California is an incredible state with a wide variety of things to do and see. You have everything from warm, sunny beaches to snow-capped mountains. You can enjoy the hustle and bustle of a big city or the relaxed atmosphere of the wine country. California truly has something for everyone.
One of the reasons that California is such a great place for families to visit is that it is so diverse. You can take your children to see natural wonders and explore this great state, and you will create amazing memories that will last forever. You could easily spend years in California and still have more to see, but we have chosen 15 things to do in California for families.
15 Family-Oriented Things to Do in California
Yosemite is a legendary landmark in California, and it was the inspiration for the idea of national parks. When President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant on June 30, 1864, it was the first time that land was protected by the government for its beauty.
You can take your family to Yosemite and see giant sequoia trees, majestic waterfalls, and the preserved beauty of the west. The granite cliffs glow in reds and oranges at sunset as if they are on fire, which is truly a sight to behold. The waterfalls are some of the largest in the world.
When you take your family to Yosemite, you will create memories that you will never forget. You will rarely see nature in all her glory in this way. The incredible sights truly take your breath away.
Lassen Volcanic National Park houses meadows, volcanoes, crystal clear lakes, and steaming fumaroles. It sits between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and it became a national park in 1916. Its last volcanic eruption was from 1914 to 1921.
You can take your kids to learn about volcanoes, as this park has all four types of volcanoes, as well as mudpots and fumaroles. There are over 150 miles of hiking trails for you and the family to explore, and park rangers host night sky programs during the summer that include telescopes and tours of the sky.
#3 Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a great place to visit with the family no matter what time of year it is. In the summer, you can spend time on the lake swimming, kayaking, fishing, and boating, and in the winter, there are tons of snow activities, including skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and sledding.
Lake Tahoe is a huge lake surrounded by mountains, and rivers. There are many hiking trails, and your kids might think it’s neat to hike between Nevada and California. After you go for a hike, you can relax in the Sierra Hot Springs, which is nearby.
Catalina Island is a charming Pacific island with plenty to do with the family. You will see bison grazing on lands that are maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy, and you can sign up for a tour to see more of the wildlife on the island.
There are three beaches with all kinds of activities. You can ride in a submarine or take a glass bottom boat tour. Your kids will enjoy snorkeling or renting a kayak or a paddleboat. There is so much to do on Catalina that you will never run out of options.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a sight that everyone should see once. One of the modern wonders of the world, it is the longest suspension bridge ever created, and it is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. There is a visitor’s center next to the bridge where you can park and learn about the history of the bridge. Whether you want to walk, bike, or drive across, you will have a great time.
When you decide to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, you can add a few other activities to your list. San Francisco is a remarkable city, and it has plenty to offer from visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf to riding on a cable car.
Alcatraz might be one of the most famous prisons in the United States. It is a small island that used to be a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. You can take a tour of the inside of this prison and see what life was like for the inmates. They will tell you stories of famous prisoners who tried to escape by chipping away at the concrete block.
An interesting feature that many people don’t know is that Alcatraz is now a sanctuary for many different sea birds. In the early years, it was called Bird Island because there were strange birds that were common to the island. Today, you can see cormorants, gulls, night herons, egrets, and pigeon guillemots.
This amazing forest is home to the world’s largest trees, and it has the greatest concentration of them in the world. You can go camping with the kids or just go for a hike and marvel at these wondrous trees. The campsites are equipped with modern amenities, including bear-proof storage boxes.
There are numerous trails for camping or mountain biking, and your kids will be amazed at the size of these trees. This is definitely an experience that they will never forget.
The Joshua Tree National Park is located between two deserts, the Colorado and the Mojave. Your kids will see fascinating animal life as well as plants, including the famous Joshua Tree, that are sculpted by the strong winds and torrential downpours of rain that are characteristic of a desert.
You can camp with the family and experience a surreal landscape that you just won’t find anywhere else. You will have miles and miles of trails to hike or mountain bike as well as plenty of geological features that are unique to this area. While you are there, visit Skull Rock and Black Rock Canyon.
The Winchester Mystery House is a historic landmark in San Jose. It was the home of Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester, who was the widow of William Wirt Winchester. Her infant daughter and husband died within a few years of one another, and she moved to this home and began adding room after room until she ended up with a 160-room house.
There are stories that the mansion is haunted and she was instructed to build rooms for the ghosts and that the construction only ended with her death. Either way, the house is fascinating to see, and the kids will enjoy wandering from room to room.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, there is a Ghost town called Calico. It was home of one of the largest silver strikes in California. This little mining town grew quickly to become a center during the times. The miners left the town in the 1890s, but it is still an authentic piece of California history, and it is something for the family to see.
When you take your kids to this Ghost Town, they will get a glimpse of what life was like during the beginnings of the west. You can see reenactments bring the town to life, and there are restaurants, shops, and historic buildings.
#11 La Brea Tarpits
This is truly a unique experience. La Brea Tarpits is the only Ice Age Fossil site that is currently being excavated in the middle of a city. Ice Age animals, plants, and insects were trapped in sticky asphalt over 50,000 years ago, and they were preserved. They have discovered huge wooly mammoths as well as numerous smaller fossils that teach us what ancient ecosystems were like.
There is a pit that remains from mining days in the 1800s where you and the kids can see a recreation of what it was like for a mammoth to become trapped in the tar. You will discover plants from the Ice Age and can visit the Second Home Pavilion, which is an architectural wonder that joins art and science.
Everyone should visit the Santa Monica Pier at least once. This brightly colored American icon has a diner, a carnival, and arcade games. The pier is full of activity from street performers to artists, and you can sit on the beach and take a swim, or go for a historical tour.
There is no doubt that your kids will build memories here, and you will have a great time, and you can take a walking tour to learn all about the history of the Santa Monica Pier.
#13 Venice Beach
Venice Beach is one of the most well-known beaches, and everyone should visit it at least once. Your kids will love to visit the boardwalk and see street performers and artists. They also have a skate park and an outdoor gym.
You can shop in the indie shops and check out the local designers, but make sure you spend most of your time looking at the art. Venice is a place where artists congregate, and you never know what kind of gem you will find.
#14 La Jolla Shores
The La Jolla Shores features some of the calmest waters in San Diego, and it has a mile of sandy beach. You can take the kids to explore the ride pools, play in the water, and walk on the beach, and you won’t have to worry about their safety because they have some of the best and most heavily populated lifeguards in the world.
You will find many activities to fill your day, and it is a beautiful location that everyone should see once in their lifetime. The kids will surely remember this for years to come.
Your kids will love walking along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and seeing the stars. Your kids can search for their favorite actors and actresses, and you will find street performers and celebrity look-a-likes throughout the walk. You can pose with them for a picture if you like.
There are so many things to do in California that you could spend a lifetime here and never get bored. Whether you want to take the family on an urban adventure or explore some of the untamed beauty of nature, California has it all. From the largest trees in the world to the wide open sandy beaches, you can plan a trip that your family will never forget.