SoCal Campgrounds with Extra Entertainment for Kids —What's Open in 2021
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? Water parks? 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: Due to COVID-19, many campgrounds are developing different activities and have some restrictions in place for visitors in 2021. Check with each campground for the most updated information.
This is a bit of a drive from LA, but worth it. In the middle of San Luis Obisbo County, just inland from Pismo Beach, lies Lopez Lake. With multiple campgrounds right by the lake, there are options for every kind of camping from rustic to RV to cabins. While parents will be in the thrall of the myriad of lake activities (fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating), hiking, zip line, ropes course, and incredible wildlife, the real draw here for kids is Mustang Waterpark. Accessible from the campgrounds, the waterslides and kiddie pool will keep kids corralled and happy for days. There are lifeguards on duty and a restaurant on the grounds, so it’s as relaxing for parents as it is fun for kids. And did we mention the wildlife? Deer, wild turkey, quail, and even the occasional bear can be spotted on hikes or just wandering through the campsites.
- Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabins
- Fun family activities: Waterpark, zip line, private fishing lagoon, children’s playground area, a basketball court, horseshoe pits, ropes course
- Campground amenities: Flush toilets, hot shower and coin-operated shower, laundry facility, general store, restaurant
Summer 2021 info: Day Use Parks are currently closed to group gatherings, weddings, and day-use reservations; all campgrounds and facilities are open.
Marshmallows taste better after a day in the lake. Photo courtesy of Lake Hemet Campground
A two and a half-hour drive from Los Angeles, the Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground offers 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. Or rent a pontoon boat for the day and enjoy a floating, splashing picnic. Either way, parents can open up the cooler and kick back while kids splash themselves into an early bedtime.
- Lodging types offered: Tent, RV, Cabin, new Glamping Tents
- Fun family activities: Swim beach, water park with inflatables, kayak, motorboat, and pontoon boat rentals, fishing
- Campground amenities: On-site cafe, convenience store, flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility
Summer 2021 info: All campsites, cabin rentals, RV sites, and new glamping tents are open and available to reserve online. The (paid) water park is currently closed, but the campground is offering a swim zone (for free) for all overnight guests.
Ziplining at Ventura Ranch. Photo courtesy of KOA 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, Teepees, Conestoga Wagons, Safari Tents, Cabins
- Fun family activities: Rock climbing tower, zip line, outdoor movie night, Bigfoot adventure walk, jumping pillow, pedal cars, adventure course, gem mining
- Campground amenities: Flush toilets, hot shower, laundry facility, convenience store, Wi-Fi
Summer 2021 info: All lodging types and activities are now open.
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 2021 info: As of April 12, Safari Tents and Adventure Yurts are not available and access to the pool and playground area has been suspended.
Kids can paddle, skate, and play at Campland. Photo courtesy of Campland
A popular Southern California family vacation spot since 1969, Campland is located close to SeaWorld, 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 2021 info: As of April 12, Campland is open. Groups of over 10 may not congregate, and swimming pools are open at reduced capacity. However, new this summer there is a giant inflatable waterslide, and music is back every weekend with Campland Rocks.
Kids are in charge of the boats on Lake Casitas. Photo by Jeremy Miles/CC-BY-2.0
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 2021 info: Lake Casitas Recreation Area is open again for both camping and day use. Group picnic shelters, shower houses, and playgrounds remain closed. And sadly, Casitas Water Adventure will not be open for the Summer 2021 season.
Hiking with the ghosts at Calico Ghost Town. Photo by Mommy Poppins
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, surrounded 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 2021 info: Calico Ghost Town is open for camping. Group camping is not allowed, and neither are parties or contact sports. Many shops and activities in the ghost town are open as of April 12.
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 2021 info: All campsites, cabin rentals, RV sites, and teepees are open and available to reserve online. Common areas (pool, playground, game courts, lounge, etc.) are closed until May 1, and arts and craft activities for kids are on hold. This information is subject to change, please contact the campground before your trip for the latest information.
The beach is a great spot for s'mores. Photo courtesy of Newport Dunes Beach 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 hidden in plain sight gem has a clean beach with surf-free water perfect for paddle boarding and pedal boating. 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 2021 info: Camping is available, and the water park is open. Social distancing is encouraged, and several restaurants and the fitness center remain closed as of April 12.
This post was originally published on May 25, 2017, and is updated annually. Some photos in this post were taken prior to the pandemic.
Places featured in this article:
KOA at Ventura Ranch
Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground
Ocean Mesa Campground
Campland on the Bay
Lopez Lake Campground