California is a warm, sunny state in the western United States and has lovely tourist attractions, making this state perfect for a beautiful road trip. Driving across the Pacific Coast Highway, which ranks among the world’s best beautiful road drive, to lush green and mighty national parks of Yosemite, to beautiful lake cities, to the hottest place – Death Valley, mesmerizing beaches, cultural counties, and many more would be the perfect way to plan your California itinerary with family and kids. Listing some of my favorite and 11 best places to visit in California with family and kids.
11 Best Places To Visit In California With Family – Best Places to visit in California with kids
Let’s read the list of some best family friendly places in California on your west coast USA road trip.
Things to do in San Francisco City tour
- Driving across the famous Golden Gate Bridge
- Fisherman’s Wharf/ Pier
- Catching the ferry and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge
- Walking and driving across Crooked street
- Little Italy and China Town walking tours
- Alamo Square and famous SF painted ladies’ home tour.
- Haight Ashbury Square
- Famous museums and galleries.
- View the whole city from the top floor of any bar or restaurant.
- Ride old-styled trams through the zig-zag slopes of the city.
- Big Bus night tour.
TOUR OPTIONS –
Why San Francisco – San Francisco is one of America’s most vibrant cities with stunning views, slopy roads, colorful houses, changing weather, beautiful bridges, museums, gardens, and many more things. The beauty of this city is that it can be explored by bikes, or walking. The city which you can cover within a day.
Dining options – Check some cafes and restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier, Little Italy, and Union Square. The Cheesecake factory above Macy’s at Union Square is great for food, with an outside dining option on the terrace for lovely views. For Indian cuisine, North India in the Downtown neighborhood is a great option.
Yosemite National Park
A 1200 sq. miles area blessed with natural beauties is a paradise for all nature lovers. Located at northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountain, here you can enjoy outdoor nature activities like hiking, climbing mountains, horseback riding, and river rafting in summer and, snow skiing, snowboarding in winter. It is one of the most visited national parks in the USA. It is famous for granite monoliths like Half Dome and Capitan.
Things to do in Yosemite – Must do in Yosemite
- Ribbon Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Horsetail Falls, Vernal Fall
- Yosemite Ziplines & Adventure Ranch
- Tunnel View
- Nevada Fall & Liberty Cap
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
- Merced River Main fork
- Yosemite helicopter and sky diving tours.
- Glacier Point & El Capitan
- Olmsted Point
Why Yosemite National Park – It is a nature’s paradise with all forms of nature blooming at every corner of this National Park. Enjoy the spectacular granite monoliths with the sunset as they look like fire at sunset. Also, it houses 400 species of flora, fauna, and wildlife. Here waterfalls are famous due to the formation of a rainbow with them. Therefore Yosemite is a favorite road trip from San Francisco.
Dining Options – If you are going on a day trip then there are a couple of restaurants in The Village center of Yosemite National Park. You also get good vegetarian and vegan-friendly burgers and wraps at Village Grill Deck. Many campers and hikers carry their own food. There are specially designated areas for camping which you need to book in advance.
Lake Tahoe is the largest Alpine lake in North America and is the most popularly visited attraction too. The clear cobalt blue-colored water body surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range will captivate your mind with its stunning natural beauty. Spanning over two states – California and Nevada, this lake is popular among nature enthusiasts, hikers, campers, bikers, etc. The breathtaking scenery of Lake Tahoe would amaze you and it is a summer and winter-friendly destination.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe
- Heavenly Mountain Resort
- Emerald Bay State Park
- Northstar California Resort
- Alpine Meadows
- Sand Harbor
- King’s Beach State Recreation area.
- Lake Tahoe Balloons or Cruises.
Why Lake Tahoe – Relaxing in nature, peaceful getaway in between mountains and lake. Romantic getaway with lots of scenic routes while coming and going out.
Dining Options – On Stateline, there are many restaurants, bars, cafes to have food of your choice.
A famous beach city with 70 miles of spectacular coastline and is blessed with a perfect climate throughout the year. This city has the perfect blend of historic, cultural, and modern attractions. Not only attractions but this city is also known as a foodie city due to the amazing dining and nightlife scene.
Things to do in San Diego
- Balboa Park with the Spanish style of architecture
- Famous San Diego Zoo
- Indulge in Mexican food at colorful Cantinas
- San Diego’s Port with Naval ship and maritime museum
- San Diego’s Port Village tour.
- Old Mexican styled historic town
Why San Diego – Culture and History lovers, foodies, families, and beach lovers.
Dining Options – Cafe Coyote in an old Historic town is the best option to have amazing Mexican food with lots of Mexican vibes. For Indian Cuisine – India Palace is the best place to find delicious food and stunning decor. There are many restaurants in the Downtown Gaslamp neighborhood as it is the famous eating street of San Diego. Little Italy and Hillcrest also have amazing dining options with multi-cuisine.
Death Valley National Park
The driest and hottest point of North America is known for extreme temperatures. This point is the lowest elevation on the continent—282 feet below sea level. Death Valley is one of the largest national parks in North America and due to extreme weather, it is known for an adventure trip. This location is seen in many movie backdrops because of its picturesque desert landscape.
CAUTION – The extreme temperature in summer is recorded to 57 deg Celsius (134 deg F).
Things to do in Death Valley National Park
- Zabriskie Point
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
- Badwater Basin
- Dante’s View
- Devil’s Golf Course
- Ubehebe Crater
Why Death Valley National Park – Adventure lovers, Desert backdrop lovers, bumpy drive with many roller-coaster types of road, Road, and Mountain biking.
Dining Options – Carry your own food and lots of fluids – water in Death Valley National Park as you will not see any human activity till miles and miles.
Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Venice
The most glamourous city of southern California boasts world-class tourist spots, idyllic weather, a funky dining scene, and many cultural-artistic attractions. Not only inside the city but there are so many day trips to the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica and Venice.
Things to do in Los Angeles
- Universal Studios
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Rodeo Drive
- Beverly Hills Celebrity tours
- Museums and Studio tours
Why Los Angeles – Shopping, theme parks, movie-buffs, and idyllic beaches.
Dining Options – Cabo Wabo at Hollywood Walk of Fame has an amazing Mexican food option. California Pizza Kitchen nearby is also a great dining option. For Indian cuisine, I would recommend Bombay Beach near Downtown and Flavor of India at West Hollywood.
Santa Barbara is, also known as Californian Riveria, famous for its beautiful Mediterranean climate. It has several pretty beaches, Mediterranean architecture, and palm trees. Also, it houses the famous California mission and State Street shops with laidback quaint vibes. Solvang – the Danish capital of the US, will enchant you with the European style of architecture.
Things to do in Santa Barbara – Solvang
- Chromatic Gate
- East Beach
- Old Mission Santa Barbara
- Whale Watching Tours
- Santa Barbara Zoos
- State Street
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara
- Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
- Stearns Wharf
- Old Santa Ines Mission
- Walk around the historic town and spot the Little Mermaid fountain, 5 windmills, the giant red clog & Round Tower
- Shop across 150 boutique shops
- Santa Ynez Valley tour
- Hans Christian Andersen Museum
- Wildling Museum
- Ostrichland USA
Why Santa Barbara, Solvang
Danish Capital of America – Solvang
SANTA BARBARA – For Mediterranean vibes, idyllic beachside resorts, exotic street-side restaurants, swaying palms.
SOLVANG – You will get a taste of Europe in heart of California as this place has European heritage architecture. It is called as “Danish Capital of America”
Dining Options – Santa Barbara has more than 420 restaurants which prove it to be one of the best foodie city. The Downtown, waterfront, and Uptown all areas are having the best eating options with outdoor seating areas too.
Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur
Monterey Bay is known as the Serengeti of Marine life. With vibrant Pier and amazing marine life, Monterey attracts ocean lovers. Not only Monterey but its nearby cities like Carmel-by-the-Sea too attract people a lot. Carmel – A Victorian seaside town is known for its rustic charm with historic Spanish mission, beautiful village vibes. A perfect romantic seaside town with sandy beaches, streets decked with trees.
Things to do in Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur
- Old Fisherman’s Wharf
- Del Monte Beach
- Monterey Aquarium and museums
- Old Historic Pacific Home
- Carmel State Beach
- Point Lobos State Reserve
- Seventeen Mile Drive
- Tor House
- Walk along Ocean Avenue – for rustic village vibes.
- Winery tour across Folktale Winery & Vineyard, Holman Ranch, Cowgirl Winery, and many more.
- Take a tour of Carmel Fairytale Cottages.
- Bixby Creek Bridge
- Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
- McWay falls
Why Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur – Fairytale cottages, countryside with lovely beaches and mountains, food and nature.
Dining Options – Carmel has many good dining options at Ocean Avenue. If you want to try out Indian cuisine then Namaste India is very good at Monterey.
Napa is one of the most beautiful wine regions to visit in the world. Famous for wineries and vineyards the sight of vineyards with rainbows is amazing here. Lots of sunshine, nature, exotic wines, and food are the top features of the Napa region. It is said that there are more than 300 wineries that are open for tastings.
Things to do in Napa Valley
- Winery and Brewery Tours
- Food & wine tastings
- Napa Valley Balloon tours
- Ride Napa Valley Wine Train
- Experience mud bath at Calistoga
- Walk around downtown Napa
- Silverado Trail
- Hike to Mt. Saint Helena & Linda Falls
- Visit Lake Berryessa
Why Napa Valley – Wine lovers, Farm lovers, nature lovers would love this place. Perfect for romantic getaways for couples and also a family getaway. Idyllic holiday option to get away from busy city life.
Dining Options – Wine tastings and gourmet restaurants at wineries or Napa town center.
Known for its Alpine beauty and majestic mountain peaks. Located on the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges on the eastern side of the state border this place is perfect for nature lovers. You would love the wilderness of nature, rugged peaks kissing the blue skies, sparkling Alpine lakes. It is the perfect place for nature adventurers.
Things to do in Mammoth Lake
- John Muir Trail
- Mammoth Mountain Hiking Trail
- Devils Postpile National Monument
- Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
- Convict Lake
- Rainbow Falls & Hot Creek
- Twin Lakes
- Visit Mono Lake
- Minaret Vista
- June Lake
Why Mammoth Lake – Nature lovers would love this place. Also closer to Yosemite National Park, this can be your base city for stay when you visit the Yosemite region in summer. In winter, this place becomes a hot destination for skiers and hikers.
Dining Options – Giovanni’s is best for pizza and offers one big giant pizza for the full family. The other great option for Pizza is John’s Pizza Works.
Morro Bay – San Simeon
Morro Bay – Gibraltar of Pacific know for surfing, enchanting coasts, sandy beaches, and a perfect coastal holiday spot for nature lovers.
San Simeon –
One of the most beautiful spots on this highway and not to be missed during this drive. Exotic coastal cliffs and vast ocean views are worth turning off Highway 1 with elephant seals lying across beaches in their natural habitat. San Simeon is a beautiful stopover at Pacific Coast Highway scenic drive.
Things to do in Morro Bay – San Simeon
- Morro Rock
- Morro Bay State Park
- Walk around the colorful town of Morro Bay.
- San Simeon Hearst Castle
- Elephant Seals viewing point
- San Simeon Beaches
- Piedras Blancas Light Station
Why Morro Bay – San Simeon – ocean-side golf, kayaking, sailing, hiking, fishing, surfing, biking, and bird watching, to kite flying, shopping, dining, wine bars, local craft brews. Marine life lovers would love this place to spot Elephant seals playing across the Pacific Coast in their natural habitat.
Dining Options – Morro Bay town has many eating options as the town is very colorful and touristic with many seaside restaurants and resorts.
CALIFORNIA TRIP General Tips – 11 Best Places To Visit In California With Family & Kids
- There are not many toll roads in California. If there are some toll roads, then take the Carpool lane if you are traveling in a group of 3 or more. Or else take side lanes less than 3.
- The roads are cozy, mountainous and so drive accordingly
- California is a warm place so pack light woolens or jackets too.
- Pacific Coast Highway Drive 1 should be incorporated into your California Itinerary.
- Nowadays, National parks need a prior reservation. Plan accordingly
- California has many public-free beaches on a coastal drive. So keep your beachwear, slippers, and beach gear ready in your car.
- There are not many eating options on scenic drives
or coastal drives. So carry light snacks & water on the road
- The driver can often be dizzy due to curvatures on roads in mountainous regions. Mostly you will find high cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other if you travel to tourist attractions.
I hope you loved reading about 11 Best Places To Visit In California With Family & Kids, which takes you across the world’s famous scenic highway, covering one of the most beautiful national parks, the hottest area on Earth, the biggest lake in the US, cultural-historic towns, stunning marine life in their natural habitat, fun and frolic throughout. So buckle your seatbelts, pack your bags and take a trip to California with many places to visit, things to do, and great food to eat with your loved ones.
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