San Diego Magazine

First Time in San Diego for Families: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

San Diego Zoo - Guide for First Time Families

It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone can find their happiness in San Diego. Young, old, thrill-seekers, curious minds, sports buffs, culture vultures, poolside loungers and spa seekers — San Diego has it all, all year-round. Whether you’re looking to squash screen time and tire out the teenagers or just relax on the beach and reconnect as a family, San Diego was made for the all-ages vacation.

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Brent Bernasconi

5 Free Family-Friendly Activities in San Diego this October

From an extreme sports festival and star-spangled salute to the military to a performing arts spectacular and festive Mexican holiday tradition, the following are the top 5 free happenings in San Diego during October that families are sure to enjoy.

1. Fleet Week San Diego

One of the largest military appreciation events in the country, Fleet Week San Diego features the free Sea & Air Parade on San Diego Bay on Oct. 14. From 12 to 2 p.m., visitors can view the finest of the U.S. military in action, including Navy amphibious ships, destroyers, frigates, submarines, landing craft, Coast Guard Search and Rescue, fly-overs of military aircraft and more. The parade can be seen all along the downtown waterfront, with prime views from the Broadway Pier; arrive early for the best viewing spots. On October 13-15, the public can also enjoy free U.S. Navy ship tours, military displays and Qualcomm’s Innovation Zone on the Broadway Pier and at the Port Pavilion.

When: October 11-17, 2017
> Find out more about Fleet Week San Diego

2. Extreme Sailing Series

Extreme Sailing Series

Likened to “NASCAR on the water,” the Extreme Sailing Series festival glides into San Diego Bay for the first time ever. Located just off of Harbor Island, spectators can watch the world’s best sailors in high-performance action on a stadium-style racecourse. The state-of-the-art GC32 boats can fly up to 6 feet above the water, making for a wild and exciting show for onlookers. The free entry Harbor Island Race Village will provide front-row seats for the public, along with other entertainment options throughout the day.

When: October 19-22, 2017
> Find out more about the Extreme Sailing Series

3. Without Walls Festival

CVRTAIN Without Walls-Photo by Andrew Federman

Be wowed during La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WoW) Festival, a vibrant, interactive site-specific theater series around San Diego. WoW showcases multiple performances by acclaimed local, national and international artists, along with a selection of family-friendly offerings occurring simultaneously throughout the weekend. Several of the performances, artist talks and workshops are free, including a pop-up Festival Club and CVRTAIN virtual reality experience in Barrio Logan, Faetopia faerie marionette flash mob (11:00 AM free performance), The Quest 3.0 interactive family adventure (children admitted free) at the New Children’s Museum and more.

When: October 19-22, 2017
> Find out more about the Without Walls Festival

4. Dia de los Muertos

Old Town – Dia de los Muertos celebration. Photo by Matthew Baldwin

Embrace local Mexican culture and honor lost loved ones during free traditional Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations throughout San Diego. Old Town San Diego’s Dia de los Muertos, October 28 – November 2, will feature live entertainment, tours of more than 40 colorful altars and a candlelight procession from the state park to Campo Santo Cemetery. In North Coastal San Diego, the grounds of Mission San Luis Rey will come alive on October 29 during Dia de los Muertos, Oceanside, featuring carnival rides, altar displays, kids craft activities, classic car show showcasing trunk altars and food vendors. Visitors can also celebrate life at the Encinitas Dia de los Muertos Celebration on October 28, featuring live Latin music, art-making workshops, a student art exhibit, artist demos, food trucks and a contest for best skull makeup. A community ofrenda (remembrance) altar will feature a replica of the town’s famous Surfing Madonna sculpture.

> Experience San Diego’s Dia de los Muertos Celebrations

5. Kids Free San Diego

Kids Free in San Diego

Now in its 6th year, Kids Free San Diego returns with 100+ free offers just for kids at San Diego hotels, major attractions (including San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld San Diego), museums, restaurants and sports and recreation activities like surfing, sailing and kayaking, and much more.

> Browse 100+ Kids Free Offers

Brent Bernasconi

5 Special Exhibitions to Explore During Macy’s Museum Month

Ultimate Dinosaurs

This February, the Macy’s Museum Month invites you explore local museums with 50% off regular admission and to discover something new at these exciting exhibitions.

Macy’s Museum Month

Macy's Museum Month 2017 - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Leap into 40+ museums in San Diego this February. Presented by Macy’s, this popular event allows participants to enjoy half-off entry fees at 40+ San Diego Museum Council membership museums. The savings encourages locals and visitors to explore a variety of arts, culture and science-oriented destinations. From Oceanside Museum of Art down to the Tijuana Estuary, there are ample opportunities for edutainment, creating memories and fun for the whole family.

When: February 1-28, 2017
> Find out more about Macy’s Museum Month

5 Special Exhibitions to Explore During Macy’s Museum Month

Additional fees may apply for special exhibitions.

Dreadnought: 100 Years of a Mighty Martin Guitar

Dreadnought: 100 Years of a Mighty Martin Guitar

One of guitar maker Christian Frederick Martin’s greatest contributions to our musical landscape was its 1916 introduction of the Dreadnought style guitar. Named after the game changing British war ship, the HMS Dreadnought, this large-bodied, powerful acoustic guitar still thrives today. It is a primary tool of countless musicians, and a mainstay in the factories and shops of guitar builders around the globe. Come visit this unique special exhibition and experience the Dreadnought for yourself.

Where: Museum of Making Music – 5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
When: Thru April 30, 2017
> Find out more about Dreadnought: 100 Years of a Mighty Martin Guitar

Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age

Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age

Explore the seemingly impossible, yet technologically crucial Chinese typewriter – a machines that inputs a language with no alphabet, yet has more than 70,000 characters. Experience the puzzles themselves along with other rare Chinese and Pan-Asian IT artifacts and materials from printing, telegraphy, typewriting and computing in China, Japan and Korea – the first exhibition of its kind.

Where: 28 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Thru April 16, 2017
> Find out more about Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age

Be the Astronaut

Be the Astronaut


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Be the Astronaut is a fun, interactive adventure where you are in control as you launch a rocket, pilot a spaceship, and drive a rover in space! Discover the solar system first hand with the help of virtual astronauts, and land on multiple worlds, including the moon, Mars, Jupiter and asteroids. Designed with the help of NASA experts, Be the Astronaut is fun for the whole family and takes STEM learning into outer space!

Where: San Diego Air & Space Museum – 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Opens February 3, 2017
> Find out more about Be the Astronaut

Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery

Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery

A terrible crime! A clever mystery! The game is afoot! A terrible crime has been committed. Victorian London’s most celebrated detective needs your help to find out “whodunit!” Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery is a clever, interactive exhibition at the Fleet Science Center that will challenge your powers of observation and deductive reasoning as you work to solve a baffling mystery.

Where: Fleet Science Center – 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Dates: Opens February 11, 2017
> Find out more about Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery

Ultimate Dinosaurs

Ultimate Dinosaurs

Cutting-edge, 21st century technology puts a new twist on these prehistoric creatures, bringing them to life-like never before. Through the use of augmented reality technology, full-scale dinosaurs are transformed into flesh-covered animated beasts. This same technology highlights the continental drift that altered the landscape of the ancient world, setting the stage for the evolution of these bizarre creatures. Feel the exciting and intimidating presence of these exotic creatures as you wander among 16 life-size casts and numerous prehistoric specimens. From the tiny Eoraptor to the massive Giganotosaurus (T. rex‘s bigger, badder cousin), Ultimate Dinosaurs is a fascinating study of species you haven’t met before.

Where: San Diego Natural History Museum – 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Opens February 25, 2017
> Find out more about Ultimate Dinosaurs

> Explore San Diego Museums & Galleries

Brent Bernasconi

Find the Perfect Jack-O-Lantern at a San Diego Pumpkin Patch

Fall in San Diego means warm days, cool nights, Halloween fun and, of course, pumpkin patches! Browse the list below to find the perfect pumpkin patch near you.

Bates Nut Farm

Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch

Over 50 years of fall traditions and memories have been created at the Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch. Family and friends enjoy the tractor hayrides, straw maze, petting corral and Snows Pony Rides. Grab a wheelbarrow and pick from variety of pumpkins: Big Macs, Ghost, Cinderella, Jack O’ Lantern, minis, squash, gourds and other fall décor. In addition, weekends at Bates include live entertainment from 12:00 -3:00, BBQ, kettle corn, food trucks, rock climb, bounce, slide and other family friendly events. Check our calendar for details and schedule.

Where: 15954 Woods Valley Road, Valley Center, CA 92082
When: September 24 – October 31, 2016
Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free Admission. Pumpkin and activity prices vary. $5 Parking on October Weekends
> Find out more about Bate’s Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch

Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt

Boomont Park Fall Festival & Haunt

Pick an amazing pumpkin by the beach at Belmont Park’s Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt. While you’re there, pick out your perfect pumpkin to style your way, play zombie laser tag, ride the spooky Giant Dipper and enter the costume contest on Saturdays. Don’t forget to bring the pumpkin pail for free trick-or-treating.

Where: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
When: October 1-31, 2016 (Fridays-Sundays)
Hours: 5:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Free admission. Rides and Some Activities – Varies.
> Find out more about the Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt

Pumpkin Express

Pumpkin Express

Join the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association in their Annual Pupmkin Express Halloween Celebration. Ride their decorated vintage railcars through the San Diego county mountains as fall descends upon Campo, CA. Walk through their themed Display Building complete with two haunted trains, a pumpkin patch, and our creepy cast of ghosts and ghouls.

Where: The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum – 750 Depot Street, Campo, CA 91906
When: October 8-30, 2016 (Saturday-Sunday)
Hours: Departures at 10:30 AM, 12:15 PM and 2:30 PM
Cost: $5-$18
> Find out more about the Pumpkin Express

Farm Stand West’s Pumpkin Patch

Farm Stand West's Pumpkin Patch

Get a true pumpkin picking experience by picking the perfect future jack-o-lantern straight from Farm Stand West’s pumpkin fields. Stop by over the weekend of October 22-23 between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM for the Annual Farm Stand Fall Harvest Festival & Boutique. Have fun on a hayride, pick up some delicious homemade jams and farm fresh produce, and shop from local artisans.

Farm Stand West – 2115 Miller Ave., Escondido, CA 92025
Fran’s Original Farm Stand – 1980 Summit Dr, Escondido, CA 92027
When: October 1-31, 2016 (Closed on Mondays)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Cost: Free admission, pumpkins vary
> Find out more about Farm Stand West’s Pumpkin Patch

Mountain Valley Ranch Pumpkin Patch

Up near the small mountain town of Ramona is the Mountain Valley Ranch Pumpkin Patch. Take some time to find the perfect carving or cooking pumpkin, get lost in the gigantic corn maze, launch an ear of corn out of a cannon, pet a few farm animals and add a few pictures of the kids on antique farm equipment to the scrapbook.

Where: 842 Hwy 78, Ramona, CA 92065
When: September 24 – October 31, 2016
Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Cost: Varies
> Find out more about Mountain Valley Ranch Pumpkin Patch

ABC Tree Farms Pick of the Patch Pumpkins

Tiger inflatable slide and pumpkins at ABC Tree Farms Pick of the Patch Pumpkins

Offering inflatable amusements including bounce houses, giant slides and obstacle courses, Super Slide as well as different types of Pumpkins, Gourds, Pumpkin Accessories, Snacks, Beverages and more.

Where: 2205 Vista Way, Oceanside, CA 92054
When: October 1-31, 2016
Time: Sunday-Thursday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Friday-Saturday: 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Cost: Varies. Ride Wristbands: $10-$15
> Find out more about ABC Tree Farms Pick of the Patch Pumpkins

17th Annual Oma’s Pumpkin Patch

Over in Lakeside, Oma’s Pumpkin Patch is offering fun for the whole family. The child admission includes a Jack Patch pumpkin, a bottle of water, covered hay rides, a hay bale maze, petting corral, kid-powered games, sand pile with toy trucks & tractors, and a large play area with the climbable Cottonseed Mountain.

Where: 14950 El Monte Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
When: September 27 – October 29, 2016 (Tuesday-Saturday)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Cost: Ages 1-13 – $10 per child. Ages 14 and Up – $5.
> Find out more about the 17th Annual Oma’s Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Station

Pumpkin Station Pumpkin Patches

All aboard…one of the six convenient Pumpkin Station locations (including the two actual farms) throughout San Diego County. At the Pumpkin Stations, kids can peruse for the perfect pumpkin while enjoying the kiddie rides, slides, inflatable play centers and petting zoo. At their two farms in Rancho Bernardo and Bonita, little pumpkin carvers will find a living pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm animals and a tractor-pulled haywagon ride.

When: Vary by location
Hours: Vary by location
Cost: Free admission. Ride tickets start at $2 (discounted ticket packages available)
> Find out more about the Pumpkin Station

Summer Past Farms Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch sign and pumpkins at Summer Farms

Head on over to Summer Past Farms Pumpkin Patch picking weekends for family fun including a jumpee, popcorn, corn-dogs and smoothies.

Where: 15602 Olde Hwy 80, Flinn Springs, CA 92021
When: October 1-31, 2016 (Closed Monday & Tuesday)
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Sunday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Varies
> Find out more about Summer Past Farms Pumpkin Patch

Suzie’s Farm Pumpkin Palooza

Suzie's Farm Pumpkin Palooza

Make a day of it in San Diego’s South Bay with pumpkin picking at Suzie’s Farm. Bring a wheelbarrow to carry home plenty of pumpkins for carving and cooking picked right from the fields, fresh produce, jams and more. During Pumpkin Palooza, enjoy live music and plenty of delicious food. Don’t forget the camera!

Where: 2570 Sunset Avenue, San Diego, CA 92154
When: October 8, 15, 22 2016
Hours: 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Cost: Free Admission, Pumpkins Vary
> Find out more about Suzie’s Farm Pumpkin Palooza

Stehly Farm’s Pumpkin Patch

Stehly Farm's Pumpkin Patch

Come on out to Valley Center and visit a real working farm! With your admission you will have a guided tractor farm tour from owners Noel & Jerome Stehly, kids train ride, petting zoo, corn maze and playground. They will have farm fresh pizza, tacos, salads, smoothies and our famous gelato for sale. Their farmers market stand will be open as well!

Where: 12630 Santa Catalina Rd, Valley Center, California 92082
When: October 9, 2016
Time: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $7
> Find out more about Stehly Farm’s Pumpkin Patch

Waynes Pumpkin Patch

Where: 3615 Manchester Ave, Encinitas, CA 92024
Hours: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
> Find out more about Wayne’s World of Trees and Pumpkin Patch

> Discover more to do in San Diego this Fall

Have a great time at the pumpkin patch? Notice one is missing? Could I have possibly made a mistake on the info? Let me and others know in the comments below.

Brent Bernasconi

Top 10 Things to Do this Summer in San Diego

Nothing beats summer in San Diego. With friendly locals, 70 miles of beautiful coastline, world-class attractions and a laid-back vibe all its own, California’s Beach City is perfect for the young and young at heart.

Below are ten events, things to do and attractions you need to check out this summer in San Diego.

FYI – Beaches and Comic-Con have been excluded because they are a given.

1. 2016 MLB All-Star Week

2016 MLB All-Star Week

Take yourself out to San Diego for the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Week, July 8-12, featuring the All-Star Fanfest, All-Star Concerts, All-Star Sunday, Yoga, Color Run 5K, Home Run Derby, All-Star Game and More!

When: July 8-12, 2016
> Find out more about the 2016 MLB All-Star Week

2. Centennial Nighttime Zoo

Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo

This summer, the San Diego Zoo is celebrating its centennial year in a big way, with live music and fun activities during Nighttime Zoo presented by Cymer. Evenings at the Zoo will be filled with plenty of toe-tapping, body-moving music, special shows, and tons of fun!

Where: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When: June 19 – September 5, 2016
Time: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Cost: Included with Admission

Site: casino bonus
> Find out more about the Centennial Nighttime Zoo

3. Big Bay Boom & 4th of July Fireworks

Big Bay Boom - San Diego's Largest 4th of July Fireworks Display

Photo courtesy of Big Bay Boom

Whether you’re traveling with friends or family, San Diego is everyone’s first choice for 4th of July celebrations. Even locals can’t think of anything better than relaxing with loved ones on a long stretch of sand and watching an extraordinary show of lights in the sky, especially the impressive Big Bay Boom fireworks show!

> Browse San Diego’s 4th of July Fireworks and Celebrations

4. Balboa Park After Dark

Balboa Park After Dark

This Summer Balboa Park Comes Alive After 5! On Fridays from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend enjoy extended evening hours at nine museums, as well as food trucks and entertainment throughout the Park on select dates.

When: Thru September 2, 2016
>  Find out more about Balboa Park After Dark

5. La Jolla Zip Zoom Line

La Jolla Zip Zoom

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Zip Zoom

55 MPH – 2,500 Feet Long – Parallel Lines – Spectacular Views – That’s La Jolla Zip Zoom! Located in San Diego’s North Inland on the La Jolla Indian Campground, La Jolla Zip Zoom invites you to cool off this summer by flying through the air at amazing speeds along the longest zipline course in California.

Where: 22000 Highway 76, Pauma Valley, CA USA 92061
> Find out more about La Jolla Zip Zoom

6. San Diego Pride Parade and Music Festival

San Diego Pride Parade

Photo Courtesy of San Diego LGBT Pride

The annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade is the 4th largest in the United States attracting over 100,000 cheering spectators and significant media participation. Following the Pride Parade honoring diversity and #OrlandoStrong, head on over to Balboa Park for the Pride Music Festival featuring musicians, bands, comedy and dance performers, an Art exhibit, cultural presentations, great food, and more! Did we mention that KESHA will be headlining this year?

When: July 16-27, 2016
Cost: Parade – Free. Music Festival – $15-$150
> Find out more about the San Diego Pride Parade
> Find out more about the San Diego Pride Music Festival

7. Beers, Wines and Dines Festivals

Summer Food & Drink Festivals

Photo courtesy of San Diego Brewers Guild

Sip and savor your way through a San Diego Summer. All summer long, festivals and taste-ofs offer you the chance to experience award-winning craft beer, enticing plates from local celebrity chefs, regional wines and more…all while wearing shorts and flip-flops!


> Browse San Diego’s Summer Food & Drink Festivals

8. Bike the Bay

Bike The Bay

Photo courtesy of Charlie Sears

Ride the bridge, Bike the Bay! Not only will the scenic 25-mile route travel through five of diverse communities but it will also allow riders their only opportunity of the year to ride over the beautiful Coronado Bay Bridge. All riders will return to San Diego for a post-ride festival with food, beverage, beer garden and entertainment.

When: August 28, 2016
Cost: $55-$60
> Find out more about Bike the Bay

9. Labor Day Weekend

US Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimensional Art Exposition

Cap off the perfect summer by spending Labor Day weekend in San Diego enjoying the warm weather, cool beaches and everything the city has to offer including tall ship cannon battles, amazing sandcastles, 1812 Overture with fireworks and more.

> Find out more about Labor Day Weekend in San Diego

10. Kaaboo Festival

The KAABOO Festival will include performances by more than 100 musical acts on seven stages with internationally known headliners, established favorites and emerging artists. To unearth your inner foodie, KAABOO will feature celebrity, as well as local chefs from high quality restaurants, wine selections from vineyards throughout California, craft breweries from top markets including San Diego, craft distillers in various categories, mixologists and more. There will also be a dedicated comedy stage with comfortable seating and a unique after hours dance party highlighting additional performances and award-winning DJs.

Where: Del Mar Fairgrounds – 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, CA 92014
When: September 16-18, 2016
Cost: $449-$2499
> Find out more about the Kaaboo Festival

Want More Summer Fun in

San Diego?

Then make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Summer in San Diego.

Jeff Terich

4 Family-Friendly Concerts in San Diego

If you’re the type that wants to rock out on the weekends, but have children, it’s hard to reconcile those two things. Not every concert is friendly to all ages, nor is there an overwhelming number of places where you can take the whole family and have an outing that everyone will enjoy. But it doesn’t take too much digging to find some concerts that you can bring the kids to. Here’s a roundup of some of the better options for family-friendly concerts in San Diego.

School of Rock Concerts

Family friendly rock concerts aren’t always so easy to come by, but when the kids are the ones putting on the show, it certainly adds an interesting option to the table. School of Rock offers music education to kids with an emphasis on the “rock,” and several times a year they put on concerts showcasing either the work of a particular artist, ranging from icons like Led Zeppelin to more esoteric acts like Neutral Milk Hotel, or thematic shows, such as the popular annual local music covers show. The venues change each time, having been held as locales such as House of Blues and The Irenic, but there’s really no bad place to see junior find the rock star within.

> Browse School of Rock San Diego Concerts

San Diego County Fair Concerts

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San Diego <3s Switchfoot! #sdfair

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There’s nothing quite like a trip to the fair. Every summer, the San Diego County Fair offers families a chance to indulge in all kinds of fried concoctions, carnival rides and, of course, live concerts. As it turns out, most of those shows are open to all ages, and this year’s 2016 lineup includes some big names, including Brian Wilson, Joan Jett, Carly Rae Jepsen and X Ambassadors. So make a day of it: Gobble some fried cheese, pet some friendly sheep and take in a concert before heading back home.

> Browse the San Diego County Fair Concert Line Up

Balboa Park Organ Pavilion Concerts

Spreckels Organ Pavilion Summer Concerts

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park has been regularly hosting Sunday afternoon performances for years, which are always free and open to all ages. However, of late those shows have expanded from being mostly classical to incorporating more contemporary rock, pop and experimental music. Civic organist Carol Williams recently led a pair of tributes to the music of David Bowie, and in 2014, she collaborated with local punk band Drive Like Jehu on their first live show in 20 years.

> Find out more about the Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Point Loma Summer Concerts

Point Loma Summer Concerts

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair (Point Loma Summer Concerts)

Taking the family to the park is never a bad thing to do on summer weekends. Everyone gets out of the house, gets some fresh air and takes part in something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. But add music to the equation and it’s even better. The Point Loma summer concert series in Point Loma Park features a variety of concerts featuring local bands outdoors in a comfortable and fun setting that’s accessible to everyone. Even better, there’s a raffle each year, with proceeds going toward music education and music nonprofits.

> Check out the Point Loma Summer Concerts Lineup

> Browse San Diego Summer Music

4 of the Best All Ages Live Music Venues in San Diego

Featured photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.
Brent Bernasconi

Hauntingly Fun Halloween Activities for the Little Ones

LEGLOANDLAND Brick-or-Treat Party NIghts

Halloween is more than a single day celebration…it’s an entire month! Combine all these frighteningly fun things to do with 100+ Kids Free in San Diego offers and October is the perfect month to visit San Diego with the whole family.

> Pumpkin Patches throughout San Diego – 2015

Halloween Haunts at San Diego Attractions

SeaWorld San Diego’s Halloween Spooktacular

SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular

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

Shamu and the gang will get into the “spirit” of Halloween with a not-too-scary celebration featuring festive family fun on Saturdays and Sundays from late September through October. Guests at SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular will enjoy animal meet and greets, special Halloween shows and colorful costumed characters, plus “Who Said Boo?” at Sesame Street’s Bay of Play musical stage. Kids are encouraged to come in costume and use their Spooktacular maps to trick or treat at sea-themed stations.

When: Saturdays & Sundays through November 1, 2015
> Find out more about SeaWorld San Diego’s Halloween Spooktacular

LEGOLAND California Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

LEGLOANDLAND Brick-or-Treat Party NIghts

LEGOLAND invites the whole family for a “block” party full of ghoulish fun

Calling all monsters, mermaids, witches, robots and pirates to LEGOLAND California Brick-or-Treat Party Nights. Every Saturday evening in October, the family theme park is transformed into a not-too-spooky Halloween haven featuring costume contests, nighttime trick-or-treating on the Brick-or-Treat Trail, live music and entertainment.

When: Saturdays through October 30, 2015 (Special Night on Friday, October 30)
> Find out more about LEGOLAND California Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

Belmont Park’s Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt

Boomont Park Fall Festival & Haunt

It’s a Halloween celebration by the beach! Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt offers family fun including the kid-friendly haunted house Boomont Manor, a pumpkin patch, zombie laser tag, a spooky Giant Dipper roller coaster and free trick-or-treating.

When: Friday-Sunday through October 31, 2015
> Find out more about Boomont Park Fall Festival and Haunt

RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns

RISE of the Jack O'Lantern

Lighting up the night this October at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido is the family friendly fall event, RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns! Come see more than 5,000 hand-carved illuminated jack o’lanterns created by professional artists and sculptors arranged in creative ways along a 1/3-mile scenic walking trail all set to an original music score produced exclusively for The RISE!

When: Through October 25, 2015
> Find out more about RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns

Mayhem at the Museums

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Costumed fun in San Diego’s Historic Balboa Park

Families can start their Halloween Day celebrations at with a spine-tingling array of free hands-on activities and free museum admission for kids 12 and under (with paid adult) at the annual Balboa Park Halloween Family Day. Over two dozen participating museums and cultural attractions throughout the Park will present arts and crafts projects for kids, costume parades and contests, spooky gallery tours and treasure hunts, and other fun surprises until 4:00 PM.

When: October 31, 2015
> Find out more about the Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Haunted Aquarium: Shipwrecked

Pirate Ship - Haunted Birch Aquarium - Shipwrecked

Haunted Pirate Ships and More at the Birch Aquarium

Ghouls and kids of all ages can gather for the spooky, sea-faring Haunted Aquarium: Shipwrecked! at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Each evening, the famous marine life facility comes alive with creeps from the deep, wacky mad scientist experiments, tricky-treats, slimy encounters, spooky activities and monstrous live music. Families are encouraged to come dressed to impress to be entered for a raffle prize.

When: October 23-24, 2015
> Find out more about Haunted Aquarium: Shipwrecked!

Haunted Tales of our Seafaring Past

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

Climb aboard the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s Star of India for Haunted Tales of our Seafaring Past featuring ghostly lantern-led tours of the historic ship and hear eerie legends from the ship’s past. During the tours, costumed docents will share tales of creepy events that occurred aboard the historic vessel.

When: Saturdays October 24 & 31, 2015
> Find out more about Haunted Tales of our Seafaring Past

Pumpkin Express Halloween Celebration

Pumpkin Express

Join the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association in their annual Pumpkin Express Halloween Celebration. Come ride our decorated vintage railcars through the San Diego county mountains as fall descends upon Campo, CA. Walk through their themed Display Building complete with two haunted trains, a pumpkin patch, and our creepy cast of ghosts and ghouls.

When: Saturdays & Sundays, October 10-31, 2015
> Find out more about Pumpkin Express Halloween Celebration

Halloween Parades & Festivals

HauntFest on Main

HauntFest on Main

The annual HauntFest on Main is an exciting family friendly event in Downtown El Cajon featuring live music on 2 stages, costume contests, carnival rides and games, a Terror Truck, candy trails, a Kidz Zone with outdoor movies, craft and game booths, pumpkin patch and more!

When: October 23, 2015
> Find out more about HauntFest on Main

Boulevard Boo Parade!

The Boulevard BOO! Parade - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Get into the spirit at San Diego’s only Halloween Parade!

Dress up your little ghouls and goblins for San Diego’s only spooktacular Halloween parade, The Boulevard Boo! Parade.

When: October 24, 2015
> Find out more about The Boulevard Boo! Parade

Scary Trails for Tweens & Teens

For those who believe they are old enough for some true scares, here are two great “haunted” options for teens and tweens:

> More Halloween Happenings in San Diego

Jeff Terich

4 of the Best All Ages Live Music Venues in San Diego

The Irenic - An All Ages Music Venue in San Diego

The Irenic - An All Ages Music Venue in San Diego

The Irenic – An All Ages Music Venue in San Diego

San Diego is a haven for bargoers – the explosion of the craft beer scene has proven that this is a town that enjoys an IPA or two. But for those not yet of legal drinking age, that means being able to see live music can be a bit more complicated. As it turns out, however, there are several great options for under-21 music fans, and here is a handful of the best all ages live music venues.

The Irenic

If The Irenic looks like a church, that’s because, technically it is. Operating as Mission Gathering on Sundays, North Park’s The Irenic acts as a functional and non-denominational music venue the rest of the week. Its live music program is diverse, hosting everything from punk to electronic and indie rock throughout the year. And all ages are welcome at every show, making it a perfect spot for kids with a thirst for live music.

Where: 3090 Polk Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about The Irenic


A little bit mellower than other venues in town, Lestat’s regularly showcases folk and singer/songwriters in San Diego, with occasional touring acts coming through as well. So if you’d rather ease into the live music scene with something a bit more laid-back, it’s a comfortable and friendly spot, with a coffeehouse next door that’s open late at night, just in case the show lets out early (just check in with your folks, they worry).

Where: 3343 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Lestat’s

House of Blues

From marquee touring bands on its main stage to smaller indie acts in its Voodoo Room, the House of Blues – located in the Gaslamp Quarter – can have anywhere between one and three shows happening on any given night. And while it’s not strictly an all ages venue, a great many of its shows are open to those under 21. Just make sure to check their website before buying tickets to avoid confusion.

Where: 1055 5th Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about House of Blues

Observatory North Park

Like the House of Blues, the 1,100-capacity Observatory North Park isn’t an all-ages venue every night; sometimes it’s limited to 18-and-up audiences, and occasionally, 21 and up. But a quick look at the calendar reveals that most of the time, the venue is pretty teen-friendly, and under certain circumstances – like Future Islands’ two upcoming shows in September – bands will book separate shows for two different age groups.

Where: 2891 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about Observatory North Park

> Discover More All Ages Fun in San Diego


Top 5 Family Friendly Beaches in San Diego

Kids Play at One of San Diego's Family Friendly Beaches

Kids Play at One of San Diego's Family Friendly Beaches

With more than 70 miles of amazing beaches, there is plenty of space for the kids to run…and burn off some energy 🙂

Rarely is there a full week without sunshine in San Diego. The balmy, year round weather makes “America’s Finest City” ideal to visit. Hand in hand with the warm climate, the main attraction is of course the beaches. With so many gorgeous seashores to choose from, my picks are particular when it comes to choosing a family friendly place to lay your towels.

Here are my top 5 picks for taking the kids to the beach in San Diego.

Moonlight Beach

Located in Encinitas, hands down this locals’ spot is my absolute favorite for families. With recently updated bathrooms and a snack shack, Moonlight lets you spend a whole day in the sand with everything you need to keep kids happy. To top it off, there’s a play structure and park for those that want a little extra entertainment. Though it tends to get very crowded in the on-season, try venturing over to the far north as there tends to be a little more space.

> Find out more about the beaches in Encinitas

Seaside in Cardiff

Though this destination charges a daily parking fee, it’s a favorite because you can park the car right next to the sand, making carrying all your snacks, buckets and shovels a little more convenient. It’s a great place to swim and complete with bathrooms in the lot just in case. During summer months, food trucks have been known to sell food for a convenient lunch.

> Find out more about the beaches in Cardiff-by-the-Sea

Fletcher Cove Solana Beach

My favorite way to make an entire day of the beach is to start with an ocean view breakfast at the delicious Naked Café across from Fletcher Cover. After filling up on coffee and pancakes, make your way down the ramp to the water, noting the convenient bathroom locations along with a park for a few rides on the swing. Once you’ve had your fill of sun and swimming in the white water waves, finish off the day at family friendly Pizza Port, a short walk up the street.

> Find out more about the beaches in Solana Beach

La Jolla Shores

Undoubtedly one of the most break taking spots in all of San Diego is La Jolla, known as “The Crown Jewel.” Though many of the beaches have a dangerous “shore break”, the Shores is a gentle, bay like destination that is ideal for smaller children. Also equipped with bathrooms and a play structure, sandwich and ice cream shops are a short block or two away.

> Find out more about the beaches in La Jolla

Coronado Silver Strand

With gorgeous white sands to choose from, my top pick for fewer crowds during peak season is to head to the stretch of the Silver Strand just before the Coronado Cays. Gorgeous beaches await as does a “tunnel” that will lead you to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort to pick up a picnic lunch from their Market to Go cafe.

> Find out more about the beaches in Coronado

> Discover all of San Diego’s Beaches


5 San Diego Spots For Families to Enjoy 4th of July Fireworks

Big Bay Boom - San Diego's Largest 4th of July Fireworks Display

It’s no secret in my family how much I absolutely enjoy a great fireworks show! There’s the excitement of the bright booming lights and also the fun of the thrilled faces on my children! There’s a range of places across the county to enjoy the show, but my favorite places in San Diego to watch 4th of July fireworks with kids are below!

Big Bay Boom

Big Bay Boom - San Diego's Largest 4th of July Fireworks Display

Big Bay Boom – San Diego’s Largest 4th of July Fireworks Display

The Big Bay Boom is hands down the ultimate 4th of July fireworks show! Enjoy the water, the thrill of downtown, the fun of Seaport Village and cap off the day with an extraordinary show of FOUR launching destinations (San Diego Bay, Shelter Island, Harbor Island and the Embarcadero Seaport Village/ Coronado landing)! All go off at the same time, for the ultimate bay-front fireworks display! Accompanied by 105.7 FM music, it’s truly a treat to see the water light up!

Location: San Diego Bay Surrounding Areas
Time: 9:00 PM
> Find out more about Big Bay Boom

Fireworks at San Diego Attractions

SeaWorld Fireworks - Summer Nights

The skies over SeaWorld San Diego light up during Summer Nights

Get two bangs (get it?) for the price of one by visiting one of San Diego’s popular attractions AND end the day with a 4th of July celebration. Choose from Legoland, Seaworld and the Del Mar Fairgrounds for a fun-filled day followed by fireworks fun!

Location: SeaWorld San Diego – 500 SeaWorld Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
Time: Fireworks at 10:10 PM
> Find out more about Sea to Shining Sea 4th of July Fireworks

Location: LEGOLAND California – One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad
Time: Fireworks at 8:30 PM
> Find out more about Red, White and BOOM!

Location: San Diego County Fair – 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar
Time: Starts at 9:30 AM, Fireworks at 9:00 PM
> Find out more about San Diego County Fair Fourth of July

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove 4th of July Fireworks

Beautiful Beaches and Beautiful Fireworks at La Jolla Cove

One of my all time favorite destinations is the up close show at the La Jolla Cove! Accompanied by an orchestra and over looking the ocean, grab your hot chocolates and sit back and relax with ocean breezes and the feeling of fireworks you could almost reach out and grab!

Location: Ellen Browning Scripps Park, 1180 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla
Time: 9:00 PM
> Find out more about the Fourth of July Fireworks at La Jolla Cove

4th of July Celebration in Coronado

Coronado 4th of July parade (credit: Coronado Visitor Center)

Coronado 4th of July parade (credit: Coronado Visitor Center)

Getting into the spirit of America’s freedom, a day in Coronado is truly a treat! Enjoy a morning parade down Orange Ave, a concert in Spreckles park in the afternoon, followed by a fireworks show to remember!

Location: Throughout Coronado
Time: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
> Find out more about the 4th of July Celebration in Coronado

Santee Town Center Community Park East

Santee Salutes

Santee Salutes features an afternoon of fun and night filled with fireworks

East County moms recommended the fun of the Santee Town Center Community park! Enjoy live music, bouncy houses for kids, food stations and so much more as you wait for the 9:00 PM fireworks show!

Location:Town Center Community Park East – 550 Park Center Drive, Santee, CA 92071
Time: 3:30 to 9:30 PM
> Find out more about Santee Salutes

> Browse all of the 4th of July Fireworks & Celebrations

With so many fun places to choose from throughout the county, the fourth of July in San Diego is the ultimate booming destination!