I was born in California and even though I love to travel all around the nation, California will forever be my favorite state to explore. From beautiful ocean views to stunning mountainscapes to desserts and valleys, California has a little bit of everything! Our family is finally back to traveling more now that California has opened up for the most part. We’ve been able to go on at least one trip a month for the last 5 months and we have many more family trips planned for the remaining of the year which all of which are in California. At least for now!
A lot of people ask me where my favorite place to visit with my children is. Honestly, that’s such a hard question to answer. My kids have been traveling with us for years. I can still remember our son learning to walk in South Lake Tahoe. We joke around that they’ve become better travelers than us now that they can pack themselves before each trip!
Each trip has brought new memories and fun adventures. I’m so fortunate that I can explore some of the most beautiful locations in California with my husband and kids. Traveling with children takes a lot of prepping and before each trip I typically do a lot of research to find the most family friendly spots. With that being said, here are our top 6 travel destinations in California that are both kid-friendly and inexpensive to visit! No, Disneyland didn’t make the list although it’s of course a great family friendly vacation destination.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is by far my favorite place to visit in all of California. No matter how many times we visit, I still find myself in awe of the beautiful scenery, gorgeous waterfalls, and hidden adventures. What’s great is visiting Yosemite National Park is both inexpensive compared to other destinations in California and completely kid friendly! Although you have to pay an entrance fee, you can pack snacks and food to save money on meals and walk around without having to pay extra fees. If you’re planning on visiting this summer, they are requiring reservations in advance so make sure to plan accordingly.
We recently visited San Francisco for the first time since 2016. I did research a lot beforehand and we made the decision to do mostly outdoor activities to avoid the then mask and vaccine mandate. A family trip to San Francisco can be a bit more costly, but totally worth it! My kids loved walking the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring the Palace of Fine Arts, checking out the piers, adventuring through Golden Gate Park, and playing at the beach. I also recommend visiting the zoo and exploratorium if you have little ones!
Pismo Beach is one of my favorite beach cities in California. The Pismo Beach pier is fun and kid friendly with a fun park and delicious restaurants. The Oceana Dunes were a huge hit with our kids too! You can also explore close coastal areas of SLO, Avila Beach, and Morro Bay.
Oakhurst is a hidden gem of town located just south of Yosemite National Park. We spent the weekend enjoying Bass Lake, eating yummy food at some of the cutest spots in Oakhurst, and taking in the tranquility of the foothills with our kids. Just north of Oakhurst you can ride a beautiful train through the Sierra Nevadas. Oakhurst also offers fun activities like AX throwing and off road adventures. You can get great deals for a mini-vacation during off season.
Monterey is another one of our favorite coastal cities that offers a wide range of family friendly places and activities. No matter if you want to relax in the sand at the beach, visit Cannery Row, explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or get some fresh fish, Monterey is a great destination for your next family beach trip!
I may be a bit biased since we live just a short drive away, but if you’re looking for a beautiful lake nestled in the mountains for your next family getaway then Pinecrest is your answer! Pinecrest offers camping, lodging, boat rentals, an outdoor movie theater, fishing, winter sports, swimming, and hiking. We visit Pinecrest often during the summer and my kids always have a blast!
Where is your favorite place to visit in California?