Visit world-class theme parks and learn how to surf, jam like a rock ‘n’ roll guitar hero, float in a handsome paddlewheel boat, and explore surprising wilderness.
Trip length: 4 days
ANAHEIM. Test-drive the new Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park . Visit Mickey and the gang next door at Disneyland Park . INFO Anaheim Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau ; 714/765-8888
BUENA PARK (8mi/13km; 11min). Flip head over heels on Rip Tide, one of many adrenaline-soaked thrill rides at Knott’s Berry Farm . Visit the California Welcome Center in Buena Park and then beat the heat at Knott’s Soak City , a 13-acre fantasy of tube slides and wave pools adjacent to the park. Finish with a themed supper at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure or Medieval Times. INFO California Welcome Center ; 800/541-3953
SEAL BEACH (12mi/19km; 25min). Start with a romp on the beach of this low-key community. If you time your visit on the last Saturday of the month (except December), join a guided tour of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge to view endangered bird species, including the handsome least tern. INFO Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau ; 562/436-3645
CRYSTAL COVE SP (26mi/42km; 47min). Explore undeveloped woodlands and miles of pristine coast. Refuel at the bright yellow Ruby’s Shake Shack , with A+ Crystal Cove views and dynamite date shakes. INFO Crystal Cove State Park ; 949/494-3539.
DANA POINT (13mi/21km; 31min). Learn to surf in the kid-friendly waves of Doheny Beach. Girl in the Curl offers lessons for kids (both sexes) as young as five, and the gentle rollers of Doheny are among California’s best for beginners. INFO Orange County Visitors Association ; 949/336-7210
CORONA (42mi/68km; 44min). Jam like Jimi Hendrix at the Fender Factory Visitor Center , where a guided tour gives families a start-to-finish look at how the iconic guitars—played by rock ’n’ roll legends like Hendrix and Clapton—are made. INFO The Greater Corona Valley Chamber of Commerce ; 951/737-3350
RIVERSIDE (11mi/18km; 17min). Wander among orange orchards at California Citrus State Historical Park , a Golden State homage to the orange. Summer is the season for outdoor concerts; sweet-scented blossoms are best in spring. INFO Riverside Convention & Visitors Bureau ; 888/748-7733
LAKE ARROWHEAD (43mi/69km; 57min). Tour the lake in an elegant paddlewheel boat, the Lake Arrowhead Queen . Trips are less than an hour long so the kids won’t get too antsy (tours on the hour, year-round). INFO Lake Arrowhead Communities Chamber of Commerce ; 909/337-3715