A Kid-Friendly San Diego Trip That's Wildly Good Fun

Year-round perfect weather, killer beaches, and non-killer whales!? Laid-back life along the Pacific is made for families looking to entertain small children at a pace Mom and Dad can still enjoy. San Diego is the place where the animal kingdom and the mighty sandcastle share space along the Pacific.

Getting There

Check out the harbor view overlooking Coronado Island when you land at San Diego International Airport. Minutes from the city center, this large airport flies most U.S. airlines – as well as Japan Airlines, Volaris, and Air Canada flights – from Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is smaller, but only flies a few carriers. You can get on a non-stop to San Diego from most major cities in the country.

Take a taxi into downtown San Diego in minutes, or catch a bus to connect with the city’s light rail downtown. All car rentals are available from a consolidated service center just north of the airport, a shuttle ride away.

Arrive in downtown San Diego at the Santa Fe Depot when you ride Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles, or the regional Coaster trains that connect Orange County and San Diego.

San Diego Zoo




Where Land and Ocean Meet

Land animals and sea creatures living abroad have all found their homes in San Diego. Between the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park – both located in the grander Balboa Park – and the stand-alone theme park SeaWorld, all animals are welcome to relocate to this inviting coastal city.

Travel through the entire animal kingdom at the San Diego Zoo. Take a ride on the mini-train or aerial tram to get an overview before you eat breakfast with pandas, laugh with monkeys, and walk like penguins. Send young biologists to a five-day summer camp for a one-of-a-kind education. Spend the night at the zoo during the summer for an added thrill.

Step into animal habitats when you enter Safari Park, where it’s the people who are enclosed and animals who roam free. Areas of the park replicate different Asian and African animal habitats. Park visitors choose tram, cart, zipline, or caravan to trek around and see these massive animals as close as you dare.

Put your kids’ swimsuits on and plan to get wet at SeaWorld. Park rides take you under the sea to Atlantis and through a shipwreck, where you’re bound to get sprayed. But the real aquatic treats are live shows where getting splashed is part of the fun! Dry off at the aquariums or check out the “Pets Rule!” show to see more domestic animal friends.

Coastline Cabrillo National Monument




When you’re out of money, and theme park patience, head to La Jolla Cove to relax on the beach while you leave your kids to their own devices in the Children’s Pool; a natural cove protected by a concrete breaker. Coronado Beach is also a winning choice. Ample lifeguards and restrooms make both of these beaches very family-friendly.

Take a hike while your kids learn about the first Spanish settlers of California at Cabrillo National Monument. Perfect for picnic lunches and peaceful ocean views, it’s the place to prove that the best things in life are free.

Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa




Parks and Rec

Wander through Balboa Park, an epic village of museums housed in Spanish Colonial buildings with massive, tropical outdoor gardens. You could probably spend your whole vacation here, as the park is also home to the Zoo and Safari Park.

Catch a show custom-made for your kids at one of the live theaters. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is perfect for young ones and San Diego Junior Theatre plays family shows with talented teens. Meanwhile, parents can escape to the Old Globe, an award-winning regional theater, to catch some Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams.

Dance up a storm with kids-only “folklorico” lessons at the Centro Cultural de la Raza, a museum dedicated to Hispanic and Chicano culture and heritage. Take your sports lover to the Hall of Champions to see jerseys and memorabilia from the greats.

Back in the city, enforce that “read every day” rule at the Adams Avenue Bookstore, where the intellectual felines nuzzling in the stacks will shame – or entice – any child to read a little bit deeper into that favorite chapter book.

Keep your own parental street cred by spending an evening at The Casbah, San Diego’s favorite small venue for live shows. Six nights a week, the club hosts young acts and hip oldsters for standout performances.

Hotel Del Coronado




Call it a Day

Drop into bed at the downtown Omni Hotel San Diego, where kids are greeted with milk and cookies on the first night. Request a crib or rollaway in your spacious guest room or suite, fully equipped with video game console. Kids will also love the activity backpacks they get at check-in and the outdoor pool. You’ll love the fitness center and massage room. Babysitting is also available.

It may be further from the center of town, but you can soak up a little more space in the suite-style Residence Inn of Rancho Bernardo/Scripps Poway, where rooms are equipped with kitchens and sleeper sofas. Rollaways and cribs are available upon request. Complimentary breakfast and the outdoor pool complete this family paradise, just 20 minutes away from downtown San Diego.

Do San Diego in style at the Hotel Del Coronado and stay on the island just off the city’s coast. Choose from a variety of suites and cottages, complete with kitchens and room for the whole family. The kids’ club can keep your children entertained while you enjoy that special night out. Or just dump them in the pools for a dive-in movie night. Have S’mores at a private beach bonfire to round off the evening.

Are you planning a trip to San Diego? What are you planning to see?

San Diego International Airport by Leonard Zhukovsky/shutterstock.

Tags : travel   san diego   california   



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