We just recently took our second a trip to San Diego, California with kids. The first time we visited, our oldest daughter was just shy of two years old. Since that was pre-blogging days, I will try to include some account of that trip here as well ;). There are so many things to do in San Diego with kids. It is a perfect family vacation destination.
Things to Do with Kids
San Diego Zoo
You really can’t go wrong with a zoo and little kids, and the San Diego Zoo will not disappoint! We have visited at two very different times of the year, once in August and once in February. I personally would not go back in the summer – it was just too hot! Keep in mind this zoo is very large, and it may be a good idea to come to the realization that you will not see it all. When we visit any zoo, we hand the kids a map and have them each pick out a few animals that are their must-sees. Then we use this as our guideline and make a route that will allow us to see those. If we miss stuff – oh well, and anything we see along the way is an added bonus 😉
We were also able to get tickets at a discounted rate through aRes Travel. Buying them in advance and printing at home is always a major time saver too!
This is your typical California beach town. Big beach, packed before noon, backed with a walking/biking/scootering/etc path that is hard to walk on with slow little kids. Along the path you will find countless bars and restaurants. It was a fun vibe, but not my ideal beach town.
When we visited in the month of August, we took total advantage of the hot weather combined with staying on Mission Bay. Next to the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay is the Mission Bay Sportscenter. It was here that we decided on two different types of rentals. The first day we rented jetskis for an hour. This was my first time on jetskis, but not my husbands, and it was obviously the kids’ first times as well. I was nervous, but Mission Bay Sportscenter took their time explaining how to use them and even made us watch a little video which was super helpful.
The second day we rented a boat and rode around Mission Bay for two hours. The kids enjoyed both, as did we! We all couldn’t decide which one was our favorite. My daughters’ favorite parts was getting in the water in Mission Bay, whether they fell in by accident or on purpose, any excuse to get wet is a good one for them! The highlight for me was seeing all the sea lions on the docks and buoys. It was also quite an adventure for use to go out of our comfort zone, and explore the water in our terms!
Point Loma is a great spot to walk around and enjoy the views and explore the tide pools. We went here on our first trip to San Diego, and my daughter loved looking in the tide pools for sea life! There is also a little lighthouse on the top of the cliffs! The view of San Diego can not be beat!
La Jolla is by far my favorite area around San Diego. Where else can you enjoy the ocean, see lots of cute seals and big sea lions, but also enjoy some amazing restaurants! I have convinced myself if we return to San Diego, we must spend a few nights right in La Jolla. My kids had the best time here walking along the rocks on the ocean and exploring the tide pools. It must have also been at least 5 degrees cooler here than in San Diego itself.
An added bonus of visiting La Jolla is getting to see the sea lions and seals on the rocks and sand along the shore.
I have sort of mixed feelings on Sea World, but it is an option to visit in San Diego. We went for our first visit, but I couldn’t see us returning…
During our first visit in San Diego we spent a few hours exploring the grounds of Balboa Park. This huge park has a lot to offer, including walking trails, fountains, gardens, carousel, miniature train, and many events happening.
San Diego’s Waterfront Park
Our recent trip to San Diego in August was so hot that any excuse to cool off in fountains was warranted. We spent a few hours hanging out at the Waterfront Park in San Diego. The kids ran through the wading pools and fountains, and played on the giant playground.
Hyatt Regency La Jolla
While this hotel still required you to drive to the town of La Jolla, it was still a great place to stay. The hotel was very clean and had huge rooms. The hotel was a category 4 Hyatt property so I used my free anniversary night from World of Hyatt to cover the room that would have cost us almost $400 a night! We would definitely stay here again for longer than one night like we did this past trip.
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay
This was another category 4 hotel, and we got a good point redemption using our World Of Hyatt points for this one as well. We did a half points, half cash pay for this hotel and made out well! This hotel was in a good location only in that it was next to where we rented jetskis and a boat. Other than that the location wasn’t great if you wanted to go out for meals. However the pool at this hotel was pretty awesome. And if you ask my kids, this was hands down their favorite hotel, because of the water slides! There were also many kid and family oriented events at the hotel, including a movie played in the pool area at night, rubber duck races, and a watermelon eating contest.
Catamaran Resort and Spa
If you want an awesome location to enjoy Mission Bay and Pacific Beach in the same trip this hotel is in a perfect location. As far as the actual hotel goes, the grounds are pretty and it has a very tropical feel to it. The pool is your average pool, but they do offer some activities for kids throughout the day. I think the best part of this hotel is the access to the sandy beach on Mission Bay. There are chairs and umbrellas set up along the beach and this is a perfect place for kids to safely play in the water. Also on the bay front the hotel also offers a variety of water sport rentals. My girls loved the birds they had because they could talk!
As far as the actual hotel rooms go, this place needs a major renovation. Honestly the hotel room we stayed in was extremely dated and very dirty. And unfortunately for this reason, we would not return to this hotel.
We went to a ton of different restaurants in San Diego for both trips. We tried to eat as many tacos as we could to be honest. Here are a few of our favorites.
We went here our first trip, and tried to again our second trip but couldn’t get a reservation. This restaurant has some of the best wine we’ve had and the best part is if you buy a bottle of wine you only pay the retail price on it! Sold! Cucina Urbana also has a really fun menu with casual yet delicious items. We found it to be very kid friendly as well!
The Taco Stand
We make it a goal to eat a lot of tacos when in San Diego. This one was probably our favorite casual taco restaurant from our most recent trip.
Puesto has a few locations in California and we visited the La Jolla location. One major pro is they take reservations, which is important because you will need one! The food here was amazing and this was our favorite sit down restaurant for tacos on our last visit to San Diego.
They also have a great kids menu and were very kid friendly!
Honestly we struggled a bit to find restaurants that we liked in the Pacific Beach area. On a whim we went to Truck Stop for breakfast one morning and it was very good! The food was quick and fresh, and beware the portions are HUGE!
In searching for a meal other than tacos, a place that took reservations, and a place that our kids will eat at, I came across Barbusa. Who even knew that San Diego had such a bustling Little Italy! The streets were packed with restaurant goers and the restaurants all looked packed! We enjoyed our meal at Barbusa and the sangria. While they didn’t have a formal kids menu, they had pizza so that is a win!
So this was an interesting place. You got to design your own dessert on an ipad, and then watch it being made by people. Not sure if my kids actually really liked the way it tasted, but they thoroughly enjoyed the process!
The Baked Bear
Let’s just say I am glad no Baked Bear exists near me… because if it did I may have a problem. No more words necessary – see the picture click the link to see where the closest one to you is…
27 thoughts on “Best Things to do in San Diego with Kids”
This is so helpful! We’re heading to Legoland in October and we have a half day available to spend in San Diego. I wasn’t sure what to do but now I think we’ll hit up the miniature train at Balboa Park!
Legoland will be awesome – the boys will love it! We haven’t been yet – but would love to check it out next trip with the kiddos =)
That ice cream sandwich looks incredible! And I love the idea of renting a boat. We’ve been to San Diego a few times and it’s such a great place for families.
I am still dreaming about that ice cream sandwich! I gotta find something like that near Seattle 😉
What a fun adventure! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading =)
We love visiting San Diego. We go there pretty often. We actually just like hanging out at Mission beach or walking through Balboa Park.
There is just so much to do – and you really can’t beat the weather!
Great ideas! I will keep this list in mind for my next trip 🙂 Even without kiddos along these spots look super fun.
We love San Diego! I recently posted a travel guide to SD too and it was fun to see that we both love some of the same spots! I pinned some of your food and hotel recommendations for next time, thanks for sharing!
Oh my gosh I want that cookie thing!
Great list. I’m looking forward to taking the kid to SD within the next couple years
This is great! We visit San Diego often- I especially love your food recommendations and I didn’t know Catamaran has macaws- so cool!
We adore San Diego but have yet to bring our kiddos! This has some great tips and we will definitely use when we get out there!
We visited San Diego 5 years ago and loved our 2 days there. Seems like there is even more to do that I first thought.
Lots of great ideas here. Already planning a trip…
We’ve been to La Jolla Beach and Legoland but that’s it! We’ll have to hit the zoo, Mission Bay and that idessert place! Yum!
We love San Deigo but haven’t been since having our baby. These are great ideas! We hope to take her soon! 🙂
Looks like plenty to keep little ones busy! Great post thank you for the tips ☺️
San Diego is one of our faves in Cali! Luckily we have family that lives there so we get to visit often. The food is my favorite part about the city.
This is great! And so close to home! Can’t wait to visit some of those dessert spots! 😋
This looks awesome!! Some great suggestions of things to do! Saving for later!
We visit often! Thanks for some new ideas xo
We went to San Diego once and loved it, after reading your article we really want to go back and discover all the other areas around.
So much to do for families!
So much stuff to do, My girls would love this place.
Such a great kid friendly city