You’re probably here because you’re thinking of bringing the family to California’s Mendocino coast. But, what is there to do? And will the kids enjoy themselves?
If you think a day trip is all you need to explore the area, you’re sorely mistaken. The beaches alone will have the family occupied for hours.
So, the first thing on the list is…..
1. Book A Place To Stay
When traveling with kids, we recommend staying at Little River Inn. It’s a beautiful boutique inn located right on the coast! It’s perfect for families and pets are welcome too. It’s walkable to the beach and State Park- major bonus points! Read about why we think it’s the best place to stay in Mendocino here.
This is always a fun one for the kids! The Skunk Train is an hour long historic scenic ride through the redwoods. There’s a concession stand with popcorn and other snacks for the kids and alcoholic beverages for the adults. And, if you were wondering, there’s also a bathroom. So don’t let the hour long ride deter you. Even if the little ones aren’t fully potty trained, you’re covered! You can purchase tickets and learn more about Skunk Train (including why it’s called The Skunk) here.
Don’t forget to visit the Model Train Layout located in the back. The kids can build with LEGOS and see up close a very large and intricate model train. This was an excellent place to play Eye Spy!
This is a 12 acre facility dedicated to off-grid sustainable living. The kids can run free here and stretch their legs. They have a kids play area with a tunnel for them to crawl through. The older kids can learn about alternative power sources and green living. We enjoyed spending time here because it was both fun and educational. That’s always a plus when you’re a homeschooler!
Did you know that Mendocino is one of the best spots to stargaze? With city lights miles and miles away, it’s the perfect place to find constellations and search for shooting stars! Get a blanket, some hot cocoa and enjoy the night sky with the family.
5. Walk Main Street
Take the family on a leisurely stroll through Main Street. Here you’ll find local gift shops and handmade goods. There’s also a chocolate shop that kids of all ages will enjoy. What’s cool about this activity is that it’s ocean front! You’ll have a beautiful view no matter where you look!
6. All The Cafes
It seems just about everywhere you turn there’s a cute little cafe just tempting you to come inside. We especially appreciated all of the organic cafes many of which had hot cocoa for the kids to enjoy. Below are our faves…
This was a nice find! A quick hike and you’re on a beautiful sandy beach that leads to a creek. This was such a fun beach to explore and play! The walk from the parking lot took all of 5 minutes. It’s definitely doable for the younger kids and fast enough for a parent to carry a child if necessary. We took a bajillion pictures here. So pretty!!!
Kids just naturally gravitate towards art! Take a look at various galleries including glass, fine art, jewelry and ceramic. Classes and open studios are also offered at this art center. For more info on upcoming events, click here.
Van Damme State Park offers a scenic beach and year round camping. There’s lots to do here! You can hike, fish for abalone or go kayaking. Did I mention it’s walkable from Little River Inn?
Van Damme State Park
This was definitely one of our highlights during our stay in Mendocino. It’s easy to see why it’s on so many bucket lists! Glass Beach gets its name from the sea glass strewn ashore. It was a delight to show the kids what happens to glass bottles after years of tumbling in the ocean. A fun activity is to hunt for rare colored glass like red and blue. [Pro tip: Touch but don’t take.]
There’s something nostalgic about lighthouses. Point Arena Lighthouse offers daily tours and….wait for it….lodging! The whole family can experience history in a totally immersive way. For more info on lodging click here.
Photo courtesy of Irina on Unsplash
12. Whale Watch
Every year from November to April, Grey Whales can be seen migrating to and from Alaska to Baja California. The best part? You don’t need to get on a boat to see them! You can whale watch on land! This makes it so much easier with kids. We were even able to search for whales from our room.