1. Theme Park Thrills
California is an adrenaline junkie’s nirvana. For families seeking the ultimate theme park experience, this state has it all. The rides are bigger, better and built to thrill even the bravest young adventurer. Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbour are famed for their fast-paced rollercoasters and impressive array of action-packed amusements. Outside of LA, Knott’s Berry Farm is America’s first ever theme park, and is described as ‘California’s Best Theme Park’, but we’ll let you be the judge. Designed as a traditional family theme park, combined with California’s famous farm culture, Knott’s Berry Farm is the ideal setting for a thrilling day in Orange County. Younger children can enjoy all that Legoland in San Diego has to offer, including the fabulous waterpark – an ideal way to cool off in the heat!
2. Movie Magic
The iconic Hollywood sign is one of California’s most famed attractions, but movie-buffs know most of the magic happens away from the Hollywood Hills and inside super-sized studio lots. At Universal Studios in Los Angeles, guests can uncover the impressive goings-on behind the scenes, and explore the set, of many blockbuster films. Universal Studios is designed to give families a perfect and memorable day out with an array of incredible attractions and unrivalled experiences. We recommend upgrading to the VIP Experience, to cut queue times and feel like a star whilst you tour the set. From the wonderful wizardry of Harry Potter to the prehistoric fun of Jurrassic Park, and some Minion Mayhem for good measure, Universal Studios is the definitive day out for families seeking that wow-factor with endless activities and genuine Hollywood star power. Read more about the VIP Experience on the blog our Senior Sales and Product Manager for the USA, Caroline Beckett.
3. The Great Outdoors
California is synonymous with vast open spaces, incredible landscapes and endless sunshine. Whilst the cities and man-made attractions are not to be missed, the real magic belongs to nature itself. Blessed with some of the world’s most awe-inspiring scenery, California is the ideal setting to enjoy more traditional family fun, such as picnics in the park and exploring all that the great state has to offer. Head to Yosemite National Park for mesmerising waterfalls and gigantic granite domes or experience Death Valley’s incredibly unique ambience of sand dunes, salt flats just made for star gazing, whilst even the most grown-up traveller will feel dwarfed by the world’s tallest trees in Sequoia National Park. With an endless array of natural beauty on display, California is the ideal setting to give up the electronics and become immersed in active adventures, with truly breathtaking backdrops. Griffith Park in Los Angeles is popular with California natives and travellers for the sheer scale of space it offers families to run around, play and explore all in that famously sun-kissed fresh air.
4. Dreams Come True at Disneyland
When it comes to fun-filled family holidays, no one does it better than Disney. California is blessed with two Disney parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. With seven exciting ‘lands’ to explore and a Pixar-universe to enjoy, Disney California Adventure Park is the place to find your family’s favourite characters and let your heart race on the invigorating range of rollercoasters. At Disneyland Park you’ll find Mickey and pals, the iconic Magic Kingdom and the memorable Disney parades guaranteed to be younger guests’ holiday highlight. Disney is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary this year and there are several star-studded celebrations taking place throughout 2016, so there is no better time to don the Mickey ears and meander down Main Street, in the happiest place on Earth.
5. Beach Games
It is surely no coincidence that California is known as ‘The Golden State’, given that most of the coastline is dominated by sandy beaches and golden sunshine. For a luxury family beach holiday, California can’t be beaten. For a dream day on the sand, LA’s Santa Monica Pier boasts the ideal combination of surf and attractions. In Orange County, Newport Beach is famed for its family-friendly facilities whilst Huntington Beach is the perfect place to introduce would-be surfers to the waves by taking lessons at a surf school. Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey has smaller waves and specialist child-friendly swimming areas, with kayaks and paddleboards available for rent. Like many popular beaches in California, Venice Beach features a children’s playground and the boardwalk is home to plenty of traditional seaside shops and family-friendly eateries. Pack plenty of sunscreen and enjoy a picture perfect day on one, or two, of the world’s most beautiful beaches!
6. Animal Adventures
California boasts a wealth of captivating wildlife and many of the most popular family attractions feature furry faces. This summer, San Diego Zoo is celebrating its centenary year and there are many fabulous activities scheduled to celebrate this magnificent milestone, so it is a particularly great time to take the family and take part in the fun! For a more aquatic adventure, Monterey Bay Aquarium and San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay showcase the California coastline’s glorious marine life, with plenty of informative educational talks about conservational work and the fascinating inhabitants of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, The Living Desert is a unique wildlife experience centre, located just outside of Palm Springs. Devoted to educating young travellers about the diverse creatures that live in California’s vast desert land, The Living Desert features a dedicated wildlife rehabilitation centre, desert garden, animals and educational facilities. Animal experiences are a perfect addition to any luxury family holiday to California, as they offer many interactive and hands-on experiences, sure to win the heart of any would-be zoologist or future explorer.
7. Exploring and Touring
The sheer size of California, and the treasure trove of fabulous family activities around every corner, makes it the perfect place for those that love to explore. Famed for its exemplary hiking trails, that offer some of the most awe-inspiring views on the planet, California is best uncovered actively; whilst the beaches and pools are alluring, be sure to get out there and get to know all that the Golden State has to offer. Hiking or biking are the favoured options by natives and travellers alike, with many towns and regions boasting exemplary trails with varying levels of experience and difficulty. Santa Monica’s bike trail is particularly good for families, but bike hire is freely available across many of California’s most popular areas and attractions. For the more adventurous, there is always the classically Californian option to hire rollerblades or skateboards from a beach vendor, but however you choose to get about, you’re sure to love the breathtaking backdrop provided by California’s incredible landscapes, be it the beach, the mountains or a lush green public park.
8. Culture Vultures
One of the most overlooked aspects of California’s incredible array of activities is the state’s impeccable portfolio of museums. With fun interactive exhibitions designed for families, taking a tour to a culturally rich attraction is the perfect addition to any itinerary. From LA’s iconic Griffiths Observatory, to the California Science Centre, there is no end to the magic within these amazing museums. San Francisco boasts a particularly impressive collection, including the exemplary Exploratorium, Children’s Creativity Museum or touring the ships on display at the San Francisco Maritime Exhibition, located on the pier. Nearly all of California’s most popular regions, including San Diego and Orange County, feature children’s museums specialising in science, history, arts and culture, therefore, whatever your family’s interest, there is sure to be a museum packed full of fascinating information and interactive facilities to complement an entertaining day out.
9. Sports Stars
If there’s one thing native Californian’s agree on it’s their love of sport. The all-year-round sun and endless space makes California the ideal setting for sport and recreation, and there is certainly no shortage of sporting entertainment across the state. Why not take the family to an iconic LA Dodgers baseball game and enjoy the fun atmosphere of the family section at Dodger Stadium. Equally, experience an all-American basketball game by cheering on the LA Lakers at the Staples Centre. For those who prefer to partake rather than spectate, there are many skate parks, surf schools and indoor gaming arcades where your aspiring sports stars can unleash their competitive streak. Whilst the American sports, of course, reign supreme in California, the recent influx of UK footballers to the U.S. ensures LA Galaxy games are increasingly well attended. Sports stadiums are well designed for families and it is possible to arrange tours and exclusive experiences on non-match days, if you’re seeking an extra-special day trip.
10. Fun in ‘Frisco
San Francisco is home to so many fantastic family facilities that it is, almost, easy to forget the city’s most iconic landmarks are also great for families. Take a taxi-ride over the soaring Golden Gate Bridge before walking up to Battery Spencer, a 19th century San Francisco industrial building with incredible views, for one of the best vantage points of the bridge. Of course, the legend of Alcatraz is not to be missed and the option of enjoying a guided tour is the best way to uncover all the mysteries of this famous attraction – but booking is essential. Equally, exploring the city by taking a ride on a historic cable car or visiting the free Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill is a great way to uncover the city’s fascinating history. Pier 39 is another of San Francisco’s best locations for families, after all where else can you experience live street music, sea lions, carousel rides and a state-of-the-art 7D experience ride all in one place? Many restaurants around the Pier and Bay areas have ‘children eat free’ offers and there are many specialist family attractions designed to ensure guests of all ages enjoy a fantastic day out and make memories to treasure.
To discuss any of California’s family-friendly attractions, or for further information about our featured properties in California, please call one of our Expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 221.