|Southern California is made for family vacations. Draped with golden beaches, the region has hundreds of family-friendly attractions and good weather to enjoy it all.
The most popular family draw, of course, is Disneyland. But there are dozens of other experiences that make Southern California a must-see family destination. Here are recommendations for a three-day California adventure.
Surf City, USA
Huntington Beach, California
If your little ones are thrilled with sun and sand, begin your trip in Huntington Beach, often called Surf City, USA. Just 35 miles (56 km) south of Los Angeles, this coastal community has 200,000 residents who are lucky enough to call this sunny stretch of coastline home. The weather is great year-round. December is the coolest time of year, when it can reach down into the 40s, although the average is in the 60s.
|The ocean breezes make kite flying a snap.
Base camp can be set up at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, which is happily located across the street from the beach (a bridge walkway connects the two).
This beautiful resort is kid-friendly from the get-go and includes Slyders, a water playground with slides and a poolside restaurant.
Camp Hyatt can keep kids entertained with dive-in movies, hair braiding and other activities when parents want to have a little time on their own.
Standard rooms are large but you might want to consider a junior suite, which has a sofa sleeper and extra room for the kids.
Dozens of nearby attractions, including Knott’s Berry Farm and Aquarium of the Pacific, may tempt you away, but kick back and enjoy Mother Nature right here on the beach.
Rent bikes and helmets from Toes on the Nose, located at the Hyatt Regency, and take off along the wide bike path that follows the shore. Stop for lunch at Duke’s Huntington Beach for scrumptious seafood and great views of the ocean.
From there, why not buy a kite from Kite Connections, located right on the beach, and have some fun? The ocean breezes make kite flying a snap!
Or try a surfing lesson from Toes on the Nose, who offers classes on the beach right across from the Hyatt. Wetsuits and boards are provided.
If you’d rather just chill out, pack some snacks and drinks and spend the day parked on the golden sand beach. It’s what has been drawing people here for years!
At night, hang out with the kids around a beach campfire. Toes on the Nose offers bonfires and s’mores.
|LEGOLAND theme park has interactive attractions, rides, restaurants and more than 15,000 LEGO models.
LEGOLAND California Resort
If your kids are 12 and under, make your way south to Carlsbad for a visit to LEGOLAND. For starters, you might want to make your base at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, which has its very own entrance to the park.
The Mediterranean-style resort is perched on a hill overlooking the valley. Its open-air architecture is complimented with luxurious touches and palm-lined grounds. The pool is popular with kids and adults will enjoy the views.
From the Sheraton, you can simply walk over to LEGOLAND. The decade-old theme park has interactive attractions, rides, restaurants and more than 15,000 LEGO models created from more than 35 million LEGO bricks. Now that’s a lot of LEGOS!
The attention to detail is amazing in the LEGO recreation of places such as the Las Vegas strip, New Orleans and many of the wonders of the world. Many exhibits include moving parts, including working bus and subways systems, floating boats, moving animals and even wind-surfers!
Kids can spend time building, programming and testing their own LEGO robot. (This experience is free, but classes fill up each morning, so get in early to make a reservation.)
New additions to the park include the Lost Kingdom Adventure and Dune Raiders, an ultimate slide adventure featuring six 50-foot racing lanes. Be sure to check out Sea Life Aquarium, an interactive guide to the life of the sea.
Park hours vary, so be sure to check the park website.
Wild Animal Park
San Diego, California
From Carlsbad it’s a short drive to the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park where the kids can get up close and personal with giraffes, elephants, zebras and much more.
Although the park has many excellent animal exhibits, it is much more than a zoo. Guests may take guided tours into the animal habitats to view them like never before.
There are several safaris to choose from. The Journey into Africa Tour showcases the diversity of wildlife on the African continent. Each safari vehicle journeys past rhinos, antelope, zebras, giraffes and much more.
The Ride on the Wild Side experience takes visitors in an electric cart to meet animals up close, where guests can visit the back area of the Lion Camp and then see the cheetah’s bedrooms.
|In the Wild Animal Park guests can get up close and personal with the animals.
The Cheetah Run takes small groups to the Cheetah Outpost, where these amazing animals are viewed as they race past chasing a mechanical rabbit lure. The exercise keeps the animals sleek and fit.
One of the most sought-after experiences at the park is the Photo Caravan Safari, which takes visitors right into the heart of the field exhibits. Guests can feed the giraffes and pose for photos with these amazing animals.
Each safari experience has a different ticket price so view the park’s website for more details.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring the park exhibits including Nairobi Village, the Lion Camp and the African Aviary. The zoo has an enviable reputation as one of the best in the country.
By the end of the day, you’ll be tired but happy. And your kids? They’ll have unforgettable childhood memories of their California adventure.
If You Go
Huntington Beach Visitors Bureau
Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa
Legoland California Resort