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Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

Montreal, Canada
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81 posts
6 reviews
1 helpful vote
Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

Going to be 2 weeks in mid-Sept., flying into San Jose. Staying with friends in Carmel Valley for 5 days then off on our own for the remainder. With friends we'll go to Big Sur, the beach, Monterey aquarium, etc.

I first thought of driving the few hours east and spending the rest of our time at Sequoia Nat'l Park. But then friends suggested going north to see big redwoods.

I don't want to drive anymore than about 2-3 hrs. So also thought to find an inexpensive hotel close to Big Basin Redwood State Park (Santa Cruz), so we can go to the beach AND hike amidst the big trees. Big Basin sounds great, but is there enough to do for a little one to spend the rest of our time there? How far from Santa Cruz is it? Drive up and spend one day hiking around? Santa Cruz beaches any good? Crowded, expensive?

I like all the things that Sequoia NP has to offer little ones; junior ranger, interpretive center, more hiking trails for littles (I think?), etc. But I do like the idea of having more beach time as well.

Any other places besides Big Basin that would give access to beach and big trees?

There is just SO much to do in this area, its' overwhelming! I've been to the area a few times and no matter what we do, my lo will be thrilled. He does love the beach though!

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
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33,400 posts
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1. Re: Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

In the area of Big Basin, there is also Henry Cowell. Very nice nature trail and visitor center.

If the 4.5 year old likes train, Roaring camp would be fun for him.


(note - I Think Herny Cowell is more fun for a 4.5 than Big Basin - but each their own)


Santa Cruz Boardwalk has fun rides

There is also nearby Gilroy Gardens.



Santa Cruz beaches are fun to watch the surfers, beach play, etc. The sea lions in Santa Cruz are fun for all.

There is a children's museum in Santa Cruz


Montreal, Canada
Level Contributor
81 posts
6 reviews
1 helpful vote
2. Re: Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

Oh gosh, a train!!! My son LOVES all things train. And thanks for the tip re: Henry Cowell. I'll check these options out!

Santa Cruz...
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for Santa Cruz
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33,612 posts
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3. Re: Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

You will want to be in Santa Cruz for the redwoods and beaches. Big Basin is 18.000 acres and 22 miles from Santa Cruz on twisty, narrow roads, with no hotels, restaurants, etc. Great for serious hiking and seeing the trees, but Henry Cowell is only 7 miles from SC and has good information. It is also very near the Roaring Camp and Big Trees railroad.

The beaches in Santa Cruz, and there are several, are usually not very crowded.

Here is a traveler article on the city and area. If you have que


Edited: 18 July 2017, 01:13
4. Re: Sept two week trip with 4.5 yo - beach/big trees?

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