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Let’s be honest, there is no shortage of spots for family weekend getaways in California.
California is also known as the Golden State, which might not be a coincidence. With beautiful landscapes that include mountains, deserts, and the ocean, a mild climate, and both big cities and small towns, California is a great place to experience many different worlds.
The best part? With so much to do in this sunny state, the kids will be fine no matter where you go! These 10 places are perfect for families who want to make memories that will last a lifetime.
10. Big Sur Coast
The Central Coast of California is almost like the green coasts of Scotland or Ireland, with grassy hills that drop off into the ocean and rocky beaches. Driving along the ocean is fun, and every beautiful view makes a good Instagram post.
Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and San Simeon are all beautiful coastal towns with world-famous attractions like the Hearst Castle, the Monterey Aquarium, and the Carmel Mission. But Big Sur, a rough and wooded stretch of coast between the ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains, is the real star of the show.
With its arched rock formations and sand dunes, Pfeiffer Beach is a great place for kids to run around, and McWay Falls is a beautiful sight with its 80-foot waterfall that falls onto the beach.
There are many trails on the side of the mountain for watching birds (especially condors). Some places to camp have playgrounds, and most restaurants have menus for kids (Nepenthe is a favorite).
9. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a charming mix of culture and fun. It is known as California’s Riviera because of its beautiful plants and refined elegance. The Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, and the Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center are all good places for kids who want to be marine biologists. For more adventurous kids, there are also recreations of marine life (paddling, sailing, and deep-sea fishing).
At Stearns Wharf, the whole family can take the Lil’ Toot, a water taxi that goes to the harbor, or try fishing off the pier. If you don’t catch anything, don’t worry! You can always get a tasty meal at one of the nearby restaurants.
MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, is close to the beach and has fun hands-on activities. In Carpinteria, the Tomol Interpretative Play Area is a great place to let the kids run around.
The Old Mission in Santa Barbara is a must-see, and the downtown area is a great place to walk, eat, and shop. It’s one of the best family weekend getaways in California for beach lovers!
8. San Francisco
Some kids might want to go to San Francisco just to ride the famous red cable car up and down the steep hills or take the ferry to Alcatraz. But there are a lot of other things that will make everyone in your family happy.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Alamo Square’s busy atmosphere, Fisherman’s Wharf’s restaurants, and Pier 39’s shops and carousel are all landmarks that have something for everyone.
Not sure if a walk by the Painted Ladies will be fun for the kids? If you want to have fun for hours, go to the Aquarium of the Bay, the San Francisco Zoo, the Exploratorium, the California Academy of Sciences, or the Children’s Creativity Museum. San Francisco is hands-down one of the best family weekend getaways in California for those who want to make memories to last a lifetime.
7. San Diego
Sunny San Diego is the epitome of good times. With the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, SeaWorld, and Legoland, the southernmost county in California might just as well be called a massive entertainment park. The city is known for its magnificent beaches (particularly La Jolla and Coronado), tidal pools, parks, and trails, but it also has many vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own character and offerings.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a California urban safari with countless places to eat, shop, and explore (including The New Children’s Museum) that stretch to the waterfront Embarcadero and Seaport Village. Little Italy is home to European-style piazzas packed with family-friendly events and, of course, amazing pasta and pizza everywhere.
6. The Redwoods (Best family weekend getaway in California for nature)
About 200 miles north of San Francisco, in Humboldt County, there are ancient forests full of beautiful coastal redwoods. These sequoias are the tallest in the world, with heights of up to 379 feet. About half of all the sequoias in the world can be found right here.
Imagine walking, biking, horseback riding, and camping among these huge trees at Redwood National and State Parks, or driving through them. It’s an experience that you and your kids will talk about for years to come.
To make things even more fun, kids of all ages can take part in Redwood EdVentures, a scavenger hunt program in the park. When they finish each quest, they get a special patch.
Want to make the most of this trip, which is already going to be a good one? The dramatic beaches and cute towns close by are great places to see and are full of events and activities that are fun for the whole family! Not only are the redwoods a magnificent sight to see, but it’s a great option for budget-friendly family weekend trips as well.
5. Palm Springs
When you are in Joshua Tree, you have to go to Palm Springs. This strange resort town is only 45 minutes from a national park in the low Mojave Desert, but it feels like another world on its own.
The animals and plants in the surrounding canyons are beautiful, especially in the cooler months when little streams and waterfalls flow down the San Jacinto Mountain and wildflowers bloom.
Summers are very hot, but you don’t have to worry if you’re going to a hotel or rental with a pool. Besides the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, there are many other places for your family to relax if you have to leave the pool.
4. Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a city unlike any other in terms of its cultural diversity and richness, so it hardly needs an introduction. The city’s fabric is intertwined with museums, gardens, parks, amusement parks, and numerous more attractions.
It’s possible to spend the day at the beach, in the mountains for a hike and lunch, and in Hollywood for dinner and performance with the family. The Skirball Center, Discovery Cube Los Angeles, and Kidspace in Pasadena are just few of the many options for family fun outside of the theme parks.
To live like a local Angeleno, we suggest attending some of the many events held in the city each month. There is always a good time to celebrate, from parades and tours to treasure hunts and festivals.
Have you ever wished, if even for a day, that you might escape to an island? Catalina is the greatest option and can be reached by ferry from Long Beach, Dana Point, or San Pedro in only one hour.
Avalon is a charming seaport with a variety of attractions, including eateries, boutiques, a museum, and a library that caters to children with a wide range of activities.
However, nature is the star of this show. Kids may take a zip line eco tour, ride a golf cart around the island (yes, it’s that small), or climb rope ladders at Aerial Adventures, all while getting up close and personal with bison on a Jeep Eco-tour.
We understand if you don’t want to leave the island right away; there are plenty of places to stay, including hotels, vacation rentals, and even a campsite, allowing you to extend your island fantasy.
Yosemite, which is in Central California’s Sierra Nevada and has a million square miles of land, is the park that led to the idea of national parks, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.
Yosemite is a unique wonderland that is well worth a visit. It has majestic views and landscapes with giant sequoias, glaciers, meadows, waterfalls, and a lot of different kinds of plants and animals.
Inside the park are campgrounds, lodges, and hotels that have kid-friendly amenities and things to do.
But hiking and exploring along the park’s many trails might be the best way to see all of Yosemite’s beautiful sights.
1. Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is a gem and a must-visit location since it is one of the most unique places on the planet. Acres and acres of the park are populated by the mysterious Joshua trees, making for a bizarre experience for visitors. Numerous boulders of varying sizes and shapes may be seen strewn over the woods.
There are a number of great vantage points, hiking trails, and oddities to find along the way (including the Keys Ranch, the Ryan’s House, and the Lost Horse Well), but nothing beats the excitement of watching the shadows of the trees change as night falls; it feels like you’ve stepped into a surreal Tim Burton film.
Camping there and seeing the neighboring Pioneertown is a to see a different perspective of the Joshua Tree area. For those who like eerie and paranormal things, this is the best type of family weekend getaways in California for you!