California Spring Break Ideas for Families

Generally speaking, spring break for families in the US and Canada means a ten-day school break in March or April. (College spring break is a different type of vacation altogether.) The Golden State Golden State has plenty of destinations to offer, though keep in mind that Northern California can have significantly cooler temperatures than in sunny SoCal.

Families can enjoy a spring camping outing, go to a theme park or luxuriate at a top resort with a kids’ club. These ideas will help you plan for a fantastic spring break this year.

1. El Capitan Canyon

For families who like camping but don’t love roughing it, glamping at El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara offers the best of both worlds, delivering the sounds of nature, the smell of campfires and plenty of free-form fun by the beach—but in a hassle-free setting with comfy beds, running water, and easy access to meals.

2. LEGOLAND California

A great idea for spring break with younger schoolkids: LEGOLAND California—south of Anaheim/Disneyland, and north of San Diego– has 128 acres, and much of what’s in it is made of LEGO blocks.

Designed for ages two to twelve, LEGOLAND has a coaster, “dark ride”, and other rides, mini-lands such as Ancient Egypt (all made out of Lego, of course), and many more attractions.

LEGOLAND recently added a four-star hotel with LEGO-themed rooms and early access to LEGOLAND.

3. San Francisco

San Francisco offers a slew of fun sightseeing opportunities for families. Don’t expect warm weather, but do bring a sense of adventure. Families can ride an iconic cable car, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, and visit Chinatown for souvenir shopping and Dim Sum. Take a boat out to Alcatraz, the former federal prison in the bay, for a tour. If you rent a car, you can explore Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge or stop in quaint Sausalito for ice cream with a view of the San Francisco skyline.

4. Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

Ritz-Carlton is a luxury brand that welcomes families with features such as Ritz Kids clubs. The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is just 40 minutes from San Francisco and from the affluent Silicon Valley burbs of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, but the world away, with miles of the unspoiled scenic coast.

5. Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a popular tourist spot just south of San Francisco, and home to a major aquarium and  Cannery Row (made famous in John Steinbeck’s novel). Nearby you’ll probably see sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters. The spring break months of March and April are whale-watching months as well.

A popular stop for families is the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium to enjoy the jellyfish, sea otters and more.

6. San Luis Obispo

Put together an affordable getaway on the coast halfway between LA and San Francisco: Low-cost attractions include the Morro Bay Natural History Museum and San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum; economy lodgings options are available too. Plus, free fun at beaches that have tide pools, or piers, or sand dunes, See seals, sea lions, sea otters, and even elephant seals (March to December) at one beach breeding ground.

Also free is a weekly nighttime farmer’s market with live music, performances, bouncy houses for kids. In the area, you can visit the opulent Hearst Castle for sightseeing, and check out the surfing beaches.

7. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the most popular National Parks in the U.S., to the point that crowds are a serious issue in summer. A visit during spring, when waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides, may be less crowded. Yosemite weather is usually mild in March and April.

8. Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain is, well, mammoth: Over 11,000 feet high at the summit. Mammoth is a great destination for spring skiing. It’s known as a top spot for late season snow and sometimes stays open right through June.

9. Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie-based theme park in Los Angeleswith many of the same exciting attractions as its bigger Orlando cousin: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park The Ride, and more. Universal Studios Hollywood is also a working movie studio which you can tour.

10. Huntington Beach, California

The trendy Huntington Beach area, south of LA, bills itself as “Surf City USA”, and offers beach hotels and surfing lessons, as well as reasonable proximity to Disneyland. Check out the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach for a family stay.

11. San Diego

Southern California temperatures are lovely during spring break, and San Diego offers many highlights for families such as the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. Seeing animals in their natural habitat is even better, and spring is a fantastic time to go whale watching in San Diego.

Sea World is a draw for families providing some rides, educational exhibits, and opportunities to interact with sea mammals.