California is known for its beaches, sunshine, amusement parks and awesome food. California is amazing; with its diverse culture, thousands of festivals, and lots of family-friendly fun, Cali is a great place to spend a week or more on a family vacation anytime of the year.
Monterey. Oh, my dear Monterey; full of the scent of sea and food, Monterey is wonderful. The best place to go for food is either Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can get freshly made Monterey Clam Chowder (the only clam chowder I like) and walk along the wharf with your bowl, or if you prefer to sit down and eat, there are a few seafood restaurants along the wharf, and if you’re still hungry, but want something sweet, there’s many candy shops on, you guessed it, the wharf. You can even see your taffy get pulled by a machine or see your giant bag of cotton candy get whipped into that cloud-like confection we all know and love.
If you aren’t up to eating chowder and giggling at the sea lions on the beach near the wharf, you can head over to Gianni’s Pizza on Lighthouse Ave., just a few blocks from the Aquarium; it’s part sports bar, but that doesn’t take away from the mouth-flooding scent of pizza nor does it take away from the heavenly taste of the giant pizza you get. Gianni’s is a personal favorite and once you eat there, you’ll see why.
Aside from the food and the natural wildlife you can see every day, there’s also the Monterey Bay Aquarium, holding tons of fish of all types, sizes, and colors. You and your kids can head over to the “hands on” area to touch a ray in the ray pool (they swim around in circles so people can touch them), poke a sea plant or look at the various other creatures the Aquarium has added in recent years. If you’re up to it, you can head down to Cannery Row, the famous street John Steinbeck wrote about in his book. Cannery Row is now lined with shops and cafes of all types, even bookstores. One great thing about Monterey is that you can practically walk or bike ride everywhere. There is one warning, though: Monterey Beaches are known for their undertows, do be VERY careful if you decide to go swimming in the oceans around Monterey.
While in the Monterey area, you can head over to Santa Cruz, about an hour drive away, and run around the Boardwalk. There are also concession stands, museums, and a beach right next to the Boardwalk. Santa Cruz is well known for the sailing, swimming, paddling, diving and is said to be one of the best spots in the world for surfing. All the beaches have lifeguards on duty daily throughout the summer, so you’ll have another set of eyes looking out for you and your kids. If you get bored of the beach, you can head downtown and take in the sights, go window shopping, pick up souvenirs, and maybe see part of the campaign called “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”, which includes a man walking around in a pink outfit, makeup and a parasol. There are tons of different restaurants and cafés downtown and of course, there is mouthwatering seafood. If you’re up to some nature-seeing, there are five greenbelt districts in Santa Cruz. (A greenbelt is a “belt” of parks surrounding a city.) There are also 21 neighboring parks and 3 regional parks near the greenbelt districts. While in Santa Cruz, see if there are any festivals going on; beach festivals are a blast.
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose is one of the neatest things to go to in California. You get to not only tour a beautiful mansion, but you get to learn a bit of the mystery behind the stairs that go nowhere, the doors that open to a brick wall, and who and what might of went on the heiress’s mind who had built and kept adding on to the mansion. When done with the tour, you can head on down to the gift shop and get some food or pick up a neat souvenir or even have a penny smooshed and imprinted with the Winchester Mystery House logo. It’s very
family friendly, and a pretty cool thing to experience.
Paramount’s Great America is one of my favorite amusement parks in the whole world. It has rides for just about every age and height, they have some really old roller coasters that are still going strong, the food is actually edible, and the prices are reasonable. They also have go-karts and bumper cars; how can anyone resist an amusement park with bumper cars?
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, formerly Six Flags Marine World, in Vallejo in the San Francisco area was my very first amusement park; aside from going on the kiddy rides, I loved seeing all the different animal shows. It’s like an awesome mixture of part amusement park, part zoo where the animals do tricks. Just remember to take some water bottles with you because all the rides make you super thirsty and waiting in line for water takes away from the fun.
Take a trip to San Francisco, where you can see the Aquarium By The Bay, check out the Victorian houses along the city streets, or take an adventure in the cable cars and head down to the 1,000 acre park. You can check out the Exploratorium’s 700+ exhibits, where you and your kids can touch the exhibits and even participate in some. There’s also the San Francisco Zoo, Golden Gate Park, where you can see buffalo grazing and ride on a vintage carousal, and The California Academy of Sciences partially in Golden Gate Park, where you can see the “touching tide pool” and see what else is there to ogle and play with. Before you leave, drive up to Twin Peaks, the center of the city, and see a 360 degree angle of San Francisco.
San Diego is full of fun things for adults and kids alike. The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and LEGOLAND are just 3 of the main things that San Diego offers. You can hit the Birch Aquarium to see all the different fishes, or go check out San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which has wild animals in a simulated natural environment, where you can a pride of lions, and animals from Africa and Asia living together. If you’re bored of the traditional theme and amusement parks, check out Belmont Park, the centerpiece being the wooden Giant Dipper. Belmont Park offers kid friendly rides, and different places to eat all along the Mission Beach Boardwalk. And if you still have time and don’t know what to do, go sightseeing, or spend the day at the beach that you won’t regret.
The Queen Mary is a retired cruise liner turned into a hotel resort in Long Beach. You can a tour through just about any part of the ship and if you’re feeling brave, take a paranormal night tour. While eating dinner, you can enjoy a 5-star restaurant meal, and get some dinner theater while you’re at it.
The Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour is a must if you’re in the area. For $48 a person, you get to see the back lots of the studios where movies and tv shows are being filmed daily. You get to see the craft shops, and sound stages and you also have the chance to get a glimpse or more of an actor or actress while on this tour and at the end, you get to explore the Warner Bros. Museum and see tons of motion picture memorabilia.
Last but not least is camping! Camping in the Palm Springs Aerial Tram area is one of the best places in California to camp. There are 6 different grounds to camp at with all the amenities such as fishing, swimming, and hiking. If you happen to camp near a tramway, you can take the tram up to the top and get a gorgeous view of the whole area.
No matter what your tastes are, a vacation in California can suit those needs. With so many things to do, there’s no way to be bored.