12 Things To Do With Family In Riverside, California

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Riverside, California is a vibrant inland city located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. With a rich history, unique architecture, and beautiful year-round weather, Riverside offers visitors plenty of family-friendly things to see and do. From historic sites and interactive museums to scenic parks and gardens, this growing city provides something for visitors of all ages and interests to enjoy.

Spending time together as a family while exploring new destinations creates lasting memories. If you’re looking for great ideas for fun family activities in the Riverside area, read on for 12 of the best things to do with kids of any age in Riverside, California.

Visit the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa


The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is Riverside’s crown jewel, offering a unique historic hotel experience unlike anywhere else. This National Historic Landmark has been welcoming guests since 1876 with its iconic bell towers, flying buttresses, cool interior courtyard with fountains, and fine dining and shopping.

Kids will love exploring this castle-like structure with parents to discover beautiful architecture, artifacts like an Egyptian mummy, and the history behind one of California’s oldest hotels. Family-friendly activities include seasonal events like holiday tours or summer movie nights. Afterward, stop at the Presidential Lounge for hot cocoa or visit the onsite museum to learn more about the inn’s rich past.

See Exotic Animals at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens


Spanning nearly 1,200 acres, the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is one of the largest zoos in the state. It’s home to over 130 indigenous wild animals and 400 plant species from North American and African desert environments. Families could easily spend an entire day visiting the zoo’s scenic nature trails, hidden desert oases, and exciting animal exhibits.

Kids will love getting close to unique creatures like cheetahs, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, warthogs, giraffes, and zebras in natural habitat enclosures. Be sure to visit animal encounters like the petting kraal and lorikeet aviary for hands-on interactions with friendly critters. End your day enjoying a picnic while watching the rare desert bighorn sheep herd.

Tour Fox Performing Arts Center


For families interested in music, theater, and the arts, add Fox Performing Arts Center in downtown Riverside to your must-see list. This elegantly restored 1929 Spanish Colonial Revival style theater comes alive at night with musicals, concerts, comedians and more.

Schedule your visit during the day for a one-hour guided walking tour around the extravagant interior and behind the scenes sneak peeks most visitors don’t get to see. Kids with an eye for design will marvel at the painted ceilings, brass chandeliers, twisting staircases, and century-old Austrian crystal stage curtain. Make sure to pose for photos on the grand lobby staircase during your insider tour.

Ride on Riverside’s Sightseeing Trolley

One of the best ways to acquaint your family with Riverside is to hop aboard one of the bright red trolleys from Riverside Trolley & Train. These narrated sightseeing rides offer entertaining city tours covering over 100 years of local history. Knowledgeable guides will point out landmarks and share stories about the early citrus industry, Mission Inn, museums, historic buildings, parks, and more along the hour-long route.

Trolleys run a loop connecting downtown, Riverside Plaza, and the pedestrian shopping promenade with stops allowing you to hop-on and hop-off. This makes taking the trolley a fun way for families to explore Riverside’s culture, key attractions, restaurants, and shops.

Wander the California Citrus State Historic Park


Immerse your family in Riverside’s citrus heritage with a visit to California Citrus State Historic Park near downtown. Once covering nearly 250,000 acres, vast citrus groves put Riverside on the map as a thriving agricultural hub through the early 1900s. Today, this small urban park preserves some of the oldest surviving commercial orange groves along with an ornate packing house and artifacts from the boom era.

Pick up a free map at the visitor center then follow walking paths through fragrant citrus trees laden with fruit in season. Picnic under the shade of orange trees before letting kids run around wide open grassy spaces. Then tour inside the towering old packing house to see historic equipment and displays depicting citriculture’s impact on the city.

Make a Splash at Castle Park


On hot Riverside days, cool off with a visit to Castle Park amusement park. Located along the Santa Ana River, this longtime family favorite opened in 1976 to offer classic water rides and arcade games. Spend the day drifting on the Lazy River, shooting down three-story water slides like Dragon’s Descent, or braving the intense Tidal Wave.

When you’ve had enough water fun, hit the Midway section filled with carnival rides and challenging miniature golf courses. Test your skills shooting hoops at Safari Sam’s 3D blacklight basketball arcade or playing rounds of air hockey against family at the arcade’s indoor tables. With affordable passes, you could easily enjoy Castle Park’s thrill rides, challenging mini-golf, and old-school arcade vibes for hours.

Hike Mt. Rubidoux


Work up an appetite while soaking up panoramic views of downtown Riverside and snow-capped peaks by hiking up Mt. Rubidoux. At just over 1,300 feet elevation, Mt. Rubidoux stands out across the city skyline with its landmark white Peace Tower monument crowning the summit. Three trails, including a paved road and stairs, wind 1.5 miles to the top through native chaparral habitat with abundant birdlife.

Bring the whole family on this short family-friendly hike suitable for younger kids and those needing ADA access to enjoy the rewarding scenery at the peak of Mt. Rubidoux. Along the way, check out historic markers and migrant-themed sculptures punctuating the hike. Pack a picnic to refuel while admiring views of the valley at designated viewpoints near the top.

Play Mini-Golf at Castle Golf & Games


Another fun and affordable family entertainment center, Castle Golf & Games has been a longtime local favorite for its golfing and games since 1958. Just over the freeway from Castle Park, Castle Golf offers two creatively designed 18-hole mini-golf putting courses families will love. Navigate mini-golf holes surrounded by faux grass, rock walls, ponds, bridges, and waterfalls in Courses 1 and 2.

Each course takes around 30-45 minutes to play, with skill levels suited for everyone from kids to avid golfers. After mini-golf, head inside to the enormous arcade at Castle Golf packed with redemption games, racing games, shooters, basketball hoops, coin pushers, and claws. With budget pricing, your family could easily spend hours being entertained at Castle Golf & Games in Riverside.

Watch Falcons at the Center for Birds of Prey


Get a front-row view into the world of raptor rehabilitation at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Riverside. Located within Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, this one-of-a-kind center rescues and rehabilitates injured native California birds of prey before releasing them into recovery habitats. Visitors can take self-guided walking tours along dirt trails and elevated boardwalks winding through the serene wildlife center for free.

Onsite rehabilitation enclosures give families a rare glimpse into daily bird care while informative signs detail the unique stories behind each feathered resident. Don’t miss visiting the weathering flight area to watch staff exercise falcons, hawks, golden and bald eagles, vultures, owls, and other raptors recovering their flight strength. Nature-loving kids from toddlers to teens will find a meaningful connection witnessing these beautiful predators before release.

Pick Fruit at an Orange Grove or Farm

For a hands-on agritourism family experience, visit one of the pick-your-own citrus groves or farms operating around Riverside County. The region’s climate allows several crops to flourish, with options for picking sweet juicy oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines straight from the tree mid-November through June.

Families can also pick fresh strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, pumpkins, and greens at seasonal farms nearby. Enjoy a relaxing day outdoors plucking ripe fruit flanked by the snow-capped San Bernardino mountains. Select farms host additional activities like tractor rides, petting zoos, pony rides, train rides, and festivals for extra old-fashioned family fun amid fragrant fruit tree orchards.

Tour the Riverside Metropolitan Museum


Riverside’s rich cultural history and art come alive within the eclectic Riverside Metropolitan Museum near downtown. Also known as the Riverside Museum of History or the Riverside Museum, this free local museum primarily highlights thought-provoking fine arts exhibits inside the modernist building it has called home since the 1960s.

While adults admire contemporary artists’ works on display in the light-filled main hall, kids can participate in hands-on STEAM programming that brings museum artifacts and lessons to life in the kid-focused TELUS Sparklab. Be sure to explore the museum’s permanent installations like the early 20th century Fox performing arts theater set replica and thriving Chinatown exhibit.

Before you leave, grab a bite at the museum’s DOM Café or check event calendars for family arts programming.

Ramble Along Pachappa Hill Trail

For family-friendly walking sans crowds not far from downtown, make time to stretch your legs on the Pachappa Hill Trail in Bellegrave Park. Located on a southeastern hill overlooking charming old Riverside neighborhoods, this two-mile loop packs beautiful wildflowers in spring and panoramic views year-round into an easy hike suitable for most ages.

Meandering dirt trail extends through native coastal sage scrub, past a historic adobe home foundation and water tower into woodland with oaks and sycamores shading the path. Kids can search for critters like lizards, butterflies, and hummingbirds flitting through the blooms and birds calling from trees overhead on this mini urban escape.

Keep small children nearby as some eroded and steep sections of trail require sure footing. But the solitude and scenery at the quiet hilltop make Pachappa Trail’s charming hiking loop worth seeking out.

Conclusion


With such a diversity of family-friendly cultural attractions, recreation options, and natural landscapes to explore, Riverside offers memorable things to do creating lasting bonds across generations.

From exciting theme parks to educational museums and inspiring wildlife encounters, families visiting Riverside will never run out of engaging activities for kids of all ages.

Use this guide to plan an amazing trip, then make your own adventures exploring historic sites, scenic natural spaces, and interactive attractions across Riverside.

Leave a Comment