Top California Family Vacation Ideas

by Bea Chim
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If you are taking a trip to California with the family, you’re in for a treat. Let’s just say, it’s not called the Golden State for nothing. From beaches and mountains to exciting big cities and gorgeous small towns, there is nothing that this sunny state does not offer. California is a dream destination spot for family vacations because there is truly something for adults, teenagers, and children of all ages to enjoy. Ready for the family vacation of a lifetime? Here are our top family vacation ideas in California.

(Photo by Mark Munseeon

1.  Yosemite National Park

If your family is full of outdoor lovers, then Yosemite National Park is an unbeatable destination spot. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this unparalleled natural wonder boasts 1,200 square miles of cascading waterfalls, stunning valleys and meadows, giant peaks, extensive wilderness, and more than 750 miles of trails. Visitors can hike among the ancient sequoias, check out the park’s various museums and galleries, and take in the wonder of Yosemite falls. Campgrounds, lodges, and hotels are located inside the park and provide family-friendly amenities and activities. If you are looking to beat the big crowds of tourists, time your visit for early spring or late fall.

2.   Disneyland Resort

On your family vacation to California, you can’t go wrong with tickets to the magical Disneyland Resort. For both youngsters and adults, it’s the happiest place on earth, and everyone in the family is guaranteed to have a good time. Thrill-seeking teens can revel in scary roller coasters such as the Incredicoaster and Space Mountain, while little tots can enjoy more mellow adventures on Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the classic “It’s a Small World Ride.” Guests can enjoy meeting iconic Disney characters, live shows, and enchanting firework displays at night.

Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California, less than an hour away from Los Angeles. One of the best parts about Disneyland is it’s only a short ride away from other amusement parks like Disneyland California Adventure, Adventure City, and Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City. Families who are spending a whole week in Anaheim can also enjoy Anaheim Ducks and Angels games, as well as visits to Yorba Regional Park and the many Orange County beaches.

California family vacation ideas

(Photo by Craig Adderley on

3.   Big Bear

Nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is an incredibly family-friendly destination that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. This crowd-pleasing spot boasts endless recreational activities, including hiking, horseback riding, boating, and even Big Bear Alpine Zoo, home to 85 species including black bears and coyotes.

Shockingly enough, there are places in the sunny state where you can experience snow! With its cozy chalets and alpine villages, Big Bear turns into a winter wonderland during the second half of the year. During the winter months, guests can enjoy inner tubing, bobsled runs, ice skating, and skiing at two premier ski resorts: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.

4.   San Diego

Of all the cities in the United States, nothing screams family vacation quite like San Diego. This warm and sunny oasis is home to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and Legoland, which are all perfect spots for children of all ages. San Diego also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including La Jolla and Coronado, where visitors can spot sea lions, kayak in local sea caves, and snorkel in the pristine water. Make sure to check out the Historic Old Town Area, with buildings from the early 1800s, and the Gaslamp quarter, with restaurants and shopping opportunities galore. After a long day of sightseeing, retreat to one of many kid-friendly hotels in San Diego.

(Photo by LeahKelly on

5.   Joshua Tree National Park

 With all of California’s impressive national parks and preserves, Joshua Tree National Park is a national treasure in and of itself. Families visiting this one-of-a-kind spot can wander throughout the park’s fascinating landscape, visit museums to learn about the park’s cultural history, camp at one of the nine campgrounds, and marvel at the groves of unique Joshua trees. You might even spy some bighorn sheep and jackrabbits, which roam the desert land. At nightfall, families can sleep under the stars and attend a ranger-led campfire talk. If you plan to stay for an extended period, consider a short getaway to Palm Springs, less than an hour away.

California family vacation ideas

(Photo by Kindel Medira on

6.   San Francisco

What’s not to love about San Francisco? Families can drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoy lunch at the Fisherman’s Wharf, look for sea lions at Pier 39, or take a short boat ride to Alcatraz. There are so many diverse neighborhoods and incredible attractions to explore. If you are vacationing with little ones, head over to the Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Zoo, the California Academy of Sciences, or the Children’s Creativity Museum for hours of interactive fun.

If you have the time, don’t miss the opportunity to take a day trip to Redwood National and State Parks. The Redwoods is home to the magnificent sequoias, the tallest trees on earth. The park even hosts a scavenger hunt for children – how cool is that?

(Photo by Tae Fuller on

Enjoy These California Family Vacation Ideas

With all these California family vacation ideas, we know you can put take your brood out for a fun and memorable trip!

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