It’s about time for a weekend getaway, don’t you think? If you and your family have been cooped up in the house since March like so many of us, you’re probably very ready to get the F out of dodge. For those of you who live in the Golden State or nearby, the opportunities for family getaways in California are practically endless. You don’t need to go somewhere exotic like Mexico or Hawaii to enjoy much-needed time away (although those places do sound pretty great). You have all of California to explore, and it’s all in a day’s drive.
What to look for when searching for a quick getaway with kids
A romantic getaway for two is one thing, but when traveling with kids you’ve got to make sure that everyone is going to have a good time — parents, teens, and toddlers alike. Ken Barber is a Co-owner of Wildhaven Sonoma, a glamping site in Northern California. He says that when it comes to family trips, one of the most important things is keeping things simple and fun. Having nearby activities is a must and having easily accessible stores makes all the difference for parents — especially when not traveling to a metropolitan city.
“Something easy [is best]…You want a place where the kids have lots to do,” Barber says. “With us, the tents and beds are set up, the bathrooms and showers are clean. We have a store to sell last-minute items, and every tent has a fire pit and large picnic table, and a covered front deck with patio furniture. There’s very little to pack, set-up, or takedown.”
Camping, glamping, and private AirBnB and VRBO rentals became exceeding popular when many hotels and resorts (like Disneyland resorts, hotels with waterparks, and other fun kid-friendly spots) temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the easier and relatively safer options when looking for California vacation ideas for families. But as things slowly get back to normal, it’s clear the trend is here to stay.
Plenty of rentals offer basic accommodations that’ll get the job done, but it’s the unique ones like Wildhaven that add a little extra magic.
We’ve rounded up some of California’s best family-friendly rentals and hotels for the fun weekend trip you and your family deserve. Because as much as you want and need a vacation, your kids do too. So, get those overnight bags ready, grab that travel crib, and head out on your family’s well-deserved California family vacation. It’s time to get away—even if only for a couple of days.
Note: The prices listed are the average nightly rate.
Best Family Trips In California
If Yosemite National Park is on your travel bucket list, add this cabin to your weekend getaway plans. It sits right inside the park gates so you’ll have unlimited access to all of the mountain views (and trails) that Yosemite has to offer.
This cozy, modern Big Bear cabin in the woods has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and it sleeps six. It has a huge game floor to ceilings windows for a gorgeous view, a new hot tub, and it’s right between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, where you can ski and the little ones can tube. It’s also a short walk to hiking trails and a bike ride away from Big Bear Lake.
The beautiful thing about Palm Springs in the winter is that temperatures don’t often reach below the ’70s during the day. This mid-century modern Alexander home sleeps six with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has a pool, hot tub, built-in gas BBQ, an outdoor bar, an oversized hammock, and a giant outdoor chess set. Six complimentary beach cruisers are provided for the two mile ride to the center of town or wherever else you’d like to explore. With a minimum stay of four nights, this one’s perfect for a long weekend getaway.
This hotel is super family-friendly. It’s located directly across the street from the beach, which is fun for obvious reasons. It has a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, gym, and it’s pet-friendly. The hotel also has a bunch of games you can use during your stay, including croquet, giant checkers, giant chess, ping pong, corn hole, shuffle board, and bocce ball. The hotel also offers free cribs and rollaway beds for a fee. Conjoining rooms are available if your budget allows for a little extra space from your kids. If you want to venture out, the Santa Barbara Zoo is an 11 minute walk; you’ll just need to check on closure guidelines, as things shift regularly.
If you’re looking for a private beach vacation where you and your kids can play outside all day, this condo is it. While the two bedroom, two and a half bathroom condo itself isn’t anything spectacular (although it’s cozy and does have lots of board games for the kids), the selling point is the beach with water toys in the backyard that is shared only with other condo residents. There’s also a heated pool in the complex, with hiking trails and ski slopes nearby.
This gorgeous desert retreat sleeps 10 and is ideal for families with older kids who can stay by themselves in the dome tent or for two families traveling together. It has a fire pit, hot tub, grill, and stunning views of the mountains. This pet-friendly property is just minutes away from Joshua Tree National park where you can go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing.
This luxury home has all the amenities you need, plus a master suite, a loft, and an indoor jacuzzi. It’s perfect for two families taking a trip together. It has an eight person hot tub, stunning mountain views, hiking nearby, and an arcade room with all the classics.
Did you know you can stay overnight on the Queen Mary? It’s a really unique and fun experience for kids—and for grownups. Once on board, you can explore the ship, take a tour and hear about history of the ship and its ghost stories, or dine in one of the restaurants (if they’re open due to the pandemic). Off the ship, you can walk to the Aquarium of the Pacific, walk or ride bikes along Long Beach’s bike bath, or play at the beach.
If you’ve never been to the redwoods, you’re in for a (re)treat. This property offers a magical glamping experience. You have two cabins to use, which sit on 10 acres of private forestland: the rustic cabin and the adjacent sleeping cabin, which sleeps five. A detached bathhouse with a tub, shower, and a compostable toilet makes the experience feel even more rustic. A wooden walkway takes you from the cabin to a fully functioning treehouse surrounded by a seasonal creek.
This 4-star hotel feels like luxury. Take a bath in the room, get a workout in at the gym, or enjoy the many outdoor seating areas throughout the hotel. There are several suite options so you and the kids can have your own space. As for activities, the hotel has a pool, it’s close to beaches, and it’s a quick drive to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World (you’ll need to check current closure guidelines), and it’s right down the street from Balboa Park and Seaport Village.
Disneyland Resorts are closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still visit Anaheim and stay in a Disney wonderland. This private four bedroom three bathroom home features a resort-like heated pool and hot tub, BBQ, and play area for the kids. The home also features Disney decorations all over the house—perfect for any Disney-obsessed kid (or grownup). You can even see the Disneyland fireworks from the home. The home is walking distance to Downtown Disney, which has been open for visitors (depending on current shutdown guidelines) while the parks remain closed. Seriously, this rental is a dream.