NEWS
05/19/2014 05:34 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 12:59 EDT

Thank Your Supporting Cast: How To Bring Your Family To California

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Beaches and theme parks, zoos and museums, sunshine and movie studios; what more could any self-respecting kid on vacation want? No wonder California is a top holiday choice for families. Here’s our list of seven don’t-miss family-friendly spots, from north to south.

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Exploratorium

This San Francisco staple aims big and bold: they want to change the way the world learns, one brain at a time. Whether you’re a lifelong learner or you’re setting foot inside of a museum for the first time, you’ll never lack for things to do here: from experiencing the environment firsthand in the Bay Observatory to getting by in total darkness in the Tactile Dome, all of your senses will be stimulated and your curiosities satisfied.

Monterey

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the marquee attraction in this coastal city, 180 kilometres south of San Francisco. But once the family has spent a day -- or more -- exploring the aquarium’s 200 exhibits and seeing some of the 35,000 marine animals and plants, there are lots of other things to see and do. Go whale watching, take a surfing lesson, set off on a kayak or Segway tour, or visit the kid-friendly MY Museum.

Universal Studios Hollywood

TV and movie lovers will get a kick out of the Studio Tour of one of the world’s biggest backlots, where you’ll see sets from War of the Worlds, Psycho and more. Brace yourself; you’ll also experience a “real” flash flood and earthquake! Elsewhere in this popular L.A. theme park, thrill-seekers can scream their way through rides based on Jurassic Park, Transformers and other hits.

California Science Center

Got a budding Einstein in the family? Then don’t miss the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Walk inside a 15-metre model of the human body, race model solar cars, or ride a bicycle across a high wire. Admission to the 100 or so permanent hands-on exhibits is free, but you can also buy tickets to see an IMAX movie or the space shuttle Endeavour.

Disneyland

You can’t go wrong following in the footsteps of the 500 million people who have visited the Happiest Place on Earth since the Anaheim attraction opened in 1955. In typical Disney style, it hasn’t rested on its laurels. A few years ago, it opened the separate Disney California Adventure Park, where eight themed “lands” immerse you in everything from bugs to the movie Cars. Fasten your seatbelts for the resort’s longest and fastest roller coaster, California Screamin’, or take the little ones on King Triton’s Carousel.

Legoland

All parents know the specific pain of stepping on a Lego brick while barefoot. While your little ones may not be expert architects quite yet, why not take them to see what a master builder can do? Legoland California, 48 kilometres north of San Diego, features some 22,000 models created from 52 million Lego bricks -- everything from pirate ships and dinosaurs to the White House. Spend the day enjoying attractions, rides, and shows, and call it a night at the Legoland Hotel. And yes, of course, there’s a giant Lego store.

San Diego Zoo

California is home to one of America’s most famous animal attractions, the 40-hectare San Diego Zoo. See more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals, from Amur leopards to zebras. Three walk-through aviaries give you the chance to get up close and personal with exotic birds from Asia, South America, and beyond. Explore the park on foot or by bus, mini-train or gondola. If you need to sit down, take the time to catch a 4D movie.

For more kid-friendly places to visit, check out Visit California’s Family Fun page.