A San Diego family vacation is filled with sun and even more sun. San Diego has 266 sunny days in a year. If you want a beach vacation in the United States, San Diego should be on that list. Needless to say, there are a ton of beaches in San Diego to pick from. If you are looking for some more versatility out of a San Diego family vacation, there are quite a few well known and hidden gems that will keep you and your family occupied for hours. Here are some tips for some spots you must see on your San Diego family vacation.
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Welcome To Your San Diego Family Vacation
SeaWorld San Diego
If your family enjoys animals and amusement parks, make sure to spend a day at SeaWorld San Diego. SeaWorld is located very close to downtown San Diego, so you will not need to brace for a long commute on your San Diego family vacation. Spend an entire day watching live animal shows, learning about conservation, and riding any of the thrill or family-friendly amusement rides.
La Jolla is a vibrant neighborhood with shops and restaurants by the ocean, as well as beautiful sights overlooking their many cliffs and beaches. You may want to spend your time walking along the cliffs and grabbing some brunch at the Brockton Villa. Maybe some lunch at George’s, with a gorgeous ocean terrace, or Duke’s La Jolla, another seaside patio with a Hawaiian menu. Grab a green juice or smoothie at Beaming if you want a lighter treat.
Once you have fueled your family for the rest of the day. You can rent snorkeling gear or kayaks, hire a tour guide to take you through the Cove, or head to the Children’s Beach to see an unbelievable amount of wild seals. No San Diego family vacation is complete without a viewing of the La Jolla Cove Seals.
Torrey Pines Gliderport
Just outside of La Jolla is the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Many tourists and locals come here to paraglide or hang glide with assistance or watch the gliders take off the cliff. Only a few enthusiasts will know that it is very difficult to get just the right wind conditions, even then there might be a huge wait to participate. So, your family will probably have the most fun catching some lunch at their cafe and watching the beautiful colors from all the gliders’ wings as they catch some wind. This will make for a relaxing break from your fun-filled San Diego family vacation.
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Scripps’ Birch Aquarium and Whale Watching
If your family is a fan of sea life, but SeaWorld is not your cup of tea, make your way to the Birch Aquarium. The Birch Aquarium is “the public exploration center” for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. This aquarium is an educational sea life discovery with multiple exhibits, plus an unbelievable terrace with a touch pool that overlooks beautiful La Jolla Shores Beach.
The aquarium itself is very quaint and can easily be seen in half a day, so you have plenty of time to add one of the Birch Aquarium’s programs to your family vacation. Guests can learn and participate in tidepooling, snorkel with leopard sharks, or meet Scripps downtown and take a whale watching adventure.
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
Let us start out with the most obvious statement. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the United States. So, your San Diego family vacation will in no way be complete without a trip to the San Diego Zoo.
This is a pretty large place, so as soon as you arrive, find the double-decker bus tour and hop on for a 35-minute narrated ride. This is a nice way to get acquainted with the zoo and determine what your go-to spots are. If your family is hungry for more zoo, think about upgrading your visit to get an inside look or VIP tour or grab a pass for San Diego Zoo’s sister park, The Safari Park. There is plenty to see and do at this zoo, so there is no need for an add on, but it is definitely suggested if you want to switch things up from a normal zoo visit.
The San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park is located about an hour away in Escondido. Once you decide to venture to the Safari Park, your San Diego family vacation is in for a wild ride. Families can go on an African safari ride and get even closer to the action. There are so many options for activities, you just have to see for yourself.
Balboa Park is “San Diego’s Central Park” and boasts architecture that will make your family stop dead in their tracks. The active family will enjoy walking or biking the trails, while some may want to explore some other kid-friendly spots on their San Diego family vacation. Spots like the Children’s Peace Garden, The Miniature Train, or The Puppet Theater. If you have time, make a stop at the Fleet Science Center. This place has more than 100 exhibits that “connect you to the power of science”. The San Diego Zoo sits just off of Balboa Park, so plan to have dinner here after your busy day at the Zoo.
It is time to cool off after a busy day on your San Diego family vacation at Aquatica. Located in Chula Vista, this water park has wave pools, thrill rides, racing slides, and a lazy river with real live flamingos. Aquatica is owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. So, guests can be assured that they are going to be wowed at this water park.
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Coronado Island is a gorgeous San Diego destination for a family vacation bike ride. Take the ferry to the island and rent a few motorized bicycles. You must make a pit stop at the Hotel del Coronado, or “Hotel Del” for locals. Some may remember this from “Some Like It Hot”. This hotel has a beautiful location for a lunch or ice cream stop at “Sundae’s at the Del”. It is also right off one of the cleanest beaches with sand that looks like it is made of gold flakes (mica).
Families find that they find more room to spread out on this beach than any of the other beaches in San Diego. Even when there are tons of people on the beach, you can always find a place to set up your beach spot. Coronado beach has one of the best views. If you are lucky you can see naval ships and planes off in the distance. Coronado Island is also home to a major training base for the Navy Seals. If you are lucky, you might just see them train from a distance.
The Pearl Hotel has a mid-century modern feel that hosts a “dive-in” movie every Wednesday night. It does not matter if you are a guest of the hotel or not. Anyone can join the fun at the vintage, oyster-shaped pool and enjoy a classy dinner and a dip during the movie. Although this hotel is cute enough that your family just might need to stay here on your San Diego vacation. If you have little ones, double-check that the movie that is playing. Some movies playing might not be appropriate for the kiddos.
The New Children’s Museum
This museum is super cool. Art and play collide at the interactive New Children’s Museum. Once you walk into this museum you will agree that you have never seen any place like it. Kids can launch off to sea in a watermelon boat, climb around a giant crochet hammock, and create works of art in an extraordinary sandbox. This unique experience might just be the hit of your San Diego family vacation.
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Waterfront Park at San Diego Bay
Does your San Diego family vacation need a cooldown, but you want to stay in the city? The Waterfront Park is an urban playground with exciting structures to climb and interactive water fountains to play in. The park is on the San Diego Bay and easily walkable from the Birch Aquarium’s whale watching boat, with the USS Midway Museum being a few steps further. If your family is interested in exploring the city then take some time to walk around the San Diego Bay and end at the Waterfront Park.
Los Angeles has the Santa Monica Pier and San Diego has Belmont Park. What’s more? Belmont Park does not have all the lines and crowds that Santa Monica does. It is free to enjoy Belmont Park and the beach around it on your family vacation. You will only need to pay if you decide to ride any of their boardwalk–style rides. Belmont Park is most well known for their wooden coaster. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster is now registered as a National Historic Landmark.
San Diego boasts beautiful views that families will vacation just to see. Make sure you plan to go before the summer to avoid the dreaded “May Gray” or whatever else Southern Californians might call it. March-May is the best time to visit for sunny weather and warm days. Your San Diego family vacation will be filled with exploration, active days, sea life, and amazing sights. So enjoy the ocean air and do not forget your sunscreen.
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