Summer So Cal Vacation Ideas and Tips

Making a Local Vacation Fun 

Family vacations. So much can go into planning and pulling them together that by the time you dive into the experience, stress and expectations have built up beyond belief. Who’s been there? Me! Me! But not this time.

In this post you will learn about our 2018 Summer Vacation in So Cal. I’ve packed this post with some great tips on vacationing in Big Bear Lake, California during the summer and more tips on making the most of an overnight at Great Wolf Lodge, Anaheim.

In California, Summer vacation ideas are endless. But you can also run into the trap that for your So Cal. kids, they already live in California. For us, we live in San Diego. Now I might be biased but it’s hard to beat San Diego.

So how do you do you take a local vacation from okay to great in Southern California? Embrace the Golden State’s varied topography. Yes, I said topography. So Cal is known for having the beach, the mountains and the desert all within a few hours’ drive of each other. So take advantage of the state’s variety.

Below you will find some good ideas for family friendly activities and tips. Our So Cal vacay was four nights long. The information below doesn’t include everything but does offer some insightful suggestions for you to build and shape this into your own adventure.


  • Starting from San Diego, we stopped to have lunch in Historic Old Town Temecula .  It was very hot but the kids still loved walking in what they called, “the wild west.” The link above takes you to a list of the many various restaurants in the area. We ate at the 1909 restaurant and the food was very good but there are a number of other good restaurants in the historic area.
  • Next we drove up to Big Bear Lake.  One of our first activities was a visit to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. It was such a unique experience. This is one of only two zoos like it in the world. It’s small but offers the family a chance to see many mountain animal species that you wouldn’t normally get to experience.


  • A family friendly hike in Big Bear is Castle Rock Trail. It’s a moderate ascent and only about 2.5 miles. Note that both my 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son made it to the top and back relatively easily. There are some steep parts and they needed help but it was still fun for all and the views and rock formations are beautiful. TIP – do this hike early. It gets packs by midday and parking can be tight.


  • There is a go kart race track during the summer at Big Bear Snowplay. For families with smaller kids like us, this was great because both me and my husband could drive and the kids could ride. So we raced family style!



To add a little more variety to the vacation we decided to leave the mountains and go have brunch together before getting to Great Wolf Lodge.

For our overnight at Great Wolf Lodge we stayed from a Sunday to Monday. To be honest, when we got there the place was a zoo. We thought the place would be full of people leaving but they still had the weekend’s overflow from Friday and Saturday.

Before I dive into the tips, I’d like to just say that even though it was packed it was still a pleasant experience. The reason it was still packed was because they encourage you to stay and play after you check out. It was a refreshing approach that they wanted people to get the most out of their stay.


  • Per one of the employees, the place empties out after the kids are back in school. If summer is the only time you have, she did say that Monday-Thursday any time of year is slow.
  • Regardless of when you go, get there early, like 1pm (check-in isn’t until 3pm), already changed into your water clothes. You can check your luggage at the bellhop and head on over to the water park.
  • Even the standard room has a decent mini-fridge that will fit a bottle of champagne, or two-liter and much more. I won’t judge you if you choose a two-liter over champagne. Oh and they have a microwave.
  • Upon check out, the parking lot is very close. So if you can avoid the busy bellhop and take your things to the car, I say do it. Just keep a dry change of clothes with you and get a locker inside the water park to keep your things.
  • TIP – do all of the big water rides first. That way you get them out of the way and everything else is just gravy.
  • Check GroupOn for deals. They often have great deals that also offer food credits on top of a room discount.


I hope you have enjoyed learning about  quick and easy vacation ideas in So Cal. If you are looking for a quick and easy meal idea, please check out this link.

What are your favorite local vacation spots in your area?



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