Lining America’s Pacific coast for more than half of its length, studded with mountains, carpeted with green valleys and barren deserts in equal measure, California is an intriguing place for anyone to visit, but especially kids. After all, this state is the place where Mickey Mouse and the gang were born, but there are many other aspects of this vast territory that will have your kids engaged at seemingly every turn.
The problem is, California is so vast that it is easy to plan a vacation that ends up with you having to log more miles on the road than necessary, leading to an unsettled and unruly backseat. If you knew what can’t miss attractions to see beforehand instead of attempting to wing it upon arrival, you might avoid much of the potential unpleasantness.
It is on this point where we at travelwithkidsguide.com come in. Instead of threading together an itinerary on the fly, allow us to pick and choose the best of this diverse state, from north to south. With that, here are the five best things to do in California for kids, from the Redwood forests of the north to the sunny shores of San Diego!
1) Redwood National and State Parks, Northern California
If you are driving down from Oregon, then driving and hiking amidst some of the largest trees in the world in the Redwood National and State Parks along the extreme northern coast of California is a must. The tallest trees on earth can be found here, with many reaching more than 300 feet into the sky. Your kids will have fun trying in vain to stretch their arms around the trunk of even a young sapling, as the average trunk of a redwood has a circumference of a mind-boggling 94 feet!
2) The Exploratorium, San Francisco
There are many attractions worth taking your kids to upon arrival in San Francisco, but be sure not to miss the Exploratorium, which is one of the best science museums in the United States. Lauded by the New York Times as one of the most important science museums opened in the past 50 years, it doesn’t just show science to kids, it makes them experience it through participation. From human behavior to biology, high tech to physics, it casts away the myth of learning by rote memorization, and replaces it with the notion of comprehension via doing.
3) Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz
As you drive south of San Francisco on the vaunted Pacific Coast Highway, one of the small cities that will stand out will be Santa Cruz. The dominant feature of this coastal city in Central California is its well regarded boardwalk, a feature that is normally associated with beach resort towns on the eastern seaboard of America.
This entertainment center on Santa Cruz’s waterfront makes up for the lack of this amusement elsewhere on the west coast will plenty of exciting roller coasters, scenic Ferris Wheels, and countless other midway attractions amidst a very attractive beachfront.
4) Disneyland, Anaheim
Entering the Los Angeles area, there is but one amusement park that you should put on your can’t miss list: the one and only Disneyland. Home to Walt Disney’s first amusement park based on his cartoon characters, it opened in 1955, and it has been a beacon for kids from around the world ever since. The park is divided into eight sectors, each with a different theme. Mickey’s Toontown is of particular note for parents who want to set their children up for a date for the Mouse himself!
5) San Diego Zoo, San Diego
While much relaxation can and should be had on the gorgeous beach of San Diego, make time in your schedule for the San Diego Zoo, widely regarded as one of the best parks of its kind in the world. This zoo varies from many others around the world in that it doesn’t do cages. Instead, open habitats allow the animals here room to roam as naturally as possible, making for as authentic an experience as a zoo can be.