Roar & Snore in San Diego
If you’ve dreamed of getting snooze-close to elephants, giraffes, gazelles and antelopes but can’t swing a 22-hour flight to Africa, head down to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The park’s Roar & Snore Safari features some exciting programs, including the Safari Sampler Sleepover and Happy Hoppers Sleepover. Happy Hoppers comes with a wild egg hunt, and Safari Sampler finds you on an after-dark, under-the-stars tram ride through the park.
Animal ambassadors get you up-close with alligators and African-crested porcupines. Tell your heart to be still because there’s another kind of fluttering coming your way as part of this safari package: the annual Butterfly Jungle exhibit. Guests who move slowly and wear bright colors invite butterflies to land on their shoulders and hands. Thirty species from Central, South and North America, including the zebra longwing and blue morpho, along with 11 exotic bird species, featuring the Bali myna, will share the aviary with you April 14.
Comfortable canvas safari tents overlook the park’s African Plains field exhibit – your own African savannah – where you’ll go to sleep and wake up to the sounds of the wild. Watch your kids’ eyes grow wide as they hear branches crack under rhinos’ hooves. Peering out of the tent, they might catch a glimpse of a giraffe drinking from her waterhole.
Camp with Wheels in Santa Barbara
Just three miles from Santa Barbara’s world-class beaches, your pet-friendly retro oasis awaits. After a day on the water, hanging out at the Santa Barbara Zoo and shopping on State Street until you drop, settle into quiet, oak-tree laden AutoCamp Airstream park (autocamp.com) to kick back and relax over barbecue. Conveniently located for urban and off-road adventures, this oasis is designed to let you and the family connect in nature – with the luxury of a super mod, custom-built Airstream. These shiny vessels are decked out with roomy bathrooms, walk-in showers, queen-size beds and luxurious touches including Malin+Goetz bath products. Playful amenities such as your own beach cruisers are included.
A piece of motor history: In 1915, the park’s first motorists adapted their cars into sleeping caravans in search of solace and adventure. Thousands have camped here over the years on trips up and down Pacific Coast Highway, with the first Airstream arriving in 1929. Airstream designer Wally Byam supported himself as a sailor while studying at Stanford, and it’s believed his stints at sea helped contribute to the design of the Airstream and provided his inspiration to create a trailer that would move like a stream of air.
Embrace the Desert at Joshua Tree
Traveling to the high desert is an experience your family will never forget. Joshua Desert Retreats (joshuadesertretreats.com) has a variety of safe and fun activities right on the property, with plenty of pool time to relieve the desert heat. With a focus on play, pick your favorites from horseshoes, swing sets, pool tables, pingpong tables and board games. After hiking and exploring the vast property, a nighttime soak in a hot tub is a great way to take in the stunning, star-filled sky. Take your pick from 22 family-friendly homes, some accommodating families of up to 16. The Wikiup home has inspirational views and two nearby hiking trails.
Joshua Desert Retreats’ top three family picks for Joshua Tree National Park are Skull Rock, Big Rock and Barker Dam, all easy trekking with lots of unique experiences. When visiting Skull Rock, pack a picnic basket for an incredible lunch in a cave or overhang. With cave temperatures at a cool 60 to 70 degrees, it’s a great way to beat the heat when outside temperatures soar over 100.
Back at Joshua Desert Retreats, a sign on the wall at Witt’s End house reads “Dedicated to Dignified Loafing.” If there’s anything more dignified than being idle during a vacation getaway, we haven’t found it. Loaf to your heart’s desire.
It’s Island Time in Catalina
Your family can experience adventure-packed fun using the cozy confines of a chewing-gum industrialist’s former summer home as base camp. Catalina Island Company’s Room for Adventure package (visitcatalinaisland.com) includes an elegant stay at Mt. Ada, the former Wrigley Mansion– or choose barefoot island-chic at The Pavilion Hotel for your overnight stay. Depending on your choice of venue, you can enjoy added amenities including the Casino Tour of Catalina Casino or an ocean-view wine-and-cheese reception by the fire.
Your wild side will love Catalina Aerial Adventure at Descanso Canyon, where you’ll conquer the 32-foot Catalina Climbing Wall, and the Zip Line Eco Tour. Catalina Aerial Adventure, set in a eucalyptus grove, finds you swinging, sliding and climbing from tree to tree high in the canopies. Self-guided courses are arranged to cater to all levels of adventurers. Channel your inner primate as there are no necessary skills required to have an aerial good time.
Getting to Catalina is easy on Catalina Express with high-speed catamarans departing from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point to Avalon and Two Harbors. Or fly by helicopter with IEX Helicopters for an even quicker trip to island fun.