With Disneyland and other themeparks, the city of Anaheim in Orange County is a must-stop vacation destination for any family touring souther California. The region also has some great Southern California family beaches. For further general information, contact the Anaheim & Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 714/765-8888.
Please note that Southern California is a participant in the CityPASS Program which includes admission to the following popular attractions: the 3-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper ticket (back-and-forth admission to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park), one-day admission to LEGOLAND California, and one-day admission to SeaWorld San Diego (see the San Diego Family Attractions Guide for other attractions there) for one price, reflecting a 28% savings off buying individual tickets. Great deal for anyone planning on doing the best attractions in southern California.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
Knott’s Theme Park
8039 Beach Boulevard.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Camp Snoopy is the home of the toddling and pre-school Peanuts Gang at this favorite family theme park founded more than 80 years ago by the Knott’s berry farmers. Knott’s Theme Park also offers 165 rides, shows and attractions, including Ghost Town and Old Western Town’s themed rides, and the world’s tallest, steepest and wettest water ride. Knott’s Soak City USA also offers some fun and tame water rides for the diaper set. The on site Knotts Berry Farm Hotel is a 320-room family-focused hotel with a Snoopy Wing, pool and kid’s activities.
Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Explore the vast Pacific Ocean’s three aquatic habitats: the sunny Southern California – Baja Pacific, the icy Northern Pacific and the colorful Tropical Pacific, by meeting over 11,000 of its inhabitants. At this very special learning center, features include an Ocean Experience boat trip on the high seas, the Shark Lagoon (150 sharks!) where you can watch these predators through glass windows or pet some of them in a touch tank, and a Behind-the-Scenes tour. Other features include a Penguin Habitat and the Molina Animal Care Center.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
Knott’s Soak City, USA
8039 Beach Boulevard
Buena Park, CA 90620
A great place to cool off, this 13-acre water park offers 21 rides, including a lazy river, slides and wave pool, and an activity area for younger children (though we think the themepark is more fun for them.) Lots of fun water battle stations, too. Consider getting a season pass for the whole family, as there are two new waterparks in Palm Springs and San Diego that are included with Knott’s Themepark and Soak City, the best value if you’re seeing the whole state.
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament
7662 Beach Boulevard
Buena Park, CA 90602
Immerse yourselves in the pageantry of the past. Seated arena-style, you cheer for your assigned team of Andalusian stallions, horseman, jousters and sword-fighters while you enjoy a four-course meal (eaten in the semi-darkness with no utensils), all served by beautiful “wenches.”
Fun for the Family
1313 S. Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92802
Able to speak for itself, the original Disney theme park is still one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the United States. Located about 90 minutes from downtown L.A., you can visit in one long daytrip or stay around for more. Because it is smaller and much easier to navigate with young children than its Orlando sibling, it makes a delightful Disney intro with younger children. Kids will love the revamped ca. 1950’s submarine voyage, now with a Finding Nemo theme. Other high tech attractions include a Pirates of the Caribbean 3D adventure, Disney Princess glamor in the Royal Court show, and new nighttime fireworks.
Disney’s California Adventure
1580 S. Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
Celebrate the many aspects of California in uniquely themed lands. The beach and old-fasioned amusement parks are at “Paradise Pier,” which also features the new nighttime World of Color sound, light and water show. Crush the Turtle interacts with guests at “Hollywood Pictures Backlot,” where there’s a Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and lots of character interactions. The great outdoors are highlighted at “Bug’s Land,” inspired by “A Bug’s Life” and be sure to take the kids Soarin’ Over California — the park’s most popular ride. Don’t forget Toy Story Mania, and leave time to visit Radiator Springs at “Car’s Land,” the newest area inspired by the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars.” Then tap your toes at “Dancing with Disney,” a Disney-themed dance party, and see the Broadway-style musical “Disney’s Aladdin.”
606 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The west coast’s oldest theatre company (age 90 in 2011!) presents plays and musicals, and offers a Youth Theatre Season with productions of such plays as “Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy” and “Charlotte’s Web: The Musical” designed and directed for ages 5 and up.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queen’s Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802
This historic ocean liner, now a hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, offers overnight guests accommodations in 365 restored Art Deco staterooms, legendary dining rooms and lounges. The ship is open daily to the general public for tours which are surprisingly entertaining — the huge engine room especially fascinates kids. Allow time for a viewing of the special effects show, “Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary.”
Take in a Local Game
The Anaheim Angels (888/796-HALO) are the super popular baseball team based at the Edison International Field of Anaheim. Remember “Angels in the Outfield”? The Anaheim Ducks (877/WILDWING) are the stars of the Disney hockey films, “Mighty Ducks” and they really play a great game of hockey at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
Orange County’s seven beach communities offer 42-miles of magnificent coastline to explore. Join the locals in watching surfers ride the waves, run on the beach, swim and splash, and try your hand at fishing. From quaint Seal Beach down to hilly San Clemente, each beach has a different flavor, from post-Hippie to super elegant to “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Stroll the streets in the towns of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach for interesting shops, galleries and restaurants.
Families traveling with infants and toddlers should not miss Dana Point’s Baby Beach. In addition to the warm shallow waters reserved for the youngest beach-goers, there are no waves due to a jetty that surrounds the area. The beach is steps from the parking lot, making it very convenient, and there are grassy areas with picnic and bar-b-que facilities. A lifeguard is on duty and the bathrooms and showers are clean. The harbor’s nearby Ocean Institute features a number of hands-on educational programs and exhibits for kids who are curious about marine life.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.