Northern California Winter Road Trip With Kids

Northern California Winter Road Trip With Kids

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We spent 5 days traveling around on our Northern California winter road trip. in January and it was great. It snowed heavily the week before our trip, so it was the perfect time to head out there for some winter activities. 

The only part of NorCal I’ve been to is San Francisco, and specifically Napa Valley for the wine train. It was our anniversary date and very much worth it. We also stopped to see the Golden Gate Bridge which was really fun.

california, san francisco, best us states to visit with kids

We were excited to explore other parts of NorCal and I’m happy to share that with you below.

Northern California Winter Road Trip With Kids

How Did We Get There?

We flew on Southwest Airlines from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sacramento (SAC). It was a short 1.5hr flight! We love Southwest Airlines because they don’t charge for bags which is great because we had 3 carry-on bags as well as one piece of luggage that we checked in.

We don’t usually check in any luggage however we were going to be skiing and snowboarding and our clothes were bulky so we needed it.

How Did We Get Around?

We rented a car as soon as we got to Sacramento, right at the airport. We were renting with a debit card only and had a hard time, however we found out that Hertz didn’t give us a hard time about that. Other rentals do rent with a debit card but they have a few stipulations, so make sure to check prior to your trip.

What Did We Do There?

We visited 3 different areas during our NorCal trip, Tuolumne County, Calaveras County and Tahoe South. I’ll share our exact itinerary below so that if you’re planning a trip, you can easily follow along.

Day 1 – NorCal Road Trip

Day one of our Northern California winter road trip. We had a morning flight and arrived in Sacramento airport quite early. Then we grabbed our rental car and it was time to start our road trip.

Northern California winter road trip.

We stopped at The Waffle Experience for breakfast. The food and service there were just okay. I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

After breakfast, it was time for the 2 hour drive to Tuolumne County. We made a stop in Downtown Sonora and stopped at the Visit Tuolumne County Visitors Center. This is a great stop where you can get a map of the county, ask questions and get help with trip planning.

After that we drove straight to  McCaffrey House which is the bed and breakfast in Twain Harte where we stayed.

Day 2 – NorCal Road Trip

We woke up bright and early this morning excited to tackle the day. Also, we were able to request what we wanted to eat for breakfast and she had it ready for us in the morning. We had breakfast at the McCaffrey House and then it was time to get our day started.

We spent the day skiing at Dodge Ridge Mountain Resort. First, we started off with a lesson and then we had the rest of the time to practice our skills. Aiden was the star of the show and is so much better at skiing than my husband and I. Kids learn so fast!

Northern California winter road trip with kids

After skiing we went back to our bed and breakfast for a little rest and then off to dinner at The Rock of Twain Harte .

The Rock of Twain Harte

Day 3 – NorCal Road Trip

We had breakfast this morning at Alicia’s Sugar Shack and the food was so good! Highly recommend it. It was one of our favorites places on our Northern California winter road trip—for sure!

Alicia’s Sugar Shack for breakfast

After that we drove to Columbia State Historic Park. There’s so much history there and also so much to learn about mining. We stopped at a candy store and Aiden was excited to grab some candy there. There is also a palace there where you can pan for gold.

Next, we drove to Angels Camp Museum. This was Aiden’s favorite place to visit and he learned so much about the history of Calaveras County. He was also able to pan for gold and do a scavenger hunt. There was so much learning happening here; it was a full school day for Aiden.

We enjoyed lunch at The Pickled Porch in downtown Angels Camp. They have really great sandwiches and soups. The bean soup is a must have.

The Pickled Porch | Northern California winter road trip

Then we toured Historic Murphys CA and Ironstone Vineyards where we saw a nugget of gold. This was one of the coolest things we saw on this trip.

Ironstone Vineyards gold

After a busy day out, we then went to our hotel for the night and checked in to Victoria Inn in Calaveras County. As soon as we dropped our luggages, we rushed off for dinner at Grounds Restaurant.

Day 4 – NorCal Road Trip

We had breakfast this morning at Grounds Restaurant. Another option was Aria Bakery but we really enjoyed our dinner and the service so we went back.

After breakfast, we were ready to tackle our activities for the day starting with a tour of Calaveras Big Trees State Park North Grove. I didn’t realize how much fun exploring this park in the snow would be. I can’t wait to visit again when it’s much warmer to see how it looks.

The tall huge trees are a must see and having a guide was helpful too. They have guided tours throughout the week, just make sure to check the visitors center and plan accordingly.

After that, we drove to Moaning Cavern Adventure Park and got there right in time for the tour. They have tours every hour or so. I was so scared walking down the staircase as the space was very small, however it does open up the closer to the bottom you get.

Northern California winter road trip | Moaning Cavern Adventure Park

Gold miners first explored this Cavern in the 1840s and 1850s, so there is so much history here. Aiden loved it and had so many questions for our guide. Getting back up was a workout, and I could feel it in my thighs for a few days after.

Northern California winter road trip

We ate a late breakfast today so we didn’t get to grab lunch. After the busy day we drove straight to Tahoe for the rest of our trip. It was so cold, so we stopped at My Tahoe Thai for some soup and then checked into our hotel Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel and went straight to bed.

Day 5 – NorCal Road Trip

We woke up bright and early this morning in Tahoe South and grabbed breakfast at Black Cabin Coffee. They have really good coffee here. We stopped here on our last visit to Lake Tahoe a year ago.

Black Cabin Coffee | Northern California winter road trip.

After breakfast we went straight to Heavenly for our snowboarding lesson. The service here is top notch. They help you find your ski/snowboarding boots size and even help you put it on too. Everywhere I turned there was someone ready to help. Now it was time for us to snowboard! We had to on our Northern California winter road trip.

Heavenly | Northern California winter road trip

Highly recommend Heavenly especially if it’s your first time skiing or snowboarding. Our instructor was Nina Ghandi and she was really amazing (you can request her when you go there). Aiden and my husband were snowboarding by the end of our session and I was struggling. I feel so many times, haha!

Northern California winter road trip | snowboarding

We were supposed to stop at Tube Tahoe for some tubing fun but we ran out of time and had to head to the airport. We didn’t even get a chance to grab lunch as well.

Overall thoughts on our Northern California winter road trip.

We had an amazing time visiting all 3 counties in Northern California. A road trip was the best way to do it too, starting in one place and ending in another. I’d love to do this in the summer too and see what different activities are available and fun to do. Overall it was a very educational road trip and perfect for families.

This blog post is sponsored by Visit California however as always, all opinions are mine.

Overall thoughts on our Northern California winter road trip
Kay, The Mom Trotter

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I am an entrepreneur and travel enthusiast who is passionate about sharing an alternate way of living surrounding travel, homeschooling, parenting and financial independence, with a mission to inspire other families.

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