Kid-friendly destinations and attractions in California
By Jessica Lohan
Big Sur in California (Flickr: Dawn Ellner)
All aboard the road trip bandwagon! Family vacations through California’s Pacific Coast will provide kids with the experience of old-world charm, a look into America’s past-time, exotic animals, bustling city life with a side of character, and great architecture along the mighty waters. Travel through San Diego, around Los Angeles and finish in San Francisco; and enjoy the sights of US-1 through the eyes of a child.
San Diego, CA
Balboa Park (Photo: Michael George)
The first stop in San Diego with kids should be the exciting San Diego Zoo. This 100-acre zoo is located just north of downtown San Diego in beautiful Balboa Park. The zoo can be visited in one day or multiple, if time allows. Kids will love the close encounters with the koalas in their natural habitat, and pandas will provide a rare and unique experience with a natural treasure. Ride the nearby Balboa Park Miniature railroad on an antique train through Balboa Park. A must see!
Soak up the sun and rest your head at the nearby Hotel del Coronado, which offers a prestigious full-service place to rest with a beautiful beachside view for your family vacation. Kids will love to explore the sand and the beach-inspired play areas. The resort has restaurant many offerings including the Sun Deck Grill. Many Hotel packages include various San Diego attractions.
For budget accommodations, Comfort Inn & Suites Sea World is a family-friendly hotel which offers local comfort and a glistening pool to relax and unwind after a fun filled day.
Downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village has kid-friendly casual dining options with ice-cream, cupcakes or yogurt as choices for dessert.
Petco Park is a top destination for travelers with kids. Enjoy an exciting day at the ballpark while enjoying a fabulous lunch at one of the many dining choices within the park. Not in town during baseball season? No problem – join the behind the scenes tour of the ballpark and kids will be ecstatic when having their picture taken in the dugout.
La Jolla, north of San Diego known for its shimmering ocean views, includes the Children’s Pool area known for the harbor-seals that have taken up residence. Kids will enjoy the close view of these creatures and enjoy nearby kid-friendly La Jolla shores.
Los Angeles, CA
Griffith Park Observatory (Photo: Ryan De Hamer)
Los Angeles, CA is the city of glitz and glamour. Families with younger travelers will enjoy walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame and taking pictures with favorite characters including Kermit the Frog. Older travelers would enjoy experiencing the lights and sounds of the stage with a studio lot tour.
A must see kid-friendly attraction following a drive up a hill to the best view of the Hollywood Sign is Griffith Park Observatory. While you are there, take time to see the real stars of Hollywood.
Leave the city behind and save time to visit the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and its main kid-friendly attractions. Dinner should be explored in Downtown Disney at the themed Rainforest Café. Eat amongst nature and dine through the occasional thunderstorm.
Settle in at the Carousel Inn & Suites in Anaheim across from the Disneyland entrance. Watching an amazing fireworks display from the roof-top pool or balcony rooms will put a ribbon on a magical day.
Sunset in Sunset Drive in Monterey, CA (Flickr: Giuseppe Milo)
After the long drive up the coast through US-1, explore the unspoiled landscapes of Big Sur. Pitch your tent for the night in one of the campgrounds.
The next day, continue your drive up and take a break in the waterfront town of Monterey, CA. Grab a coffee and the local paper, and let the kids have fun at the Dennis the Menace Park, a kid-friendly park that boasts a large suspension bridge, various types of slides and a real life train.
Re-charge at the economic hotel of Best Western Beach Dunes in Marina, CA to start the leg to San Francisco, CA. Waterfront stays can be booked at Monterey Bay Lodge with reasonable rates on week days.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco (Photo: Tim Foster)
Arrive in the aesthetically stunning city of San Francisco. Drive into Oakland across the spanning San Francisco-Oakland Bridge to the kid-friendly Children’s Fairyland Amusement Park where stories come alive in the entertainment and storybook sets found within.
Arriving back in San Francisco, dine at Fisherman’s Wharf and see who has the loudest bark to compete against the sea lions on the dock in the far back. Settle up with an ice-cream cone and cruise the San Francisco Bay via Bay Cruise Adventure as the skyline flickers and the Golden Gate Bridge provides a picturesque setting to end the incredible journey.
Sleep soundly at the family-friendly Courtyard San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf before heading back home.
Jessica Lohan contributed this to MiniTime.