There is certainly no small shortage of exciting things to see and do in California. From the top of the state to the bottom, there are amazing cities to visit, delicious restaurants to try, family-friendly attractions to explore and of course, beautiful scenery to be seen. But, if you’re really looking to experience the ultimate California vacation, the Southern part of the state is the place to go. Especially if you are traveling with children and are looking for some great, budget-friendly adventures. Check out our top picks for the best things to do with the kids in Southern California.

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Go to Disneyland, Anaheim Disneyland in Anaheim
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Disneyland in Anaheim

Go to Disneyland, Anaheim

The most obvious thing to do with kids in Southern California is, of course, Disneyland. No longer just an amusement park, Disneyland is now a full-blown resort area with two amusement parks, a massive collection of kid-friendly hotels and a variety of live shows and character experiences. You and your little ones can explore the worlds from Cars or Toy Story, hang out with Elsa and Anna, ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and have breakfast with Mickey and Minnie.

Visit LEGOLAND, Carlsbad Characters at LEGOLAND California
Characters at LEGOLAND California

Visit LEGOLAND, Carlsbad

LEGOLAND, located in Carlsbad is a must-see stop for both kids and their parents. LEGOLAND is a magical world that will have you acting like a kid, no matter how old you are. You won’t believe your eyes as you walk through miniature versions of the country’s most famous cities like New York, New Orleans, San Francisco and Las Vegas. There are also over 60 different rides and attractions, live shows featuring the LEGO Friends and plenty of chances for your kids to meet their favorite LEGO heroes like Ninjago and LEGO Batman.

Check Out Marine Life at SeaWorld, San Diego SeaWorld, San Diego
SeaWorld, San Diego

Check Out Marine Life at SeaWorld, San Diego

Located just outside of downtown San Diego, the 189-acre SeaWorld complex offers a variety of family-friendly exhibits where you can learn about penguins, whales, sea turtles, crabs, eels, dolphins and much more. In the Ocean Explorer area, you can touch sharks and stingrays, while the Orca Encounter lets you observe orca whales in a natural setting, as opposed to doing a traditional show. There are also lots of rides including both children’s rides and thrill rides for the adults, as well as Electric Ocean – a mesmerizing light show that takes place each night during the summer months.

Meet the Zoo Animals, San Diego Giraffe at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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Giraffe at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Meet the Zoo Animals, San Diego

Also located in San Diego, the San Diego Zoo provides visitors with the opportunity to see animals from all over the world up close. Spread across 100 acres, this top family attraction in San Diego is home to more than 3,700 animals spanning 650 different species. You’ll see everything from panda bears and polar bears to tigers, giraffe and birds of prey. As well as taking a self-guided walking tour through the park, you can explore via the aerial tram or the Kangaroo Bus, which will pick you up and drop you off at four different locations around the Zoo. You’ll want to make sure you allow yourselves plenty of time to take everything in since there are also lots of live shows, 4-D films and animal encounter experiences.

Explore Balboa Park, San Diego Balboa Park, San Diego
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Balboa Park, San Diego

Explore Balboa Park, San Diego

In addition to being home of the San Diego Zoo, San Diego’s Balboa Park also offers a whole host of other things to do and see. There are more than 16 different museums on-site including the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the San Diego Air & Space Museum. You can also take a ride on the carousel or the miniature train, tour some beautiful botanical gardens, take in a puppet show or youth ballet performance, go shopping and enjoy a meal at one of the more than a dozen eateries in the park. If you’re looking for a more low-key day with the family, you can always just walk one of the many trails or hit one of the playgrounds for a little relaxation while the kids play.

Visit Mission Bay, San Diego Sailboats and people on the blue waters of Mission Bay in San Diego.
Sailboats and people on the blue waters of Mission Bay in San Diego.

Visit Mission Bay, San Diego

While you’re in San Diego, why not add on a little family adventure by renting a sailboat or a powerboat for your own private trip? At the beautiful waterfront area of Mission Bay, you can rent a variety of boats from pontoons to speed boats, and head out onto the water for a day of fun in the sun. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent WaveRunners for the whole family. Or, if you want to relax while someone else does the driving, check out a private charter for deep-sea fishing or a family get-together.

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