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Discover Family Experiences in California

Welcome to Kidifornia, a state of joy, exploration and discovery.

Of course, grown-ups may know it better as California, the sun-kissed destination that beckons with promises of wine tastings and yoga retreats. But for the younger set that is crushing on dinosaurs, trains, cute critters, superheroes or fairy-tale princesses, it’s definitely Kidifornia — the greatest source of childhood wish-fulfillment this side of Santa Claus.

Perhaps the biggest draw for family travel is the state’s natural wonders: The beaches, forests, deserts and mountains that turn the state into one huge playground. From the breathtaking grandeur of Yosemite and Redwood National Park (both World Heritage sites) to the legendary beaches of Southern California, the Golden State’s outdoor attractions are accessible to all ages and abilities. Young minds are also sure to be inspired seeing wildlife in wild places, such as on whale-watching cruises, exploring tide pools, or while kayaking and canoeing.

Multigenerational travel with grandparents and extended family is more popular than ever, and there’s no better place on earth to load everyone up for a good, old-fashioned road trip than California. Highlights include spectacular scenery along routes like coastal Highway 1, Avenue of the Giants through the redwoods, and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway which circles Lassen Volcanic National Park and heads north to the Oregon border. Along Highway 49 in Gold Country, minor miners can pan for real gold and even do some zip-lining, or turn back the clock at Columbia State Historic Park, a preserved boomtown where young’uns can play along with a Wild West fantasy.

There’s a nearly inexhaustible supply of family travel opportunities in Kidifornia for whatever kind of holiday the brood is planning – just take for instance the Zagat Family Travel Guide’s survey list of the most popular attractions vacationing families want to visit: zoos, aquariums, museums, and theme parks.

Zoos and aquariums? How about some of the best in the world, like the San Diego Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach? Or try the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Safari West in Sonoma Wine Country where wildlife roams free in large enclosures.

If museums are on the list, Kidifornia has a lineup that is sure to engage curious minds with short attention spans. There are hands-on, interactive museums like San Diego’s Fleet Science Center, San Francisco’s Exploratorium, Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, and Santa Barbara’s new MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. Budding paleontologists will dig the dinos on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, as well as the prehistoric creatures that got stuck in the muck at L.A.’s La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. And those fixated by trains, whatever their age, won’t want to miss Sacramento’s California State Railroad Museum.

And when it comes to amusement and theme parks, we have the granddaddy of them all — Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim back in 1955. There’s also LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad, Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, and California’s Great America in Santa Clara. You can top the list off with old-school ocean-boardwalk amusement parks featuring vintage rides in San Diego, Santa Monica and Santa Cruz.

With so many amazing family attractions and experiences to choose from in Kidifornia, it just might be the adults asking: “Are we there yet?”