Spring Break for most public school students in Marin County takes place the week of April 10 to 14. Northern and Central California have no shortage of fantastic destinations for families—from the Pacific beaches to the High Sierra mountains, there's something for everyone! Here are our picks for six fantastic places to visit during Spring Break, all of which are only a few hours away from Marin and the Bay Area.
This laid-back seaside town about two hours from Marin boasts beautiful beaches and the world-famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has been delighting visitors since 1907. You'll also find a surfing museum housed in an old lighthouse, an interactive visitor center for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the nearby Roaring Camp Railroads, and even the Mystery Spot, a roadside attraction that seems to defy the very laws of physics.
One of our favorite places for a fun family getaway is the picturesque seaside town of Pacific Grove. Not as famous or flashy as Monterey, Carmel, and its other neighbors in the Monterey Bay Area, Pacific Grove makes up for this in charm, billing itself as "America's Last Hometown" and "Butterfly Town USA".
With a close proximity to the Bay Area, plenty of things to see and do, and an amazing coastal location, Pacific Grove is an ideal place for a family getaway this winter or spring (or any other time of year, for that matter).
Things to Do in Pacific Grove
Located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula between Monterey and Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove (known by locals as "PG") boasts not only natural wonders like Asilomar State Beach, but picturesque Victorian houses and a cute bustling downtown with a wide variety of dining and lodging options as well. The city of Monterey and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium are literally just minutes away, the aquarium actually sited only a few yards from the Monterey-Pacific Grove border.
One of our favorite family getaways is a visit to the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's about a three-hour drive from Marin, making it possible as a day trip, but even better as an overnighter or long weekend with the family. Winter may even be the best time to visit, since you can avoid the coastal fog that blankets the area in the summer and the tourist season crowds have subsided a bit.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, and we're willing to bet that it is. The exhibits reflect the aquarium's mission to research and educate the public about the biodiversity of Monterey Bay and the California coast, and they're fascinating.
Down in the Monterey Peninsula town of Pacific Grove, it's almost time for the annual Feast of Lanterns festival. Family-friendly Pacific Grove (or "PG", if you're a local) is one of our favorite places to go for a road trip, and the Feast of Lanterns is an especially magical time to visit this small seaside community billed as "America's Last Hometown" and "Butterfly Town USA." We try to make it there for the Feast of Lanterns at least every other summer.
Taking place every year in late July, the Feast of Lanterns is kind of like a combination of the 4th of July, Miss America, Halloween, and New Year's Eve all wrapped into one festive package. It's a big deal down there, and something that's delighted locals and tourists alike in this small coastal town for over 100 years. Pacific Grove is one of our favorite places for a family getaway, so why not consider heading down there for a visit this summer?
Is your child a Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic? If so, your chance to experience all things Thomas & Friends and even take a ride on a train drawn by Thomas the Tank Engine himself is coming this summer! Tickets are on sale now for Day Out With Thomas: The Ready, Set, Go Tour 2016, which takes place over two long weekends, July 29–31 and August 5–7, at Roaring Camp Railroads in the Santa Cruz Mountains town of Felton.
School's out and summer is here! California offers countless opportunities for fantastic family getaways; after all, that's why millions of tourists visit our state every year. You don't have to get on a plane to visit some of the world's most beloved vacation destinations—many of them are right in our own backyard. Here are some of our favorite family summer road trip destinations, ranging from beach towns to the High Sierra to an African wildlife preserve right in Sonoma County.
As a family vacation destination, California’s Central Coast has a lot going for it: beaches, wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, charming seaside towns like Pismo Beach, Santa Cruz, and Pacific Grove, and one of our state’s most amazing architectural and artistic wonders—Hearst Castle. Once a destination for Hollywood royalty and political luminaries, Hearst Castle is now a state park and one of California’s most popular tourist attractions and a must-visit destination for families on a Central Coast getaway. It’s great place to add to your summer vacation list of places to visit.
Situated in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the town of San Simeon, Hearst Castle is the creation of San Francisco-born media tycoon William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, who built it on a spot where he camped with his family as a boy. Morgan and Hearst designed this opulent hilltop estate to resemble a Renaissance-era Spanish village and to show off Hearst’s priceless collection of art and antiquities.
The estate, called La Cuesta Encantada (Spanish for “the Enchanted Hill”) or simply “the ranch” by Hearst, includes the magnificent Casa Grande main house and several smaller guest houses, as well as pools, fountains, terraces, fine art, and plenty of breathtaking views. Visitors to Hearst Castle can take one of several different tours of the estate, and are then free to explore the grounds on their own for as long as they like. As you wander the grounds it’s not hard to imagine movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, the Marx Brothers, and of course Hearst’s companion, actress Marion Davies, relaxing at the estate.
One of the great things about living in California is that you don't have to go far for an amazing family getaway. Whether it's up to the mountains or down to the seashore, you can get where you want to go in just a few hours at most. We love to visit new places along California's coast, and for our most recent family trip we decided to head south to the Central Coast town of Pismo Beach.
Located about four hours south of the San Francisco Bay Area on Highway One, Pismo Beach is one of those classic California beach towns that encourages you to just unwind and take things a little slower. I've driven through it many times on the way down to Southern California, and never really stopped there other than to admire the amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. I'm glad we decided to stop and stay awhile—we had a fantastic time!
One of our favorite destinations for a quick family getaway is California's Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills. It's a relatively short 3 hour drive from the Bay Area, and there are plenty of things for families to do. You can visit historic mining towns, pan for gold, explore caves, go wine tasting (for mom and dad, of course), take a ride on a 19th-century steam train, hike, fish, and more.
The highlight of our visits to the Gold Country always Columbia State Historic Park in the Tuolumne County town of Columbia. In fact, much of Columbia is the park itself. While most of the small Mother Lode towns along Highway 49 are filled with California history, Columbia takes this to an extreme—its downtown has been preserved to represent its mid 19th-century heyday, and in fact it's the best preserved Gold Rush town in California.