For Easter Break 2014, the family went on a short trip to Monterey, Jamestown and Yosemite. It was Julia's first trip away from home and we purposely tried to keep the drive time down to 3 hours or less in one shot.
Although I'd visited a few times, I'd never actually spent much time in Monterey. While I'm sure there are some big downsides (commute and/or availability of nearby jobs, housing cost, tourists, etc) it certainly seems ideal. Ocean Views and scenic parks everywhere, an official population of less than 30k, tons of interesting history, a harbor, close to Carmel and Santa Cruz, etc. We spent our time walking around the Wharf, Cannery Row, Dennis the Menace Playground, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and historical sites. We also spent some quality time at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, an amazing park with very family friendly trails.
On the way over to Yosemite, we stopped for an afternoon and evening in Jamestown. A pleasant small town to visit with a historic Main Street. The main reason for stopping here (besides the fact that it is roughly halfway between Monterey and Yosemite) was the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Being members of the CA State Railroad Museum, it was a great opportunity to see some old school engines and facilities, and take a short ride on some antique railcars. Significantly, Railtown is the home of the last fully operational Roundhouse in the US (AFAIK). If you don't know what a Roundhouse is, think of the kids show Thomas the Tank Engine and where all the trains go to sleep at night.
Although you may have never heard of Railtown, you've probably seen it (or its engines) at some point in your life as it has been a premiere filming location for many movies and TV shows seeking to relive the era of the railways. The location or engines can be seen in Back to the Future III, The Unforgiven, The Virginian, 3:10 to Yuma, Wild Wild West, Petticoat Junction (the water tower is still there), High Noon, and many others.
After a night at Jamestown (and a major dinner-fail with Fianna), off for Easter in Yosemite.
In Yosemite, we stayed at Tenaya Lodge (a little outside the park), an amazing facility with good rooms, activities and dining. The best thing about Yosemite at Easter... the lack of people. Compared to what I'm used to, the Valley was a ghost town. It picked up a little in the afternoon, but in the AM you could literally park in the first rows of the main parking lot. We took some easy hikes (kids in tow) to Mirror Lake and around the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias (access to which is about to be dramatically redesigned.. say goodbye parking lot).
All in all, a great trip.