The author McKenna Mobley with her father at the local beach in California during sunset, one of the best things to do in California with kids

43 Things to Do in California with Kids in 2023 (By a Local)

👉 Jump to: Best Things | Beaches | Amusement Park | Museums | Sites & AttractionsFAQs

There are so many things to do in California with kids that a single trip to this sunny west coast state barely scratches the surface. 

I spent my childhood in California, exploring all of the coolest kid-friendly attractions, and have put the best ones on this ultimate list. The amount of entertaining, kid-friendly attractions is tenfold, from fun theme parks to hands-on museums, play parks, and more. So many of the best things to do in California are kid-friendly.

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Best Things to Do in California with Kids

San Diego Zoo

Meet your favorite wildlife at this beachside zoo.

A closeup look at the two giraffes eating grass

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (619) 231-1515 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $69, adult, $59, children under 12 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Pay a visit to your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo. One of the more popular zoos in Southern California, the San Diego Zoo is the perfect activity for families visiting the beach town with children.

Not only does the San Diego Zoo have almost every animal imaginable on display, but it also hosts fun kid-friendly events like 4D movie showings, wildlife presentations, and the Balboa Park Miniature Train.

You may also want to consider visiting the Serengeti-like San Diego Safari Park, one of the top activities in San Diego.

Disneyland & Disney California Adventure Park

Navigate through different fairytale lands at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.

The author McKenna Mobley and her brother posing in front of the giant Christmas tree at Disneyland
Posing with my brother at Disneyland during the holidays 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 781-4636 | Website | Hours: 8 am-9 pm Mondays, 8 am-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 8 am-12 am Friday-Sunday | Entrance: Tickets start at $104, plus an additional $60 per Park Hopper

Disneyland Resort is the top thing to do in California with kids. Experience your favorite Disney characters come to life at this enchanting theme park. 

Embark on wild adventures via Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and Big Thunder Mountain, or experience new heights on Soarin’ Over the World and the Incredicoaster at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Because there’s so much to do at Disneyland, I suggest an epic multi-day Disneyland itinerary to experience the theme park in all its entertainment glory.

Yosemite National Park

Hike to famous natural landmarks like Half Dome and El Captian.

The author McKenna Mobley sitting at the viewpoint in Yosemite National Park during sunset
Me, at a viewpoint in Yosemite National Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (209) 372-0200 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, $70 annual pass | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Yosemite National Park is the most famous of the beautiful California national parks and is one of my all-time favorites. Hikers, Campers, tourists, and rock climbers seek refuge under the giant sequoia canopy of Yosemite, nestled between giant granitic Yosemite Valley walls.

Once inhabited by Indigenous populations, the national park is now home to a dense population of black bears, Yosemite lodges, hiking trails, and hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

My favorite Yosemite National Park activity is hiking. There is no shortage of hiking trails in Yosemite, with Clouds Rest, the Falls Trail, and North Dome being the most popular. 

Knott’s Berry Farm

Explore the kiddie rides at Camp Snoopy in this wild west-themed park.

View of the Old West Frontier Mine at Knott's Berry Farm
Some of the wild wild west decor at the theme park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 220-5200 | Website | Hours: 10 am-6 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-10 pm Fridays & Saturdays, 10 am-8 pm Sundays | Entrance: $64.99, adults, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Trip Advisor

Who doesn’t love a thrill-seeking theme park? Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the oldest amusement parks in California and pays homage to the state’s mining history with Western sets and a ghost-town feel.

Knott’s Berry Farm has thrill rides for more daring adventurers but also offers a kid-friendly area, Camp Snoopy, for younger guests. Knott’s “Scary Farm” is the most popular time to visit, during the Halloween season, but visitors must be able to handle a good spook. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Hike among unusual rock outcroppings and groves of iconic SoCal Joshua Trees.

The author McKenna Mobley posing at the Joshua Tree National Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 367-5500 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $55 annual pass | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Experience the desert like never before in Joshua Tree National Park. Camp between the iconic protected Joshua Trees and marvel at the park’s famous rock outcroppings, each as curiously formed as the last.

Joshua Tree is incredibly kid-friendly and hosts a variety of easy, level hiking trails. Let your kids run wild and explore the cactus landscape in one of the most scenic places in the Mojave Desert. After experiencing the cool activities in Joshua Tree, head over to Pioneertown, a ghost town with a lively dive bar.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? If you’re trying to decide where to stay near Joshua Tree, these hotels are highly recommended.

Calico Ghost Town

Giddyup partner, the old-timey stores and attractions of Calico await.

The author McKenna Mobley and a man posing at the Calico Ghost Town with people wandering around in the background

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 254-1123 | Website | Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily | Entrance:$8, adults, $5 ages 4-11, free under 4 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Did you know that there are over 300 ghost towns in California? Calico Ghost Town is one of the most popular “deserted” towns from the old wild west. 

Wander around the dirt streets of an old Gold Rush-era mining town, only 1.5 hours outside of Los Angeles in the hills of the high desert. Calico is one of the more developed ghost towns and has souvenir shops, restaurants, and live cowboy performances.

Balboa Island

Explore the beach “fun zone” with a ride on the Ferris wheel or a round of ski ball in the arcade.

View of a mother and daughter riding the Balboa Fun Zone Ferris wheel
Riding the Balboa Fun Zone Ferris wheel

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Going for a swim in the ocean is always a fun activity, and even better if there’s a nearby arcade and mini theme park. The Balboa Fun Zone is one of the best beach areas in Southern California.

Located just across from the Balboa Beach Pier, the Balboa Fun Zone hosts a variety of arcade games and mini rides like a Ferris wheel and kiddie bungee jumping. You can also find chocolate-dipped soft serve and funnel cakes at this beach park.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Discover more about the life aquatic at this NorCal aquarium.

A closeup view of the jellyfish in Monterey Bay Aquarium

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (831) 648-4800 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $59.95, adults, $49.95 ages 13-17, $44.95 ages 5-12, free under 5

Learn more about the great marine world that thrives in the depths of the ocean at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. View marine mammals like otters and seals, marvel at the weightless movements of giant jellyfish, and discover a variety of fish species at this Northern California aquarium.

Your kids will love the interactive penguin show that the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts, as well as the life-size kelp forest and the wildlife viewing deck out back. Be sure to bring your binoculars to look for breaching whales next time you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the perfect day trip from San Francisco.

SF Golden Gate Bridge

Bike ride across America’s most famous bridge.

The San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge under the clear blue sky in California
The Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (415) 921-5858 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $9.40, 2 axles, $28.20, 3 axles, $37.60, 4 axles | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic, postcard photo of San Francisco. This famous U.S. bridge is also one of the most entertaining activities in the Bay Area.

Roll down the windows as you drive under the massive red steel bridge, viewing the underbelly of the beast and all its inner workings. You can also rent bikes in Downtown San Francisco and cruise down the Golden Gate Bridge on the bike path for an unforgettable SF experience with the whole family.

Griffith Observatory

Observe the night sky at a museum above Los Angeles.

Aerial view of The Griffith Observatory Park and city skyline in Los Angeles, California

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213) 473-0800 | Website | Hours: 12 pm-10 pm Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-10 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Mondays | Entrance: parking $4 per hour

The Griffith Observatory is out of this world. This astronomical museum is perched high above Los Angeles and is equipped with a planetarium, interactive astronomy exhibits, and a large telescope that’s used to view astronomical events.

The best part about this intergalactic museum is that it’s completely free (save for parking). Not only is this popular California museum incredibly informative, but it’s also picturesque. You will likely get the best photo of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign from the prime location of the museum, another compelling reason to pay a visit. 


Laguna Beach Tide Pools

Hunt for sea anemones in an opulent beach town.

A closeup view at the Laguna Beach Tide Pools

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free

While it may seem as if Laguna Beach only caters to affluent California locals, there are actually tons of kid-friendly activities to do in this beach town. Laguna is one of the best towns in California because it caters to multiple demographics with both 5-star restaurants and $5 burger joints.

Not only will your children love playing beach volleyball or going for a swim in the Laguna waters, but they will also have a blast searching through the Laguna tide pools for hidden anemone treasure. 

Laguna has one of the densest concentrations of tide pools compared to other Southern California beaches, making it the ideal location for discovering this type of marine invertebrate.  

Santa Monica Pier

Play pier arcade games next to crashing Los Angeles waves.

People walking around Santa Monica Pier with a sign of route 66 End of the Trail at night

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (310) 458-8900 | Website | Hours: 6 am-10 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Go for a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean during the day then check out the excitement on the Santa Monica Pier afterward for a true California local experience. The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most entertaining activities in Santa Monica thanks to the small boardwalk theme park.

Go for a whirl on the boardwalk roller coaster before indulging in a sweet treat. You may also run into street performers on the Santa Monica Pier. Be sure to always tip a street performer, especially if you enjoyed their craft. 

Whale Watching

Be on the lookout for a whale fluke as it migrates across waters.

View of a tail of a whale in the ocean of California

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (562) 432-4900 | Website | Hours: 9 am-6 pm daily | Entrance: $45, adults, $35 seniors over 64, $30, ages 3-11, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

There are many places to go whale watching in California, but Long Beach is the most notorious. If you’re lucky enough, you may just catch a whale fin or two on camera as Humpbacks and Gray Whales migrate between Mexico and Alaska.

Give your kids a trip to remember with a whale-watching excursion. The most likely times to encounter a whale breach are in the early mornings, so make sure to get a good night’s rest and try to book an early excursion time if possible.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Explore hotels near Long Beach whale-watching excursions.

Huntington Beach

Experience California’s most famous beach town.

Scenic view of Huntington Beach from the beach bike path
The beach bike path

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 852-8233 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Also known as Surf City USA, Huntington Beach is one of the best places to catch some waves in California and is one of the coolest CA beach towns. Throw on a wetsuit, wax up your rented board, and try your luck on the gnarly Pacific Ocean waves.

Non-surfers can also enjoy sunbathing, people-watching on the pier, beach volleyball courts, and beach bonfires in Huntington Beach. I recommend visiting Huntington during the annual summer U.S. Open of Surfing to watch professionals tail whip wave crests or ride a sweet tube.

To get planning, see our full guide to the best activities in Huntington Beach.

San Onofre Surf Beach

Try your luck at riding SoCal waves.

A bonfire pit, beer cans, and camping chairs at the shore of San Onofre Surf Beach during sunset

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 6 am- sunset | Entrance: $15 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Not only surfers enjoy the calming atmosphere of San Onofre Surf Beach. There’s something for different types of beach-goers here, from surfing to searching for anemones and having a beachside bonfire.

This is one of the most underrated beaches in California and although it’s located on a state beach and requires an entrance fee, San Onofre is worth every penny. This beach is void of tourists, full of surf enthusiasts, and welcoming to those who prefer a quieter beach experience.

Crystal Cove State Park

Hike along the coastline or camp in the hills of the beach backcountry.

A man walking along the rocky sand of Crystal Cove State Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (949) 494-3539 | Website | Hours: 6 am-sunset daily | Entrance: $15 per vehicle | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

With over 3 miles of Pacific coastline, Crystal Cove State Park invites visitors to lay out a towel, screw in a beach umbrella, and stay for a while to soak up the Southern California sunshine. 

Hiking trails in this state park parallel the coast and offer three backcountry primitive campsites with 360-degree views of both the San Gabriel mountains and the Pacific Ocean. 

Catalina Island

Take a ferry from mainland California to discover a developed, flourishing island oasis.

The author McKenna Mobley and her sister in scuba dive suits
Getting ready to scuba dive with my sister on the island

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Catalina is the closest thing to an island paradise in California. Located only 22 miles off the mainland Long Beach or Dana Point shores, Catalina Island is the perfect place to relax with kids for a peaceful weekend.

There are hundreds of fun activities to do in Catalina like scuba diving, parasailing, cantina drinking, buffalo viewing, backcountry hiking, gambling, and more! Your Catalina experience can be very kid-friendly while still offering adult after-hours fun.

Amusement Parks

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Experience adrenaline on upside-down coasters.

View of the observation tower and roller coaster ride in Six Flags Magic Mountain

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (661) 255-4100 | Website | Hours: 10:30 am-6 pm Friday-Monday, Closed Tuesday-Thursday | Entrance: $65, adult, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Six Flags Magic Mountain is for the more daring kids in your life. While this theme park caters more to older individuals, young ones can still enjoy the park’s kiddie rides like Elmer’s Weather Balloons and Pepe Le Pew’s Tea Party.

Pre-teen, teenager, and young adult adrenaline seekers can take their pick of multiple backward, upside-down, and vertical drop rides at Six Flags. This park is an awesome day trip from Los Angeles.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Discover the secret of movie magic at this Hollywood park.

View of the busy area of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (photo: kuponjabah / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (800) 864-8377 | Website | Hours: 10 am-7 pm Mondays & Fridays, 10 am-6 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 9 am-8 pm Saturdays & Sundays | Entrance: $109, adults, $103, children 3-9, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Universal Studios Hollywood is a quintessential Hollywood activity that has something for everyone. From a Harry Potter world to a Simpsons land and backlot tours of Hollywood TV studios and movie sets, Universal Studios is the “entertainment capital of LA.”

Because Universal Studios Hollywood is so fun, it can fill to capacity on the weekends, especially in the summer. I recommend visiting during the week for the best possible experience.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park

Play boardwalk games after a full day of surfing.

The author McKenna Mobley and her friend posing in front of the carnival fun mirror on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Posing at the carnival fun mirror on the boardwalk
Closeup look at the “Laffing Sal!” display at the arcade in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
“Laffing Sal!” greets families as they venture into the boardwalk arcade

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (831) 423-5590 | Website | Hours: 12 pm-5 pm Saturdays & Sundays only | Entrance: Free

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park is similar to the Santa Monica Pier but tripled in size. Enjoy California’s largest beach theme park, right on the sand of the Pacific Ocean.

This Northern California destination is one of the best things to do in California. You can play games, ride the Ferris wheel, and satisfy your sweet tooth on the boardwalk theme park, all after a day filled with surfing and sunbathing.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Here are some top hotels in Santa Cruz.


Enjoy the magical world of Legos at this kid-friendly park.

A miniature of The Golden Gate Bridge made with legos at Legoland

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (888) 690-5346 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-6 pm Saturdays & Sunday, Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays | Entrance: $89, adult, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Discover the world as engineered by legos in the smaller-than-life Legoland California theme park. This park is the perfect activity to do with young kids in Carlsbad, California, just outside of San Diego.

Besides small, kid-friendly rides, Legoland also offers hands-on activities like digging for dinosaur bones, rock climbing, and a junior driving school. Prepare for an all-day excursion because your kids won’t want to leave the excitement of Legoland.

Raging Waters

Soak up the sun at California’s largest water park.

A girl riding on the water slide on a sunny day

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Seasonal, May-September | Entrance: $39.99, adults, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Expedia

Raging Waters is the coolest water park in the Inland Empire. Located in San Dimas, this seasonal waterpark has all the top water slides and isn’t overcrowded. Raging Waters is also the largest water park in California and is a must if visiting the desert state in the summer. 

Sesame Place San Diego

Live in Sesame Street for a day with your favorite Sesame Place characters.

Top view of the Big Bird's Bistro in Sesame Place San Diego
(photo: Rosamar / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (619) 943-3566 | Website | Hours: 10 am-4 pm Saturdays & Sundays only | Entrance: $64.99, adults, $54.99, child | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

This California family park was made with kids in mind. Have some fun with Elmo and friends next time you’re in San Diego. Go on Sesame Place rides, enjoy a parade, wander around the Sesame Street Neighborhood, and take photos with Sesame characters at this San Diego park.

There are also seasonal events at Sesame Place San Diego like Elmo’s Eggstravaganza and The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular.

Belmont Park

Entertain yourself with rides and attractions right on the beachfront.

A closeup view of the roller coaster ride at Belmont Park on a sunny day

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (858) 488-1549 | Website | Hours: 11 am-6 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-10 pm Fridays & Saturdays, 11 am-8 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Enjoy some San Diego beachfront fun at Belmont Park. Smell the sweet, saline ocean air as you twist and turn down the outdoor roller coaster or scale the two-story rock wall.

There’s free parking at this huge beach park, which makes it one of the best free things to do in San Diego. There are also fun laser tag and escape room attractions at Belmont Park, along with delicious restaurants and one-of-a-kind desserts.

California’s Great America

Break up your long CA road trip with a visit to this NorCal park.

View of the roller coaster ride from the entrance of California's Great America amusement park
(photo: SundryPhotography / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (408) 988-1776 | Website | Hours: 11 am-5 pm Saturdays & Sundays | Entrance: $31.99, adults, free under 3 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Experience thrill-seeking rides in one of Northern California’s only theme parks. Located near San Jose, California’s Great America offers over 60 rides, from roller coasters to kiddie rides, and even has a waterpark on-site.

The park is open year-round and is a great way to have some fun on a long California road trip.


La Brea Tar Pits

Learn about ancient, distinct mammals that used to roam California.

A man's hand holding a stick with liquid asphalt

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213) 763-3499 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $15, adults, $12, seniors & students, $7, children | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The La Brea Tar Pits is one of the most unique museums in Los Angeles. The tar pits were created as a result of natural asphalt seeping up from the ground over thousands of years.

Ancient, now-extinct animal footprints and bones have been identified in these tar pits like wooly mammoths and saber tooth tigers. The rare pits display science in action and are present in very few places around the world.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Visit the mineral hall or make friends with dinosaurs at this LA museum.

A skeleton of a Dinosaur at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
(photo: Kit Leong / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (213) 763-3466 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $15, adults, $12, seniors & students, $7, children | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a fun yet educational experience in the heart of Los Angeles. This is one of the coolest things to do in LA for visitors of all ages.

With exhibitions like the Gem Hall, L.A. Underwater, and Dinosaur Encounters, you can spend hours at the Natural History Museum. I recommend checking out the recently returned First Friday event, an after-hours soiree with live music, topical discussions, and signature cocktails.

Discovery Cube Orange County

Learn about science in a hands-on way.

Exterior view of the Discovery Cube Orange County Children's Science Center
(photo: Simone Hogan / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 542-2823 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $19.95, adults, $14.95 3-14, $6, parking | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The Discovery Cube Orange County is the top interactive kids’ museum in Orange County. This science center gives kids the unique chance to lay on a bed of nails and experience what an electric shock feels like.

There is also a showtime theater at the museum that showcases educational films. The OC Discovery Cube is the perfect activity for children when they’re on summer break so they can stay up-to-date with learning science.

The Getty

Photograph some of the world’s most famous art.

Aerial view of the buildings, garden and overlooking view from The Getty

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (310) 440-7300 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5:30 daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: Free, $20 parking, $15 after 3 pm | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

The Getty, Los Angeles displays some of the world’s most famous art from the Middle Ages to today. Collections include works from Pissarro, Van Gogh, and Monet.

The Greek-like architecture of The Getty gives it a regal feel and its position in Los Angeles puts it near other major LA attractions. The best part about this museum is the free admission.

Exploratorium San Francisco

Explore the beauty of art and science on the SF waterfront.

View of the towering illuminated sculpture "Buckyball" at Exploratorium San Francisco during nighttime
(photo: Mathieu LE MAUFF / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (415) 528-4444 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 12 pm-5 pm Sundays, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $39.95, adult, $29.95 ages 4-17, free 3 & under

One of the most popular museums in San Francisco, the Exploratorium San Francisco communicates the relationship between science, art, and human perception to its visitors.

This hands-on museum lies at the forefront of major San Francisco attractions on the waterfront Embarcadero and is a great pastime activity while exploring other cool, budget-friendly activities in San Francisco

🛏️ Looking for Accommodation? Olive’s Gate Rental is my top choice.


Visit one of the most photographed museums in LA.

View of the Urban Lights at the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The entrance light installation 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (323) 857-6000 | Website | Hours: 11 am-6 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-8 pm Fridays, 10 am-7 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Wednesdays | Entrance: $25, adults, $10, ages 3-17

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA for short, is the most popular museum in LA for young people. The huge museum is affordable and colorful, and there are many opportunities for a new social media profile photo offered.

Current exhibitions include The Five Directions: Lacquer Through East Asia, Afro-Atlantic Histories, and Pressing Politics: Revolutionary Graphics from Mexico and Germany.

Children’s Creativity Museum

Let your children unleash their creative side through art, gardening, or music.

Families strolling around the outside of the Children's Creativity Museum
(photo: Tiago Seither Afonso / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (415) 820-3320 | Website | Hours: 10 am-1 pm Thursdays & Fridays, 10 am-4 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Monday-Wednesday | Entrance: $20 Saturday & Sunday, $15 Thursday & Friday | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

The Children’s Creativity Museum is a child’s dream come true. The hands-on environment of the museum is designed to promote creativity in children ages 2-12 through the art lab, community garden, paint studio, and music studio.

Imaginations run wild at this San Francisco museum. Be sure to pack some snacks in a handy lunch box because your children are likely to want to stay here all day.

The Tech Interactive

Explore the ever-evolving world of technology in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Exterior view of The Tech Interactive museum in California
The Tech has hands-on activities for kids to explore

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (408) 294-8324 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 3 pm Tues – Fri, 10 am – 5 pm Sat, 11 am – 5 pm Sun | Entrance: $34 adults, $28 seniors, students, & children 

You’ll find an excellent technology museum in San Jose, California. Kids can design and test machines in the Tech Studio, solve a cyber mystery in the cybersecurity area, or build a robot to help with a simple task. The Gravity Wall, where you can create a massive ball run, is always a huge hit!

San Diego Natural History Museum

Learn about the unique California natural history.

A closeup view of the San Diego Natural History Museum's name outside the building

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (619) 232-3821 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm daily, Closed Wednesdays | Entrance: $22, adult, $12, ages 3-17, free under 3

This museum might be slightly smaller than the Los Angeles natural history museum, but it still displays similar educational exhibits. Learn about California wildlife from the Caught on Camera display or about the native flora and fauna of Baja Mexico, our close neighbor, from the Expedition Baja showroom.

There is also a giant screen theater at this museum so you can give your feet a rest from exploring the many exhibits at this top San Diego museum.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Support a non-profit, conservation wildlife center.

View of the turtle and fish inside the aquarium

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 243-8850 | Website | Hours: 9 am-4 pm Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm Saturdays & Sundays, Closed Mondays & Tuesdays | Entrance: $18, adult $14 child ages 4-15, free under 4 | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

The Turtle Bay Exploration Park is an underrated museum in Redding, California. Encompassing more than 300 acres, this explore park is also a wildlife center, arboretum, and botanical garden. 

Little explorers can participate in an art exhibit every Thursday and animal lovers can watch the park’s Predator vs Prey show each Saturday to learn about fauna survival techniques in the wild.

Sites & Attractions

Oak Glen

Pick the ripest apples in SoCal or try a warm apple pie.

View inside the American-style store in Oak Glen
An old-timey, American-style store in Oak Glen

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Hotels

California is full of small-town American towns like Oak Glen. Known for delicious warm apple pies and orchard apple picking, Oak Glen is a fun Southern California activity for the whole family.

Little ones enjoy the Oak Glen petting zoo and train ride while older kids can enjoy live music and fresh caramel apples during the peak summer season.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Hike among basaltic rocks in this volcano park.

View of Lake Helen beginning to thaw below the Lassen Peak during winter

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 595-4480 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $30 per vehicle, $10 in winter | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a bit off the beaten path but offers a beautiful landscape not offered elsewhere in the state.

It’s one of the best things to do in Northern California and one of the few places in the world that houses 4 different types of volcanoes. Hike around volcanic dry lake beds and through pine tree forests for a fun Lassen Volcanic experience.

🚗 Need a Car? Lassen Volcanic is far from major CA cities. Discover Cars is the best way to get to and from remote California destinations.

Lava Beds National Monument

Discover underground geological wonders near the Oregon state line.

View of the opening of the cave from below the ground in Lava Beds National Monument
Get below ground and explore some caves

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (530) 667-8113 | Website | Hours: Visitor Center 9:30 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $25 vehicle pass

Explore these underground caves in northeast California that were made by lava flows from the Medicine Lake Volcano. The park has a variety of caves ranging from easy-to-explore caves where you don’t even have to dip your head to seriously challenging labyrinths. I recommend Skull Cave for the whole family — it’s roomy and has an ice floor!

Sequoia National Park

Camp under the world’s largest trees.

View of the hiking trail leading through giant redwoods in Muir forest

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (559) 565-3341 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Located in Central California only 138 miles southeast of Yosemite, Sequoia National Park is the best place to view the giant trees in California. 

Hike among dense concentrations of sequoias, the largest trees in the world. Be sure to also check out the gateway town to the Sequoias, Three Rivers, for a local brew or a calming dip in the river. This is one of the best California mountain towns and is only minutes from the national park entrance. 

Death Valley National Park

Explore sand dunes and salt flats in this CA desert park.

The author McKenna Mobley posing at the empty Death Valley National Park
Me in Death Valley

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 786-3200 | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Did you know that Death Valley, California holds the record for the hottest air temperature in the world? This national park is a Central California gem right off the 395- the Sierra Mountain highway.

Run down Death Valley sand dunes, hike to 11,000 feet, snap a photo of the park’s wild donkeys, or camp under a star-filled sky in Death Valley. Death Valley is one of the best places to camp in California but visit in the winter for the best experience.

Mount Baldy

Shred down the slopes in one of California’s smallest mountain towns.

View of the snowstorm at Mount Baldy
A snow storm rolling in over Mt. Baldy

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (909) 982-0800 | Website | Hours: 8 am-4 pm daily | Entrance: $24 per person per chairlift ride | 👉 Browse Hotels on Booking

A Southern California mountain gem, Mount Baldy is the highest mountain in Los Angeles County. It’s one of the smallest mountain towns and is home to a booming tourist California ski resort.

Teach your kids how to snowboard, hike with them on one of many Angeles National Forest trails, or play pool in the Mount Baldy Lodge. Mount Baldy is one of the top destinations in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Lake Tahoe

Swim in one of the largest lakes in CA.

Aerial view of the scenic landscape of South Lake Tahoe Emerald Bay during autumn
A crisp view of the South Lake Tahoe Emerald Bay

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 24 hours | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Welcome to alpine forest paradise. Lake Tahoe is the ultimate destination for outdoor recreation activities, from winter sports to fishing, mountain biking, and hiking.

This area is the perfect destination to visit with energetic children or adolescents who love sports. Lake Tahoe is one of the best lakes in California and is the largest alpine lake in North America.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Visit native California fauna on the CA coast.

A lone meerkat standing at Santa Barbara Zoo

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (805) 962-5339 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am-5 pm daily | Entrance: $25, adult, $15, ages 2-12 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Only three hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a top California beach destination. Switch things up by visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo with your kids next time you’re in town.

The beach is the main activity in this romantic California destination, but the zoo is the most entertaining activity in town for younger kids. Visit native California wildlife at the Santa Barbara zoo for ultimate family fun.

FAQs About What to Do in California with Kids

What city in California is kid friendly?

San Diego, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, and San Francisco are all kid-friendly cities in California.

What part of California is good for families?

There are family-friendly activities to do in every part of California. From the beaches in the south to national parks in the north, each area of the western state is good for families.

How do I plan a trip to California with kids?

Pack layers, research top destinations ahead of time, maximize visiting theme parks, and book hotels ahead of time to plan a California trip with kids.

Is California good for kids?

California is one of the best U.S. states for kids. There are an immeasurable amount of things to do with kids.


Have fun exploring things to do in California with kids. Check out my California packing list guide for the perfect trip to the golden state!

Laura Falin contributed to this list of the best things to do in California with kids.

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