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Just Add Water! 3 Family-Friendly Seaside Escapes

Traveling with kids is an adventure in and of itself. From the journey of getting to your destination, to the sleep (or lack thereof), and logistics of planning a kid-friendly but adult-approved itinerary, it can certainly be stressful. But the memories made are worth every meltdown. Here, we share three of our favorite family-friendly escapes, with what to do and where to stay. No kids? No problem. All the suggestions are equally fun for big kids, too!

Half Moon Bay

When it comes to small-town charm, Half Moon Bay tops the charts. Quiet country roads, some of our state’s most stunning scenery, and a bustling Main Street brimming with mom-and-pop businesses make the quaint seaside city a much-loved locale. Just over two hours from Sacramento, it’s the perfect getaway if you’re craving cool ocean air and seriously fresh seafood with a side of solitude.

Half Moon Bay Lodge



1. Half Moon Bay Lodge
Unwind after a day of play at this cozy inn whose reasonably priced, recently renovated rooms are as inviting as the HMB locals. Warm up with the in-room, wood-burning fireplace or step onto your private balcony to soak in the garden or golf course views (the public Half Moon Bay Golf Links is sited just steps away). Mere minutes from the downtown district and all the other action, the property also features ample amenities like complimentary parking, Wi-Fi, and a hearty continental breakfast that kiddos will go crazy for—along with a heated pool, spa, and sauna.

Half Moon Bay Lodge


2. Lemos Farm
Pony rides, a petting zoo, bounce houses, train rides, and a year-round haunted house? No, it’s not your kid’s wish list for this year’s birthday bash; it’s the offerings at Lemos Farm, a family-owned, Western-themed amusement park that littles will never want to leave. Visiting on a weekend? Ages five and up are encouraged to get their baa-maste on at an all-levels, 45-minute goat yoga class.
3. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
If sipping frosty brews with killer harbor views sounds nice, then Half Moon Bay Brewing Company will be your new best friend. With award-winning suds (like the crowd-pleasing Kölsch) and elevated pub grub made using fresh ingredients and sustainable seafood, the casual coastal “surf shack” is the perfect place to grab a pint and an order of oysters, ahi poke, or a steaming bowl of bacon-studded clam chowder while watching the waves go by.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company


4. It’s Italia
Craving the flavors of Italy in an ambiance that’s as authentic as the food? Book a table at It’s Italia—a Half Moon Bay institution since opening in the mid-’90s. Serving a full range of California-Italian cuisine using the bounty of local farms, wineries, and fisheries, a meal here is a must. The attentive service, old-world environs, and unforgettable fare (slow-roasted short ribs, artichoke ravioli, seafood risotto, house-rolled gnocchi, and wood-fired pizzas) make it a restaurant that’s ideal for all occasions.


5. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
A visit to Half Moon Bay wouldn’t be complete without a beach day. And while we highly recommend packing a picnic and flying a kite at Poplar Beach (which is “popular” for good reason…and pup-friendly!), Fitzgerald Marine Reserve—a rocky seashore sanctuary that’s home to a living community of protected marine life—is an experience the whole family will treasure. Arrive around low tide to “sea” a variety of algae, crabs, sponges, seals, sea stars, mollusks, and more. Please note: Fitzgerald is a place of research, education, and observation of wild animals in their natural habitat; collecting and touching creatures is prohibited.



Bordered by 19 miles of coastline and rolling hills, Oakland—San Francisco’s sunnier little (but bigger in square miles) sister—is an up-and-coming, easy-to-get-to urban oasis, with wonderful weather and a wealth of activities for all…whether you’re into arts, animals, culture, cuisine, or the great outdoors. Just remember to pack your appetite, a good pair of walking shoes, and a sense of adventure.

Jack London Square



1. Waterfront Hotel
Take in views of the San Francisco Bay from one of the 145 light, bright guestrooms at Waterfront Hotel, a boutique, nautical-themed property set in the heart of Jack London Square. Within walking distance to restaurants, shops, breweries (Original Pattern is a personal favorite), and kid-friendly entertainment (bowling, a movie theater, and more), it makes for a cool, convenient home base.

Waterfront Hotel


2. Everett & Jones Barbeque
Feeling saucy? Dig into the four-way combo plate (smoked pork ribs, savory beef brisket, smoked chicken, and homemade sausage links, plus two sides and cornbread) at Everett & Jones Barbeque. An East Bay establishment since 1973, the energetic, down-to-earth digs make it an enjoyable spot for kids—who will certainly want to save room for the warm caramel cake and sweet potato pie.
3. Chabot Space & Science Center
Located on 13 acres in Oakland’s Redwood Regional Park, among the area’s largest natural stand of coastal redwoods, Chabot Space & Science Center is an out-of-this-world experience. Through innovative exhibits (like “Touch the Sun” and “Astrolight”), hands-on STEM activities, planetarium shows, education, and youth development programs, the nonprofit strives to make science and space accessible to everyone.

Chabot Space & Science Center


4. Children's Fairyland
Home to the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the U.S. and one of the earliest "themed" amusement parks, Children’s Fairyland features rides (a spiderweb Ferris wheel, Alice in Wonderland-inspired “wonder-go-round,” and “Jolly Trolly”), famous storybook sets (complete with imaginative creations, bright colors, and child-size proportions), friendly animals, and more. The whimsical wonderland on the shores of Lake Merritt is pure magic for ages eight and under.
5. Oakland Zoo
Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Established in 1922 and renowned for leading the nation in animal welfare, rescue, and conservation, the 100-acre Oakland Zoo has all the conventional creatures, and then some—like a flying fox, wallaby, and warthog. Though many features set it apart, the all-electric gondola—which transports guests 650 feet above sea level for picture-perfect Bay Area views and access to the California Trail exhibit—certainly tops the list. Animals aside, there’s also a “children’s zoo,” plenty of play zones, and fun-filled rides, from roller coasters to a carousel.


Oakland Zoo


San Diego

Our state’s second largest city and “America’s finest” is loved for its laid-back lifestyle, abundance of sun and fun, and distinctively diverse districts that offer something for all ages. Whether you come for the crisp IPAs and stellar surf, or the museums and Mexican food, there’s always more to discover in this sunny slice of SoCal paradise.

Loew's Coronado Bay Resort



1. Loew’s Coronado Bay Resort
Boasting three heated pools, endless activities (sailboat excursions, watersport rentals, etc.), four restaurants, and a spa, Loew’s Coronado Bay Resort is a place you check into and never want, or need, to leave. The private island retreat—perched on a 15-acre peninsula surrounded by the San Diego skyline and glistening bay—goes the extra mile to ensure your tots (or teens!) have the time of their life, too, thanks to complimentary cribs, baby bath amenities, dive-in movies, fishing lessons, s’mores, and more.

Liberty Public Market


2. Liberty Public Market
What once was Naval Training Center San Diego (NTC San Diego) has been transformed into an indoor-outdoor marketplace that’s abuzz with public art installations, galleries, museums, sit-down eateries, wine bars, breweries, and a robust food hall—a place where locals and tourists alike can eat, drink, and explore to their heart’s (and stomach’s) content. If you’re craving or curious about Filipino food with a modern twist, check out White Rice (whose chef was on Food Network's Chopped…and won!). Order the bright purple ube pandesal with ube butter, lechon kawali, and sisilog, and thank me later.
3. Breweries
When with your half pints, getting out for a full pint is always a good time—especially if the brewery has lawn games, a lively ambience, and ample room to roam. With over 150 taprooms, you could easily dedicate an entire “beercation” solely to exploring them all; SD County is the “craft beer capital of America,” after all. For four that check all the boxes (good beer, good vibes, good for kids), check out Pure Project (, Eppig Brewing (, Societe Brewing (, and Coronado Brewing (

Pure Project


4. San Diego Zoo
You can’t visit San Diego without visiting the wildly popular, world-famous zoo—sited inside the equally beloved Balboa Park. Home to more than 12,000 rare and endangered animals, 100 (very hilly) acres, and committed to conservation, it also hosts unique, interactive animal encounters and is an accredited botanical garden. Don your favorite animal-print attire (and comfiest kicks), download the San Diego Zoo app, and get ready for a howling good time.

Belmont Park


5. Belmont Park
Don’t let San Diego’s bigger, more touristy attractions make you miss one of the best: Belmont Park—a seven-acre beachfront boardwalk full of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Do your kids a favor and purchase the “park pass” for unlimited rides on the roller coaster, bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, etc. and access to fun attractions like a rock wall, laser tag, and zipline. Once hunger hits, head to Cannonball (, where you can enjoy sushi with a splash and other Pacific Rim-influenced California cuisine in oceanfront environs.

by Megan Wiskus
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company exterior photo courtesy of Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. and Sergio Garcia. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company food photo by @jujulee. Artichoke Ravioli at It's Italia and Poplar Beach photos by Megan Wiskus. Seafood Risotto at It's Italia photo by Christopher Lim. Top Fitzgerald Marine Reserve photo by Ed Uyeshima. Moonglow and Seal photos by Rob Cale. Waterfront Hotel photo by Cesar Rubio. Jack London Square and Chabot Space Center photos courtesy of Visit Oakland. Chabot Space Center, Oakland Zoo and Children's Fairyland photos courtesy of Visit Oakland. Everett & Jones Barbeque photos courtesy of Everett & Jones Barbeque. Loew's Coronado Bay Resort courtesy of Liberty Public Market photo by Robert Benson. San Diego Zoo photos courtesy of San Diego Zoo. Pure Project photo courtesy Pure Project. Societe Beer Garden photo courtesy of Societe Beer Garden. Torrey Pines Cliffs courtesy Lisa Field Cannonball photo by Megan Wiskus. Belmont Park photo courtesy of Belmont Park. White Rice photo by Stephanie Chen.