Whether you’re last-minute planning for Spring Break or pre-planning for the future, California is the perfect destination for your next family vacation. The kid-friendly Golden State—nicknamed “Kidifornia” for its family-friendliness—offers amazing theme parks, educational experiences, perfect beaches, and so much more for little ones. Here are five ideas to inspire your next trip.
1. Lounge or play in Malibu
Malibu may be best known for its famous residents, but there’s a lot for kiddos to do in the Los Angeles coastal city. At Drill Surf Skate, you can take a lesson on almost any type of board—surf, stand-up paddle, or skate—or just rent some body boards and ride the waves. Parents will love shopping the eclectic mix of stores at Malibu County Mart, where the store Toy Crazy and a playground will keep kids entertained. Or just lounge on the sand at one of the area’s famous beaches—Surfrider Beach sits off the Malibu Pier and Zuma Beach is a family favorite.
2. Explore the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
San Francisco offers an endless list of family activities, particularly around that famous red-orange crossing. Ride your bike over the Golden Gate with a rental from Golden Gate Bridge Rental or Blazing Saddles, which both have baby seats, trailers, children’s bikes, and tandems to accommodate a range of ages. Spot the Golden Gate from the water on a boat cruise, like The Red and White Fleet cruise, which is free for kids under four; on San Francisco Bay Boat Cruises, you can wine taste while your kids enjoy the scenery (and kids under five get on the boat for free). In the Golden Gate Recreation Area, there are flat and short hikes that are appropriate for kids, like the 1.7-mile route to Tennessee Beach.
3. Play in the snow at California ski resorts
If your kids are downhill lovers, you’ve got a lot of options in the Golden State. But even if your kin haven’t taken a liking to skiing or snowboarding, that doesn’t mean a snow vacation is off the table. Consider these other family snow adventures: Snowshoeing at Northstar in North Lake Tahoe, snowmobiling at Mammoth Mountain, or tubing at Big Bear Mountain Resort.
4. Tour Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Trolley Company gives riders a live highlight reel of the best local beaches, the harbor, and the zoo over the span of its 90-minute tour, with the family-friendly option to hop on or hop off whenever you feel like it. If you’ve got an active crew, rent a surrey, rollerblades, or beach cruisers from Wheel Fun Rentals of Santa Barbara to explore the beachfront paths.
5. Meet animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
For kids with an affinity for ocean dwellers, there are few better places to explore than the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium on Monterey’s Cannery Row. Watch the penguins play and the otters splash, or check out the new special exhibit ¡Viva Baja!, which showcases colorful creatures—such as the Cortez rainbow wrasse—found in Baja California. Kids get up close and personal on a variety of tours (you can touch a jellyfish on the Jellies and Open Sea Tour), and you can even have a sleepover in the aquarium and wake up next to a fish-filled tank.