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Spring Break in Southern California Family Getaways (2024)

Spring Break in Southern California Family Getaways (2024)


Unique attractions, beautiful weather, and entertainment for all ages draw visitors from around the world to SoCal each spring! These are the tips to planning the best getaways for spring break in Southern California for couples, toddlers, teens and large families.

Dad and kid playing in the sand on beach in Carlsbad California
Carlsbad beach

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This article originally published February 5th 2020 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

Balboa Park, San Diego

Spring Break Getaways in Southern California

As a Southern California resident, most of my spring break getaways happen near my own backyard. This means I am very familiar with these locations and have been many times with my own family.

Whether this is your first SoCal visit or you’ve traveled here a dozen times, there’s always something new to explore in the golden state of California!

2024 is a great year to plan a spring break in Southern California. Most locations have fully reopened. Be sure to check the website of each spot to find out what features may be different or unavailable during your visit.

Southern California Discount Travel

My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted theme park tickets and SoCal-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

When you’re ready to book your Southern California vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Call 1-855-GET-AWAY to book your trip.

BONUS DISCOUNT! – Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package of two or more days.

Why Vacation 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. Yes, it does 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.

View of the mountains across a golf course in Palm Springs
Palm Springs

Planning a Southern California Spring Break Trip

There are tons of places to plan a last minute spring break family getaway in SoCal. Yes, theme parks are aplenty and outdoor recreation abounds. But there are lots of other hidden gems in the Southern California region to explore.

This article will explore both California coastal and inland destinations, springtime only events, hidden gems and how to save money on your trip. Keep reading for all the ideas and best places to visit on a spring break family vacation!

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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.

View of the Pacific Ocean from Hearst Castle
The view of the Pacific Ocean from Hearst Castle

Southern California Road Trip Tips

SoCal traffic is notorious for a reason – it’s awful! Your scenic drive can become very tiresome when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

There is no perfect time to drive on Southern California freeways, but there are some ways to ease your commute between the best spring break destinations.

Plan your driving days on weekends. 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.

Check GPS maps. Interactive maps may offer alternative routes to avoid heavy traffic areas.

Spring Break Vacation Ideas in the 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.

little girl watching fish in a zoo aquarium
San Diego Zoo

Spring Break Money Saving Tip

Save both money & time waiting in line at the entrance by purchasing tickets before you go. My travel partners at Get Away Today offer hotel rooms and discount tickets for many San Diego area attractions:

I’ll discuss each of these popular San Diego attractions and amusement parks in detail further down in the article. Click the links to purchase discounted tickets!

Point Loma lighthouse in San Diego
Point Loma San Diego lighthouse

Downtown San Diego

There’s so much to do in downtown San Diego – enough to entertain a family for weeks! San Diego’s downtown is easy to walk. It’s also convenient to use ride share or public transportation.

San Diego Trolley – Use the public trolley system to get around the downtown area easily. Skip driving and 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.

Kids sitting in front of Old Town San Diego post office
Old Town

Old Town San Diego

Old Town is a perfect stop for history and authentic Mexican food. Kids will enjoy the open grassy areas to play and historical buildings, including an old school house.

Stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Mission Valley, a very close drive to Old Town.

San Diego Harbor

Learn about San Diego’s military life at the maritime ships along the harbor, including the Midway Museum. This activity is ideal for older kids.

The outdoor shopping and dining district, Seaport Village, sits along the bay with beautiful views of the Coronado Bridge. There is something to do here for all ages, including ice cream, toy shops, and a carousel.

Kids can explore the Midway

San Diego Guided Tour

Looking for a unique view of the city? Take a live historic tour of San Diego aboard the open-air Old Town Trolley Tour.

Major League Baseball Game

Enjoy a world-class sporting event! 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.

Discover the Downtown Area on Foot

Explore small districts including Little Italy. My favorite is one of their amazing Italian food tours. The Gaslamp Quarter is another hot spot for best live entertainment and dining.

Food in Little Italy San Diego
Enjoy authentic Italian cuisine in Little Italy

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 do in the beach areas, even if you avoid the waves. 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 Liberty Station is the perfect ending to a beach day. There are restaurants suitable for everyone including a 50’s diner.

Beautiful La Jolla is the idyllic San Diego beach location with grassy picnic areas, dramatic cliffs and crashing waves. View the natural beauty of the coastline at Ellen Scripps Browning Park. Watch seals sunbathe, snorkel to see Garibaldi in the water or rent a kayak and explore some of the area caves.

La Jolla beach with boy
The beaches in La Jolla are gorgeous

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 is home to LEGOLAND California. It is also a bustling beach town, with miles of sand, beautiful beaches, biking, hiking trails and dining. For more travel tips for Carlsbad, click over to read the full family itinerary.

Tamarack State Beach in Carlsbad

Spring Break Getaways –  Indoor Fun for Kids

It’s a wise idea to create a balance of both outdoor adventures 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.

Kid making huge bubbles at Bubblefest Discovery Cube OC

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.

Pirates Dinner Adventure – Enjoy dinner and a live action pirate-themed show in the Buena Park area (near Knott’s Berry Farm). Purchase discount Pirates Dinner Adventure tickets, then call to make a meal reservation.

Great Wolf Lodge – located in Anaheim near 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. Use code REWRITTEN to save $10 off a SoCal hotel & ticket package!

The New Children’s Museum in San Diego

Mountain Vacations

These mountain getaways in Southern California offer nature lovers cool temperatures, rustic accommodations and a peaceful nature atmosphere. With an early spring break, 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. A stop for apple pie at Mom’s is a must-do.

Street and residential parking can be tricky on busy weekends. Arrive early in the day or visit on a weekday. Tire chains may be required if it has recently snowed.

Kids climbing a tree stump in Cuyamaca Mountains

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 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 a fresh mineral water hot pool.

Eastern Sierra mountains in Bishop
California Eastern Sierra

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 filmed in the area’s Alabama Hills. Visitors can also hike the mile-long loop to see the famous Mobius, Lathe and Heart arches.

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Lone Pine Film Museum

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!

Catalina Island

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. Purchase discount tickets on the Catalina Express for transportation to the island.

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.

Catalina Island with Avalon
Catalina – Image by David Mark at Pixabay

Channel Islands 

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 and ability to truly get off the beaten path. Snorkel or swim to witness amazing sea life. Trek the island on a hike to see some of the unique floral or animal species.

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.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

Outdoor Explorations for Spring Break Fun

Balboa Park 

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 lots of fun things here, including 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.

Balboa Park fountain in San Diego

The Huntington

Well-curated museum galleries and vast gardens at this Pasadena location are open for exploration. The themed botanical gardens are delightful and can take all day to walk. Bring a camera for the beautiful photo ops.

Weekend and holiday 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.

Expect Crowds – Amusement parks are a top spring break destination so plan accordingly. Most theme parks offer an extra “line cutting” service at an additional cost. While not budget-friendly, it can be a way to optimize time at these most popular places.

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.

Six Flags Magic Mountain map

Universal Studios Hollywood

Not in Hollywood proper, but actually in Universal City, Universal Studios Hollywood offers exciting movie-themed rides. Not a lot 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.

Where to Stay at Universal Studios Hollywood – I highly recommend staying close to Universal Studios when visiting there to avoid the L.A. traffic. The Sheraton Universal is near enough to walk to the park gates.

Trying to decide between the two big SoCal theme parks? Compare Disneyland vs. Universal Studios and perhaps plan to visit both during a single vacation.

Planning a Southern California vacation and wondering if a day at Universal Studios Hollywood would be fun for the entire family? This deep guide shares Universal Studios Hollywood tips including discount tickets, thrill rides & motion sickness, whether the park is good for little kids, child-swap feature, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ideas on maximizing your day.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Spring Break Getaways With Little Kids

Sesame Place

Sesame Place is a cool new hybrid theme park! This Sesame Street themed amusement park combines regular theme park rides with water park attractions. Water slides generally open for the season in late March.

This theme park/waterpark is geared for toddlers and preschoolers with character greetings and kid-friendly rides. A single day pass for Sesame Place is very reasonably priced. Be sure to check the online calendar before your visit, as this park is often closed mid-week.

Sesame Place dancers with Zoe and Big Bird with parade float

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.

Knott’s is less pricey and has fewer crowds than Disneyland, which is about 15 minutes drive away.

Another great reason to visit during spring break? Knott’s spring annual Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry Festival runs from March 8th – April 28, 2024.

Where to Stay at Knott’s Berry FarmThe Knott’s Hotel has been fully refurbished and is within a short walking distance of the theme park front gate.

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park celebrates at their annual Boysenberry Festival. See what amazing boysenberry-inspired foods there are to taste as well as a guide on what to see and experience during this unique special event! #VisitBuenaPark

LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad (Northern San Diego county) is a LEGO-themed park is great for younger kids. Thrills are on the lighter side at LEGOLAND so I recommend this park for kids under 10 years old.

Older kids who love LEGOS will be impressed with the structures. The attached water park is awesome for all ages!

Where to Stay at LEGOLAND: Consider staying in a hotel nearby. Read this full review of the LEGOLAND Hotel for the complete guide to staying on-site.

The Sheraton Carlsbad is also within walking distance or choose the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

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. SeaWorld San Diego offers rides for all ages, animal experiences, indoor & outdoor aquariums, shows and entertainment.

To maximize your visit, read this SeaWorld San Diego guide.

Enjoy live music, craft brews, wine and delicious international foods? Each spring, the popular SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival takes place in the park. This annual event happens on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, included with park admission, from March 1 to April 28th, 2024.

Where to Stay Near SeaWorld San Diego – Book your overnight at the Bahia Resort Hotel, just a half-mile from SeaWorld. Lovely bayside views and a close distance to Mission Bay and Mission Beach attractions.

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. 

Visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Safari Park, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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.

Purchase a one-day San Diego Zoo ticket for this must-do SoCal attraction!

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Disneyland Tips for Spring Break in Southern California

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 adventure.

If you’re going to Disneyland this year, be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time (they are no longer sold at the front gate). Each guest is also required to make a separate theme park reservation for entry.

In addition to the theme park, 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

Disneyland is one of the most popular spring break destinations in SoCal. Purchase tickets with Disney Genie+ built in and save time with this newer line skipping service!

The Disney California Food and Wine Festival is an annual family-friendly event held at the Disneyland Resort, inside Disney California Adventure park. Get all the tips for taking toddlers, preschoolers and kids to this special event including what to do, kid-friendly dining, shows, entertainment and itinerary for a well-balanced day!

Disneyland Food & Wine Festival – Running from March 1 to April 22, 2024 the Disney California Food & Wine Festival offers up live entertainment, creative dishes and drinks and family fun.

No ticket required! 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, Star Wars-themed shop and World of Disney.

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 generally runs from March to April.

DISCOUNT DISNEYLAND TICKETS – My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through January 12th, 2025. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today today and lock in the best pricing of the year.

When you’re ready to book your Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package (when booking 2+ nights with two or more tickets).

Save a Few Dollars More on SoCal Spring Break Getaways!

Book your Southern California getaway through Get Away Today, including hotels and theme park tickets. Lock in your hotel by booking now, then add tickets to your package once they become available!

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN on Get Away Today and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

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