Beyond the iconic attractions of Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, the Golden State has something to cater to every member of the family. Theme park lovers can enjoy Trees of Mystery Amusement Park, watersports enthusiasts can learn to surf in Santa Monica while history buffs can get their teeth stuck in learning about the Gold Rush at Volcano Memorial Park.
Nature lovers get ready to soak up the rivers, lakes and mountains in the Redding area. Explore Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s botanical gardens and arboretum, cool down with a swim in Whiskeytown Lake, cycle along the Sacramento River Trail and plan a day trip to iconic Mt. Shasta or Lassen Volcanic National Park. Take the little ones to WaterWorks Park for a day of sliding, splashing, and tubing. Where to stay: Make the just-opened Home2 Suites by Hilton your base. The all-suite rooms are perfect for families.
Del Norte County
Adventure awaits in the state’s far northwest corner in Del Norte County. Experience the stunning blue Smith River on a guided flat-water kayaking or whitewater rafting trip, or opt for a more low-key redwood canoe tour led by a Yurok tribe member. Get the adrenaline going with a pulse-pounding ride on a Klamath River jet boat tour or channel some Zen with a peaceful walk through the redwood forest. Take the kids to the Trees of Mystery amusement park, which includes the SkyTrail gondola ride and Redwood Canopy Trail. Where to stay: Conveniently located steps from the Redwood National Forest and Crescent City Beach, the Best Western Plus Northwoods Inn offers free breakfast for families.
Heavenly Mountain Resort isn’t just for skiing; the resort serves up a plethora of outdoor summer adventures too. Along with hiking trails for all levels, the resort offers two zip line courses, a climbing wall, gemstone panning and both summer and snow tubing. Where to stay: The only all-suites hotel in South Lake Tahoe, the Lake Tahoe Resort, is located right at the base of Heavenly. With the standard two-room suites, the family will have plenty of room to relax.
In the Greater Palm Springs region, explore the famous Joshua Tree National Park on a jeep tour, book a family-friendly horse ride or soar above the desert in a hot air balloon. Enjoy the cooler evening temperatures with a guided stargazing experience. Where to stay: Enjoy many amenities like bowling, pickleball, tennis, golf and a big pool with slides for the kids at The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa.
HISTORY COMES TO LIFE
Located in the Sierra Nevada, Amador County was the heart of the Gold Rush. Let the kids try their hand at panning for gold at Volcano Memorial Park and learn the history of the Gold Rush on a guided tour of the Kennedy Mine, one of the deepest mines in the world. Where to stay: The 16-room boutique Rest Hotel Plymouth is the perfect base for exploring all the county has to offer.
Known as the gateway to Yosemite National Park, Madera County offers plenty of reasons to stop before heading into the park. Jump aboard the historic Shay steam train on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad to take a trip back in time learning about the logging industry in Madera and the flora and fauna of the Sierra National Forest. At the Fossil Discovery Center, kids’ eyes will widen seeing fossils of sabre-tooth cats, dire wolves and Columbian mammoths. Head to the Coarsegold Historic Village to experience life in the region in the 1800s. Where to stay: The Springhill Suites Madera affords families spacious suites and complimentary breakfast.
Home to Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park also features Knott’s Independence Hall, a replica of the famous Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Ralph B. Clark Interpretive Center, which details the history and fossils of prehistoric Orange County. Where to stay: With their complimentary cookies, the kids will love when you make the Doubletree Buena Park your base.
In Pacifica, enjoy relaxing at San Pedro Beach, walk the pier at Sharp Park Beach or hang ten at Pacifica State Beach. To get stunning Instagram shots of the ocean and maybe a whale sighting, head to Mori Point. Where to stay: Just steps from the beach, fall asleep to the waves crashing outside at the Pacifica Lighthouse Hotel.
Santa Monica’s famous pier is a must-see attraction for an idyllic day filled with amusement rides, shopping and making memories to last a lifetime. For an adventure, book the entire family surf lessons at Aqua Surf School, or test your skills in the kitchen with a pasta or sushi-making class at The Gourmandise School. Where to stay: Just steps from the pier is one of Santa Monica’s newest hotels, the Pierside Santa Monica. At the hotel’s Boardshop, guests can rent surfboards, beach supplies and board games.
Since 1925 Belmont Park has served up family summer fun. The beachfront boardwalk features nostalgic offerings, including the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, built in 1925 and the historical landmark, The Plunge Pool. Thrilling experiences like zip lining and rock climbing also await visitors. Throughout the park, kids can play carnival games and get a sugar high from funnel cakes, cotton candy and more. Where to stay: Close to Belmont Park, the Bahia Resort Hotel was voted one of the best value hotels in America by Trip Advisor. With 14 lush beachside acres on a peninsula in Mission Bay, it’s an ideal family escape.