By Milly Bannister
California. It’s the golden state of the USA. It’s the home of Hollywood. It’s the nurturer of Orange Country. It’s where movies are made and green smoothies are the staple form of nourishment. It’s bright. It’s bold. It’s brash. And it’s a whole lotta F U N ! Enough of the hype. Here’s where to go.
1 // Ocean Beach, San Diego
Ocean Beach, or ‘OB’ as the locals call it, is a melting pot of California’s typical surf culture, authentic Hispanic food and yoga-loving opulence. On any which street you find yourself, you’ll feel right at the beating heart of California, with rows of perfect palms towering over quaint cafés and genuine local retail businesses. Ocean Beach Boardwalk is a beautiful walk on a warm day with a cosy eatery halfway where you can grab a coffee and a cold drink for the kids, or a meal with a view of the beach.
2 // Wilder Ranch State Park, Santa Cruz
The majestic cliffs of Wilder Ranch State Park are a short drive from San Jose and San Francisco and well worth the fuel. Park your hire car for a mere $10 and then walk as near or as far as you wish, circuiting an incredible view of the ocean off Santa Cruz. It is best to go in the afternoon on a sunny day, especially for sunset. Even better, organise a picnic. Coves, caves, secret beaches and stunning rock formations are to be discovered in this perfect place of nature’s most photo-worthy formations. Top tip: take the baby/toddler carrier.
3 // Disneyland/California Adventure Park, Anaheim
Disneyland is a clear winner for families who love Disney, located in Orange County, Anaheim. Many hotels offer great shuttle services to the Disneyland and California Adventure Park precinct. Although expensive, it does feel worth it when you see the smile on your kiddo’s face.
4 // Venice Beach, Los Angeles
The epitome of California can be found on Venice Beach, where both locals and tourists pose and swoon. Great photos, great vibes and great food: it’s got it all. For tourists, the beach itself is a great place to shop for merchandise, get a classic American feed and peek at the incredible beachfront properties of the rich and famous. You could even hire a skateboard, bike or roller-skates to cruise down the strip like they do in the movies – sun on your face, wind in your hair. You might even get your big break!
5 // Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood
No matter how old you are, finding your favourite Hollywood names on the Walk of Fame on the Sunset Strip is a must-do, with plenty of surrounding attractions, museums, shops and restaurants to check out also. The Grove shopping mall, Madam Tussauds and the Chinese and Dolby Theatre are all brilliant iconic attractions to make your way through on the Sunset Strip just for starters.
6 // Beverly Hills Tour, Hollywood
In the voyeuristic society we live in today, who doesn’t want to sneak a peek at the homes of Hollywood’s most rich and famous? Take a guided, open-top car tour of Beverly Hills’s most opulent areas to see the homes of huge names. It’s hard to keep your jaw shut. Your kids will enjoy the ride too, even if they are not sure whose homes they are looking at!
7 // Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
San Francisco is a beautiful city with a lot to offer its residents and tourists. Quite different from Los Angeles and Orange County, San Fran is the perfect place to hire a bike and ride through the city and suburban streets to find the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
8 // Pier 39, San Francisco
To envision Pier 39 in San Francisco, think of classic bay views, carousels and ice cream and then add in Alcatraz Island and seals. Pier 39 is the perfect place for a coffee date, tourist merchandise shopping and for the kids to ride the merry-go-round. It’s often quite crowded, but in true American style comes complete with candy stores and live magic shows.
9 // Balboa Park, San Diego
If you enjoy serene parks and beautiful architecture, you will love Balboa Park in San Diego. Parking is available on the outskirts before a free shuttle services takes you the rest of the way into a cocoon of stunning museums, water fountains and fantastic eateries. It’s a mesmerising place to take a late afternoon stroll, even without museum entry if you’re not into that.
10 // Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles
Last but not least is a structure situated in one of the National Geographic’s top 10 beach cities, a prominent piece of California’s coastline and one of the most famed piers in America. Santa Monica Pier is an area for fun, outdoor activity and award-winning culinary scenes – the perfect place for a super spesh family outing.