Nowhere else will you find so many theme parks, water parks, animal parks, child-friendly restaurants and family accommodation. Then there's the endless sunshine and mild climate! This is as good as it gets.
Disneyland Resort is twice as much fun since February 2001, when its second park, California Adventure, opened. This added another three lands (Golden State, Paradise Pier and Hollywood Pictures Backlot), to Disneyland's eight (Adventureland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Main Street U.S.A. New Orleans Square, Tomorrowland and Mickey's Toontown). Way too much fun to be had in one day - or even two!
Called the "happiest place on earth", it's easy to see why. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is happy here. The staff, called "cast members", are so polite and helpful, nothing is ever a problem. Smiling is addictive and very contagious. The children are just so thrilled when they see their favourite characters walking around - we have photos with Mickey Mouse, Buzz, Jessie, Woody, Goofy, Pluto and Flik to prove it. It really does lift your spirits
and warm your heart to see your children so happy.
The rides cater for everyone, ranging from the very tame rides for toddlers to the very scary for thrillseekers. The three most terrifying are Indiana Jones Adventure in Frontierland, Disneyland, California Screamin' rollercoaster at Paradise Pier in California Adventure, and the Maliboomer, also at Paradise Pier. Less scary but just as much fun are Soarin' Over California, The It's Tough To Be A Bug 3-D show, Grizzly River Run and Mulholland Madness at California Adventure, and Matterhorn Bobsleds, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland.
Other treats include the parades and storytime at the back of Tinker Bell's in Fantasyland, where Disney characters such as Belle or Snow White read stories to the kids.
The Disneyland experience is always magical, but it is extra special when you go on Christmas Day. The combination of fairy dust and Santa Claus is wonderful - all that good cheer makes you feel really special. It was unforgettable and something we would all love to do again.
Universal Studios is another attraction that is a real winner for families. Don't miss the electrifying musical "Spider-Man Rocks" which is a real adrenaline-pumping, dynamic song and dance extravaganza. Special Effects Stages, a new attraction in 2002, will intrigue older kids. It features effects from popular movies like Shrek, Gladiator, Mummy Returns and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Knott's Berry Farm is as popular as ever; with the new Xcelerator roller coaster wowing visitors brave enough to tackle it. Also try Supreme Scream, the Ghostrider and visit Camp Snoopy, the home of Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown.
With the delights of San Diego so close, it's a great idea to hire a car and head down the freeway. San Diego echoes with the sounds of people having fun at Legoland, SeaWorld, the Wild Animal Park and the famous San Diego Zoo.
The Zoo has over 4000 animals, with the children spellbound by the polar bears, amazed by the hippos and mesmerised by the giant pandas. Bai Yun and Shi Shi are superstars - you can even watch them before you leave home on the panda cam at www.sandiegozoo.org. The Zoo has excellent facilities for families and caters well for people with small babies.
The Wild Animal Park at Escondido is the zoo's sister property. It's a free-range zoo, with the animals living in habitats similar to their homes in the wild. Kids love the Wgasa Bush Line Railway, which goes 'on safari' past rhinos, giraffes, zebras and other animals going about their business. Also take the Kilimanjaro Safari Walk, which is a three-kilometre trail winding past elephants, rhinos, tigers and lions; and Condor Ridge - a free flight bird show. Another must is the petting zoo - all the children love patting a baby deer and the other baby animals.
For a more aquatic animal experience, plan a day at SeaWorld. There is so much to see and do it's a good idea to plan your day. The biggest show is the Shamu Adventure, with its stars the killer whales. You should line up early to get a seat, and if you don't mind getting a bit wet (OK ... drenched!) sit in the first 14 rows. You will be soundly splashed by Shamu - causing much screaming and laughter. If you want to take photos or don't fancy getting wet, sit further back. The Dolphin Show and the Fools with Tools sea lion show starring Clyde and Seamore are also excellent family fun and a good chance to sit down and have a rest.
As a special treat, the kids can swim with dolphins - an experience they, and you, will treasure as a lifelong memory. The look of joy as they pat these friendly sea creatures is magic.
Legoland is the newest of these "awesome foursome" attractions. It's at Carlsbad, a short drive north of San Diego, and has over 50 rides and attractions to please kids of all ages. The facilities are wonderful - designed to make it as easy as possible for mums and dads. Highlights are Miniland, with replicas of some of America's great cities, built entirely of Lego, the Driving School, where kids can get their "licence", Waterworks and Lego Explore, where kids can build their own Lego creations. A fantastic 200 page California Travel Planner complete with a pull-out state map can be requested from either of the above numbers. This will give you all the information you will need to plan a great trip... and it is free!!
Another great FREE resource is a 2003 Disneyland Resort Vacation Planning Guide on CD-Rom. This can be ordered by visiting www.disneyland.com.au