We are nearing the end of the summer. It doesn’t officially end until later, but Labor Day is usually considered, “Summer Over.” And I am itching to sweep into Fall as much as the next girl, but I have a little more I want to do before the summer is over. I have been trying to convince my husband for weeks to take a day trip with the family. And as I was doing some research I discovered that the largest part of Americans wait to take their “summer” road trips until September! Who knew! So since, you will be, likely, be heading out on the road this month, I thought it would be fun to give you our top destinations in Southern California for families with toddlers.
I gathered up the advice and suggestions of a number of my mama friends to put together this list. So you will see what other moms think of various places in Southern California alongside my favorite spots to take our girls. Feel free to leave a comment with your favorites, too!
Ready to jump in the car with your toddler? Grab a sippy cup and a spill-proof snack bowl and let’s go!
Top Destinations in Southern California for Toddlers
Railroad Days at the Fullerton Train Station
My friend Kristiana told me about this great event for kids. I saw her post about it on Instagram and I knew it would have to be included on this list. It is only at specific times during the year so be sure to check out the website to see when an event is happening. Here’s what she had to say about it, “It’s a free event and was so much fun for me and my sons. There were amazing model trains set up and running for kids to view, an entire city built from Legos and real trains to get close to. Disneyland brought one of their engines and invited kids aboard to play engineer. There were two BNSF engines and three beautiful cabooses patrons were allowed to walk through. It was a great way to spend the morning and my sons loved every minute.”
Let’s face it the beach in Southern California is always a favorite destination! We have a spot close to San Diego that we really liked. This particular spot has parking and a small park at the top of a bluff. You walk down a steep hill to the beach and the cliffs close by make for a beautiful location for the day. We went in the middle of the week and did not have to fight the crowds – one of the benefits of having pre-school age kids. Even though our G didn’t like the water, the girls loved playing in the sand for hours! We took the whole family and had a great time! If you kids don’t love the water, make sure to keep taking them to the beach, periodically – their ideas about the water will likely change over time.
My friend Kristen took her girls to Amy’s Farm recently and had rave reviews about it. She said her girls got to do all sorts of farm related activities and see animals up close. She said they have guided tours where everyone can get involved in actual farm activities. Her girls LOVED it! Checking their website and Facebook page let me know that the tours during October include a pumpkin for each kid to take home! They are officially a farm stand, petting zoo, and working farm, so it looks like this would be a great place to get some produce to take home whilst soaking in the memories of kids interacting with animals for the first time!
San Diego Zoo (and Wildlife Park)
This was our destination for a day trip last week and we had a really great time. We have taken our girls at various stages – meaning various levels of fussiness (!). This last time they truly enjoyed it the most. We got to see and hear all sorts of animals. The girls loved being up close to them. If you are considering taking your young ones and are looking to save money, I recommend you go ahead and become a zoo member. It is not that expensive and you can go whenever you want. Having the membership makes it easy to drop in and do as little or as much as you like without feeling the pressure of getting everything done in one day. The family membership for our family is less than $100. Also, make sure you purchase and keep a souvenir cup on your first visit. You will hate paying the price the first time around (seriously – how much?), but on subsequent visits, you will be so glad you did. Our trip to the zoo last week (not including gas) cost us a grand total of $2.14! Oh – make sure to put this on your calendar for October this year – kids are free all month!
We live in the desert, so getting away to a higher elevation is often the way we can cool off. But I have a real problem with mountain roads, so this is a happy medium for us. The road up to Oak Glen is not too difficult for me and the destination is worth it! And they have year-round activities for families. We went in the fall for pumpkin picking, but we went pretty late in the season (make sure you get there early). There are lots of farms and ranches along a stretch of mountain road that offer you-pick fruit (raspberries, pumpkins, apples, etc.). You can also grab some freshly pressed apple cider or amazing desserts along the way. It is also a great spot to pick up all sorts of fresh produce and homemade preserves and sundries to take home with you.
I saw pictures on Facebook of my friend Sara and her family cooling off at Whitewater and asked her to tell me all about it. Here’s what she has to say, “My family has gone a few times. I believe there is a Whitewater exit to get off and following the signs takes you on Whitewater Canyon road about 5 miles before you get to the Preserve. What we like about it is the short drive from the desert leading to cooler temps, cold water to wade/play in, and picnic spots with shade. (Large leafy trees! Kind of a treat when you are used to desert life.) We spend most of our time wading in the man-made pond splashing around. It’s only maybe a foot or so deep but is really cold which feels great. I would like to go back when the temperatures are cooler to do some hiking on the trails. Near the picnic are also a couple of ponds not for swimming but fun to walk around and look at the fish. I have heard that they have a catch and release fishing program for kids that is free and occurs on select Saturdays certain times of year. My kids would love that!”
No list of Southern California destinations for families would be complete without Disneyland. But it can be a pricey outlay for families. I recommend a number of cost saving measures to help with the sticker-shock. First take your kids when they are under 3! They are free until they are 3, so you cut the price down early on. Second, consider taking your family to Mickey’s Halloween Party. Toddlers can’t last too long in the park anyway, so a shortened day at the park can be just perfect for them. Plus, the whole family can dress up, see Mickey, and have loads of fun before the party even starts. We are already planning and looking forward to our party with Mickey this year!
Are you from Southern California? What are your favorite places to take your little ones? I would love to hear your recommendations!