40 Places to See in California Before Your Kids Are All Grown Up

Written by Chantae Reden
Updated on
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California is a paradise for kids and adults alike. From snowcapped mountain ranges to untouched beaches to amusement parks, there is no shortage of places to see and enjoy.

You can easily spend an entire childhood in California without experience all that there is to do. In one of the most diverse places in the world, children will build memories as they learn about and explore these places you have to see before your children are all grown up.

Here’s 40 amazing things to do in California with kids:

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National ParkSource: flickr
Yosemite National Park


Why you’ve got to go: Yosemite National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails that weave past waterfalls, wildlife, lakes, and rivers. Children will love exploring around the gargantuan sequoia trees and learning about nature. It’s a California icon that has inspired artists and outdoorsmen for centuries.

What to do: Camp, swim, fish, hike, and take pictures. Teenagers who love a physical challenge should climb to the top of Half Dome. You can do a multi-day hike along the John Muir Trail or camp at one of the central sites and do day trip explorations.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

2. Disneyland

Disneyland, AnaheimSource: Flickr
Disneyland, Anaheim


Why you’ve got to go: Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché, but Disneyland is a dream world for children. Kids will love seeing their favorite characters come to life and parents will love the sense of nostalgia it brings. Disneyland is truly a magical place that creates memories that families will never forget.

What to do: Ride on all the classic Disney rides, collect autographs, and eat the over-the-top carnival style food. Explore Toontown, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Critter country, the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and more. There is also a nightly fireworks show that every kid will love watching.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18. There are height requirements for rides, so give it another year if your children aren’t quite tall enough yet.

More info: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/

3. Disney California Adventure

Disney California AdventureSource: flickr
Disney California Adventure


Why you’ve got to go: Next to classic Disneyland is Disney California Adventure, a separate theme park that has seven themed areas that are completely different to Disneyland. Visit places like Cars Land, Paradise Pier, a Bug’s Land, and Hollywood Land. If your child is a Disney and Pixar fanatic, you can’t miss Disney California Adventure.

What to do: Ride Mickey’s Fun Wheel, a rollercoaster with a 360-degree loop, and other exciting rides. There are tons of restaurants, themed areas, and characters to take pictures with. And while Disneyland does not serve alcohol, Disney California Adventure has places where parents can indulge.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18. Mind the height requirements for rides.

More info: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disney-california-adventure/

4. Crissy Field

Crissy FieldSource: flickr
Crissy Field

San Francisco

Why you’ve got to go: Chrissy Field is a former airfield that now serves as a campground on the beach. With views of the Golden Gate Bridge and still being within city limits, it’s the perfect place for families to get their nature fix next to an urban environment.

What to do: Ride bikes from Marina Green to Fort Point or along the promenade, build sandcastles and swim on Baker Beach, have picnics, or do day trips into the city with the airfield being your base. Kitesurfers and windsurfers can set sail once the wind picks up. Grab a warm meal and souvenirs at the Warming Hut.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18

More info: http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/crissy-field.html

5. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State ParkSource: flickr
Crystal Cove State Park

Laguna Beach

Why you’ve got to go: This beautiful state park is over three miles long and offers the perfect setting for children to play and explore. There is also a trail system that weaves inland, for when it’s time to get out of the water.

What to do: Build sandcastles, explore tidepools, swim in the typically mellow ocean, go boogie-boarding, and walking or mountain biking through the inland trails. When there’s a slight breeze, many people also love to fly kites as there’s plenty of launching and landing space. There is a nearby campsite to camp at, or stay in one of the local lodges built in the early 1930s.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18

More info: http://www.crystalcovestatepark.org/

6. Living Desert

Living DesertSource: flickr
Living Desert

Palm Desert

Why you’ve got to go: This zoo and conservation site will let children learn all about natural wonders and wildlife. There are two sections, North America and Africa that provide an up-close look at exotic desert animals and plants.

What to do: Take pictures of beautiful creatures like the fennec fox, cheetahs, camels, giraffes, jaguars and more. Watch interesting programs from the Tennity Amphitheater and hike along the San Andreas Nature Trail. If you’re particularly adventurous, you can even ride a camel or feed a giraffe by hand. You can get an overview of the whole park on a shuttle ride and then hop on and off as you please.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18. Children under 3 years old and children over 12 are considered general admission.

More info: http://www.livingdesert.org/

7. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National ParkSource: flickr
Lassen Volcanic National Park


Why you’ve got to go: Lassen Volcanic National Park is a wonderland of volcanic gas vents, boiling pools, mud pots, all powered by a deep hydrothermal system. Kids will love learning about the history of the volcano and witnessing its intense power.

What to do: Hike along the trails past boiling mud and water, walk over a boardwalk that takes you to the Big Boiler, and pretend you’re a witch at the Devil’s Kitchen, a cauldron of boiling water, mud, and steam. The Boiling Springs Lake is also a site to explore, where the bubbling lake reaches above 125 degrees. You can easily spend a weekend venturing around all of the other-worldly geological features.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 and up. Going off trail is dangerous, and could be stressful with toddlers.

More info: https://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/exploring-the-hydrothermal-areas.htm

8. Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Turtle Bay Park ParkSource: flickr
Turtle Bay Park Park


Why you’ve got to go: This 300-acre park has a museum, arboretum, a sundial bridge, botanical gardens, and wildlife center for children to explore and learn appreciation for the natural world. The park prioritizes playfulness and sustainability as its core values.

What to do: Learn about micro life at the nano exhibit, see plants grow in real time at the “Rooted” feature, and admire the art at the student art exhibition. Walk along the nature trails and take pictures inside the arboretum. There are a variety of other science and art exhibitions rotating throughout the year.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.turtlebay.org/about/mission

9. Legoland California

Legoland CaliforniaSource: flickr
Legoland California


Why you’ve got to go: Children and parents will love expanding their imagination playing with the multitude of hands-on activities in Legoland. In the spirit of California’s coastline, there is a water park and aquarium. Legoland also has themed areas like Ninjago, Star Wars, Miniland, Fun Town, Castle Hill, and more.

What to do: Throw on a bathing suit and go on the waterpark rides, get a Legoland driver’s license at the race track, use your imagination and build something grand, and admire the lego sculptures built with millions of plastic bricks. Kids can also play underwater instruments like pipe organs and musical fountains.

Get there when kids are: Up to 12 years old.

More info: https://www.legoland.com/california/

10. Lake Tahoe

Lake TahoeSource: flickr
Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Why you’ve got to go: Lake Tahoe is a natural playground all year round. This massive lake is surrounded by forests, mountains, rivers, and kid-friendly eco lodges. It’s one of the best places for families to visit in California, as there’s no shortage of activities to do with kids.

What to do: Spend warm days swimming, hiking, boating, kayaking, and fishing on Lake Tahoe itself. Once the snow falls, go snowmobiling, snowboarding, skiing, and sledding on the mountains. Lake Tahoe also has many indigenous sites surrounding the area, where kids can learn more about American history.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.cityofslt.us/

11. Universal Studios

Universal StudiosSource: flickr
Universal Studios

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: Children can get real look at how their favorite movies are made. There are working movie studios, rides, and sites that will ignite imaginations.

What to do: Go on the variety of rides, look at the behind-the-scenes of movie setups, learn how to do movie stunts, and catch a glimpse of Hollywood’s hottest stars. The most popular attraction right now is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a magical display where you can sample butterbeer and shop at Hogsmeade. The brave can even watch King Kong take down skyscrapers in 3D, the world’s largest (and apparently most intense) 3D performance.

Get there when kids are: 3 years old and up.

More info: https://store.universalstudioshollywood.com

12. Catalina Island

Catalina IslandSource: flickr
Catalina Island


Why you’ve got to go: Kids and adults alike will love having an adventurous getaway to this small pacific island. The island is so perfect for children, it’s even taken on the nickname of “Kidalina.” The variety of terrain means that no child (or adult) will be bored. Spend time in the Pacific Ocean, visit the town of Avalon, and watch bison graze in Catalina’s grasslands.

What to do: Kayak, snorkel, and swim in the sea. Build sandcastles at the beach. Whale watch on the ferry ride over. If you want to get dry, simply head inland on a hike or meander through the peaceful town that doesn’t have a single traffic light.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18

More info: https://www.catalinachamber.com/

13. Lake Shasta

Lake ShastaSource: flickr
Lake Shasta


Why you’ve got to go: Build strong family memories on one of California’s largest and most pristine lakes, surrounded by wilderness. You can have a classic American family experience complete with campfires and s’mores.

What to do: Rent a houseboat for a few days and cruise around the coves, go wakeboarding, swimming, fishing, hiking, camping, fishing, water skiing, boating, standup paddleboarding, and much more. The lake is so huge, you can easily find a remote spot away from other families – where you’ll only have time to yourselves.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.shastalake.com/

14. Balboa Park

Balboa ParkSource: flickr
Balboa Park

San Diego

Why you’ve got to go: With museums, art sculptures, theaters, and playgrounds, Balboa Park is an ideal environment for children to learn and play. It’s located in the heart of San Diego, near the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, so you can easily spend an entire week in Balboa Park and its surrounds.

What to do: Take your children to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center for hands-on science experiments and the IMAX theater. There is also the Museum of Man, the San Diego Museum of Art, The Old Globe theater for musicals and performances, and much more. No matter what interests your children have, you’ll be able to develop and explore them here.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://www.balboapark.org/

15. Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry FarmSource: knotts.com
Knott’s Berry Farm

Buena Park

Why you’ve got to go: This 160-acre amusement park has all types of rollercoasters, holiday celebrations, water rides, live entertainment shows, thrill rides, and rides for children. Kids with a penchant for old cartoons will also get a chance to meet Snoopy!

What to do: Get your adrenaline pumping on one of the rollercoasters or suspenseful thrill rides, chow down on drumsticks and boysenberry pie, take a picture with Snoopy, and get wet on the water rides. There are different sections for children of different ages. Older kids will likely love the fast rides while the younger ones will have a great time at Camp Snoopy, a downplayed take on the ultimate thrill coasters.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 to 18.

More info: https://www.knotts.com

16. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate BridgeSource: Flickr
Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco

Why you’ve got to go: This California icon will be an adventurous and educational sight where kids can see urban life from a new perspective while learning about the past.

What to do: Discover why the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t colored gold, ride a bike across the bridge, or take the nearby ferry underneath it. If your kids are very active, you can walk across the bridge for a three-mile round-trip journey. To take pictures of the bridge, head to Vista Point or even better, to the Marin Headlands for a less crowded view.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 to 18.

More info: http://www.goldengatebridge.org/

17. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz IslandSource: flickr
Alcatraz Island

San Francisco

Why you’ve got to go: This former prison will leave your children filled with a sense of wonder and intrigue as they learn about what life was like for prisoners stationed at the eerie Alcatraz Island. Plus, you can always cite this as a place they’ll go if they don’t stop talking back.

What to do: Take a tour of Alcatraz Island and get a behind-the-scenes look into the prison cells, prison live, and the politics that went on during this time. There is a souvenir shop where kids can pick out prison-striped pajamas. Once outside of the prison, you can explore the beautiful tide pools, natural features, and go bird watching.

Get there when kids are:

More info: https://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm

18. Griffith Observatory

Griffith ObservatorySource: Flickr
Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: This incredible observatory hosts one of the world’s largest telescopes, planetarium exhibits, odes to the world’s greatest adventures, and is free to all who enter. Any child will dream big after seeing the galaxies beyond our planet.

What to do: Look to the sky through an incredible telescope, have a picnic in the park out front, explore the Griffith Observatory’s astronomy exhibits, and learn about the world that exists outside planet earth. If your child was a fan of the movie La La Land, this is one of the main scenes featured in this film.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.griffithobservatory.org/

19. San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari ParkSource: flickr
San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego

Why you’ve got to go: The San Diego Zoo is the world’s largest zoo and famous for its beautiful natural exhibits. The zoo emphasizes conservation and is voted as the number one zoo in the world nearly every year. From big animals like pandas, polar bears, and cheetahs to the planet’s miniature creatures like meercats and reptiles, your children will see them all.

What to do: Look up your child’s favorite animal on the zoo map and head straight there, feed friendly farm animals, watch educational shows, and go on a discovery tour. The park is so large, you can easily spend an entire day here without seeing every animal there is to see. Your child will love some of the hands-on exhibits where they can learn about what it’s like to live as an animal in the wild.

Get there when kids are: Ages 3 to 18.

More info: http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/

20. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic MountainSource: flickr
Six Flags Magic Mountain

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: Face your fear of heights and speed while igniting imagination. Six Flags Magic Mountain has the most intense rollercoasters in the state as well as fun rides for tiny riders. You’ll spending the day screaming and laughing as you build family memories on the state’s craziest rides.

What to do: Older and taller kids will get a thrill out of going on the extreme rides like Batman, Dive Devil, Goliath, and Drop of Doom. Smaller children and families will enjoy rides like the Canyon Blaster, Elmer’s Weather Baloons, and the Magic Flyer. Cartoon lovers can go to Looney Toons meet-and-greet sessions to collect autographs.

Get there when kids are: Ages 3 to 18 years old. Many rides do not have a height requirement as long as an adult rides with them.

More info: https://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain/

21. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay AquariumSource: flickr
Monterey Bay Aquarium


Why you’ve got to go: Children and adults with a penchant for sea life will love seeing all the ocean’s most beautiful creatures in an up-close view. The Monterey Aquarium has over 600 species of aquatic life on display and sea water is pumped into the exhibits from Monterey Bay.

What to do: Spend at least two to three hours admiring all the colorful and interesting creatures that call the aquarium home. The main exhibit, Ocean’s Edge Wing, is a 28-foot-high exhibit that has a plethora of marine life living inside. You can learn about regional fish and see one of the only sunfish kept in captivity. There are also tide pool tanks, sea otters, tuna, and more incredible creatures to meet.

Get there when kids are: Ages 3 to 18 years old.

More info: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

22. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National ParkSource: flickr
Sequoia National Park


Why you’ve got to go: Sequoia National Park is home to the sequoia, the largest tree in the world. There are thousands throughout the park with wildlife using them for food and shelter. There are a multitude of campsites, hiking trails, and natural springs for visitors to enjoy.

What to do: Camp at one of the park’s well-manicured campsites that have all amenities (including bear-proof storage boxes) that you might need. Hike, mountain bike, and explore in a surreal landscape that feature’s the largest trees in the world. Your children will have a new appreciation for nature and alternative sense of scale after leaving this incredible park.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.visitsequoia.com/Sequoia-National-Forest.aspx

23. Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery HouseSource: flickr
Winchester Mystery House

San Jose

Why you’ve got to go: In the late 1800s, Sarah Winchester built a mansion with over 160 rooms right after her husband and child passed away. Sarah Winchester consulted a spiritual medium to tell her why so much misfortune happened to her. This medium claimed that Sarah was being haunted by ghosts and that the only way to appease them was to build a mansion specifically for them. For 38 years, Sarah built the house that is still said to be haunted today.

What to do: Visit the Winchester Firearms Museum, meander through the blooming gardens, and learn about the history of the mysterious Sarah Winchester. Children might feel a strong sense of adventure after walking through the haunted mansion – an experience they’ll surely never forget.

Get there when kids are: Ages 6 and up.

More info: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/

24. La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar PitsSource: flickr
La Brea Tar Pits

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: During the ice age, animals fell into the La Brea Tar Pits and were preserved well enough for modern discovery. Today, you can see the remains of a saber-toothed cat, dire wolves, bison, ground sloths, turtles, and an American lion. There are still many excavation sites yet to be uncovered, and new discoveries are made almost daily.

What to do: Learn about the ice age at the 3D theater, imagine how life once was in the observation pit, and admire the fossils of over 650 species. Children will love learning about the process of fossil excavation and preservation through a guided tour that gives an inside look of the pits. Plus, kids can walk real life paleontologists work on new sites.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://tarpits.org/

25. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National ParkSource: flickr
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree

Why you’ve got to go: Two unique desert climates, the Mojave and the Colorado, combine to form the stunning Joshua Tree National Park. There are many types of trees, geological features, and animal species to see and explore.

What to do: Camp at one of the many immaculate campsites and hike, mountain bike, and explore the hundreds of miles of trails within the park. The most iconic site, the Joshua Tree, can be found all throughout the park and is a funky piece of nature that your children will love to photograph. Be sure to visit Skull Rock, Keys View, Cottonwood Spring, and Black Rock Canyon.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm

26. Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier - Los AngelesSource: Flickr
Santa Monica Pier – Los Angeles

Santa Monica

Why you’ve got to go: This colorful pier has classic American-style arcade games, a diner, and carnival rides. You’ll have a fun day building memories in one of California’s most iconic piers. Plus, there is something for children of all ages to love.

What to do: Go for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, go for a swim, tan on the beach, play arcade games, or go for a ride. There are often street performers happy to do tricks or paint portraits so long as you have a few dollars to spare. Grab a bite of classic carnival fare and take a free historical walking tour to learn more about the pier’s intriguing history.

Get there when kids are: Ages 3 to 18.

More info: http://santamonicapier.org/

27. Venice Beach

Venice BeachSource: flickr
Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Why you’ve got to go: Lively and colorful street performers will entertain children and adults all day long. The skatepark, beach, outside gym, basketball courts, and shops also mean that nobody will ever get bored.

What to do: Admire street performers’ many talents on the main drag – think acrobats, musicians, contortion, and comedy. Go for a swim in the sea, skate at the skatepark, shop for quirky souvenirs, photograph street art, and have a picnic. In Venice Beach, anything goes when it comes to personality – making your child feel completely at ease.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://venicebeach.com/

28. U.S.S. Midway Museum

U.S.S. Midway MuseumSource: dcwcreations / shutterstock
U.S.S. Midway Museum

San Diego

Why you’ve got to go: The U.S.S. Midway Museum was once a working aircraft carrier that served the military from 1945 to 1992. Over 200,000 sailors served their time on the carrier and it was a fully functioning hub that supported daily life. Today, it’s a museum where you can take an audio tour and learn about maritime history. Kids will love seeing the different planes and imagining how life was once like.

What to do: Go on the flight simulator ride, tour the U.S.S. Midway, learn from former U.S.S. Midway veterans, crawl inside former military aircrafts, and climb to the top of the ship. You and your children will be able to see Coronodo Island, Downtown San Diego, and the Harbor from the top of the ship.

Get there when kids are: Ages 6 and up.

More info: http://www.midway.org/

29. Gilroy Gardens

Gilroy GardensSource: Moni Hoque / shutterstock
Gilroy Gardens


Why you’ve got to go: This family-friendly theme park has safe and fun attractions for younger children. There are over forty rides and exhibits, mostly aimed at children aged three to ten years old. Some fun rides include the Strawberry Sundae, Timber Twister Coaster, and the carousel.

What to do: Spend the day exploring Gilroy Gardens and hopping on fun rides (many of them spin around and around), learning in a hands-on way at the education centers that focus on natural science, and wander through the gardens. The theme park is named after its incredible circus trees, a collection of trees that were manipulated as they grew to form loops, ladders, and other whimsical shapes.

Get there when kids are: Up to 12 years old.

More info: https://www.gilroygardens.org/

30. La Jolla Shores and Tide Pools

La Jolla Shores and Tide PoolsSource: Darryl Hills Photography / shutterstock
La Jolla Shores and Tide Pools

La Jolla

Why you’ve got to go: Children will love spending a full day in the sun exploring tide pools, splashing in the surf, playing at the park, and in the sand. La Jolla Shoes is heavily monitored by some of the city’s best lifeguards and the beach goes into the sea at a gentle slope, making it one of the safest and kid-friendly beaches in the state.

What to do: Look for wildlife in the tidepools, build sandcastles, go swimming, learn how to boogie board or surf, play at the local playground, roll round in the grass, and more. With the sun, sand, and sea, there is no shortage of things to do in La Jolla Shores.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://www.sandiego.gov/lifeguards/beaches/shores

31. Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth MountainSource: jannoon028 / shutterstock
Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Lakes

Why you’ve got to go: In the heart of the Sierras, Mammoth Mountain is a mecca for outdoorsmen, snowboarders, skiers, and explorers. The small town is family friendly, and children will love learning how to test their physical limits through all of the outdoor activities on offer here.

What to do: In the winter, go snowboarding, skiing, sledding, and ice skating. Build snowmen and have snowball fights in the forests that surround town. Sip hot cocoa at the lodge or at one of the village’s many comfort-food serving restaurants. In the summer, you can go swimming, hiking, camping, and mountain biking. No kid can get bored in Mammoth.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: http://www.mammothmountain.com

32. Julian

Julian, CaliforniaSource: Lyonstock / shutterstock
Julian, California


Why you’ve got to go: Julian is one of the most kid-friendly towns in California. You can spend a weekend visiting a hands-on gold and gem mine, fruit orchard, and walk through wilderness. There are also many supposedly haunted sites that will intrigue and offer a good-natured scare to older children.

What to do: Pan for gold and gems at one of the working gold mines, pick fruits at one of the apple or pear orchards and then cook fresh fruit pies, go for a hike, and visit a haunted house. Julian is the type of place that fosters freedom and old-time activities that many children simply don’t get a chance to do while living in the city.

Get there when kids are: Up to 14 years old.

More info: http://www.visitjulian.com/

33. Raging Waters

Raging WatersSource: Sundry Photography / shutterstock
Raging Waters

San Jose

Why you’ve got to go: This 60-acre waterpark is the largest in the state. Children and adults will have a fun time getting wet on the park’s 50 rides and attractions. There are slides that go nearly vertical, wave pools, and even a hydromagnetic rollercoaster.

What to do: Throw on a bathing suit and go down insane rides like the Aqua Rocket, the Dark Hole tube slide, the Bermuda Triangle, and more. Some will have you flying down from the comforts of a raft while others have you fly down as you are. You can also rent a cabana and relax in the shade if the rides prove to be too much.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 to 18 – make sure that they can swim well.

More info: https://www.ragingwaters.com/

34. STAR Eco Station

TurtleSource: Nneirda / shutterstock

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: Children will practice empathy as they volunteer with injured animals and learn about wildlife. STAR Eco Station is a science museum that houses illegally-trafficked exotic animals that were captured by the Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s a chance to see exotic creatures while helping a great cause.

What to do: Participate in hands-on rescue activities, learn about these colorful and rare creatures, and practice conservation techniques. There is an eco-camp where children can get more involved with the organization as well.

Get there when kids are: Up to 14 years old.

More info: http://www.ecostation.org/

35. Star of India

Star of India, San DiegoSource: Jenny Solomon / shutterstock
Star of India, San Diego

San Diego

Why you’ve got to go: The Star of India is the world’s oldest active sailing shop. Built in 1863, The Star of India has sailed around the world 21 times and was once trapped in ice in Alaska. Today, the ship still sails the open sea and offers tours for children and adults interested in seeing what life would’ve been like as a world-class sailor.

What to do: Take a tour of the Star of India and see how the many sails work, lay in the same bed that the sailors did, and learn more about life aboard this incredible ship. Make a weekend of watching the Pirates of the Caribbean series, then hopping on the Star of India for a wonderful imaginary experience.

Get there when kids are: Aged 5 to 14 years old.

More info: https://sdmaritime.org/visit/the-ships/star-of-india/

36. Bass Lake

Bass Lake, CaliforniaSource: hafakot / shutterstock
Bass Lake, California

Bass Lake

Why you’ve got to go: This lake nestled just eleven miles from the gates of Yosemite is a place for family fun once summertime comes around. Boating is very popular here and there are a multitude of summer camps based in the region.

What to do: Go water skiing, inner tubing, hiking, wakeboarding, jet skiing, fishing, and more. This is a great place to stay while exploring Yosemite National Park and the rest of the Sierra Mountains. Children are welcome at the local mom-and-pop restaurants that serve the Bass Lake community.

Get there when kids are: Up to 18 years old.

More info: https://basslakeca.com/

37. Rolling Robots

Rolling RobotsSource: Facebook
Rolling Robots

Glendale/Palos Verdes

Why you’ve got to go: Tech-talented children will love Rolling Robots, a place that teaches children how to build and control miniature robots. They will learn about circuit diagrams, components, magnetism, LED, compasses, and more. It’s a place where you can focus on technology and creativity.

What to do: Enroll your kid a science camp that are specifically tailored for your child’s interests. There are themes like bots with brains, mechanical robots, video game design, and bots for tots for younger builders. Kids will love all of the hands-on opportunities to pursue their passion for robots.

Get there when kids are: Ages 4 and up.

More info: https://beta.rollingrobots.com/

38. Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Bob Baker Marionette TheaterSource: Facebook
Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: Puppets have been a source of entertainment for children for hundreds of years. We have television shows based on them, street performers often capture the attention of a child with them, and now, you can experience a theatrical marionette performance on a grand and personal scale at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

What to do: Take your child to see a live performance of puppets that have come to life. There are a variety of shows that take place at a time, so you can go back again and again without getting bored.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 and up.

More info: http://www.bobbakermarionettetheater.com

39. Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of FameSource: Andrew Zarivny / shutterstock
Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Los Angeles

Why you’ve got to go: Walk along the path of stars and look for the names of your children’s favorite celebrities. Street performers and celebrity look-alikes often line the pathway and are always ready to pose for a picture. This is a great place for children to learn about the history of Tinsel Town and you can follow up the experience by heading to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

What to do: Take pictures with the street performers, search for specific names, watch a movie at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The area is also filled with record stores, restaurants, and bakeries to visit once you’ve scratched the walk of fame off your bucket list.

Get there when kids are: Ages 7 and up.

More info: http://www.walkoffame.com/

40. Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost TownSource: DKS-Photo / shutterstock
Calico Ghost Town


Why you’ve got to go: If you end up near Barstow, you have to visit the Calico Ghost Town that stands as a preserved mining town from the late 1800s. Children will love feeling as though they’ve stepped back into the wild western days of shootouts and lucky strikes. Interestingly, rumor has it that the town is haunted – and nearly every child loves a ghost story.

What to do: Take pictures of the perfectly preserved late 1800s architecture, go on a ghost tour, visit an old mine, and walk down the main street. Kids will love the fact that this little town is unlike anywhere else.

Get there when kids are: Ages 5 and up.

More info: http://cms.sbcounty.gov/parks/Parks/CalicoGhostTown.aspx

40 Places to See in California Before Your Kids Are All Grown Up:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Disneyland
  • Disney California Adventure
  • Crissy Field
  • Crystal Cove State Park
  • Living Desert
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Turtle Bay Exploration Park
  • Legoland California
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Universal Studios
  • Catalina Island
  • Lake Shasta
  • Balboa Park
  • Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Griffith Observatory
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Winchester Mystery House
  • La Brea Tar Pits
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Venice Beach
  • U.S.S. Midway Museum
  • Gilroy Gardens
  • La Jolla Shores and Tide Pools
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Julian
  • Raging Waters
  • STAR Eco Station
  • Star of India
  • Bass Lake
  • Rolling Robots
  • Bob Baker Marionette Theater
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Calico Ghost Town