welcome to california sign
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Our Super Cheap Vacation to California

Last month we decided on a whim to take a long weekend vacation. We hadn’t budgeted for it, but it was the end of summer and we wanted to make sure that our kids had some kind of vacation adventure before school started again.

Should we find a cheap flight somewhere?

We looked up cheap Vegas vacation packages (which can be surprisingly family friendly when you want it to by the way), prices on flights to Pheonix (we have family in the area that we could have stayed with. While both of these locations were really inexpensive to fly to, we only had a couple of days so we just didn’t want to deal with the airport and all that it entailed.

Or should we do a Pacific Northwest road trip?

We also considered whether we could fit a fun Pacific Northwest Road trip into a couple of days. We decided to see where all we could reach with a drive time of 3 hours at a time (we have a toddler after all…we can’t go much longer without a lot of yelling from the backseat). We searched central Oregon, but we had been there earlier in the summer. We looked up Northern Oregon and Southern Washington, but couldn’t find the perfect place to go.

Then we thought “why not head to California?” Our kids have never been to California, we hadn’t been since we were kids. But with just a couple of days, it would definitely need to be just in Northern California.

Remember how I told you that we did not want to drive any further than 3 hours at a time? We accomplished this! We traveled over 600 miles, spent the majority of 3 days, visited 2 very popular attractions and spent just over $200. All of this without ever driving more than 3 hours at a time.

Our Itinerary

First of all, my husband works in Salem (Oregon), so we just met him at his work and left from there since it is close to 1-5.

Friday: Salem to Roseburg

We first traveled to Roseburg, Oregon. We chose Roseburg for 2 reasons.

  • It is only 2 and a half hours from Salem (a.k.a. under our 3 hour limit).
  • Roseburg is just 15 minutes from Wildlife Safari. Wildlife Safari was our first attraction visit. We bought our entry from Groupon, and because of some Groupon credits (read more about that here) I had it cost all five of us only $7 to get in.
  • We found a hotel to stay in that ended up being free after using a coupon that we had from an old dispute with Expedia (more about that here).

Attraction #1 – Wildlife Safari – $7 total

deer with antlers

While we were in Roseburg the first day we took a trip to Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. According to the park’s website, Wildlife Safari is:

Wildlife Safari is the true intersection of human and nature nestled into the picturesque hills of Southern Oregon; a veritable Garden of Eden, horticultural wonderland and Giraffic Park, all in one. With over 400 acres of space for some of the rarest, most endangered and simply coolest species on earth to roam, Wildlife Safari is truly an experience beyond a zoo, all from the comfort of the guests’ vehicle.


Wildlife Safair is also the home of “America‚Äôs Most Successful Cheetah Breeding Program.”

As I mentioned, I had previously had Groupon credits so this was extremely cheap for us, but Wildlife Safari deals are often on Groupon and they are quite reasonable. So even at the regular Groupon price we would have paid around $40 for the family to get in.

Saturday Morning: Roseburg to Klamath, CA

We woke up Saturday morning and enjoyed our free breakfast and coffee at the hotel. I love free continental breakfast these days. The boys had waffles, eggs and yogurt. My hubby and daughter enjoyed oatmeal and fruit and I enjoyed some hard boiled eggs, yogurt and fruit and lots of coffee to get a start on the day.

After breakfast we headed out and started our journey to Klamath, California, home of Trees of Mystery in the famous Redwood Forest. We, of course, stopped at the “Welcome to California” sign so the kids could take pictures of this momentous occasion. We also stopped for gas along the way.

Attraction #2 – Trees of Mystery – $68

We were hitting the 3 hour mark on the dot when we pulled into the parking lot of Trees of Mystery (thank goodness…the toddler was starting to get a little bit cranky). If you have never been to Trees of Mystery, you must add it to your bucket list. When you look it up on Google it shows up as a theme park, but don’t expect carnival rides or entertainers. The trees do all of the entertaining and it is glorious.

paul bunyan and babe blue ox

At Trees of Mystery you are first greeted by a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and his Ox. When I say giant, I am not exhaggerating one bit. Paul Bunyan stands over 49 feet tall and Babe the Blue Ox stands at 35 feet tall. After you visit these awesome statues, it is time to hit the trails. You walk through 1/2 mile of trails where you are introduced to some amazingly beautiful and majestic trees that are among the oldest and largest trees in the world. Many of the trees had stories behind them and these stories were put onto display tablets for visitors to read.

Throughout the trails you are greeted with wooden sculptures, which vary in size and subject, all of which are incredibly intricate and fun to see. Trees of Mystery is a selfie lovers heaven.

At the halfway point of the trail system you come upon the Skytrail, a ride on the Skytrail is included in your ticket price and well worth the ride. The Trees of Mystery Skytrail is a gondola ride that takes you on a 1/3 mile, 1570 foot trip up the mountain along the treetops hundreds of feet in the air. The Skytrail is encased in plexiglass so you can see all around you as you travel up to the observation deck which provides you with an amazing view of the mountains and even the Pacific Ocean (at least on the day we were there).

p.s. if you or someone in your family is afraid of heights, you may rethink this one. My older son has a fear of heights and while the rest of us loved it, he says he would not get on it again (poor guy).

We were in no hurry and we took our time at Trees of Mystery. Strolling through the trails, riding the Skytrail and enjoying the gift shop. We ended up being here for a couple of hours.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I am a cheapskate. I virtually NEVER pay full price on anything, let alone things to do. I am the queen of coupons and I use Groupon at every opportunity (but only when there is a promo code available, of course). I would absolutely, hands down pay $68 for my family to go through Trees of Mystery again. We loved it.

Saturday Afternoon: Klamath to Langois, OR

Saturday night was the night we were going to camp. So after Trees of Mystery, we headed up Hwy 101 toward Langois, Oregon. This drive was just under 3 hours, but you can hardly complain when you are driving up 101 and seeing those views.

We had previously reserved a spot at a KOA campground that was just $32 per night and offered awesome amenities such as a swimming pool, hot tub, basketball court, park, kiddie train, and we were even able to enjoy an ice cream social. We had bought a new tent a year ago and had not yet used it, so this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

We enjoyed a wonderful evening of playing on the playground, shooting hoops, taking the toddler on the train, eating ice cream and relaxing around the campfire. The only thing that would have made this night better was if we would have remembered the air mattresses (I’m a little too old to sleep on the ground these days).

Sunday Morning: Langois to Home

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely camping breakfast while breaking down our tent and packing stuff back up. Since the drive home from our campsite was just under 3 hours, we wanted to leave early enough to get home with enough time to rest, but not so early that we had to stress about it. We packed up and left at about 10 in the morning, stopped at the Human Bean (my favorite coffee shop) on our way through Coos Bay then enjoyed the gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean on our way home.

I know that we fit a lot of stuff into 2 and a half days, but I can honestly say that I have never felt so relaxed after a vacation. We had an amazing time together. It was a solid 56 hours of family time. We spent less than $200 total on our fuel, attraction entry fees, campsite and food (to be fair, we packed a cooler and only ate one meal out, plus our one coffee shop stop). We just simply had nothing but wonderful experiences. No stress about time, no stress about being in the car too long since we had already planned for that, and no stress about blowing our budget. It was amazing.

Our super cheap vacation to California might just be my favorite family vacation yet.

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