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Day trip ideas for families in California

Looking for a quick getaway with the family? Try one of these great California attractions that you and your family can easily enjoy in a day.

California Street Sign

Exploratorium, San Francisco

This museum of nature, art, science, and technology is designed for visitors both young and old. From exhibits that focus on each of your five senses to special events such as the physics of toys, this San Francisco museum guarantees your entire family a hands-on experience in fun.


3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Admission: Adults: $15; Students and Seniors: $12; Youth 13-17:  $12; Children (ages 4-12): $10; Children (3 and under): FREE; Free admission on first Wednesday of each month.


Calico Ghost Town, Yermo

Located near Barstow, this historic silver mining town offers a glimpse into life in the old west. “Bad guy” sheriff round-ups, tours of a real silver mine courtesy of an old mine train, gold panning, old fashioned sarsaparilla, a Mystery Shack, and more will keep your family entertained in this once booming ghost town.


P.O. Box 638, Yermo, CA. 92398. Hours: General 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; check website for attraction hours; Admission: Adults $6; Children (6-15): $3; Children 5 and under: FREE.


The Reuben H. Fleet Science, San Diego

Located in Balboa Park, this museum was the first to boast its own planetarium. With more than 100 interactive science exhibits from colored shadows to guitar string vibrations, families can keep busy hands occupied in this science museum. Or, take your family to catch a film in the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater, also located in this museum.


1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. Hours: Open every day of the year; check website for hours of operation; Admission: Adults: $10; Children 3-12: $8.75; Seniors: $8.75; IMAX: check website for prices.


Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

With free parking and admission, it’s hard to find many reasons not to make the Griffith Observatory the destination of your next family daytrip. Three floors of exhibits offer plenty of opportunity for learning about the skies above. For an additional fee, you can catch a show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, or take in the view outside on a clear day. If museum-side parking is full, prepare to hike up a strenuous hill to get to the Observatory.


2800 East Observatory Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Admission: Obsevatory: FREE; IMAX: check website for prices.

Tanaka Farms U-Pick Tours, Irvine

Tanaka Farms is one of the remaining strawberry farms in the area, growing organic fruits and vegetables and offering tractor-pulled pick-your-own produce tours. On the u-pick tours, your kids will love learning about the farm and tasting the crops fresh from the soil. Tour reservations are required during the week, but not for weekend visits.


5380 3/4 University Drive, Irvine, CA 92612. Hours: Produce Stand Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. -6 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday, 9 a.m. -5 p.m.; Check website for tour times; Admission: U-pick strawberry and watermelon tours: $13 per person; children 2 and under: FREE.


Pennypickle’s Workshop

Geared towards children 3-10, the 7,500 square foot home of “Professor Pennypickle” offers gadgets, experiments, and opportunities to learn through play. Each session only lasts two hours, but if one session isn’t enough, your child can even host his or her next birthday party at the Professor’s “house!”


42081 Main Street, Temecula, CA 92590. Workshop hours: Tuesday –Sunday; check website for session times; Admission: $4.50 per person.


American River Parkway in Discovery Park, Sacramento

Temperatures run high in the summer time, but this 302-acre hotspot offers a cool relief from the heat. Rent a raft and take family members age five and older on a self-guided rafting trip. Or, go on a family bike ride down the 32-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail. Other opportunities for fun on dry land include softball, an archery range, picnic areas, and fishing.


Discovery Shores Way, Sacramento, CA 95833. Hours: Year-round from sunrise to sunset; Admission: $5 per vehicle; $3 small watercraft launch fee.


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