10 Awesome Kid-Friendly Places in Southern California
If you are heading to the west coast for vacation, this list of kid-friendly places in Southern California will help. These 10 Awesome Places to Take Your Kids This Summer in Southern California will lead to amazing vacation memories!
The photo below is one I took in La Jolla, California which is in the San Diego area. We’re including a bonus spot to take kids to visit in La Jolla as we loved this area so much!When people think of Southern California, they usually think of beaches and Hollywood. But there is so much more to the bottom half of the Golden State. This list of kid-friendly places in Southern California is just the beginning of the amazing experiences just waiting there for you and your family.
Spend time wandering the beaches in San Diego before heading off to spend time on the rides at Legoland. Hang out with the wonderful animals at the San Diego Zoo, considered by many to be one of the best zoos in the world. And if your travels take you inland, to the mountains or high desert, you’ll find fun activities to please your family there, as well. When you vacation in Southern California, there is an adventure around every corner!
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo – San Diego, CA (San Diego Zoo)
My daughter in the photo below checking out the hippo who has the sweetest expression on its face. My daughter loved the hipposNo list of kid-friendly places in Southern California would be complete without the world-famous San Diego Zoo. This incredible animal park was voted the #1 Zoo in the world in 2015 by TripAdvisor, with good reason. If your kids love animals, this zoo is the ultimate experience. And before you visit, be sure to check out the zoo’s website where you can plan your trip to make sure your kids see all of their favourite animals!We went to the zoo during the summer and it was hot. Make sure to have hats, sunblock and sunglasses if you’re there in summer and lots of water. You can spend more than a day at the zoo, there’s a lot of walking involved so if you have little ones plan accordingly.
Zimmer Children’s Museum
Zimmer Children’s Museum – Los Angeles, CA (Zimmer Children’s Museum)
When vacationing with children, it can be challenging to find ways for kids to relax and play and burn off energy. While big tourist attractions can be fun, they can also be stressful for children. When there are a lot of crowds or long lines to deal with, it is stressful for adults, too. If your kids need some time to just be kids, the Zimmer Children’s Museum is one of the best kid-friendly places in Southern California. Every exhibit in this interactive museum is designed to be immersive, encouraging play while teaching your kids all about the world and how people can live together in peace and harmony. And if you are lucky enough to live near this museum, be sure to check out their large selection of Spring and Summer camps!
LegoLand California – San Diego, CA (LegoLand California)
If your kids love Legos and have always thought of them as just cool toys to play with, wait until they experience Legoland! One of the best kid-friendly places in Southern California, this incredible place takes Legos to a whole new level. There are water park rides and attractions, beautiful hotels, and even a huge aquarium experience where you can learn all about sea life! With so much to see and do, you may just want to take a few days to explore. And if you live in the San Diego area, be sure to check out their rates on an annual pass!
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA (Santa Monica Pier)
If you are vacationing in Southern California, you are probably looking for a great opportunity to enjoy the beach. The Santa Monica Pier is a great way to enjoy the beach and so much more! There are awesome places to shop, a variety of special events going on throughout the year, and wonderful places to enjoy a wide range of delicious foods. There are even great places to stay overnight so you can spend a few days taking in all the sights and experiences.
Gold Rush Mining Adventures
Gold Rush Mining Adventures – Big Bear Lake, CA (Gold Rush Mining Adventures)
For vacationers, it can be exciting to realize that Southern California offers up a lot more than beaches. Head on up into the mountains to Big Bear Lake and you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world. Not only is it beautiful, but you’ll find one of the best kid-friendly places in Southern California – the Gold Rush Mining Adventure! You and your kids can check out rocks, minerals and fossils from all around the world. Even better, you can learn all about looking for gold just like the old time miners used to do it. It’s like taking a trip back to the old west without having to give up your cell phone!
San Diego Natural History Museum
The Nat -San Diego Natural History Museum – San Diego, CA (San Diego Natural History Museum)
Whether your kids love animals, plants, dinosaurs, or all of the above, the San Diego Natural History Museum is the place to be. This amazing place, lovingly referred to as “The Nat”, is a place where the wonder of science comes to life all around you. If you are planning to visit, be sure to check out their website beforehand so you don’t miss any of their special events and upcoming exhibitions. And if you live in the San Diego area, be sure to check out all the wonderful ways you can get involved with this incredible place!
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament – Buena Park, CA (Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament)When vacationing with children, it isn’t often when you get a chance to keep the kids entertained while still finding a moment to relax. But when you make your way to Medieval Times, you get exactly that! Enter a world of knights and steeds and strenuous competitions involving sword fights and jousting and all kinds of other exciting things. As you watch and cheer for your favorite knight, you dine on a delicious meal. Kids will especially love the fact that at Medieval Times, it is considered proper to eat with your hands! (92)We all enjoyed Medieval Times, there were six of us in total, 4 adults and 2 kids and from the food to the show itself we had a good time. We were surprised at how much we liked it. Read our review of Medieval Times HERE.
Calico Ghost Town
Calico Ghost Town – Yermo, CA (Calico Ghost Town)
Located approximately 20-minutes Northeast from Barstow, Ca, you find the Mojave Desert ghost town of Calico. Once an active silver mining town in the late 1800’s, the ghost town was purchased by Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm fame) in the 1950s. This official California Historical Landmark is a lot of fun for kids and adults. Take a train ride around the town, enjoy a tour through the old Maggie Mine, or spend some time in the Mystery Shack where you can astound your own senses while watching water run uphill and brooms that balance at a slant!
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm – Buena Park, CA (Knott’s Berry Farm)
Back in June of 1920, Knott’s Berry Farm was born. The 160-acre amusement park started off as a Boysenberry farm (and boysenberries world-wide can all trace their roots back to Knott’s Berry Farm!) Nowadays, this lovely former family farm is filled with thrill rides, family rides, and attractions designed to please even the tiniest tots. You can even stay in a nice hotel and enjoy a vast assortment of food. Knott’s Berry Farm is a truly delicious place to play!
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park – Escondido, CA (San Diego Zoo Safari Park)
If you and your family love animals, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an experience like no other. Choose from several types of safaris, depending on your finances and thrill levels. You can enjoy a leisurely ride through the park where you can watch the animals from a distance. Or get up close and personal on the caravan safari. As animals from Asia and Africa wander by, you’ll be feeding giraffes a tasty snack! If you’re really feeling adventurous, take a ride along a zip line through the trees or the physically challenging Jungle Ropes Safari where you can release your inner monkey.
BONUS for Kid-Friendly Places in Southern California- Check out the Seals & Sea Lions at the Children’s Pool
Guide to La Jolla Beaches – Okay it’s a beach but come on seals and sea lions and you can get see them quite close for free!
The hotel I stayed at recently in San Diego was a very short walk to this Children’s Pool (see below) that is now taken over be seals and sea lions. While the smell is not pleasant it is a sight to behold with all of these amazing creatures of the ocean to see them basking in the sun.This “Childrens Pool” that is not a sun bathing spot for seals and sea lions is close to downtown La Jolla and walking distance from La Jolla Cove. It is a small cove protected by a concrete breakwater wall which apparently was originally built as a safe swimming area for children. Obviously that has changed as the seals and sea lions claimed this beach area for themselves. It’s a fun spot to sea this marine life quite up close (you can’t touch them or get right up to them but you’re close). With so many kid-friendly places in Southern California to choose from, you’re sure to find a way to make your vacation travels an amazing success. Make your plans and pack your bags. Southern California is calling you!
If there are other Kid-Friendly Places in Southern California that your kiddos just LOVED, leave us a comment we’d love to know about them!
1. Lonely Planet Los Angeles, San Diego & Southern California (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet (Paperback)
2. Kid’s Guide to San Diego (Kid’s Guides Series) by Eileen Ogintz (Paperback)
3. Mojave Desert Trails by Florine Lawlor (Paperback)
4. Melissa & Doug On the Go Scratch Art Hidden-Picture Pad-Favorite Things
5. National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activites, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun by Crispin Boyer (Paperback)
6. Kids’ Travel Journal (Interactive Diary, Notebook) by Peter Pauper Press
7. Calico (Images of America) by Paige M. Peyton (Paperback)
8. The Wild West! A Kid’s Guide to California’s Calico Ghost Town by Penelope Dyan (Paperback)
9. Who Pooped in the Zoo? San Diego Zoo: Exploring the Weirdest, Wackiest, Grossest, and Most Surprising Facts About Zoo Poop (Farcountry Explorer Books) by Caroline Patterson (Paperback)
10. Bentgo Kids – Leakproof Children’s Lunch Box (Purple)
Travelling to Northern California? Make sure to check out our 10 Awesome Places To Take Your Kids This Summer In Northern California article.
91 thoughts on “10 Kid-Friendly Places in Southern California”
I’ve always wanted to visit California! My boys would go crazy over Legoland! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve only been to California once – to San Diego – but it was a business trip, so I didn’t get to see much of the city. But oh, how my grandchildren would love to see their zoo. And so would I!
The gorgeous pic got me to click. <3 But I don't think I'll ever end up going to California. 🙁 Too much going on there, it seems.
All right I am a kid at heart! I want to go to all of these places (NO KIDS) I am so tired of not traveling and just waiting on COVID to go away! My sister and I have both set up special saving account called TRAVEL. Someday we will take that trip (retired) and do any and everything out there.
Some great options. Always handy to have kid friendly options ready
Legoland is very nice. I like the rides at Legoland.
Ive never been to cali and it looks so beautiful there! I so wanna go after reading this post!
These are great destinations. Having lived in both, Southern and Northern CA most of my life, Californians have some of the greatest coastal destinations to visit in the country,
those all look fun to bad I live in Northern California and don’t have a car.I so miss traveling .
Oak Glen has apple picking in the fall. Riley’s farm is one of the places that offers it. There is a cost. They also have other activities and lots of good food.
Wow what a lot of great places to see. I would love to take my grandchildren to see the ghost town and the gold rush mining adventure along with all the other great adventures to see.
So lucky to live here and visit all these amazing places that are not far from where we are. The weather is so perfect now to travel and spend the day with the seals or go to Knott’s my daughter is going Sat. for the Boysenberry festival she goes every year/
This looks like a great fun kid friendly places. I would love to take my kids there!
We go to southern CA a lot. We will have to try some of these places out. They look so great!
I have been to Los Angeles and a few other places in CA. I went by myself, because my grandparents lived there and then with my husband. Unfortunately I never took my kids. But my daughters and some of my grandkids visited, because my grandson is a Marine and is stationed there. I have done a couple of things there, but hadn’t looked into all of the fun things to do there. Thank you for sharing!
I consider myself very fortunate to be living in San Diego for most of my life! I really enjoyed this post, and while I have visited many of the places listed above, there are some that I have yet to see! LegoLand is someplace we must visit when our Grandkids come to visit!
That all looks like so much fun!
Thank you so much, we are planning a trip to California this summer with the Grandkids. I know I want to take them to see the seals. But the zoo and others sound great. I will check into all these and put them on our wish list before we let them decide where they want to go.
These sound like places my grand kids would love to visit. They would love to visit the San Diego Zoo
Thanks for the suggestions. I especially would check out the zoo and Knotts Berry Farm.
One of our most memorable vacations was flying into san fran from Florida with all our backpack and camping gears.
A month of traveling thru coastal cal inland to Tahoe and Yosemite.
Need to replicate again, except now the airport wouldn’t allow all our gear.
The seals were cool, so many variations in pelts and stinky too.
We are planning a trip this year. THanks for the great ideas for this area.
I’ll just have to live vicariously through your beautiful pictures. I haven’t even been out of my own state in 13 yrs., and there is no way I will ever get to California.
I loved the San Diego zoo. And the trip to Calico was fun.
the excursions sound wonderful. To discover the oceans, the zoo and gold rush mining would be my favorites.
I had the chance to see the San Diego Zoo as an adult and thought it was wonderful! Although I have two teenagers, I still this they would love it too.
We are planning a trip to Southern Ca. next year. I found your suggestions helpful, Thank You!!
I would love to go and the pictures are beautiful
I have yet to visit California but would love to do so. I think my first stop would be the San Diego Zoo.
We are planning a trip to California. I can’t wait! Thanks for the tips!
I’ve always wanted to visit California! I would love to take my kids to the San Diego zoo!! They would flip to see the Sea Lions too!
Zimmer Children’s Museum sounds cool! We’re looking forward to going to CA towards the end of this year. These look like great places to go visit!
thank you for these tips, as we are headed to this area in July!
I didn’t realize how much there is to do in Southern California. I’d like to see the La Jolla beaches and the San Diego Zoo.
These all are great places to take kids to visit. Bookmarked! Thanks!
These places looks so much fun. Definitely adding them to my travel list. thanks!
I like most of these places and would enjoy them as much as any kid ha! I love the zoos and all the things you can see. I would love to watch he sea lions!
I love Medieval Times. There is one two hours away in Orlando that we like going to. Good food and great fun.
Your kids look like they had a ball. Your photos are amazing.
These are excellent suggestions! I just had to pin this. I visited California a few times and I really liked Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland, San Diego Zoo, and Of course, the beaches. I didn’t visit Medieval Times, because we have one here in IL.
Never been to SoCal myself, sounds like the weather is wonderful and many places to hang out at
So many great places. Just wish it wasn’t 1,000 miles away.
These are some really amazing places to take children. I would love for my granddaughter to go to southern California to experience some of the things offered in the area.
The Gold Rush Mining Adventures sound like a blast! Thanks for the round up!
The San Diego Zoo is incredible! I was lucky enough to get to visit once as a kid. I would love to go see it again!
I have never been to CA. I have had cousins and other family members there, Love all the sites to visit, maybe I can visit these places one day
This is a great list of places to visit. I would love to take my grandchildren to them. I know LegoLand would be a big hit! The Natural History Museum would be really interesting too!
These are all really great places to take kids in southern California. Or just for adults too. Now I just need to get to southern California.
Great looking places to visit in California I know many children will like to see.
This looks like so much fun, I hope I can take my family one day.
I’ve never been to California but one day i will for sure! I would love to see Calico Ghost Town and the Natural History Museum especially.
I don’t have small children, but I’ve always wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo.
I have never been to California.. I would love too go for a vacation there with my husband. It sounds like a very nice place to visit. There are also so many places to take your Children or Grandchildren. Thank you for this awesome list and nice review..
I have always wanted to do the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. I think that would be so cool to watch.
Having spent a lot of time in San Diego and California the entertainment just never stops! I have visited all the places you mentioned by Legoland. Thanks for the list and all the information!
I’ve only been to California twice. I would love to see San Diego next, especially the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
We’ve been to many of those places and could easily visit every one of them over and over again, plus see the ones we haven’t seen yet. Oh, the possibilities!
It’s been over 20 years since I last visited California. I did go to a few places on your list and had the most wonderful time. Someday I would love to take my grandchildren there. They would love it.
There looks like plenty of fun for children and adults there. And each can be learning experiences as well.
I was born in San Diego and I still love the ocean even though i almost drowned twice due to undertow. Fortunately my dad was a medic in the navy. Don’t know how my parents kept track of 7 kids @ the same time but they did. The zoo was a special place that we all enjoyed to. But I will always consider myself a beach bum
Thanks for sharing this article. These places sound great!
We are taking a family trip to So Cal this summer and I am excited to visit Medieval Times. It’s been on my list for a long time.
I love to travel! The san Diego zoo looks fun for both kids big and small!
Pretty pictures. I loved the rainbow in the first one especially.
I am going to have to look into these places more
Looks like great places to make memories! 😀
I have not been to California since I was twelve years old!! We did Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm way back then. The San Diego Zoo is on my bucket list!
Very fun places to travel too! I’ve been wanting to go to Medieval Times.
I live in New Jersey. Last time I was in California was back in 1974. I would love to bring my grandson to some of those fun places.
I have not been to California in a long time. I would love to go to the San Diego Zoo, it looks like a lot of fun.
I would love to take my granddaughters to the San Diego Zoo one day.
San Diego is on our bucket list! Thanks for inspiring me to get down there again!
What a awesome place I want to go out there some day soon.
Visiting California is on my bucket list. Hopefully I will get to visit soon so that I can enjoy some of the many amazing activities it has to offer.
This looks like a lot of fun
Lot of nice places to visit with the family
NEVER BEEN BUT WOULD LOVE TO GO, LOOKS AMAZING.
These pictures are beautiful, makes me want to visit southern Cali sooner rather than later, I especially love the pictures of the ocean! We don’t have any of that in Illinois, lol.
good to know,,hoping one day to travel with the grandkids and go see exciting places
I have been to San Diego once and I did get to La Jolla and saw the beaches but my visit was very short and i didn’t get to see everything love the sites!
I was in Southern California just once – San Diego. It was a week-long business conference, so sadly I had no time to see the sites, except for Coronodo. But oh, how gorgeous it all seemed to me! Definitely a place I’d love to revisit!
The Children’s Pool looks like an amazing place to visit. A little far for me, we have indoor aquariums but I would think the experience isn’t even close.
This is really awesome! We are on the east coast and have been planning a trip to California. This will save us so much time in trying to figure out what the kids will like!
So many of them look fun. the zoo, Legoland, etc., seem like big fun for adults, too.
Great list of places to visit for big kids and little kids.
Thanks for all the great info. My kids are going to be so happy when we go to Cali this summer. Thanks so much..
California is a long way from where I live and I do not think I will ever travel that far. There are many attractions in California and I enjoyed the blog post.
I hope I can make it back to southern California some day. It’s really a beautiful place.
I enjoyed this blog post. It’s scary traveling with small kids, when we don’t know how kid friendly it will be.
I agree. There are so many wonderful places in Southern California that are kid friendly. I must be just an oversized kid because I love all of those places.
Thank you for this list. I have been to California but my daughter has not. We are planning to go soon. When I was there, I went to the Palm Spring Garden and Zoo and it was such an amazing day! So many things to do, and it is great to see a list like this narrow it down for kid-friendly activities.