As Kim said, most of my vacations when I was a kid were staycations. We called them "daytrips." Since I lived in Honolulu and then Anaheim CA, we had plenty of great daytrip venues!
We went to the beach most often but also drove to the aquarium, volcanoes, parks, zoos. In CA, we went horse-back riding in Apple Valley, picked cherries in Beaumont, eat sourdough bread in San Francisco.
But when I had my own kids and money was super tight, we couldn't even afford the extra gas for car rides. So, we pitched a tent in the backyard and camped out with flashlights. We made shadow puppets with our hands. We roasted marshmallows over the "fire" in our charcoal grill!
For kids, anything out of the ordinary is fun. For adults, we need a change of scenery! We were lucky enough to live near LA where there are lots of ethnic towns--China town, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street which is like a little Mexico. Museums and planetariums were great, too! We checked out nature trails and local arboretums. Big Bear and Arrowhead Lake were a short drive up the mountains while Palm Springs and San Diego were short drives in the opposite direction.
In Southern California, there are tons of fantastic nearby attractions, both man-made and natural.
And Paula, I agree! My kids' favorite memories include family visits. Just going to my mom or aunt's house was a fun day for the kids.
As for the adults, if a vacation means no cooking or cleaning...I guess I'd just stop cooking and cleaning for the weekend staycation! That would be hard, depending on the ages of your kids though!