Spring Break for most public school students in Marin County takes place the week of April 10 to 14. Northern and Central California have no shortage of fantastic destinations for families—from the Pacific beaches to the High Sierra mountains, there's something for everyone! Here are our picks for six fantastic places to visit during Spring Break, all of which are only a few hours away from Marin and the Bay Area.
This laid-back seaside town about two hours from Marin boasts beautiful beaches and the world-famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which has been delighting visitors since 1907. You'll also find a surfing museum housed in an old lighthouse, an interactive visitor center for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the nearby Roaring Camp Railroads, and even the Mystery Spot, a roadside attraction that seems to defy the very laws of physics.
When you're in the LA area with the kiddos, Universal Studios Hollywood is a must-visit destination. It's even more exciting now the the long awaited Wizarding World of Harry Potter is now open! We had a chance to visit on our last trip to the southland, and it tied in to the Hollywood theme of our trip. There's really something for everyone here, and to top it off, you can take a tour of the famous Universal back lot and get a glimpse of movie magic in action.
With this year's abundance of snow, Tahoe has become the ultimate family getaway destination this winter! Get ready for Ski Week and Spring Break and plan your ultimate Tahoe vacation with the help from our guide to family fun in the Sierra.
Whether you're skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or just looking to play around in the snow, there's something for you and your family in the mountains this winter.
Mid-winter break is just around the corner and there's no shortage of snow in the Sierras. It's not too late to make plans for a family getaway to have fun in the snow. Check out our guide to ski, snowboard and snow play locations for North and South Lake Tahoe.
The Lake Tahoe area has a variety of resorts and ski areas to suit anyone's taste and budget. Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, too. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know.
Make sure you check before you head up to the high country, though, as opening dates are tentative and dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers.
North Lake Tahoe
Just a few hours away off Interstate 80, North Lake Tahoe and the Truckee area offer a huge concentration of ski resorts and other destinations for fun in the snow.
One of our favorite family getaways is a visit to the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's about a three-hour drive from Marin, making it possible as a day trip, but even better as an overnighter or long weekend with the family. Winter may even be the best time to visit, since you can avoid the coastal fog that blankets the area in the summer and the tourist season crowds have subsided a bit.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, and we're willing to bet that it is. The exhibits reflect the aquarium's mission to research and educate the public about the biodiversity of Monterey Bay and the California coast, and they're fascinating.
Snow, snow, snow—the winter season in the Sierra is off to a fantastic start! While we love the skiing and winter fun at Lake Tahoe, we know that not everyone's a skiier, and sometimes families just want to go up and have some fun in the snow. While many of the Tahoe ski resorts like Northstar, Squaw Valley, and Heavenly have tubing parks, ice skating, and other winter non-skiing activities for the family, there are plenty of other places in the mountains where you can get your snow play fix without the ski resort hustle and bustle (and price tag).
Most of these snow play sites are within a few hours' drive from Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. While some have tubes and sleds to rent, others, most notably the California State Sno-Parks, offer little more than a place to park your car so you can go play in the snow. For a list of Lake Tahoe ski resorts that offer both skiing and snow play activities, read our article here.
The Polar Express Train Ride on the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway. Photo courtesy Premier Rail Collection
There's something magical about taking a special holiday outing with the family on a train! While the popular Polar Express train rides at the California State Railroad Museum and Railtown 1897 sold out way back in October, you can still find plenty of other opportunities in the Bay Area and Northern California to celebrate the holidays on board a train, including and all new Polar Express Train Ride in Santa Cruz. But get your tickets as soon as you can—most of these rides will sell out.
Tahoe offers so much more than winter sports. Sure, it’s a winter wonderland of skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing, sledding, ice skating, and snow-filled fun. But there’s also a packed calendar with unique events to make your Tahoe memories for a lifetime. As long time locals, we put together a list of our favorite kid-centric events.
With more snow moving into the Sierras, it's time to start thinking about winter sports family fun in the mountains. While downhill skiing and snowboarding are synonymous with snow sports to many people, cross country skiing is a fun and low-key alternative to the lift lines. Cross country skiing is fun, easy to learn, and requires a minimum of equipment. Dress in warm active clothing, put on your boots and skis, grab your poles, and you're good to go!
We tried out cross country last winter, and had a great time. My kids picked it up right away—after 20 minutes on the practice loop they were off and hitting the trails. The whole family can join in, too—you can even get a jogging stroller on skis and pull your little one along, and many cross country trails allow dogs, too. An added bonus: cross country skiing is one of the best aerobic exercise activities you can do. It's a great way to get active and enjoy the beauty of the mountains in winter.