Best Southern California Family Vacations

Home to the major metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California also draws families with its gorgeous beaches, beautiful mountains, iconic theme parks, and more. Here are some of the top getaways with kids in sunny SoCal.

  • 01 of 10

    Disneyland Resort

    Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans as the place where the magic began. Plan your getaway at the original Disneyland theme park and Disney California Adventure Park. You can stay at one of the three on-site resorts (Disney's Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier Hotel) or explore options nearby.

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  • 02 of 10

    Los Angeles with Kids

    ••• Families flock to the Santa Monica Pier. Flickr Creative Commons: Phil Scoville

    From Beverly Hills to Disneyland and from Hollywood to Santa Monica, the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles offers myriad ways for families to have fun.

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  • 03 of 10

    Santa Barbara with Kids

    ••• Lil' Toot

    From Santa Barbara's posh resorts and gourmet restaurants to stunning beaches and an awesome zoo, there's a seemingly endless list of things to love about this coastal town. 

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  • 04 of 10

    Universal Studios Hollywood

    ••• Universal Studios Hollywood

    Open since 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood is the granddaddy of movie theme parks.'s Theme Park Expert gives the lowdown on how this park has evolved and expanded, adding exciting new attractions such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Laguna Beach with Kids

    ••• Flickr Creative Commons/jmpm3

    Known for its mild year-round climate and artist community, the seaside resort town of Laguna Beach beckons families to enjoy its scenic beaches and kid-friendly attractions.

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  • 06 of 10

    San Diego with Kids

    ••• Scripps Institute of Oceanography

    Bring the kids to San Diego Zoo and Legoland California, of course, but be sure to mix as many free activities into your itinerary. After you explore some of the amazing beaches in the San Diego area, check out these free kid-friendly activities that will stretch your vacation budget.

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  • 07 of 10

    Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove

    Alberta Falls Water Ride at Great Wolf Lodge
    ••• Great Wolf Lodge

    This rustic, woodsy Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark resort may at first seem like an odd fit in sunny Southern California. But keep in mind that it is impervious to the weather, offering either an appealing one-stop short getaway or a nice complement to a trip to Disneyland, which is just two miles away.

  • 08 of 10

    Legoland California

    Legoland California in Carlsbad
    ••• Legoland California

    Do your kids love Legos? The Legoland California theme park is devoted to the colorful bricks, with amazing landscapes made entirely of Legos as well as rides and a water park. Aimed at younger kids age 3 to 10, this is a bullseye for families with elementary school-aged kids. 

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    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Palm Springs

    Living Desert in Palm Springs, California
    ••• Greater Palm Springs CVB

    Golf courses, spas, and upscale resorts are a staple of Palm Springs, a desert oasis that's a few hours east of LA and northeast of San Diego. But there is plenty of appeal for families, too.'s California Travel Expert shares her favorite things to do.

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  • 10 of 10

    Catalina Island

    The California Travel Expert shows you around Catalina Island, a popular and beautiful getaway that's 22 miles off the Los Angeles coastline.

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    – Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher