Turn those California Dreams into weekend warrior reality! California is not only the most populous state in the country, it’s the most geographically diverse. Hop in the car and you can drive to any of these spots (some may take more than a weekend, if you’re driving) and explore castles, wine country, majestic mountains, ski vacations, apple picking, desert delights and more. These are our top ten picks for family road trips you’ve simple got to take while the kids are little.

The Channel Islands

Cruise across the sunny sea through a shroud of fog to emerge on your own Galapagos-like sanctuary; one of the pristine Channel Islands. Santa Cruz is probably the best island for a first visit, as it’s the largest and offers the most amenities. But if you’re traveling with bigger kids, Anacapa is a beautiful and wild adventure. Either island turns into a pristine nature visit for kids of all ages where on the boat over you can see dolphins and whales and when you get to the island you can see the mice and dwarf fox that call the island home. When you get to Santa Cruz, which is the only island with running water and a visitor center, you can take a hike with the naturalist volunteer who takes the boat ride over with you, and learn all about the history of the island from the Chumash settlers to the ranchers who raised cattle here as well as the island’s new life as a National Park. If your family is adventurous or has been to the islands before, consider booking a kayak tour or camping on the island.

Learn more about visiting Ventura County, with trips to Santa Cruz and Anacapa Island.

photo: Meghan Rose


What’s your favorite California adventure?  Let us know in the comment section!

—Beth Shea, Erin Feher & Meghan Rose