So, you don’t want to brave the crowds at the airport—but you still want to give your fam an unforgettable spring break vacation? You’re in luck! There are enough fun and unique spots around the LA area to get a full-on getaway without actually getting very far at all! So whether you want to glamp out in a covered wagon, stargaze in the desert, or get your Disney on in a souped-up Airbnb, you’ll find no shortage of options. Read on to see the best staycation ideas for LA families.
See the Stars in the Desert
Where: Joshua Tree
Distance from DTLA: 2 hours
Want the best nighttime views around? Head to the high desert! Joshua Tree is a renowned destination for stargazers, and whether you're camping out under the stars or renting a house on Airbnb, there's enough open sky to go around.
- We love this upscale home surrounded by boulders; it has a hot tub in the middle of the desert that'll let you soak up while keeping warm.
- If you want to stay in a literal bubble while looking to the heavens, this unique outdoor "bubble tent" rental is perfect for staying warm while "outdoors"—and the adjacent home has all the modern touches for when you're ready to have some privacy.
- Want something more rustic? This magical safari tent holds four people and is glamping at its finest.
- Up to four lucky guests can stay in this vintage airstream, with a double bed in the first bedroom and two twins in the second. The bathroom contains a shower and a toilet. Towels and linens are kindly provided by the hosts.
Fall Asleep to the Sound of the Waves
Distance from DTLA: 35 minutes
Ahhh, there's nothing like fresh ocean air. And at Terranea, an upscale seaside resort nestled amid the Palos Verdes Peninsula, that breath of fresh air is exactly that. Offering 360 luxurious rooms, all situated near the coastline, the hotel has acres of grassy and sprawling grounds perfect for kids who like to run—plus several easy dirt hiking trails to remote rocky beaches where your littles will love getting their feet wet exploring the tide pools.
Looking for fun activities? Take a dip in the family pool, which is open to hotel guests only and following covid protocols (the waterslide was still closed, as of this writing, but is set to open soon); or try one of several Terannea experience kits for families including stargazing kits, mandala painting kits, and s’mores kits to enjoy at one of the resort’s 228 fire pits and fireplaces. The hotel can also help arrange nearby activities including horseback riding, stand-up paddleboarding, golf, archery, ocean kayaking, surfing, whale-watching, and falconry (really).
Rates start at $350 per night (Psst: Locals can get the 3rd night free with the promo code LALOVE).
Spend the Night in a Covered Wagon
Where: Vista, CA
Distance from DTLA: 2 hours
Want to make California history come alive? Tell your kids about how settlers crossed the U.S. in covered wagons...then go spend the night in one! This unique spot takes glamping up a notch with its two fully-outfitted covered wagon rentals. Each wagon has a king-sized bed and a bunk bed inside, plus cushions and a bench for one more sleeper if you've got a family of five. Both wagons have heat and electricity, plus a detached private bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower that are surprisingly upscale for "frontierland."
Once you've settled into the wagon, feel free to explore the grounds, which include a petting zoo of critters including lamas, miniature horses, emus, pigs, and horses. An assortment of yard games including cornhole, ladder ball, and giant Connect Four are also available to entertain the kids (and adults).
If you've got grandparents in town who don't want to rough it on the frontier, the property also has two adjacent hacienda homes for rent, so they can live it up with wifi and flat screens while you're just next door gloriously unplugged.
Rates start at $165 per night.
Hint: We recommend finding friends and booking both wagons, which allow your kids to have the whole space around the wagons to themselves.
Escape to This Luxurious Ranch in the Forest
Distance from DTLA: 45 minutes
If you like your getaways more "ranch chic" than rustic camp, Calamigos Ranch is your spot. Nestled amid the Santa Monica Mountains, the 250-acre historic ranch property is one of those places that make you feel like you're miles away...without being very far away at all. Besides the pristinely decorated rooms and private cottages (that reflect the admittedly high price point), the ranch has a plethora of activities for families of all ages: Wander the trails, take a paddleboat out onto the pond, swim in the pool, grab a shuttle to the private beach, or grab a bite at the cafe. Kids can also take a walk to visit the ranch's cows, Mali-Moo and Moofus, or horses Prince and Storm. There's also a bustling outdoor cafe nestled into a grassy clearing (it's open to non-guests, too), where kids can have fun with games like giant chess, Connect 4, giant Jenga, and corn hole.
If all that's not enough, the resort also offers pizza-making classes for kids, horseback riding, and on-site guided hikes, as well as an assortment of offsite activities in the nearby mountains.
Rates start at $665 per night.
Get Your Island Vibes
Distance from DTLA: 90 minutes (including a 60-minute boat ride)
Get your whale-watching fix (it's migration season through the end of April) and your island groove at the same time with a quick getaway to LA's closest island neighbor. Located just a one-hour boat ride away from either San Pedro or Long Beach harbor, Catalina Island offers a myriad of activities including kayaking, zip-lining (for children over 10), jeep tours (for children over 6), bison-spotting safaris, and mini-golf—as well as a smorgasbord of shopping options amid the walkable downtown area.
For privacy and social-distancing purposes, an Airbnb or VRBO rental is probably your best bet, though you'd need transportation to and from if the rental is outside of town (to your kids' delight, you can rent a golf cart by the hour on the island). This Airbnb ($394 per night) includes the use of its golf cart and has killer ocean views. This modern villa ($341 per night) offers views galore and looks like it belongs in the Greek Isles.
Surround Yourself in Disney at this 9-Bedroom Theme Home
Distance from DTLA: 40 minutes
If a year without Disneyland has your kids itching for the Happiest Place on Earth, this 9-bedroom home in Anaheim home has enough Disney fun inside of it that kiddos missing their annual visit with the Mouse may just be A-OK. Little Jedis will be totally wowed by the kids' room, which has a double bunk bed designed to look like the Millennium Falcon; and, the young princesses will slumber happily inside their own tiny Snow White cottages. Plus, there's a full-size pool, ping pong table, foosball table, pool table—and ball pit room designed to look like a human-sized gumball machine, because why not?
Parents will appreciate the hot tub, safety-gated pool, expansive kitchen, outdoor bar, and luxurious touches throughout. Share the home with another family (there are three washing machines and three dryers, after all) and the $1,000+ a night price tag isn't so bad.
Note: Want more Disney-themed rentals? Check out this 10-bedroom home with a pool, games, and Frozen and superhero-themed rooms; or this 8-bedroom oasis with a rock slide and lazy river, plus a Cars-themed room and an adorable princess bedroom.
Relax Poolside in Palm Springs
Where: Rancho Mirage
Distance from DTLA: 2 hours
It won't take much to get your kids excited about going to the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort. Just say "Waterslides." The resort is home to "Splashtopia," a resort-sized water park with a splash pad, lazy river, and two twisty slides—plus several swimming pools throughout the property. It's enough to entertain your tiny swimmers all afternoon while you're sipping cocktails by the poolside (6 feet apart from anyone else, of course). To maintain social distancing and sanitizing protocols, access to the pool area is granted in four-hour slots by reservation only, and all of the resort's eight pools are closed for an hour, twice a day, just for disinfecting.
Rates start at $219 per night.
Don't feel comfortable doing the hotel thing? No problem! Palm Springs is teeming with cool vacation rentals—like this house with its own lazy river and waterslide (plus game room, mini-golf, grotto, sauna, and swim-up tiki bar!) on VRBO for $950 a night. Or, try this awesome house, which is a kids' dream with an air hockey table, mini-golf area, pool, and waterslide.
Cozy Up in the Mountains
Where: Lake Arrowhead
Distance from DTLA: 1 1/2 hours
Who says Spring Break has to be a warm-weather affair? Head to Lake Arrowhead and in under two hours, you'll be far enough from warm SoCal to get you into the snuggle-up-by-the-fire, Swiss chalet sort of mentality. Not sure where to stay? There are loads of great Airbnbs to choose from, including this classic A-frame cabin that comes with a game room and treetops view; this pristine cabin with bunk beds, a pool table, and sprawling deck; or this vintage craftsman home that feels just like a fairy tale Grandma's cottage in the woods.
Weather in April is generally cooler than LA, averaging in the 40s and 50s (with the occasional late-spring snow, if you're lucky!), so dress warm and bring chains for your car tires.
Go on a Safari in San Diego
Distance from DTLA: 2 hours
An African Safari may seem totally off the table—at least for a few years. But how about going on an overnight safari... in San Diego? The San Diego Zoo's Safari Park's "Roar and Snore" experience gets visitors an up-close and personal view of the animals, sleepover-style! Families can sleep in one of 46 safari-style tents (there are several categories, from more rustic, sleep-on-the-ground options to fully-outfitted canvas tents with wooden floors, queen-sized beds, and electricity) that border an expansive grazing area for giraffes, rhinos, gazelles, and antelopes.
Enjoy the rarely-heard sounds of the zoo at night, plus close-up visits in the morning (there are plenty of curious giraffes who will want to sneak a peek at your setup from across the fence). The program includes dinner, breakfast, special nighttime games and activities, a behind-the-scenes tour, plus plenty of time for s'mores and campfire stories. Private jeep tours can be arranged separately.
Rates start at $149 per person.
Set Up Camp in a Greenhouse by the Beach
Where: North of Santa Barbara
Distance from DTLA: 2 hours
Have you ever camped out... in a greenhouse? We didn't think so! This unique and gorgeously serene campsite is actually a historic glass greenhouse. Fun Fact: It was the site of the World's Largest Orchid Farm in the 1950s and 60s! Step inside the lush greenhouse and set up your tent somewhere among the hodgepodge of greenery and artsy indoor structures (there's even a cabin marked "Wine Bar" with a bar counter and chairs for your enjoyment). There's also a working pizza oven inside, and a bathhouse with a shower and toilet out back. The adjacent private beach is just a short walk down a wooden walkway. Got young animal-lovers? They'll love meeting the furry residents of the on-site farm, which is also free to explore by guests.
Rates start at $200 per night for the first 2 guests, with an additional $75 for each additional guest.
Feature image: Charles Phoenix