5 Fall Family Vacations You Can’t Miss on the West Coast

For an ideal autumn family vacation, take a few days or a week out with the family and get creative. If you dare to avoid the artificial theme parks, and you want to find an alternative to iPods and Wii games, here are a few unique west coast vacation destinations:


Ride through majestic redwoods, over bridges and trestles, and through tunnels in one of the vintage coaches of the historic Skunk Express. Board the Skunk Train at Fort Bragg, or book one of the dinner trains from Willits to Fort Bragg and stay overnight at a bed-and-breakfast inn nearby. A “Tracks to Kayaks” ride lets you disembark at the Noyo River and spend the rest of the day kayaking the river.


In the Sierras you can actually drive the train and blow the whistle. The Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola operates a “Run-A-Locomotive” program that puts you in the driver’s seat of a vintage diesel locomotive. You “rent” the locomotive and operate it on a private railway under the supervision of an instructor. Everybody in the family can take the throttle for a genuine railroading experience – and earn a Certified Engineer certificate. This is one of the best kept secrets in California.


The rugged beauty of the Sonoma County seacoast is spectacular in the fall. Stay in one of the many vacation rentals in the area and feel the sand between your toes, explore the tide pools, ride horses on the beach, rent bicycles, or hike the coastal paths for dramatic views of the ocean. Be sure to tour the world-class wineries, or go to the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival in Sonoma. There is plenty to do for the whole family.


You can find Hawaii in San Diego at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa where each Friday night you can go to a luau on Mission Bay, See hula dancers in grass skirts, fire dancing, tiki torches. Dine on Kahlua roast pig, and have a Mai Tai or two – it will make you feel like you are in Hawaii. Professional dancers perform traditional island dances of Hawaii and Polynesia under warm autumn skies. Then, kayak out to explore the sea caves at La Jolla Shores and see Garibaldi fish, leopard sharks, sea turtles and sea lions just a half-mile from shore. Surfing at La Jolla Shores Beach, with its sandy bottom and gentle waves, is something everyone can do.


In the Basin Range of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, 13 miles east of Highway 395, lies the abandoned and preserved gold mining town of Bodie. Established in 1861, town boomed, and by 1880 there were 10,000 residents. Miners, robbers, merchants, gunfighters, prostitutes and gamblers frequented some 65 saloons in Bodie. When the gold ran out everyone left. This is the best of all the Old West ghost towns – a visit well worth the trek off the main highway.

5 Fall Family Vacations You Can't Miss on the West Coast

5 Fall Family Vacations You Can’t Miss on the West Coast

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