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Southern California Family Vacations


The Golden State is as big as some entire countries, stretching 840 miles down the Pacific Coast. Most families head to Southern California, where Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego are popular spots. (The San Francisco "Bay Area", just so you know, is some 400 miles north.) Below are some top things to do on family getaways.

1. LEGOLAND California Theme Park

things to do in Southern California - Legoland
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California.
South of LA and and north of San Diego, this theme park has 128 acres, and much of what's in it is made of LEGO blocks. Designed for ages two to twelve, LEGOLAND has a coaster, "dark ride", and other rides; mini-lands such as Ancient Egypt, made out of Lego); and many more attractions.

2. Disneyland California for Families

top things to do in Southern California - Disneyland
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort.

This popular destination in Anaheim has two theme parks: Disneyland Park (the original "Magic Kingdom"), and Disney's California Adventure, which opened in 2001 and is getting a giant renovation. Anaheim is in Orange County, which is south of Los Angeles County; see an overview of the many different Neighborhoods of Los Angeles


3. Universal Studios Hollywood

things to do in southern California - Universal Studios Hollywood
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie-based theme park in Los Angeles with many of the same exciting attractions as its bigger Orlando cousin: Shrek-4D; Revenge of the Mummy; Jurassic Park The Ride, and the new Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction. Universal Studios Hollywood is also a working movie studio.

4. Knotts Berry Farm

Photo courtesy of Knotts Berry Farm.
Photo courtesy of Knotts Berry Farm.

This 150-acre theme park has big-time roller coasters for thrill-seekers, and also attractions such as Old-West Ghost Town and Camp Snoopy. Knotts Berry farm was one of the first theme parks to get scary at Halloween, and still stages a top scare-fest. (And yes, there is an original history as a berry farm: it's cute, actually.).

5. Free Things To Do in LA

About.com's Guide for Los Angeles Travel has a bunch of ideas: visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the movie stars' footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre; attend a tv show taping; visit the La Brea Tar Pits, where fossils are excavated; visit the California Science Center; and more.

6. Catalina Island - Los Angeles Area

About's guide for California covers this popular getaway that's 22 miles from Los Angeles.

7. Terranea Resort - South of Los Angeles

Southern California getaway ideas - photo courtesy of Terranea Resort
Photo courtesy of Terranea Resort.
This resort perched about the Pacific Ocean has guestrooms, has suites, bungalows and villas. Features that families will enjoy include 9-hole par 3 golf, children's center with kids programs, and miles of scenic bluff-top trails. Location is 20 miles south of LA airport, 20 miles north of Long Beach airport, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Check prices at Kayak.com

8. Huntington Beach, California

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntingdon Beach.
Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntingdon Beach.
The trendy Huntington Beach area, south of LA, bills itself as "Surf City USA", and offers beach hotels and surfing lessons, as well as reasonable proximity to Disneyland. Left: the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach is one option for a family stay.

Check prices

9. Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach

Another option in the "Surf City U.S.A." area is the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. This AAA four-diamond resort is 45 minutes south of Los Angeles; location is across the Pacific Coast Highway from the eight-mile beach, and within walking distance from the Huntington Beach Pier and Huntington Beach’s Main Street.

Check prices

10. Queen Mary Hotel, Long Beach, California

Photo courtesy of the Queen Mary Hotel.
Photo courtesy of the Queen Mary Hotel.
The legendary ocean liner is now a stationary thirties-vintage hotel. Cabins have original details such as portholes and wood paneling; some family rooms; kids like to explore the ship; price is reasonable. Read visitor comments (at a site like TripAdvisor.com) to make sure this experience is for you. Like a museum, the ship "is a time-capsule that transports you back to an age much different than our own." Various tours are offered; some packages bundle tix to kid-friendly attractions in the area.

Check prices

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