My last trip to the USA was way back in the past, before I had children. I spent a glorious fortnight in and around San Francisco. I had the best time there as a footloose adult, hanging out in bars, drinking delicious Californian wine and eating gourmet sushi accompanied by saki served in a bamboo box. But I’d love to go back to California with kids in tow. It would be a very different experience to the one I had in my twenties. But there are so many attractions in California for kids, and places in California that appeal to the whole family, that I know we’d all have a great time.
Here are my top things to do in California, for when we travel there as a family.
Go wild in Yosemite
Yosemite’s one of those legendary places, where the largest known trees on earth grow, and where bears, bobcats and coyote roam. Its 1,200 square miles is mind-boggling to those of us who live in a small country like the UK. I’ve wanted to take my kids to Yosemite for the longest time, and that’s not just to see the gargantuan giant sequoia trees. I’d also love for us to camp, swim, and hike near Yosemite’s lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The National Park Service has up to date information about what’s new in Yosemite, and I like the look of some of the National Parks holiday packages from TravelPlanners.
Visit some Gold Rush towns
The California Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth Century transformed the county and contributed to its official nickname, the Golden State. Gold was first found in Sutter’s Mill, Coloma, which is inside the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. After Coloma, a drive down Route 49 would take us to Sutter Creek and other preserved Gold Rush towns. The streets, with their wooden covered sidewalks and nineteenth Century buildings, would give the whole family a real taste of the old Wild West.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is something that symbolises California to a lot of people – and it was one of the first things I saw on my own visit to the State. I’d love to walk or cycle with my children across the burnt orange suspension bridge, and find out what they think of it. It’s likely they wouldn’t be phased by what was the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world. They’ve already seen a lot of surprising and unusual things. But images of the Golden State’s iconic bridge pop up all over the place, so I’d love for them to be able to say they’ve seen it for real.
Ride a cablecar in San Francisco
As well as Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, where the colony of lolling sea lions would be a big source of entertainment, our family would enjoy a journey or two on San Francisco’s cablecars. They’re now mainly used by tourists, but a ride on the rickety, elegant-looking 19th Century cablecars would help transport us into San Francisco’s past. And it would also prevent any complaints from tired children. Those San Francisco hills are steep!
Tick Legoland California off our Legoland hit-list
We’ve already been to Legoland Windsor, and Legoland Billund, in Denmark. We loved both of them, and it was also fun comparing the different Legolands. Windsor was more scenic, but the queues were longer. Billund had more to offer slightly older kids, but not as much to satisfy fans of Lego Friends.
How would Legoland California compare? Based in Carlsbad, San Diego, Legoland California was the first of the franchise to open outside Europe. It sounds as though it has many of the same features as the two Legolands we’ve already visited – thilling rides, a SeaLife Aquarium and a Miniland, with miniature houses and buildings made from more than 20 million Lego bricks. But the Legoland California Water Park looks a cut above anything we’ve expeienced. And I’ve heard a rumour that there’s a figure in California’s Miniland that’s mooning the presidential cavalcade. I want to go, to see if that’s true.
Immerse ourselves in Universal Studios Hollywood
My two Pigeons are huge Harry Potter fans at the moment, so I know they’d be beside themselves with excitement if we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. After they’d explored Hogwarts School and ridden the Flight of the Hippograff rollercoaster, we’d go on the Studios tour, to find out how films are made.
Play at Disneyland Park
Before the kids grow too old, I want to take them to Disneyland. Its rides, party atmosphere and larger-than-life cartoon characters would mount up to an unforgettable experience. And after a day of family entertainment in Mickey’s Toontown, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Critter country, and Adventureland, D and I would try and get a babysitter so we could follow up Disneyland’s nightly fireworks show with a trip out to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, one of the top five tiki bars in Los Angeles, according to LA Weekly.
And the fun wouldn’t stop there. Next door to Disneyland Park is Disneyland California Adventue, a separate theme park with tons more restaurants, themed areas and fairground rides. It’s particularly well suited for Pixar fans, with a boardwalk featuring characters from Toy Story, the Incredibles, Cars and more.
What’s on your California bucket list?
If you’d like to read about another item on our USA travel bucket list, here’s a post on planning the ultimate family road trip: Route 66.
This is a collaborative post. All views are my own. All images are from Pixabay.
Pin for later: