Best Southern California Family Vacations

Family walking to beach

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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

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle
Disneyland Resort
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans as the place where the magic began. It's also a classic family vacation perfect for all ages. Instead of heading to the sprawling Disney World in Orlando, 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.

To plan the perfect Disneyland vacation, including where to stay, how to visit, and what to do, read our complete guide to the theme park.

02 of 10

Los Angeles

Santa Monica Pier at sunset
Dennis Fischer Photography/Getty Images 
Los Angeles, CA, USA

From Beverly Hills to Disneyland and from Hollywood to Santa Monica, there's a lot of ways to have fun in Los Angeles with kids. One of LA's big draws is the thriving film industry. Not only can you see the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre and Walk of Fame but you can also tour film studios or find out more about celebrity homes in the area.

Because of its sheer size Los Angeles is an ideal vacation for the family who wants it all. Be it the glamour of Rodeo Drive, the beachy chill of Malibu, or something in between, the city has you and your family covered.

03 of 10

Santa Barbara

Beach view of Stearns Wharf pier in Santa Barbara
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Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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. The coastline and bays make for stunning beach views while the more adventurous can tour the rugged Channel Islands.

04 of 10

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studio Hollywood globe fountain
Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, USA
Phone +1 800-864-8377

Open since 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood is the granddaddy of movie theme parks. Over the years this park has evolved and expanded, adding exciting new attractions such as the beloved Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Jurassic World-The Ride. As an extra bonus, and something that can't be found in its Orlando counterpart, Universal Studios Hollywood offer a studio tour narrated by Jimmy Fallon that takes guests into Hollywood's largest street set and shares some movie making secrets.

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05 of 10

Laguna Beach

View of the beach from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach
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Laguna Beach, CA, USA

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. The town has more than 20 beaches to relax on and when you get tired of the sand you can go for a hike, explore the Laguna Art Museum.

06 of 10

San Diego

Balboa Park in San Diego at sunrise
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San Diego, CA, USA

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 some free kid-friendly activities that will stretch your vacation budget.

07 of 10

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove

Woman and child riding the Alberta Falls Water Ride at Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge
12681 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840, USA
Phone +1 888-960-9653

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 2 miles away.

08 of 10

Legoland California

People riding the dragon roller coaster at Legoland California
Legoland California
One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
Phone +1 888-690-5346

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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09 of 10

Palm Springs

Woman and child feeding giraffes in Palm Springs
Greater Palm Springs CVB
Palm Springs, CA, USA

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.

10 of 10

Catalina Island

Hillside resort overlooking Avalon Bay in Catalina Island
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Santa Catalina Island, California 90704, USA

Catalina Island is a popular and beautiful getaway 22 miles off the Los Angeles coastline. It's the perfect choice for an island vacation without needing to hop on a plane. Kids will love a glass-bottomed boat tour or the chance to zipline around the island.

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The 10 Best Southern California Family Vacations