Things to do in California with Kids
Has a road trip through California been on your vacation wish list for a long time and you finally want to fulfill this dream together with your family? Check out our tips below for things to do in California with kids to kick-off your family roadsurfer road trip!
First and foremost, there are so many things to do in California with kids. A road trip on the West Coast is especially fun for children and parents! It offers everything a good family vacation needs: beaches to relax and play around, fun and adventure at numerous theme parks, vibrant cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, and a variety of activities in the stunning national parks. And thanks to our convenient rental location in Los Angeles, you can accomplish all these wonderful adventures in one of roadsurfer’s Couple Condo or Liberty Lodge models. Our RV camper vans will prove plenty spacious for your large or small family, you’ll arrive comfortably and safely at all the sights you want to explore, and you’ll be traveling in style!
A round trip through California will spoil you and your children with many different highlights! We’ll tell you exactly what those are, what your itinerary might look like, and what else you should keep in mind when preparing for a vacation with your children!
Things to do in California with kids: Ideas for your itinerary
With so many options, especially for families, naturally, it can be hard to narrow it down to just a few itineraries. Our top 3 Californian road trips will take you from L.A. to the most amazing destinations. Depending on how much time you have, you can spend five days to three weeks fully enjoying your family vacation in California on the following routes:
- The Sea in Sight: Cruise Highway 1 to San Francisco
- Pure Nature: In the the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite National Park
- Desert Delights: Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park
Check out additional travel tips, important places, and useful information for all three dream routes in our article about road trips in California.
Traveling the West Coast with Kids: Must-Do's
Tour Griffith Park in Los Angeles
Griffith Park, located right next to the Santa Monica Mountains, is a paradise for kids. The 17-acre park can be explored on foot or even on horseback. The magnificent views from the observatory offer young and old the opportunity to get close to the stars. Carousels from the 1920s and 19th-century trains that are on display will take you on a journey to another time!
Everything is Possible at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios is a dream destination for anybody who is a fan of movies and TV series! The park boasts multiple themed rides through the movie sets and props of legendary blockbusters, such as Jurassic Park, King Kong, Jaws, and Harry Potter. These familiar television sights and rides will conjure up a smile on every child’s face! You’ll get plenty of adventure and action on the one-hour insider tour that goes behind the scenes of past and present film sets, feeling like you’re in the scenes of your favorite movies. Additionally, there are adored characters greeting children, fun rides, and many live shows.
Steep Uphill: Take the Cable Car Through San Francisco
San Francisco has always captivated people from near and far with its charm and unique cityscape. This also includes the cable cars, popular among tourists, as they jerk up the steep streets of the Foggy City in a colorful and pleasantly squeaking manner. Some other ideas for a fun visit for any son or daughter: enjoy views from the impressive Golden Gate Bridge or the Bay Bridge, walk the lively harbor district at Fisherman’s Wharf, watch the serpentine Lombard Street, and explore the massive Golden Gate Park which offers various attractions and rides.
Find Nemo at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
One of the largest and most popular museums of its kind in the world, the Aquarium is dedicated to doing its part to protect the oceans. More than 35,000 sea creatures, huge house-sized pools, tunnels, interactive shows, and exhibits completely immerse visitors in an underwater world. If that’s not impressive enough, the fantastic view over the steep cliffs in the outdoor area will inspire you.
Fun and nature during every season at Lake Tahoe
Beautiful Lake Tahoe is picturesquely enclosed by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and divided between California and Nevada. Families can soak up the sun in the summer by swimming, kayaking, hiking, and biking. During winter, the area around Lake Tahoe transforms into one of the absolute best skiing and snowboarding locations California has to offer! The promised land for outdoor enthusiasts!
Feel like a dwarf in Sequoia National Park
The towering giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park grow up to 300 feet in height and have a ground diameter of over 25 feet! Traveling either by car or on foot through this spectacular landscape is guaranteed to leave your kids speechless! The experience is heightened by impressive mountain panoramas, deep canyons, and a multitude of cave systems.
On the trail of the gold rush in Columbia
Columbia is one of the best-preserved gold rush towns in California and lets you experience first-hand how wild and rough the days and nights must have been in a Wild West town! Feel the heat in an old blacksmith shop, try your luck at panning for gold, ride in an authentic stagecoach, or treat yourself to ice cream in an old-fashioned saloon. There’s not much more you can ask for while road tripping through California with the kids!
California with Children: 6 Tips for Proper Planning
A road trip through the Golden State offers plenty of opportunities for a perfect family vacation – especially if pieces of the puzzle come together correctly and you plan your trip in advance! We’ll give you tips on how to keep the fun quota high and the stress level as low as possible:
#1 It never hurts to layer
The temperature differences in California can be surprisingly drastic: between sun-drenched areas in the south and mountainous, rugged areas in the central part of the state, it’s best to travel around with multiple layers of clothing to be prepared for any temperature. If you are traveling for a longer period of time and do not want to take your entire closet with you, you can use one of the countless, inexpensive laundromats available on the road.
#2 Pack enough sunscreen
The Californian sun will be a constant companion, whether you’re on a road trip in the summer or a ski vacation in the winter. A high SPF is necessary because the sun here can be aggressive. Especially if you’re spending a lot of time in nature and traveling with children or a baby, you should take extra precautions with sun protection and appropriate sun clothing.
#3 Book campsites in time
Of course, the perfect campground will make your family vacation an unforgettable experience! However, keep in mind that you can’t stay free everywhere in California and campsites should be booked well in advance when possible. Popular sites in state parks and national parks are sometimes booked months in advance. You’ll want to avoid the problem of last-minute campsite searching with kids in the backseat.
#4 Stress-free theme park trips
California is a paradise for theme parks of all kinds and a sure bet for happy kids. However, such a visit can quickly end in stress! It’s best to buy tickets directly online, find out about Express Pass offers to avoid long lines, and bring your own snacks with you to avoid spoiling the mood with the sometimes horrendous prices of the food.
Tip: It is always best to visit theme parks on weekdays!
#5 Junior Ranger Programs in the National Parks
Even though the national parks are often a big enough adventure for the little ones, the free resources, games, and activities from the junior ranger programs provide additional possibilities to explore nature in a playful and entertaining way. You can get these either by asking at visitor centers or by downloading them online in advance. Maybe this is the start of a ranger career?
#6 Allow for enough time
In a state like California that offers so much (national parks, amusement parks, beaches, and mountains) it’s easy to want to cram too many stops into your road trip. But remember, especially when traveling with kids, everything takes a little longer. Keep in mind, that many highlights in California are very interactive, so kids will be well entertained. Worst case scenario, you have to come and visit California for a second time!
California Road Trip on Parental Leave
A well-planned parental leave is an ideal opportunity to take a long-cherished dream trip together. When else during your working life, will you have as much time for a family vacation as you do during your parental leave? Whether it is a few weeks or a few months, you shouldn’t miss out on this quality family time. Financially, a long-distance trip during this time does make sense, since babies and toddlers are sometimes free on airplanes and at theme parks. With an RV camper van, you’re also very flexible on the road and can respond wonderfully to all eventualities with your toddler: naps, breastfeeding, preparing meals, and then off again. Back to your adventure feeling refreshed. California is a very travel-friendly state, with a well-developed road system, modern campgrounds, and a comfortable infrastructure. What could be better than a road trip with your kids in California?