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Itineraries Itinerary for Kids

Experience 'KID'ifornia in Madera County and Yosemite National Park

Kids love dirt. Kids love old bones. What better place than for them to explore than Chowchilla’s Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County? From Columbian Mammoths to Short-Faced Bears to Sabre-Toothed Cats and even Camels, kids can get up-close-and-personal with the skeletons of the creatures who walked the earth during the Pleistocene Era (over 780,000 years ago), where the Fossil Discovery Center sits today. Budding scientists can even explore a mock-dig site, where they experience first-hand what it means to be a paleontologist. MaderaMammoths.org

Imagine going back in time. Now you can. The southern Yosemite region is host to many fine museums representing the history of Eastern Madera County, from the First Inhabitants and their culture explored at the Sierra Mono Museum in North Fork. To the colorful Gold Rush era at the Coarsegold Historic Museum. The Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park honors the origins of the town of Oakhurst, which was founded in 1873 and serves as another site for children of all ages to explore and expand their knowledge of a part of California’s history.

MonoMuseum.org | CoarsegoldHistoricSociety.orgFresnoFlatsMuseum.org

Oakhurst’s unofficial mascot resides at the corner of Road 426 and Highway 41—the World Famous Talking Bear.  It was originally constructed in 1923 in an attempt to draw interest from the International Olympic Site Committee and got a major refresh in 2013. Kids can have fun getting the bear to growl and talk. It’s a great place to take a souvenir picture. Then, become one of the Talking Bear’s many fans on Facebook.

From the beginning of rail travel, trains have fascinated young and old. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, located in Fish Camp just before the southern gate of Yosemite, satisfies that craving for all ages with its two Shay Locomotives. One engine was built in 1927 and the other in 1913.  Ride "The Logger" back in time to when men harvested lumber from these forests to fuel California's industrial revolution. In the Thornberry Museum, see the very tools used by loggers more than 100 years ago. Kids can learn to pan for gold and discover the efforts the ‘49ers made to eke out a living for themselves and their families.  While kids explore the trains, Toy Depot, and other activities, parents can explore the lovely gift shop and bookstore. Dogs are welcome, too. YosemiteSteamTrains.com

Kids love to play in the water. What better way to spend your time at the lake than to enjoy the water to the fullest! Sparkling blue waters surrounded by the Sierra National Forest make Bass Lake a beautiful vacation spot year-round. Plus, it is only 19-miles from Yosemite National Park’s south entrance. Bass Lake offers plenty of activities for the family including swimming, water sports, boating, fishing, mountain bike trails, and hiking. Bring or rent boats and fishing gear from one of the three marinas on the lake. There are many lodging options in and around Bass Lake including three full-service resorts that bring back all the retro-summer-camp feelings you remember. You can also rest your head at one of the nearby Sierra National Forest campgrounds, an RV Resort, or many vacation home rentals. BassLakeChamber.com 

All kids can become Junior Rangers in Yosemite National Park by picking up their free, self-guided booklet published by the Yosemite Conservancy. The Junior Ranger books can be found at the Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley.  You can also download the Junior Ranger book here. In order to earn a Junior Ranger patch, a candidate must complete the booklet, collect a bag of trash, and attend a guided program. The Junior Ranger program encourages young visitors and their families to discover Yosemite’s wonders and protect its natural resources. Be a Junior Ranger, today! 

The Fossils to Falls Road Trip is an eight-stop road trip highlighting all the region's not-to-miss attractions. The Fossil Discovery Center, Oakhurst, Bass Lake. Plus, stops for the grown-ups, too, like the wineries and tasting rooms of Madera Wine Trail and the Yosemite Gateway Art Center. Pick up collectible trading cards at each location and enter for a chance to win a Yosemite Adventure Vacation. Come back for your next visit to the region on us! Learn about the fabulous prize packages available to choose from; see the details

Where to find the Welcoming Committee Trading Cards Navigation Graphic


Like what you see? Save any (or all) of these pins to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries and travel stories for more ideas and pins!

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
Oakhurst Visitor Center, 40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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