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California, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Yosemite National Park, South Lake Tahoe, Napa

Mother/Tween Daughter vacation spots in California

My friend and I want to go on a mother/daughter trip w/ our 13 year olds to California. We are interested in the beach, bike riding, rafting, shopping, sight seeing, $ or $$ restaurants. We are not looking for a party or "who's who" type scenes.

Any suggestions?

14 Answers

top answer by
Kyle from San Diego

Well, I may be biased, but San Diego certainly hits almost every item on your list!


Bike Riding:

  • Mission Beach has plenty of places where you can rent a bike and ride up and down the boardwalk. Definitely a class Southern California beach feel here.


  • There really isn't anywhere in San Diego proper where you can go rafting, but you can go kayaking in the ocean at La Jolla Shores (mentioned above). I've done it several times and it's a BLAST.


  • Besides the previously mentioned Coronado and La Jolla areas, there are several good malls in town:
  • Fashion Valley Mall in the Mission Valley area has tons of great shopping.
  • Westfield UTC is a recently redone mall in the La Jolla area. If you head here, go to Eureka Gourmet Burger and Craft Beer for some great food/beer (only for the adults, of course)
  • Carlsbad Premium Outlets in the North County (about 30-40 mins North on San Diego central) has some great, upscale shops. Carlsbad (California) in general is an awesome little city that has some great beaches and a few places to rent a bike.

Sight Seeing:

  • Balboa Park is the large municipal park pretty much in the middle of the city. It has plenty to offer: tons of museums, biking/hiking, and generally beautiful spots.
  • Gaslamp Quarter in downtown has tons of restaurants, shops, and sights to see.
  • Mount Soledad in the Pacific Beach area offers stunning, 360 degree views of the city.
  • The aforementioned Hotel Del Coronado is a must visit. While you're on Coronado (it's kind of sort of an island) visit the Coronado Ferry Landing for probably the best view of downtown San Diego.
  • The USS Midway Museum is a retired US aircraft carrier turned into a museum. It's HUGE, but well worth a visit. San Diego's military history and community is significant to what makes our city special.
  • Seaport Village is just a short walk from the Midway Museum. It is admittedly a pretty touristy area, but it still can be fun.
  • Old Town is another fairly touristy area of town, but it still is a pretty good time. Go to Cafe Coyote for some yummy Mexican food!
  • There's many more places you could visit, but I don't want to write too much of a novel. :)

There's plenty of food in virtually every neighborhood you visit. I mentioned a few above but I'd just look up a place that fits your location at the time.

If you don't end up coming to San Diego on this trip, hopefully you (or someone else) can use this list to help explore our beautiful city!

San Diego's nickname is "America's Finest City" and I'm sure you'll see why when you visit. Enjoy!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Del Mar (city)
  2. La Jolla Shores Drive (attraction)
  3. Coronado Beach (attraction)
  4. Hotel Del Coronado (hotel)
  5. Mission Beach (attraction)
  6. Westfield UTC (attraction)
  7. Carlsbad (California) (city)
  8. Balboa Park (attraction)
  9. Mount Soledad (attraction)
  10. USS Midway Museum (attraction)
  11. Seaport Village (attraction)
  12. Old Town (attraction)
  13. Cafe Coyote (attraction)
  14. Coronado Ferry Landing (attraction)
  15. Carlsbad Premium Outlets (attraction)
  16. Fashion Valley Mall (attraction)
  17. Eureka Gourmet Burger and Craft Beer (restaurant)
  18. Gaslamp Quarter (neighborhood)
8 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Zoë from Palo Alto, California

You should definitely check out Lake Tahoe or Yosemite to get some nature or adventure filled days. Great camping and hiking. Some of my best memories growing up as a kid in California are in those two spots. From either place you could go to San Francisco for some great shopping as well as hiking in Marin County and surrounding areas. 

Depending on the time you have, I would drive down Highway 1 to Los Angeles stopping in Big Sur and other beach towns. There's also great shopping in LA. Favorite sushi in LA is SUGARFISH | Downtown LA, not terribly expensive but definitely a nice meal. Enjoy! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Yosemite (attraction)
  2. San Francisco (city)
  3. Marin County (region)
  4. Los Angeles (city)
  5. Big Sur (city)
  6. SUGARFISH | Downtown LA (attraction)
  7. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by
Sandra from Santa Cruz

Sounds like you might want to check out the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk:  There are rides and a cold ocean where you can take surf lessons, go kayaking, or paddle boarding. You can stay in the cheesy motels nearby or use  Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
Judy from Memphis

You can explore from Santa Monica. DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica is close to Santa Monica Pier. Easy walking to mom and tween shop at cool open mall nearby. Easy to ride the rides on the peer and learn how to surf nearby! Rafting options are best on Northern California.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Monica (city)
  2. DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica (hotel)
  3. Santa Monica Pier (attraction)
  4. Northern California (region)
3 thanks

answered by
Kent from Bandon, Oregon

San Luis Obispo is a great option for a family excursion the surrounding region as well. Try the downtown district, head out to Avila Beach for some sun bathing, and then head over to Pismo Beach for some great clam chowder. Enjoy!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Luis Obispo (city)
  2. Avila Beach (city)
  3. Pismo Beach (city)
3 thanks

answered by
Michael from San Rafael, California

Definitely sounds like you need to visit Santa Monica and make a trip to Carmel By the Sea and Monterey

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Monica (city)
  2. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  3. Monterey (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Mosby from San Jose (California)

You can find several rental bike places around Tahoe.  A nice restaurant that is reasonably priced off the "strip" of the main highway 50 road in Tahoe Keys is The Fresh Ketch.  Rafting along the Truckee River is the best and there are several rental places in Tahoe City.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Fresh Ketch (restaurant)
  2. Tahoe City (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Joe from United States

Newport Beach or Huntington Beach are both great beach spots with bike paths, boat., kayak, and SUP rentals, and restaurants in all price ranges. Balboa Island in particular is very cute and old-fashioned (5 minute ferry from Newport) with little shops for browsing. If you want to save $ you can stay nearby in Costa Mesa or away from the beach. Newport would have more activity than Huntington- Huntington is more beach/surf oriented whereas Newport has a huge harbor plus beach plus shopping for all budgets (it can get very pricey/upscale in spots so you may want to stick to the small local places).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Newport Beach (city)
  2. Huntington Beach (city)
  3. Balboa Island (attraction)
  4. Costa Mesa (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Larry from Los Angeles

Santa Monica is a really great place to stay. It next to the beach and super clean, lots of shopping in the area and bike rentals shops in lots of places. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Monica (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Stephanie from San Francisco

San Diego is your best best! Lots of beaches, shopping and site seeing. 

San Francisco would be another but you should visit Santa Cruz beaches.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Diego (city)
  2. San Francisco (city)
  3. Santa Cruz (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Darleen from Sacramento

If you are looking to swim you'll want to head to Southern California as Northern California beaches are beautiful but too cold for swimming.

So if beach walks and tide pools are your thing, by all means check out the Monterey and Carmel By the Sea beach towns. Santa Cruz is even more laid back and beachy. And on really nice days folks actually get in the water too.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Southern California (metro area)
  2. Northern California (region)
  3. Monterey (city)
  4. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  5. Santa Cruz (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Janet from Emerald Hills, Ca

California is huge. how long do you have? will you be in Northern California or Southern California? So CA beaches are fun; No CA beaches are beautiful/dramatic but some will be fogged in during the summer. Great rafting in No. CA.  Wilderness is everywhere. San Francisco is a great town for eating, shopping, sightseeing.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Northern California (region)
  2. Southern California (metro area)
  3. San Francisco (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Angela from Lompoc

Pismo Beach / Avila Beach, central coast. It's got it all and then some. Kayak the ocean, learn to surf, or go the opposite direction and skydive. The surrounding hills are easy, fun, gorgeous hikes. Food is not overpriced unless you want it to be. Shopping, ice cream parlors and wine bars... Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pismo Beach (city)
  2. Avila Beach (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Ian from Foster City

Carmel By the Sea is a great idea. Small town shopping. Beautiful beach.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel By the Sea (city)
comments (1)

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