Chelsea

7 Free Things to Do with Kids in San Diego

Playing at the Beach - Free Things to Do in San Diego
Playing at the Beach - Free Things to Do in San Diego

From the water to the mountains, there are plenty of free things to do with kids in San Diego

Believe it or not, one of the most amazing destinations to visit with kids actually has so many fun things to do that are free! If you are heading into town and looking for great adventures to do with your family on a budget, check out my favorite free things to do with kids in San Diego!

Beaches

Let’s start with the obvious – San Diego has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and, yes, they are free! From swimming in the waves to perfecting your sand castle masterpieces, grab your buckets and shovels and be prepared for you kid’s to have so much fun, you may get away with reading a magazine or two!

My favorites for families: Coronado, Moonlight in Encinitas, La Jolla Shores and Law Street in Pacific Beach.

Tide Pools

As the tide retreats, tiny pools fill up and become a natural aquarium for you and your family to enjoy. Find the starfish, sea urchins and guess whether there’s a crab in that shell!

My favorites for families: Swamis in Cardiff, Carlsbad off Tamarack, in front of the Power Plant and the La Jolla Cove.

> Find out more about San Diego’s Tide Pools

San Diego Libraries

Just as you find yourself needing a break from the sun, enter into one of the many San Diego libraries for some free fun. The new central library in San Diego’s East Village offers plenty of different open spaces for kids and teens to read and play.

My favorite for families: Encinitas library with its ocean views.

Free Museum Days

Each October, kids generally receive free admission with a paid adult at over 40 museums!

Also, check with each individual museum as certain ones do offer a free night. For example, every third Thursday, the La Jolla Modern Art museum offers free admission for everyone!

My favorites for families: Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Botanic Garden and Museum of Making Music.

Seaport Village

From street performers to flying kites, pack your lunches and head for some fun along the bay at San Diego’s Seaport Village.

My favorite: Walking along the water and watching the boats.

Balboa Park

Catch a free concert in the outdoor pavilion after counting the lilies in the pond! Walk along the historic Cabrillo Bridge and enjoy the multiple flower gardens throughout the park.

My favorite: Japanese Friendship Garden

> Find out more about Balboa Park

Hiking

With so many San Diego kid-friendly hikes to choose from, enjoy the amazing weather while taking in breath-taking views…and for free!

My favorite: Torrey Pines

> Find more Free Things to Do in San Diego

What’s your favorite free things to do with kids in San Diego? Let us know in the comments below or join in the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

Chelsea

9 Fun Stops For Kids Along Highway 101 in San Diego County

Moonlight Beach along the Highway 101
Moonlight Beach along the Highway 101

Moonlight Beach is just one of the places your kids will love along Highway 101

Growing up, my dad always wanted to “take the coast” home. In San Diego local speak, this meant driving along the Highway 101 versus taking the freeway. In fact, when my husband and I moved to Los Angeles for a brief four years, it was this exact stretch of road that had us asking, “Why did we ever move out of San Diego?!” Hence, we moved back. In other words, the coast highway is a gorgeously scenic route that is worth taking a drive. And if you feel like stopping along the way, here are some fun for the whole family stops to check out along Highway 101:

1. Harbor Fish Cafe

Let’s start at the north end of the Highway 101 in the town where I grew up, Carlsbad. Enjoy the very walk-friendly sidewalks along the ocean to work up an appetite and fuel your family at Harbor Fish while you catch the sunset. Go for the fish and chips while enjoying surfers and sunset views.

Where: 3179 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA

2. Moonlight Beach

Just as the hot weather hits, the snow cones start calling! Head to the recently renovated snack shack at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas to pick your favorite ice flavors, then enjoy pushing your kids in the swings or watch a volley ball game or two all the while seeing the waves crash along the shore. Locals Hint: Starting in October/November, the sand hills are usually back and San Diego’s very own version of “sledding” is to grab an actual snow sled or boogie board and watch your child’s delight as they glide down the sandy “mountain.”

Where: Encinitas Blvd, straight to the water.

3. Lumber Yard

No visit to San Diego would be complete without souvenirs! Check out this seaside set of shops, including every local’s favorite kid’s store: Magical Child. Pick up a unique gift that will entertain your child on the trip home, then grab some hot chocolate from Chuao and enjoy it next to the fountain as you toss coins to make their little wishes come true.

Where: 967 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA

4. The Self Realization Center

First stop at Java Depot for what my kids call “monkey hot chocolate” since they attach a plastic monkey to the cup or grab smoothies from Swami’s Café. Once finished, walk over to check out the amazing plants, Koi fish and views from The Self Realization Center. With so much to see and easy to navigate, it is often an afternoon favorite for our family to visit. Also, it’s great practice in learning to be quiet as they do ask that you “keep it down.”

Where: 939 2nd St, Encinitas, CA

5. Swami’s Tide Pools

Just a short distance down the highway from The Self Realization Center is one of the top surf spots. Even better for small kids than watching the waves is searching for sea urchins in one of the many tide pools at low tide.

Where: Coast Highway, Encinitas

6. Bull Taco

True, this is an eating spot on a camping ground, but it’s a family favorite for a spectacular sunset dinner. Perched high on a cliff, enjoy 360-degree ocean views, including of La Jolla. Grab an ice cream at the camp store to finish off your delicious tacos and burritos. Local hint: pull onto the campgrounds and let them know you just need temporary parking for dinner. Or park on the coast highway and enjoy a nice walk back to the car with ocean breezes after filling those tummies.

Where: 2050 S Coast Highway 101, Cardiff, CA

7. Fletcher Cove

A gorgeous beach just two blocks in from the 101,  start your day with breakfast at the ocean view restaurant Naked Café, followed by some play time at the Fletcher Cove park play structure, then head down to the beach to collect shells. Just when you start to feel you have sufficiently worn out your wee ones, finish off the day with some lunch at the popular Pizza Port. Oh! And if you have train lovers, be sure to check out the station across the street.

Where: Solana Beach, CA – where Lomas Santa Fe meets the water

8. Torrey Pines

For a great hike in San Diego with kids, check out the easy trails along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. Enjoy the wild flowers and the beauty of the Torrey Pine trees. Head to the ocean after to cool off while splashing in the waves.

Where: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, Ca

9. Birch Aquarium

It’s difficult to match the view from this fun for all ages aquarium atop a bluff overlooking the ocean. Stop by to see the Octopus and “hall of fishes,” then head to the hands on exploration area for kids. And when you are ready to have your breath taken away, step outside and enjoy the tide pool display all the while taking in the magnificent views.

Where: Birch Aquarium at Scripps – 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA

With so much to do and see along one of the world’s most scenic highways, your kids are sure to be requesting “let’s take the coast” and Highway 101 in no time, too.

> Discover more of Historic Highway 101 in San Diego

Chelsea

5 Must-do Family Adventures in Balboa Park

Spreckels Organ Pavillion

Perched high up on my father’s shoulders back when I was four years old, I remember the excitement of walking around Balboa Park. With so much to see from performing artists to the lily pond in front of the Botanical Building, even picnicking on the grass was a delight all of its own. Now that I am a mom of five, I continue to treasure the beautiful scenery, the iconic Cabrillo Bridge east/west entrance, gardens and so much more. And that’s before ever stepping foot inside one of the many museums and attractions! Over the past few decades (yes, I’m aging myself), I’ve also narrowed down some favorite spots that are frosting on the cake of family adventure.

Here are five must-do family activities in Balboa Park:

1. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre on Balboa Park

Escape into the world of fairy tales and adventure with marionettes at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre

Truth be told, I didn’t find out about this delightful show for the whole family that features marionettes, hand, rod, and shadow puppets, until one of my kids was invited to a birthday party there a few years back! With two shows daily Wednesday-Friday and three on weekends, be sure to pop in for some entertainment for all ages!

> Find out more about Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

2. Balboa Park Miniature Railroad

Balboa Park Miniature Railroad

All aboard the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad’s G16 – now a rare antique with as few as fifty currently remaining

Located just outside of the zoo, I used to always beg my mom to let us ride on this train! Now, I beg my kids to let me go on…kidding…kind of! The 3-minute ride around the tracks is a must and don’t miss a ride on the classic 1910 carousel, too!

> Find out more about the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad

3. San Diego Model Railroad Museum

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

It’s the model of miniature railroad museums

And speaking of locomotives, this is another gem I learned about when invited to a birthday party here: the train museum! Watch as the mini-trains travel through large layouts, with four set-ups choo-chooing along at once in a 28,000 square foot space!

> Find out more about the San Diego Model Railroad Museum

4. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Gravity Well - Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Hands on fun for all ages can be found at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

It’s hard to narrow down the must-see museums, but if you are short on time and could only choose one, this would be it! A definite field trip favorite when I was in elementary school, it’s a treat to see my kids enjoy the hands on exhibits all the while learning. And if you have the time, be sure to catch the IMAX theater located in a giant dome that makes you feel like you are in the movie! An absolutely incredible experience, it’s also great for a date night for parents if you can squeeze one in.

> Find out more about the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

5. Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Spreckels Organ Pavillion

Sunshine, plenty of seating and good music make the Spreckels Organ Pavilion perfect for a family afternoon

One of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs (no, really!), this is a must-see (or is that hear?). Be sure to check the schedule but shows are generally on Sundays and a great place to rest after enjoying all the above attractions.

> Find out more about the Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Truly, there is so much to do and see in Balboa Park it was hard to narrow down my top picks. With activities the family can enjoy together, be sure to park (ahem) your family here!

Dave

New Year’s Eve Celebrations for Kids in San Diego

LEGOLAND NYE Fireworks

Keeping the kids awake past midnight on New Year’s Eve can sometimes be a recipe for disaster, but luckily, several venues around San Diego offer a range of family friendly events that allow you to toast your tots and still make it back by bedtime. Whether you prefer to go budget-friendly or big-time, here’s a short list of options that will help make it a joyous transition to 2014.

Kids’ New Year’s Eve at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND NYE Fireworks

Ring in 2014 at LEGOLAND’s family friendly New Year’s Eve Celebration

Kids ring in the New Year as if they’re smack dab in the middle of New York’s Times Square at LEGOLAND’s New Year’s Eve party. The event features a full lineup of live kids music and an early evening countdown that culminates with its traditional LEGO brick dropping and a giant fireworks display.

Where: One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
When: December 31, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (6:00 PM countdown & fireworks)
Cost: Included with admission
> Find out more about Kids’ New Year’s Eve at LEGOLAND

New Year’s Eve 50’s Themed Sock Hop Bash

New Year's Eve Sock Hop

Step back in time as we move forward another year at a 1950’s style Sock Hop

Put on your poodle skirt and lace up those saddle shoes for this 50’s theme Sock Hop Bash at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa in coastal North County.

This family focused fete includes a buffet style dinner and dessert bar, a live DJ, and a special Kids Party Zone complete with a “Gamer Room” that includes XBox Kinect, Dance Central, racing games, and Wii. Kids will also enjoy face painting, traditional table games like air hockey and foosball, plus their very own dance floor. The Kids Club Party Room counts down the New Year with a balloon drop at 9:00 PM.

Where: Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa 5480 Grand Pacific Dr, Carlsbad, CA  92008
When: December 31, 2013
Time: 6:30 PM to 12:30 AM (Kids countdown at 9:00 PM)
Cost: $90 Adult (18+); $45 Child (13-17); $30 Child (4-12) Free for Ages 3 and under. Prices increase after December 30, 2013.
> Find out more about New Year’s Eve 50’s Themed Sock Hop Bash

Kids New Year’s Eve at Hotel del Coronado

Skating by the Sea at the Hotel del Coronado

Skating by the Sea at The Del!

While the grownups toast champagne in the Hotel Del’s beautiful Crown Room, kids will be having a ball of their own with dinner, beach games, a bonfire and enjoying the resorts Kidtopia, a fun-filled facility catered specially for kids 4-12.

Where:  Hotel del Coronado 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
When:  December 31, 2013
Time:  7:00PM to 12:30 AM
Cost:  $300-$330 Adults; $100 first child 4-12 $60 each additional
> Find out more about New Year’s Eve at the Hotel del Coronado

Pajama Jam: New Year’s Family Night Out

New Children's Museum Pajama Jam

Taking place the Saturday before New Year’s Eve, the New Children’s Museum hosts a zany Pajama Jam where both kids and grownups sport their jammies and bunny slippers while they boogie down to live kids music from Clint Perry & The Boo Hoo Crew, enjoy a delicious dinner from local restaurants, participate in New Year’s themed art-making activities and of course, a balloon drop.

Where: 200 W Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
When: December 28, 2013
Time: 5:00 to 8:00 PM
Cost: $35 Adults; $25 Children; Free under 2 yrs. (includes parking & hosted bar)
> Find out more about Pajama Jam: New Year’s Family Night Out

John’s New Year’s Eve Party and Horn Parade

John's Incredible Pizza Company

Let the kids play all night at John’s Incredible Pizza Company

For a more low-key approach, head to John’s Incredible Pizza Co. where kids of all ages will enjoy celebrating the New Year with an evening of pizza, games, rides, and a special Horn Parade for those that can make it to midnight!

Where: 3010 Plaza Bonita Rd, National City, CA 91950
When: December 31, 2013
Time: 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM (Horn Parade at Midnight)
Cost:  $20-$35 Adults (13+); $15-$30 Child (3-12)
> Find out more about John’s New Year’s Eve Party and Horn Parade

Kids New Year’s Eve Party at City of Coronado Public Library

Kids at the Coronado Public Library

Have some early NYE fun at the Coronado Public Library

This hour-long event is free to the public and offers games, crafts and a piñata all leading up to the countdown! If you’re in the Coronado area, be sure to check it out.

Where: Coronado Public Library 640 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
When: December 31, 2013
Time: 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Kid’s New Year’s Eve Party at the Coronado Public Library

What are your family plans for this New Year’s Eve?

Dave

Small Events with Big Charm: Holiday Activities for Kids

Garden of Lights San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego’s big attractions go all-out for the holidays, but not all families that want to the hustle and bustle of large events. Families looking for a more intimate holiday experience can enjoy some equally charming activities happening all around town.

Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanic Garden

Garden of Lights San Diego Botanic Garden

Lights, flowers and s’mores – what more could you ask for? (photo by by John Bryant)

Garden of Lights transforms the San Diego Botanic Garden into a dazzling winter wonderland filled with more than 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the garden for a magical holiday experience that includes snow sledding (bring your own!), live music that includes mariachis and traditional Christmas carolers and get this – even a team of blonde Belgian draft horses ready to take your tykes on a wild wagon ride they won’t soon forget.

The event is a shutterbug’s dream, with Santa Claus posing for pics with young and old in a brightly lit gazebo and a vibrant, festively decorated “Poinsettia Garden” that will certainly make your snapshots sparkle. The social set will appreciate the warm and cozy campfire setup that provides s’mores and marshmallow roasting opportunities; supplies will be available for purchase, including cocoa, hot mulled wine and standard coffee drinks.

There will also be a variety of special holiday crafts that children can take home, a nutcracker exhibit displaying a collection of more 50 nutcrackers and a unique display of gourd figures featuring characters from the original Alice in Wonderland book.

Where:  230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas CA 92024
When:  December 7 – 23, 2013 and December 26 – 30, 2013
Time:  5 – 9 p.m.
Cost:  Adult $14; Child (3-12) $6; Seniors, Military & Students $10; Kids under 3 free
>Find out more about the Garden of Lights

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center San Diego

It doesn’t get much cuter than the Frosty Farm (photo courtesy Helen Woodward Animal Center)

There’s nothing cuter than miniature horses dressed as reindeer, and kids who love animals will agree as they revel in Frosty Farm’s festive four-legged frenzy that takes place at the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The event features hands-on interaction with sheep, bunnies, guinea pigs and reptiles. In addition, kids can frolic in falling snow, navigate a Magical Ice Palace Maze, build a gingerbread house and receive a special gift from Santa.

Where:  Helen Woodward Animal Center 6461 El Apajo Road, Rancho Santa Fe CA 92067
When:  December 7-8 & December 14-15
Time:  10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Cost:  $20 Child; $9 Adult (registration required at animalcenter.org/education)
>Find out more about the Frosty Farm

Christmas in the Park at Old Poway Park

Christmas in the Park at Old Poway Park San Diego

Santa welcomes guests to Old Poway Park.

Families looking for a holiday festival that captures that small town charm will want to head to Old Poway Park in the City of Poway. The festival embraces the historic park’s turn-of-the-century heritage with a community Christmas tree lighting, horse drawn hayrides, a live petting zoo, square dancing, children’s theater and piano player sing-a-longs that the whole family will enjoy.

Even Santa and Mrs. Claus add to the nostalgia of these old-fashion traditions when they make a surprise visit rolling into the festival riding on a 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive. Families will also be able to ride the antique train during the festival.

Where:  Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Rd, Poway CA 92064
When:  December 14, 2013
Time:  3:30pm – 8:30pm
Cost:  Free
>Find out more about Christmas in the Park

Do you know of any fun holiday activities for kids happening around town? Share it with us in the comments below.

Robert Arends

Family Fun for Free in San Diego’s Coronado!

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach

Family fun in the sun in Coronado! Courtesy Joanne DiBona, SanDiego.org

The Kidvasion has begun! Kids Free in San Diego month is in full swing. As you and your family are in town enjoying the numerous (100+) free deals, be sure to visit sun-kissed Coronado, a bridge away from downtown San Diego.

Kids are sure to get a kick out of these free activities around the island:

The Beach

Build a Sandcastle at the #1 Beach in America - Coronado Beach

Build a Sandcastle at the #1 Beach in America – Coronado Beach

Make sandcastles at Coronado Beach – the #1 beach in America – with its expansive stretch of soft white sands. To the north, check out the tail-wagging fun at Dog Beach where friendly fidos splash in the surf and play fetch. Along Ocean Blvd., can you spot the giant sand dunes that spell C-O-R-O-N-A-D-O? Pretty neat!

Coronado Museum of History & Art

US Navy's aircraft carriers at NAS North Island

Mighty aircraft carriers and high-flying jets at NAS North Island

Fly by the Coronado Museum of History & Art (kids under 12 are free with 1 adult paid admission) to check out their new 100+ Years of Yachting exhibition, plus cool U.S. Navy display. To see the real thing, head to Shoreline Park (First St. & I Ave.) for a peek at the Navy’s mighty aircraft carriers. A free air show of sorts can be seen almost daily at Coronado Beach, with Navy jets and helicopters flying overhead on their way to NAS North Island.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Coronado Public Library

Wizard of Oz Glass Panels - Coronado Public Library

Wizard of Oz scenes at the Coronado Public Library

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Coronado Public Library to gander at massive glass panels depicting scenes from the Wizard of Oz. Oz author L. Frank Baum lived in Coronado! Join Coronado Touring on a walk back in time through the Hotel del Coronado (Baum’s inspiration for the Emerald City) and past the yellow cottage where Baum wrote a few of his fantastical children’s books. Tour is free for kids under three ($12 each for mom and dad).

Secret Art of Dr. Seuss

The whimsical "Secret Art of Dr. Seuss" at Stephen Clayton Galleries

The whimsical “Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” at Stephen Clayton Galleries

Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat greets kids at Stephen Clayton Gallery

Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat greets guests at Stephen Clayton Gallery

Another famous children’s author who lived in San Diego was Dr. Seuss. Discover the “Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” – including sculptures of magical creatures and other-worldly paintings – at the Stephen Clayton Galleries at the Coronado Ferry Landing.

And don’t forget Coronado’s Kids Free month participants and special deals, including:

Coronado’s fun and free playground of activities awaits! 🙂

Sarah Weinberg

Frightfully Fun and Family Friendly Halloween Happenings in San Diego

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat

Time to start thinking about what you’ll wear for Halloween. Don’t wait until October 31 to try out your costumes. Here are some fun places in San Diego to take your dressed-up kids before Halloween even hits. Go ahead; get a few more wears out of those get-ups!

LEGOLAND for Brick or Treat

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat

My son was so excited for Brick-or-Treat that he jumped out of his skin! 🙂

My kids’ favorite place for Halloween is LEGOLAND for Brick or Treat weekends in October. We’ve been lucky enough to go three years in a row and they are begging me to make it four this year. In addition to the always amazing and humorous spooky LEGO figures that are added to the park for the Halloween theme, my kids enjoy the interaction of the Brick or Treat Trail where they collect coloring books, healthy snacks, unhealthy snacks, and oh yes, some candy. The kids love that they are running around the park, in their costumes, at night, with a complimentary Brick or Treat bag full of free stuff.

Parents will agree it’s a great time to visit LEGOLAND because not only are hours extended during Brick or Treat weekends, there are free fireworks and extra shows on Saturday nights, and best of all, it’s Kids Free October in San Diego! Visitors get a free child admission with each paying adult through October.

Where: LEGOLAND California Resort, One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
When: The Brick or Treat Trail is open Weekends in October 2013
Time: Saturday 12:00 to 9:00 PM. Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free with admission. Special $30 Party Nights Hopper tickets are available online only and valid for same-day admission to LEGOLAND California and SEA LIFE Aquarium between the hours of 5:00 to 9:00 PM on Brick-or-Treat Party Nights October 5, 12, 19 or 26. This is an exclusive online discount. Also, $59 Brick-or-Treat Hopper tickets are available online only and valid for same-day admission to LEGOLAND California and SEA LIFE Aquarium on customer selected Saturday in October.
> Find out more about Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND

> Kids Go Free to LEGOLAND California all October

Have a Spooktacular Time at SeaWorld

SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular

Even the animals get in on the Spooktacular Halloween fun at SeaWorld

Another family favorite is SeaWorld weekend’s during the Halloween season. Kids can wear costumes and hunt around the park for 10 different trick or treat stations. The Sesame Street characters have a special “Countdown to Halloween” show, Penelope”s Undersea Pumpkinfish Patch, and sea lion’s Clyde and Seamore’s new “Spooky Adventure” show.

Where: SeaWorld Adventure Park, 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA 92109
When: Weekends September 28 – October 27
Cost: Free with admission
> Find out more about SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular

> Kids Go, Eat and Play Free to SeaWorld all October

Haunted Birch Aquarium

Pirate Ship - Haunted Birch Aquarium - Shipwrecked

Haunted Pirate Ships and More at the Birch Aquarium

Looking for an affordable, educational and family-sized Halloween event? Discover what lurks beneath the surface October 25 & 26 at the 13th annual Haunted Birch Aquarium: Shipwrecked! The entire family can enjoy spooky science activities, explore the aquarium’s “wreckage” for sunken treasures, listen to zydeco band Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters, and enjoy the aquarium after dark, in costume. Haunted Birch Aquarium offers participants a fun and informal atmosphere in which to learn about ocean science and win prizes for best costume. This not-too-spooky event is geared toward families and open to guests of all ages. Children ages 2 and under are free, and children under 16 must be accompanied by a paid adult.

Where: Birch Aquarium at Scripps – 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
When: October 25-26
Cost: $12-$17
> Find out more about Haunted Birch Aquarium

> Kids Go Free to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps all October

Star of India Haunted Tales of the Ship

Haunted Star of India - Maritime Museum of San Diego

Gather round for haunted seafaring tales and lantern tours at the Maritime Museum of San Diego

For a historically haunting experience, venture on board the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship for a special 45-60 minute tour. Part of San Diego’s Maritime Museum collection, the Star of India’s storied past includes real-life encounters with ghosts, and the tour includes special activities for the family, including seafaring ghost stories and “creepy treats.” Kids are encouraged to wear costumes.

Where: The San Diego Maritime Museum – 1492 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA 92101
When: October 18-19 and 25-26
Time: 6:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $8-$16
> Find out more about Haunted Tales of Our Seafaring Past

Seaport Village Halloween Bash on the Bay

Halloween Scarecrow at Seaport Village

Bring the kids for some Halloween fun in San Diego’s Downtown

Want to get some shopping done while celebrating the spooky season? Take the family to Seaport Village’s Halloween Bash on the Bay and enjoy a kid’s costume contest with prizes, photos of your ghouls, princesses and pirates next to a living scarecrow, and music by the Monster Mash Band and Thriller DJ. The event will not include candy or trick or treating, but offers many family-friendly activities, including a scavenger hunt, face painting and harvest-themed games.

Where: Seaport Village – 849 West Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA 92101
When: Saturday, October 26
Time: 1:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Seaport Village’s Halloween Bash on the Bay

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Costumed fun in San Diego’s Historic Balboa Park

Over a dozen museums are treating families to free admission for children 12 and under during the 5th annual Balboa Park Halloween Family Day on Saturday, October 26. In addition to free children’s admission with a paid adult, participating museums and cultural attractions will present a spooky array of hands-on activities, crafts, special tours, storytelling, and other free goodies.

Where: Balboa Park – 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
When: October 26, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Cost: Free. Kids 12 and under free to museums with paid adult admission
> Find out more about the Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

> Kids Go Free to Many Balboa Park Museums all October

> Discover More Halloween Excitement in San Diego

What’s your favorite family friendly Halloween activity in San Diego? Let us and other families know in the comments below.

Guest Blogger

San Diego Summer Fun With a Tween

Enjoying the trains at Balboa Park - Tween Summer Fun

All Aboard! Tweens love spending the summer in San Diego and one fun thing to do is ride the miniature trains at Balboa Park

School is out and summer is finally here! As a big sister and nanny in San Diego I am constantly looking for ways to keep the tweens in my life entertained and off their electronic devices. Besides our amazing attractions like SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and the San Diego Zoo, here are my top five picks when entertaining a tween in San Diego.

Visit the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

The Reuben H. Fleet in Balboa Park is a fully interactive science center that simplifies scientific concepts and makes them accessible to kids of all ages in a fun, hands on way. My middle-school aged brother particularly enjoyed seeing his classroom science lessons come alive via interactive experiments. He even taught me a thing or two.

See the Leopard Sharks at La Jolla Shores

Going to the beach during the summer in San Diego is a must, and La Jolla Shores is the perfect location to find sun and surf. This time of year is also prime time for leopard shark sightseeing right off the coast. Some days, swarms of these harmless bottom feeders can be seen from the coast or close up through snorkeling tours and kayaking expeditions. Most importantly, nearly any tween’s interest will be piqued by the idea of swimming with sharks.

Take a ride on the Balboa Park Carousel and Miniature Railroad

If you are looking for a shorter adventure that won’t take up the whole day, try the train ride and carousel situated in Balboa Park near the San Diego Zoo. The antique and charming carousel offers a brass ring game that is perfect for tween riders. The miniature railroad is equally entertaining and has the feel of a genuine train. Bring a packed lunch and have a picnic on one of the lawns scattered throughout the park.

Visit Seaport Village Downtown

Seaport Village is a must see attraction located downtown adjacent on the harbor. It houses a variety of restaurants, shops and outdoor entertainment to suit every taste. If you are lucky, the village’s famed rock balancer will make an appearance; his ability to stack up to 9 rocks on top of each other without the use of superglue or some sort of magic is sure to mystify every member of your party.

Belmont Park

Located right next to Mission Beach, Belmont Park houses amusement park rides including the historic Big Dipper roller coaster, an arcade and even laser tag. This bayside theme park is a San Diego favorite and a quintessential part of summer, whether you’re visiting or exploring your hometown.

> Plan your Summer in San Diego

Written by Victoria Lievre – San Diego native, UCSB student, sister to a tween and nanny to two more.

Denise

Spring Break in San Diego – The Perfect Family Getaway

Family Enjoying La Jolla Shores - Spring Break in San Diego

San Diego is known as the place where summer never ends, so why wait until summer to visit? Pack up the kids and head to San Diego for spring break – and don’t forget your sunscreen because you’ll need it. From our sun-kissed beaches and family friendly attractions, to discovering San Diego’s history and the great outdoors, there are so many fun things to do in San Diego that your only problem will be deciding what to do first.

Hit the Beach this Spring Break

Family Enjoying La Jolla Shores - Spring Break in San Diego

Bring the family to San Diego for a Spring Break beach vacation

Get outdoors and visit San Diego’s 70 miles of awesome beaches where there’s plenty of room for the whole family to splash in the Pacific Ocean this spring break. Whether it’s catching a wave on a boogie board, building a magical sand castle, or playing a rousing game of beach volley ball, this is the place to make special family memories. And, for families on a budget, this is an economical way to spend a day that’s easy on your wallet.

Attraction Action

Checking out the Panda - San Diego Zoo

See many of the new baby animals at San Diego attractions.

Journey to the San Diego Zoo’s Lost Forest zone, and pass the time away hanging around the world’s rarest monkeys, gregarious hippos, and other exotic animals. You can also step into a real-life adventure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and immerse yourself in an active safari experience where herds of animals roam in a 1,800-acre reserve. Or come celebrate the wonders of the sea at SeaWorld San Diego and experience the amazing Shamu show, and thrilling rides like Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids and Wild Arctic. If the kids are more in the mood for a creative, interactive day, let them play at LEGOLAND California where there are more than 60 rides, shows, attractions and lots of Legos!

Live the Adventure of a Lifetime at the U.S.S. Midway Museum

USS Midway Flight Deck

Take off into excitement aboard the USS Midway Museum

Prepare yourself for a lifetime memory aboard the USS Midway Museum, one of the longest-serving aircraft carriers in U.S. history. Experience 60 exhibits, get an up close look at 25 restored aircraft or hop into a simulator and feel what it’s like to be an aviator launching off a flight deck, engaging the enemy and then returning safely. This is an unforgettable adventure for the entire family.

Explore Balboa Park

Balboa Park Fountain

Explore many educational wonders or just relax next to a flowing fountain in Balboa Park

Besides being home to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West” because it offers 15 diverse museums, most of them very kid-friendly. Here are a few to get you started this spring break: the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center brings science to life with hands-on experiments; escape from the ordinary and step into the shockingly odd world of Ripley at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! special exhibition at the San Diego Air & Space Museum; and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum has an extensive, interactive Lionel layout that kids love.

Think, Play Create at The New Children’s Museum

New Children's Museum in Downtown San Diego

Think, Play and Create at the New Children’s Museum in Downtown San Diego

The New Children’s Museum is a dynamic, new museum model for kids with inventive and engaging art experiences. From toddler to teen, there are fun-filled exhibitions, hands-on art making activities, special artistic performances and fun, educational happenings.

Discover the Cabrillo National Monument

Old Point Loma Lighthouse at the Cabrillo National Monument

Explore the Old Point Loma Lighthouse at the Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is where Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first landed in San Diego in 1542. Now a U.S. National Park, the area offers dazzling views of San Diego Bay and tons of activities for kids. Families can hike a scenic two-mile trail, explore the Old Point Loma Lighthouse first lit in 1855, check out the tide pools and more. But first things first, be sure to stop at the Visitor Center to learn how your child can become a Junior Park Ranger during your visit.

> Discover more Spring Break Family Fun in San Diego

Tell us where your favorite family friendly place is to hang out during spring break! 

Suzzanne

New Year’s Eve Celebrations for Kids in San Diego

LEGOLAND California's New Year's Even Celebration for Kids

My kids love celebrating NYE and each year they have every intention of staying up until midnight watching the fireworks or banging pots and pans. But it never works out that way; they get tired and cranky and frankly so do we! Luckily, many of San Diego’s attractions have thought of this and offer day and early evening New Year’s Eve celebrations for kids.

Kids’ New Year’s Eve at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND California's New Year's Even Celebration for Kids

LEGOLAND Rings in 2013 with a bang.

Like the famous Times Square party, Kids’ New Years Eve features a kid’s concert and countdown to the new year followed by a huge LEGO brick dropping 22 feet into 2013 and a dazzling fireworks display. Brick and fireworks start at 6:00 PM.

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

Spend New Years Eve at Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

During the three-week Jungle Bells Celebration, the San Diego Zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Guests can enjoy a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, lighted animal displays throughtout the park, live animal shows, storytelling, and bell ringers. Open until 8:00 PM on New Year’s Eve.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration runs through January 5th. Park stays open until 9:00 PM and features SnowWorld, “Shamu’s Christmas” show, The Polar Express 4-D Experience and nightly fireworks.

More New Year’s Eve Celebrations For Kids

New Year’s Bash – Beats, Patterns and Rhythms!

On Friday, December 28th, The New Children’s Museum will party all-day with music and dance performances, hands-on art workshops, live graffiti art and a member’s only celebration. This way you can celebrate the New Year with the kids on Friday and reserve Saturday for the adults!

John’s New Years Eve Party and Horn Parade

Book your spot at John’s Incredible Pizza Co. in San Diego’s South Bay so you can sit back and relax while the kids tire themselves out with an all-you-can-eat buffet all night long, along with drinks, rides and prizes. At midnight, the excitement continues with the IncrediBear Horn Parade and the ball drop on the big screen.