Best Family Vacations in California

The Golden State is the ultimate destination for a fun-filled family vacation, especially when traveling with grandparents or extended family. With so many great parks, cities, and regions to choose from, California vacation planning can become overwhelming. We are highlighting the best family vacations in California that are perfect for all ages. There are woodsy outdoor adventures, sun-soaked beach days, and thrilling theme parks. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable California family vacation.

15 Best Family Vacations in California - Groups Are A Trip

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15 California Family Vacations All Ages Will Love

1. San Diego

San Diego is one of the best places for a family vacation. This southern California city has something for everyone. Enjoy a day (or two!) at the massive San Diego Zoo, explore downtown San Diego, or soak up the sun on gorgeous Coronado Island. Other highlights include LEGOLAND California, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

La Jolla is just a short drive away from the downtown attractions. Take surf lessons, build sand castles, see the seals and sea lions, and enjoy the local coastal vibes. 

View of Oceanside Beach San Diego-Kirsten Maxwell

San Diego is home to numerous museums, like the Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the USS Midway Museum, and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

For accommodations in San Diego, you really can’t beat Hotel del Coronado. There is a stunning pool, beach access, great onsite dining, a kids club, in-house babysitting, and bike rentals. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in Coronado Island’s pristine atmosphere while being close to some of San Diego’s best sights. 

2. Yosemite

If you haven’t been to Yosemite National Park, it’s one of our favorite national parks to visit with grandparents. This is a great California vacation, whether it’s your first or tenth visit. Many families make a Yosemite trip a regular tradition, and you might find your family returning again and again. 

Yosemite National Park with teens

Families of all shapes and sizes have a great time horseback riding, biking, fishing, and stargazing at this great park. It’s the perfect place to take a scenic drive, or you can join a guided tour so the entire family can sit back and take in the sights. 

We recommend staying right in the park at The Ahwahnee. The upscale hotel has a heated outdoor pool, a sweet shop, and great onsite dining. Choose from standard rooms, junior suites, or well-appointed cottages. 

3. South Lake Tahoe

We love South Lake Tahoe because it has a great balance between bustling activities and serene nature. Whether you visit in the winter for skiing and snowboarding or in the summer for hiking and beach days, you are sure to have a great time in this Sierra Nevada mountain town. 

Outdoor adventures reign supreme in South Lake Tahoe. Consider renting a clear kayak for a unique experience that is super Instagram-worthy. You can also stand-up paddleboard, fish, try white-water rafting, go for a hot air balloon ride, or hike through its gorgeous trails. 

View from Tahoe Rim trail Lake Tahoe photos

In town, there are casinos, fun restaurants, excellent spas, and unique shopping. The summer music festival at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena is perfect for teens and young adults who want to enjoy a lively atmosphere surrounded by the area’s scenic natural beauty. 

The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe is a great destination for families, no matter the season. The lakefront property boasts a year-round pool with amazing views. Plus, it’s surrounded by a golf course so be sure to bring your clubs!

4. Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a great place to enjoy quality family time, and it’s home to Joshua Tree National Park. This is one of our favorite spots to visit with teens. You can splurge on spa treatments and shopping days while also taking advantage of the area’s amazing outdoor adventures. 

But younger kids will have fun here, too. Hop aboard an aerial tram ride, visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, and ride horseback through the wilderness. 

Joshua Tree National Park is perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Hiking, camping, and biking are great ways to take in the park’s natural beauty while keeping kids of all ages engaged. 

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa is an excellent Palm Springs hotel for kids and teens. It has a lazy river, water slides, pickleball courts, a golf course, and seasonal kids’ activities.

5. Monterey

Monterey is a great kid-friendly destination on California’s central coast. Its main draw is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which inspired Disney’s Finding Dory. There is so much marine life to learn about here, plus hands-on exhibits are fun for all ages. 

There is also an opportunity to see fish and wildlife in their natural habitat. Monterey is perfect for a boat cruise, snorkel excursion, or kayaking trip. 

Monterey Bay ocean view

Beyond marine life, be sure to visit the Dennis The Menace Playground, which has a climbing wall and maze. Spend time on Historic Cannery Row, where there are escape rooms, arcades, and a dinner show. 

The Hyatt Regency Monterey is a great kid-friendly resort in the area and it’s just 10 minutes away from the aquarium. 

6. Anaheim: Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm

Of course, you can’t beat a classic theme park vacation in Anaheim, California. This southern California town is home to Disneyland Resort and Knotts Berry Farm. If you’re looking for a classic Disney vacation, plan for at least two or three days at the parks. For families that want to slow down and enjoy something fun yet more laid-back, nearby Knott’s Berry Farm could be perfect for you. Plus, teens have the best time on the roller coasters there. 

Knotts Berry Farm ride

To complete your California theme park adventure, head toward Los Angeles, where Universal Studios awaits. This is a fun spot to feel the thrill and power of Hollywood while still enjoying fun rides, character meet-and-greets, and unique sights. 

Did you know there is a Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim? It’s just minutes from Disneyland and has many onsite amenities, like a full indoor waterpark, restaurant, and arcade. 

7. San Francisco

San Francisco tops many travel bucket lists, and your kids will love seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person. Hike and sightsee through The Presidio National Park site, take a cable car tour of the city and spend an afternoon on Pier 39. 

San Francisco is a lively place for all ages. There are fun major league sports teams, several museums, unique shopping, and a fun vibe that teens will love. 

Hotel Drisco Pacific Heights is a charming boutique hotel in a great location. Reservations include breakfast, a daily chauffeur, and bike rentals. 

8. Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks 

Seeing California’s massive Sequoia trees is a can’t-miss experience. Kids of all ages have likely seen them in textbooks and online and this is a chance to marvel at them in person. 

The good news is that Sequoia National Park is minutes away from Kings Canyon National Park, so you can enjoy both great locations in one. This beautiful area is perfect for simple outdoor activities, like hiking and picnicking. 

Sequoia National Park hiking

If your family needs to slow down and enjoy quiet quality time, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks are a great destination. 

Staying in the parks is the best way to immerse yourself in the relaxed, woodsy atmosphere. Grant Grove Cabins are typically a hit, but campsites and hotel options are also available. 

9. Laguna Beach

Experience the sun and fun of Southern California in Laguna Beach. This iconic locale in Orange County, California, has a chill surf culture, great beaches, and a trendy downtown area.

Getting around Laguna Beach is a breeze thanks to the free trolly service. Relax in Heisler Park, splash around in coastal tide pools, go whale watching, or hike to “The Top of the World” for unbeatable views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Treat yourself to the upscale SoCal lifestyle by staying at the Montage Laguna Beach. Rooms are beautiful with sweeping views, and this is a great location with plenty of onsite offerings (like multiple pools, a spa, and great dining).

10. Catalina Island

Many families visit Catalina Island for a day trip or an overnight stay during a Los Angeles vacation, and this could be a great option for your busy family. To truly enjoy the charm of this island town, you should stay a while. After all, it’s an excellent place to slow down and enjoy true quality time (in a stunning setting). 

Avalon Catalina island

There is a zipline course, an aerial adventure park, a falconry experience, boat tours, a colorful pier, and many unique little restaurants. You can also relax on the gorgeous beaches – or hop in for a swim or snorkel. 

Vacation rentals offer a homey vibe during your stay in Catalina Island. Check out rentals like this that include great views and even a golf cart to get around. 

11. Santa Rosa Wildlife Park

Santa Rosa is the heart of wine country, but it’s also a great family-friendly destination. The Safari West Wildlife Park makes this one of California’s best places for family vacations. This 400-acre property is home to nearly 1,000 animals. See them all on a Jeep safari and stay on the property in one of their comfy glamping tents. 

You will likely want to see more of Santa Rosa while vacationing here, so be sure to check out the town’s many sights. Spend time in Historic Railroad Square, visit the children’s museum, or get adventurous on a zipline course. The town is home to lovely gardens and parks too. 

If a safari glamping trip isn’t for you, there are other accommodations available in Santa Rosa. Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country has spacious rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and is within walking distance of downtown Santa Rosa.

12. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the perfect place for an action-packed and enriching vacation. Movie buffs can take a Hollywood set tour, while art enthusiasts can tour The Getty Art Museum. Highlights for many families include horseback riding or biking through Griffith Park and a tour of the La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits Los Angeles

Los Angeles also has many great hiking trails for all levels, and you can’t go wrong with a day in the sun at Venice Beach or Santa Monica Beach. 

Staying in Santa Monica will offer you the best in beachside fun while still being close to L.A.’s best attractions. Check out Le Merigot Santa Monica for a comfortable stay in a great location. 

13. San Luis Obispo & Morro Bay

San Luis Obispo is a relaxing destination for the entire family. It has a small-town vibe with plenty to do – especially if you love spending time outdoors. Check out the region’s many botanical gardens, state parks, and natural areas. 

Plus, you can also enjoy time at the beach. Morro Bay is a beautiful coastal town a few minutes outside San Luis Obispo, right off Highway 1. It’s a hotspot for birdwatching, kayaking, surfing, and fishing. The fresh seafood restaurants here can’t be beat. 

To stay right in Morro Bay, consider a stay at the Inn at Rose’s Landing. It’s right next to the bay and within walking distance of water sports, restaurants, and wineries. 

14. Santa Barbara

Grown-ups love the architecture and upscale vibe of Santa Barbara, but it’s a great place for kids of all ages, too. During your family trip here, you will likely spend a lot of time at the beach. Older kids can join a surf school while younger ones can play in the sand. 

Santa Barbara ocean palm trees

There are things to enjoy beyond the beach as well. It’s an excellent place for hiking, sailing, and rock climbing. There are also amazing parks and museums to explore. Be sure to check out the Museum of Natural History, which has indoor and outdoor exhibits that the whole family will appreciate. 

Kimpton Canary Hotel is a beautiful property in Santa Barbara. The hotel is conveniently located to shopping, restaurants, and the beach. There is a rooftop swimming pool, an on-site restaurant, and a hosted evening wine hour for guests.

15. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the perfect place for multi-generational travel. Their Roaring Camp Railroads is the perfect way to see California’s redwood forests comfortably, plus young children love it.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a fun vintage roller coaster, and it’s a great area to enjoy the sights and sounds of the vibrant coastal area. 

Santa Cruz flying chairs amusement park

Santa Cruz is also home to multiple state parks, fun museums, and water activities like swimming, surfing, and boat trips. 

Chaminade Resort & Spa has a great location in Santa Cruz’s mountainside, but it’s still minutes away from the ocean. There’s an onsite heated outdoor pool, beautiful hiking trails, and spacious suites perfect for families needing room to spread out. 

Best Family Vacations in California that Are Unforgettable

Does your family like to camp when out on vacation, or do you book a suite at the swankiest hotel? No matter how you travel, there is a great California vacation for you. Bring teens, toddlers, grandparents, and everyone in between for a trip full of core memories, new experiences, and plenty of quality time.