One of our absolute favorite places in the world is San Diego. To me, it is the perfect city. The weather is great, downtown is fairly safe, and there are tons of things to do for all ages. If it wasn’t so expensive, and if the traffic wasn’t crazy in SoCal, we would certainly consider living there. I guess we’ll have to enjoy it on vacations. Here are some of my favorite family friendly things to do in San Diego. Most of them don’t even cost that much.
If you take the bridge or ferry out of the city and over to Coronado Island, it’s like going to a small beach town. I don’t think young adults looking for the night life scene would enjoy it much, but for families with kids or those looking to relax, it’s wonderful. Coronado is an expensive place to live, but it’s super cheap to visit.
Coronado Central Beach is one of the best. They have a dog friendly area if you want to bring your pooch. You can also fish right in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado. Right now, there are tons of sand dollars that are fascinating to kids. You can also watch the planes take off and land from the military base nearby. There’s even free parking along Ocean Avenue.
La Jolla Shores
If you go early, you should be able to find free parking along the street near the shore. Otherwise, you might have to walk a way or pay for parking. Other than that, La Jolla offers a great viewing area for sea lions. You can’t touch them, and you shouldn’t, but you can often see baby sea lions. It’s really fun to watch these amazing creatures that seem to do little besides swim, eat, lay in the sun, and play all day.
You can swim or snorkel in La Jolla Cove. There isn’t a huge beach like on Coronado, but you canfind plenty of space to park your umbrella. If not, there is a huge grassy park above the cove.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
Torrey Pines is near La Jolla and is home to the Torrey Pine tree, the rarest of pine trees in the US. You can hike or enjoy the beach. Admission is $10 on the South Beach lot and varies up to $15/day on the North Beach lot. No food or drink other than water is allowed on the reserve, except for the beach, where you can picnic if you desire.
San Diego Zoo vs Sea World
These attractions are certainly not cheap, but are often on the list of things to see when you visit San Diego. Personally, I would rather go on a hike or to the beach, but kids love these places. As a disclaimer, I am such the animal lover that all zoos or shows that make animals do circus type tricks bother me a bit. Both of these places are known for their efforts in animal rescue and conservation, so reluctantly I went. We did both when our daughter was 3.
Sea World had many things that toddlers would enjoy, like the Sesame Street play area and kiddie rides. It was fun to see the shows, and there was even a 3D movie that offered a cool respite on a pretty warm day. I would think teens might get a bit bored unless they love marine mammals, but I haven’t been through teen years, so what do I know?
Although the San Diego Zoo is world renowned, I was not incredibly impressed. First, there is nowhere to park if you don’t arrive pretty early. I’m sure it is better in slower seasons, but this was spring break. We probably spent 45 minutes looking for a spot and had to walk a really long way.
The zoo was crowded, so there were bottlenecks at the most popular places, and the paths through the zoo had some really steep ups and downs. Normally, I wouldn’t mind, but with a stroller and being behind traffic jams, it certainly lowered the quality of the experience.There was almost too much to see, and we ended up skipping many exhibits because we were hot and tired. I have enjoyed smaller zoos in other cities much more, although you can’t find the more rare animals, like pandas, in other places.
The zoo might be more fun with an older child or during off season, but if you have small kids, I would vote for Sea World hands down.
Those are a few of the many family friendly things we’ve done in San Diego. We try to go once a year, so I’m sure I’ll add to the list as time goes on.
What have you enjoyed in San Diego? Zoo or Sea World?