Just a Hop, Skip and a Smile Away
Whether seeking out theme parks, state parks or water parks, families always have a blast in San Diego. With 70 miles of beaches, world-class attractions like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, and year-around mild temperatures, it's no wonder San Diego consistently ranks among the top destinations for family vacations. From budget-conscious hotels and dining options in regions like Mission Bay and Mission Valley, to the ultimate San Diego family vacation in iconic destinations like Coronado and La Jolla, there are plenty of vacation package options. Plus, many San Diego hotels and resorts offer special childrens programs for kids of all ages. From crafts, puzzles and games for younger kids to X-Box 360®, air hockey and sports lessons for teenagers, all activities are age-appropriate and some are complimentary.
Many of the regions hotels feature specific programs and activities for young kids and teenagers. Check with the hotels on your list to see what they have to offer and book a San Diego getaway for your family today. Once you're here, there is an endless array of activities to choose from. Browse the articles below to find some of the family-friendly offerings from around San Diego County:
Activities for kids age six and under
All of San Diego is a playground and even the six and under set will have plenty of activities to choose from. In addition to actual playgrounds and picnic parks throughout the county, here are some areas of special interest for San Diego's youngest visitors:
Just minutes north of downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the cultural heart of San Diego:
- The Carousel is a menagerie of hand-carved European animals with original, hand-painted murals, military band music and the classic brass ring game for everyone taking the 5-minute ride.
- Adjacent to the carousel, the Butterfly Rides are for children ages 5 and younger and feature butterflies and airplanes that move slowly in a circle.
- Just the right size for small children, adults can also squeeze into the pint-sized train at the Miniature Railroad for the 3-minute, ½-mile trip. If you arrive early enough, there are a few stuffed animals that kids can ride with. The model G16 train is a rare antique with as few as 50 currently in operation.
- The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater presents puppet performances throughout the year by a variety of troupes and resident puppeteers who work with marionettes and hand, rod and shadow puppets.
LEGOLAND® California Resort is located in Carlsbad. When visiting with younger kids, head left as you enter the park and go clockwise to reach the activities and rides best suited to younger visitors. The Resort is also home to the world's first LEGOLAND Water Park and SEA LIFE® Carlsbad Aquarium, providing a kids-eye view of the undersea world.
- Water Works, where kids can jump on pads to make music play and fountains spray.
- Fairy Tale Brook, an enchanting boat ride through a humorous LEGO version of familiar fairy tales.
- Dig Those Dinos, an interactive area where kids can test their paleontology skills as they dig for dinosaur bones buried in sand pits.
- Swabbies Deck, where kids can play amid pop-up water jets, playful water fountains and delightful squirt cannons. Bring a change of clothing for this water area.
San Diego Zoo's Safari Park
A sister property to the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located near Escondido in San Diego's North County Inland:
- Savanna Cool Zone, where they can walk through palm trees offering a gentle mist to find a turtle, lion and crocodile. Located next to Lion Camp, the Savanna Cool Zone is a wild way to cool off on a hot summer day!
- Samburu Jungle Gym, where kids can climb and explore in a safari-themed play area located below Benbough Amphitheater. Parents will love the shade-covered picnic area!
- Conservation Carousel, featuring 60 animals, some rare and endangered, to ride.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Located in Encinitas, the San Diego Botanic Garden has one of the region's most extensive garden collections with unusual plants from around the world. The Seeds of Wonder Garden is designed for preschoolers and engages children in various arts and crafts such as building a birdfeeder, potting plants to take home or making a sculpture to be displayed in the Garden.
Queen Califia's Magical Circle
Set amid the 285-acre Kit Carson Park in Escondido, Niki de Saint Phalle's Queen Califia's Magical Circle sculpture garden is inspired by California's mythic, historical and cultural roots. The garden consists of nine brilliantly colored, large-scale mosaic sculptures, a circular “snake wall” and maze entryway. Built using a wide assortment of polished and tumbled stones such as travertine, agates, quartzes and vein turquoise, the results are magical and ever changing, as the movement of light, wind, color and reflections continually transform the garden.
Baby & Beach Equipment Rental
Need a stroller, car seat or family beach equipment, see Toddler's Travels.
San Diego Hot Spots for Teenagers
With 70 miles of coastline, fun beach communities and exciting outdoor activities, San Diego is the perfect vacation destination for hard-to-please teenagers. Teen spas, skateboard parks, surf lessons, hip shopping options and all-ages music venues are just some of the cool offerings in San Diego for younger travelers. Following are some hot spots where teen travelers can soak up the San Diego vibe.
- Life's a beach in San Diego with 33 beautiful sandy stretches dotting its coastline. When teenagers want to soak up some rays or grab a surfboard and hit the waves, San Diego serves up all the iconic Southern California beach experiences.
- San Diego is well-known for its world-class attractions, and teens may be surprised and delighted to discover they can crank up the fun and get up-close and personal with the animal kingdom.
- San Diego is home to many dedicated skate parks where skaterboarders can practice kickflips, frontside feebles and backslide grabs. While honing their skills, teenagers should keep an eye peeled for skateboard legends like Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek, Shaun White and Danny Way – all San Diego locals.
- San Diego is a surfer's paradise where opportunities to "hang ten" are abundant up and down San Diego's public beaches, and equipment rentals are readily available. For teens who want to learn to surf, many local surf schools offer group and private lessons daily.
- When times get tough, teenagers need a little pampering too. In San Diego, they can find comfort in select hotels and day spas where specialized teen treatments and a teen oasis await.
- An abundance of hands-on experiences and exciting exhibits encourages teenagers to put away the iPod and get engaged with San Diego's diverse museums and historical offerings.
- Great teen vacations are accompanied by a memorable soundtrack. Here you will find all-ages music venues, record stores and a unique tour where teenagers can get caught up in San Diego's local music scene.
- Fresh threads and cool kicks are must-haves for well-styled teens. In San Diego, visiting teenagers can shop for the latest fashions and hip, one-of-a-kind items at independent boutiques, big name brand stores and popular shopping malls.