Explore My City Guest Post by Dianne Sivulka
San Diego is a world-renowned travel destination and a playground wonderland for families. In a city with so many attractions for families to choose from, it can be hard to decide what to do. We narrowed our list down to five of our favorite places, each with an insider’s tip.
Take it from us, a family that has lived in San Diego for over 20 years. Some call San Diego America’s Finest City. Come visit and see why.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
1. San Diego Zoo & Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo is perhaps one of the best-known attractions in our beautiful city. Founded in 1916, the zoo sits on 100 acres in Balboa Park with over 3,500 animals to view. No family trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to the zoo.
Insider’s Tip: Purchase your tickets online ahead of time and arrive right when they open. This will allow you to get to some of the more popular exhibits before the crowds arrive. The animals also tend to be more active first thing in the morning and in the evening.
Located about 30 miles north of the zoo is San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park and also worth a visit if you have the time.
2. Balboa Park Museums
In addition to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is home to nearly 20 museums and beautiful outdoor spaces to explore. One of our favorite museums is the Reuben H. Fleet. It is a hands-on science museum with lots of exhibits for kids to interact with, discover and explore.
We have also thoroughly enjoyed the Model Railroad Museum and The Air & Space Museum over the years. If your kids love puppets, don’t miss a performance at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. If you have an aspiring engineer, don’t miss the Miniature Railroad where kids can ride-a-long on a train.
Insider’s Tip: Pack a picnic and a blanket and plan to spend an entire day. You’ll find beautiful gardens, fountains, walking trails and interesting buildings with Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.
3. Corvette Diner
This place just screams “fun” for families and the food is pretty awesome too. Located in Liberty Station off of Rosecrans and not far from the San Diego airport is the Corvette Diner. We recently visited with out of town guests and it was a big hit for everyone!
This 50’s style diner has it all. We played arcade-style games, had balloon creations made right at our table, ate burgers with fries and milkshakes, and even got crazy hair-dos with drinking straws.
Insider’s Tip: Purchase the Dine & Play Package when you arrive. It will include your meal and a game card for the arcade. And if you have the time, Liberty Station is another great place to explore. A former US Naval Base, now this waterfront development hosts retails shops, eateries, and more.
4. Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma Lighthouse and Tide Pools
These three locations within one area are worth at least 2-3 hours of your time. Part of the National Park Service, you’ll only pay $10 USD per vehicle to enter, but you’ll be rewarded with an educational experience and amazing views over-looking San Diego.
The Visitor’s Center has hourly films and a small museum dedicated to the Spanish Explorer who first arrived in the San Diego area. The kids can participate in the Ranger Program, going on a scavenger hunt to earn a badge.
The Point Loma Lighthouse provides a glimpse into life in the early 1900s. The tide pools are located just a short drive down the hill and provide a hands-on sea-life experience.
Insider’s Tip: Carefully choose the day you visit. Blue skies will give you the best view over San Diego Bay and a low tide will expose more tide pools. Online resources will provide the tide table schedule for California.
Learn more about the incredible west coast and all the best beaches of California here
5. Legoland California
For LEGO fans and anyone who is a kid at heart – this is the place to be! Located about 30 miles north of the city of San Diego is Legoland California Resort.
Within the resort grounds, you’ll find an amusement park with over 60 rides, a water park, an aquarium, and a hotel. It would be easy to spend an entire week at the resort but if you only have a day, divide your time by what interests your family most.
Insider’s Tip: Visit on a weekday if possible, when lines for rides will be shorter. Check online for current deals for purchasing your admission tickets. Pack some dry clothes and a towel as there will be a number of places to get wet. Lockers are available inside the park entrance. Don’t forget to try Granny Apple Fries. Yum!
Looking for somewhere to stay? San Diego has many Airbnb properties which can be great for families, putting you in a prime location with all the amenities you need.
Thanks so much to Dianne for these fabulous tips! Planning a trip to such a big and spread out city can be overwhelming but this definitely narrows things down to ensure a fun time for families!
Dianne Sivulka is a former teacher who became a stay-at-home mom of two boys. She and her husband soon realized that having kids didn’t mean that travel had to end.
Together they have visited 25 countries and still have a lot more they’d like to see. She keeps busy with homeschooling, planning the next family journey, and writing about educational travel tips at www.ouredventures.com.
Want more insider city exploring tips?
Our team of family travel bloggers have been hard at work pulling together the best that their cities have to offer for families – make sure you check out the full selection of cities and fabulous stories in Explore My City
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11 thoughts on “Insider tips for San Diego’s Top 5 Family Attractions”
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Great tips – I really wanted to get to San Diego on our California trip this summer but ran out of time. It’s definitely on my list, especially the zoo but the diner sounds really fun. #citytripping
Yes – ever since Madagascar I’ve wanted to visit the zoo!! Another to that long list of must do’s!
I’ve wanted to go to San Diego since I was a kid. Although my grandparents lived near Anaheim while I was growing up we, sadly, never went down to San Diego.
Sadly we have always missed it off our US adventures too. So much family entertainment I look forward to visiting with our 3 and using Dianne’s tips!
Brilliant tips. San Diego is well up there on our list. I hear so many great things about the city and this post is very helpful for traversing it with kids. Thank you to Dianne. Great series Keri. Thanks for linking to #citytripping
Its certainly up there on our list to visit to Elizabeth – I hear you need to time your trip well though with the weather to get the most out of it – this time of year (Sept/Oct) is supposed to be great – better than mid summer
I’m from San Diego and have never heard of this Corvette Diner but it sure looks fun!! #CityTripping
Great hope you can get to try it some day!
We’ve only heard fab things about San Diego with kids..I vaguely remember a trip to la Jolla when I was a kid and how beautiful it was. Earmarking this!
we never made it quite this far south in our brief visit to California so definitely an incentive to come back