A Fun Family Trip in Chico

If you’re looking to plan a family trip to Northern California where the kids will have as good a time as the adults, Chico has some of the best options in Butte County. With a huge range of restaurants, outdoor activities, and unique local events, it’s easy to plan an entire day in Chico—no matter what your family is into.

Dig into California’s Best Family Breakfasts

To fuel up for a day of family fun in Chico, you’ll find some of the best coffee shops and breakfast restaurants in not only Butte County, but Northern California. Mom’s and Nash’s are loaded with traditional breakfast options sure to please both kids and adults, and Chico favorites Beatniks and Sin of Cortez offer a wider array of options perfect for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

For pastries, lighter fare, vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods, or if your family just has teens longing for a side of free Wi-Fi with their morning coffee, Bellachino’s Café and local Chico favorite Tender Loving Coffee are the perfect morning luxury. And for the best croissants in Northern California, Tin Roof Bakery & Café is a must-visit.

A mom with two kids sitting under umbrellas in a shaded patio at a coffee chop

Best Chico Morning Hikes & Outdoor Fun

No family with kids 12 or younger should miss a stop at Chico’s Caper Acres, the beloved Bidwell Park fantasy playground, which even has its own separate toddler play area. Lower Park also makes a great spot for younger and older family members, with lots of easy paths to walk, spaces to play, and things to see. The Chico Seed Orchard is also a perfect spot for easy walking, with some of the area’s loveliest scenery—especially in the spring and fall!

Upper Park has endless options for avid hikers and older kids, perfect for a scenic hike any time of year. Temperatures stay cool by Horseshoe Lake, where walking trails are plentiful, and active families with teens can follow Bidwell Park trails to one of its beloved swimming holes—such as walking the beautiful Yahi Trail, full of wildflowers in the spring, to iconic Chico landmark Bear Hole for a refreshing summer plunge.

A family of four riding bikes through Lower Bidwell Park in the fall

Savor a Uniquely Northern California Lunch

For an unique local lunch, there are plenty of Chico restaurants sure to be the perfect fit for any family trip. Madison Bear Garden’s stellar burgers are right next to Chico State’s gorgeous open campus, and Burgers & Brew is a family-friendly eatery where vegetarians and vegans can get a great burger, too (and it might just have the best garlic fries in California). If the kids are demanding pizza, Chico has more than a few options, from downtown favorite Woodstock’s to the rich, complex, and varied flavors of Farm Star Pizza.

No family trip to Chico would be complete without sampling some of its best desserts and candy shops. Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy has the old-time feel perfect for sharing a little nostalgia with your kids, while Sweet Chico Confections boasts a huge variety of sweets—including fresh gelato and retro candies! Ice cream options are also plentiful across town, from La Flor de Michoacán’s traditional options and Mexican fruit juice pops to Savor Ice Cream’s unbeatable rotating flavors (both traditional and vegan) in Meriam Park.

A baby reaches for a flight of four ice cream flavors at Savor Ice Cream
sAVOR iCE cREAM (pHOTO CREDIT @alwagner804)

Discover California Science, Culture, and Shopping

Not far from Bidwell Park, Chico State’s Gateway Science Museum is a perfect place for kids to learn—and for a parent’s inner child to run free. Touch a fossil, roam the butterfly garden, or take a selfie with the skeleton of a saber-toothed tiger; the interactive exhibits and hands-on displays make learning about science, natural history, and the environment a can’t-miss afternoon for the whole family. If one stop isn’t enough, the Chico History Museum and Chico Air Museum also offer plenty of unique, unforgettable sights you can only see here.

Equally spectacular is Downtown Chico, which houses some of California’s best shopping. It’s stroller-friendly, dog-friendly, and easily walkable, with shops like Bird in Hand (home to the Butte County kid-favorite National Yo-Yo Museum) and Made In Chico offering something for everyone, including lots of uniquely local items.

For budding artists in the family, Chico is home to the Museum of Northern California Art (monca), which can easily offer an afternoon of discovery all on its own. But if your kids prefer to sip a latte with their cultural explorations, shops like Daycamp Coffee and Naked Lounge regularly feature talented local artists all along their walls as well. On the flip side, 1078 Gallery is a dedicated Chico art space that also houses one of its best coffee stops, Equilateral Coffee—don’t leave town without trying the sweet and spicy Aztec Mocha!

Two young women smiling at each as they walk outside of the Museum of Northern California Art in the winter
Museum of Northern California Art (monca)

There’s great public art for outdoor explorers who want to take their coffee to go, too! Indulge in a full self-guided Chico art tour, or start with the Main Street Murals and weave your way through the city with this interactive Google map.

If there are sports fans in the family, it’s easy to catch the Chico State Wildcats in action—basketball, baseball, soccer, and volleyball! You can grab seats through the Chico State Box Office.

Enjoy a California-Style Family Night in Chico

After a long day of family fun, the kids are probably hungry (and the adults are probably thirsty!), and wherever you might find yourself in Chico, there’s somewhere great to eat. Cool off on a hot day with a lush selection of teas (iced, frozen, sparkling, and more!) at Tea Bar & Fusion Cafe, where you can add some refreshingly light meal options to go with them. You can also sample excellent California beer and grub at the family-friendly Farmers Brewing Restaurant and Taproom, conveniently adjacent to The Barn for music fans wanting to catch some local Butte County tunes.

For families with more adventurous eaters looking for great flavor, experience authentic Pakistani home cooking in one of the city’s most colorful venues at Sofi’z Kitchen & Bar, or chow down on farm-to-fork favorites at Drunken Dumpling, where bao, shumai, and dumplings combine for a unique menu—with plenty for vegetarians and vegans too!

Chico also has plenty of evening activities for the whole family, from local performances by the California Regional Theatre group, to concerts and stage shows at Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium, or even down-and-dirty racing at the Silver Dollar Speedway. Stargazers won’t be left out, either, as the night only gets more beautiful at the longtime local favorite Chico Community Observatory.

Before packing your family up for your trip, remember to check operating hours and seasonal availability of the attractions you plan to visit to ensure you have the best time during your stay in Chico!

Silver Dollar Speedway
Photo courtesy silver dollar speedway

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