101 Southern California Vacation Family Activities


Best things to do near Los Angeles

After spending a ton of time on various Southern California vacation adventures, we have compiled the ultimate list of travel tips for making the most of this beautiful part of the country.  With over 100 items below and great tips for each area we have visited, you are sure to have an amazing family vacation that your family will talk about for years to come.

101 Southern California Vacation Family Activities

101 Southern California Vacation Family Activities

Southern California is our home away from home, or so we like to say.  That means we have explored hundreds of local attractions and found that it is truly the ideal California vacation destination to spend with your family.  We have broken down a few of the top areas to visit with our favorite travel tips and recommendations for family activities that you will love.

Best things to do near San Diego for free or cheap

One of our favorite things about Southern California is you are within 2-3 hours of everything.  From crossing the border into Mexico to seeing the Hollywood sign, you aren’t far away from any of these great attractions.  Taking a weekend trip to just one area has been something we have done many times, but the best California vacation is for 1-2 weeks giving you time to visit all of the area destinations you have an interest in seeing.

things to do with boys at Universal Studios

Los Angeles Attractions:

  1. Universal Studios Hollywood
  2. Le Brea Tar Pits
  3. Santa Monica Pier {we love going here!}
  4. Six Flags Magic Mountain
  5. Hollywood Walk Of Fame
  6. Hollywood Sign
  7. Rodeo Drive
  8. Japanese American National Museum
  9. Los Angeles Zoo
  10. United States Holocaust Memorial
  11. Battleship USS Iowa
  12. Venice Canals Walkway 
  13. Hollywood Bowl Museum (and amphitheater)
  14. Griffith Observatory
  15. TLC Chinese Theater
  16. Malibu Lagoon (beach)
  17. The Getty Center
  18. Los Angeles County Museum Of Art
  19. Walt Disney Concert Hall
  20. Natural History Museum – Los Angeles County
  21. California African American Museum
  22. Peterson Automotive Museum
  23. Madame Tussauds Hollywood
  24. Museum of Contemporary Art – Los Angeles
  25. Venice Beach {you see very interesting things in this area}
  26. The Last Bookstore (bookstore, record shop, and more)
  27. Chinatown {perfect place to get dim sum}
  28. Travel Town (transportation museum – bonus free!)
  29. California Science Center
  30. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
  31. Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary
  32. The Hollywood Museum
  33. Autry Museum of the American West
  34. Eat at In-N-Out Burger {Yes, this is a must. It’s the first thing we do when we land!}

Best Foodie spots in Anaheim

As you can see, this list has something for every age and desire in your family.  From theme park rides to amazing classic and contemporary art, the list of fun California vacation activities in Los Angeles is thorough.

Best things to do in Los Angeles

Travel Tips #1 – Stay outside of the city for better rates on lodging, consider an Anaheim vacation home.

 Los Angeles is a short drive from surrounding areas in Orange County.  Take advantage of the many free walking tours throughout the city, and spend 1-2 days just observing the hustle and bustle around the city.  Look for discount tickets for attractions through local grocery stores or Costco Warehouse for bundle packages to save money.

Anaheim Packing District

You can also find quite a few foodie spots in the Anaheim area

Best family vacation ideas for teens

Anaheim and Orange County Attractions:

  1. Disneyland
  2. Downtown Disney
  3. Disney California Adventure
  4. Knott’s Berry Farm
  5. Flight Deck Air Combat Center
  6. Fullerton Arboretum
  7. Downtown Fullerton at Night (coffee shops, vintage stores, and more)
  8. Muzeo (museum of art exhibits that rotate regularly)
  9. Angel Stadium (watch a game)
  10. Pretend City Children’s Museum
  11. Discovery Science Center
  12. Brookhurst Park
  13. Anaheim Gardenwalk (shopping)
  14. Adventure City (a small amusement park for kids under 9)
  15. Santa Ana Zoo
  16. City National Grove of Anaheim
  17. Bowers Museum
  18. Medieval Times Dinner Theater {fun, family event}
  19. Richard Nixon Presidental Library and Museum
  20. Orange County Zoo
  21. Yorba Regional Park
  22. Seascape Kids Fun
  23. Olinda Oil Museum & Trail

Best things to do in Los Angeles

Travel Tips #2:  Orange County is within a few minutes of many major attractions.  A vacation house rental is a great way to save money on expenses, but you may also want to look at surrounding areas like Fullerton, Brea, and Placentia for lower cost hotel prices.  Take advantage of the lower costs and stock up on groceries at a local market to avoid paying high prices inside the popular theme parks.

Best things to do near San Diego for free or cheap

San Diego County Attractions:

  1. Coronado Island {another favorite spot to visit}
  2. San Diego Zoo
  3. San Diego Zoo Safari Park {a must do!}
  4. Sea World San Diego
  5. Balboa Park
  6. San Diego Natural History Museum
  7. San Diego Museum of Man
  8. Balboa Park Botanical Gardens {gorgeous area}
  9. San Diego Air & Space Museum
  10. San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  11. Old Town San Diego
  12. La Jolla Beaches {one of my favorite places to go! Plus, you can catch the sea lions laying out in the sun}
  13. USS Midway Museum
  14. Seaport Village {one of my favorite spots to visit!}
  15. Corvette Diner (enjoy classic burger & fries in a fun environment)
  16. Maritime Museum of San Diego
  17. Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve
  18. Point Loma, San Diego (lighthouses)
  19. Rueben H. Fleet Science Center
  20. Mission San Diego de Alcala (first Franciscan mission)
  21. Balboa Theater
  22. Santee Swap Meet
  23. Classic Car Thursday’s in El Cajon
  24. Waterfront Park
  25. Santee Lakes
  26. California Surf Museum
  27. San Diego Chinese Museum
  28. Mission Bay Park {great foodie spots in this area}
  29. Mount Soledad
  30. Cabrillo National Monument {amazing views of San Diego from here}
  31. Sunset Cliffs National Park
  32. Eat at The Mission in San Diego (best breakfast ever!)
  33. Old Globe Theater (great live performances!)
  34. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
  35. SanDiego Mormon Tabernacle (beautiful architecture and garden)
  36. Spreckels Organ Pavillion (Sunday for live shows)
  37. San Diego Fair (usually June-July month long with concerts, rides, and food)

Best things to do in Southern California

Travel Tips #3:  Consider renting a vacation home or even a condo near the water to save money on hotel costs.  

San Diego offers a great rail system for public transit that has dozens of locations all over the county.  Instead of driving everywhere, grab the inexpensive day passes and ride from destination to destination.  You may also consider investing in a Southern California CityPass for savings on many of the popular area attractions.

Best things to do near San Diego for free or cheap

Other Southern California Attractions:

  1. Cross the border to Tijuana
  2. Legoland in Carlsbad {see how we scored free tickets to Legoland}
  3. Joshua Tree National Park {still on my bucket list} 
  4. Salton Sea
  5. Visit Julian for an old town feeling and apple pie { this is a fun, quaint little town!}
  6. Visit Mount Laguna
  7. Border Field State Park
  8. Be sure to spend in Carlsbad- near the beach, plus tons of shopping options! 

Best things to do in Los Angeles

As you consider making your California vacation happen in Southern California, you’ll find there are dozens of amazing things to do with your family.  This list includes museums, amusement parks, water parks, theaters, shopping, historical landmarks, and even a few places you really must enjoy a meal at while in the area.  Southern California truly is the ultimate family vacation destination.

Best things to do near Los Angeles

Find more ideas in Southern Calfornia:

California Vacation Destinations In Los Angeles

Eight Days in a Californian Paradise

California Vacation: How We Saved BIG & Spent Under $3000

Disneyland Things to Do and Discover: 32 Fun Ideas

Why Anaheim Vacation House Rentals For Your California Vacations Is The Perfect Place

California Vacation Destinations In Anaheim & Orange County

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