With its year round temperate climate and array of theme parks, San Diego continues to top the charts for one of the most family-friendly vacation destinations in the country. Of course, there’s the renowned San Diego Zoo and Sea World, as well as Disneyland and Legoland within a short drive, but there’s also 70 miles of beaches, countless parks and museums, exciting water sports and activities, and so much more! Below are some suggestions and inside tips to help you create unforgettable memories for the whole family on your next visit to San Diego.
When to Visit:
Most people think that San Diego is hot and sunny 365 days a year, but even SoCal skies can glaze over with clouds and fog, especially during late spring/early summer which is why people refer to those months as May grey and June gloom. During this time, you might see some cloud cover during the morning and hazy sunshine in the afternoon with clouds returning at sundown. Rain is very unlikely in San Diego, but if you do happen to feel a drizzle, it probably won’t last long. The hottest and driest months of the year are usually August and September. October and November remain warm and comfortable, as does the rest of the winter season. Temperatures can drop quite low in the evenings, so remember to pack a light jacket or sweater/sweatshirt.
Where to Stay:
Many visitors stay in the Gaslamp Quarter located in downtown San Diego, but this area can often be extremely busy and crowded and, frankly, there isn’t much for a family to do around there. Instead, consider staying in one of these beachy hotels that truly embody the laid back surf vibe of San Diego:
Pelicans love to hang out on Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach
The Pacific Terrace Hotel is located on the famous Pacific Beach boardwalk which overlooks one of the best beaches in San Diego and is ideal for bike riding, strolling, skating, dining, or people watching. Children under 12 stay free here and complimentary cribs are available upon request.
Also in Pacific Beach, the Catamaran Resort Hotel has direct access to boating and sunbathing on Mission Bay and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean just one block away. You will find exotic birds, koi ponds, ducks and turtles throughout the tropical hotel grounds. Activities include complimentary bay tours aboard the Bahia Belle, arcade games, hula dancing lessons by the pool, boat rentals, beachside brunches, and outdoor movies and luaus during the summer months.
Sunset Behind Crystal Pier
The one-of-a-kind historic Crystal Pier Hotel is made up of quaint cottages for up to six people situated right on the pier in Pacific Beach. Guests can actually hear the waves crashing directly underneath them while they sleep. Cottages have kitchenettes and patios overlooking the waves. You can watch the surfers or fish right off the pier.
Bayfront bungalow at Paradise Point Resort
Paradise Point Resort is located on a private island on Mission Bay and offers daily surf lessons, complimentary poolside arts and crafts, kid and teen spa services, day camps and much more. Infant and toddler beds are available upon request.
Located on a private 15-acre peninsula the Loews Coronado Bay Resort has three swimming pools, four restaurants, basketball and tennis courts, and direct access to the Silver Strand State Beach. This hotel also offers educational beach explorations, an interactive children’s menu and bayside marshmallow roasts.
La Jolla Cove
If you want to keep an eye on the sea lions, dolphins, and birds that call La Jolla Cove home, then check out La Jolla Cove Suites which features an outdoor saltwater pool and panoramic views of the California coast, as well as a free continental breakfast on an oceanfront rooftop.
What to do:
San Diego hosts an endless amount of outdoor activities and since it’s always nice out, why not get out there for some fun in the sun?
Stand up paddle boarding around La Jolla Ecological Preserve
If your family is up for some adventure, kayaking and/or snorkeling around La Jolla Ecological Reserve is the best way to see San Diego’s coastal landscape and underwater flora and fauna. Rent a kayak and explore on your own or join a kayaking tour led by local experts who guide you through caves and alongside cliffs where you can spot sea lions, dolphins, Garibaldi fish, and even harmless leopard sharks. The calm waters of this reserve are perfect for kayaking, snorkeling (or scuba diving), and stand up paddle boarding.
Hot Tub Cruisin on Mission Bay
You can’t visit one of the best surfing destinations in the country and not take a surf lesson. Check out San Diego Surf School for lessons and rentals.
Boating and stand up paddle boarding on Mission Bay is another fun way to enjoy a day on the water. Check out Seaforth Boat Rentals for some affordable hourly and daily rates. You can also soak in a hot tub while you cruise – rent a boat from Hot Tub Cruisin and enjoy the most luxurious way to explore Mission Bay.
Torrey Pines State Park
If you prefer to experience San Diego’s coastal beauty by foot, then a hike around picturesque Torrey Pines State Park or Cabrillo National Monument is a must. Torrey Pines State Park offers easy kid-friendly hiking and walking trails along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can take the beach trail down to the sand and take a dip in the ocean before heading back up.
Views from Cabrillo National Monument
At Cabrillo National Monument you can explore the historic lighthouse at the top or take a walk along the tide pools at the bottom. From here, you can see all the way to Mexico and even spot whales during the winter months. To get a closer look at the whales, consider joining a Whale Watching Tour.
A trip to San Diego is not complete without a visit to Balboa Park, home to 17 museums, eight gardens, many architectural marvels, lush hiking trails, restaurants, art collectives, and the famous San Diego Zoo. Admission to the park is free, but most museums and cultural attractions do carry a fee. Some family favorites include the carousel (adjacent to the zoo), the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, and the Museum of Natural History. The northeast side of the park contains the Morley Field Sports Complex where you can enjoy tennis, swimming, archery, bocce ball, and even velodrome cycling. The park also hosts many special events during the year including fairs, parades, concerts, and the annual holiday festival each December called “December Nights.”
If you and your family still have some energy left after a full day of basking in the sun and seeing all the sights, consider visiting Belmont Park for some arcade fun. This beachside amusement park includes rides, games, rock climbing, laser tag, mini golf, and a ropes course.
Traveling with children can often be difficult because of the amount of stuff these little creatures require. One way to travel a little lighter is to rent all your kid and beach gear from Toddler’s Travels, who will deliver and set up everything you need to make your little ones feel right at home. All rentals, which include things like car seats, strollers, cribs, swings, and high chairs, are sanitized and safety checked.
Don’t worry if you can’t do it all during one trip because you’ll love San Diego so much, you’ll definitely be returning again soon!
1. Hang ten with San Diego Surf School. Credit: San Diego Surf School
2. Pelicans on Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel
3. Sunset behind Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel
4. Bayfront bungalow at Paradise Point Resort. Credit: Paradise Point Resort
5. Sea lions, La Jolla Cove. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel
6. Stand up paddle boarding around La Jolla Ecological Preserve. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel
7. Hot Tub Cruisin on Mission Bay. Credit: Hot Tub Cruisin
8. Hiking trails at Torrey Pines State Park. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel
9. Views from Cabrillo National Monument. Credit: Michael Van Asselt
10. Balboa Park. Credit: Jane Feyder-Siegel