5 Family Friendly Hotels in San Diego

Grand del Mar Family Pool - Family Friendly Hotels

Jump into the pool for some downtime at the Grand del Mar or any of these family friendly hotels

Where you stay with your kids on vacation can make or break a trip. Comfort and kid-friendly amenities can lesson the stress of traveling with little ones, even when you will mostly be on the go exploring all there is to do and see with children. When nap time strikes or just the desire for some down time at the pool, check out these 5 Family Friendly Hotels in San Diego (in no particular order).

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina

Very close to SeaWorld San Diego, the Mission Beach boardwalk, and Belmont Park, home to the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster, this family friendly location is central to much of San Diego! Personally, my family spent much of our time on the three water slides in the bay front pool, complete with a shallow section for kids! Opting to eat in the casual Swim and Bar Lounge, we love the views of the water and the 60-degree, 800-gallon aquarium!

For dessert, roast marshmallows in the water-front fire pits on the hotel grounds – the hotel sells s”more making kits. And of course be sure to catch a ride or two on the beach front boardwalk nearby!

Where: 1441 Quivira Road, San Diego, California, USA, 92109
> Find out more about the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina

San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina

Complete with a splash pad and 3 feet deep pool, this family friendly hotel is a great option for the downtown San Diego experience. Walk to kid-friendly Spaghetti Factory or catch the ferry over to Coronado for dinner! Don’t miss the nearby Seaport Village or the amazing New Children’s Museum, both an easy walk and fun for the whole family. And for some delicious pancakes, check out the nearby Richard Walkers as well.

Where: 333 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101-7700
> Find out more about the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina

Grand del Mar

Recently named the number one hotel in the US, believe me when best online casino I tell you this is an amazing option. A little more off the beaten path, so to speak (read: you will need to drive to most activities), the resort is known for their exceptional service. With gorgeous grounds and a family pool complete with under water music (seriously), choose from tennis lessons, hiking trails or their offer to take you to the beach!

Where: 5300 Grand Del Mar Ct, San Diego, CA 92130
> Find out more about the Grand del Mar

Grande Colonial Hotel

Considering <a title=”Discover San Diego”s La Jolla” href=”” target=”_blank”>La Jolla is named the Crown Jewel of San Diego, it’s a spot you will want to visit! The Grande Colonial is a favorite of mine as it’s central to everything in the downtown area. Walk to see the seals at the cove or grab your coffee from the nearby Living Room. Though the pool is on the smaller side, you will enjoy the water views. And sleeping to the natural sounds of waves crashing? Priceless.

Where: 910 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
> Find out more about the Grande Colonial Hotel

Loews Coronado Bay Resort

From ping-pong tables to life-size chess and Connect Four at the pool, the Loews Coronado Bay Resort is one of my favorite family friendly hotels to stay with my family! Be sure to check out the easy access tunnel to the beach and even rent bikes to get there. Or take a gondola ride through the canals of the Coronado Cays. The resort also offers shuttle service into the main area of Coronado if you feel like venturing out for a meal without getting in the car. And as the day ends, grab your hot chocolates and sit on the courtyard of Cays Lounge overlooking the sunset and the bridge!

Where: 4000 Loews Coronado Bay Road, San Diego, California, 92118
> Find out more about Loews Coronado Bay Resort

> Discover more Family Friendly Hotels and Fun in San Diego


Downtown San Diego Fun for the Whole Family

If you want the laid back surf life vibe, head to North County. If you want to feel a little more heat, go to East County. If you want a European-like seaside scene, hit La Jolla. And when you want a little more action? Go to Downtown San Diego! From museums to boat rides, your family is sure to enjoy the hustle and bustle our downtown has to offer with some gorgeous water views thrown in. Here are some fun-for-the-family activities to check out:

The New Children’s Museum

New Children's Museum

Kids can paint, play and climb around at the New Children’s Museum downtown.

Start your day with a little rock and roll by grabbing the delicious MJ’s famous sticky bun at the Hard Rock Hotel’s MaryJane’s Café or some infamous breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake house. Once fueled with coffee, turn the corner to the amazing art based children’s museum. From the bubble fountain to the indoor and outdoor art studios, your budding Picasso’s will have a day that will go down in art history.

Where:  200 West Island Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The New Children’s Museum

Ferry from Downtown to Coronado

Visitors and locals alike enjoy the views and short trip across San Diego Bay on the Coronado Ferry.

Visitors and locals alike enjoy the views and short trip across San Diego Bay on the Coronado Ferry.

Catch the ferry that leaves downtown to cross over to Coronado. Enjoy the waterfront marketplace with over 25 shops and restaurants. Be sure to check out the flamingos at the nearby Marriott then head back to grab some gelato. Or just go for a round trip water ride with a cityscape view – whichever floats your boat.

Departing from two San Diego locations; Broadway Pier and the Convention Center
> Find out more about the Coronado Ferry

Petco Park

Padres at Petco Park

Catch the Padres play at the beautiful Petco Park in the heart of San Diego

During the spring and summer, enjoy Padres baseball from the kid-friendly picnic hill or “The Beach,” a sandy play area to keep your children entertained as you take them out to the ballgame. Bring plastic sand buckets and shovels for the kids to enjoy behind the right-center-field fence as you root, root, root for the home team.

Where: 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the San Diego Padres at Petco Park

Seaport Village

Boy on Carousel at Seaport Village

Take a spin on the carousel at Seaport Village in Downtown San Diego

With so much to do and see, this set of shops and restaurants is a whole lot of fun for the whole family. Stop at the kite shop or toy store after enjoying some ice cream or frozen yogurt. Go for a spin on the carousel that was built in 1895 after watching one of the various street performers. And when all is said and done, drop some pocket change in the seaside telescopes to watch the boats glide by and really magnify the view.

Where: 849 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Seaport Village

San Diego Maritime Museum

maritime museum of san diego

The Star of India is one of the ships featured at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Ahoy thar matey! Let your pirates walk the plank or at least the decks of the many boats to choose from! Some set sail and others have lessons in knot tying and rope making. Be sure to check out all the activities available for kids as well as your options for hitting the seas for a boat ride, including some seasonal whale watching. And if you time it right, you may be able to take in Pirate Days, complete with sword flying demos that will shiver yee timbers.

Where: 1492 North Harbor Drive San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the San Diego Maritime Museum

San Diego County Waterfront Park

San Diego County Waterfront Park - Downtown

Relax and enjoy the views at the new Waterfront Park. Photo credit: County of San Diego

Just across the street from the Maritime Museum is the amazing new waterfront park. Let your little ones run cool off in the splash fountain while you take a break on the green grass. They can burn off even more energy on the plethora of climbing structures and hills. After an hour here, you’re almost guaranteed a happily tired group who will sleep soundly on the ride home.

Where: 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the San Diego County Waterfront Park

Like the song says, forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go downtown for some San Diego fun with the family!


Rent an Adventure: Great San Diego Family Bike, Board and Boat Rentals Spots

Family Kayaking in San Diego
Family Kayaking in San Diego

Rent a kayak or two and the whole family can explore the waters of San Diego

With all that a family needs to pack these days, the more that you can leave home, the better. Yet, there are so many fun ways to explore San Diego, that it’s tempting to try and “check” your boat at the airport luggage counter…kidding…kind of. Thankfully, instead of paying that fee, there are plenty of spots around town to rent transportation that can lead to some fun exploring with the family.

Water Fun in Mission Bay

Visit the Aquatic Center in Mission Bay and arm yourself with everything you could possibly want to do in the water! From wakeboarding to windsurfing and so much more in between, make this a destination stop for water sports fun.

Where: 1001 Santa Clara Pl, San Diego, CA 92109 > Find out more about the Mission Bay Aquatic Center

Boating in the Harbor

Visit Harbor Sailboats to pick up your rental or take a guided tour. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Coronado Bay Bridge and sail past the aircraft carriers as you relax on the water. And keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and seals! Where: 2040 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 > Find out more about Harbor Sailing

Bikes in Pacific Beach

Serious cyclists should visit San Diego’s biking page, but for some casual exploring on beach cruisers, head to PB. Check out Pacific Beach Bikes for for the whole family. Hop aboard your two wheelers and cruise the boardwalk to Mission Beach on the bike paths while you enjoy watching the waves. Where: 1852 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, CA 92109 > Find out more about Pacific Beach Bikes

Kayak Exploring in La Jolla

Don’t miss out on the kayak rentals at La Jolla Shores! Paddle your way over to take in the breathtaking cliffs and caves. Keep your eyes peeled as you are likely to see a seal or two along the way! And if you want more sea creature fun, rent a snorkel to bring along and swim with the (harmless) leopard sharks in spring. Where: 2199 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037 > Find out more about La Jolla Kayak

And Learn to Surf in La Jolla

It would almost be remiss to visit Southern California in general and not attempt to surf! Surf Diva and Menehune Surf Camp are both great options for getting use to the waves.  If you are already a seasoned pro and just didn’t want to bring along your board, check out their rentals, too! Surf Diva Where: 2160 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037 > Find out more about Surf Diva Menehune Surf Camp Where: 2216 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037 > Find out more about Menehune Surf Camp

Hot Air Balloons in Del Mar

Book a bird’s eye view of San Diego while floating around in a hot air balloon! A big thrill for my kids is just seeing them in the sky so imagine getting to ride in one! > Find out more about Another Side Tours

WaveRunners in Carlsbad

For some north county fun, visit the Carlsbad Lagoon! Fly through the water in your WaveRunner, or casually float along in an aqua cycle, kayak or stand up paddleboard. Boat rentals are available, too! Where: 4215 Harrison Street, Carlsbad, California 92008 > Find out more about Carlsbad Lagoon

> Plan your trip with more San Diego Family vacation itineraries


Exploring La Jolla With Kids From Sea Level to Mountain Tops

Windansea Beach in La Jolla
Windansea Beach in La Jolla

Even the kids will have a great time watching the surf from Windansea Beach

Having been to several seaside cities around the world, I can truly say that La Jolla is one of the most beautiful destinations by the water. Once you head down Torrey Pines Drive from the north, you are immediately greeted by spectacular ocean views. With its European vibe, La Jolla is an amazing vacation destination and a must-do and see stop in San Diego. And, yes! You should take the kids. Here are some fun things to check out with your children.

See the Seals

Avoid driving down Prospect (as it tends to get backed up with traffic), aiming to drive down Girard instead to the north and check out the Cove to see the seals! Walk out along the bridge surrounding The Children’s Pool (just a name, not an actual pool and, well, kids aren’t even allowed to swim there) for not only a better view of the barking sea mammals, but to get a little sprayed by an up close view of the waves!

Tide Pools

Walking in the westerly direction from The Children’s Pool, stop off at the tide pools to (cautiously) touch a sea urchin or two! Hop along from section to section to track just how many creatures you can find.

> Hang out at San Diego’s tide pools

Swim at the Shores

Since the cove waves can be a tad unpredictable (read: be prepared to get wiped out), head to La Jolla Shores for gentle waves that are a lot of fun for the first tries at boogie boarding or just play in mellow water in general.

Kayak through the Caves

While at the shores, pick up your kayak rental and paddle your way toward the caves!  Either take a guided tour or explore the seven caverns during low tide on your own. And keep your eyes peeled as a seal or two may swim along side you!

> Find out more about kayaking in San Diego

Pet the Sharks

If you are like me, you will skip this adventure, but May through October, apparently harmless leopard sharks visit La Jolla Shores and you can allegedly (kidding…kind of) snorkel safely as you get a (too close for me) personal view that many families I know enjoy the thrill!

> Learn more about swimming with the leopard sharks in La Jolla

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego – La Jolla

When you are ready for dry land, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art located on Prospect Street. Always a funky, fun time, it also has one of the most amazing views! And be sure to check out the store for some of the most unique souvenirs.

> Find out more about the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego – La Jolla


Heading to one of the most popular local surf spots is a must! Sit atop the cliffs as you watch the waterman get barreled. Though a well-liked beach destination, you may want to think twice before letting your kids jump in as the shore break can pummel even the most seasoned swimmers if not timed right. Be sure to hit the Busy Bee’s, a favorite spot for coffee, bagels and pastries to enjoy as you check out the surf.

Mount Soledad

Make sure either on your way in or your way out to check out the infamous top of Mount Soledad! Though the  cross at the top that was built-in 1913 has long been a source of controversy, you and your kids will love the picturesque scenery from atop the “mountain”!

> Discover more of San Diego’s La Jolla

From views to fun in the water,  La Jolla is a breathtaking destination that the whole family will love. When planning your travels, add to the list to take your kid’s to San Diego’s “Crown Jewel!”

Sarah Weinberg

Summer Camps…Where the San Diego Living’s Easy

As a working mom, I do want to spend lots of quality time with my kids when we’re on a family vacation, but I’ve found that adding half-day summer camps for the kids to a vacation itinerary when you visit San Diego can be a win-win for the entire family. Kids gets the chance to try out a new watersport, do stimulating science experiments or spend the day at an amusement park, and mom and dad get some time off, taking a break from parental duties to get in a yoga class or a long walk on the beach together. A morning half-day camp can make an afternoon of family time together more enjoyable. Most all of these summer camps have full day and early drop off/late pick up options as well.

Taking it to the Beach

Kid campers at the Watersports Camp on Mission Bay enjoy activities from sailing to surfing and more.

Kid campers at the Watersports Camp on Mission Bay enjoy activities from sailing to surfing and more.

There’s a crazy amount of watersports available in San Diego. The Watersports Camp in Mission Bay, a partnership of the YMCA and two local universities, has a great range of programs that enable your child to pick one watersport to master over the week’s sessions, or there’s a multi-sport camp option that teaches the camper the basics of surfing, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), wake boarding and more – a different sport each day from 8:00 to 11:00 AM. My daughter is adventurous and went for the kayaking but my son preferred the marine science camp. They were both tired, happy, and had made new friends when I picked them up at 11:30 to start the family part of our vacation day.

Where: Mission Bay Aquatic Center – 1001 Santa Clara Point, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The WaterSports Camp

Park it at a Museum Camp

Balboa Park Summer Camps

Girls Gone Mad Scientist! The Reuben H Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park has an amazing array of camps for kids of all ages.

If your kids are getting enough beach time on the vacation but perhaps need intellectual and artistic stimulation, send them to Balboa Park. This iconic gem of a park is my favorite place to spend the day in San Diego. There truly is an interest for everyone in the park. My 9-year-old’s all-time favorite camp was at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center. It is one of more than a dozen museum camps in the park offering hands-on camps for children, covering subjects from ballet to art to chess to rocket building. Each participating museum has a pretty amazing program of full- and half-day camps for K-8, and some of the sessions in the park, such as the Museum of Photographic Arts, offer instruction for teens (through 12th grade). Most of these half-day camps run 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and many have full-day options. Balboa Park museum camps offer a chance for parents to drop off the kids, explore the park and get an in-depth look at a museum exhibit on one’s own (or just time to go back to the hotel for a vacation nap).

> Find out more about all the different summer camps in Balboa Park

Lights! Camera! Film Camp!

Youth Media and Tech Camp Courtesy Digital Gym

Learn the art of filmmaking and more during one of the Digital Gym’s summer camps

If Junior doesn’t want to learn to surf and is not excited by the museum camps, The Digital Gym‘s Summer Youth Media and Tech Camp might be just up his/her alley. These film-making camps are available for 7-14 year olds, with a Saturday camp for teens called the “Teen Producers Project.” The weekly camp options include opportunities for original projects and new creative challenges including learning how to write, storyboard, shoot, edit, and score a project. The camp allows the students to use everything the Digital Gym offers, including cameras, the production studio, and software like iMovie, iStopMotion, and Garageband. Every week-long camp ends with a screening and exhibition for family and friends. Camp runs from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday-Friday.

Where: 2921 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about the Digital Gym’s Youth Media & Tech Camps

Flow Ride, Take It Easy…With This Summer Camp

Learning to surf the Flow Ride Wave Machine at Belmont Park is just one of the fun activities in this summer day camp on the beach.

Learning to surf the Flow Ride Wave Machine at Belmont Park is just one of the fun activities in this summer day camp on the beach.

I don’t know if you can technically call Belmont Park‘s Flow Camp a summer camp. Is a day at a beach-side amusement park playing arcade games, riding a historic roller coaster, competing in a sand castle contest, playing laser tag, riding bumper cars, rock climbing, and topped off with learning to surf or body board on a flow rider wave machine considered a camp or Heaven on Earth for the 6-13 year olds who get to attend this weekly camp Monday-Friday from 9:00 to 4:00 AM?

Where: 3146 Mission Blvd., San Diego CA, 92109
> Find out more about Belmont Park’s FlowRide Camp

Where the Turf Meets the Surf

Del Mar Camp kids waiting to start the hippty hop race on the track get high-fived from a jockey.

Del Mar Camp kids waiting to start the hippty hop race on the track get high-fived from a jockey.

If mom and dad like to play the ponies but feel a bit guilty about gambling while on a family vacation, Camp Del Mar at the Del Mar Racetrack is the answer. No need to pre-register for this drop-in day camp that offers onsite activities such as animal themed crafts, miniature golf, an inflatable jumper, air hockey, various tournaments, and my daughter’s favorite event, hippity hop race on the thoroughbred racetrack! All while mom and dad are close by placing bets and sipping Del-Margaritas. At this camp you could win enough to pay for your San Diego vacation. The offerings change daily and the camp is available for ages 5-12. The $24 fee includes lunch, snacks, and a Camp Del Mar t-shirt.

Where: 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014
> Find out more about Camp Del Mar

San Diego’s major attractions like LEGOLAND California, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, and SeaWorld all offer day camps as well.

> Discover more fun with our San Diego Summer Guide


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!


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


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+.


Family Friendly Tips to Enjoying 3 of San Diego’s World-Famous Attractions

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Family Friendly Tips
 San Diego Zoo Safari Park Family Friendly Tips

Make it the perfect day with your little ones with these family friendly tips

From the beaches to the parks to the friendly vibe of the people, San Diego is truly one of the greatest destinations in the world for children. To top it off, our amazing city has several fun attractions to choose from! As a local mom of five kids, here are some family friendly tips on how to make the most of three of my favorite places to visit, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California.

1. The San Diego Zoo

Known as the World-Famous Zoo, it truly lives up to the hype as one of the greatest  family friendly destinations to see over 4,000 different animals! Trying to see them all in one day might be a tad ambitious, but here are my recommendations that maximize what you can fit in.

Start with a walking tour by heading down Center Street, checking out the bears along the way until it turns into Park Street and takes you to the pandas! Head there first as the viewing line for an up close look tends to get long. From there, continue the loop along to the polar bears, a truly fun exhibit where you can view the polar bears playing underwater! As your legs begin to tire, avoid the steep hill and hop on the Skyfari that takes you back toward the entrance of the park.

Disembark from your Skyfari bucket and head down Treetops Way to see the orangutan trail, making your way to the Treehouse Café to enjoy the views during lunch.

After fueling up, take Monkey Trail back to see gorillas and more, detouring through Scripps Aviary for some spectacular bird viewing. As you make your way back toward the main zoo entrance, catch the Hippo Trail as well.

By this point, the whole family will likely need a break, but you haven’t even gotten to the lions, tigers, giraffes and elephants! It’s at this time you can rest your feet on the bus tour catching several more great views of the animals.

Finally, if there is any ounce of energy left, head to the Children’s Zoo, truly a treat for the younger set. From hands on exhibits to the petting zoo, it’s a delight and the perfect way to end the day.

Stroller Tips

If you have tiny kids that need strollers, the Skyfari does not let strollers on board. I do recommend parking your stroller and enjoying the sky-high views round trip, then either walking some of the trails or heading straight for the bus tour.

2. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The closest you may come to feeling like you actually are in the wild, this park is not to be missed. Note that during spring and summer, temperatures can heat up so head there early to beat the summer heat. Head straight to the African Tram first thing as lines tend to get long later in the day and it is pretty much the only line to worry about. This tram takes your family on a tour of the park and offers a view of the animals in an atmosphere created to be like their natural habitat – a favorite for my kids and me. Once the tour is over, walk over to see the lions since they also tend to draw a crowd, for a can’t miss, up close view!

From there, follow the path to see the gorillas, keeping an eye on the various show times. A personal favorite has been the bird show for years and a great way to take a walking break.

As lunch time hits, choose the Samburu Terrace and grab one of the tables near the amazing view area!

Also, be sure to check the schedule for animal demonstrations for up close views (and even some petting!) of some spectacular creatures. Speaking of which, the petting zoo is always a fun time for the kids as well.

Grab your map and seek out the rest of your favorite animals, then cool off in the kid’s fun splash area. Note: bring swimsuits and towels.

As the day winds down, hit the carousel near the front entrance.

Family Friendly Hints

Remember, when traveling with kids, make sure to equip yourself with several snacks to keep hunger away and try to go during times when your child will be least tired. Just as you think you might be headed toward melt down city, let the younger kids sit back and relax in the stroller while you take a walking tour as each of my favorite attractions have plenty of areas to stroll! And when all else fails, remember my mantra: relax while watching one of the shows!

3. LEGOLAND California

For Lego fans young and old, this is must-stop destination while in town.

Bring your bricks! If your child has a Lego figurine they are ready to be rid of, they can trade it with any Legoland staff member and continue to keep trading throughout the day! And if you are ready to purchase more, be sure to hit the store early in the day as it can get pretty crowded.

Next stop is to head to the back of the park first to avoid the long lines later in the day.

Be prepared that the height requirements are very strict for the rides, so be sure to measure your child before waiting in long lines only to be turned away (and I have seen that happen to many a screaming child!).

During the warmer months, bring towels and a change of clothes as several rides and the Pirate Shores will get you very wet. Though they have dryers you can pay to use, it’s nice to have a cozy towel handy.

When hunger strikes, eat at the restaurants in the aquarium (get your hand stamped for park reentry) and Mini Town as both have delicious food.

If you run into a “survey taker” during your visit, be sure to participate as you usually get a cool prize.

Once you are ready for a breather, hit the shows. In particular, the “The Big Test,” a.k.a. the fireman show, is a family favorite as are the 3D movies, too.

> Plan your trip with these family friendly itineraries

Do you have any family friendly tips to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Sarah Weinberg

Get into the Groove in San Diego – Music for Families

While there’s a burgeoning scene of hip music for youth in San Diego, there are also many options for those of us who have true youngsters at home, the 12 and under set. Here are some places to bask in the sunshine and experience music the entire family will enjoy.

Balboa Park – Musical Mecca

Balboa Park Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The 100-year-old Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park lights up summer evenings for families with free outdoor concerts.

One of the family traditions I grew up with that I’ve continued with my children is attending the free outdoor concerts in Balboa Park’s historic Organ Pavilion. In 1914, the Spreckels family donated one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs to the city and it’s been housed in the ornate outdoor theater for 100 years. Summer Monday’s at 7:30 PM, the Spreckels Organ Society hosts its festival concerts that feature local artistic director Dr. Carol Williams or a variety of guest organists from around the world. Other music series held in the pavilion occur year-round, but summer offers four additional free concerts a week. These include the Twilight in the Park Summer Concert series on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 6:15 PM. Through these concerts my kids have been exposed to Klezmer music, big band, and even an Elvis impersonator, all while picnicking in our seats or dancing in the aisles on a warm summer’s eve.

Spreckels Organ Society Fall Festival

At Family Festival Days the kids can swing to classic organ music in Balboa Park.

The organ pavilion also plays host to a Sunday series at 2:00 PM and some Family Festival Days including one in June, and a Halloween-themed fest in October. These special family concerts include activity tables for kids plus concerts by young organists. In year’s past, children in the audience were allowed on stage and “behind the curtain” to peek at the organ’s pipes.

Where: Spreckels Organ Pavilion -1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Cost: Free

West African Drumming Class courtesy World Beat Center

Drum-roll please at the West African Drumming Class for toddlers held at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park.

Another free event in harmonious Balboa Park is the WorldBeat Center‘s Super Sonic Samba Drummers practicing near Pepper Tree Park playground on Sundays at 1:00 PM. The drum circle’s beat will get everyone in the family dancing on the grass around the group. If you want to learn more about the World Beat Center’s music programs, they offer a wide variety of music classes for free and nominal fees, including a very fun toddler West African Drumming Class on Tuesdays at 2:00 PM. I used to take my kids to this class and it’s great because you don’t have to register ahead of time, so no worries if your darling is napping and you miss a class, just show up next week.

Where: World Beat Center – 2100 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101
Cost: Some events are free and some classes are fee based

The Museum of Making Music

Museum of Making Music - San Diego, Carlsbad

Visitors of all ages get hands-on fun at the Museum of Making Music.

For a truly remarkable combination of musical history and education (and hands-on music making), families must visit The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad. This gorgeous but approachable museum has vintage, rare delicate instruments on display behind glass, but it knows its audience (we all want to strum or pound or tickle the ivories too when inspired), so each exhibit has the opportunity for guest to make some noise on non-vintage, tough instruments, culminating in the Innovation Studio space with a variety of electric guitars, keyboards and drums (and headphones for parents wanting to escape the joyful cacophony).

Where: 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Cost: General admission: $8, Students, Seniors, Military: $5; Kids 5 and under at free
Dates & Times: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed Mondays


Children can play a song by jumping up and down at this musical fountain at LEGOLAND California Resort.

Children can play a song by jumping up and down at this musical fountain at LEGOLAND California Resort.

The Museum of Making Music is located next to LEGOLAND, which features a musical water fountain in the park – another of my children’s favorite experiences. They jump up and down on foam rubber circles and different instruments make their sound and shoot up water! What could be more fun?!

Recreational Music Center

If you are looking for drop-in music classes while visiting San Diego, the arts-centered Liberty Station complex in the Point Loma neighborhood houses Recreational Music Center, a non-profit music school whose mission is to cultivate the joy of making music through relevant, cutting-edge teaching methods, making music available to everyone regardless of financial resources or other barriers. The school offers an extensive list of children’s piano, cello, wind ensemble lessons, as well as hosting birthday parties and summer camps including a Rock Band Camp. September through June RMC also offers monthly Parents Night Out events, so guests can drop their kids (ages 4-11) to learn music from 5:00 to 8:00 PM and parents can enjoy a dinner at one of Liberty Station’s nearby eateries, including Stone Brewery steps away.

Where: 2590 Truxtun Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
Cost: Varies by class, camp or event
Dates & Times: Classes/camp prices vary; Parents Night Out $25 child includes dinner.

Classic Sounds in San Diego

These educational concerts are open to visiting families, adults just must be accompanied by a child.

Classics 4 Kids

Classics 4 Kids is a San Diego nonprofit that has been providing kid-friendly professional orchestra performances for children, teachers and families throughout San Diego County for 20 years. The group performs in the historic Balboa Theater in the Gaslamp Quarter. This Sunday, April 27, 2014, see Beethoven ‘n’ Friends Go Country, a family concert featuring the Classics Philharmonic’s renditions of famous composers, infused with the foot stompin’ fun of real-life cowboy Wylie Gustafson, the singing, yodeling, guitar playing country star, direct from Montana. Next fall the group continues its Kids Concert series with Peter and the Wolf, on November 23, 2014, a Salute to American Jazz Greats on February 22, 2015, and Isabella & Diego, a Mariachi-influenced version of the classic Hansel & Gretel tale on May 3, 2015.

Where: Balboa Theatre – 868 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
CostChild: $12 Adult: $15; Red Ribbon (premier seating and a yummy treat) Child: $15 Adult: $20

San Diego Symphony

The San Diego Symphony has an extensive children’s education program as well, featuring a number of Family Festivals and Young People’s Concerts each season. The next show, I Love Mother Nature Family Festival is on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 2:00 PM. The Symphony’s Summer Pops outdoor concert series on the Embarcadero South Lawn is a great evening of family music often followed by a fireworks display over San Diego Bay. Some upcoming performances that may interest the younger set during Comic-Con from July 24-26, 2014, include: Video Games Live, Music of Tim Burton, Star Trek, and Disney’s Fantasia on August 10, 2014.

Where: 1245 Seventh Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
Cost: Family Festival $10 for kids and $15-25 for adults, based on seating. Summer Pops starts at $20 for lawn seating and Young People’s Concerts at $5 for everyone.

Free Outdoor Summer Concerts in San Diego’s Parks

The parks of San Diego are alive with the sound of music with an extensive number of free outdoor summer concerts throughout the county. I have to give a shout out to two family favorite local bands. My children attended many festivals, birthday parties and local library performances by Hullabaloo, a fun, folkly smart kids band who perform somewhere in San Diego County almost daily and frequently for free. Check out their schedule for a really fun time. My whole family also like the Creepy Creeps, possibly in homage to their mom’s punk rock roots. The Creeps play mainly adult music venues, but they put on a great show, also playing many family friendly festivals with high energy and costume changes included.

Click here for a list of parks that held free outdoor concerts in 2013.

> Discover more live music in San Diego

Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to Do in San Diego – March 25-30 2014

Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival

The last weekend in March is going out with a bang. Come and enjoy all the amazing activities and attractions San Diego has to offer along with these top things to do.

5th Annual LPGA Kia Classic

5th Annual LPGA Kia Classic - Top Things to Do in San Diego

The Kia Classic features 144 of the best women golfers playing for the $1.7 million purse. The field features 2013 Kia Classic Champion Beatriz Recari and crowd favorites Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson. Sunday is Family Day, full of fun family activities including a scavenger hunt, special autograph sessions and the junior clinic held at 3:00 PM on the driving range featuring LPGA players.

Where: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort – 7100 Aviara Resort Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92011
When: March 24-30, 2014
Cost: $10-$100
> Find out more about the 5th Annual LPGA Kia Classic

Spring Busker Festival

Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival

Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival. Photo courtesy of Boardwalk Betty

The celebration brings colorful street performers from across the country including entertaining sword swallowers, jugglers on unicycles, escape artists and comedic stuntmen performing along the bayfront in downtown’s Seaport Village. The extraordinary and bizarre talents will provide outdoor amusement for all.

Where: Seaport Village – 849 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 29-30, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 6:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Spring Busker Festival

San Diego Zoo Play Days

San Diego Zoo Play Days - Top Things in San Diego

Mark your calendar with Play Days at the San Diego Zoo

Play Days at the San Diego Zoo is a whirl of animal activities and fun for all ages, as guests enjoy special presentations, keeper talks, and animal encounters. Come visit animals that climb, prowl, and plunge!

Where: San Diego Zoo – 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 29 – April 20, 2014
Cost: Included with admission
> Find out more about San Diego Zoo Play Days

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Series

Inside Petco - Courtesy Petco Park

Catch the Padres take on the Dodgers at the beautiful Petco Park

Spring is here! Catch the San Diego Padres take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Sunday’s game is sold out, but you can watch the fun unfold at many bars and restaurants downtown and throughout the county. Pick up tickets for Tuesday’s game and get an opening day hat! During Wednesday’s game they will be giving away a schedule cling.

Where: Petco Park – 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 30 – April 2, 2014
Cost: Check website for seat pricing
> Find out more about the San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Series

CicloSDias Pacific Beach

CicloSDias Family

Bring the whole family to the waterfront community of Pacific Beach for some safe fun in the streets at CicloSDias

CicloSDias will open 2.5 miles of streets, car-free, in Pacific Beach to hundreds of pedestrians and families on bicycles. This is a fun opportunity for visitors and locals alike to come together and enjoy open, car-free streets in San Diego.

Where: The hubs of the event are the intersections at Garnet and Ingraham, Garnet and Mission Blvd, Turquoise and Cass St, and Turquoise and La Jolla Mesa Dr.
When: March 30, 2014
Time: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about CicloSDias Pacific Beach

Shout House’s 10 Year Anniversary Celebration


The Shout House in the Gaslamp Quarter has been rocking dueling pianos for 10 years! To thank everyone, they are hosting an anniversary celebration with a hosted bar from 7:00 to 8:00 PM, free appetizers, giveaways and a special 10 Year Anniversary Show. RSVPs are required so don’t wait!

Where: The Shout House – 655 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
When: March 27, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM
Cost: No Cover when you RSVP
Shout House’s 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

> Browse the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of some other top things to do this weekend in San Diego? Let everyone know in the comments below.


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