Great Places to Travel in California
North, South, East and West. You don’t need to leave our state to have a fabulous adventure that the whole family will enjoy and remember. Our staff has put together a round-up of favorite getaways – some well-known and others a little more off the beaten path.
Plus if you are looking for even more travel inspiration, be sure to check out our website. There’s an entire section devoted to vacation destinations near and far: www.bayareaparent.com/Travel-Entertainment-Party-and-Summer-Fun.
Bring state history alive for your kids with a trip through Gold Country.There are many great stops along Highway 49, from Nevada City in the north to Jamestown in the south.
• During the summer, Nevada City hosts free pops concerts and its annual Children’s Festival in Pioneer Park, as well as a Fourth of July concert, parade and fireworks display (www.nevadacitychamber.com).
• Head south to Coloma, where the Gold Rush started when James Marshall spotted treasure in 1848 (www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484).
• In Jackson, you can visit the Kennedy Gold Mine, one of the deepest in the world (kennedygoldmine.com).
• Murphys has a quaint downtown with shops, wine tasting and artisan ice cream. It’s also near Calaveras Big Trees State Park, with its towering sequoias (www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551). Mercer Caverns offers a fascinating tour among the stalagmites and stalactites below ground (www.mercercaverns.com).
• At Columbia State Historic Park, families can ride a stagecoach, pan for gold, dip candles, watch a blacksmith in action and check out historic buildings (visitcolumbiacalifornia.com). Not far is Moaning Caverns, which offers zip lines and rappelling in addition to cave tours (caverntours.com).
• Train buffs won’t want to miss Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, where you can ride a historic steam locomotive (www.railtown19897.org).
Lassen Volcanic National Park
It’s just a half-day’s drive from the Bay Area to reach this otherworldly park of bubbling hydrothermal mudpots and picturesque peaks.
Start at the Kohn Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center to view a movie on the park’s history, grab the park guide with its list of “must-see” spots along the main road and sign your kids up for the Junior Ranger program.
Highlights include boiling mudpots and steamy vents at the Sulphur Works, a 3-mile round-trip hike on the Bumpass Hell Trial past Lake Helen, and the Mill Creek Falls Trail to see the park’s highest waterfall.
The nearby Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a great place to stay, dine or ride a horse. The park also offers plenty of campsites and cabins.
There is also lodging at Lake Almanor, a scenic spot to relax or get out on the water at a mountain lake.
The park entrance fee is $20 for a week, or free for families with a fourth-grader through the Every Kid in a Park program (www.everykidinapark.gov). For more information, visit www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm.
Trees of Mystery
This classic roadside attraction 36 miles south of the Oregon border in Klamath offers beauty, education and fun for the whole family.
Located along US Route 101 on private land surrounded by Redwood National and State Parks, this attraction has towering redwoods, unique tree formations, hiking trails, a Native American museum and a gondola ride through the trees. But one of the most impressive sites is the 49-foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan next to the 35-foot tall Babe the Blue Ox. Visible from Highway101, both are made mostly of wooden beams, chicken wire and stucco.
Part of the Trail of Tall Tales is devoted to Paul Bunyan, a giant lumberjack in American folklore who performs super-human labors alongside Babe the Blue Ox.
You can see chainsaw sculptures and carvings illustrating mythical stories about Bunyan and his logging crew. Along the trail, don’t miss the Cathedral Tree, which is nine trees growing in a semicircle out of one root structure. It is often used for outdoor weddings.
The Sky Trail gondola is a seven- to nine- minute ride through the redwood canopy to Ted’s Ridge, where there’s an observation deck with views of the Kamath back country to the east and stunning views over Hidden Beach and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Visitors can also visit The End of the Trail Museum, a large, private collection of Native American art, crafts, clothing, weapons and tools.
The nearby Forest Café offers a fun and unusual setting with a “forest environment” décor. The ceiling is covered with artificial foliage giving you the feeling that you are dining in a forest. In another room, there is “under river” décor, meant to make you feel as if you are dining under water looking up at steelhead, salmon and ducks on the surface.
Open year-round, it’s located at 15500 US Highway 101 N., Klamath. Tickets are $8-16, 5 and under free. For more information, call 800-638-3389 or go to: www.treesofmystery.net.
Located in Santa Barbara County, this quaint Danish-style city is a fun place to visit for a couple of days.
Founded in 1911 by a group of Danes, it has a variety of Danish bakeries, restaurants and merchants, along with Danish-style architecture and windmills. There’s even a copy of the famous Little Mermaid stature from Copenhagen and a bust of Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. In the town center, you can see a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower, which was completed in 1991.
Another site not to be missed is Mission Santa Inés, a California mission and National Historic Landmark located near the center of the town, at the junction of State Route 246 and Alisal Road.
One of Solvang’s famous attractions is the 700-seat open-air Festival Theater, which was built in 1974 after the success of a performance of Hamlet in the town park. More recent performances include West Side Story and Les Misérables.
Solvang is also a favorite place to stay for those wanting to visit local wineries. And it’s a popular destination for bicyclists and has been a race location on the Tour of California.
For more information about Solvang and places to stay, go to: http://www.solvangusa.com.
A four-hour drive from the Bay Area rewards visitors with waterfalls, rushing creeks and scenic views. Where else can you get such a trio of activities but at Yosemite National Park?
Spring and early summer are the perfect times to visit, before the heat and the crowds. You may still find snow on the ground, so be prepared. Call ahead and carry chains.
The southern route meanders along Highway 41, where you can get supplies in the quaint town of Oakhurst. Don’t miss the sweet treats at Reimer's Candies & Ice Cream. To avoid the crowds in the valley, consider staying at Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel), which offers access to golf, tennis, horseback riding and fishing.
If the roads are open, don’t miss the drive to Glacier Point, a magnificent and historic stop in the park. In 1903, then-President Teddy Roosevelt camped at the top. He was so impressed with his experince that he included the valley and Mariposa Grove as part of Yosemite National Park.
If you love waterfalls (and who doesn’t!), you can hike 1.6 miles round-trip to the Vernal Falls footbridge. If it’s warm, start the hike early and bring along a picnic to enjoy. The walk is steep, but paved; little ones should be able to do it if they take enough breaks.
Bay Area Parent editors Janine DeFao, Teresa Mills-Faraudo and Amy Ettinger contributed to this article.