8 SoCal Campgrounds with Extra Entertainment To Keep Kids Happy

Up your family's camping game with these 8 awesome Southern California Campgrounds

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, and you don’t have to ditch the tent to inject a bit of pep in your sulking teen’s step or enchant your tantrum-prone three year old. 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.


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

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

RELATED: 15 Best Campgrounds for Tent Camping near Los Angeles


Ziplining at Ventura Ranch. Photo courtesy of KOA Ventura Ranch

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

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


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

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


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

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

RELATED: Last Minute SoCal Campgrounds for Camping with No Reservations


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

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

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, tether ball, horseshoes, lawn game rentals, volleyball, rock painting, shuffleboard, basketball courts, swimming pool, playground
  • Campground amenities: Flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility, convenience store


Palomar Observatory Campground is relaxing by day and exciting by night. Photo courtesy California State Parks, 2017

Observatory Campground

For the astronomy buffs in your family, this more primitive campground offers unique opportunities to enjoy the night sky. Sites have level spots for telescopes and clear views of a sky overhead that's far from city lights. A two-mile hike to the Palomar Observatory is the start of an exciting evening of stargazing, especially on nights when the Observatory hosts the amateur astronomy project, Explore the Stars. By day, the campground is a secluded spot offering outdoor learning opportunities along the lines of birding and fishing. At an elevation of 4,800 feet, this spot offers clean air, inviting pine trees, and a perfect base camp for hiking and stargazing.

  • Lodging types offered: Tent, RV
  • Fun family activities: Hiking, birding, fishing, access to the Palomar Observatory
  • Campground amenities: Vault toilets, shower (seasonal)

Top photo courtesy of Lake Hemet Campground

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