Photo courtesy of Lake Hemet Campground
Photo courtesy of Lake Hemet Campground

SoCal Campgrounds with Extra Entertainment For Kids - What's Open in 2020

Camping with kids is a smorgasbord of sights and sounds, loaded with opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Hiking and biking, telling stories fireside, and unplugging from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives is good for the soul; but let’s face it, even with the whole of Mother Nature at their fingertips, kids sometimes get bored.

It’s time to up the ante on family camping. Southern California is home to several awesome family campgrounds that offer kids exciting alternative activities and entertainment when they tire of forest tag. Zip lining, anyone? Fishing? Rock climbing? Movies? Even ghost tours? All these and more are offered at the Southland campgrounds below. Get ready for the best of both worlds, cause we dare your kids to get bored at one of these campgrounds.

Note that campground openings and closures are changing frequently in the 2020 season. The opening info below is accurate as of June 4, 2020; click through to the individual campground website for the most current information.


Marshmallows taste better after a day in the lake. Photo courtesy of Lake Hemet Campground

1. Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground

A two and a half hour drive from Los Angeles, the Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground offers its visitors access to a unique outdoor recreation experience in the heart of the San Jacinto Mountains. The 470-acre reservoir boasts 25 inflatable water park play structures, perfect for somersaulting your way into summer. Parents can open up the cooler and kick back while kids splash themselves into an early bedtime.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fun family activities: Swim beach, water park with inflatables, kayak and motor boat rentals, fishing
  • Campground amenities: On-site cafe, convenience store, flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility

Summer 2020 info: Although camping is currently open, as of June 4, 2020 only RV camping is allowed. Lake Hemet hopes to allow tent camping again shortly. The water park, unfortunately, will not be open in 2020.

RELATED: 15 Best Campgrounds for Tent Camping near Los Angeles


Ziplining at Ventura Ranch. Photo courtesy of KOA Ventura Ranch

2. KOA at Ventura Ranch

Sitting at the foot of Topa Topa, Ventura County's highest mountain, the Ventura Ranch KOA is a quick 90 minute drive from Los Angeles. One of the most unique camp properties in Southern California, this KOA’s bucket-list-worthy activities include a rock climbing tower, outdoor movie nights, pedal cars, and a long on-site zip line. Kids can bounce off their excess energy on the jumping pillow, and on hot days staff spray down the jumpers with a hose. Wild peacocks wander the grounds by day, and at night a guided spooky walk in search of Bigfoot keeps the surrounding woods mysterious.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin, Teepee
  • Fun family activities: Rock climbing tower, zip line, outdoor movie night, Bigfoot adventure walk, jumping pillow, pedal cars
  • Campground amenities: Flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility, convenience store, Wi-Fi

Summer 2020 info: Ventura Ranch is open with restrictions and limited capacity. Guests may stay in RVs that are fully self-contained, or in cabins. No public restrooms or showers are available. Activities, play areas, and the pool are closed until further notice.

3. Ocean Mesa Campground

Just a 20-minute drive north of Santa Barbara, Ocean Mesa Campground is nestled among the native oaks of the Los Padres National Forest, with stunning views of the roaring Pacific Ocean. When your crew tires of El Capitan Beach or the miles of scenic hiking trails, take a plunge into the heated pool with an ocean view, head over to the playground, or rent a lawn game or five.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fun family activities: Summer concert series, pool, playground, game rentals, beach cruiser bike rentals
  • Campground amenities: On-site cafe, convenience store, flush toilets, hot shower, Wi-Fi, cable TV

Summer 2020 info: Ocean Mesa is open for RV camping only in the 2020 season, until further notice.


Kids do climb the walls at Ventura Ranch. Photo courtesy of KOA Ventura Ranch

4. Campland

A popular Southern California family vacation spot since 1969, Campland is located close to Sea World, Legoland, San Diego Zoo, the Gaslamp Quarter, and other area attractions. The list of kid-friendly activities here is long and so varied it’s sure to please even the pickiest patrons. From arcade games to beach volleyball courts, and even a skate park, you can kick boredom to the curb.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV
  • Fun family activities: Live music, pool, playground, arcade room, skate park, basketball courts, beach volleyball courts, ping pong, watercraft, and bike rentals
  • Campground amenities: On-site restaurant, convenience store, Wi-Fi, marina with rental slips, fitness center, dog park, flush toilets, hot showers

Summer 2020 info: As of June 4, 2020 Campland is open, following San Diego County's requirement that a vacant campsite separate each occupied campsite, and each campsite only be occupied by members of the same household.


Nothing says summer like getting sprayed with a hose. Photo by Roberta Brown

5. Lake Casitas Recreation Area and Campground

If you’re a disc golf junky, Lake Casitas Recreation Area and Campground has everything you’ve ever dreamed a disc golf course should be. The challenging, professionally designed course has its players traversing rugged terrain while overlooking scenic Lake Casitas. Adjacent to the campground, Lake Casitas Water Adventure Park opens its two water playgrounds for kids to enjoy during the hot summer months.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV
  • Fun family activities: Water park, disc golf course, biking, bird watching, watercraft rental, fishing, playground
  • Campground amenities: On-site cafe, convenience store, flush toilets, hot shower, marina with rental slips

Summer 2020 info:  Lake Casitas Recreation Area is open again for both camping and day use. Camping reservations are being accepted on a limited basis and continually reassessed for safety. Sadly, the Water Adventure Park will not open in the 2020 season.

RELATED: Last Minute SoCal Campgrounds for Camping with No Reservations


Pedal cars keep little campers happy at Ventura Ranch. Photo by Roberta Brown

6. Calico Ghost Town

When you reserve a spot at the Calico Ghost Town campground, the whole family is transported back to the heyday of an Old West mining town (and maybe even an old Brady Bunch family vacation). Part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system, this historic town, surrounding by the natural beauty of the desert, invites guests from all over the world to experience the fascinating chronicles of life in the late 1800s. Kids love the ghost tour, and they'll be talking about that mystery shack for a good long while.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin, Bunkhouse
  • Fun family activities: Silver mine tour, historic train ride, gold panning, off-road adventure tour, ghost tours, and an optical illusion mystery shack
  • Campground amenities: On-site restaurant, convenience store, sweet shop, flush toilets, hot showers

Summer 2020 info: Calico Ghost Town is open for short-term camping, with one family per campsite and one campsite per family. Group camping is not allowed, and neither are parties, barbecues, or contact sports. Picnic areas, playgrounds, pools, and splash parks all remain closed until further notice. Some of the shops and entertainment in the ghost town are open as of May 24.

7. Acton - North Los Angeles KOA

Bordering the Angeles Crest National Forest, the Acton KOA is a one hour drive from Los Angeles and delivers dramatic views of the San Gabriel Mountains with all the family-friendly conveniences you’d expect from KOA. Campers can choose from a whole host of activities including lawn Jenga and giant bowling, take part in some organized arts and crafts, then cannonball into the swimming pool.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin, Teepee
  • Fun family activities: Outdoor movie night, tetherball, horseshoes, lawn game rentals, volleyball, rock painting, shuffleboard, basketball courts, swimming pool, playground
  • Campground amenities: Flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility, convenience store

Summer 2020 info: Acton KOA is open for "essential camping" only. Both tents and RVs are allowed, but common areas (bath houses, pool, playground, game courts, lounge, etc.) are closed until further notice.


The beach is a great spot for s'mores. Photo courtesy of Newport Dunes Beach Resort

8. Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort

This waterfront camping resort in Orange County is so close and so easy, you may feel guilty calling it camping. Located on a small protected cove set back from the oceanfront in the heart of Newport Beach, this gem hidden in plain sight has a clean beach with surf-free water perfect for paddleboarding and pedalboating. Over the summer, an inflatable water park is erected with enough structures to exhaust a kid of any size. The resort has lovely cabins on the water (that book well in advance) as well as set-back sections for tent or RV camping. In season, the resort hosts events like nighttime movies, campfires, and kids' activities.

Summer 2020 info: Camping is available, and the water park is open. Social distancing is encouraged.

 

Originally published May 25, 2017, updated annually


KOA at Ventura Ranch
7400 Pine Grove Road
Santa Paula, CA 93060

Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground
56570 CA-74
Mountain Center, CA 92561

Ocean Mesa Campground
100 El Capitan Terrace Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

Campland on the Bay
2211 Pacific Beach Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109

Observatory Campground
Palomar Mountain
Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

Acton - North Los Angeles KOA
7601 Soledad Canyon Rd.
Acton, CA 93510

Calico Ghost Town
36600 Ghost Town Road
Yermo, CA 92398

Lake Casitas Recreation Area
11093 Santa Ana Road
Ventura, CA 93001

Newport Dunes Resort
1131 Back Bay Dr
Newport Beach , CA 92660
Knott's Taste of Fall-O-Ween
Knott's Berry Farm - 12:00 PM Pick
American Girl: Meet Courtney Moore
American Girl Store at the Grove - 12:00 PM Pick
CatCafe Lounge
Catcafe Lounge - various times Pick
Reopening: Butterfly Pavilion and Nature Gardens
Natural History Museum - various times Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides