What to do in San Diego with kids

Wondering what to do in San Diego with kids?  Fun San Diego attractions for your family vacation

Every few years, I find myself in San Diego with kids.  As many times as I’ve been here, I still find myself Googling “what to do in San Diego?” every single time.  Here are some of our tried and true favorites, plus a couple of new San Diego attractions we loved.

what to do in San Diego
11-month-old Xiao Liwu is just dangerously cute, so be careful out there.

What to do in San Diego with animal lovers

No trip to San Diego with kids should fail to stop at the San Diego Zoo.  Of all the San Diego attractions, it’s my favorite.  You’re going to need at least five hours here, ideally more.  My advice is to go early (on a weekday if possible), and see the gorillas and pandas first.

When the kids start to get tired, go to Albert’s — the only full service restaurant in the park — and spoil yourself with a sit down lunch.  Refreshed, you can tromp around a little more.  Next, if it’s in the budget, do the amazing Backstage Pass Experience.

If your kids have energy left, ride the Skyfari aerial tram or go to the Petting Zoo so they can get their goat fix.  There are also two 4-D movies in the park and an insect zoo (shudder), if that’s your kind of thing.

what to do in San Diego
Warm summer nights, fish tacos, AND baseball? Somebody pinch me!

What to do in San Diego with sports fans

If you like baseball, you’ll love catching a Padres game at Petco Park.  The food at the ballpark is delicious (spicy cajun fish sandwich, I’m looking at you), but you could also have dinner in the Gaslamp district before the game.

Street parking is available and free after 6pm.  I recommend parking a few blocks from the park and walking (instead of parking on site), so that you don’t get caught in the crowds.  The area is safe and festive.

What to do in San Diego with thrill seekers

Like your San Diego attractions served with a liberal dose of whale water?  My in-depth reviews of SeaWorld can be found here and here.  Bottom line?  Don’t go to San Diego with kids and not go here.

My 13-year-old daughter actually went to summer camp at SeaWorld a few weeks ago, and guess what?  She has chosen a future career for herself:  Beluga whale trainer.  Hey, somebody has to train them.  It might as well be her.

What to do in San Diego with toddlers

what to do in San Diego
Job description: must be able to clean tank, talk to kids, and look out for really big fish, all at the same time.

Most of the above San Diego attractions will be fun, but not very relaxing, with toddlers.  If you need to relax a little, go to La Jolla.  One of the best places to go in San Diego with kids is the Birch Aquarium.  We especially liked the Kelp Tank Dive Show, in which a scuba diver actually wears a microphone and tells you about the tank and its residents.

Afterward, you can drive down the hill and have lunch in La Jolla and spend some time on the beach.  Coronado would work equally well for a low-key toddler beach day.

If you go

When visiting San Diego with kids, hotel choice is important.  This time, we stayed in Point Loma (not far from the airport) at the harborfront Homewood Suites San Diego Airport-Liberty Station — it was almost perfect!

We loved the free buffet breakfast, free full dinner Monday-Thursday (plus beer and wine), pool and hot tub, and the esplanade (a walking path right in front of the hotel that leads to a nearby playground, among other things).

We didn’t use their barbecues, basketball court, or pool table, but we might have if we’d stayed longer.

what to do in San Diego
If you decide to stay at Homewood Suites, definitely request a room on this side.
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