such a great place to visit with kids:
“San Diego is an ideal destination to visit with kids because of the diversity of attractions. In addition to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld San Diego, there are dozens of museums displaying everything from dinosaurs to model cars, plus a sparkling coastline for splashing around in the ocean. But what makes it really special is how San Diego has something for all ages – while the kids are having fun exploring attractions, moms and dads will love San Diego’s great culinary scene and local craft beers!
“Families should definitely check out Balboa Park, which features more than 16 museums, a dozen gardens and the San Diego Zoo. If you’re planning ahead, plan to visit in October, when all the local attractions are completely FREE for children under 12 years of age, as part of the annual Kids Free San Diego promotion (for more details, visit).”
LegoLand California – Carlsbad
As mentioned by the San Diego Tourism Authority, LEGOLAND is certainly an attraction that should be visited, and one the kids are bound to love. Situated in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND contains all your kids’ favourite aspects of the infamous brand and is filled with more than 60 rides, shows, and other attractions.
There’s the Adventurer’s Club where visitors can take a LEGO adventure through the Amazon rainforest, ancient Egypt, and the Arctic, there is Beetle Bounce: a ride that launches 15 feet into the air before dropping down again, and for a bit of LEGO sight-seeing, there is Coast Cruise where visitors can spot highlights such as Mt. Rushmore and the Eiffel Tower. LEGOLAND even contains shopping and dining options, making for a truly top day-out.
Disneyland – Anaheim
Of course, no kids’ holiday to California would be complete without securing yourself tickets to Disneyland. Ask any kid where they would most want to visit and there’s an excellent chance that they will say Disneyland. It’s not called the ‘happiest place on earth’ for no reason, and by taking your kids to visit all their favourite Disney friends during your next California trip, you will see just why with the smiles painted across their faces.
There are eight themed lands available, including Main Street U.S.A, Tomorrowland, and Mickey’s Toontown. From meeting Mickey himself, to buckling up for the exhilarating Space Mountain, Disneyland is truly the place to be for kids in California. There’s even a chance for children to help their favourite superheroes at Halloween with Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Image Credit: Rachel Cobb
Located in Encinitas, San Diego Botanic Garden is a day out that can be enjoyed by the whole family and includes a number of child-related highlights. This ever growing attraction is becoming increasingly popular and is a wonderful spot to be in to appreciate the beauty of Californian nature. To help paint the picture, we spoke to San Diego Botanic Garden about what is on offer for visitors:
“We are a 37 acre botanic garden. It is our mission to connect people of all ages with plants and nature. Visitors can enjoy gardens that feature plants from all over the world. Very popular areas, especially when visiting with children, are the Bamboo Garden with a frog and turtle pond, a Subtropical Fruit garden (with the much loved "Banana Blvd"), an Herb Garden, a Mediterranean Garden with mature cork oak trees and dragon trees, and the Rainforest with waterfall.
“Three different areas focus on our native southern California plants, with an educational Native Plant Native People trail. Last but not least, we have two children's gardens: Seeds of Wonder and the Hamilton Children's Garden. The most popular features in these two gardens are a tree house, a shallow stream, a sand play area, a dinosaur dig, an art garden with large chalk boards, a play house, and a model garden rail road.
“Throughout the week we are offering activities for preschool age children that are free with membership or admissions. The program offers a succulent planting activity (to take home), bubble play, easel painting, arts and crafts, and story time - the schedule for our ongoing programs is listed on our website.
“Most visitors with children explore the garden, play in the children's gardens and participate in the program. It is our goal to give children and their care givers the chance to relax, play, learn, and explore in nature.
“We offer family friendly special events throughout the year, like the Chocolate Festival in Spring, Spring Party with Bunny, Fairy Festival in June, Insect Festival in July, Family Fall Festival, and Garden of Lights all through December - to name just the most popular events for families with children.”
Advice from Trip and Travel Blog
Trip and Travel Blog is an eminently useful resource for fascinating travel news, stories and reviews, and have plenty of experience with travel in California. As such, it was great to speak to them regarding their advice for families with kids. Here’s what they told us:
“If you've decided to take a family trip to California then you’ve made a very good decision because there are so many interesting places to see with children in California. The Californian State offers a wide range of leisure options; therefore it is very easy to find places where fun is guaranteed for the public of all ages. Thus, from the oldest to the youngest can enjoy activities or joint excursions alike.
“Many of California's major cities are just as entertaining and fun for both kids and adults. In addition, most large Californian cities possess extensive parks and green areas ideal for relaxing and spending time on the swings.
“A good option is to visit the capital of California, Sacramento. One of the most significant tourist attractions in the city is the Old Sacramento district, as the site is so well-placed within the role of the American West that children can imagine they are inside the cartoons.
“Visiting San Francisco in the company of the young ones is also a good option, as it is a different city full of parks, bridges, attractions and skyscrapers. Among all the options offered by San Francisco, one that we recommend above all others is to visit the Alcatraz prison with children, since this kind of legend about an unshakable prison is always a theme that attracts the public of all ages.
“If you fancy enjoying a few days with your family in Californian lands, we recommend you visit one of its theme parks and water parks, since the great majority of them are amazing. In addition, almost all California parks offer attractions for both adults and children, so everyone can have a good time. Of course, if children are under 5 years old, we advise you to choose a theme park or water park that has areas for children of that age, such as Disneyland California or San Diego Water Park.”
Universal Studios Hollywood
California is of course most infamously known for being the home of Hollywood, and therefore the place where your kids’ favourite films and characters are brought to life. So, making the trip to Universal Studios Hollywood is the perfect chance to bring your children closer to the fictional worlds they have grown to love.
With Universal Studios Hollywood tickets visitors can take the world famous studio tour and see the lot that was built with consultation by the iconic director Steven Spielberg, go behind-the scenes of one of the world’s biggest motion picture studios, and come across the wreckage of the Boeing 747 from War of the Worlds. If that’s not enough, there are a number of other entertaining rides and attractions to be enjoyed, such as a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Simpsons Ride and Jurassic Park – The Ride (bound to be a hit with any dino-lovers in the family).
Snow Summit - Big Bear Mountain Resort
Image courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resort.
As mentioned, California is a truly massive part of the USA and is therefore incredibly diverse in its geography. So, if you and your kids fancy swapping the beaches for some colder climates, Snow Summit at Big Bear Mountain Resort will be just up your alley. Skiing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of California but this is exactly what is on offer here for those that love the sport or who always wanted to give it a go.
Big Bear Mountain Resort were able to speak to us about Snow Summit (as well as their other property, Bear Mountain), telling us about what makes them such a great proposition for families with kids and exactly what is on offer when visiting.
“Our properties (Snow Summit and Bear Mountain) offer world-class skiing and snowboarding in the heart of Southern California. Snow Summit tends to have a more family-friendly atmosphere thanks in large part to our new 5,000 square-foot Adventure Academy, which serves as a one-stop shop for all kids rentals, lift tickets, and lessons so parents can get their children on the slopes easier and faster.
“Additionally, Snow Summit has one of the most extensive snowmaking systems in the world while Bear Mountain has the largest beginner area and highest lift-served peak in Southern California (8,805 feet/2,683 meters).”
“Lift tickets can be used at both properties – Bear Mountain and Snow Summit – on the same day and we provide a free inter-mountain shuttle service throughout the day.”
Image Credit: Josh McNair
For families that want to explore the stunning scenery on offer in California, taking a day trip Yosemite National Park is an absolute must. Any trip to California wouldn’t be quite complete without seeing the stunning mountains and dramatic waterfalls contained within the park, with sights that will provide a chance for some incredible photography to remember your holiday by.
Yosemite is located 180 miles from San Francisco, with tickets for a day trip from the city being available, and is an outstanding image of natural beauty that is known the world over for its vast wilderness, deep valleys, and fascinating wildlife. Kids will surely get a kick out of seeing Yosemite Falls – a 2450 feet waterfall that is the highest in North America. For a more structured visit, there are tours available, backpacking, hiking, biking, stargazing, swimming, and myriad other fun activities to enjoy.
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