California is a state so large, so grand, and so overwhelmingly wonderful that it takes a long time to explore. California is a number of different kinds of destinations all in one state, so a road trip with the family to explore this spectacular state is a choice well worth making.
If you’re going to soak up all the wonders of the Sunshine State in a single vacation, then you’re going to need a route that is planned with maximum efficiency in mind. The average length of a vacation for American families is just four days, but how much of the best and brightest of California can you really enjoy in such a restrictive timeframe?
A lot more than you might expect, especially if you’re prepared to rent a vehicle for the duration of your stay. Below is a busy but exciting itinerary
STARTING POINT: San Diego
No trip to California is complete without a visit to San Diego, making this vibrant city the ideal starting point for your four-day family trip. There are so many options as to what you can see and do in this fantastic city, including the world-famous zoo or an educational trip to the State Historic Park, so choose your activity of choice. In fact, this itinerary is designed to allow you the majority of the day in San Diego, so you can choose two sites to enjoy!
Around 6pm, it’s time to make a move— you won’t be spending the night in San Diego. Jump in your car for an hour and a half’s drive to…
NEXT STOP: Cleveland National Forest
This rather confusingly-named forest is northwest of San Diego, and the route to get there is pleasantly simple. After a day spent in the bustling San Diego, the calm tranquility of Cleveland National Forest makes for the perfect place to spend an evening relaxing, as you enjoy the panoramic scenic views.
You can camp in the forest itself, or head to one of the nearby towns to spend the night. There are plenty of hotels in La Jolla Amago, which is perfectly placed for exploring the forest itself the next day.
After a night’s rest, it’s worth jumping back in the car again the next morning. Half an hour from La Jolla Amago (or less, if you’re camping at the forest itself) is the incredible Palomar Observatory. Take a tour of the facility and allow your kids to learn about how the three telescopes are being used to map the skies; a truly wonderful morning trip that the whole family will love. You’ll also have the chance to enjoy the stunning views offered by the forest, exploring the trails and perhaps even hiking Palomar Mountain if you’re in the mood for a challenge.
Just remember to leave in plenty of time to make the two-hour journey to…
NEXT STOP: Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach is truly one of the most delightful places in California. After your time spent in the wilderness, you’ll be back at the seaside, and able to spend the evening wandering along Huntington Pier and enjoying the stunning seafood cuisine. While you’ll likely to arrive a little too late for swimming in the ocean, you can nevertheless enjoy the view of the sun setting over the waves.
Get a good night’s rest, as tomorrow will bring forth (what your children, at least, will consider to be) the most exciting day of the vacation…
NEXT STOP: Anaheim
Realistically, Anaheim is only known for one thing— no offence to the city itself, but most people can’t name much about it… except for the fact it’s home to the Disneyland Resort. After a couple of days spent enjoying the natural wonders of California, now is a great time to indulge in something lighthearted and familiar.
The journey from Huntington Beach to Anaheim is pleasantly short, at just over a half hour. When you arrive in Anaheim itself, you can check into a local hotel if you don’t want to stay on the Disneyland resort itself. With your bags checked, you can head to the park for an incredible fun family day out.
Telling you what to see and do at the Disneyland Resort is largely pointless. First and foremost, the park is so varied that it’s impossible to choose just a handful of collections to visit, and your choices will largely be dictated by the age of your children. So you’re best to plot your own route, using an online guide. This will allow you to ensure you get to see and do all the things you want; the park is sprawling, so you’ll need to keep a careful check on the time.
After a day filled with excitement, head back to your chosen hotel for a quiet evening spent reminiscing about the time you’ve enjoyed so far.
LAST STOP: Los Angeles
As with San Diego, no visit to California is complete without a trip to Los Angeles. Not only is the city one of the most vibrant and exciting in the world, it’s also home to LAX Airport, which should allow you to travel home on a direct flight.
The journey from Anaheim to Los Angeles is less than an hour; with good traffic, you should be able to make it in around 45 minutes. If you choose a night-time flight, then you’ll be able to spend the day exploring LA itself, which can be a nice cherry on the top of a thrilling vacation.
You could head to the beach, or stay in LA itself to walk the famous “Walk of Fame”. Alternatively, if the Palomar Observatory excited an interest in astronomy, then the Griffith Observatory is one of the most well-known attractions in the state. If you’d rather pick up some souvenirs, then heading for the shopping districts and The Grove can also be a pleasant way to round off your vacation.
The above route tries to take in all that California has to offer, from sandy beaches to rugged mountainous terrain. Enjoy your travels!