Traveling the open road with kids can be one of the best ways to travel as long as you’ve got plenty of snacks and an itinerary that matches their pace. So we’ve done our research and come up with the best places to see, eat and stay while you hit the road. And with everything from castles on the sea to dessert landscapes and national parks, these trips will go down in family history for all the right reasons. Click through the gallery to get planning.

California Gold—Sutter Creek to Nevada City, Ca—80.7 miles

What to See

This stretch along Highway 49 isn’t as long as some of the other road trips, but with lots of twists and turns and plenty of places to stop it’s a great trip for kids. In Sutter Creek check out the Amador Flower Farm—a commercial grower that allows the public free access to their 13 acres including picnic grounds and demonstration gardens. The nearby (8 miles east of Sutter Creek) Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Park features limestone rock outcroppings with more than 1,000 mortar holes (the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America). Hop back on the highway for a few and make your next stop at Coloma—where gold was first discovered in California. Learn to pan for it yourself at Marshall Gold Discovery Park where you’ll also find a variety of activities for kids and tons of historic sites to explore on foot. Make a pit stop in Auburn to explore the courthouse and then head up to Grass Valley and Nevada City where you'll find two of Norcal’s quaintest towns. Don't miss the Nevada City Firehouse Museum—it’s not too big and there’s plenty of cool stuff to look at before you explore the rest of downtown on foot. Summertime boasts farmer’s markets (including one at the Julia Morgan-designed North Star House) and downtown festivals galore.

Good to Know: Most locals will tell you not to leave Nevada County without a dip in the Yuba River. Bridgeport is your best bet with littles for not needing to hike too far and wide, shallow areas for wading. Exercise caution this year, because massive snow runoff has caused stronger-than-usual currents. Check with locals for feedback, but having lifejackets on hand is always a smart idea.

Where to Eat

In Nevada City, get a heaping plate from Ike’s Quarter Cafe, a New Orleans-meets-Cali restaurant with an extensive kids menu, colorful decor, gorgeous food and a small outdoor patio. Grab a couple of pasties from Marshall’s in Grass Valley before you hit the road or head to the Yuba. For sweet stuff, check out  Lazy Dog Chocolateria in Grass Valley or the Nevada City Chocolate Shop—an old fashioned candy store right in historic downtown.

Where to Stay

Grass Valley and Nevada City have no shortage of lodging. In Grass Valley, try the historic Holbrooke Hotel for reasonably priced rooms right in the middle of the downtown. In Nevada City, we love the recently opened Inn Town Campground, offering everything from camping to glamping.

photo: Erin Johnson via flickr


What’s your favorite trip to take with family? Share with us in the comments!

—Gabby Cullen & Amber Guetebier