When it comes to fun things to do in California for kids, the opportunities are endless. From world-famous theme parks to one of the best zoos on the planet, there are so many exciting places to explore with little ones.
With so many fun things to get up to, planning an itinerary for a holiday in this famous state can get overwhelming pretty quickly. But fear not, as I am a fount of knowledge when it comes to this gorgeous part of the world. From the best cities to visit in California to the most amazing things to get up to, I know the score.
When planning a trip to California your to-do list is sure to be filling up fast so, to help you plan an unforgettable family vacation, sit tight as I share the top 9 things to do in California for kids.
One place in particular that is sure to leave a lasting impression and is an absolute must for those visiting California with kids is the magical world of Disneyland. Kids will be immersed in an imaginative dream world where they can even meet and get signed autographs from their favourite characters!
That’s not to say the adults won’t be having a ball too – it’s impossible not to embrace the excitement in the air and enjoy the floods of nostalgia that continually pass over as the park takes you back to your own childhood.
Thrilling rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder will take you on fantastic adventures across the magical landscapes of your favourite movies. There are also plenty of delicious snacks to be had in the park, from cotton candy to indulgent chocolate-chip cookie sundaes – you certainly won’t be getting hungry in Disneyland.
As if that isn’t enough to inspire you to pay a visit to this famous park, there are also themed areas such as Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Critter Country, which transport you to fantastical worlds of adventure. The excitement certainly doesn’t stop when the sun goes down as in the evening, as a mesmerising display of shooting water jets, neon lasers and pyrotechnics known as ‘The World of Colour’ takes over the skies, decorating them with a stunning array of shooting colours and shapes.
2. Lake Tahoe
Nestled within the Sierra Nevada mountain range lies the beautiful Lake Tahoe: the largest alpine lake in North America. This beautiful haven is crying out to be explored by young adventurers who can embark on fantastic escapades investigating the magnificent landscape and discovering hidden natural gems.
Picture a shimmering body of deep blue water surrounded by a gorgeous evergreen forest and a dramatic snow-capped mountainscape in what is easily one of the best places to visit in California for kids. No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, you will be spoilt with exciting things to get up to.
During the winter, the resort has a whole host of opportunities for embracing the snow, including shredding the white mountainside on skis, snowboards or a sledge. When visiting over the sunny summer months, you can explore Lake Tahoe’s beautiful deep waters by kayaking, swimming, fishing and boating, all of which are sure to be fun for all the family.
3. Monterey Bay Aquarium
Another of the most popular tourist attractions in California for kids, Monterey Bay Aquarium promises an incredible day of adventure, meeting some of the best creatures that our oceans have to offer. Get up-close and personal with over 550 colourful aquatic species that are sure to catch the attention of kids and adults alike.
With there being so many wonderful places to visit in California for kids, your to-do is likely filling up pretty quickly. Never fear, as this place is an easy one to fit as it can be covered in half a day, leaving plenty of time to explore some of the other family-friendly attractions in the area. Its convenient location also makes a perfect pit-stop for those on a drive from San Francisco to LA.
Boasting quite the claim to fame, Monterey Bay Aquarium is actually known to have inspired Finding Dory; the Disney classic that follows the journey of a forgetful Blue Hippo Tang by the name of Dory. Along with her fellow species, you will be able to spot plenty of unique marine creatures during your visit to the perfect place to visit in California for kids.
4. Yosemite National Park
A real haven, Yosemite National Park is filled with spectacular opportunities for adventures that little explorers are sure to enjoy. Filled with stunning scenery, children will be enthralled by the idyllic waterfalls and flourishing meadows, as well as The Largest Living Tree: the General Sherman Giant Sequoia.
Don’t forget to pack your walking boots before heading off to Yosemite, as the park is bursting with brilliant hiking routes that will take you around stunning lakes and beautiful forests. During your time here, be sure to check out the beautiful John Muir Trail where you will be blown away by the stunning scenery.
You should also keep a careful eye out for some of the park’s marvellous wildlife residents, such as the bobcats, songbirds, marmots and many many butterflies. With postcard-perfect scenery and so many opportunities for adventure, visiting Yosemite is definitely one of the best things to do for kids in California.
If it’s gorgeous settings that you’re after on your vacation, why not take a look at my blog on the most beautiful places in California?
5. Six Flags Magic Mountain
Family vacations in California for kids would not be complete without a visit to an incredible theme park: Six Flags Magic Mountain. Stretching over 262 acres, this place is a fantastic fit for all the family, with hair-raising rides for the thrill-seeking teens and cutesy adventures for little ones.
For the young adventurers, there are tame options such as Bugs Bunny World where they can safely enjoy a little taste of excitement without subjecting parents to too much worry! Expect a day screaming, laughing and making amazing memories together at this remarkable theme park.
6. Universal Studios
Show the kids see how their favourite movies were created with a visit to Universal Studios; a working movie studio and theme park. A visit to this attraction is easily one of the most amazing things for kids to do in California.
As well as going on adrenaline-pumping rides that will set their hearts racing, visitors can also get a taste of the behind the scenes action of some of their favourite films by checking out movie sets. You can get a real feel for how some blockbuster movies were made by exploring setups and hearing all about how the most famous stunts were filmed.
One of the most popular activities for kids in California has to be visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Step straight into the wonderful world of J.K. Rowling’s creation by wandering through the magical town of Hogsmeade and stopping off for a butterbeer along the way.
On the roller coaster scene, there are a bunch of hair-raising options such as Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park and Transformers, during which you can bond by sharing exhilarating adventures. If you’re lucky enough, you might also get to catch sight of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood during your time at the studios.
7. San Diego Zoo
Sitting in Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo is a fabulous place to explore with all the family. Combining wildlife care with science and education, the facility develops sustainable conservation solutions with the aim of creating a comfortable environment in which animals can thrive
Nowadays, paying a visit to this zoo is seen as one of the most highly-regarded things to do in California with kids, but this comes as no surprise considering that it is one of the largest zoos in the world! On the animal front, expect to be blown away by hippos, leopards and giraffes along with adorable sloths and koalas and a ton of other extraordinary creatures.
With over 3,700 fascinating residents, the facility is home to loads of exciting species which provide a spectacular snapshot of nature’s most extraordinary creatures. Along with being one of the most fun places in California for kids, San Diego Zoo also teaches visitors about its amazing animals and makes an educational outing for both adults and kids.
8. Knotts Berry Farm
For those on the lookout for Southern California attractions for kids – Knotts Berry Farm has to be on your list! A magical amusement site in Buena Park, the facility sprawls over 160-acres and is full of exciting opportunities for fun and adventure.
If you and your kids happen to be sticklers for the classic cartoons, Knotts Berry Farm is the place for you. You will be able to catch a glimpse of classic icons such as Snoopy and Charlie Brown, and will also be treated to live shows, old cartoons, water rides and roller coasters – what could be better?
A perfect option for those tempted by Disney Land but hesitant about the crowds, Knotts Berry Farm offers fun, adventure and even the opportunity to meet some much-loved mascots, all without the relentless crowds.
9. Legoland California
A dream world for all of the budding builders out there, visiting Legoland is one of the most amazing things to do in California for kids. Combining fun entertainment and problem-solving, there is plenty to keep you entertained and stimulated at this park.
Boasting over 60 rides and activities, you will be able to meander around awe-inspiring reconstructions of Washington DC, New York and San Francisco and explore the multicoloured miniature lego-sculpted worlds of Ninjago, Star Wars and Fun Town. If feeling inspired, you can even start building your own constructions and bring places from your imagination to life.
Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, as the park is also home to a fabulous water park! A fantastic day out for adults as well as children, do not miss out on Legoland if visiting California with kids.
A veritable paradise for your imagination to run wild, you are unlikely to find a more perfect destination for a family vacation than the wonderful state of California. Brimming with sights to see and fun activities to get up to, it’s impossible for kids to get bored in this vibrant part of the world.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on the Top Things to Do in California with Kids. You can check out more of my recommendations for this state in my California Travel Guide here.