San Diego has become our absolute favorite place to road trip too! I can’t stress enough how perfect this city is for small children. The laid back atmosphere and “sun always shining” weather sticks out in my mind. We’ve taken a road trip once a year since 2013 and it’s never rained on us once. These days I’m constantly picturing what life would be like living in San Diego with the kids. I grew up here when I was 2-4 years old and have very fond memories. With Sea World (haven’t taken my kids yet), the zoo, picnics with family by the beach, day trips to Mexico and Disneyland, it is the perfect place to vacation with kids. I love being able to go to Balboa Park, then 15 minutes later zip on over to a beach. Activities are within reach without an insane amount of driving and that’s one of the things I love the most. Maybe my “dream” vision of San Diego is painted by the fact I’ve never been caught in traffic (can’t be as bad as LA traffic), never visited while it was raining, and I don’t work there so vacation mode is on. The kids and I are looking forward to our next trip back ♥ Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do while in SD.
1. Exploring the San Diego Zoo
There is no denying that the San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the USA. I’ve been going to this zoo since I was 2 (even losing my hat on the gondola) and it’s still my favorite. No other zoo can compare and it’s world known for a reason! I couldn’t wait to take my kids here to explore. For small children, a stroller is recommended. They do have great, double strollers available to rent. This zoo is huge and it’s not all flat terrain. You’ll be walking upwards (the zoo is built on a hill) unless you plan around it. I wasn’t aware of this and tirelessly walked up through “The Lost Forest” pushing a double stroller. Wow my arms were tired after that. During the summer, the zoo is open till 9:00PM. Which is perfect since that’s when a lot of animals are more active. Also check out the Safari Park, it’s been on my list for a while and I’d love to hear your experience.
2. Walking Around Balboa Park
The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park. I wouldn’t recommend doing both in one day (I couldn’t even get to all the animals at the zoo in one day). Plus there’s tons to do at Balboa Park! It doesn’t cost to roam around the grounds itself, but exploring the museums and exhibits require an admission fee. There is a museum to suit anyone’s interests! I’ve only been to one of the many museums, Museum Of Man. My kids, although young at the time, seemed to enjoy it (in other words, no melt downs). There’s also the free botanical garden which is beautiful outside and inside. You can’t miss the big Koi pond in front of it!
On a more recent trip we discovered the Spanish Art Village through a random entrance we found near our parking. There were pretty murals and artists at work here. I recommend strolling through this area before going to a museum.
Oh, and that’s not all. I’m fairly positive you can visit Balboa Park for a week and find something new every time! Across the street from the museums (cross over a bridge by that huge fountain you typically find kids playing in) is a cactus garden and a rose garden. Check out the website to plan out your day.
You can even find some kiddie rides! Close to the zoo entrance there is a cute little train ride. It will keep small kids entertained. There’s also a carousel. These mini rides cost extra!
3. Renting A Boat On Mission Bay
This is a new favorite of my kids! It cost us a little more than $100/hr. But what a beautiful way to spend a morning. You can read more about it in our 3 Day Perfect San Diego Getaway. Besides boating there’s a bunch of other fun things to do around Mission Bay! Think Sea World, stand up paddle boarding, or just having a picnic with a beautiful view.
4. Kite Flying at Seaport Village
This area could be a bit touristy and parking was a pain! But couldn’t beat the picnic with a water view and the breeze. There’s shopping and expensive places to eat (hence the reason I tend to picnic a lot). Also a fun carousel for kids! My daughter was able to fly a kite by the water which she loved.
5. Picnicing At The Park
If I was making this list in order, this would be at the very top. Our favorite activity was getting food for takeout (or cooking at home) and finding a beautiful grassy area to set up. Just imagine a wonderful, warm day with the blankets spread out, eating some Mexican food, then watching the kids play. Perfect San Diego. We find new parks to go to all the time but my favorite would have to be the Mission Bay Playground.
6. Spending The Day At A beach
You can’t go without at least one beach day when in San Diego. Our #1 favorite beach is La Jolla Beach except for the difficult parking. But once that parking spot is secured, the beach day is all yours. There are so many different beaches in San Diego. Another one we loved was Mission Beach!
San Diego is our happy place. As a single parents traveling with two kids, the laid back atmosphere is more than welcome. There’s no rush, and where ever you are, there is probably a beach within 15 minutes. It’s a good idea to have a bag of beach clothes and towels in your trunk ready for that spontaneous side trip before making it back to the hotel. I hope this guide helped you when planning your own family getaway!
I would love to hear what you think down below! And if you have any kid friendly recommendations, let me know 😉 I’m always planning my next San Diego trip in my head!
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