When you go on vacation with your family, you want to make it a trip to remember! This itinerary is guaranteed to please children (and adults) of all ages.

Start your vacation off right with a day at the beach!

Begin by stocking up on snacks and picking up picnic items from Harvest Market (171 Boatyard Dr.), Safeway (660 S. Main St.), Purity (242 N. Franklin St.), or Cirino’s (131 E. Laurel St.). Then head to Pudding Creek Beach. Relax on this white-sand beach as you make memories that your whole family will remember fondly for years to come. Plus, Pudding Creek has the perfect sand for building sandcastles.

After you’ve chosen the winner of your impromptu sandcastle contest, go north across the historic trestle bridge to the world-famous Glass Beach. (Glass Beach is also a great place to go tide-pooling and see all sorts of marine life.)

From Glass Beach, walk over to the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail or get in the car and drive north to MacKerricher State Park, where you can enjoy your picnic at one of the handy picnic tables, complete with a view of the Pacific to the west and distant mountains to the north.

At MacKerricher, the kiddos will enjoy racing along the boardwalk and seeing the sea lions, cormorants, osprey, squirrels, and other wildlife. At low tide, you can take the stairs from the boardwalk down to the beach, where you’ll find cool rocks and lively tidepools. At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360-degree vista of the coastline, from the open ocean to the breathtaking coastline to the forests and hills. (Pro-tip: MacKerricher State Park has campsites and facilities available to reserve.)

 Want to get out on the water? Try Jug Handle State Natural Reserve for a more sheltered cove and a level beach where the kids can roam and explore. Older children may want to skim board. Jug Handle also has great hiking trails, including an Ecological Staircase Trail that takes you through the remarkable pygmy forest. If surfing is more your style, talk to Caleb at North Coast Surf School about getting a surf lesson at Caspar Beach or renting a surfboard.

After a day well spent, stop at Piaci (120 W. Redwood Ave.) for tasty handmade pizza. Be prepared to wait, since Piaci tends to be busy. If you prefer a quicker meal, Jenny’s Giant Burger (940 N. Main St.) offers hearty burgers and fries, classic milkshakes, and old-fashioned malts. Bon appetit!

End the evening on a sweet note with a trip to Cowlick’s Ice Cream (250 N. Main St.), open until 9 pm every day.

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They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’ve got you covered. Try Eggheads (326 N. Main St.) for delicious Wizard of Oz-inspired dishes, Home Style Café (790 S. Main St.) for classic breakfast and brunch options, or David’s Deli (163 Boatyard Dr.) for generous portions, great food, and friendly service.

After breakfast, head to the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad, right behind the Skunk Train Depot (100 W. Laurel St.). History comes to life with the impressive model railroad, which features a full 1300 feet of track, as well as re-creations of the old mill, a logging camp, the trestle, and other structures from the old days.

Next, you can either take the kids on the real-life Skunk Train or you can embark on a railbike adventure down the tracks! Help the kids pedal (or turn on the motorized assist option) on the journey to the beautiful Glen Blair and back. The Skunk Train also offers themed seasonal trains around Halloween and Christmas.

For lunch, check out Laurel Deli (401 N. Main St.) – and be sure to save room for pie! The little ones will be in awe of the historic trains and rail equipment they’ll discover at the Depot Mall and Museum.

Alternatively, you can picnic at Otis R. Johnson Park and listen to the burble of the creek as you take in the towering redwoods. After you’ve eaten, explore the park’s trails before heading to the Mendocino Cookie Company (303 N. Main St.) or Headlands Coffeehouse (120 E. Laurel St.) for a treat. (Grown-ups take note: both places offer coffee if you need an afternoon pick-me-up.)

At the end of the day, visit the Spunky Skunk (344 N. Franklin St.) so that the tykes can pick out a toy or two. For kids (and adults) who are more into style, Pippi’s Longstockings (123 E. Laurel St.) offers a variety of colorful and creative socks and tights. Older children may want to stop at Blaqk Door (344 N. Main St.) for comics, graphic novels, and games.

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Today, choose your own adventure:

  • Take the kids swimming at the marvelous C.V. Starr Community Center (300 S. Lincoln St.) and then let them burn off the rest of their energy at the Wiggly Giggly Playground (442-498 E. Laurel St.). Older children might want to hit the basketball or tennis courts adjacent to the playground or stop at the library across the street to browse the newest YA fiction.
  • Get into the water with your favorite aquatic activity: kayaking, surfing, or diving. Liquid Fusion Kayaking (32399 Basin St.) offers paddling trips for all ages and experience levels. Continue your surf lessons with Caleb at North Coast Surf School. Or rent diving, kayaking, surfing, or snorkeling equipment from Subsurface Progression (18600 CA-1).
  • Have a budding marine scientist? They’ll learn all about our aquatic ecosystem at the Noyo Center for Marine Science’s Discovery Center (338 N. Main St.) and Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center (Noyo Headlands Trail South, 155 Cypress St). You can take selfies with the world’s largest killer whale skeleton, and kids and adults alike will be impressed by the immersive 3D geodesic dome. Be sure to check out the intertidal touch tank, telescopes, and other hands-on educational activities.
  • If you’re here between December 26 and April 30, take to the seas! Sign up for a family whale-watching expedition with All Aboard Adventures or Telstar Charters. (Or simply go to the nearest coastal trail and keep an eye out for whale spouts!)
  • For land-based recreation, the Emerald Dolphin Inn (1211 S. Main St.) has an 18-hole mini-golf course replete with waterfalls and fountains, as well as a classic arcade.

Following the day’s adventures, head to A Sweet Affair (401 N. Main St.) or the Mendocino Chocolate Company (410 N. Main St.) for a sweet treat.

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Today, why not take the trails you haven’t traveled?

Head to the historic and picturesque Point Cabrillo Light Station (13800 Point Cabrillo Dr.) for sweeping views of the lighthouse and the coast. The first floor of the lighthouse is a fascinating museum, open to the public year-round, and tours of the upper floors are offered 8 times a year. The Light Station also features three restored lightkeeper homes, one of which is a museum, and a restored blacksmith and carpentry shop that now houses a 240-gallon saltwater aquarium.

Afterwards, visit the nearby Russian Gulch State Park, where you can picnic and explore the Headlands Trail for a short hike or, if you prefer a more strenuous adventure, the Fern Canyon Trail, which leads to a scenic waterfall. Allow half a day for the waterfall hike.

Soak in the sunshine and see all the different colors of the ocean from one of our many nature trails. The Coastal Trail is relatively flat and ideal for walking, biking, skating, or pushing a stroller. All of the trails listed in our Accessible Fort Bragg Itinerary are suitable for strollers.

You can sign up with Ricochet Ridge Ranch for horseback riding along the beach, a once-in-a-lifetime experience — unless you love it so much you come back again! (Children must be 6 years or older to ride.)

Or, if you need to recover from the week’s adventures with something less athletic, you can always catch the latest blockbuster at Coast Cinemas (135 S. Franklin St.). Share a large popcorn with the kids or keep one all to yourself – we won’t judge!

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