The holidays are here and winter is the perfect time to book a family staycation in the Bay Area. There are tons of hotels with amazing kid perks like horseback riding, s’mores kits, ice skating and warm, indoor pools. With packages like staying in Santa’s Suite and going on a treasure hunt, these hotels really have the whole family in mind. Book your staycay today—no boarding pass required!
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Book at Holiday Hideaway at the Westin St. Francis—San Francisco
Location is key, they say in real estate and that certainly is the case for the Westin St. Francis. Located across the street from Union Square with its magical, holiday-themed ice skating rink and walking distance to a plethora of attractions, this hotel is steeped in San Franciscan history and will welcome your family for the perfect staycay. Read about our stay here and for more must-do and see sightseeing advice.
A special thanks to Westin St. Francis on Union Square for hosting the trip.
Get Cooking at the Stanford Inn by the Sea—Mendocino
Nestled atop a meadow that overlooks Mendocino Bay, The Stanford Inn and Resort is a luxurious and sustainable destination providing recreation opportunities like nature tours, yoga, canoeing, kayaking and gardening.
The Vibrant Families package is available as an add-on to a three-night minimum stay any time of year. It includes a family cooking class, art and creativity class and healthy living class all taught at the resort with plenty of downtime to play. Explore the breathtaking Mendocino coast, wander the resort’s vast property and educational farm, or head out on one of the resort’s redwood outrigger canoes with the entire family!
Explore the City Like Tourists at the Argonaut Hotel- San Francisco
Located in Fisherman’s Wharf, this nautical-themed hotel is full of details that kids love. Little ones can select goodies from a treasure chest and embark on a scavenger hunt. Kids and adults can enjoy Happy Hour with items like hot chocolate with whipped cream. If venturing out of the hotel, Pier 39, sea lions and Ghirardelli Square are all just a five-minute walk away.
The Backyard Adventure Package is great for families just wanting to explore. Fuel up with breakfast at the Blue Mermaid and stop in for dinner after a long day with a daily credit depending on how many days are booked.
Stay at Santa’s “Home Away from Home” at the Fairmont Hotel- San Francisco
Sitting atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont Hotel is one of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels in San Francisco. With renowned restaurants, beautiful views and walking distance to all that the city has to offer, it’s an awesome spot for a staycation.
The Santa’s Suite Package is one of the best experiences for little ones during the holidays. Guests stay in a family-friendly luxury suite decked out in holiday decor, breakfast for up to 4 guests, a “Candy and Hot Chocolate Bar” with adult beverages for parents, a DIY gingerbread house kit, complimentary holiday movie and overnight parking. Be sure to book this one early as it will sell out!
Swim under the Stars at the Palace Hotel—San Francisco
The Palace Hotel is a clear choice for a winter staycation spot if for one reason only—it has the pool with the best view in the city. This gorgeous indoor pool is covered by windows so that you can see all the nearby skyscrapers and twinkling holiday lights. Families will enjoy the hotel's excellent service and massive suites that offer plenty of room to spread out with the whole crew. Dine at the Garden Court Restaurant at their ample breakfast buffet or the signature tea that is offered on Saturday afternoons.
During the winter, you can book the Holiday Memories package that includes two passes for the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, two one-way Cable Car tickets and free in-room WiFi.
Red Carpet Treatment at the Ritz Carlton- San Francisco
If looking for something special for the kids as well as parents, check out the Ritz Carlton in Nob Hill close to Chinatown. The rooms are spacious, a Nespresso machine is in every room for that much-needed morning coffee with beautiful views and right in the middle of everything in the city.
The highlight is really the Ritz Kids program. Kiddos receive a red-carpet treatment during their stay complete with a special registration including a coloring book, personalized letter and a discovery-filled scavenger hunt. The special kid's menu includes everything from ants on a log to warm chocolate chip cookies. Make sure to take part in the cherished holiday tradition of Holiday Teddy Bear Tea—afternoon "tea" and a holiday show just for kids!
There are Views for Days at Cavallo Point Lodge—Sausalito
Cavallo Point Lodge is San Francisco’s award-winning national park lodge, attracting families seeking adventures or a staycation during the hectic holiday season. With weekend guided hikes, outdoor watercolor classes, picnics, or even just running around on the property’s grassy ground lawn, it’s all available with stunning views of San Francisco. Parents can enjoy daily morning yoga classes as well as access to the fitness suite and mediation pool.
Next door, sharing a secluded cove, is the very popular Bay Area Discovery Museum that families could easily spend the entire day at. Back at the hotel, the property’s back yard is 80,000 acres of Golden Gate National Parks, with built-in kid fun like hiking and beachcombing.
Cozy Up at the Half Moon Bay Lodge—Half Moon Bay
Book a suite with a fireplace and enjoy a long weekend at the Half Moon Bay Lodge. We love this coastal retreat for families because it includes free breakfast every morning and has a heated outdoor pool and hot tub. Winter stays will get you 25% off through the end of March.
Book a session of horseback riding on the beach and then head to downtown Half Moon Bay for some shopping at our favorite store for kids of all ages, Oddyssea. Oddyssea has an awesome outdoor area with a bunch of hands-on activities for kids and adults like leather working, terrarium building and a scavenger hunt in the garden. Don't miss the killer sandwiches and live music down the street at the San Benito House.
Shop, Skate and Play at Parc 55—San Francisco
Union Square hails all kinds of tourists from around the world, so why not join them for a couple of days and take part in all the fun activities? Parc 55 offers the winter Shop, Skate and Play package that includes three passes to the Safeway Ice Rink at Union Square, a complimentary gift from Bloomingdale’s, plus a 15% savings certificate, personal shopping appointment & beauty consultation, as well as free breakfast for the kids.
Take a morning after breakfast and hit up Union Square for a stroll. When it’s time for lunch, head over to Chinatown for some highly rated Chinese food or visit the Fortune Cookie Factory if the kiddos haven’t seen it yet!
Explore the Embarcadero at Hotel Vitale—San Francisco
We love the Hotel Vitale for it's perfect location right across the street from the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center Holiday Ice Rink. You'll get Bay views from the roof decks and loads of activities for families right around the corner. Parents can relax with massages at the on-site spa. Kids will especially love the Embarcadero Explorers Package that comes with four tickets to the Exploratorium, kids binoculars to scope out the Bay Bridge and a fun gift bag that includes a kids' Giants hat, SF puzzle, color-changing sunglasses and more.
The hotel is conveniently located in the same building as the SF Railway Museum (a fun and free spot to learn about San Francisco railway history) and right down the block from Sue Bierman Park and the Vaillancourt Fountain. Head across the street for ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, among dozens of other dining spots in the Ferry Building. The Exploratorium is just a 10-minute walk away—grab a pedicab ride back to the hotel when your legs are tired!
Make Some Family Time at Carmel Valley Ranch—Carmel
If you’re up for a bit of a drive, Carmel Ranch Valley is an ideal vacation spot to really be out in the open air. The hotel is dedicated to the idea of play, so you can be sure to have a great time with the kiddos.
Parents can enjoy a variety of fitness and wellness classes like nocturnal yoga or time at the spa. For kids, check out the many complimentary add-ons from an organic garden tour, QR code scavenger hunt and s’mores kit for nighttime fun. For a customized family trip, book a Ranch Style Getaway for 2 nights in a family suite and $330 credit to use on family activities like beekeeping, archery or crafting.
Kids Stay Free in December at Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA Holiday—Watsonville
If you have never brought the kids to a KOA for camping then you are in for a real treat. This spot near Manresa State Beach and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk offers Deluxe Cabins with bunk beds or a sleeping loft for the kids. There is a heated swimming pool, big playground and campfire theatre on the property.
December has three Winter Wonderland weekends that are packed with kid favorites like s’more and cocoa, letters to Santa crafts, movie night, train ride and candy cane palm trees to climb on. There are even donuts on Sunday and a light show every night!
Take in the Fisherman's Wharf Festivities at Hotel Zephyr—San Francisco
Kids will love the funky Hotel Zephyr, complete with giant games and fire pits. The playful hotel is all about a fun experience while being right across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf. The rooms are designed to look like captain’s rooms, so little ones will love the porthole window in each room. With walking distance to PIER 39, Ghirardelli Square and the Alcatraz Ferry landing, the activities are endless.
Spend an afternoon in the hotel’s pretty awesome indoor/outdoor lobby. Book a Winter Package that includes curated hot chocolate and 25% off accommodations. With colorful seating and jumbo games like Connect 4, it’s a great way to get some quality family time in.
It's a Winter Beach Day at the Dream Inn—Santa Cruz
Avoid the summer crowds and head to Santa Cruz this winter. The Dream Inn Hotel is right on the beach, so all you have to do is step outside with some sand toys and sunblock for a day of fun. With a heated outdoor pool, a view of the ocean from every room and colorful decor throughout the hotel, it’s the perfect Santa Cruz stay.
If you feel like staying an extra day, the hotel has a Third Night Free offer. With so many things to do and explore including the Beach Boardwalk, Nickelodeon Theater and Big Basin State Park, you will definitely want to book that extra night.
Great Wolf Lodge
Heated to a balmy 84F year round, the indoor water park will thrill kids with its slides, lazy river and wave pool. Not be undone, fun on dry land is to be had as well! Their signature, interactive game MagiQuest has participants wandering the lodge using a wand to join tribes, befriend magical creatures and defeat the enemy. Add on mini golf, a ropes course, arcade and mini bowling lanes to fill out your stay! Read our review on Great Wolf Lodge here.
Great Wolf Lodge
2500 Daniels St, Manteca
A special thank you to Great Wolf Lodge for hosting this trip.
—Sandra Lee & Kate Loweth
featured photo by Westin St. Francis at Union Square
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