Planning a family holiday to the West Coast of America ? Check out my list of 12 things to do with kids in California, they might help you with your travel plans.
When I told people I was going on a a family road trip in California, people thought I was crazy! It turns out not only was it a fantastic experience for me, but my kids (aged 5 & 8) loved every minute of it too. There are so many things to do with kids in California. I thought some of the attractions might not be suitable, but they were actually the places that we enjoyed the most!
It made me realise that adventure travel need not stop when you have kids. They enjoyed watching unlimited movies on the long flight, eating out in restaurants every night, and the all important, precious family time. They also enjoyed many of the towns, museums, theme parks and experiences we visited along the way. Here are my top things to do with kids in California, I hope they inspire you to take a family trip Stateside.
1. Bike the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.
This is one of the best things to do in San Francisco. Not only is it a great family day out, but it also gives you and your kids a great sense of achievement. It was a bucketlist experience for me and I gave me memories I will never forget. For more details on my experience, read my blog here.
2. Alcatraz, San Francisco.
Ok so this might sound like a strange choice but let’s face it, if you are in San Francisco you simply have to visit Alcatraz. You will be surprised at how interactive the museum actually is. My two found the cells fascinating and were able to wander in and out of various rooms without any restrictions. I would suggest once kids are old enough to wear head phones and listen to the commentary ( perhaps 5+), they will love it. Make sure you get the treasure hunt maps at the information centre. Kids are encouraged to answer questions in a guide book and once they have completed their task, they are given junior ranger badges at the end of their visit. Make sure you book tickets in advance!
3. Monterey Aquarium, Monterey.
This is not only the best Aquarium in California, but it is one of the best I have seen anywhere. There are numerous exhibitions including playful sea otters and daily interactive shows. My kids loved watching a diver feed sharks inside a tank while speaking to us at the same time.
4. Seal Rookery, San Simeon.
A quick stop along the central coast but worth it for the kids reactions, is the elephant seal rookery at San Simeon. Situated just five minutes drive from the incredible Hearst Castle, this six mile stretch of beach has thousands of seals playing right in front of you.
5. Universal Studios, Hollywood, LA.
A great day out for all the family, Universal Studios is a place you simply must visit. Home to the Wizarding world of Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, Transformers and the Minion ride, there is something for all the family to enjoy here. It is also possible to see the whole park in a day so if short on time and wondering which theme park to choose, it is a great choice.
6. Disneyland California, Anaheim, LA.
There are two parks here, Disneyland Resort and California Adventure so you really need two days to see both parks. Home to all your favourite characters, this will be probably be one of the highlights for the kids, just make sure you have plenty of time to see it!
7. California Science Centre, LA.
After Disneyland and Universal Studios you will welcome the fact that the California Science centre is FREE! It is an amazing museum and one that you could easily spend a whole day in, and still not see everything. This interactive museum encourages kids to explore nature and get involved with science experiments. There are numerous simulators including an earthquake, hurricane and of course our favourite, the space shuttle. For a mere $2 you can get up close and personal with the space shuttle endeavour. The size of it is mesmerising! A great FREE family day out – not to be missed!
8. Hollywood walk of fame, LA.
It’s not that the walk of fame is particularly special but it simply has to be done when visiting LA. See the ‘stars on the sidewalk’ and the hand prints of famous movie stars. There are lots of wannabe actors dressed up in super hero costumes, so kids will enjoy getting their photos taken too.
9. Legoland, San Diego.
My kids (bear in mind they are lego fanatics) California highlight was Legoland. It is a great day out for all the family, although probably suited to more younger kids, than some of the other parks. There are no scary rides but lots of lands with incredible lego sculptures that both adults and kids will enjoy. Bring your swimsuits as the on site water park is ideal for young kids with lots of slides and water fun to choose from. Don’t miss ‘Miniland’, the detail is incredible. Make sure your kids bring their own lego minifigures to swap with the various staff in the park. This is something that my kids loved doing and its a great way to get new lego without paying for it!
10. Seaworld, San Diego.
This might be controversial but you can’t deny it, kids will love it ! See whale and dolphin shows, feed bat-rays and be able to touch various fish, it is a kids paradise. The shows are relatively tame compared to what you might expect and every where you go you are constantly reminded about Sea World’s rescue program. If I’m honest it wasn’t one of my favourite places to visit but my kids really enjoyed it.
11. San Diego Zoo, San Diego.
Constantly named as the world’s best zoo by tripadvisor, the San Diego Zoo is home to 3700 animals. Take the 35 minute guided bus tour when you arrive and suss out your ‘must sees’. Plan to take the Skyfari aerial tram ( cable car ) during the day to give your feet a rest! Highlights include the endangered pandas and the polar bears which you can view via underwater glass.
12. USS Midway, San Diego.
Another great day out and one we all thoroughly enjoyed was the USS Midway museum. Kids are allowed to tour the bridge and sit in the captains chair, climb on board helicopters and are even allowed into the cockpits.
So there you have it, my list of 12 things to do with kids in California. If I have left out any of your favourites, please comment below I would love to hear them. For tips on driving the Pacific Coast Highway, read my blog here and if you are looking for the best places to stop, I have a blog on that too – click here!
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