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California Spring Break Ideas for Families


Generally, "spring break" for families in the US and Canada means a ten-day school-break in March or April. (College age spring break is a very different thing.) The Golden State has plenty of destinations to offer... Keep in mind, though, that Northern California has cooler temperatures.

Looking for affordable options? See family spring break vacation deals in the West.

1. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem Coming Spring 2014

Despicable Me : Minion Mayhem The Ride  Special Preview Day @ Universal Studios Hollywood, California
prayitnophotography/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

A new environment based on the blockbuster film “Despicable Me is opening spring 2014 at Universal Studios Hollywood that promises to immerse families in the world of Gru and his Minions. The attraction will include a version of the "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" 3D Ultra-HD motion-simulator ride already at Universal Studios Orlando, plus “Super Silly Fun Land,” an interactive play zone. 

2. Spring Break in San Diego

Photo courtesy of San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau / Joanna DiBona.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau / Joanna DiBona.

Southern California temperatures should be lovely during spring break, and About.com's Guide for California Travel has a San Diego planner with highlights for families such as the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.

Seeing animals in their natural habitat is even better, and spring is a fantastic time to go whale watching in San Diego:.

Families will also like The New Children's Museum; trolley tours; and Balboa Park, which has a dozen attractions.

3. LEGOLAND California

photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California.

A great idea for spring break with younger schoolkids: LEGOLAND California -- south of Anaheim/Disneyland, and north of San Diego-- 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 (all made out of Lego, of course), and many more attractions.

4. San Francisco

San Francisco sightseeing - Photo © Tony Conboy III.
Photo © Tony Conboy III.

San Francisco has lots of fun sightseeing for families. Remember, though, this isn't southern California: don't expect hot weather during spring break!

5. Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

Ritz-Carlton is a luxury brand that welcomes families with features such as Ritz Kids clubs. This resort just 40 minutes from San Francisco and from the affluent Silicon Valley burbs of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, but a world away, with miles of unspoiled scenic coast.

6. Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a popular tourist spot just south of San Francisco: home to a major aquarium, Cannery Row (made famous in John Steinbeck's novel) and Fisherman's Wharf; nearby you'll probably see sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters. Great spot to try sea-kayaking! The spring break months of March and April are whale-watching months as well.

7. San Luis Obispo

Photo © www.elephantseal.org -  seals on view near San Luis Obispo.
Photo courtesy of www.elephantseal.org. Click for larger view.

Put together an affordable getaway on the coast halfway between LA and San Francisco: low-cost attractions include the Morro Bay Natural History Museum and San Luis Obispo Children's Museum; economy lodgings options are available too. Plus, free fun at beaches that have tide pools, or piers, or sand dunes... See seals, sea lions, sea otters, and even elephant seals (March to December) at one beach breeding ground. Also free is a weekly night-time farmer’s market with live music, performances, bouncey houses for kids. Also in the area: Hearst Castle for sightseeing, and surfing beaches.


8. Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Falls  ©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
Yosemite is one of the most popular National Parks in the U.S., to the point that crowds are a serious issue in summer. About.com's Guide for California for Visitors highly recommends a visit during spring, when waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides. Spring-time visitors won't have to contend with crowds and Yosemite weather is usually mild.

9. Spring Break Skiing: Mammoth Mountain

Photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth Mountain is, well, mammoth: over 11,000 feet high at the summit. Mammoth is a great destination for spring skiing: it's known as a top spot for late season snow, and sometimes stays open right through June. Look for "Kids Ski Free" pricing. Mammoth Mountain is 264 miles east of San Francisco, and gets cheap flights from SF, LA, Reno and other cities.

10. Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort

This upscale ranch resort is a 10,000-acre working dude ranch is in the Santa Ynez Valley, 2 hours north of LA, 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara, and near the quaint Danish town of Solvang. Activities include fly-fishing, kayaking, sailing on the lake, archery, golf, 50 miles of riding trails, a ropes course, kids program, hiking, biking. Bonus points for no tv's in rooms.

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