A brilliant family holiday requires a careful balance of elements. It needs a hearty dose of fun to keep the younger members of the group happy. It warrants a pace of itinerary that won’t exhaust everybody involved. It doesn’t have to contain a beach and a comfy hotel next to it, though this tends to help. Equally, while it’s impossible to arrange fair weather in advance, sunny days and pleasant temperatures will always make a getaway go better.

Most important, though, is a sense of adventure – that magic extra something, sprinkled on top, which turns a good holiday into a great one. This can be provided by epic geography and a sense of scenic wonder. It can be served up by the gravity-taunting rush of a thrill ride in motion. But it has to be there, to avoid that clarion call: “I’m boooored.”

You can source this combination of ingredients in several corners of the planet, but you won’t fail to find it in the USA. America exhilarates and excites; it welcomes and wows.

At least, it does if you look in the right location. Such as California. The Golden State is a perfect playground for family escapes. It flirts with the Pacific for 840 miles – most persuasively in the bends of Highway One between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Each city is an essential part of the experience. San Francisco has the sort of visual X-factor that even the most surly teenager will appreciate – the grand steel expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge, the remarkable as-seen-in-the-movies steepness of Lombard and Filbert Streets, the gangster stories and striking isolation of Alcatraz. LA is no shrinking violet either – a moving gallery of images whether you are people-watching at Venice Beach, riding the ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier, or gazing up at the Hollywood sign.

But it is the journey between them which particularly inspires – whales breaching the waves of Monterey Bay, the road clinging daringly to the rocks at Big Sur. And if this isn’t enough, California also soars in high places. Not least Yosemite National Park, a wonderland where waterfalls splash and bears lumber. It also works in a winning placidity where Lake Tahoe marks the state line with Nevada, kayaks gliding across its surface – and sinks to heat and sun-glare where Death Valley unfurls its ferocious desert.

And yet for all this, California isn’t so rugged or fierce as to spurn the giddy amusements of the theme park. Disneyland, in Anaheim, is as much a child-friendly delight now as when it opened (in 1955). A little of everything will ensure everything goes swimmingly.

The Daily Telegraph

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