Fun fact: the first independent blog I ever started was around the time I moved to San Diego in 2011. I was working like a maniac and not leaving much time to explore my beautiful city. Each month I would create a bucket list of 6 places to see or things to do specifically in San Diego to expand my horizons — and I learned so very much about my home!
While working in publishing there I had the chance to collaborate with the San Diego Museum Council on various things (most notably Museum Month in February and Kids Free in October) which opened my eyes to even more things to discover.
I feel like I’d be failing you all if I didn’t share some of my favorite places to go with kids in SD to peek at whether you’re visiting or a local. I’ll be sharing a few areas with you that you can turn into a full day of activities. Stick with me until the bottom, because I’ve included some exciting news that will offer up kid discounts on things like restaurants, hotels, and attractions.
Everyone will tell you to visit Balboa Park when traveling to San Diego and they are right! It was the very first place Tyler took me to when I visited him in his home town in the early stages of our long distance relationship. Not only can you find a huge range of museums (sports, automotive, photography, history…) and free botanical building, but there are other hidden gems that you may not be aware of.
- House of Pacific Relations International Cottages – Representing 34 countries around the globe, these cottages share the culture of our friendly neighbors with outdoor concerts, food fairs, and more.
- Harvey Milk Bench – One of my favorite spots to stop and think. Try and spot it as you’re heading from museum to museum.
- Zoro Garden – A gorgeous sunken butterfly garden that offers shade and quiet. It was originally built as a nudist colony for the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition *tee-hee*.
- Carousel – Built in 1910 and features hand-carved European animals. Includes a working brass ring game!
- Tea Pavilion – When the temperatures drop in SD (I say that with a laugh because it’s basically low 70s), I love grabbing a hot tea and bowl of noodles from the Tea Pavilion. If you can get a seat close to the edge of the deck, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the newly expanded Japanese Friendship Garden.
- Panama 66 – By far my favorite spot to eat. This was Fox’s very first restaurant! Because it’s right outside the San Diego Museum of Art, there is a lawned sculpture garden on the backside of this entirely outdoor restaurant making it perfect for kids! They have craft cocktails and a delicious menu that made us feel human and distracted Fox.
Seaport Village, U.S.S. Midway and Beyond
Another great spot for families. Work your way through each bullet point below from start to finish for the ultimate route through the seaside area.
- U.S.S. Midway – Although not in Seaport Village, the Midway is a short walking distance (10 mins.) and worth the trip. Peruse more than 60 exhibits in the depths of the ship or on the deck where aircrafts are parked for viewing.
- Unconditional Surrender Statue – About 1/3rd of the way on your walk from the Midway to Seaport Village, you’ll see a giant sculpture depiction of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square or “The Kiss.” It’s located in a place called Tuna Harbor park, also home to…
- A National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military – Listen to a Bob Hope performance surrounded by statues honoring military members.
- Margaritas Kitchen and Cantina – Once you get to Seaport Village, grab a table outside for some outrageously good Mexican food. Mom and dad can partake is sipping a tasty margarita if so inclined.
- Kite Flite – There’s something so therapeutic about flying a kite and Seaport Village has the perfect spot to do so! Upon our first visit there, we went into a place called Kite Flite who kindly lent us kites to take for a spin on the expansive green area outside. We wound up buying a couple for future use!
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
You all have already heard about my love for the San Diego Zoo, but I haven’t shared my excitement about the Safari Park. While living in Escondido, this location was only a few minutes away and we were absolutely blown away by everything it has to offer. This is also where I consistently tried to walk Fox out when he was overdue and where he said his first word (Mama).
- Tram – Starting with the most obvious, the guided tram makes you feel like you’re entering Jurassic Park as soon as you round the first corner. The expansive area that these animals have to roam in at a distance from onlookers is really something special.
- Samburu Terrace – This restaurant is set back a bit outside with a killer view. There’s light music playing, highchairs available, and a playground a few steps down with cushy floors (great for toddlers!).
- Lorikeet Landing – Let a bunch of beautiful green birds land on your hand (or head) while feeding them nectar. The hands on aspect of the Safari Park is what makes it my favorite.
- Elevator Deck – The best view in San Diego I’ve ever seen. Food and drink are also available — we usually park it with a hot pretzel and cheese.
- Herb Garden – A lesser known spot in the Safari Park, the Herb Garden is a peaceful spot to stroll and take in the yummy fragrances.
I sought out to write this article covering my top 10 days in San Diego, but I’m already drowning you in information! Earlier I mentioned I had a money saving tip for you: Kids Free San Diego runs the entire month of October! This means that from the 1st through the 31st, parents will have access to major discounts for their kiddos if they aren’t completely free at a large list of participating places throughout San Diego County.
To learn more about #KidsFreeSD and discover the full list of participants, visit the Kids Free SD landing page.
What is your favorite spot in San Diego?