Top 5 Family-Friendly Vacation Spots in California to Make the Best Memories for Kids

Family walking on beach in california

Could California possibly be one of the most family-friendly places to visit in the world?

With so much jam-packed into one state, it’s difficult to pick out our favorite family adventures, from California beach vacations to some of the best US National Parks and incredible family theme parks. We’ve narrowed it down to five highlights that we think families with young children absolutely will not want to miss when they’re headed to the west coast.

This post is part of our series Discover the USA – pop over for more inspiring US Family Vacation ideas

San Diego Zoo

Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, the San Diego Zoo is fun for kids of all ages! There are events there that you can buy tickets to, and there are many animals here that you won’t find in other zoos. This zoo is heavily focused on animal conservation, so your kids can rest assured that they are visiting an ethical animal enclosure. If your children are interested in animals, it is best that you set aside at least one whole day for the zoo.

Remember to check the weather in San Diego before you arrive there. In general, California can get pretty hot. So you don’t want to put on too many layers if you want to avoid a heat stroke. Carry plenty of water, and remember to hydrate and eat at regular intervals. You should also carry plenty of sunscreen on you since the California sun is pretty intense, and you can get sunburn if you don’t reapply SPF every 3-4 hours.

Fancy hitting the beach? Find the 6 best family-friendly beaches in San Diego


Can we even have a list of places you can take your whole family without mentioning Disneyland? It is the ultimate dream destination for kids around the world. Disneyland California can get very crowded as it attracts kids and their families from all over the world. You can choose a lot of things from their menu of attractions, and you can spend days lost in the magic but try and travel off-peak if you can.

If your kids are Disney fans, you can visit all the places you’ve seen on film. If you search for deals, you’ll notice that Disneyland offers hotel packages at a reasonable rate, including the price of admission to the site, premium access to rides, and sometimes even breakfast for your family. Your family can also get great deals for your family on restaurants and other events that take place inside the park.

Alternatively, why not stay at a beach near Disneyland so you can make the most of California’s southern coast beaches all as part of the same vacation?


If you are traveling to California with children under the age of ten, LEGOLand should be one of the things you must watch out for. The LEGO company’s family-oriented adventure park includes a theme park, a water park, and an aquarium. While you can buy individual tickets, there are VIP services that you can avail of using their luxury packages.

If you have any LEGO fans in the family, you can even sign up for their hotel packages that would give you and your kids priority access to many of the park’s many attractions. Otherwise, it is first-come, first-serve, and the lines can get pretty long! Watch the minutes fly by when you and your kids are engrossed in 4D rides, fun in the water, and much more at LEGOLand.


If your family would rather stay away from theme parks and want to seek out something truly unique in the west, you can always check out Catalina, an island in the Pacific. Located just southwest of Los Angeles, you can check out the crowds and choose a laid-back vacation in one of the many resorts. Make sure to check out reviews before booking any packages. This is perfect if you were looking forward to putting on some music and lying down in the July sun.

A beach in Catalina, California island

Your kids will have no shortage of activities to keep them occupied. Your family can play on the beaches surrounding Catalina, or they can also choose to explore the terrain that includes a mountain! Please remember that sunscreen is required when you play outdoors;  otherwise, your kids will end up spending their holiday hiding from sunlight after your skin burns.

We have plenty more tips for taking your family to the beach over here

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Heading to northern California, Monterey Bay Aquarium lays claim as one of the best aquariums in the world – although many of your little ones might be more familiar with the “Marine Life Institute” – the fictional aquarium from Finding Dory inspired by Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Here you’ll find a wealth of sea life, both local to the California coast and from further afield, including sea otters, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses, rays, starfish, octopus, and more fish than you could imagine, all under one roof.

From the viewing decks, you can spot sea otters and sea lions in the kelp forest-filled waves below. If you are lucky enough to be visiting from April to November you may also be able to catch the spectacle of migrating humpback whales from the shore. You can easily spend the best part of a day exploring everything that’s on offer at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Want more around Northern California? Check out our complete guide to San Francisco Day trips

This is just the beginning of your California adventure. From the spectacular coastline to the dramatic Redwoods and Sequoia forests, over the Sierra Nevada mountains, and on to the desert scapes of Joshua Tree and the Mojave desert, we promise the kids won’t be bored on a California family vacation!

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