10 Kid-Friendly California Resorts That Cater to Families

Strike gold in California at these dreamy family friendly resorts.
family around the fire pit at the Explorer Cabins at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
Explorer Cabins at Tenaya Lodge (Photo: Tenaya at Yosemite)

California is a vacation wonderland and an ideal destination for traveling families. Its famously mild climate and beautiful coast make it a year-round favorite, and the best family resorts in California put you right where you want to be, whether you’re in the mood for national parks, theme parks, or beaches.

When you’re looking for a family-friendly resort in California, first decide on your must-see list. Nature rules at the more than 250 state parks and icons like Yosemite National Park. Southern California is packed with fun attractions, soft-sand beaches, and theme parks. World-class skiing makes winter the time to head to Lake Tahoe (though summer there is pretty great too). Along the coast and inland, nature and fun mix with results sure to please the whole family.

The Best Family Resorts in California

Standout family resorts in California offer plenty of activities, kid-friendly dining options, great swimming pools, and kid-pleasing extras. Here are our top picks.

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1. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Fish Camp, California

Exterior view of the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, with pools and trees in the foreground of the family friendly California resort
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (Photo: Tenaya at Yosemite)

Mother Nature is the star of the show in Yosemite, but Tenaya Lodge—situated two miles from the park’s south entrance—plays a perfect supporting role. Spread out across 75 acres, this kid-favorite family resort in California has an indoor and outdoor pool, rock wall climbing, archery, e-mountain biking, guided hikes, horseback riding, fly fishing, and winter ice skating and sledding.

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Tenaya’s Junior Explorer 360 Yosemite tour will keep your kids smiling as they earn their Junior Ranger badges, making memories you’ll all cherish. Its new spacious two-bedroom Explorer Cabins are snug among sugar pines and incense cedars. For relaxation there’s Ascent Spa—the perfect spot to pamper yourself with an aromatherapy massage after a big day out in the park. 

2. Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa

Lake Arrowhead, California

evening photo of the pool at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, a family friendly California resort
Pool area at Lake Arrowhead (Photo: Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa)

Southern California’s Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa delivers a wow-worthy backdrop for your family vacation. Surrounded by San Bernardino National Forest, and at an elevation of more than 5,100 feet, this lakeside resort is a comfortable home base for enjoying the wildlife and mountains.

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Get out in nature for incredible hiking, kayaking, and waterskiing. Or stay close to the resort for a dip in the outdoor pool or to kick back at the private lake beach. Nearby SkyPark is the spot for mountain biking, ziplining, rock climbing, and ice skating. And when winter vacation rolls around, Lake Arrowhead comes alive with ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, and snow tubing.

3. Town and Country Resort

San Diego, California

Child going down the waterslide at Town and Country Resort, a San Diego family resort in California
Waterslide at Town and Country Resort in San Diego (Photo: Town and Country Resort)

With its famous zoo, newly opened Sesame Place, Birch Aquarium, beaches, and parks, San Diego is a one of the most popular family vacation spots in the country. Sun-soaked luxury is the name of the game at the cool art-deco-inspired Town and Country Resort. Spend a day at the new sun-drenched pool deck with a zero-entry family pool, hot tub, children’s pool, and a four-story “Twister” waterslide. The entire family will look forward to a dive-in movie by the pool on Saturdays. 

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Though there’s plenty of great food to sample in San Diego, you won’t have to leave one of the best family resorts in California to eat well. Poolside food and drink comes courtesy of Lapper, while “gourmet on-the-go” is the specialty at The MRKT—and is perfect for a picnic on the property’s three-acre lawn along the San Diego River. And you can groove to local live music on Wednesday through Saturday evenings by the fire pits at Monkey Bar.

4. Rancho Oso RV and Camping Resort

Santa Barbara, California

teepee accommodations at Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort, a Caifornia family resort in Santa Barbara
Teepee accommodations at Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara (Photo: Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort)

If you’re a family who wants low-key, nature-based fun, Ranch Oso RV & Camping Resort is a good fit. Tucked into the beautiful and wild Santa Barbara Mountains about 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, this secluded resort ups the fun factor with accommodations like teepees, safari tents, covered wagons, cabins and cottages.

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The resort is close to both Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez River, and has plenty of on-property activities including horseback riding, hiking, volleyball, basketball, mini golf, billiards, bingo, and kids’ activities like arts and crafts.

5. Oceanpoint Ranch

Cambria, California

fire pit and Adirondack chairs at Oceanpoint Ranch, a family friendly California resort
Fire pit and Adirondack chairs at Oceanpoint Ranch, a California family resort (Photo: Oceanpoint Ranch/Pacifica Hotels)

This Central Coast resort stretches along nine-acres of Cambria‘s Moonstone Beach, a spot beloved for its tide pools. Family fun at Oceanpoint Ranch includes lawn games like cornhole, horseshoes, and croquet; swimming at this beloved resort’s pool; walks and hikes along its trails; movies on the lawn; and s’mores around the fire pit.

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For maximum space, reserve one of the spacious bunkhouse suites with room for up to six people plus full kitchens. For even more space in the bunkhouse suite, you can add an adjoining king room.

Beyond the resort, nearby Leffingwell Landing offers tide pools and the chance to see otters and dolphins. Horseback riding is available throughout Cambria. At Covelo Ranch, families can tour the ranch via Clydesdale horses. Other nearby sites include Hearst Castle and the Piedras Blancas Light Station.

6. Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel

South Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel exterior view with mountains of Lake Tahoe in background and snow
Ski to your heart’s content at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel (Photo: Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel)

At Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, you’re right next door to the Heavenly ski resort’s gondola (with skiing in the winter and summer zip lines, climbing wall, and mountain coster) and Heavenly Village’s dining and shopping. At the resort, there’s an indoor heated pool and large garden atriums. If you have a big crew, consider the resort’s family suite that’s 1,000 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

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With the central location, it’s easy to capitalize on easy access to the beach, shopping, nightlife. And spots like Van Sickle Bi-state Park with trails that lead all the way to the Tahoe Rim Trail, are within walking distance. Hike, mountain bike, and in winter, ski to your heart’s content.

7. Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

Indian Wells, California

child jumping into pool while parents watch at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, a family friendly California Resort near Palm Springs
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells has the largest waterpark in Greater Palm Springs (Photo: Hyatt)

You’ll likely get big smiles from your kids when you tell them the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells has the largest waterpark in Greater Palm Springs, with two 30-foot dueling slides, a 450-foot lazy river, splash pad for kids, and seven pools.

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Waterslides aside, the luxury resort’s setting is stellar, with 45 acres of lush landscape, palms aplenty, mountain views. Throw in a 30,000-square-foot spa and championship golf course, and you have everything you need for full-family fun.

Venture afield for the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Joshua Tree National Park, the Palm Springs Air Museum, Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, and jeep tours of the desert.

8. Legoland California Resort

Carlsbad, California

If you want to win the parent of the year award with your LEGO-obsessed kids, head to Legoland California Resort. The Carlsbad (near San Diego) campus is made up of a theme park, water park, and two hotels. The Legoland Resort Hotel and the Legoland Castle Hotel are both located close to the front gates, making it easy to enjoy all that Legoland has to offer, including the world’s first LEGO Ferrari Build and Race attraction, where kids can build, race, and test their own race car.

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Legoland has more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, including the new LEGO Movie World. The attached water park has seven slides, beaches, Build-A-Raft River, Pirate Reef, and Lego Legends of CHIMA Water Park, providing 10 acres of water wonderment.

At the hotels, themed rooms rule. Take your pick of pirate, adventure, kingdom, Lego Friends, or Lego Ninjago rooms. All rooms come with separate kids’ sleeping areas, and both hotels offer free breakfast and nightly family entertainment.

9. Northstar California Resort

Truckee, California

Northstar Lodge exterior with a view of ski slopes and pool
Northstar California Resort is one of Lake Tahoe’s great ski resorts (Photo: Hyatt)

Northstar California Resort is one of Lake Tahoe’s great ski resorts. Tucked into the beautiful Martis Valley between the lake’s north shore and the charming mountain town of Truckee, the ski resort draws families year-round with more than 3,000 skiable acres in winter and summer activities that make the most of the outdoors.

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Lodging options at Northstar include Hyatt-owned Northstar Lodge, with its condo-style accommodations with full kitchens and private balconies, plus easy access to communal fire pits and barbecues, and on-site activities like escape rooms and private movie screenings. Northstar is also home to The Village at Northstar and One Village Place vacation rentals, and Constellation Residences at Northstar.

In winter, Northstar offers family ski lessons and more than 100 trails, plus apres-ski fireside s’mores and hot cocoa. In summer, Kids Camp has programs like wilderness rescue, photography camp, and art in nature camp. And for teens, there’s a skill-building five-day Teen Bike Camp.

10. Railroad Park Resort

Dunsmuir, California

View of Railroad Park Resort in winter with snowy mountains in background
Book your own caboose at Railroad Park Resort (Photo: Railroad Park Resort)

Ready for a unique stay? Head to Railroad Park Resort in the Northern California town of Dunsmuir. Book a caboose that accommodates up to five guests, has its own bathroom, and includes little cupolas for watching the sunrise.

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Railroad Park Resort also has vintage cabins and campsites. On the property, there’s a hot tub, pool, and recreation area. The unique and cool vibe continues with the Dinner House & Lounge, built inside restored antique railroad cars.

This part of Northern California is long on natural beauty, so make the most of it by fly fishing in the Sacramento River Trail or biking and hiking at nearby Castle Crags State Park. Bonus: It’s a quick drive to cities like Redding, McCloud, and Yreka.

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Sheryl Nance Nash
Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer, specializing in travel/lifestyle, personal finance and business. Her travel articles have appeared on CNTraveler, Newsweek.com, Fodors, Afar, RD.com, The Daily Beast, Culture Trip, Shermans Travel, Orbitz, among others. She is based in New York.

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