California Dreamin’: Our Top 5 Picks for Family Resorts

by | Aug 5, 2023 | Family Adventures

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Trying to keep kids entertained when the competition is Tik Tok, YouTube, and Instagram seems downright impossible. 

Swap out kids’ screentime and eye-rolling for splash-time in epic water parks, chill beach vibes, and adrenaline-fueled theme parks in sun-soaked California! A California family resort is a great place to keep kids busy, and it satisfies the cool factor if they happen to be teens. Plus, resorts allow parents to enjoy getting pampered. They can relax on their own while the kids are having fun. 

California isn’t just a state: it’s a whole mood. Here, kids can hop on a roller coaster through Hogwarts in the morning, learn to surf in the afternoon, and stargaze in a stunning desert landscape at night. 

Sound too good to be true? Keep reading, and we’ll explain why California has everything a family needs for a fantastic family vacation. 



Family Resorts in California


My family set out on a mission to discover the best California family resorts, the kind of places that could convince kids that real life is way more exciting than their favorite video games. 

As a mother of three tweens and teens, all with different interests, I knew I needed to find the perfect place that would check off everyone’s boxes. 

We combed through the state, from San Francisco to Mission Bay, to the sun-soaked southern beaches, and back up to the misty northern redwoods. Here are the five shining stars we found, guaranteed to make the next family vacation a blockbuster hit. 

Each of these resorts has its own unique flavor and pinch of pizzazz that sets it apart from the rest. 

Whether it’s water parks that would put Atlantis to shame, themed rooms straight out of a storybook, or outdoor adventures that leave kiddos in awe, these inclusive resorts deliver family fun in spades. 


LEGOLAND California Resort: A Brick-Tacular Paradise

LEGO Characters in front of LEGOLAND California Resort - Top 5 California Family Resorts

Everything is Awesome at LEGOLAND California Resort – Photo by LEGOLAND California Resort


While accidentally stepping on LEGOS might be the bane of our existence at home, at the LEGOLAND Resort in California, it’s encouraged (though we recommend flip-flops for that one)! This brick-filled wonderland brings kids’ imaginations to life with more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions. 

Located in sunny Carlsbad, LEGOLAND is much more than just a resort. It’s a kid-friendly fantasy that brings everyone’s favorite LEGO sets to life. Say hello to pirate adventures, enchanted kingdoms, and even a voyage into the world of Star Wars – all made entirely of LEGO bricks! 

And parents, don’t think for a second that the fun activities are reserved just for the little ones. The resort is designed for the whole family to have fun together and create lasting memories with rollercoasters and water slides, concerts and events, and plenty of places to stop and grub.


Here’s an insider tip: Don’t miss the LEGO-themed guest rooms.


Whether guests are tucking in for the night in a pirate’s cabin or a knight’s castle, these rooms are a surefire way to keep the LEGO fun going even after the park closes. 

Lucky guests will encounter larger-than-life LEGO characters roaming the resort – perfect for that family vacation photo op. 

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Get ready to make a splash at the LEGO Legends of CHIMA Water Park or chill out at SEA LIFE Aquarium. Both are located within the resort grounds. 

The family-friendly beaches of Carlsbad are close by, making LEGOLAND California Resort the perfect base for a family beach vacation.


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Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa: A Dash of Pixie Dust in Luxury

Entrance of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel - Top California Family Resorts

Turn off the phones and turn on the fun – Photo by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa


Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa pampers parents like royalty straight out of a Disney movie (without having to kiss any frogs!) The property is a luxurious getaway for the entire family. 

This kid-friendly resort, located in the heart of Anaheim, is practically a Disney theme park itself. And the best thing? The Disney Grand Californian Resort and Spa is conveniently located next to Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure Park!

Families can start their morning with a magical three-course breakfast that suits their new status as one of the royals. At Napa Rose, guests dine with the most famous Disney Princesses and take part in an unforgettable photo op on the private patio. 

Kids can join Belle for storytime or kick back with Mulan and learn a few of her fierce warrior poses. They’ll also get a special gift to take back to their palace at home. Make sure to reserve a spot early, as these seats fill up fast. 

The full-service Tenaya Stone Spa pampers parents with signature services. Unwind with a Gemstone Sparkle Facial, Tenaya Riverstone Massage, or a Citrus Groves Face and Body Treatment. 

Find Zen with a sunrise yoga class, or get those steps in with a power walk through the Adventure Park before it opens. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa offers plenty of ways to relax and recharge while on vacation. 

Take a dip or soak up the sun poolside in one of the Grand Californian’s many themed pools and hot tubs. Although guests won’t be hand-fed fresh fruits, they’ll still feel like nobility when reserving a cabana in a semi-private oasis with all the amenities families need to enjoy a half or full day by the outdoor pool. 

On select days, the whole family can hang out with the Disney squad to play games and join in a dance party together at the Disney Splash Bash.

Ready to have a blast at the theme parks? Take advantage of early access benefits for hotel guests to get there before the lines start forming. 

Hungry? The Grand Californian offers a variety of on-site restaurants to please even the pickiest of eaters. 

Try the Storytellers Cafe for a filling buffet-style meal while enjoying a visit from Mickey and friends during breakfast or brunch. 

At night, Napa Rose serves an upscale dining experience with a regional wine-tasting menu and first-rate dining options. 

Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa goes the extra mile to make sure guests of all ages are treated to a vacation of a lifetime. 


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Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove: A Wet n’ Wild Family Adventure Awaits

View of entrance to Great Wolf Lodge - Top Californian Family Resorts

The whole family can let loose and get wild at Great Wolf Lodge – Photo by Great Wolf Lodge


The Great Wolf Lodge near Anaheim is like summer vacation on steroids. The lodge is so committed to fun that parents might have to drag the kids out of the pools, kicking and screaming at the end of the day. Trust me, it happens. 

The Great Wolf Lodge is home to Southern California’s premier indoor water park. Families have access to water slides, tide pools, and an insanely cool four-story treehouse. 

As a grown-up, it’s hard not to let the inner child come out and play at Great Wolf Lodge. And don’t worry. Parents won’t be the only adults living it up while zooming down the Wolf Tail slide or floating along the lazy river. The Great Wolf Lodge is a haven of fun for all ages. 

But the fun doesn’t stop at the water park. Families can join together on a scavenger hunt and explore the lodge on magical quests, hit the mini-golf course, team up for an intense round of mini-bowling, or compete for the highest score at the arcade. 

Grab the Wolf Pass for discounted access to the best attractions, snacks, and (bonus!) fun swag to take home as a keepsake. 

Accommodations at the Great Wolf Lodge are nothing short of spectacular. With options for any size family, each room is decked out to feel rustic and cozy, with log cabin-inspired furniture and decor. 

Choose from themed suites, like the Wolf Den or the Kids Cabin, which creates private spaces for both parents and kids to stretch out and unwind after a fun-filled day. Premium suites, like the Deluxe Wolf Den or the Grizzly Bear Suite, provide even more space for multi-generational travel and maximum relaxation. 


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This family-friendly resort also offers a ‘Wine Down Service.’  After a day of fun, parents can enjoy a well-deserved glass of vino delivered right to their room.

Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove is more than just a hotel with a pool. It’s a full-blown family fun zone. It’s a place where both kids and grown-ups can unleash their inner wolf. Families will have a howling good time and create memories to last a lifetime.



Hotel Del Coronado: An Iconic and Historic Family Resort

View of Hotel Del Coronado - Top California Family Resorts

Family vacay in a castle on the beach? Yes please! – Photo by Hotel Del Coronado


Located in palm tree-lined San Diego, the historic Hotel Del Coronado Hotel has been a favorite family destination for over 130 years. Since 1888, this sandy beachfront beauty has been wowing guests with its charm.


Who wouldn’t love staying in a castle on the beach? It’s like two vacation dreams rolled into one! 


Welcome to ‘The Del.’

And it’s not all just about the Victorian grandeur and breathtaking beach views. With over 130 years of practice, visitors to The Del can be sure this hotel knows how to have a good time. 

From beach games, surf lessons, the fitness center, and movies under the stars, there’s no chance of hearing the dreaded ‘I’m bored’ chorus from kids here. 

Want an out-of-this-world experience? Try the DIVR + virtual reality snorkeling on for size. 

After hearing about this, we had to do a little investigation because the thought of strapping on a VR helmet and pretending to snorkel didn’t sound appealing and would definitely cause some serious eye-rolling from the kids. As it turns out, it’s actually pretty cool, and our kids loved it.

Guests are submerged in a weightless, underwater environment, hooked up to a VR set and attached snorkel, and given a flotation device.

Once in, that’s when all the fun begins. Choose from two thrilling, 5-minute adventures, such as sky diving, a space voyage, underwater exploration, or a deep dive into the ruins of Atlantis. Experience all this while fully immersed in audio, visual, and sensory effects. 

Visitors can also tour and travel back in time to unravel the iconic resort’s rich history at the Ice House Museum

This charming 1889 museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

It’s brimming with incredible artifacts and throw-back memorabilia. The Ice Museum offers a deeper look into its world-famous dining and recreation scene. The museum also shares insights about the famous guests who once graced its grand halls.

Got 90 minutes to spare? Check out the Legendary Tour, a walking tour through the Victorian building and gardens. It includes access to exclusive areas and offers a fascinating glimpse into the resort’s heritage. 

If the gang is in the mood for something a little more spine-tingling, the Haunted Happenings Tour might be the ticket. 

This guided tour tells of Kate Morgan’s 1892 visit and her spirit that allegedly never left. Prepare for goosebumps while walking in Kate’s footsteps and learning about other ghosts that are said to haunt the hotel. 

Start the day with breakfast at Sheerwater, stop by one of the beachside food trucks or the Beach & Taco Shack for a quick lunch, and wrap up the evening by dining at Serea or The Smokehouse & Bar at the Historic Laundry Building. 

When it’s time to tuck in for the night, travelers have a variety of accommodations to choose from at the resort. 

The Victorian offers families a peaceful night’s rest with Queen Anne-styled architecture. Rooms are spacious, relaxing, and tastefully designed to make guests feel at home. 

Choose between poolside guest rooms or beachside rooms with a private terrace. Roast marshmallows with the family around the fire pit, or relax in front of the flat-screen tv. 

If exploration is on the menu, take the family north to Laguna Beach for a fantastic coastal road trip.


Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, South Lake Tahoe: Alpine Fun for the Whole Family

view of Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel - Top Californian Family Resorts

Unplug from the world and plug into nature – Photo by Eduard Marmet


Pack the winter gear and a spirit of adventure! Next on our California family resort roundup is the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. 

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is northeast of Monterey Bay and nestled between snow-capped mountains and a crystal-clear lake. This resort is a paradise for families that love to blend relaxation with outdoor activities.

At the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, guests get a hefty dose of mountain charm mixed with modern comforts. We’re talking spacious suites with cozy fireplaces, picture-perfect views, and a hearty complimentary breakfast. What a great way to kick-start a family day of adventures!


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But what makes this place stand out are the seemingly endless activities right on the doorstep. Where else can families ski down powdery slopes in the morning and enjoy a paddle on a pristine lake in the afternoon, weather permitting?

Speaking of skiing, some of the best places for skiing in the country are just 430 miles north of LA. Heavenly Ski Resort, for instance, is right next door to Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.  


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Kids will be grinning from ear to ear as they zip down the slopes or have their first snowboarding lessons. And hey, if après-skiing is more appealing than actual skiing, there’s plenty for guests to enjoy as well.

But don’t worry if visiting outside of the ski season, Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is a year-round family haven. 

Summer guests can look forward to activities like hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, or simply enjoying a picnic by the lake. Head into town for a nice afternoon of horseback riding at Camp Richardson Corral.

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is a perfect combo of relaxation, adventure, and family-friendly fun. This is one of those great places that will make a family vacation a memorable one.



Family Resorts in California


Traci George, freelance writer and founder of Nomadically Ever After, specializes in family-friendly and affordable travel. A connoisseur of Dark Tourism and horror literature, Traci infuses her passion for adventure into her work. From RV trips across continents, tasting exotic foods, to living as an Alaskan expat in Mexico, she transforms ordinary experiences into extraordinary journeys.