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.


Dubbed the ‘Danish Capital of America,’ Solvang (which means sunny field in Danish) is in the lush wine country of Santa Ynez Valley. Located just 125 miles north of Los Angeles, this quaint town has a vibe and aesthetic reminiscent of a European fairy tale. Kids will love the whimsical Danish heritage that infuses downtown—which is complete with Danish style architecture, thatched roofs, and windmills. Fans of Hans Christian Anderson may also want to visit the museum dedicated to him in The Book Loft Building. Just out of town, kids can get up close and personal with miniature horses at Quicksilver Ranch or take the tykes to feed ostriches and emus at Solvang’s Ostrichland USA. If you have time to stay, book a real cowboy vacation at nearby Alisal Ranch. Alisal is an old cowboy ranch where families can spend the weekend riding the range (or taking your first horseback lesson), eating at a campfire, catching fish, being pampered at the spa, listening to the roosters crow, reading a book by the pool, gathering eggs, playing an 18 hole private golf course, tasting local wines and hiking.

Learn more about what to do in Solvang in our guide.

photo: Raymond Shobe via Creative Commons


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

—Beth Shea, Erin Feher & Meghan Rose