Parents plan family vacations in California so that their kids can enjoy the beaches, the theme parks, and other iconic attractions—or do grown-ups have some ulterior motives?
In the latest Visit California commercial, “Childhood Rules,” kids play their way across the Golden State—then find out that they have more in common with their parents than they perhaps thought. Want to follow in their footsteps on your next trip? Here’s where to go:
San Diego boasts 70 miles of pristine coastline—ready for sandcastle-building, surfing, and lounging. Families love Torrey Pines State Beach, featured in the ad, for its wide-open spaces and mellow vibes. Add a nature hike to your day, too: The beach neighbors the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, home to long-needled Torrey pine trees and easy trails with big ocean views, especially at sunset.
Explore Among the Redwoods, Northern California
California is home to the tallest trees on the planet, and many redwood tree–covered state parks are located around the San Francisco Bay Area, where parts of the ad were filmed. Spend a day or two among the trees on your trip—at parks such as Henry Cowells Redwood State Park in Santa Cruz County, Portola Redwoods State Park in San Mateo County, and Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County. For even more redwood magic, plan a trip around the Redwood National and State Parks along the North Coast.
Remember that you can help preserve these special parks by always staying on designated trails and by not disturbing any plant life. For more tips, check out How to Enjoy California’s Parks and Public Lands.
Ride the Swings at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz
features an arcade, laser tag, treats, and lots of family rides, all with sweeping views of Monterey Bay. Don’t miss a few rides that are rich with history: the 1911 Looff Carousel, the 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster—both National Historic Landmarks—and the Sea Swings featured in the commercial.
Go horseback riding on the sand, Pismo Beach
For some outside-the-box beach fun and plenty of room to roam, head to Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. The wide beaches include the Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve, where you can take guided horseback rides on the beach or along dune trails. Or, rent an ATV: Pismo Beach is also home to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, one of few beaches in California that allows OHVs (off-highway vehicles) on the sand, with a speed limit of 15 mph.
You can see iconic characters all over Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, from the princesses in Fantasyland to the Mandalorian in Stars Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. To dance with a character, though, head to Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout!, the scream-inducing drop ride that’s part of the Avengers Campus. A few times a day, just outside the ride, Guardians of the Galaxy characters typically come out for a dance party fueled by classic rock—which parents should know by heart—and you can count on Groot to show up, as he does in the commercial.
Immerse Yourself in Light at Sensorio, Paso Robles
The San Luis Obispo County city of Paso Robles certainly appeals to grown-ups, thanks to its 200-plus wineries. But the 15-acre field of light Sensorio, located just outside town, will delight all ages. Come for a pre-sunset picnic dinner from the food trucks (where you can also order a little local wine or craft beer), then walk the trails after dark, illuminated by 100,000 LED lights.
Fly Among the Treetops, Sonoma County
Glide through the air among redwood trees at Sonoma Zipline Adventures in the tiny Sonoma County town of Occidental, located off the scenic, 10-mile Bohemian Highway. Choose from two different daytime tours featuring seven ziplines, sky bridges, and a 45-foot rappel, and feel the thrill of zooming up to 40 mph and 250 feet over the ground. Combine ziplining with stargazing on the Night Flight Tour, or by staying in one of the park’s yurt-style treehouses.
Play next to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Enjoy epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge while playing at Crissy Field, the 1920s airfield that’s now part of the Presidio in San Francisco. Walk along the sand on Baker Beach, rent bicycles to explore the 14 miles of paved roads and trails—including the Golden Gate Promenade featured in the commercial—or jump on trampolines at House of Air, located inside a former biplane hangar. To plan your day there, check out these other amazing things to do at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Play a Real-Life Video Game at Super Nintendo World, Los Angeles
Join Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach while exploring the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Nintendo World, the new video game–themed area at Universal Studios Hollywood (opens Feb. 17). Start by riding Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, an indoor ride equipped with augmented reality goggles, which help you compete for digital coins while navigating “underwater” and “cloud” courses that will be familiar to fans of the video game. (Don’t worry, non-gamers will catch on fast.) To keep playing, get one of the park’s Power-Up Bands, a wristband that syncs with Universal Studios Hollywood’s free app to keep track of your digital coin tally and reveal more interactive experiences around the park.
Get acquainted with some of the 400 resident penguins at the San Diego marine-life park, ranging from large emperors to small macaroni penguins. Come to the Penguin Encounter area at 1 p.m. each day to hear the aviculturist talk about the penguins’ daily routines and ask questions, or take the Penguin Up Close Tour (based on availability). Then, ride the penguin-inspired Emperor, a “dive” roller coaster with a 14-story, face-down drop.
Tap Into Your Inner Artist at LACMA, Los Angeles
Behold masterpieces, then make a few of your own, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on Los Angeles’ Museum Row. Take a selfie at the outdoor Urban Light display featured in the commercial—a grid of 202 antique gas street lamps—then head inside to explore the exhibits that range from ancient sculptures to Picassos to cutting-edge new artists. Check the calendar for events and activities, like painting sessions for all ages in the Boone Children’s Gallery.