California

Ultimate guide to things to do in California with kids

Take the iconic family road trip through ‘The Golden State’. California is renowned for being one of the greatest destinations in the world for family travel – you will never be without entertainment and engagement for every member of the family. With theme-parks-galore for toddlers and young children, exciting and iconic cities waiting to be endlessly explored, awe-inspiring nature and adventure sports havens – California is a top pick for the whole family.

destinationhotels.com/paradise-point?SOURCE=FAMILYTRAVEL.COM.AU
Cruising on hover boards was epic. Picture: Supplied.

The kids will love

Los Angeles

Spend an afternoon at Santa Monica Pier, be sure to hit Universal Studios and experience it’s ‘behind the scenes’ attractions, visit a family-friendly concert at the Hollywood Bowl, catch a Dodgers baseball game, visit Griffith Park Observatory – gateway to the cosmos!

San Diego & Disneyland

California’s theme park haven – visit Balboa Park, hosting over 17 museums, sprawling gardens and the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm and, of course, Disneyland.

family friendly American cities
Yosemite has a wild beauty. Picture: Istock.

San Francisco

Visit the city’s crookedest Lombard Street, take a cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf, watch and listen to the hundreds of sea lions at Pier 39, take a tour of the infamous Alcatraz prison, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and finish the perfect afternoon in Ghirardelli Square at the iconic Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and then head to an old-school diner for dinner. You will never run out of kid-friendly, fun things to do in San Francisco!

Yosemite, Sierra Nevada & Lake Tahoe

Hike to a waterfall, zipline through the forest, go water rafting in the Merced River Canyon, take an open-air tram tour through Sierra Nevada National Park or even a moonlight tour. Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, is the quintessential winter adventure destination and super family friendly. Winter sports, water-sports, scenic sightseeing and family recreational activities are among what’s on offer.

Best time to travel

The Californian coast is renowned for its mild, sunny weather all year round. This makes its two shoulder seasons, April to May and September to October, a sweet spot for travel – think low crowds, dropped prices and sunny, cloudless skies. Low season is November to March, and this time is still quite comfortable for travel throughout California. 

The highest season for the coast is June to August. Important to note is that accommodation prices during these months can hike from 50% – 100% throughout most of California’s major destinations. This is reversed for California’s desert areas, such as Sierra Nevada, which experience a low season on account of soaring temperatures. Winter is peak season for these regions, November to February.

Things to do in California with...

family friendly American cities
If the name didn't already tell you, you will get wet at soak city. Picture: Supplied.

Getting around California 

Car rentals are a convenient and affordable option for travel through California – as well as a scenic way to view California’s diverse environment. Booked in advance, most agencies offer car rentals of about $10 a day. Note that children under six or weighing less than 28kg must be seated in the backseat or in a safety seat.

Train travel is another ideal way to view California’s scenery while getting around. Stress-free and efficient, railway service, Amtrak, follows an extensive route along the scenic coast of California as well as has connections inland to hotspot destinations such as Yosemite National Park. The company often offers specials for specific seasons, as well as 15% discounts for students – details can be found at www.amtrak.com/home 

Bus: With great accessibility to both metro and remote areas, buses are a dependable option. Amtrak Thruway buses connect to over 90 destinations throughout California. Most services also connect to Amtrak railway stations making it convenient to travel using both services. There are several bus services that run between the major cities – daily shuttles run between Los Angeles and San Francisco starting from $1! Details can be found at www.cashuttlebus.com

view of Bay bridge and san francsico city skyline from Yerba Buena Island, California, USA.

More about California for families

Accommodation 

  • Hotels and motels commonly have rooms with two double beds with the option of an extra sofa bed or rollaway for a small extra cost. Some accommodation offer promotions for families, such as ‘kids stay for free’. Always ask when booking for information on any promotional offers.
  • Resorts are often the most family-friendly option. Many offer child-care services, licenced babysitting options and activity programs for kids. They can also provide great recommendations for site seeing and family activities upon request.
  • It is advised to always mention that you are travelling with children upon booking any accommodation. Although many hotels and resorts are family friendly, options such as B&Bs can be adult-only and it is common courtesy to let any accommodation know before arrival if you will be travelling with young children.

What to pack

  • For any holiday in California, comfortable walking shoes are a must – you will be surprised how far you will walk visiting the countless attractions of each city! For outdoor activities, particularly for visiting any National Parks, pack any outdoor and hiking gear you may need. If you do forget any essentials, most are available for hire or purchase in the major cities.
  • Portable travel items for babies and toddlers are a practical investment – baby carriers, foldable strollers, high chairs and car seats. Alternatively, many are available for rent from US sites such as www.babysaway.com
  • Sunscreen, swimming costumes and beach gear are essentials – California is renowned for its world-class beaches and beach culture.

Planning 

  • When planning your activities for the major cities and metro areas, particularly Los Angeles and San Francisco, be sure to schedule in extra time for travel. The cities are particularly infamous for traffic and travelling between the sites can sometimes take some time.
What’s on?

The best annual events for families in Adelaide

Feb/March – Adelaide Fringe

You’ll find family and kid friendly shows at Adelaide’s wild and wonderful Fringe festival.

March - Adelaide Festival

Australia’s premier Arts festival showcases theatre, world-class musicians, dance, writers and visual art.

March – Adelaide 500

This motorsport spectacular is packed with action and entertainment for families. The 2021 Superloop Adelaide 500 will occur on revised dates in 2021.

March – South Australia History Festival

Enjoy hundreds of events such as talks to workshops exploring the local history.

March – WOMADelaide

Enjoy family friendly performances and workshops by the world’s best traditional and contemporary musicians, dancers and DJs.

May – DreamBig Children’s Festival

This arts festival for schools and families is the largest of its kind in the world.

September – Royal Adelaide Show

Experience animals, rides, food and entertainment as the country comes to the city.

October – OzAsia Festival

Australia’s biggest Asian arts festival.

Popular stories

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get notified about new articles