Family beach holidays to wilderness adventures and monumental city breaks, California does everything effortlessly in one state.
It’s the land of long coastal roads and iconic road trips, towering sierra and mighty forests, ancient history and absolute newness.
You may not fit it all into one holiday but you’ll find California is highly skilled at making sure you get the most out of every minute of your stay.
Direct flights all year round from London to Los Angeles and San Diego.
California is home to Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks.
The Mojave National Reserve is in the south east of the state.
California’s major cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Southern California shares a border with Mexico.
The state’s entire west coast is on the Pacific Ocean.
California is the most visited US state with an average of 223 million visitors each year.
The City of Angels is end to end legends and there’s nowhere quite like it, especially for older kids. Behaving like a tourist is inevitable, so just go with it and take guided tours wherever possible. Don’t miss Santa Monica Pier at night, a walk along Rodeo Drive, do at least one Hollywood experience, fit in a visit to the Fashion District for teens and spend more than a day on the city’s wonderful beaches.
Yosemite National Park is just over three hours drive east of San Francisco. Not a day trip by any means but a fantastic family adventure you can have over a long weekend or even an entire week.
San Diego is sunny all year round, has acres of beaches and is California’s most family-friendly city. It may not have the same number of star attractions as LA or San Francisco but the historic quarters, brilliant theme parks and world famous zoo are more than enough to keep kids of all ages entertained.
San Francisco is another California city that’s marvellous to see with kids. Younger ones love the fun activities, cute parks and surprising thrills like the sea lions on Fishermen’s Wharf and Telegraph Hill’s flocks of colourful wild parrots. Teenagers are instantly seduced by quaint historic quarters, exceptional shopping and once-in-a-lifetime experiences like crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and sailing to Alcatraz. Walk around and take the trolley cars as much as you can in San Francisco, it’s the best way to see the city and soak up its unique atmosphere.
With over 3000 animals and 650 species this award winning zoo is one of the best in the world. San Diego Zoo
Home of the mightiest and most terrifying rollercoasters this park is a California legend. Great America
The original, best and one every other theme park in the world wants to be. Disneyland
The biggest waterpark in a state packed with immense waterparks. Waterworld California
A seaside tradition since 1907 and still as lively, colourful and exciting as ever. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Cruise to explore one of the world’s most famous prisons, fascinating for older kids and great views of the city from the bay. Alcatraz
Discover LA in depth on one of a range of city walking tours designed to dig deeper than the starry surface. LA Conservancy
Go to be amazed by the sea lion colony and stay for the incredible family entertainment. Fisherman’s Wharf
Behind the scenes and up close to the glitter, glamour and gritty working side of making a movie. Universal Studios
The oldest and biggest Chinatown in the US and the largest Asian community outside Asia. Chinatown
If you’re sticking to cities, don’t drive. Public transport is always excellent, clearly explained and extensive. On the coast and in the countryside, car hire is the best way to get around with children. There are good rail and coach services across the state but they inevitably involve long journeys and few stops.