Top San Diego Kid-Friendly Activities
Downtown & Balboa Park
The San Diego Zoo:
This world famous zoo will amaze children and adults alike! The habitat inspired enclosures make the experience unique and enjoyable. Be sure to watch the swimming hippos and polar bears. Also, visit the tigers, pandas, koalas and Children's zoo. Please note: the zoo is set on a steep hill be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring or rent a stroller. If you're determined to see the whole property, consider the popular...
1 hide detailInternationally recognized zoo
Our Local Expert Says:
The zoo isn't just for the kids - home to some of the most engaged species in the world, the San Diego World Famous Zoo is always welcoming new guests into its home!
This world-famous establishment is clearly no ordinary zoo. Walk or ride a double-decker bus throughout this expansive park, home to over 4,000 rare and exotic animals exhibited in beautiful garden habitats. More than a park, this zoo is a major research facility although it is cleverly disguised with entertaining shows and inspiring exhibits like Polar Bear Plunge and Hippo Beach. General Admission required.
2 hide detailThe center of the city
Our Local Expert Says:
You can easily devote at least a whole day to wandering around this huge urban park. Package deals are available for museum entrances, and can include the San Diego Zoo, at the north end of the park, as well.
The world-renowned San Diego Zoo is only one part of this magnificent 1,200-acre city park that was built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Expo. California's Hispanic roots were celebrated as the city erected breathtakingly ornate Spanish-style buildings, which were eventually permanently restored. So much more than just an urban park, it is home to the zoo, 14 museums, a pipe organ pavilion, botanical gardens, international cultural centers, theaters and performance venues, an antique carousel, off leash dog parks, sports fields, hiking trails, a tennis center, municipal pool, and a miniature-scale train. The December Nights Celebration is held the first weekend of December annually and this popular event is an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy pageants, plays, food and music all in the tradition of the Christmas holidays.
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Black and white checkered floor, chrome accented counters and real soda fountains fill the two-tiered dining room, with a shiny, vintage corvette on display in the center. Waitresses don huge wigs and display impressive pin collections on their aprons, and their colorful personalities are exaggerated during impromptu song-and-dance routines whenever Rock Around The Clock cranks on the juke box.
In classic 1950s diner style, every burger is named for a pretty lady and the milkshake section is the longest on the menu. Chicken fingers and mac 'n cheese please the kiddos, which make up the bulk of the clientele, and parents will delight in a decent salad selection. After dessert, watch out for flying Bazooka bubble gum at your table as the check arrives.
Birch Aquarium and La Jolla:
La Jolla means "the Jewel" and truly this is a special little town. Start at Birch Aquarium located at the nation's leading oceanography research center. This is an intimate sight that takes about 45 minutes to explore. The back terrace offers some of the best beach views, as well as, a small tide pool. It's an easy destination for any age.
Then, within a few miles you have many fun options. You can watch the hang-gliders soar from...
4 hide detailA wilderness island in an urban sea
This fragile environment is the home of our nation's rarest pine tree - Pinus torreyana. Once this tree covered a larger area. It now grows only here and on Santa Rosa Island off the coast near Santa Barbara. The park preserves not only the trees, but also the last salt marshes and waterfowl refuges in Southern California. The reserve features high broken cliffs and deep ravines on headlands overlooking the ocean. Hikers can follow trails through stands of wind-sculpted pines. A picturesque, pueblo-style structure that served as a restaurant when it was built in 1923 houses the visitor center, featuring interpretive displays. Picnicking and camping are prohibited in the reserve. The reserve's rich plant community features wildflowers in the spring and visitors can see the California quail gathered in coveys in the early mornings of fall and winter. Torrey Pines State Beach can also be reached by trail from the Reserve.
Hiking if available in the preserve, however, picnicking and camping are prohibited.
Torrey Pines State Reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar, California, north of San Diego. From Hwy. 5, exit on Carmel Valley Road and drive west for about 1.5 miles till you reach the Coast Highway 101. Turn left and proceed along the beach for about a mile. The park entrance is on your right just before the highway begins to climb the Torrey Pines grade.
Surf's Up & North County
Powerhouse Park in Del Mar:
This is a great playground and park where kids can run around while taking in the ocean front setting.
Located in Cardiff by the Sea, this is a locals favorite where the surfers come to replenish after a morning of surfing. Don't miss the fresh and huge breakfast burritos. Think fresh salsa, cilantro and avocado wrapped with eggs. It's a great way to start the day-San Diego style.
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While it does possess all the typical acoutrements of the standard 90s coffeehouse (chalkboard menu, pastries from Brad & Cie, musty, dark decor), the Pannikin boasts one attribute unique to any other in San Diego: the mini-chain has been a force on the caffine scene in San Diego for more than 20 years. Each location also features unique gifts, cards and gourmet food items from all over the world to complement the mostly South American beans.
Sea World is the perfect combination between education and amusement. The shows are informative and entertaining. Bring hats to avoid roasting while sitting in the bleachers. Also, if your kid loved getting soaked - thoroughly soaked, by whales or dolphins bring a change of clothes. There's a "fun zone" with fantastic climbing structures, a water play zone and even a roller coaster. What more do you need? For smaller kids, consider hand feeding the...
6 hide detailSplash with Shamu and friends
Our Local Expert Says:
Not just for the kids - if you buy a year pass you can visit anytime, and sip on one free glass of free beer!
Spend a full day exploring the awe-inspiring world of marine life at SeaWorld San Diego. Every encounter is a new adventure when you come face to face with the friendly dolphins, magnificent white beluga whales and playful penguins of SeaWorld San Diego.
Experience life far under the sea as you feed dolphins, get up close to a polar bear and count the teeth on a shark! Of course, there's also the mythical rush of the Journey To Atlantis water coaster and Shamu - our biggest star both day and night in Believe and Shamu Rocks.
See itinerary below for full descriptions of SeaWorld attractions.
Special Offer - Book for travel in 2010 and receive unlimited admission for seven (7) consecutive days - BOOK NOW!
Hit the Beach
No matter what ages your children are, the beach is always fun. San Diego offers miles of public beaches. Some with boardwalks and college crowds (Pacific Beach), some with tide pools (La Jolla), all with the natural beauty the Pacific has to offer. The beautiful ocean and San Diego weather provide many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Also, there are great kayaking and mountain biking opportunities
7 hide detailA boardwalk for entertainment & exercise
Our Local Expert Says:
Mission Bay isn't just a place for college kids - with tons of fine restaurants, a boardwalk and "celebrities" it's a great place to relax, enjoy the beach and eat!
Near the manmade islands of Mission Bay, this beach runs along Mission Boulevard and boasts a fabulous boardwalk. One of the best places in San Diego to soak up the city's beach lifestyle, this is an unsurpassed area for people watching or building sandcastles. For a faster pace, rent a bike or in-line roller skates. Or better yet, take a ride on Belmont Park's world-famous wooden roller coaster. Whatever attraction you choose, be prepared for large crowds and limited parking. Dogs allowed on leashes before 9am and after 6pm.
8 hide detailSan Diego safari
Animal lovers of all kinds will want to make the trek to this beautifully designed park and refuge for endangered species, including a renowned display of extremely rare California Condors. Thirty two miles north of downtown San Diego, you'll be transported to the wilds of Africa, Asia and Australia. Here at the park, more than 3,500 animals representing 260 species roam in habitats designed to simulate their natural environs. Ride the Wgasa Bush Line Railway for a five-mile, 55-minute guided tour or walk the trails that weave through the 1,800 acre park. Exceptional Botanic Gardens, gift shops, research information and restaurants can all be found here. Check out some gear for you or your own companion animals in the gift shop. Admission required.