A road trip through California is undoubtedly one of the best road trips for sightseeing with the family. Not to mention all of the fun activities and attractions you can do on the trip. Let’s start our ultimate family-friendly California road trip in San Diego and end up in San Francisco with a few more stops along the way!
If you’re starting this adventure in San Diego, excite the family by having fun even before you load up the car! The historic Belmont Park is a great place to begin and it’s a good opportunity to tire out the kids. They’ll enjoy the chance to ride a roller coaster and play some games.
However, a big activity like this can take up the whole day, so you’ll certainly be hungry on your way out of town. Stop and grab a bite at Troy’s Family Restaurant, where they’ve been uniquely serving up traditional American and Mexican food since 1973. Not only does it have phenomenal ratings, but it also won’t break the bank. Once your stomach is fueled, it is time to take the 5 North and hit the open road!
As you head on up the highway, expect to see the ocean on the West side. Make sure to pack binoculars and a digital camera so the kids can enjoy the sites. The first stop is Long Beach, Ca. It is time to experience a new beach, and Long Beach City Beach happens to be one of the best.
After an evening walk along the beach, it’s time to hit the hay. As the day draws to a close, head to your hotel of choice. If you’re on the hunt for something unique, consider a stay on the Queen Mary instead of a traditional hotel. This ship takes you back in time and allows for beautiful views of the harbor.
The following day can easily be spent exploring the wonders of Los Angeles. If you’d like a beach experience that’s got it all, check out the Santa Monica Pier. The Pier has so many activities and attractions to entertain you and your family.
Bring a few dollars for the boardwalk performers (they’re amazing).
Try the world-renowned seaweed hot dog. It might not sound too appetizing, but it happens to be delicious!
Once you get done at the boardwalk, walk across the street to do a bit of family shopping. There are incredible stores located all around the area, and all set up for amazing displays. If you are ready to move on to something else, travel on over to Hollywood and walk among the stars!
If your mission is to wear out the kids for the drive ahead, take the hike up to the Hollywood sign. Just make sure to bring water and decent hiking shoes. Once you are done, you can either grab a nice hotel, or hop in the car to get back on the road.
San Luis Obispo
The next stop is definitely a local favorite - San Luis Obispo. This is such a beautiful side of California that is hidden from the rest of the world. Speaking of beautifully hidden, the Elfin Forest is a must see for all California travelers. Filled with over 11 miles of hiking and some of the most gorgeous preserves, you and your family will spend hours in amazement.
Then, head on over to the San Luis Obispo Children's Museum to learn and participate in their interactive exhibits. This can stand as an inspirational memory for your child through S.T.E.M learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.). Surely, as the sun sets over San Luis Obispo, you’ll know you have made a great stop.
Last, but certainly not least, is California’s Golden City. San Francisco! The first stop takes you to the city's number one landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. Whether you choose to drive or walk across the magnificent bridge is up to you. Consider that traffic over the bridge can be heavy sometimes, so it’s best to avoid rush hour.
After the bridge adventure, check out the Exploratorium, a museum of science, art and human perception. Or, head to Pier 39, San Francisco’s ode to a children’s paradise. This children’s hot spot features an aquarium, sea lion sightings and plenty of food and drink option. This city certainly won’t disappoint.
A road trip through California can be a great family vacation - if you’re prepared. The good news is, this itinerary for the ultimate road trip leaves you with an easy 8-hour drive back to San Diego. You can still stop on the way back for food and activities, but at least you’ll know you got the majority of it done on the way up through California. As long as you plan out your time and budget, your trip should go over very smoothly. Good luck and drive safe through the gorgeous California!