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Summer Stays in California: Best Bets for Bigger Families

Is your crew larger than a family of four? Book a spot where you can spread out

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For larger or extended families, the typical hotel room with just one or two beds can get crowded fast. If you’d rather avoid booking multiple rooms—and if camping isn’t in the cards—then it pays to get creative.

“We see a lot of bigger families,” says David Jamison, Camp Manager at The Camp at Carmel Valley, a Monterey County resort that combines cabins, bunkhouses, and entire houses, as well as outdoor activities ranging from pickleball to yoga. “Sometimes the grandparents are coming, too.”

Even before the pandemic, multigenerational travel had been on the rise. In 2019, travel agency network Virtuoso called multigenerational travel its top trend. These days, families have the added incentive of reuniting with vaccinated grandparents. In a recent survey by market research firm Destination Analysts, 60 percent of travelers say that spending time with family is the top motivation.

“We’re seeing the same trend, and we’ve been hosting big families for years,” says Kathleen Cochran, the general manager at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in Solvang. The 11,000-acre resort is comprised of 73 cottages equipped with beds, bunks, or sleepers in various configurations. “As we renovate rooms, we say, let’s make it fun and make sure everyone has a comfortable bed to sleep in,” says Cochran. “We don’t do rollaways.”

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To be sure, many California destinations offer condo-style options—ideal for bigger families or multigeneration getaways. Ski resort areas really excel at accommodating bigger groups—like the all-season condos at Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows), or the wealth of cabins and condos in the Big Bear area. In Upstate California, you can book a roomy houseboat to explore spots like Shasta Lake with your whole crew.

Roomy options abound across the rest of the state, too, even in urban areas. Here are 16 more hotels and resorts, listed north to south, that nicely accommodate bigger crews with plenty of space, unique set-ups, and crowd-pleasing things to do.

Railroad Park Resort, Dunsmuir

Who doesn’t love trains? This creative resort in the Siskiyou County town of Dunsmuir is comprised of a 22 cabooses, some topped with cupolas, and several big enough for families of five. Each (non-moving) caboose comes with its own bathroom, a mini-fridge, and microwave. You can also book cabins, RV and tent sites, or one box car.

Emerald Forest Cabins & RV, Trinidad

Explore the Redwood National & State Parks from these woodsy cabins—some of which sleep up to 10—in Humboldt County. They come equipped with linens, kitchen utensils, private bathrooms, outdoor grills, and picnic tables.

Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Chester

This seasonal lodge at the southeast end of Lassen Volcanic National Park offers 19 lodge and bungalow units—some of which sleep up to five or even 10, thanks to bunks and separate rooms. Adding to the rustic charm (it dates back to 1900), some cabins have electricity but others rely on kerosene lamps. Activities include hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and a hot springs pool. Meals are included in your stay, and kids 7–14 get a discounted nightly rate (kids 6 and under are free). Season runs from June to October. At the northwest end of the park, the affiliated Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins can sleep up to 8.

Granlibakken Lodge, Tahoe City

This North Lake Tahoe lodge offers regular rooms and suites, as well as one- to eight-bedroom townhouses. The suites and townhouses feature separate living spaces, a fully equipped kitchen, and typically a fireplace. On site, there’s a heated outdoor pool, day spa, and tennis courts, as well as the Treetop Adventure Park, with 27 zip lines.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Hotel Del Sol, San Francisco

Kids will love the sunny color scheme at this hotel in San Francisco’s Marina District where suites can sleep five with a combination of beds plus sleeper sofas and even a trundle bed. The hotel also has a pool, bike rentals, and free breakfast.

Tamarack Lodge, Mammoth Lakes

Stay in a classic cabin that’s right on the shores of Mammoth’s Twin Lakes. Choose from deluxe and historic cabins, which sleep up to nine; all of them feature kitchens and fireplaces, and most welcome up to two pets, too. The lodge is home to the Mammoth Adventure Center, where you can get set up for the bike park, gondola rides, and the assisted-climbing experience at Via Ferrata.

The Redwoods in Yosemite, Wawona

Choose from “camper,” “comfortable,” or luxury cabins inside Yosemite National Park, about 4.5 miles past the south gate. Even the smallest, most affordable options often sleep up to six, and come with BBQs, linens, kitchens, and baths; many have internet and satellite too. Plus you’ve got easy access to the Wawona Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Chilnualna Falls.

The Camp at Carmel Valley

Stay in cabins or houses that can sleep up to eight on this 115-acre property in Monterey County that started out as a camp for girls in 1925. Book a Thursday–Sunday session at one of the “unplugged’ cabins or, for more space and electricity, one of the houses. Your session includes all meals as well as activities, from pickleball and archery to guided hikes and yoga.

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, Solvang

This resort-meets-dude ranch, recognized as a Historic Hotels of America‚ is set on 10,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley. The Western-decor suites and studios sleep up to five and often come with a fireplace or private patio. Spend the day exploring 50 miles of horseback riding trails, paddling on the lake, or playing tennis and golf. Kids can also participate in the daily egg-gathering and art activities.

El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara

This glamping resort north of Santa Barbara combines wooded ambience and beachy fun— it helps that there’s a state beach right across the street. Choose from basic safari tents and adventure yurts that sleep four, or fully outfitted cedar cabins that easily sleep a family of five or more. Rent bikes to ride around the property, say hi to the llamas on the neighboring farm, or chat around the firepit in the evening. The camp store and onsite café keep plenty of good local wine in stock, too.

Residence Inn Beverly Hills

Yes, Beverly Hills offers affordable luxury: This branch of the reliable chain is located just one mile from Rodeo Drive. Suites with two bedrooms and two bathrooms sleep up to six, and some come with a full kitchen. As a bonus, there’s a complimentary breakfast in the lobby.

Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes

This Mediterranean-style resort with golf, a spa, and four pools (one with a slide) spreads out across almost 100 acres on Los Angeles County’s Palos Verdes Peninsula. Book a roomy suite with a separate living room and sleeper sofa or one of the resort’s bungalows, casitas, or villas. The resort is known for its Tide Pool kids club as well as an Experience Center that offers activities such as tide pooling, kayaking, archery, and falconry.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas, Rancho Mirage

This expansive resort in the Greater Palm Springs area has a few features that make it a serious crowd-pleaser: The lodging options include roomy suites, and all rooms come with private patios or balconies for extra space. Plus, the resort comes equipped with its own waterpark, dubbed Splashtopia, with two waterslides, a lazy river, and a sandy beach.

Great Wolf Lodge, Anaheim

Great Wolf Lodge Southern California, Garden Grove

This Anaheim-area hotel is centered around an indoor water park and caters to larger families. Among the standard, cabin-themed, or premium suites, lodgings can sleep up to eight, with a combination of separate rooms, sleeper sofas, and “cabin” alcoves that include themed bunk beds for the kids. Stays include admission to the indoor water park as well as an arcade, kid-sized bowling alley, and mini-golf. Plus, there’s a free shuttle to Disneyland Resort, which is just three miles away.

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina, Newport Beach

You can park your RV or even your boat at this waterfront resort in Orange County, located in Newport Beach’s Back Bay. Or just drive up and stay in a cottage that sleeps up to six. Play at the onsite pool and the inflatables-based water park set on the bay waters, or rent Duffy boats, kayaks, and paddleboards.

Paradise Point Resort, San Diego

This tropical-themed resort, set on its own 44-acre island, is hidden in plain sight in San Diego’s Mission Bay area. Lodgings include freestanding bungalows that sleep up to five, many with lanais situated on the shore. The resort has five pools, as well as tennis, basketball, mini-golf, and lawn games. All this plus a popular next-door neighbor: SeaWorld San Diego.

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