We try to travel internationally as much as we can, but we also love to see our own country and vow every year that we will do more U.S. travel! One of our favorite places is California. California has everything a family could want, from mountains to deserts to ocean. It’s truly diverse and when it comes to California cities, San Diego is one of the best for families. There are beaches, great restaurants and it’s easy to get around. During our visit, we easily found 10 family activities in San Diego.
Activity number one for any coastal city is….the beach! San Diego area has plenty to choose from. From Coronado Island to La Jolla, the beaches and coastline are plentiful. Our kids loved running around the beach by Hotel del Coronado and we loved getting a drink in the outdoor bar, relaxing and seeing the sun set.
Legoland wasn’t our cup of tea, but I do recommend it for families with children under 7. Our 6-year-old daughter definitely had a more enjoyable time than our 9-year-old. It’s a nice day trip for a family staying in San Diego. Better yet, combine it with a one night stay in the attached Legoland Hotel, which kids love.
Camping along the coast is one of the top 10 family activities in San Diego. I was never aware this existed until this past visit to California. We drove by several campsites right along beautiful stretches of coastline. A favorite was Carlsbad campground. Want beautiful ocean view lodging, but don’t want to pay for an expensive hotel? The next best thing is a campground!
The San Diego Zoo is one of the obvious activities for visitors of San Diego. This is a spectacular zoo and known around the United States for its open air, cage-less exhibits that recreate natural habitats. It’s also one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the Giant Panda. A family can definitely spend an entire day here.
A firm favorite with families is a gondola ride through the Coronado Cays with the Gondola Company. The company provides blankets and glasses for drinks, but you need to bring your own beverages. It’s like being in Venice only in California! Cruises last about 50 minutes and guests staying in Loews Coronado get a discount.
Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a must do for families visiting San Diego. There are plenty of hiking trails that are easy enough for families with children and it has both hiking and amazing coastal views. There is also a small museum where kids can see taxidermied animals found in the reserve. Always a favorite for kids!
One of our favorite things to see was seeing the Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove. The kids loved it. A picturesque cove with soft sand and very clear water, surrounded by cliffs and covered in Sea Lions. La Jolla cove is great for snorkeling, swimming and Scuba diving. We just sat and watched the sea lions for a long while. They were hilarious!
A drive across the Coronado Bridge and a half day spent on Coronado Island is worth it. We didn’t stay on Coronado but took a day to drive the bridge and spend a little time there. It’s an adorable little area, filled with shops and restaurants and cute little California bungalow-type houses. We liked it so much, in fact, that next time we go to San Diego, we are definitely staying on the island.
Whale watching and dolphin watching are very popular in San Diego. Depending on the time of year, you can see both! San Diego Whale Watch is a year round company and has several options available for families. If you don’t see a whale or dolphin while on a sail, you are allowed another trip free of charge.
At the end of the day, there is nothing better than a relaxing meal in a great restaurant. Rounding out the last of my 10 family activities in San Diego is a dinner at Pacific Coast Grill. Technically in Encinitas, this restaurant is right on the beach, has amazing food and friendly servers and some of the best views on the southern California coastline. We didn’t want to leave after our meal and spent a good portion of the night watching the kite surfers silhouetted against the sunset.
It’s no secret that our family is a California fan (in part, I’m sure, to the fact that it’s only a 2 hour flight) and we truly enjoy it every time we go, whether it’s Palm Springs or Del Mar. It’s easy to find family activities anywhere in California due to its size and the scope of ecosystems. We have spent a lot of time as a family in southern California and hope to take the kids on a northern California trip in the future. I think San Francisco is calling our name!
Looking to visit San Diego or California as a family? Let me help you plan your trip! I am an independent contractor with Departure Lounge Travel Advisors and I would love to help! You can reach me here.