Southern California

Mom Knows Best: 9 Family Vacations in California to Inspire Your Next Trip

Yearning for a family vacation? Moms share their nine favorite family vacations in California.

You’re yearning to plan a family vacation, but you’re worried about spending money and finding the vacation time to head across the country or even go overseas. Fortunately, you live in California, one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world. Your backyard is already full of family getaway possibilities that most people could only dream of.

To help inspire your itchy feet, we’ve pulled together nine favorite family vacations in California from Mom herself.

Indian Wells: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa


My favorite resort for a family-friendly getaway in California is the beautiful Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, California. This lovely resort has three gorgeous pools, including a kiddie pool that sits alongside a white, sandy beach oasis.

Families can relax while watching a favorite comedy in the movie theater, taking a private tennis lesson together with a professional coach, or, my personal favorite, eating s’mores by the outdoor fire pit. Mom and Dad can savor a romantic dinner together at one of the resort’s three on-site restaurants – Canva, Glo Sushi, and Sirocco Pizza Company – while their precious children attend Camp Oasis. Camp Oasis offers supervised activities for children between five and 12 years old, including arts and crafts, video games, tennis, swimming, golf, and much more.

Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa is also conveniently located to the Children’s Discovery Museum, Palm Springs Aerial Tram, Palm Springs Air Museum, and the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. The very knowledgeable staff at the concierge desk are willing and able to help you plan a wonderful family getaway in the Californian desert. — Jileen Butler, Social Field Trips

Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells

Top rated
Indian Wells
8.5 Excellent (3641 reviews)

Newport Beach: Hyatt Regency Newport Beach


We loved staying at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, even as SoCal locals. With so much to do at the resort, we didn’t have time to enjoy every amenity, but there’s plenty we can recommend starting with a ride around the Back Bay or pedaling down to quaint Balboa Island for the famous Balboa ice cream bars with free two-hour bicycle rentals.

Green fees for the nine-hole Back Bay Golf Course are also included with your stay, and with par three holes, this course is fun for the whole family. We spent an afternoon swimming at one of the three pools and our son loved the splash pad. There’s also cornhole, ping pong, putt-putt golf, shuffleboard, and a life-size chess set.

The rooms are spacious and most have a balcony to enjoy the golden California sunshine. This hotel is usually less than $150 a night, which makes it a great affordable option for families, especially if you need to book multiple rooms.

Even though it’ll be hard to leave the resort, don’t miss a beach day at Crystal Cove State Park, stand-up paddle boarding in the Newport Marina or catching some waves at Blackies by the Newport Pier. — Kelly Barcus, No Man Before

Hotel Hyatt Regency Newport Beach

Newport Beach
8.2 Very good (2311 reviews)

San Francisco: The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square


The Westin St. Francis on Union Square is an ideal choice for family travelers visiting San Francisco on an urban getaway. The hotel has a rich history and luxury touches that discerning parents will appreciate. It also has a number of advantages that make it a smart choice with children.

The Westin St. Francis is conveniently located on a rare flat block of the city with no hills to climb. It’s within walking distance of many activities travelers with kids will want to do, like exploring Union Square or Chinatown. The hotel also has the location advantage of being directly on the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines. Travelers can easily take this iconic form of San Francisco transportation to top tourist destinations like Lombard Street or Fisherman’s Wharf.

The rooms are also spacious enough for family travelers, particularly the deluxe double rooms in the hotel’s tower building that were recently renovated. The tower is set back from the hustle and bustle of Union Square, so the location minimizes city noise as well. Families with babies and toddlers will appreciate the availability of the Westin’s famed Heavenly Crib as well as refrigerators in every room. The Westin St. Francis will also guarantee guests connecting rooms for a modest fee, a rarity in the hotel business. — Leslie Harvey, Trips With Tykes

The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

Top rated
San Francisco
8.8 Excellent (6279 reviews)

San Diego: Kona Kai Resort & Spa


Kona Kai Resort, at the tip of Shelter Island in San Diego, is the quintessential family getaway destination any time of year. I especially love staying here in fall and winter because this family and pet-friendly beachfront property beckons kids, moms, and dads to get outside together and enjoy Southern California’s mild, seasonal weather.

After the children get over the cuteness of the mommy with baby dolphin
plush toy on the bed(optional purchase upon checkout) in your beautifully
decorated hotel room, the little ones will have a hard time deciding where to go first. There’s the resort’s Hawaiian-inspired, lushly landscaped pool overlooking the Pacific or, just a few steps beyond, the private white sand beach accented by retro-style turquoise Adirondack beach chairs with a magical view of yachts moored at Kona Kai Marina. Active family fun is plentiful as well from Kids Corner to beach volleyball, Giant Jenga, a fully-equipped gym with ocean view, cruiser bicycles to borrow, and more.

For a perfect ending to a wonderful day, purchase a s’mores kit at the front desk and bring the children down to the beach to cook up some sweet treats over one of the resort’s fire pits. You’ll be creating treasured family memories for your kids that last a lifetime. — Janis Brett Elspas, Mommy Blog Expert

Kona Kai Resort & Spa

San Diego
8.3 Very good (1917 reviews)

Big Bear Lake: The Lodge at Big Bear Lake


The Lodge at Big Bear Lake has been our family’s secret mountain getaway for years. It’s the perfect combination of mountain rustic and the comfort of a resort. We have been lucky enough to experience it during all four seasons and we continue to go because, with our family of four, it’s sometimes difficult to find a resort that will meet the needs of a couple, a teenager, and a little one. Spring, summer, winter, fall, The Lodge has not disappointed. Regardless of season or weather, The Lodge is welcoming with a river rock fireplace and wooden beams that are cozy and inviting any time of year.

The kids love the game room and the outdoor pool. Each morning, we enjoy their on-site restaurant and patio overlooking their private pond. The picturesque lodge is perfectly located on the edge of Big Bear Village, within easy walking distance of the town’s going-ons, several trailheads, and local artisan coffee. — Jennifer Tousey, This Family Blog

Riverside: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa


The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside is the perfect home away from home. It’s one of our favorite places to visit because of the beautiful architecture and unique rooms. It has something to offer for the whole family. There’s a pool and jacuzzi, perfect for a calm and relaxing day. The hotel spa is luxurious and perfect for a relaxing moment for Mom. Definitely go for a massage or facial while you are visiting.

We especially love visiting during the holiday season for the Festival of Lights. The Mission is covered in Christmas lights and downtown offers horse-drawn carriage rides, hot chocolate, and ice skating. We also love to visit Casey’s Cupcakes, known for winning Cupcake Wars, which is right next door to the Inn.

On Sundays, the Inn has a delicious champagne brunch that has tasty made-to-order omelets and a dessert bar. There are several things to do nearby as well. We like to go through the shops downtown and eat at The Tamale Factory just across the way. If you’re searching for something to do outdoors, Mount Rubidoux Park or Fairmount Park are both great and less than two miles away. — Anna Panza, Blossoming Motherhood

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (3056 reviews)

Los Gatos: Hotel Los Gatos & Spa


If you’re looking for a great family-friendly hotel in the heart of the Bay Area, check out Hotel Los Gatos. A posh, Mediterranean-style hotel within walking distance of the downtown Los Gatos strip and easily accessible to all kinds of restaurants and shopping.

In the mornings, you’ll need easy access to food and strong coffee, so trot across the street to the chic Cafe Dio, a European-style coffeehouse with specialty drinks like a delicious Ghirardelli mocha as well as house-made donuts that will keep the kids happy. Adjacent to both Cafe Dio and Hotel Los Gatos is the beautiful Los Gatos high school and their lush, green front lawn, which makes for an excellent play area while Mom and Dad sip their mochas.

When the kids need to run and play, the expansive Vasona Park is just a short drive away and offers multiple playgrounds, a train, picnic areas, and hosts the infamous Fantasy of Lights during the holidays, a 1.5-mile drive-through lighting extravaganza. Visiting in the summer? Don’t forget to take a quick walk downtown where they host free summer concerts and outdoor movies. Then, cruise downtown to shop and grab some pizza at Willow Street or delicious Mexican food at Andale. If you’ve got a sitter, enjoy a date night on the town with several options for elegant dining and excellent local wine-tasting. — Erica Jabali, I Spy Fabulous

Hotel Los Gatos & Spa

Top rated
Los Gatos
8.8 Excellent (2095 reviews)

Marina Del Rey: Hotel Marina Del Rey


My son and I had a fantastic family getaway weekend at the Marina del Rey hotel near Los Angeles. It’s a short drive from our Southern California home, but we felt as if we were worlds away and returned home feeling refreshed.

We had a comfortable ground-floor room with a private patio near the heated pool and spa. We liked having easy access to hotel amenities and were able to enjoy the public areas along with our own private space. The on-site restaurant has delicious food and friendly service, which we enjoyed multiple times during our stay. They offer loaner bikes, but we chose to walk near the hotel and to other area attractions.

We went to the local farmer’s market, enjoyed a sunset yacht cruise, lounged at the beach, savored fine cuisine at foodie hot spots, and even went parasailing for an exciting view of Los Angeles. There’s a lot to do in and around Marina del Rey, but the hotel is exciting enough to simply check in and stay there the whole weekend. This hotel provided us with a beautiful escape from the moment we stepped into the stunning lobby until check-out on our final day. — Valerie Mitchell, Mama Likes To Cook

Hotel Marina Del Rey

Top rated
Marina Del Rey
8.6 Excellent (84 reviews)

Carlsbad: Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort


Located steps from Carlsbad State Beach, the Cape Rey Carlsbad resort is my family’s favorite Southern California getaway. The resort is perfect for families who want upscale lodging during a Legoland or beach vacation. Rooms are spacious and come equipped with a mini-fridge and microwave for storing and making snacks. The hotel is also home to Chandlers, a full-service oceanfront restaurant famous for their beautiful sunsets. They offer a menu focused on delicious and healthy options that will please the whole family.

The resort offers a free five-mile radius shuttle service that includes Legoland, the Museum of Music, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, Carlsbad Lagoon, Carlsbad Village, nearby beaches, and the sleepy beach town of Leucadia. Another hotel perk I love are the complimentary bicycle rentals. There’s no better way to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean than a ride along the coast.

The saltwater pool with zero-depth entry is great for even the smallest swimmers and the poolside cabanas are a haven for families who want to enjoy an afternoon lounging in the Southern California sun. If you prefer to build sand castles, the beach is only 150 steps away. If you want an upscale beachfront location with all the perks of a big resort, Cape Rey Carlsbad should be your next family getaway. — Alexa Williams Meisler, 52 Perfect Days

Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa

8.4 Very good (2171 reviews)

Feature image courtesy of Visit California/Sean Arbabi