10 Well and Lesser-Known California Vacation Spots that Offer Family Fun, Often All Year Round

California truly is one of the greatest states in our union for travelers looking for a great family vacation. Everyone knows about the theme park wonders available at Disneyland and Universal Studios, but there are a lot of very interesting destinations in that perhaps non-residents (and even native Californians) may not be aware of. Here are my picks for the 10 best places in California for a family vacation, in no particular order.

A theme park based around one of the coolest toy brands on earth? You bet! Legoland, located in Southern Caliifornia, boasts thrill rides, coasters, kiddie rides, and an amazing area with mini Lego reproductions of famous landmarks such as Bourbon Street, the Empire State Building and more. Your kids will love it.

Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is a year-round family vacation destination surrounded by the San Bernandino National Forest, about 100 miles NE of Los Angeles. Cabin rentals are available in the summer, and skiing rules during the winter. Most Californians have very fond memories of growing up and going to Big Bear, so this is one California family vacation spot you should visit at least once.

Calico Ghost Town
For a real-life ghost town adventure, this former silver mining town features original buildings and recreations of the day-to-day life of a gold-rush era population. Go gold-panning. See water running uphill at the Mystery House. Cheap entry! About a three hour drive from L.A.

Knott’s Berry Farm
I had to throw another theme park in here, as this was America’s 1st and still holds a lot of charm and thrills for families. Quaint and country-themed, this Southern California attraction features occasional concerts and festivals (such as the Filipino Kababayan Fest) and has enough rides to keep all members of the family entertained.

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Alcatraz Island
Take a cruise and head over to the infamous Alcatraz Island for a tour your family will not soon forget. The Hornblower Hybrid will take you there in an eco-friendly way, as it is powered by solar panels, wind turbines, and grid electricity.

Yosemite National Park
Best known for the geyser Old Faithful, Yosemite features peaks, streams, wolves, bears, and a rugged wilderness that every human should get to experience to remind them of the sheer beauty and power of nature. Open year round.

Hearst Castle
Now with a self-guided tour option, the Hearst Castle is a must-see attraction for visitor’s to California’s Central Coast. Your kids will be amazed at the magnificent beauty and richness present at the Castle, the former home of wealthy miner George Hearst.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Formerly known as Six Flags Marine World, this theme park located in the San Francisco Bay Area has recently undergone some expansion and renovations. It features the usual thrilling rides and attractions typical of theme parks, but also features animal park and aquarium area, which makes it unique among California theme parks.

Shasta Lake
Shasta Lake, an artificial lake within view of Mount Shasta for which it is named, is located 10 miles north of Redding, California, about 220 miles northeast of San Francisco. Featuring several resorts and houseboat rentals, staying on Shasta Lake for your family vacation is perfect if you are into boating, fishing, and water skiing. The lake is a relatively balmy 77 degrees on average during the summer.

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The Beach
California. Sun. Beaches. They are all synonymous, with good reason. Year-round sunshine, great weather, and the largest coastline of any state besides Alaska (and who really wants to swim there?) make California the king of beaches (OK, I am partial to Florida too). Which beach? Take your pick: Long Beach, Venice Beach, Newport Beach, Ocean Beach, Santa Barbara and dozens others….each is beautiful and has its own character. So don’t stress too much about it, pick one and go!


Legoland. Legoland.com
Welcome to Big Bear Lake. bigbearinfo.com
Calico Ghost Town, an Old West Mining Adventure, in California. calicotown.com.
Welcome to Knott’s Berry Farm – America’s 1st Theme Park. knotts.com.
Alcatraz Island – Official Tickets Site. alcatrazcruises.com
Yosemite National Park (U.S. National Park Service). nps.gov
Hearst Castle – California State Park. hearstcastle.org/
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. sixflags.com
Shasta Lake Info. shastalake.com
Coastline of the United States. infoplease.com