5 Kid-Friendly California Vacations

Warm weather? Affordable hotels? Things for kids? This state has it all.

Disneyland

Here's the Deal

This is the park that started it all. It's nowhere near as big as its Orlando sibling -- some find that a plus. Go early and take water. Packing lunch means you don't have to stand in yet another line.

    What's for Kids

    Everything here is for young kids! For Mickey, Donald, and Goofy sightings, head to Mickey's Toontown. A Bug's Land and most of Fantasyland are also geared for the under-5 set.

      A Place to Stay

      Holiday Inn at the Park is less expensive than staying on-site, yet it's just a quarter of a mile away. The pool is open around the clock.

        For More Info

        For the hotel call 800-545-PARK or 714-758-0900. For general Disneyland information call 714-781-7290 or visit disneyland.com.

          San Jose

          Here's the Deal

          Fly into San Jose -- an interesting little city in itself -- and use it as a jumping-off point for a driving tour of Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Palo Alto, and the Salinas Valley.

            What's for Kids

            Kids are mesmerized by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and wowed by trees in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. San Jose's Children's Discovery Museum is fun, as are the beaches of Santa Cruz.

              A Place to Stay

              Valley Park Hotel makes a good home base. There's no pool, but rooms with two beds and kitchenettes are reasonable for a family of four -- and that includes breakfast and dinner.

                For More Info

                For the hotel call 408-293-5000. For the aquarium and surrounding area, visit mbayaq.org. For general information call 800-SAN-JOSE.

                  Lake Tahoe

                  Here's the Deal

                  With sun shining 75 percent of the year, Tahoe is the ultimate outdoor playground. The lake straddles California and Nevada -- the Nevada side has gambling, the California side is more family friendly.

                    What's for Kids

                    In summer, perch baby on the back of your bike, take a boat ride, or just drive around and enjoy the views. Winter is all about skiing. Heavenly Resort teaches kids as young as 3.

                      A Place to Stay

                      We love Historic Camp Richardson Resort and Marina, open all year and packed with family activities.

                        For More Info

                        For Camp Richardson call 800-544-1801 or visit camprichardson.com. For general information, call 800-AT-TAHOE or visit bluelaketahoe.com.

                          San Diego

                          Here's the Deal

                          It's hard to top a city with 70 miles of beachfront on one side, mountains and flower fields on the other. Spring and summer have the best weather, but winters are mild (and crowds are fewer).

                            What's for Kids

                            The animals at the San Diego Zoo are a must-see, and youngsters flip for Legoland California. Shamu performs twice a day at SeaWorld San Diego, and it's great to walk around Balboa Park.

                              A Place to Stay

                              Loews Coronado Bay Resort has three pools (one is adults only), direct access to the beach, and a kids' club during peak season.

                                For More Info

                                For the resort call 619-424-4000 or visit loewshotels.com. For general information call 619-236-1212 or visit sandiego.org.

                                  San Francisco

                                  Here's the Deal

                                  Funky, freewheeling San Francisco is perfect for new parents. Picture yourself pushing baby on a leisurely stroll, enjoying the shopping, food, parks, architecture, and people-watching.

                                    What's for Kids

                                    Our favorite spot for preschoolers is the Exploratorium, filled with interactive fun. Don't miss the sea lions sunning themselves at Pier 39 or the California Street cable car, the most gentle for kids.

                                      A Place to Stay

                                      Hotel Del Sol is as vibrant as the city itself. Kids get a beach ball and sunglasses to use at the pool; you can borrow teddy bears; and every summer Friday there's a BBQ.

                                        For More Info

                                        For the hotel call 877-433-5765 or visit thehoteldelsol.com For the city of San Francisco, call 888-782-9673 or visit sfvisitor.org.

                                          Originally published in American Baby magazine, July 2004.
                                          Greg Jackson, Jessica Hartshorn, Casey Sangmeister, Kate Kelly, and Evan Karlan all contributed to this article.

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