Guide written by Nancy Solomon
Nancy Solomon grew up in Del Mar, a great beach town in the North County area of San Diego. She heads to San Diego every year with her kids.
Note: Be sure to read the Day Notes for the kid-friendly details on recommended attractions
Ciao Bambino provides tips and advice around all things related to traveling with kids
and is a guide to the best kid friendly hotels
Day 1 - San Diego
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 hop-on, hop-off bus. The zoo also pre-books private tours which are definitely worth considering. The zoo's sister property located in the northeast section of the county is the "safari" style Wild Animal Park. There is a monorail that runs through expansive enclosures. For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, they offer special encounters like a "photo safari" and overnight camp outs.
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre complex, which is home to the zoo, but also offers a multitude of museums, theaters and large open areas to run. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Museum is a favorite among children that love hands-on exhibits. We also love the Old Globe Theater and the Starlight (open-air) Theater.
This 50's style diner is a fun spot to grab dinner. Heads up that they don't take reservations.
2920 Zoo Dr
San Diego, CA 92103
+1 619 231 1515
1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
+1 619 239 0512
2965 Historic Decatur Rd
San Diego, CA 92103-3112
Day 2 - San Diego
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 the cliffs (keep toddlers close), hike Torrey Pines National Reserve, or go to La Jolla Cove to run, play eat and gallery hop. We love Children's Cove because the seals are right on the beach and you can get within 20 feet and they are truly entertaining.
Don't miss the Brockton House for a great breakfast overlooking the cove.
Easy and delicious food in both Cardiff and La Jolla. The casual stop makes a healthy and varied menu for picky kids—it’s one of our favorites.
9609 Waples Street, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92121
Day 4 - San Diego
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.
Menehune Surf Camp:
This camp caters to children and provides an excellent introduction to surfing. They offer both half day and full day camps at multiple locations in San Diego.
675 G St
San Diego, CA 92101
Day 5 - San Diego
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 dolphins or walruses and exploring sea animals in the tidal pool exhibit. You can also pre-book "exclusive experiences" to feed or train different animals.
500 SeaWorld Drive
San Diego, California 92109
Day 6 - San Diego
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
Mission Bay channel entrance to the north end of Pacific Beach
San Diego, CA 92109
+1 619 221 8900
Day 7 - Escondido
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd
Escondido, CA 92027
+1 619 231 1515