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31 California Road Trip Ideas for Los Angeles Families 2024

Desert Explorers, Beach Bums, Mountain Adventurers, City Culture Lovers – Los Angeles families have many passions and interests, and the great news is: California delivers the goods, no matter what your family likes to do.

Even better news: every hidden gem in our amazing state is just a car ride away!

True, California is a big state, and getting all the way to the farthest corner would take a lot of driving, but it can be done if you’re up for it. If not, there are plenty of places to explore that are just a few hours’ drive from Los Angeles.

Road Trip Inspiration for LA Families

With seemingly endless options and little ones in tow, planning the perfect escape can feel overwhelming. But where to go? How to keep everyone entertained? And how long will it take to get there?

We’ll share insider tips, hidden gems, and travel info to make your next road trip escape a blast. So gather your crew, buckle up, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime!

Quick Road Trip Ideas Near Los Angeles

Sometimes you want to hit the road for an adventure, but the reality is that being in the car for too long just doesn’t work, either for your schedule or hey – you just want to get there quickly!

You’re in luck! There are terrific places to visit that are just a few hours’ drive from LA, so you could even do a Day Trip if you want. Just in case you want to stay over, we’ve listed some hotels in each spot, too.

ford flex at the Glorietta Bay Inn on Coronado Island
Ford Flex, which carried us to Coronado Island on our road trip

Santa Barbara:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2 hours.
Highlights: Santa Barbara offers beautiful beaches, historic sites like the Santa Barbara Mission, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Families can also explore Lotusland, a stunning garden estate.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in Santa Barbara:

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.


Distance from LA: Approximately 1.5-2 hours.
Highlights: Ojai is a charming town known for its artsy vibe and outdoor activities. Families can explore the Libbey House, go horseback riding, or hike in Los Padres National Forest.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in Ojai

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Angeles National Forest:

Distance from LA: Within an hour.
Highlights: Angeles National Forest is right on the doorstep of Los Angeles and offers numerous hiking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for wildlife spotting. The Switzer Falls Trail is a popular choice for families.

kids dressed up at Ventura Harbor village
Ventura Harbor Village hosts many fun events that at family friendly

Oxnard and Ventura:

Distance from LA: Approximately 1-2 hours.
Highlights: These coastal cities offer beautiful, family-friendly beaches with opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. You can also explore Channel Islands National Park via boat tours from Ventura Harbor.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in Oxnard and Ventura

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve:

Distance from LA: Approximately 1.5-2 hours.
Highlights: In the spring, the Antelope Valley comes alive with vibrant California poppies and other wildflowers. It’s a beautiful destination for families to witness the colorful super bloom and enjoy the great outdoors.

Big Bear Historical Park in Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear Lake has many family-friendly things to do!

Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead

Distance from LA: Approximately 1.5-2 hours.
Highlights: Lake Arrowhead is a picturesque mountain resort community. Families can enjoy boating and water activities on Lake Arrowhead in the Summer months, go hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest, and visit the Lake Arrowhead Village for shopping and dining. Big Bear is a terrific place to experience Southern California’s snow mountains each Winter, with snowboarding and sledding, or just a snow-ball fight!

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

PennyPickle's Workshop entrance in Temecula
PennyPickle’s Workshop is one of the fun things to do with kids in Temecula


Distance from LA: Approximately 1.5-2 hours.
Highlights: Temecula is a wine country destination with family-friendly wineries offering tastings and tours. Families can also explore Old Town Temecula, go hot air ballooning, or visit the Temecula Valley Museum.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in Temecula

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Catalina Island:

Distance from LA: Approximately 1-2 hours by ferry.
Highlights: Catalina Island is a picturesque destination with activities such as snorkeling, hiking, and zip-lining. You can explore the charming town of Avalon, take a glass-bottom boat tour, or visit the Catalina Island Museum.

OK technically this isn’t a Road Trip, but Catalina is such a cool spot and families can have such fun there that we wanted to include it.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas on Catalina Island

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Hidden Gems: Northern California + Central Coast Family Road Trip Ideas

Heading to the Central Coast of California or up to Northern California will for sure mean spending more time in the car. These destinations are approximately 5 hours (plus) away from Los Angeles by car.

And each one of them is worth the drive! Getting to experience the many wonderful things in our state is one of the perks of being a resident, so we hope you get out there and enjoy!

These destinations offer a diverse range of experiences, from coastal beauty to mountain adventures. Depending on your family’s interests and how far you’re willing to drive, you can choose the perfect destination for your next adventure.

Bay to Bankers 5 or 10k Adventure Race in San Francisco
San Francisco is a lovely city and a great place to visit on a road trip.

San Francisco

Distance from LA: Approximately 6-8 hours
Highlights: Honestly, there are so many highlights to visiting San Francisco, our big sister city to the North, that there’s probably an entire website devoted to it. But when we visit with kids we love to visit Golden Gate Park, ride the trolly cars, see Fisherman’s wharf, climb Coit Tower, enjoy some foggy days, drive down the super famous, zig-zaggy Lombard Street and up and down the nerve-wracking hills, and of course eat some sourdough bread. For starters!

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in San Francisco

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Monterey Bay

Distance from LA: Approximately 6-7 hours
Highlights: The whole family will find things to love in the Monterey Bay area, because you can spend time in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Santa Cruz, too. Visit the Monterey world-famous aquarium and try to time it so you can see the Bluefin Tuna being fed, or hike around the Pacific Grove coastline and you may see some of the Monarch Butterflies that migrate here, stroll the adorable streets of Carmel and have an ice cream cone, and you’ll love the perfect-sized amusement park right on the beach in Santa Cruz. Not to mention the stunning natural scenery at every turn.

Family-Friendly Hotel Ideas in the Monterey Bay Area

These are affiliate links to hotels we think you’ll like.

Big Sur:

Distance from LA: Approximately 5-6 hours.
Highlights: Big Sur’s stunning coastline, redwood forests, and hiking trails make it worth the journey. McWay Falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, and Pfeiffer Beach are must-visit spots.


Distance from LA: Approximately 8-9 hours.
Highlights: Mendocino is a picturesque coastal town with Victorian architecture, art galleries, and scenic coastal views. It’s a peaceful getaway where families can explore tide pools and go whale watching.

Lassen Volcanic National Park:

Distance from LA: Approximately 7-8 hours.
Highlights: Located in Northern California, this park is known for its geothermal wonders, including hot springs and mud pots. Families can hike to Bumpass Hell, visit Lassen Peak, and enjoy camping in the great outdoors.

Lake Tahoe:

Distance from LA: Approximately 7-8 hours.
Highlights: Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination offering outdoor activities like skiing in the winter and hiking, boating, and swimming in the summer. Emerald Bay State Park and the Tahoe Rim Trail are family-friendly options.

Redwood National and State Park is a terrific family road trip destination

Redwood National and State Parks:

Distance from LA: Approximately 11-12 hours by car.
Highlights: Redwood National and State Parks, located on the northern coast of California, are home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, the towering coast redwoods. These are some of the most magical and wonderous things you can experience as a human and we highly recommend it!

Families can explore a network of hiking trails suitable for all levels, take scenic drives, and enjoy ranger-led programs to learn about the park’s unique ecosystems. Popular trails include the Tall Trees Grove and Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Camping and picnicking facilities are also available.

Muir Woods National Monument:

Distance from LA: Approximately 6-7 hours.
Highlights: Muir Woods, located just north of San Francisco, is known for its majestic coastal redwoods. It’s a shorter drive from Los Angeles compared to the northernmost redwood parks. Families can take leisurely walks along well-maintained wooden boardwalks and trails, making it an accessible destination for all ages. The park provides educational opportunities to learn about these ancient giants. Be prepared to reserve parking ahead of time – see their website for details.

Sequoia National Forest:

Distance from LA: Approximately 3-4 hours.
Highlights: While it’s not the same as the Redwood forests, Sequoia National Forest is home to giant sequoias, which are another awe-inspiring type of tree. Families can see the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth, and enjoy hiking in the beautiful surroundings. Nearby is the Kern River, where families can enjoy whitewater river rafting.


Distance from LA: Approximately 6-7 hours
Highlights: Sacramento, the state capital, is rich in history. Families can visit the California State Capitol Museum, explore the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, and take a scenic riverboat cruise on the Sacramento River. The city also has several family-friendly museums, such as the Crocker Art Museum and the Sacramento Children’s Museum. Plus, within an hour’s drive you can visit the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park and Sutter’s Mill recreation to see where the California Gold Rush began, or visit Apple Hill near Placerville and pick-your-own apples (in season).

Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley:

Distance from Los Angeles: Approximately 8-9 hours.
Highlights: While both the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley regions are renowned as California’s Wine Country, there are family-friendly options too. Consider visiting places like the Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-style castle winery, the Charles M. Schulz Museum, exploring Calistoga, or see California’s own Old Faithful geyser erupt.

San Diego County Road Trip Ideas

Head South to San Diego and you’ll find destinations that provide a wide range of outdoor and cultural activities for families, ensuring that there’s something to suit every interest and age group. Whether you’re looking for a beach day, a nature hike, or a cultural excursion, you can find it within a reasonable drive from Los Angeles.

San Diego:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2-3 hours.
Highlights: San Diego offers a wide range of family-friendly activities, including visiting the San Diego Zoo, exploring Balboa Park, relaxing on beautiful beaches like La Jolla Cove, and learning about marine life at the Birch Aquarium. Nearby La Jolla is famous for its picturesque coastline, tide pools, and sea caves. Families can explore the Children’s Pool, go snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, and visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Balboa Park in San Diego is a cultural hub with numerous museums, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. Families can explore the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, and enjoy picnics in the park’s beautiful gardens.


Distance from Los Angeles: Approximately 2-3 hours
Highlights: Carlsbad is known for its beautiful beaches and family-friendly attractions. Families can visit LEGOLAND California Resort, explore the Flower Fields (seasonal), and spend time at Carlsbad State Beach for swimming and sunbathing. The quaint village of Carlsbad also has charming shops and restaurants. Nearby Oceanside features a scenic harbor, a historic pier, and beautiful beaches. Families can visit the Oceanside Pier, take a harbor cruise, or explore the California Surf Museum. And the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located close by.

Coronado Island:

Distance from Los Angeles: Approximately 3-4 hours
Highlights: Coronado Island boasts a beautiful beach, the historic Hotel del Coronado, and the Coronado Ferry Landing. Families can relax on the beach, rent bicycles, and explore the charming town of Coronado.

Road Trips in the Southern California Desert

These destinations offer a mix of outdoor adventures, geological exploration, and unique landscapes for families seeking new experiences within driving distance of Los Angeles. Some locations are even suitable for day trips, if you’re up for it.

Joshua Tree National Park:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2-3 hours.
Highlights: Known for its unique desert landscapes, Joshua Tree offers hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, and the opportunity to explore the San Andreas fault. Barker Dam Trail is a family-friendly hike where you can see ancient petroglyphs, and of course the famous Joshua trees themselves.

Salton Sea:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2-3 hours.
Highlights: The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake and an eerie, otherworldly destination. You can explore abandoned buildings in the once-booming resort towns, visit the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, and witness the effects of the San Andreas fault on the landscape.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2-3 hours.
Highlights: This vast desert park is the perfect place for families to enjoy hiking, wildflower viewing (in the spring), and stargazing. The park also features unique geological formations, including the Borrego Badlands, which were shaped by fault activity.

Carrizo Plain National Monument:

Distance from LA: Approximately 3-4 hours.
Highlights: Carrizo Plain is a remote and pristine area known for its wildflowers and sweeping grasslands. The San Andreas fault runs through the plain, and the Goodwin Education Center offers insights into its geological significance.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park:

Distance from LA: Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Highlights: Vasquez Rocks is a great day trip for families. These unique rock formations have been featured in numerous movies and TV shows. In fact, once you’ve been there, you’ll recognize it immediately! You can hike the trails and learn about the geological history of the area, including its connection to the San Andreas fault.

Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area:

Distance from LA: Approximately 1.5-2 hours.
Highlights: This geological wonder features dramatic rock formations created by the San Andreas fault. Families can hike the trails and explore the unique landscapes, including the Devil’s Chair viewpoint.

You and your kids can find crazy things on road trips in the California Desert, like this dinosaur in Cabazon

Palm Springs:

Distance from LA: Approximately 2-2.5 hours.
Highlights: Palm Springs is known for its desert oasis vibe, hot springs, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Families can explore the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, or take a scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park. Or of course you can spend time poolside, since Palm Springs can get super hot in the Summers.


Distance from LA: Approximately 2.5-3 hours.
Highlights: Julian is a charming mountain town famous for its apple orchards and delicious apple pies. Families can go apple picking (seasonal), visit the Julian Pioneer Museum, and enjoy hiking in the nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.


Distance from LA: Approximately 2-2.5 hours.
Highlights: Idyllwild is a mountain town nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. It’s a great destination for hiking and outdoor adventures, with numerous trails, including the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail and the Devil’s Slide Trail. The town also has a vibrant arts scene.

Family Road Trips Can Make Family Memories

No matter where you go in California, we bet you’ll have fun! Enjoy!

Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder and Managing Editor of

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Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third-party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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