California boasts spectacular natural landscapes, ranging from the rugged the Sierra Nevada Mountains and deep valleys of redwood forests to the rolling patchworks of the Central Valley farmlands and the arid yet beautiful Mojave Desert. The heart of the Hollywood entertainment industry is found in the city of Angels (Los Angeles), and the hilly and healthy San Francisco is best known for the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, iconic Alcatraz Island and famous tramway cable cars. Here are some fun things to do with kids around the state. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Children's Fairyland, USA
© Children's Fairyland, USA
Children's Fairyland, U.S.A. is a 10-acre amusement park on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland that features a variety of small rides, playsets, animals, and the Open Storybook Puppet Theater, the oldest puppet theater in the country. Built in 1950, the park was one of the earliest themed amusement parks in the United States and was thought to inspire Walt Disney when he was touring the country looking for ideas for his amusement park. Attractions include over 60 storybook sets, including Peter Rabbit’s Garden, Jack & Jill Hill, Fairy Music Farm Tunnel, fun rides like the Jolly Trolley, Wonder-Go-Round, and the Flecto Carousel. The park also hosts puppet shows at the Open Storybook Puppet Theater and is home to several animals that can be petted like rabbits, sheep, donkeys, and hamsters.
699 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA 94610, Phone: 510-452-2259
2.Aerospace Museum of California
© Aerospace Museum of California
The Aerospace Museum of California is dedicated to the history of aviation and houses world-class engine exhibits and an array of over 40 military and civilian aircraft. Located on the grounds of the former McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands, the Museum explores every era of aviation with hands-on learning exhibits, such as the 2,200 square-foot Hubble Traveling Exhibit that immerses visitors in the mystery of the Hubble mission. Other exhibitions include Engine Evolution, which showcases a variety of engines from the earliest piston engines to rocket engines, an aircraft collection that spans the history of aviation, and includes classic aircraft such as a beautifully restored 1932 Curtiss Wright speed wing biplane. Visitors can fly a plane in a professional flight simulator under the instruction of experienced flight instructors and get up close with colossal rocket engines like the Aerobee 350 Sounding Rocket and the J58 Mach 3+ Turbo/RamJet.
3200 Freedom Park Dr, McClellan Park, CA 95652, Phone: 916-643-3192
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3.Aquarium of The Bay
© Rafael Ben-Ari/stock.adobe.com
The Aquarium of the Bay is a public aquarium in San Francisco that houses a wealth of local aquatic animals from the San Francisco Bay and neighboring rivers and watersheds. Located on the edge of the famous PIER 39 at the historic San Francisco waterfront, the Aquarium of the Bay is a Smithsonian-Affiliated museum and is home to more than 20,000 marine animals ranging from rays, sharks and jellyfish to octopus, river otters, and crustaceans. The aquarium features an array of fascinating exhibits, including exciting walk-through tunnels, and habitats such as shorelines, deep ocean waters, and freshwater rivers. The Aquarium of the Bay also offers a range of educational programs, workshops, and conservation projects that focus on critical environmental challenges such as habitat loss, plastic pollution in the oceans, and climate change.
PIER 39 The Embarcadero &, Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94133, Phone: 415-623-5300
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© Bowers Kidseum
Based at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Kidseum is a one-of-a-kind magical space designed for young children to learn through play. Founded in 1994, the family-friendly museum features a variety of interactive and hands-on exhibits that encourage children to explore, discover, create, and imagine through playing. Signature exhibits include an archaeology lab, an arts and crafts area, a green screen time machine, a glow room, a story room, and other high-tech interactive displays, and the museum offers a range of educational programs, workshops, and special tours for local schools and community groups.
1802 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706, Phone: 714-480-1520
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5.California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum and research institute in San Francisco that houses over 46 million specimens, making it one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. Established in 1853 as a learned society, the museum is California's oldest and continues to carry out research today. The building underwent extensive renovations in 2008 and now boasts over 400,000 square feet of space in which several sections of the academy are housed, including the Kimball Natural History Museum, the Morrison Planetarium, Rainforests of the World, and the Steinhart Aquarium. In addition to a wealth of fascinating exhibits, displays, and presentations, the various museums and centers offer educational programs, workshops, and special guided tours for visitors of all ages.
55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
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6.California Living Museum
© California Living Museum
The California Living Museum (CALM) is a native zoo and garden in Bakersfield that is home to a variety of plants and animals that are native to Kern County in California. The park features beautiful gardens and grounds filled with several habitats and plant communities, as well as animal exhibits of endemic Californian animals like the mountain lion and bobcat. Many of the animals at the park have been rescued from captivity or have physical disabilities and are unable to live in the wild alone and are cared for at the park. One of the top attractions at the museum is the award-winning Cats of California exhibit where visitors can get up close with bobcats and mountain lions. The California Living Museum (CALM) is open daily.
10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93306, Phone: 661-872-2256
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7.California’s Great America
© California’s Great America
Formerly known as Marriott's Great America and Paramount's Great America, California's Great America is a 100-acre amusement park in Santa Clara with a wealth of themed rides, rollercoasters, attractions, and games. The family-friendly park opened in 1976 and features over 40 rides and attractions, including the Gold Striker, one of the premium wooden roller coasters in the country, the Railblazer, and an inverted rollercoaster known as Flight Deck. Other attractions at the park include Boomerang Bay and a range of water-based rides and slides; Thunder Raceway; and Carousel Columbia. There are several food and drink concessions stands and modern restrooms.
4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054, Phone: 408-988-1776
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8.Cartoon Art Museum
© Cartoon Art Museum
The Cartoon Art Museum (CAM) is dedicated to the exhibition of all forms of cartoon art and the and preservation of the art of comics and cartoons. Located in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, the museum was founded in 1984 and houses a permanent collection of more than 7,000 pieces, including comic books and strips, anime, and political cartoons to graphic novels and underground comix. The Museum hosts up to 12 significant exhibitions annually where visitors can view original cartoon art and learn how to create their own animation and comics at a variety of educational classes, lectures, and workshops for children and adults. The Cartoon Art Museum also houses a research library and a bookstore.
781 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109
9.Castle Air Museum
© Castle Air Museum
Castle Air Museum is a military aviation museum in Atwater that celebrates the history of aviation and the evolution of aircraft throughout history. The former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base-turned-museum is home to a fascinating collection of wartime memorabilia, personal military artifacts, historic photos, and uniforms from the past century, along with over 70 beautifully restored vintage military aircraft ranging from pre-WWII to the present-day fighters. The Museum gives visitors an insight into extraordinary history of aviation with a world-class display of Bomber Aircraft that spans nearly 70 years, as well as a collection of U.S. Air Force jet fighters, including America's first operational jet fighter, the Lockheed P-80. The museum also explores the future of aerospace.
5050 Santa Fe Dr, Atwater, CA 95301, Phone: 209-723-2178
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10.Charles Paddock Zoo
Located within the beautiful Atascadero Lake Park in the City of Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County, the Charles Paddock Zoo is a small five-acre community zoo that is home to more than 100 animals representing 45 species, many of which are part of globally managed programs to preserve animals and their habitats. Established in 1955 by Charles Paddock, the animal sanctuary is dedicated to the conservation of local and exotic species and features naturalistic habitats to ensure the best care and well-being for the animals. The Charles Paddock Zoo is also involved in several conservation and education programs and globally managed conservation programs that aim to protect and preserve endangered species and the habitats in which they live.
9305 Pismo Ave, Atascadero, CA 93422, Phone: 805-461-5080
11.Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
© Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose offers innovative educational experiences for children and their families and inspires creative and innovative thinking and lifelong learning through play. Established in 1990, the 52,000 square foot museum is based in a purple, Ricardo Legorreta-designed building, and is surrounded by half an acre of gardens and grounds filled with family-friendly nature-based activities and adventures. Exhibits at the museum include Mammoth Discovery, Bill’s Backyard, Secrets of Circles, Bubbles, Art Gallery, WaterWays, and the LeRoy Neiman Art Studio, where children can create their artworks. The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose offers a variety of educational programs, classes, and workshops for children of all ages and their families.
180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110, Phone: 408-298-5437
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12.Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
© Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert is a large children's museum that celebrates the rich cultural diversity of the Coachella Valley through more than 50 interactive exhibits, displays, and presentations. The museum is based on a six-and-a-half-acre property that features a beautiful garden, an outdoor play space, and family picnic areas, while inside houses a variety of interactive exhibits and displays where children of all ages can explore, discover and learn through play. Permanent and traveling exhibits include Toddler Town, Lie Detector, Build Your Own Race Car, and Vet Pet Station, and educational programs and weekend workshops are offered throughout the year.
71701 Gerald Ford Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, Phone: 760-321-0602
© Adventure City
Adventure City is a budget-friendly themed amusement park in Anaheim that offers a wealth of fun for the whole family. Designed for young children, the two-acre theme park is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser with a vintage 1946 carousel, small rollercoasters, and creative attractions like Rescue 911 where kids can dress up in firefighter helmets and jackets, drive light vehicles and respond to funny emergency calls. Large, more exhilarating rides include the 40-foot-high forward-and-reverse–style family coaster called the Rewind Racers and the 45-foot-drop tower called the Drop Zone. Other attractions at the park include a petting farm with pigs, goats and bunnies, a Kids’ Theater, a games arcade, a 20-foot climbing wall, and a Thomas the Tank Engine zone.
1238 S Beach Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92804, Phone: 714-236-9300
14.Children's Museum of Stockton
© Children's Museum of Stockton
The Children's Museum of Stockton is a hands-on, interactive, and creative space for children and their families to explore, discover, and learn through play. The 22,000-foot museum boasts over 40 fun and informative exhibits that encourage creative and imaginative thinking, mystery and puzzle-solving, including a nature station, an immersive water table, a pet clinic, a news station, a recycling shop, a post office, and magnet wall, among others. The Children's Museum also hosts special events, community outreach programs and other educational programs for children of all ages throughout the year.
402 W Weber Ave, Stockton, CA 95203, Phone: 209-465-4386
15.Disney California Adventure Park
© Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure Park, also known as Disney California Adventure, California Adventure, or DCA, is a theme park in Anaheim and part of the Disney Company. The 72-acre park celebrates the rich history and culture of California through various themed lands where the stories of Pixar, Disney, and Marvel come to life. Eight exciting lands include Goofy’s Sky School, Grizzly River Run, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racer, The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and Toy Story Midway Mania. Other attractions a Disney Junior Dance Party, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, and World of Color, along with themed rides and slides, character meetings, guided walking tours, and more.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4636
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© Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park, formerly known as just Disneyland is a fun-filled family theme and amusement park and the oldest Disney Park in the world. The only theme park designed and built to completion under the direct supervision of Walt Disney, Disneyland was renamed Disneyland Park to maintain its identity from the ever-growing Disney entertainment complex around it. The park features significant attractions such as New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Mickey's Toontown, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Classic attractions include the Haunted House, It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, and visitors can meet all their favorite Disney characters, join guided walking tours and enjoy an array of parades, events, character parties throughout the year.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4636
© Musée Mécanique
Located in Pier 45 at the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, the Musée Mécanique celebrates 20th-century penny arcade games with a collection of 300 mechanical machines, artifacts, and objects relating to arcade games. Owned by and managed by Dan Zelinsky, the museum’s collection includes pinball machines, coin-operated fortune tellers, video games, player pianos, music boxes, dioramas, love testers, Mutoscopes and more, as well as many rare and historical pieces like the only steam-powered motorcycle in the world and the famously creepy, six-foot-tall laughing automaton known as Laffin Sal. Visitors can pay to play the vintage arcade games at the museum.
Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, Phone: 415-346-2000
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18.Pretend City Children’s Museum
© Pretend City Children’s Museum
Based in Irvine, Pretend City Children’s Museum is a small, hands-on, interactive, and creative space for children and their families to explore, discover, and learn through play. Established to encourage creative and innovative thinking through hands-on and interactive learning experiences, the museum features 17 interactive exhibits that are designed to replicate a small, interconnected city where children can assume real-world roles like shop-keeping, working in a bank, building, and construction, providing emergency services like fire-fighting, and more. The museum is also home to the Imagination Playground were young children can make objects like animals, rocket ships, and robots, and imaginary places like houses, factories, and cities.
29 Hubble, Irvine, CA 92618, Phone: 949-428-3900
19.Santa Barbara Zoo
Located on a 30-acre property near the ocean in Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Zoo is a small animal sanctuary that is home to more than 500 animals in numerous exhibits, including a famous giraffe with a crooked neck. Built on the site of what was once the Child Estate, the zoo houses 146 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects, housed in open, naturalistic habitats, including California condors, capybara, African lions, western lowland gorillas, bald eagles, and Masai giraffes. The Crawford Family Penguin House houses a colony of Humboldt penguins, and Elephant Walk is home to several Asian elephants and Giant Asian pond turtles. The zoo also has a narrow-gauge Zoo Train, which offers fun train rides around the property.
500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Phone: 805-962-5339
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20.Sequoia Park Zoo
© philippe paternolli/stock.adobe.com
Founded in 1907, the Sequoia Park Zoo is the oldest zoo in California. Dedicated to inspiring and understanding and respect for the natural world and educating the community about the importance of wildlife conservation, the Sequoia Park Zoo is home to over 200 vertebrates and more than 1,700 invertebrates. Surrounded by 60 acres of mature coastal redwood forests, the zoo’s collections include a ‘Barnyard’ exhibit, which features an array of farm animals, donkeys, and llamas, while a walk-in free-flight aviary houses a wealth of bird species, including ibis,’ parrots and European rollers. An educational building called the "Secrets of the Forest" features mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects found in the redwood forests, and the surrounding park enjoys a children’s playground, a duck pond, and landscaped gardens. The Sequoia Park Zoo is open to the public daily.
3414 W St, Eureka, CA 95503, Phone: 707-441-4263
21.The Museum of Flying
© The Museum of Flying
The Museum of Flying is a private air and space museum in Santa Monica that exhibits the history of aviation with a specific focus on aviation history in Southern California. The 22,000 square foot museum houses a variety of interpretive exhibits and displays that explore the history of flight and the growth of the aviation and aerospace industry in Southern California. Visitors can learn about the history of the Santa Monica Airport and the Douglas Aircraft Company and explore dozen aircraft around the museum, ranging from a replica Wright Flyer to the Lockheed Vega. The Museum also features an extensive collection of aviation-related artworks, photographs of historic aircraft, rare artifacts, and ephemera from famous aviators, and visitors can try their hand at flying in a Max Flight FS 3000 simulator.
3100 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405, Phone: 310-398-2500
22.The Museum of Tolerance
© The Museum of Tolerance
The Museum of Tolerance is a multimedia institution in Los Angeles that explores racism and prejudice and chronicles the atrocities of racism around the world. Established in 1993 as the educational arm of the globally-renowned human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the powerful, profoundly moving museum has a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust and the human rights issues in Latin America and Cambodia. Using interactive technology, the museum aims to encourage contemplation and discussion around bigotry and racism and examines the social, political and economic conditions of human rights issues around the world. Visitors can experience the Holocaust first-hand in the Holocaust Section exhibit, where they are divided into groups to play a part of WWII events, and take an intimate look into the life and impact of Anne Frank.
9786 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035, Phone: 310-772-2505
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23.World of Wonders Science Museum
© World of Wonders Science Museum
The World of Wonders Science Museum (WOW) is an educational hands-on science museum in historic downtown Lodi that presents hands-on, interactive, and immersive science-based exhibits and programs to stimulate critical thinking and discovery for all ages. The museum features over 70 hands-on science exhibits designed to bring science to life, such as the Jim Pyers Illumination Lab, which explores the science of light, the Moon Walking Exhibit, the Lego Raceway, and Wall, the Shake Table, and the Magna-Tile Play Station. The World of Wonders Science Museum also provides a range of enriching science programmings such as field trips, science summer camps, special science-related events, and a WOW Science store.
2 N Sacramento St, Lodi, CA 95240, Phone: 209-368-0969
24.Turtle Bay Exploration Park
© Turtle Bay Exploration Park
The Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a 300-acre reserve that features a museum, an arboretum and botanical gardens, forestry and wildlife center, and the Sundial Bridge. The Turtle Bay Museum is home to an array of permanent and temporary exhibits documenting the cultural and natural history, art, and science of the region, including an underwater aquarium-style viewing tank, hands-on science displays, artworks, and a recreation of a Native American bark house. The McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, also known as the Redding Arboretum feature 300 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, which include Mediterranean climate gardens, southern and western Australian gardens, a children's garden, butterfly garden, and various specialty gardens. Paul Bunyan's Forest Camp is an educational exploration center modeled after an ancient forest camp.
844 Sundial Bridge Dr, Redding, CA 96003, Phone: 530-243-8850
25.Universal Studios Hollywood
© Balogh Eniko/stock.adobe.com
Universal Studios Hollywood is a theme park and film studio in the San Fernando Valley region that offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood’s oldest and most famous film studio. Offering tours of real Hollywood sets from famous movies and a fun-filled movie-based theme park, it is one of the world’s most visited attractions. The NBC Universal Experience takes you on an intimate journey through some of Universal Studio’s most celebrated films, showcasing authentic artifacts, costumes, and props from classic, blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Jaws, Back to the Future and The Sting. Transformer fans will delight in this interactive and immersive 3D ride, which uses 3D media and flight simulation technology to create a mind-blowing and epic experience based on the famous movie.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
25 Fun Things to Do in California with Kids of All Ages
- Children's Fairyland, USA, Photo: Children's Fairyland, USA
- Aerospace Museum of California, Photo: Aerospace Museum of California
- Aquarium of The Bay, Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/stock.adobe.com
- Bowers Kidseum, Photo: Bowers Kidseum
- California Academy of Sciences, Photo: BRIAN_KINNEY/stock.adobe.com
- California Living Museum, Photo: California Living Museum
- California’s Great America, Photo: California’s Great America
- Cartoon Art Museum, Photo: Cartoon Art Museum
- Castle Air Museum, Photo: Castle Air Museum
- Charles Paddock Zoo, Photo: Jennifer/stock.adobe.com
- Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, Photo: Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
- Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert, Photo: Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
- Adventure City, Photo: Adventure City
- Children's Museum of Stockton, Photo: Children's Museum of Stockton
- Disney California Adventure Park, Photo: Disney California Adventure Park
- Disneyland Park, Photo: Disneyland Park
- Musee Mecanique, Photo: Musée Mécanique
- Pretend City Children’s Museum, Photo: Pretend City Children’s Museum
- Santa Barbara Zoo, Photo: alexbush/stock.adobe.com
- Sequoia Park Zoo, Photo: philippe paternolli/stock.adobe.com
- The Museum of Flying, Photo: The Museum of Flying
- The Museum of Tolerance, Photo: The Museum of Tolerance
- World of Wonders Science Museum, Photo: World of Wonders Science Museum
- Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Photo: Turtle Bay Exploration Park
- Universal Studios Hollywood, Photo: Balogh Eniko/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Heather/stock.adobe.com
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