There is so much to do in Central California and we are lucky to have visited a few times as a family. When we visit San Francisco, we always try to stay at Fisherman’s Wharf. Just watch out for a good deal on a hotel because they’ll make up for it in their parking fees! We also spent two weeks in Aptos staying in this AirBNB and would recommend it. It was slightly outdated but a good size and a perfect location.
Here is our list of favorite activities for the family while visiting Central California!
San Francisco. Let’s just go ahead and start with one of the best cities on the west coast. Kids will love to ride the trolley cars, see the Golden Gate Bridge, watch the sea lions at Pier 39, and get free samples at Ghirardelli Square. Read about our first family visit to San Francisco back in 2016 here.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. What a fun afternoon! We packed a lunch and spent several hours here riding rides, eating ice cream, and Olivia got her face painted! Rides are 4-7 points each and each point is $1; entry is free. They had a great time choosing which rides to spend their points on, and getting to do some together!
Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. Children’s museums make for a perfect rainy day activity. This one is inside a mall, which made parking and walking around very easy. To no surprise, Adele loved racing the cars down the slope and Olivia loved the dress up clothes. It’s always so fun to see what they gravitate towards at each new museum we visit!
Carmel. Located along California’s incredible driving road, Highway 1, is this Top 10 US destination. It is a walking town with the most adorable shops & restaurants, and sugar sand white beaches. Pebble Beach Golf Course and the 17-mile drive are also nearby and something to include in your plans!
Point Lobos State Reserve. We took the girls on a hiking day around Point Lobos and had the best time. Many of the trails are completely flat and right along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We saw tons of sea lions and some of the greenest water you’ll ever see. There are picnic tables throughout which made lunch & snacks really easy for us. This is definitely something that I would return to and recommend to anyone else.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park. In case you’re looking for a fun hike, and to see some of the great California Redwoods, this is a great park to bring the family to! We hiked along the Redwood Trail, which is mostly flat and easy for young kids, and it has the biggest tree in the park along the way.
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