Image credit: Visit California
California is one giant
playground for kids. Helen
Hayes shares her family’s 13
C alifornia. The Land of Milk and
Honey. A land overflowing with
riches of the natural and monetary
kind, which is in sync with its gold
There is so much to see
and do in the sunshine state: surf at its golden
beaches, ski on its snowy peaks, be thrilled at
its world-famous theme parks, be wowed by
the entertainment on offer and be amazed at
its stunning national parks. Here are 13 places
to get you started in the land of plenty.
1. A Mammoth summer
Mammoth Lakes is holiday heaven in summer,
with the village tucked at the base of soaring
mountains that are just unlike anywhere else.
Visit Rainbow Falls and Devils Postpile or take
a day trip to Yosemite or Bodie State Park, an
eerie ghost town. Hire bikes and tackle some
of the bike trail or take on the number one
mountain bike park in the USA.
kayaking, horseriding and golfing, or sit in a hot
spring on the valley floor. The Adventure Centre
has ziplining and rock climbing, and don’t miss
heading up the gondola for breathtaking views.
Mammoth summer hiking
2. Bodie Ghost Town
Watch the kids’ eyes light up when you tell
them that Bodie is a real ghost town! It had
10,000 residents in the 1800s but now there are
only tourists, the two rangers who protect it and
the odd ghost. There is a museum and you can
also join a tour around the site – if you dare.
3. Visit Yosemite
With towering Sequoia trees, picturesque
lakes, rivers, waterfalls and an abundance of
trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding,
Yosemite National Park is hard to beat.
There are so many outdoor activities for kids
including guided family treasure hunts, rafting
trips on the river, storytelling by the fire,
panning for gold, night prowling tours and
junior ranger programmes. There’s plenty of
accommodation too, from camping to the
beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel.
4. Splash into SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld is packed with attractions that
showcase the marine environment and has
plenty of rides to turn you and the kids inside
out and upside down.
Touch a dolphin at
Dolphin Point, meet a Beluga whale, feed a ray
at Manta or let cleaner fish have a nibble on
your hands at Explorer’s Reef. The aquariums
contain nearly 13,000 fish and invertebrates,
plus you can see otters, penguins, polar bears,
sea lions, turtles and more. You can also learn
about their incredible rescue work, too.
For views of San Francisco Bay, ride a cable car on
the Powell/Hyde line which runs from Union
Square to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.
5. Zoo x two
San Diego really is spoiled for choice with two
amazing animal experiences - the San Diego
Zoo and the Safari Park. The Zoo turns 100 in
2016 and offers plenty of excellent encounters,
such as spending time with pandas before the
zoo opens, feeding the giraffes and going
behind the scenes on an Inside Look tour. At the
Safari Park, watch a cheetah sprint, do a zipline
flight over the zoo, take part in a safari tour, or
explore new heights on a balloon ride.
6. Escape to Alcatraz
Alcatraz is a fascinating place to visit. A federal
jail from 1934 to 1963, it housed such famous
prisoners as Al Capone and George 'Machine
Gun' Kelly. Do the audio tour around the cells,
hear about the escapes, military history,
American Indian occupation and the island's
The ferry ride over with Alcatraz
Cruises is very scenic, and you can explore
Fishermanï¿½s Wharf afterwards. Of course, no
trip to San Francisco is complete without a
tram ride or two, so save some time for that.
7. Do Disneyland
Kids of all ages love Disneyland, so allow
multiple days to explore the Disneyland Park
and the Disney California Adventure Park.
Even better, stay at one of the Disneyland
hotels so no time is wasted getting to and from
Highlights include World or Color,
Radiator Springs Racing, the reimagined
Hyperspace Mountain and touches of the new
Star Wars Season of the Force throughout
Tomorrowland. With Diamond Anniversary
celebrations lighting up the park until 5
September 2016, it is even more magical than
usual, if that's possible!
8. Shoot the pier at Huntington Beach
If your kids are into surfing, drop in to
Huntington Beach, known as Surf City USA.
Budding surfers can take a lesson or hire a
board and join the throng in the water.
game of volleyball, throw a Frisbee or ride
along the cycle paths that stretch for miles.
Don’t forget the pier itself – walk to the end and
watch the surfers below, then have a meal at
Ruby’s Surf City Diner and watch the sunset.
9. Visit Buena Park
Close to Disneyland and Huntington Beach,
Buena Park is another hotspot. The city’s main
attraction is Knott’s Berry Farm, considered
one of the best amusement parks in the world.
It has a huge range of entertainment and rides,
including GhostRider, one of the world’s longest
and tallest wooden roller coasters that will be
restored in 2016. Another must-do is the
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament,
complete with jousting and sword fighting.
10. Hike to the Hollywood sign
There are several trails you can take, all
moseying through the Santa Monica
Mountains. The easiest is the Charlie Turner
Trailhead off the Mount Hollywood Trail which
is suitable for children.
The Canyon Boulevard
Trail is moderate but has the added pulling
power of the Bronson Cave – better known as
the Bat Cave – where Batman (AKA Adam
West) used to keep his Batmobile. The
Cahuenga Peak Hike is the most difficult, but
once at the top you can go behind the iconic
11. Cast a spell at Universal
It’s more exciting than stumbling upon an
Invisibility Cloak or scoring the winning goal at
the Quidditch World Cup. Muggles rejoice as The
Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens its gates
on 7 April 2016!
Catch the Hogwarts Express
then fly around the castle on the gobsmackingly
good Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
ride, which will no doubt be even better than its
predecessors in Orlando and Tokyo because it is
a 3D experience. Shop for a wand at Ollivanders
in Hogsmeade and indulge in a butterbeer to fuel
the afternoon spent ticking off all the other
amazing things to do elsewhere at Universal.
12. Hang out at Catalina Island
The island of Santa Catalina, or Catalina for
short, is an hour’s ride on the Catalina
Express ferry from Long Beach. There are a
limited number of cars on the island – you get
around it in a golf cart, on foot or on a bike.
Sign up for a glass-bottomed boat tour or go
diving, snorkelling, kayaking or sailing.
land, try your hand at ziplining, play a round of
golf, rent a Segway or do a tour of the island in
a Hummer or an open-air Unimog. There are
even bison roaming loose here, thought to
have been first imported in 1924 for the
making of a film, ‘The Vanishing American’.
13. See the underwater world
at Monterey Bay
Located along the famous Cannery Row, of
John Steinbeck fame, the Monterey Bay
Aquarium sits on Monterey Bay and is home
to 35,000 animals and plants representing
over 550 species. Marvel at the cheeky sea
otters, seahorses, sharks, penguins and
thousands of other marine animals and
experience the touch pools, kelp forest and
Splash Zone family galleries.
California Report Card
Qantas flies to San Francisco while American
Airlines now flies from Sydney to Los Angeles.
The train journey between Los Angeles and
San Francisco with Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is
an awesome trip with beautiful scenery.
The Anabella Hotel in Anaheim is an oasis of
calm located across from the Disney California
Adventure Park. With lush, landscaped
grounds, two pools, excellent dining options
and a family-friendly ethos, kids and adults
alike will be happy here.