You parents have been total troupers through the long winter, dealing with muddy little galoshes leaving tracks on the carpet and nursing the crew through the cold-and-flu season. Can you get a break already? Well, we have just the cure to ditch those post-winter blahs with some ideas for family travel in California, perfect for a quick getaway or maybe a splurge on something longer for the summer months ahead. Either way, we guarantee these will be just as much fun for you as the knee-highs, with not an eye-roll in sight.
Sand and Sea in Southern California
Temperatures are warming up and the days are getting longer. Did someone say beach day? Oh, we did. Because we want you to have endless fun in the sun all while making memories that will remain long after the tan fades. And what better place to get all beachy than Southern California with its miles of coastline, broad bays, endless bike paths, and fun-filled attractions that are a natural for getting the whole tribe out in the plentiful sunshine? Some of our top picks for frothy fun include:
Kayaking the La Jolla sea caves and Ecological Reserve is like letting the kids loose in a giant aquarium, with the possibility of seeing sea lions, bright orange Garibaldi fish (California’s state marine fish), and dolphins. Local companies like Everyday California lead great tours or offer rentals for self-guided adventures.
Cruise San Diego’s coastal waters in twin-engine rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) with Xplore Offshore. These boats are small and nimble enough to get you up-close and personal with marine life like whales and dolphins, but also have some pep, too, so you feel like you’re on an oceangoing carnival ride. Yee haw!
Go fly a kite! And not just anywhere, but from the historic Huntington Beach pier. An icon that has been the location of countless surf contests, the century-old pier is also home to Kite Connection, where you can choose from multiple colorful styles of kites. Another option at the pier is to rent a bike from Zack’s Surf Shop, then cruise the eight-mile-long paved boardwalk so the kids can take in the broad stretch of beach made famous as “Surf City.”
San Francisco Attractions and Adventures
Cable cars, bike rides across the Golden Gate Bridge, and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Sounds like kid heaven to us. Here’s you SF Family Fun 411:
You can’t go to San Francisco — certainly the kids won’t let you, anyway — without hitching a ride on San Francisco’s beloved cable cars. These colorful open-air trolleys have been clanging up and down the city’s hilly streets for more than 125 years. For the full ride, jump on at Powell and Market streets and take it to the end of the line at Hyde or Mason streets. The Powell-Hyde line leaves you at Ghirardelli Square, a boutique-filled historic marketplace where a chocolate shop plays a starring role. The Powell-Mason line ends at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s number-one attraction, brimming with a week’s-worth of kid-friendly activities.
Sure, Fisherman’s Wharf and the nearby Pier 39 shopping and entertainment center are listed in every guidebook, but there’s a good reason. As a parent, you can appreciate the value (and peace of mind) offered by a one-stop shop for family fun. Boutiques filled with plush toys, bracelet charms, and chocolate? Check. Bay-view restaurants with pizzas and clam chowder served in a sourdough bowl? Check. Attractions like an aquarium where they can see a giant octopus up-close and then hop on a San Francisco Bay cruise to Alcatraz Island? Double-check and wow.
After Pier 39, they’ll be tugging on your sleeve to explore more of the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, including the classic ships at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum (believe it or not, you might not have a choice on this one). And for something they’ll be talking about at school for the rest of the year, rent bikes for a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Talk about bragging rights.
Where to Stay When You Play
Kimpton loves California — we were founded here after all — so we’ve got some great hotels you can pair with your family adventures. In Southern California, our shiny new Shorebreak Hotel hugs the sand along Huntington Beach, providing killer pier views. We’ve got some great packages perfect for the family, including one that even comes with surf lessons.
You can check out the latest and greatest in food, wine and wow in the Golden State on our California Living page.
Kite photo: Visit Huntington Beach; kayaker photo: Mark Hiss
Updated February 3, 2016