Southern California is more than just palm trees

When in southern California with kids, it’s easy to get caught up in the lure of LEGOLAND and Disneyland. But my daughter and I discovered several stops worth a visit beyond those two famous attractions.

Temecula Children’s Museum: This gem of a museum is an hour north of San Diego but well worth the drive. It’s one of the best kids’ museums I have visited. Designed around the fictional Professor Pennypickle and his amazing workshop, this facility is a little kids’ paradise although there was also plenty to keep me and my 14-year-old interested and occupied. We could have spent several hours exploring all the nooks and crannies.

Knott’s Berry Farm: I expected quaint but found a terrific little amusement park that is just the right size to do in a day without exhausting ourselves. Don’t head home without a stop at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. There, you’ll find comfort food served with a smile. Order the full chicken dinner and you’ll get a meal just like Mrs. Knott used to serve during the Depression-fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Order the cherry rhubarb for your appetizer. Yum.

Catalina Island: There’s enough to do on this laid-back island to keep the kids interested but not so much that the adults end up exhausted. Skip the scenic bus tour, which wasn’t all that scenic, and opt instead for the Undersea Tour, also operated by Discovery Tours. The windows are big and clear enough to get a good look at the huge algae trees, purple plants, neon orange garibaldi fish and the topsmelt with the electric blue vertical line.

Long Beach Aquarium: There were plenty of interactive things for kids to open, watch and touch (including sharks), lots of short video clips that only a parent would recognize as educational and some of the most interesting fish I’ve ever seen, from the vibrant tropical fish to the creepy giant sea bass.

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