Note that some of these attractions and locations may have current changes that include limitations on entry and shortened hours. Facial masks must be worn throughout California and certain locations, including some theme parks, are not allowing out-of-state travelers. Please research ahead of time by researching individual locations while planning your trip.
Spring Break Getaways in Southern California
Why choose SoCal for your spring break trip? There’s one big reason and that’s the temperate weather! Springtime weather in Southern California can vary depending upon where you’re vacationing. But overall expect to find temperatures in the low 70s. Naturally, you’ll want to check the forecast before packing because yes, it does still rain in Southern California!
Another reason to travel for spring break in Southern California? Many of these locations are drive-able to each other within a few hours. Plan several days in the area and you’ll be able to travel between spots to experience more. SoCal traffic is notorious for a reason – it’s awful! Consider driving early on weekends to avoid crowds. If weekday drives are a must, avoid the roads between 6-9 am and again between 3-9 pm.
There are tons of places to plan a last minute spring break family getaway in SoCal – keep reading for all the ideas!
Spring Break in Southern California Along Highway 101
If you’re looking for a leisurely but beautiful road trip, there’s no better route than Hwy 101. With long stretches that run parallel to the Pacific Ocean, scenic route Highway 101 offers stunning views of the beach during your drive. There are tons of stops to make along the way.
- Oceanside Pier – walk the longest wooden bridge over water on the west coast.
- Flower Fields in Carlsbad – the 50-acre waves of blooms during the spring Flower Fields in Carlsbad is a spring highlight. Runs from March 1st Through Mother’s Day.
- Santa Monica – the beach and pier, with Pacific Park amusement park, are the big draw for families.
- Pismo Beach – enjoy the annual Easter Egg-stravaganza at Dinosaur Caves Park in Shell Beach. Outdoor enthusiasts may enjoy a horseback ride along the dunes and beach trails.
- Hearst Castle – just before you head into Big Sur and towards northern California, make a stop at the historic Hearst Castle. Tours are appropriate for adults and older kids.
San Diego Area
There’s plenty to explore in the San Diego area from mountains to the shores. San Diego is less hectic than downtown Los Angeles so it can be a fun city atmosphere with kids. I’m sharing several spots in the county along with tips for each and who would best enjoy each location.
Downtown San Diego
There’s enough to do in downtown San Diego to entertain a family for weeks! Use the public trolley system to get around the downtown area easily. Skip driving in and the expensive parking garage fees – the trolley is the way to go! You’ll be able to hop on and off to tour the entire downtown area.
Old Town is a perfect stop for history and authentic Mexican food. The San Diego Padres begin playing regular season games at Petco Park in downtown San Diego (check their website for first games). There are luxury seats with full service down to casual seating on the outfield lawn. Learn about San Diego’s military life at the maritime ships along the harbor, including the Midway Museum. Explore small districts including Little Italy (my favorite is one of their amazing Italian food tours) or the Gaslamp Quarter for best live entertainment and dining hot spots.
San Diego Beaches
The water is going to be cold but that doesn’t mean you should rule out the beach during your spring break getaway in San Diego. There’s still lots to in the beach areas, even if you avoid the water. Check out these additional San Diego beach tips.
- Point Loma is a place for tide pool exploration, picnic lunches and Sunset Cliffs for watching the sunset, of course! Dinner at the area Liberty Station is the perfect ending to a beach day.
- Beautiful La Jolla is the idyllic San Diego beach location with grassy picnic areas, dramatic cliffs and crashing waves. Watch seals sunbathe, snorkel to see Garibaldi in the water or rent a kayak and explore some of the area caves.
- Families with younger kids will enjoy soft waves and grassy slopes of Mission Bay. Belmont Park is a short walk away with carnival type entertainment and a few amusement park rides (including the historical Giant Dipper Roller Coaster). Free parking is plentiful but fills up, so arrive early.
- Carlsbad (home to LEGOLAND California) is also a bustling beach town, with miles of sand, biking, hiking trails and dining. For more travel tips for Carlsbad, click over to read the full family itinerary.
Spring Break Getaways – Indoor Fun for Kids
It’s a wise idea to create a balance of both outdoor and indoor activities during your vacation over spring break in Southern California. SoCal weather can be particularly fickle – 80 degrees one day then cold and pouring rain the next! These are a few fun indoor activities to consider during spring break. Some of these indoor locales may have changed protocols – be sure to check with each before working them into your itinerary.
- Bubblefest at the Discovery Cube Orange County – located just down the freeway from Disneyland, this OC kid’s museum is a blast. Bubblefest is a spring break tradition with an awe-inspiring stage show and hands-on fun for the family including crafts and bubble-making.
- Great Wolf Lodge – also nearby Disneyland, this indoor water park is a wet and wonderful play to play. Choose to stay overnight in the hotel or opt for a day pass to enjoy the Great Wolf Lodge water park. 84 degree water all year-round!
- New Children’s Museum – in downtown San Diego, the New Children’s Museum is ideal for kids under 7, with plenty of indoor space for active play, crafts and downtime.
Check out Get Away Today for Southern California vacation packages with hotels and discounted tickets to many SoCal area attractions.
These mountain getaways in Southern California offer cool temperatures, rustic accommodations and a peaceful nature atmosphere. With an early spring break in 2021, you might also find snow on the ground!
Julian in the Cuyamaca Mountains
One of our favorite weekend getaways, Julian offers a glimpse of a gold rush era town. Stroll the main street and grab snacks along the way including straws filled with Julian honey or apple cider. Julian is famous for their apple harvest so a stop for apple pie at Mom’s is a must-do. Street and residential parking can be trick on busy weekends so arrive early in the day or visit on a weekday. Tire chains may be required if it has recently snowed.
Big Bear Lake
Book the lodge, cabin or private home for your trip to Big Bear for fun snowboarding, skiing, tubing and sledding. Mid-week spring visits are generally lower in cost for accommodations. And if all the cold weather activity isn’t your thing, look for a hotel with a hot tub!
California’s Eastern Sierra mountains offer low-key entertainment. Laws Historical Village and Railroad Museum is a must-do, with lots to explore in this bygone era spot. Keough’s Hot Springs is another highlight, where guests can bathe in fresh mineral water hot pools. There aren’t any upscale accommodations (the Travelodge was just fine) but you could also consider camping. For dining, try the Bishop Burger Barn, an unassuming dining spot with amazing local grass-fed beef burgers and custard milk shakes that exceed expectations.
The nearby town of Lone Pine offers the Museum of Western Film History. Fun to see what old and modern movies have been filled in the area’s Alabama Hills. Visitors can also hike the mile-long loop to see the famous Mobius, Lathe and Heart arches.
Island Hopping in Southern California
Yes, there are a few island getaways that are sweet for spring break in Southern California. Both are completely different experiences!
Off the coast of Southern California is a collection of five islands, ideal for adventure travelers. Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara and the ocean around them are national park. To get there you’ll take a boat from Ventura via an “Island Packer” (book your visit early in advance).
The Channel Islands is not a luxury vacation by any means. No transportation on the islands means you’ll be exploring entirely on foot. Shade is minimal and you’ll be required to pack in your own water and food. There’s no dining and accommodations are primitive camping only. The payoff is in the wild exploration. Snorkel or swim to witness amazing sea life. Trek the island on a hike to see some of the unique floral or animal species.
For a more upscale experience, try a visit to Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California. Schedule a boat trip first from either San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point or Newport Beach for the 20 mile trip. Accommodations range from simple campgrounds to elegant spa hotels. Once there, wander the streets of Avalon for shopping and dining or take a tour of the island via land or sea.
SoCal Desert Getaway
Ideal before the heat of summer kicks in, Palm Springs is a great getaway for spring break in Southern California. With excellent dining and tons of outdoor activities, touring Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley is excellent in the moderate temperatures of spring. There are also a large variety of things to do in Palm Springs with kids of all ages. The Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells is our absolute favorite place to stay in Palm Springs, with or without the kids.
Outdoor Explorations for Spring Break Fun
One of the best locations to explore spring break in Southern California is beautiful Balboa Park. It’s set in the middle of the city and houses world-class museums like the Fleet Science Center and Natural History Museum. There’s also canyon hiking, picnic areas, and parks for kids. Balboa Park is also home to the famous San Diego Zoo. Parking is free all over Balboa Park for those who drive in.
While the museum galleries remain closes, the vast gardens at this Pasadena location remain open for exploration. The themed botanical gardens are delightful and can take all day to walk. Bring a camera for the beautiful photo ops. Tickets must be secured online, in advance and are only released every two weeks, so plan ahead.
Theme Park Vacations for Spring Break in Southern California
For many visiting the SoCal area, a spring break getaway wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the many area theme parks. I will describe several here, with advice on whom they are best suited for. Some of the locations also have additional reading via a separate and more detailed blog post, so be sure to click through.
Ideal for Older Kids and Teens
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Located in Valencia, (Northern Los Angeles county), Six Flag Magic Mountain is jam-packed with super hero-themed thrill rides. The limited high requirements make this amusement park best for families with thrill-seeking teenagers. This park will reopen fully with rides on April 1st, 2021.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Not in Hollywood proper, but actually in Universal City, Universal Studios Hollywood offers exciting movie-themed rides. Not much here for toddlers or preschoolers, but elementary-aged kids and teens will enjoy, especially if they love movies and Harry Potter. If it’s your first time, you’ll want to read these tips for first timers at Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal Studios Hollywood is currently running their food festival, A Taste of Universal, with full theme park operation expected by May.
Spring Break Getaways With Little Kids
Knott’s Berry Farm
Located in Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm is a classic theme park is ideal for all ages. A good combination of rides for young kids in their Camp Snoopy area as well as daring thrill rides. Generally less pricey and fewer crowds than Disneyland, which is about 15 minutes drive away. Another great reason to visit during spring break? Knott’s is currently running their Taste of Boysenserry food festival, similar to their annual Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry Festival. Knott’s Berry Farm has not announced a full theme park reopening date but look towards May.
LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad (Northern San Diego county) is a LEGO-themed park is great for younger kids (usually under 10 years old). Older kids who love LEGOS will be impressed with the structures. Keep in mind that thrills are on the lighter side at LEGOLAND and that most rides are geared for little ones. LEGOLAND will have a partial park opening with rides, called Park Preview Days, beginning April 1st.
Get Close to the Animals on Your Spring Break Getaway
SeaWorld San Diego
It’s not just an aquarium, SeaWorld San Diego is an ocean-themed park in Mission Valley also has attractions for all ages. Currently operating as a zoo, SeaWorld San Diego is offering animal experiences, indoor & outdoor aquariums, shows and entertainment. To maximize your visit, read this SeaWorld San Diego guide.
As a bonus to your Spring Break in Southern California, SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival is being held now through May 2021, weekends only. This seasonal event of food and craft beer is included in the price of admission (dining costs extra).
San Diego Safari Park
Located in Escondido, guests can see safari animals in a more natural environment at the San Diego Safari Park. Spring weather is perfect for this theme park, as if can get very hot in the summer months. Check out this guide to the San Diego Safari Park, ideal for first time visitors.
San Diego Zoo
This cream-of-the-crop zoo in downtown San Diego’s Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo offers amazing animal exhibits, gardens and great outdoor exercise for all ages. You’ll want to follow this guide for maximizing one day at the San Diego Zoo.
Spring Break in Southern California Disneyland Tips
A Disneyland vacation is usually reason enough to plan a Spring Break getaway to California! Disneyland is centrally located and travelers can easily travel in the SoCal area for added adventures. Disneyland will not be reopening to guests as a theme park until April 30th, 2021. However there are several things to do at the Disneyland Resort, should you travel through the Anaheim area.
Things to Do During Spring Break at Disneyland
- The Downtown Disney shopping and dining district is open for both indoor and outdoor dining. It’s a great place to shop, including the LEGO Store, a new Star Wars shop and World of Disney.
- A Touch of Disney – This limited time event sold out quickly, but pay attention to the Disneyland website in case additional tickets are released. This shopping and dining experience takes place inside Disney California Adventure park with special event outdoor dining, photo ops and more. Foods are family-friendly, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are offered.
- Egg-Stravaganza – purchase a special map and stickers for an Easter-time Disneyland park scavenger hunt through the Downtown Disney District. This fun and inexpensive activity runs from March 15th – April 18th 2021.
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