Southern California is known for its beautiful beaches, exciting attractions, and perfect weather. All of these things make the region perfect for a family vacation with the kids! There are lots of kid-friendly things to do in Southern California, but the region is quite large, so you’ll need to decide which area to focus on with your trip. To help you make the decision, here are the top Southern California family vacations.


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Anaheim Disneyland


Perhaps the most obvious kid-friendly destination for your SoCal family vacation is Anaheim because this is where Disneyland is located. This theme park is an enduring favorite among families from around the world, and there are kid-friendly resorts nearby for families to make trip planning easy. It’s also fun to visit Disneyland over holidays, such as Halloween and Christmas, for festive themed events. Don’t miss the must-see lands of Fantasyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as well as classic attractions like It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. All your kids’ favorite characters will be there, and vacation packages make Disney planning a breeze.

San Diego Skyscrapers in the background in San Diego
Skyscrapers in the background in San Diego

San Diego

There are so many fun things for families to do in San Diego, which makes this an ultimate family vacation destination in SoCal. You really can’t beat the San Diego Zoo, and this is also home to SeaWorld and some great beaches that everyone in the family can enjoy. It’s fun to explore the diverse neighborhoods of San Diego with your kids and check out the eclectic shops, authentic restaurants, and historic sites. There’s a children’s museum worth checking out in town as well.

Hollywood Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood


Hollywood is a must-see destination for film lovers and a really fun place to check out with kids too. With your family, you can experience the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the famous Hollywood sign, and even tour a film studio to see how your favorite shows and movies are made. Families also love Universal Studios Hollywood, a movie theme park that is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and many more attractions. Other Hollywood attractions to see with your family are Pink’s Hot Dogs, the Hollywood Museum, and the Theatre West Storybook Theatre.

Carlsbad Characters at LEGOLAND California
Characters at LEGOLAND California


Kids of all ages love Legos, so treat your family to a vacation to Legoland California in Carlsbad. Here you’ll find rides, a water park, and colorful bricks that form incredibly impressive landscapes. Kids ages three to 10 love this park, so bring your family with elementary school-age kids here on their next school break. Carlsbad is only about a half-hour from San Diego, so it’s very possible to combine this vacation idea with even more to do in San Diego. Either way, Carlsbad offers great beach access and has more affordable accommodations than other parts of the region.

Santa Monica Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica

You’ll feel like a kid again right alongside your kids when you take a family vacation to Santa Monica and visit the pier. The pier is over 100 years old and has a family-friendly amusement park that looks out into the ocean. Come here for rides, roller coasters, bumper cars, and other attractions. There’s also the 1920s-era carousel, an aquarium, and lots of eclectic vendor booths to check out here. Families can also check out the Cayton Children’s Museum, food trucks, and the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel.

Catalina Island Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island
Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

Catalina Island

It’s also fun to take a ferry ride with your family to Catalina Island, which is an island located about 22 miles from Los Angeles. You can live the island life after taking this one-hour ferry ride that’s always a hit with kids. The main town on the island is Avalon, which has a great library, history museum, and restaurants. The opportunities for entertainment are endless here, so you can spend your days riding golf carts, zip lining, or even taking a Jeep eco-tour. You’ll find hotels, campsites, and rental houses catering to families on Catalina Island.

Big Bear Lake Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear Lake, California

Big Bear Lake

A budget-friendly family vacation in SoCal and a great way to embrace the beauty of nature is to take a road trip to Big Bear Lake. Summer family vacations to Big Bear includes mountain biking, zip lining, camping, and even mini-golf. In the winter, you can bring your family here to go skiing without straying more than a couple of hours from Los Angeles. There are a couple of ski resorts here: Snow Summit for all levels and Bear Mountain for more advanced adventurers. Lake Arrowhead is also nearby and a great year-round destination for hiking, fishing, and boating.

Joshua Tree National Park Cholla cactus garden with hiking trail, near sunset, Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla cactus garden with hiking trail, near sunset, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Another way to get your family outside and active in nature is to visit Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. You can camp at one of the campgrounds inside the park and spend your days enjoying its outdoor activities, which includes hiking, rock climbing, and taking photos together with the iconic trees in the background.

Calico Calico, CA
Calico, CA


For something entirely different and a hidden history lesson that’s lots of fun, plan a SoCal family vacation to Calico, California. This San Bernardino County destination teaches families about what was life back in the silver mining days of the 1880s and why the site was abandoned just a few short years later. Family-friendly activities at this ghost town include mining displays, the museum, gold panning, train rides, and ghost tours.

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City
Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark

Another great way to keep kids entertained on vacation is to visit a waterpark, and there’s a great one in Garden Grove. The Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark is close to Disneyland and a wonderful way to spend a day. The lodge has over 600 suites, 14 slides, four pools, and 84-degree year-around water temperature. If you stay here, you’ll also get access to the Forest Friends lobby shop, kids activities and games, a fitness center, storytime with character appearances, and unlimited Wi-Fi.

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