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Best Family-Friendly Getaways Near The Bay Area

Lake Tahoe (credit: Randy Yagi)

The wonderful spring season has begun, with prospects of clearer skies, warmer weather and the emergence of colorful spring flowers. It's also a great time go venture out on a family-friendly getaway, with better lodging rates and smaller crowds than the summer high season. This year, why not take the entire family on a road trip instead of having the kids stay inactive during spring break. Here are five of the best family-friendly getaways near the Bay Area.

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe (credit: Randy Yagi)

Lake Tahoe

The largest alpine lake in North America has long been a popular kid-friendly destination. And finding a room to stay just got a whole lot easier, now that the 539-room Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe opened in late January. Although the winter ski season is nearing its end, local resorts like Heavenly Lake Tahoe and Northstar are expected to operate into April. Even after the ski resorts are closed, there is an abundance of fun-filled activities to enjoy, from hiking and mountain biking to sport fishing and Lake Tahoe cruises, amid captivating vistas and towering evergreen trees.

Seahorses at Monterey Aquarium (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Monterey Peninsula

Featuring Trip Advisor's world's best aquarium, the Monterey Peninsula is undeniably family-friendly. Located along historic Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium features more than 35,000 creatures, representing over 550 species, along with exhibits appropriate for small children, such as the Jellies Experience, Splash Zone and the Bat Ray Pool. Other attractions for the whole family in the beautiful Monterey Peninsula include the rest of Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, Carmel Mission and a visit through 17 Mile Drive and Pebble Beach.

Reno (Credit, Randy Yagi)


A great way to visit the city known as the Biggest Little City in the World is by taking a train ride from the Bay Area. The California Zephyr provides daily service from Emeryville, Richmond and Martinez to Reno, with a 50-percent discount off standard fare for children ages two to 12. The obvious family-friendly hotel to stay is Circus Circus, located in the heart of downtown Reno, featuring circus acts and midway entertainment. But there are plenty of other attractions to enjoy in Reno, such as Animal Ark and the Terry Wells Discovery Museum.

Giant Dipper, Santa Cruz Boardwalk (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Santa Cruz

With the beach, the redwoods and plenty of nice weather, Santa Cruz has been a family-friendly getaway for over 100 years. Of course, the signature attraction is the admission-free Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, named the World's Best Seaside Park for eight consecutive years. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk features 35 rides including the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and kiddie rides, like the Loof Carousel, Speed Boats and the new Kiddie Cruzers. While the ocean temperature can be a bit cold for some children, other family-friendly attractions in Santa Cruz include the Mystery Spot, Roaring Camp, whale watching trips from the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and stand up paddleboarding from the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Half Dome (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Yosemite National Park

There is absolutely no question about it, Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Featuring the highest waterfall in North America and some of the world's most famous rock formations, Yosemite offers plenty of outdoor recreation year round. Overnight visitors have a number of lodging options, from camping without a reservation to luxury accommodations at the Ahwanee Hotel. A nice option for those coming from the Bay Area is to book an overnight trip with Key Holidays, providing Amtrak service from Emeryville and deluxe accommodations at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on


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