Family vacations in California can be rewarding experiences or absolute disasters -- it all depends on pretrip homework. To make planning easier, we've done all the preparation. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on traveling with children, here are recommended attractions for those planning California family vacations.
Disney California Adventure
Disney's newest addition to the Disneyland Resort, Disney California Adventure is a separate amusement park featuring the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, Toy Story Midway Mania and Golden State attractions such as Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and Grizzly River Run. Theme Park Insider rated the park's World of Color attraction the No. 2 Best New Attraction of 2011, just behind the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida.
Address: 1313 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, CA 92802
Hours: Open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m
Price: A one-day ticket is $76; $68 for kids under 10. Park Hopper tickets are $101; $91 for kids under age 10. Hotel and multi-day packages are available.
Kidspace Children's Museum
If the glitz (and cost) of a California Disney vacation isn't your family's style, check out the Kidspace Museum in Pasadena. Kids from toddlers to tweens get their hands dirty with educational programs and both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a giant kaleidoscope, the Digging Deeper Gallery, gardens, a Trike Track and Water Play.
Address: 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91103
Hours: The Kidspace Children's Museum is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The museum is closed on July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and some Saturdays in the fall during the UCLA football season and the Rose Bowl.
Price: $10 for adults and children over 2; free for children under 2 and museum members.
California Science Center
From outer space to under the sea, the California Science Center in Los Angeles is one of the top science museums in the country -- and it's free! Exhibitions include the extensive Ecosystems gallery, the Creative Live gallery, the Air and Space exhibit and the Science Plaza. The Science center also has a 3-D IMAX theater featuring spectacular science, nature and world culture films for a fee.
Address: 700 Exposition Park Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Price: Free basic admission. IMAX admission is $8.50; $5 for ages 4 to 12; $6 for students and seniors. Group and multiple show discounts are available.
Beach at Hotel del Coronado
Family Vacation Critic rated the beach at Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., the number one family beach -- not just in California, but in the whole U.S. Located across the bay from San Diego, the Hotel del Coronado is a family resort with 18 miles of beaches and activities for the whole family, from toddlers to teens to parents, including surf lessons, theme parks, bicycling, golf, water sports, family movie nights and "Kidtopia" activity programs. Babysitting is available.
Address: 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, CA 92118
Hours: Open year-round. A minimum stay may be required to book weekends in the summer months.
Price: Family packages start at $324 a night per room.
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
If your family loves Jelly Belly jelly beans, they'll love getting to see them being made at this Fairfield, Calif., factory, an hour north of San Francisco. On the 40-minute free Jelly Belly Factory Tour, your family will get the inside look at Jelly Belly and learn all there is to know about the popular treat.
Address: 1 Jelly Belly Ln., Fairfield, CA 94533
Hours: Tours operate daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Tours end at 2 p.m. on the first Saturday in December, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Price: Free admission
Laws Historic Site
Laws Historic Site and Railroad Museum is a combination ghost town, railroad museum and preserved movie set (for the 1966 film "Nevada Smith," starring Steve McQueen, according to Legends of America). See the Old West with old-timey buildings and California artifacts, some going back to 1883, when the museum was a stop on the Carson and Colorado Railroad.
Address: Located 4.5 miles north of Bishop, CA 93515, off U.S. Hwy 6.
Hours: Open year-round, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: Free; donations appreciated
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is world-renowned -- and for good reason. It is home to almost every kind of animal you can think of, with "Animal Zones" that include Africa, Australia, Asia and the Arctic. Meet the famous giant pandas, then learn about animal conservation around the world and wildlife history in California.
Address: 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, CA 92101
Hours: Open every day, including holidays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. December 9 through June 23; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 24 through September 5; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. September 6 through October 7; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 2 through December 8.
Price: A one-day pass is $40, $30 for children 3 to 11, 2 and under free. Multiple-day discounts are available.
What's your favorite family-vacation destination in California?
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