If you’re planning a family vacation in California but aren’t sure where to go and what to do, we have a solution for you. #KidsNTrips is partnering with Visit California to chat about all things Kidfornia on Twitter this week. Spring break and summer vacation season are both right around the corner and our state has tons to offer families.

To give you some ideas, here’s a list of my daughter’s favorite things to do in California. You just might win one of them for joining our chat.

Universal Studios Hollywood

How to buy Universal Studios Hollywood discount tickets.

Have a Harry Potter fan? Good, because Universal Studios Hollywood is a bucket list destinations for those who are into HP and movies in general. In addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, not to be missed is the World-Famous Studio Tour which takes you through sets from movies old (Jaws) and new (Fast and Furious).

Stay and Play: Hilton Universal City Hotel or Sheraton Universal City are both within a quick walk of the park and CityWalk (though a shuttle runs between the hotels, CityWalk and the theme park). Read tips for buying Universal Studios Hollywood tickets.

Disneyland Resort

Disneyland by far the most popular family vacations in California

There’s no doubt that the Happiest Place on Earth is one of the most popular spots for a family vacation in California. Disneyland Park is the original Walt Disney theme park with its eight themed lands and classic rides like Space Mountain and “it’s a small world.” Disney California Adventure across the way is home to seven themed lands including the super-popular Cars Land and World of Color light show.

Stay and Play: The newly-renovated Disney’s Grand Californian (my top pick) or any Disney Resort Hotel provides guests with access to Extra Magic Hour privileges. That extra hour in the park before it opens to the public dramatically enhances a visit (less line waiting). Read tips for buying Disneyland Resort tickets. It isn’t uncommon for families to spend an entire week enjoying all things Disney.

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm makes for a fun family vacation in California

It’s effortless to pair a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm with a trip to Disneyland as they’re quite close to each other. Here, there are more roller coasters for older kids to enjoy but also Camp Snoopy for the younger ones. The park has a fascinating history as it was once an actual berry farm (the boysenberry was created here) and chicken restaurant. The people waiting for their chicken dinners needed something to do so the Knott’s family created displays to entertain and then the entire operation grew over the years into a full-fledged theme park.

Stay and Play: While there is a Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Orange County’s beach cities and a 15-minute drive from Disneyland. Read how to buy Knott’s Berry Farm tickets.

LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND makes a perfect family vacation in California

Have kids under 12? Head to LEGOLAND California in North San Diego to enjoy the LEGO-themed park, water park, and SEA LIFE Aquarium. There are over 60 rides, shows and other attractions for the entire family to enjoy. Bring mini figures to trade with staff and keep an eye out for character meet and greets.

Stay and Play: I’ve also written about the best ways to buy LEGOLAND tickets. Guests of LEGOLAND Hotel and LEGOLAND Castle Hotel receive priority access to the park before it opens to the public.

San Diego Zoo

Top things to do in San Diego include the San Diego Zoo, of course!

Having personally been to more zoos around the world than I can count, the San Diego Zoo remains our favorite with its open-air cageless enclosures and over 700,000 rare and exotic plants. Top highlights include the pandas, polar bears, koalas, children’s zoo and Skyfari aerial tram. Be sure to check their unique experiences such as Early Morning with the Pandas that occur before the zoo opens.

Stay and Play: There aren’t hotels within walking distance of the zoo so best to stay in downtown San Diego which also happens to be within walking distance to some of the city’s best shops and restaurants. I have a list of downtown San Diego hotels and also top tips for buying San Diego Zoo tickets. And, did you know that the San Diego Zoo is next door to Balboa Park, our nation’s largest urban cultural park? It is also a must-see San Diego attraction.

Santa Monica Pier

Many family vacations in California happen in Santa Monica on the beach

The over 100-year-old double-jointed Santa Monica Pier at the end of Colorado Avenue offers up tons of family fun between an aquarium, carousel, trapeze school, Pacific Park and lots of restaurants. Santa Monica is a fantastic base for a Los Angeles family vacation.

Stay and Play: Fairmont Miramar, Shutters on the Beach or Loews Santa Monica are my top hotel picks. A lot of families who want to visit Universal Studios Hollywood also stay in Santa Monica to enjoy the beach and it’s not too far from the shops and restaurants of Beverly Hills or the airport (traffic permitting).

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is a fun family vacation in California

I grew up in Huntington Beach so admit to being a tad biased. But, this is one of the best beaches in the state (and 10 miles long), hands down and, of course, one of the best places in the world to surf. It’s called Surf City USA for a good reason. Casual surf shops and restaurants line the coast here in addition to the International Surf Museum. Away from the pier, waves break more gently and you really can spend hours boogie boarding, digging for sand crabs and enjoying Southern California sunshine.

Stay and Play: Pasea Resort and Spa (a new boutique hotel) or Hyatt Huntington Beach are both right across the street from the beach. Strips with cheese (freshly-made chips with grated cheddar cheese on top) from Jack’s concession stand have been a local favorite for decades. And be sure to rent a bike for riding along the boardwalk.

Join #KidsNTrips to Win a LEGOLAND Vacation!

We can’t want to share more tips for your next family vacation in California and you might win a fantastic prize just for participating.

Who@lajollamom@jenleo@travelmamas and @VisitCalifornia

Special Guests: @globalmunchkins and @TripsWithTykes
When: Thursday, March 22 from 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. PT
Where: On Twitter using hashtag #KidsNTrips
Prize: Four 2-Day Resort Hopper Tickets to LEGOLAND and a one-night stay at the NEW LEGOLAND Castle Hotel (prize package is valued at $1037).

Terms: Must be 21+ to win. Open to U.S. residents only. No purchase necessary to win. Bearer must present the original winning certificate upon check-in. Complimentary stay dates are 5/14/18 – 5/25/18, 5/29/18 – 6/1/18, 9/4/18 – 11/16/18, 11/26/18 – 12/20/18 and 1/8/19 – 2/15/19. Reservations must be canceled at least 14 days prior to scheduled arrival date. Other restrictions may apply. Certificate valid at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel at LEGOLAND California Resort only and has no cash value. Reservations must be made in advance. Does not include incidentals or other room upgrades. Read additional prize terms and conditions.

Learn more: Not sure what a Twitter party is or why to participate? Learn more about #KidsNTrips family travel Twitter parties now!

Learn where to go on your next family vacation in California.
*Photos (except for Universal Studios Hollywood and San Diego Zoo) are courtesy of Visit California
Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. RSVP @sarajuana13. I’m a cali girl and still never seen legoland before, lol. this is just what my family needs. thank you guys.