The West Coast of the USA remains our favorite regions in the USA. The region is brimming with famous cities, iconic landmarks, stunning national parks, charming coastal towns, fascinating mountains, and a striking desert landscape. In short, the US West Coast is everything a traveler dreams of and beyond. We’ve curated a list of the most beautiful places to visit on the West Coast USA to add to your bucket list!
San Francisco is one of the most family-friendly cities in the USA and is the best west coast cities to visit. From coastal vibes, art, and culture to safe sightseeing activities, there is never a dull moment in San Francisco.
Located in the state of California, the red Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic landmark of the city. Families can enjoy an architectural tour of the bridge, along with other buildings in the heart of the city. Many tourists take the time to cross the bridge or embark on sightseeing cruises to enjoy the bridge from afar.
As part of sightseeing, a visit to the Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 is a must. This is where some of the historical remnants of the city are located. Children can enjoy walking the promenade or go on a Ferris wheel ride.
There is no dearth of food and maritime stories to keep the kids busy. Another popular stop here is the famous Ghirardelli store. All in all, families can book walking and food tours which are fun and also educational at the same time.
Other attractions in San Francisco City include the City Hall, SFMOMA which is an art museum, Lombard Street, Coit Tower, to name a few. The neighborhood of Alamo and/or Crissy Field are very popular and are a great option for a picnic when the weather is nice and warm.
San Francisco is a great base for exploring more of the west coast of the USA. At a minimum, one must spend 4 days in San Francisco and then make way to Half Moon Bay, Napa Valley, Sausalito, Santa Cruz to name a few!
When it comes to iconic public lands, it hardly gets better than Yosemite. Long honored and inhabited by the Miwok people, Yosemite Valley inspired the creation of the entire National Park Service in the United States. The sheer granite cliffs, stunning vistas, and diversity of flora and fauna is majestic and a magical place for a family visit.
While there, be sure to check out some of the famous waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. There are also plenty of easy hikes that are great for families. Bridal Veil Falls is perfect even for young toddlers, and Sentinel Dome provides views comparable to Half Dome but at a distance that’s perfect for families.
If you have more time, try to get outside of the Valley and head to Mariposa Grove to see some giant sequoias, up to Hetch Hetchy for another beautiful and quieter area, or up to some higher elevation in Tuolumne Meadows.
Camping provides some of the best opportunities to experience the wonders of nature in Yosemite. If you’d prefer indoor lodging, however, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel is perfectly located within the park. Rush Creek Lodge outside the park is also an incredible spot for families, with play areas, a game room, a pool, zip lines, and more
For families visiting the West Coast USA, seeing the Redwoods with kids is a must. Established in 1968, Redwood National Park in northern California is home to some of the United States’ oldest and tallest trees, the redwood trees. These trees, some of which are several thousand years old and span more than 30 feet in diameter, are truly an amazing sight to see. Nature-loving families will have plenty of things to do when they visit this ancient forest.
With plenty of easy hikes and roadside attractions, Redwood National Park is the perfect family-friendly destination. Families can hike along trails at Lady Bird Johnson Grove or at the Trees of Mystery. Or they can drive along scenic routes like the Avenue of the Giants and the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Several trees at Redwood National Park are even wide enough for cars to drive through!
The best time of year for visiting the Redwoods with kids is in the summer months. This is the driest time of the year, and also the warmest. But because of the trees, hiking at Redwood National Park won’t ever get too hot.
The park has camping accommodations managed by California State Parks, but families can also stay at the Redwood Hotel Holiday Inn Express.
Sequoia National Park is one of the most special places in the USA and a definite must-visit destination on the west coast America. The park is in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and is often combined with a visit to the neighboring Kings Canyon National Park. Although the highest mountain in the contiguous USA is in the park, it is most famous for the sequoia trees that give it its name.
Sequoia trees are the largest trees on earth, and the national park has most of them, including the General Sherman Tree, the largest living plant on the planet. Many of the other enormous trees have been named and there are some easy hikes around them that the whole family will love.
The Congress Trail passes single giant sequoias and even a few small groves. The kids will love the Room Tree – it is hollowed out inside and you can go inside the ‘room’ inside its trunk! Check out the Giant Forest Museum, which gives an overview and insight into the growth of these amazing trees. Head down to the Big Tree Trail, which circles around a meadow that is a favorite feeding spot for wildlife at dawn and dusk.
For accommodation, there are plenty of campgrounds in and around the national park, including Lodgepole Campground, which is in the main area of the park. For something more comfortable, head to the nearby town of Three Rivers, where there are plenty of options. Charming Home Inside Sequoia Park is a personal favorite on Airbnb.
Monterey is a popular day-trip destination for San Francisco Bay Area residents and visitors. Some of the top attractions of Monterey are the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Canary Row, Dennis the Menace playground, and the beautiful beaches. Canary Row is famous for this fisherman style stores along the street and for its seafood. The Marina state beach just north of the city is an amazing beach that is usually quiet.
The Monterey Peninsula offers world-class attractions such as the 17-mile drive which has stunning Pacific coastline views and has some of the most famous golf courses. The Pebble Beach Lodge with its Spa and golf course is a gorgeous getaway for locals and tourists alike.
Several cute little towns are located in the Monterey peninsula such as Capitola, Carmel by the Sea, Aptos, San City, etc. Each has its own charm and attraction with something for everyone. For example, the quaint Carmel downtown is lined with boutique stores, each an attraction in its own right. The little touristy town has amazing food too. At the end of Main Street in Carmel is the beautiful white sand beach. It’s so popular that’s nearly impossible to find parking no matter when you visit.
Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful places to visit on the West Coast of the USA. Whether you choose to spend a weekend in Santa Barbara, or you visit for a longer time, you are guaranteed to be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do.
Take in the views from the Clock Tower at the Santa Barbara courthouse, or visit MOXI, the museum with fun interactive exhibits for adults and kids alike. It is one of the best museums you can visit in the city.
Walk the waterfront or take a kayak tour of the harbor. The waterfront is lively, with street performers and excellent people watching in addition to the water views. You can also rent a surrey bike and pedal the waterfront as a family!
Enjoy some quality beach time at one of the city’s many fine beaches. Drive to nearby Montecito and spend time at beautiful Butterfly Beach, where you can also take in the sunset. East Beach is large and very convenient to access.
Santa Barbara’s downtown is fun for everyone. Walk State Street and browse the fun shops and galleries. Or step into the stores in Paseo Nuevo, the Spanish-themed mall nearby. Make sure you get some ice cream from McConnell’s!
Brisas del Mar Inn at the Beach is a fun place to stay when you visit Santa Barbara. It is convenient to the waterfront as well as to downtown, where you will find the best dining in town as well.
The Disneyland Resort is one of the best places to visit on the US west coast. It is much smaller than its east coast counterpart, Disney World, but still has a lot to offer. Disneyland consists of two theme parks, three resorts, lots of restaurants, and Downtown Disney, an area that features shopping and dining.
All three on-property hotels are great options because of their convenient locations. Our favorite is the Grand Californian. The theming is inspired by the California Redwoods and is the most luxurious resort of the three. You can enter one of the theme parks, Disney California Adventure, directly from the hotel lobby.
The Disneyland Resort’s theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, both have a lot to offer, much of which is not offered at Disney World.
Disneyland’s unique highlights include Mickey’s Toontown, an area featuring the homes of the most famous Disney characters, a Finding Nemo themed submarine ride, an Indiana Jones themed adventure, and the Matterhorn bobsleds, a ride with Yetis that do not appreciate your presence. It also has some of the most popular things you can find at Disney World, like a Haunted Mansion, lots of slow moving dark rides, Star Wars Land, and Fantasmic, an elaborate nighttime show.
The highlights of Disney California Adventure are Cars Land, an immersive area based around the Cars franchise, and Pixar Pier, a Toy Story themed area with several rides. This park’s popular nighttime show, World of Color, is not offered in Orlando and is definitely worth a trip to see.
Big Sur is a rugged and beautiful 90 mile stretch of the California coastline that begins several miles south of Carmel, CA, and ends at San Simeon, CA. The two-lane road is sandwiched between the Santa Lucia mountains and sheer cliffs that drop down to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a must-do for anyone visiting California and especially those who love scenic road trips.
Mexico issued land grants in the area in the 1830’s, but it was so difficult to settle that most of Big Sur wasn’t populated until decades later. The highway itself was only completed in 1937 and much of the area remains difficult to reach to this day.
There are several great places to stop along the drive including the gorgeous McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the iconic Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach with it’s purple sand, and the Point Sur Lighthouse.
No trip down this portion of California Hwy 1 is complete without a stop at Nepenthe Restaurant. The restaurant sits on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Try to grab a seat on the terrace for a beverage or even lunch.
For accommodations, check out the family-friendly Big Sur Lodge located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. They offer a wide range of accommodation options including family apartments with full kitchens.
Beautiful beaches, warm weather, and outdoor activities are what make San Diego a premier west coast destination. With year-round temperatures from the mid-60s to mid-70s, nearly every day is perfect for exploring with your family.
San Diego’s coastline stretches for over 70 miles, offering a wide variety of beach fun. See adorable seals at La Jolla Cove. Join a beach volleyball game at Mission Beach. Bike along the soft sand beaches on Coronado Island. Or go surfing at Swami’s Beach. No doubt you can find a San Diego beach perfect for you and your family.
Spend a few nights at the Hotel Del Coronado or Park Hyatt Aviara Resort for beautiful accommodations overlooking the ocean.
If you’re in the mood for a stroll, explore foreign lands and discover over 4,000 unique animals at the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Want a little bit more adventure? Spend the day swimming with dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego or riding the rollercoasters at LEGOLAND.
Finally, admire the stunning architecture and lovely gardens all over Balboa Park or bask in the beauty at dusk with a picnic on Sunset Cliffs. And don’t forget to try San Diego’s favorite hiking spot at Torrey Pines State Beach.
When it comes to family activities, the possibilities are endless in San Diego! Visit America’s Finest City and see for yourself!
To help you plan, read the San Diego Guide for 3 day weekend by our friend The Awkward Traveller and have a memorable trip.
Ale of Sea Salt & Fog
Located in beautiful Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is a land of stunning desert scenery.
The park is home to hundreds of Joshua Trees, a type of yucca plant that grows spindly arms and appears to be straight out of a Dr. Seuss book!
Joshua Tree National Park offers up beautiful views, and cool rock formations that will fascinate people of all ages. There’s one main road that cuts through the park, making it super easy to see Joshua Tree in a day.
One of the best things to do in the park is walking the short trail at the Cholla Cactus Garden. Here, you’ll find small, fuzzy, teddy-bear cholla cactus spanning as far as the eye can see. The chollas shimmer as the light hits them, making this a great spot to watch the sunrise.
Continuing on the park road, you’ll encounter some famous rock formations, including Skull Rock and Arch Rock. Kids will especially love being able to explore the nooks and crannies of these rock formations, which have easy scrambling for little ones.
Because Joshua Tree is located in the middle of the desert, it’s best to avoid the hot summer months. Here’s a tip: visiting in spring is especially beautiful since desert wildflowers will often bloom around this time!
When visiting, note that there are not many hotels in the area. To stay closest to the park, you’ll want to book an Airbnb with plenty of space.
Aswani of A Charming Escape
Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains and shared by the states of California and Nevada, is one of the deepest and largest alpine lakes in the United States. Lake Tahoe is a popular destination with 72 miles of shoreline and lots of activities to do in the summer as well as winter.
Whether you visit in the summer or winter, it is one of the most family-friendly places to visit on the West Coast, especially in California and Nevada. Fun kid friendly activities to do in the summer at the beach include kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and boating. If you prefer mountains and greenery, activities like hiking with lake views and ziplining are great alternatives.
Popular places to visit with kids are Sand Harbor beach, Emerald Bay, and Heavenly Village. Truckee river that is just a few miles from the lake is also a great area for family-friendly activities like tubing and biking. In the winter, Lake Tahoe has many ski resorts for family and kids to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports along the slopes.
Squaw Valley Ski Resort and Kirkwood Resort are some of the best ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area to visit in the winter. Tahoe Beach and Ski Club and The Landing Resort and Spa are a couple of family-friendly hotels to stay in the Lake Tahoe area. If you are looking for a winter or ski vacation, The Village at Squaw Valley is an excellent place to stay.
While European travel is off the table, look a little closer to home and transport yourself to a Danish village by visiting Solvang, California. Located about 2 hours north of Los Angeles, Solvang is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara.
With a walkable downtown area, you can easily spend the day exploring on foot and checking out restaurants, shopping, and, of course, the town’s iconic windmill. Enhance your stay by visiting the enormous Hans Christian Andersen Park, take a tour of Mission Santa Ines or head down the road to the town of Buellton to feed ostriches and emus at Ostrichland USA. Head a little further away, only 15-20 minutes by car, and you can be exploring gorgeous vineyards and tasting rooms or Gaviota State Beach.
Solvang is a great place to spend a few days whether you’re road-tripping across California or visiting specifically for this destination.
Consider the Vinland Hotel and Lounge as your home base with complimentary parking and a great location a block from town. Families will love the hotel’s pool and the warm chocolate chip cookies on the room service menu. With standard rooms (up to 4 people) as well as the Wine Country Loft (up to 6 people), there is an ideal room for all families.
Home to North America’s lowest point (Badwater Basin), Death Valley National Park is one of the most beautiful and unusual places to see on the west coast of the USA. It’s famous for being the hottest place on earth with the highest temperature ever recorded (134 degrees) anywhere in the world. Death Valley is also known to be the driest spot in North America.
Start your day by catching a sunrise at Zabriskie Point and then head to Furnace Creek Visitor Center to know more about the park and how to explore it. Enjoy the drive down the lowest elevation (Badwater) and Artist’s Drive. Then hike the Telescope Peak Trail, walk along the rim of Ubehebe Crater, or enjoy the panoramic views from Dante’s Views. Now, explore Mesquite Flat Dunes to complete your trip to Death Valley.
For accommodation, the Ranch At Death Valley and the Inn at Death Valley are the best options.
Las Vegas. Sin City. A city that never sleeps. Whatever you call it, this glamourous and glitzy city should be on your bucket list. It’s one place you must visit at least once in your lifetime. Period.
There’s so much to see and do in and around Las Vegas for everyone, even kids. There’s more to LV than casinos and gambling.
You can stroll the Strip or pop to witness one of the family-friendly shows or explore the vibrant exhibits that resorts offer – Las Vegas never fails to cheer its visitors.
To tackle the sensory overload, you can take one of the best day trips from Las Vegas. From the iconic Grand Canyon to the famous Hoover Dam to stunning Antelope Canyon to photogenic Horseshoe Bend – there’s no dearth of road trips you can take from Las Vegas.
For best places to stay in Las Vegas, check out our guide to best hotels in Las Vegas for families.
Chrysoula of Travel Passionate
Portland is Oregon’s largest city and sits on two rivers, overlooked by snow-capped Mount Hood. This city is a popular family destination as it is one of the greenest cities in the world.
Washington Park is a great place to spend the day as there is a zoo, a children’s museum, Japanese gardens, and several playgrounds. There are picnic areas for lunchtime and 15 miles of hiking trails to follow.
The main Oregon Zoo has more than 2,000 animals of 230 species including tigers and elephants. Lan Su Chinese Garden is well worth a visit. This amazing walled garden is the most authentic Chinese garden outside China. The garden has been created as Portland is twinned with Suzhou in the Jiangsu province of China.
If you enjoy museums, there is the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) which includes a planetarium and loads of hands-on exhibits that will definitely evoke curiosity! The Children’s Museum is also very entertaining.
There is the Building Bridgetown to learn about construction and outdoor activities that connect children with nature. The perfect end to the day is at one of the VooDoo doughnut shops for great tasting doughnuts all round!
Erika Bisbocci of Erikas Travels
Bend is an nature-lover’s dream. A bustling town of around 100,000 residents, it is rising to prominence as one of the top outdoor playgrounds in the Pacific Northwest.
For recreation enthusiasts, Bend has a little bit of everything.
The city lies at a transition zone between two drastically different ecosystems. To the west, verdant mountains conceal lakes and waterfalls. To the east, arid sage-covered desert rolls outward as far as the eye can see.
Bend is situated within half an hour of ski slopes, hot springs, lava fields, a national forest, and a handful of state parks. Families will love exploring the Newberry Crater, paddling the Deschutes River Trail, hiking at Smith Rock, and stargazing at Pine Mountain Observatory.
Bend’s attractions aren’t limited to the outdoors, however. There are tons of things to do in Bend itself. The town features fantastic shopping, a riverside amphitheater, leafy parks, craft breweries, and a surprisingly good food scene.
Top places to stay in Bend include the Tetherow Resort and the quirky McMenamins Old St Francis School. The latter option comes complete with a heated indoor soaking pool, which is perfect after a long day of hiking or playing in the snow.
In Oregon, opportunities for recreation abound. If you’re looking for a place where you can hike in the morning, kayak in the afternoon, rock climb in the evening, and visit an observatory at night, then there’s no place better than Bend.
Nestled between the Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, Seattle is an ideal destination for any family that loves to get outdoors and experience nature.
Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City, and it is easy to see why. While world-class skiing, mountain-biking, and hiking can be found within 45 minutes of the city, even the city itself is a nature-lover’s dream. You can find hidden hikes that feel like you’re in the middle of the Hoh Rainforest (which itself is only a few hours away!). You can rent a kayak and cruise around Lake Union, watching sea planes take off over you with the Space Needle in the background.
If getting out into nature isn’t your family’s only thing, check out the Museum of Flight (it is way cooler than it sounds!). Visit the Pike Place Market, where you can watch the infamous fish tossing. Take in a pro sports game – Lumen Field is the loudest in the country on Sundays. And of course, head to the top of the Space Needle. Whether you are traveling with a baby or older kids, Seattle has something for every family.
It is true that Seattle is rainy and grey most of the year, but the summers can’t be beat. In summer, you can catch a festival nearly every weekend at the downtown Seattle Center.
To experience the best of Seattle’s natural wonders, stay at the Salish Lodge and Spa. A bit east of the city, this beloved lodge sits at the top of the massive Snoqualmie Falls.
Whidbey Island is a great location, off the coast of the greater Seattle area, in Washington State. The way to get there is via car ferry, which is the first adventure on your list. Once on the island, there’s a lot to explore, including numerous state parks and other state recreation lands.
Buy the Discover Pass for $30, and skip the parking booth at many WA State Parks, recreation sites and trails, and wildlife areas.
Stay at this Airbnb right on Goss Lake (yes, there’s a lake on the island!). Spend some days canoeing on the lake and enjoying the property. Then, venture out with short day trips to other parts of the island, including the aforementioned state parks, beaches, and old military forts. It is so wonderful to be out in nature!
One night, take your family to the local drive-in theater. It’s such a fun experience that many kids haven’t had! And, while you’re on the island, you must try a marionberry pie from Whidbey Pies!
Crater Lake National park is located in south-central Oregon, USA, and is surprisingly the only National Park in Oregon. Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of a 12,000-foot tall volcano, Mount Mazama, 7,700 years ago. Once the volcanic hole cooled, it filled with snowmelt and rainwater over a period of 600 to 800 years, creating the lake as we know it today.
Crater Lake is one of nature’s great creations, as the volcanic terrain limits the nutrients and prevents streams from entering the lake, keeping the water clear and a beautiful bold blue. You won’t be able to believe your eyes!
Famous for its bold blue and clear water, Crater Lake is known as one of the best scenic drives in the US. Driving around the 33-mile rim road, there are over 30 scenic pull-offs to get a different perspective of the park. On a clear day at Crater Lake National Park, you can see up to 150 miles away.
In the summer, you can stay at one of the campgrounds or lodges to extend your visit. We suggest camping or staying at the historic Crater Lake Lodge, where you will get some of the best views of the park from its location on the rim of Mount Mazama’s crater.
You can swim if you stay in the designated area, but cannot take any boats, kayaks or other flotation devices on the water. There are plenty of activities to enjoy year-round in the park and surrounding areas. These include hiking, biking, snowshoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
With the grand beauty of Crater Lake, visiting Crater Lake is an experience everyone should have.
The island of Oahu is one of our favorite of all the west coast destinations. It has plenty of beautiful beaches, epic scenery, great food, and a lot of great things to do during a trip here. The North Shore of Oahu, in particular, epitomizes the highly sought-after island way of life. Everyone around here is so friendly and nobody is in too much of a rush to get anything done. It’s a wonderful way to live, if even just for a few short days during a trip here.
Spending some time relaxing on the beach is a must for any trip to Oahu. And there are few better beaches on the island than Lanikai Beach. This beach is home to a long stretch of white sand and crystal-clear blue water. It is also one of the most protected beaches making it the perfect place to spend a day with the family. Go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or swimming in the calm blue waters and enjoy the incredible views out to the Mokalua Islands a few kilometers from shore.
The North Shore is a great place to base yourself for a trip to Oahu and the Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore is a great family-friendly hotel right by the beach that also has a large pool you can enjoy.