Things to Do in California With Kids

The Great Seal of the State of California
The Great Seal of the State of California | Source

One-of-a-Kind Attractions in California

There is so much to do in California with kids. There are theme parks with rides and other fun items—LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, Disneyland in Anaheim, and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, to name just three.

There are hands-on science centers in San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There are harbor tours leaving from more than one city. There are professional sports teams playing several different sports whose games you can watch.

San Diego has a US Navy aircraft carrier museum. Los Angeles has several unusual museums, among them the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, the Bunny Museum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

There is one place offering tethered helium balloon—not hot air balloon—rides. There is one city with a cable car museum.

Let’s go on a virtual visit to two unique attractions—unique not just to California—unique to all of the United States…the Orange County Great Park Balloon in Irvine in Southern California and the cable cars of San Francisco in Northern California.

Orange County Great Park Tethered Helium Balloon Ride

The Orange County Great Park Balloon in Irvine in Southern California was photographed in January 2009 by Aurophile SA, the French company which designed and built the balloon.
The Orange County Great Park Balloon in Irvine in Southern California was photographed in January 2009 by Aurophile SA, the French company which designed and built the balloon. | Source

Orange County Great Park, Irvine

When Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro in Irvine, California was decommissioned several years ago, there was much debate regarding the base’s future use. In 2002, voters approved a $1.1 billion project for the creation of a county park which would use 1347 acres (5.45 km²)—28.8%—of the former base’s land. The park, which will be larger than Central Park in New York City (863 acres), Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (1017 acres), or Balboa Park in San Diego (1200 acres), will include performing arts venues, a lake, a canyon, a corridor connecting a wildlife area in a national forest with one in a wilderness area, lawns, a botanical garden, and an air museum.

The park’s first attraction, the Great Park Balloon Ride—designed by Aerophile SA, a French company specializing in building tethered helium balloons—opened on July 14, 2007. The second attraction, the Kids Rock Playground, opened on July 10, 2010.

A markerOrange County Great Park -
Orange County Great Park, 6990 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618, USA
[get directions]

The Orange County Great Park Balloon was photographed by Ganesh Krishnamurthy on July 14, 2007.
The Orange County Great Park Balloon was photographed by Ganesh Krishnamurthy on July 14, 2007. | Source
Day
Flight Hours
Thursday and Friday
10:00am to 3:00pm, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Saturday and Sunday
9:00am to 3:00pm, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Closed

Orange County Great Park Balloon Ride

The balloon built by Aerophile SA, the French company specializing in building tethered helium balloons, is one of the largest balloons of its kind in the world, and the first of its kind in the United States.

There is no cost for the balloon flight. Parking—there is a fee—and registration for the flights opens 30 minutes before the day session begins and one hour before the night session begins.

Registration waivers must be obtained at the Great Park’s Visitors Center and signed by every potential passenger prior to a boarding pass being issued.

There are no height, age, or health restrictions for people wanting to take a balloon flight. The fights are all wheelchair and electric conveyance vehicle accessible.


Balloon Facts
Balloon Figures
Height
118 feet
Volume
220,000 cubic feet
Maximum number of passengers
30
Gongola weight
1810 pounds
Tether
Steel cable with strength of 99,000 pounds

Given the opportunity to do so, would you go on a tethered helium balloon flight that lifted 400 feet up in the air?

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This cable car coming uphill in Chinatown in San Francisco was photographed by Fred Hsu on December 25, 2006. The cable car has just crested the hill. Look how steep the street is!
This cable car coming uphill in Chinatown in San Francisco was photographed by Fred Hsu on December 25, 2006. The cable car has just crested the hill. Look how steep the street is! | Source

Cable Cars, San Francisco

The cable car system is San Francisco is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)—the federal government’s official list of buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts which the government feels should be preserved due to their historical significance.

The cable cars are the only mobile national monument in the world and the world’s last manually operated cable car system.

Only three lines of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890 remain—the Powell and Hyde Streets line, the Powell and Mason Streets line, and the California Street line. The California Street line, pictured in the photograph to the right, is the oldest cable car line in existence.

A markerCable Car Museum -
1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
[get directions]

This photograph of Sutter Street Railway Co. Trailer Car Number 54 was taken on February 24, 2008 by Fietsbel  in the Cable Car Museum.
This photograph of Sutter Street Railway Co. Trailer Car Number 54 was taken on February 24, 2008 by Fietsbel in the Cable Car Museum. | Source

Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car Museum, established in 1974, is located in the historic Washington and Mason line cable car barn and powerhouse. The barn is where the cable cars are housed when not in use. The powerhouse is what drives the cables which enable the cars to travel up and down the steep hills in San Francisco.

Three antique cable cars from the 1870s can be seen in the museum. A photograph of one of the three, Sutter Street Railway Company Trailer Car Number 54, is pictured to your right.

There is a viewing area from which you can see the cables entering the building through a channel in the street and a second viewing area from which you can see the wheels which pull the cables. On display are various mechanical devices involved with the cable car system, tools, pieces of track, and pieces of cable.


Open Hours

The museum is open every day of the year except New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

April 1 to September 30
10:00am to 6:00pm

October 1 to March 31
10:00am to 5:00pm

Location, Admission Fee, Accessibility

Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

Telephone: (415) 474-1887

Admission is free.

A ramp and elevator for disabled visitors are located on the Washington Street side of building.

Have you ever vacationed (gone on holiday) in California?

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Have you ever been in either a tethered helium or hot air balloon?

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Comments 50 comments

Traqqer profile image

Traqqer 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Good article and thanks for the suggestions.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

There is definitely much to do; great travel hub! Nice work!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Tragger,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Bill (billybuc),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Can I assume, jugding from your interest in my Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta article, that you would go up in the tethered helium Orange County Great Park Balloon? The Great Park is only about 10 miles from my house...how fortunate is that?


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

I really think that this is one of the best travel articles for California. It is so specific! Narrowing the options is helpful when someone is trying to build an activities itinerary, especially for the abundantly active state of California! I find the two options here perfectly polarized; one so new and fresh that it is still in the process of completion, while the other brings that nostalgic touch of history from one of California's most treasured cities, San Francisco. Great stuff!

HubHugs~


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

India (K9keystrokes), my fellow Californian,

Thanks for reading my article and leaving such an insightful comment.

You "got" what I was trying to accomplish! Rather than publish a list of the 50-best places to visit with kids in California, with one sentence describing each place, I decided to describe in some detail one activity in Southern California and one activity in Northern California. How can one plan an itinerary by reading just a sentence or two about a venue?

I decided to select two unique California activities...activities that are also unique country-wide. There is one tethered helium balloon ride and one cable car museum in the United States. The fact that one venue is new and still being developed and one is on the National Register of Historic Places is a "bonus."


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I didn't know that the Orange County balloon was free and I don't live too far from it. My favorite attraction here are the Cable Cars. I'd also like to mention that San Francisco has a collection of PCC cars, which are trolleys that were popular around the WWII era, from transit systems across the U.S. and they are still in use in the city. Voting this Up and Useful.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio (alocsin),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. The Orange County Great Park Balloon Ride is free...parking isn't free. Since rates always change, I didn't put the parking fee in my article. The last time I checked, parking cost $10.

May I ask what city in Orange County you live in? You probably don't live too far from me.


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Daisy -

Very informative! During my visit to California, I was also able to participate in the "You Might Not Come Back" adventure tours of South Central and the "See The Surfer Race The Shark" tours of Malibu. lol (all in jest, please don't take offense)

The Orange County ballon ride is interesting, but the tethering would take some of the excitement out of it. Still, it gives the imagination food to feed from.

Again, very informative and great hub! Up & Useful & Interesting!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rich (rcrumple),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. A tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet would be as much adventure as many people would want to experience.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I have experienced some of the events you posted and agree that they are a must see when in California. Thanks for sharing and I enjoyed reading about these different listings.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Dianna (teaches12345)

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I'm glad you've enjoyed your visits to California.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

This looks like fun - I have been on a cable car, but didn't know there was a museum. The hot air balloon looks like a lot of fun as well.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Shasta (Millionaire Tips),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it.

I've been to the Cable Car Museum, but I haven't ridden in the tethered balloon...yet. It figures, doesn't it? The balloon ride is only a few miles from my house.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

California is on my list of places to visit one day. I've been on the east coast all my life in the same state but always wanted to visit the west coast. Even though I'm not a kid, I do feel that way traveling- like it's a big adventure. I'll have to keep these sites in mind for when I do make it.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Alecia,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. If you ever get to Southern California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, we'll have to arrange to meet!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Born and raised in California and must say you have included the best of the best! Big votes!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey (vocalcoach),

Thanks for reading and commenting in my article. I figured the best way to approach the subject was to select one venue in Northern California and one in Southern California. I still haven't gone on the helium balloon ride yet, and it's located only a few miles from my house.


remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Hi Daisy,

I found this hub very informative and interesting enough to make me want to visit these places some day. Good work! Sharing as always. Cheers, Rema.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rema (remaniki),

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my Hub. Thanks for commenting in it and sharing it.

I hope you do get to travel to California some day. I'd love to meet you in person.


remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Oh, that would be wonderful Daisy. I really look forward to it. Thank you. Cheers, Rema.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rema (remaniki),

Thanks for visiting again. I appreciate your support of my work.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Not to mention all the mission sites. And the amazing topography / geography of the California coast. My kid was 11 when we lived in Arcadia. What an amazing place to venture out from. Never took a balloon ride. Maybe next time.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Sherri (Sally's Trove),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. There are so many great things to do in California, it was difficult deciding which ones to discuss in my Hub.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi Daisy, I have always wanted to come over and go on the Cable car! I see it so many times on tv, so maybe one of these days! great hub, and wish I was there! voted up! nell


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nell,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I hope you do get to travel to California...both the northern and southern parts of the state.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Oh I was not aware of the balloon ride. Gotta catch it during christmas break.

SF is a jump and leap away so, it is a must see for those that have not.

great read, Daisy :)

voted up and sharing it across!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Ruchira,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub.

I live a few miles from the tethered helium balloon ride, but I haven't driven over to the site yet and gone on the ride. I've been to the Cable Car Museum, however, and that's hundreds of miles away.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

This is a great travel hub :) You've provided really helpful & specific information! I loved the way you combined the historical perspective of San Francisco and the fresh travel tips with kids in the great state of California..

Thanks for taking time to put this together and for sharing it, you did a wonderful job presenting this.. Voted it up & shared!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mike,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub. I'm honored that a travel photographer, someone who writes wonderful travel articles, has such kind things to say about my Hub.

I'm more determined than ever to go on a tethered helium balloon ride. Considering that the balloon is located a few miles from my home, there isn't any excuse for me to not do so.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

I would love to visit California sometime in the future. The cable car museum is very interesting and I would love to go for a ride in the balloon!! great hub, voted up.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I appreciate your continued support of my writing.

The tethered helium balloon ride is only a few miles from my home, and I have yet to go on the ride. The large orange balloon is a sight to behold when it's 400 feet off the ground!


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

One of my daughters lived in San Diego for a couple of years and loved it. I visited her and got to see some neat places like San Francisco.

Informative Hub, voted UP, etc. and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (mary615),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too. for sharing my Hub. San Diego is quite a distance from San Francisco. Did you drive to San Francisco or fly?


suzettenaples 3 years ago

I really like this hub. It is full of wonderful suggestions for kids, families and adults! LOL. I have enjoyed and had fun at some of these places as an adult. I loved riding the cable cars in San Francisco! Thanks for sharing your expertise with us!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Suzette,

Thanks for commenting here and in Facebook. I appreciate it.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

Even though the helium balloon looks tempting, I'd probably still pass on it. We finally have a LegoLand in Orlando, I haven't been there yet, but one day I will visit. The admission prices are a bit costly.

Great ideas for CA!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Linda (Sunshine625),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. Most theme parks are way too expensive.

We've been to the cable car museum in San Francisco. It was interesting seeing the cables running under a portion of the street and having the workings of the cable cars explained in an easy-to-understand manner.

I live a few miles from the location where the tethered helium balloon ride takes place. I've seen the balloon in the air. The ride looks like it would be fun, but my claustrophobic friend won't consider it. The balloon ride is free. Parking is $10 for the day. There are other activities in the park. The next time we have an out-of-town visitor stay with us, the balloon ride will be one of our excursions.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

I want to go to Legoland!! I'd love to ride a cable car again too. This is a great hub with lots of ideas for kids.

The tethered balloon ride sounds like fun too! Great ideas here Daisy. I'm sure this hub'll be a hit!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (tillsontitan),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. When I began doing the research for my article, I was going to showcase several venues. I found so much information about the tethered helium balloon ride and the cable car museum, I decided to just highlight those two fun activities.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Came back to read, California is a great place! One day I hope to visit the cable car museum.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for visiting again. I appreciate your support of my writing.

I've been to the Cable Car Museum, which is eight to ten hours away by car. I've haven't been to the Orange County Great Park, which is only 15 to 20 minutes away.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Great and informative hub. I would like to go to California one day too and be just like a kid. Passing this on.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rasma (Gypsy Rose Lee),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub.

How many years ago was it that you moved from New York to Latvia? Have you been back for visits since then?


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

I came to Latvia with my mom in 1994. When she passed away in 1996 I would have attempted to return then if I hadn't met my soul mate here. I brought him to see the states several years in a row because he had a business partner and we were set economically. Then the business went bad, partner disappeared and we have not been able to get on our feet ever since economically. So right now we're stuck here but I sure want to go back just as soon as it will be possible.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rasma (Gypsy Rose Lee),

Thanks for visiting again and sharing your story. I know your husband and you will move to the United States some day.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

Very interesting and informative. Too bad I don't like flying or we would go visit some day.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Debra (Lady Guinevere),

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment.

What about train travel? Have you considered a cross-country train trip?


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

Hmmm that would be interesting indeed.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Debra (Lady Guinevere),

Thanks for stopping by again. A train trip would be a great vacation!

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    Daisy Mariposa743 Followers
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    Daisy Mariposa, a travel agent for several years, has occupational certificates in Travel Management and International Business.



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