Looking for a fun destination for a kid-friendly vacation? Enjoy a visit to Butte County, an extremely kid-friendly community with plenty of fun activities to keep children active, engaged, and entertained. Take a look at the following list, map out an exciting itinerary, and get ready to explore. (It’s always a good idea to check the linked websites for hours of operation, admission fees, and holiday closures.)
Caper Acres has been delighting young children, and their parents, for generations. Located at One-Mile Recreation Area in Bidwell Park, this expansive fairytale-themed playground for children 12 and younger includes fun features like a crooked house play structure, cement cheese slide, pirate ship with sea monster, Humpty Dumpty sandbox, plentiful swings, and more. The playground is surrounded by large oak trees, benches, and green space, perfect for family picnics and outings. If you’ve got young ones, this is a must-stop for families. Anyone over the age of 13 must be accompanied by a child under 13.
Expect to stay a couple of hours at the Chico Children’s Museum, and prepare for eager pleas to stay longer. This enchanting museum, targeted to children aged 2 to 8, opened in early 2019 to inspire creativity, investigation, and learning through play. Kids and parents create wonder in a dimly lit sensory room. They explore art stations and walls made of tape, Legos, and wind pipes. There’s a mini stage with costumes, a make-believe farm, two-story treehouse for reading, spaceship command center, fire station, and campground complete with kayak, tent, s’mores, and animals. Kids can wear lab coats and stethoscopes to work in the dental office and veterinary clinic, shop at the market, mail letters at the post office, and make food at the local café. See why they won’t want to leave?
After dinner at a kid-friendly restaurant (really, that's most places around here) of your choosing, head over to Shubert’s Ice Cream and Candy for a classic Chico tradition. Shubert’s has been making its ice cream and candies using local ingredients and seasonal fruit since it opened in downtown Chico in 1938. A few years back, its Chico Mint ice cream was voted the No. 2 ice cream in the nation by Good Morning America. Other local favorites include Mount Shasta (chocolate, coconut and marshmallow), Turtle (caramel, pecans and chocolate), and lemon custard. Order a cone, sundae, or shake, or introduce the younger generation to a freeze, malt, or brown cow. While you’re there, try some of their delicious confections, including chocolate turtles, peanut brittle, sea salt caramels, mints, and old-school chocolates. Choose from 30 ice cream flavors, as well as dairy-free options.
A trip inside Sweet Chico Confections feels like you’ve entered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. This colorful candy shop is packed with nearly 5,000 different sweets, gifts, and nostalgic toys that are sure to bring back sweet memories for adults, and create new ones for kids. Enjoy a creamy, hand-crafted gelato, treat yourself to a fresh specialty chocolate, and comb the aisles for new or old-time favorite confections. Rest assured, you’ll find lots of happiness at Sweet Chico.
Kids will love learning all there is to know about yo-yos and more at the National Yo-Yo Museum in downtown Chico. The museum features the world’s largest public display of yo-yos and yo-yo memorabilia, including “Big-Yo,” a massive, working 256-pound wood yo-yo. Discover thousands of yo-yos on display, watch videos of contest performances, and get a free lesson if you visit on a Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. In October, come watch top performers at the National Yo-Yo contest. The museum is located in Bird in Hand, which also has fun educational toys, games, clothing and housewares.
The Gateway Science Museum is hands-on institution where kids and families can learn, build, and experiment with all areas of scientific discovery. A partnership between CSU Chico and the community, this small but engaging museum is an easy walk from Downtown. It hosts rotating traveling exhibits with interactive activities and programs, Saturday investigation station events, and discovery camps.
Exhibit topics have ranged from bats, bears, and brains to sustainability and aerospace. Check the website to see what’s featured. On your way out, make sure you visit the gift shop and outdoor native garden. Expand your visit by grabbing tasty fare from nearby restaurants and enjoy it on the grassy grounds of Bidwell Mansion, which is adjacent to the museum.
For those interested in aviation and the magic of flight, the Chico Air Museum is a must-see. The museum is located near the Chico Municipal Airport and housed in a WWII hangar built as part of the Chico Army Air Field. Visitors can climb into the cockpit of an aircraft, view military and civilian planes, and examine aviation artifacts, photos, and displays. Knowledgeable docents (many of them former pilots) share interesting flight stories, as well as the history and science of aviation. Head outside to see an impressive display of jet and propeller-driven aircraft, and possible takeoffs and landings. There’s also an area for little ones to pilot their own pedal-operated mini planes.
Rare Air, Chico’s trampoline park, allows kids of all ages to literally bounce off the walls. In the main court, kids can catch air jumping, flipping, and flying through a matrix of open-jump trampolines. They can also participate in dodgeball and balance games and enjoy an airbag pit and slam dunk court. Smaller guests can safely jump in a designated junior court area. Board games, drinks, and snacks are available. Rare socks are required and can be purchased for $3 and are reusable. Check the website for details about waivers, prices, family nights, toddler time, and seasonal camps.
It’s not every day that you get an up-close visit with lions, tigers and bears. The Barry Kirshner Wildlife Sanctuary features a fascinating assortment of wild and exotic animals from all over the world, many of whom have been injured or are unable to return to the wild. Children and adults walk the grounds, seeing and learning about these animals and their habitats, as well as the care and preservation of all wildlife. Spotted and snow leopards are always crowd favorites, and kids will be mesmerized by the larger animals as well as bobcats, wallabies, lynx, and exotic birds and reptiles.
Personalized guided tours available for an additional fee upon request. Note that the sanctuary may close early on 100 degree-plus days.
Wind your way up scenic Kelly Ridge for a birds-eye view of the Oroville lake and dam at the visitor center. Kids will enjoy interpretive displays, videos about the dam construction and fish hatchery, as well as life-sized historic exhibits of native American tribes and miners who resided in the area. A 47-foot tower with two high-powered telescopes provides panoramic views of the lake, dam, and surrounding areas. You can purchase food and drinks at several stores before turning onto Kelly Ridge Rd. The center includes covered picnic tables and easy walking trails for exploration.
Pack your swimsuit, frisbee, beach chair, and picnic basket, and enjoy a scenic day at Oroville’s recently renovated Riverbend Park. Just minutes from downtown Oroville, this beautiful 210-acre park is situated along the Feather River and offers green spaces, paved trails, a sandy beach, boat dock, and fishing ponds. Four large pavilions (available for reservation) offer barbecue pits and seating. Kids will enjoy the play structure area, catching crawdads, skipping stones, and splashing in the river. A disc golf course and dog park are also nearby. During the salmon season each fall, kids and families will marvel at the hundreds of fish swimming in the river.