Have you heard? It’s Kids Free month in San Diego! Nope, that doesn’t mean San Diego is free from kids. But rather, just about everything for a kid’s visit (with their family) to San Diego is Free – as in free admission to all the major attractions, museums and so much more.
Kids Free month deals abound in Mission Bay!
One area that was made for play is Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic wonderland of beaches, walking/bicycling trails, family-friendly resorts, water activities and famous attractions like SeaWorld.
Following are some of the coolest free offerings I scoped out around Mission Bay:
SeaWorld San Diego
Kids can enjoy the Dolphin Interaction Program at SeaWorld for free!
SeaWorld San Diego offers kids 3-9 years old free admission (1 child per paid adult), free Dine With Shamu (1 child per paid adult) and free Dolphin and Beluga Interaction Programs (1 child 10-13 years old per paid adult).
Free kids rides on the Giant Dipper roller coaster by Mission Bay!
At nearby Belmont Park, home of the thrilling Giant Dipper roller coaster, kids can enjoy unlimited free rides and laser tag (1 child per paid adult). They also ride for free (1 child per 2 paid riders) on FlowRider or FlowBarrel.
Paradise Point Resort
The tropical Paradise Point Resort offers kids free bike rentals to cruise the bayside plus free kayak and standup paddleboard rentals.
Located just minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Bay Park is the largest park of its kind in the world, spread out over 4,200 sparkling acres. Something you may not know about this aquatic playground is that there are some really cool and surprising animal encounters along its 27 miles of beaches.
A recent visit to the Bahia Resort piqued my interest in Mission Bay’s wildlife when I spotted a friendly seal named Gracie frolicking in a pool out front of the resort. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What a fun and memorable way to welcome visitors!
I soon discovered that other creatures great and small call Mission Bay home and make for some great photo opps, if you know where to look. And the best part: viewing is free.
Here’s the inside scoop on Mission Bay’s amazing menagerie of animal encounters and where to find them:
Gracie the Seal at the Bahia Resort
Gracie the seal basking in the sun at Bahia Resort
Gracie the seal, a rescue from La Jolla Cove, first called Bahia Resort home in 2006. She’s curious, outgoing and well-loved by all. When she’s not swimming around her spacious pool with her best friend Billy, she can be found sunbathing on the rocks. A great time to visit is during feeding time: 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM daily.
Parrots, Macaws and Cockatoos at the Catamaran
Meet the the talkative parrot named Cornell and enjoy even more animal encounters at Catamaran Resort
Colorful parrots, macaws and cockatoos can be found at the Catamaran Resort, located outside behind the main lobby. The bright – and talkative! – birds are on display daily from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Check out the cool Bird Cam. You can call each of them by name; feathered pics of who’s who (including Cornell the parrot, above) can be found on the resort’s exotic wildlife page.
Catamaran also has two ponds with koi fish, ducks and turtles that love to bask in the sun.
Animal Encounters at Paradise Point
When it comes to fascinating fauna on land, sea and air, Paradise Point Resort has it all! Swimming beneath the surface of the large lagoon next to Barefoot Bar & Grill are spotted leopard sharks, stingrays and guitar fish! The resort’s network of gardens and lagoons is also home to ducks, red-eared slider turtles, frogs, hummingbirds, herons and egrets…oh my!
See you in Mission Bay for some close encounters of the animal kind! 🙂
For five decades, SeaWorld has surprised and amazed guests with unique entertainment, thrilling rides and up-close encounters with marine animals. The original SeaWorld® park opened its gates for the first time in March 1964 on Mission Bay in San Diego, and starting this March 21, <a title=”SeaWorld”s 50th Celebration” href=”http://www.SeaWorld.com/Celebration” target=”_blank”>SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration will feature a Sea of Surprises™, an 18-month celebration that highlights some of the most memorable SeaWorld experiences.
During SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration, visitors will be invited to take part in the celebration through new interactive experiences, shows and pathway performances and even more up-close animal encounters throughout the park. Plus, the SeaWorld “Surprise Squad” treating guests with prizes every day.
The biggest birthday present for visitors to the park is the debut of the new <a title=”Explorer”s Reef” href=”http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sandiego/attractions/exhibits/explorers-reef/” target=”_blank”>Explorer’s Reef™, which immediately immerses park guests into an undersea oasis. Visitors will actually enter nbso online casino reviews the park beneath an immense wave sculpture that is nearly 30 feet tall and 100 feet long. From the moment they enter the park, guests can connect with the sea through multiple pools featuring shark pups, rays, skates and cleaner fish. The expansive renovation also makes entering SeaWorld faster and more efficient.
SeaWorld”s entrance gets a redesign to celebrate the park”s 50th birthday.
The gift that SeaWorld has given the public through education and research includes programs to rescue and rehabilitate injured marine animals, with the goal of returning them to the wild. For their anniversary, the park also commissioned environmental art group Washed Ashore for a collection of larger-than-life sea-themed sculptures. The materials used to create these pieces come from the billions of pounds of garbage—mostly plastics—that wind up in our oceans. These amazing works of art point to the urgent need to protect marine animals from such dangers and preserve their ocean habitats.
SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration also includes new ways for fans to connect to the parks and each other though digital devices. The parks will be launching a variety of enhancements, from interactive apps to new games and video content.
SeaWorld San Diego”s 50th anniversary activities run through September 2015, so don”t miss your chance to take part in this historic occasion. For more information about SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration and the Sea of Surprises, visit SeaWorld.com/Celebration.
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
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
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
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.
Enter into the world of Reptiles at the San Diego Zoo
The Reptile Walk, San Diego Zoo’s fancy digs for its slithering residents, consists three separate structures housing turtles, amphibians and snakes native to California – including the longest gopher snake you’re likely to have ever seen!
San Diego Gopher Snake
“That San Diego gopher snake is at least four and a half feet long,” said Zoo herpetologist Ken Morgan, as he watched the wriggling reptile stretching out in its new glass enclosure. “It’s the largest one I’ve ever seen.”
San Diego Zoo herpetologist Ken Morgan
Reptiles live on all continents except Antarctica – and the Zoo’s new exhibit accommodates more than 50 species.
What to See on the Reptile Walk
Visitors can see a pair of critically endangered Chinese alligators meandering around an open-air pool. They’re the smallest of alligator species – only about four feet long. They’re also among the rarest: Only about 100 are left in the wild, Morgan said.
Mexican Giant Tree Frog
Check out an emerald tree boa from South America, a spiky giant horned lizard from Mexico and a Mexican giant tree frog. Search for mata – mata turtles that masquerade as leaves – and be wowed by others with long snake-like necks.
San Diego has more biodiversity than any other county in North America – so plenty of slithering stars are exhibited in the California Native Species building.
If you like the colorful banded San Diego mountain kingsnake, you’ll love the two-headed California kingsnake. At feeding time, one head gets covered with a hood while the other is fed; it keeps the two heads from fighting and injuring each other.
Visitors won’t find any venomous snakes in the new reptile exhibit. To find rattlers, head to Elephant Odyssey; rattlesnakes are housed there, near the condors.
Living Coast Discovery Center in San Diego’s South Bay
Did you know that a burrowing owl imitates the sound of a rattlesnake to fool potential predators? You’ll hear the proof at the Living Coast Discovery Center (LCDC) in San Diego’s South Bay.
Outdoor Adventures at LCDC
Explore the Nature Preserve Surrounding the Living Coast Discovery Center
Formerly known as the Chula Vista Nature Center, this 25-year-old attraction is an internationally recognized non-profit zoo and aquarium that focuses on plants and animals native to the San Diego region. It sits on 3.3 acres on historic Gunpowder Point and is part of South Bay’s 300-plus-acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
Visitors won’t be overwhelmed here. It’s easy to see everything – at a relaxed pace – in a single morning or afternoon and still have time to leisurely wander the 1.5 miles of marsh hiking trails.
Washed Ashore Art at the Living Coast Discovery Center
Through September 3, check out Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life & Art, a nationally acclaimed art exhibit with massive sculptures and smaller art pieces made entirely of debris collected from beaches. The exhibit, which includes weathered synthetic ropes, nets, abandoned toys, cigarette lighters, flip-flops and Frisbees, is designed to bring attention to the global crisis of ocean pollution. It goes on a worldwide tour after its LCDC engagement.
At the center, visitors can experience up-close encounters with everything from hawks to green sea turtles (their daily feeding time is at 1:45 PM). They can spy on huge spiny lobsters – and a local rattlesnake, kept safely behind glass. Walk through the Shorebird Aviary – and be on the lookout for clapper rail chicks. Visit Eagle Mesa at 3:30 PM feeding time to interact with keepers and learn more about resident bald and golden eagles. Pet stingrays like those that inhabit local waters – and check out their ocean-going buddies, including sharks and jellies, all serenely swimming behind glass.
There’s no restaurant at the center, so bring a picnic to enjoy on one of several observation decks. Savor views of Downtown, Coronado, the bay. Or settle marsh side and view graceful herons in flight across the grassy wetlands or perhaps spot a red-tailed hawk swooping down for a midday snack. Bird watchers have spotted more than 200 species from the center.
There’s cool gift shop, with educational books, games and toys.
1. San Diego Parade of Lights: Head over to San Diego Bay on December 11th and 18th for the 40th Annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights where hundreds of boats will be decorated for this dazzling holiday boat parade of lights.
2. La Mesa Christmas in the Village: This popular holiday event features horse-drawn carriages, carolers, marching bands and entertainers, all lined up along La Mesa Boulevard. Guests can also enjoy an outdoor market, food and special appearances by Santa Claus.
3. Holiday LEGO Train Exhibit: Through January 12, 2012, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum features its annual Holiday LEGO Train Exhibit. For any train and/or LEGO enthusiasts, this exhibit is not to be missed. Be sure to be on the lookout for Santa scaling one of the buildings!
4. Garden of Lights: From December 8 through the 30th, head up to the San Diego Botanical Garden for the Garden of Lights. The Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience. Many of these lights are LED, which are much brighter than regular lights. Numerous activities include horse-drawn-wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, hot mulled wine and refreshments.
Photo: TJ Shimabukuro
5. Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade: If you own a pet, the Gaslamp Quarter on December 11th is the place to be. Once a year San Diego pets and owners are invited to dress up in their favorite costumes for a special promenade throughout the Gaslamp Quarter to celebrate the holiday season. You can only imagine the fun and excitement as downtown becomes filled with costumed pets & their handlers all vying for prizes and bragging rights including Best Costumed Duo, Cutest Critter, Best Pet Costume & Best of Show!
The San Diego Zoo celebrated the 2nd birthday of its youngest panda, Yun Zi, today. The toddler was presented with a 3-tier birthday cake made of ice and bamboo, decorated with bows made out of bamboo leaves, colored pieces of ice, and topped with the number “2.” The base of the cake was drizzled with honey and filled with the giant pandas favorite fruits and vegetables: yams, carrots, and apples.
The San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos in the United States with giant pandas. The Zoo began its long-term giant panda conservation partnership with the People’s Republic of China in 1996. Since then, the Zoo has welcomed the birth of five healthy pandas, the most of any zoo in the nation.
Happy Birthday to you Yun Zi!
You don’t have to be in San Diego to see these beautiful animals up-close. You can watch all of the San Diego Zoo’s giant pandas– Yun Zi, Bai Yun, and Gao Gao– on the Giant Panda cam.
With mild coastal temperatures in the 70s complemented by refreshing ocean and bay breezes, San Diego is the perfect place to beat the heat during this sweltering summer. Here is a list of 10 Great Ways to Beat to the Heat in San Diego.
Sunset on Coronado, rated the #2 beach in the country by Dr. Beach
1. Swim, snorkel, surf, kayak, paddleboard and build sandcastles along San Diego’s 70 miles of picturesque coastline. With refreshing Pacific waters, San Diego’s beaches offer a variety of unique settings, from the white sandy shores of Coronado Beach (rated the 2nd best beach in the country by Dr. Beach) to the Mediterranean-like coves of luxurious La Jolla.
SeaWorld San Diego's 25-degree Penguin Encounter is home is five species of Antarctic penguins
2. Chill out at the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego and spend time with some of the park’s coolest inhabitants. Guests can watch the playful antics of nearly 300 penguins including regal emperor penguins and smaller Adelie, gentoo and macaroni penguins.
3. Sample chilly, creamy treats from San Diego’s top sweet shops. Guests of all ages can indulge with an exotic Pineapple Chili or Lavender Lemonade popsicle from Viva Pops in Normal Heights or blend their own custom creation at MooTime Creamery in Coronado.
4. Enjoy an entertaining outdoor Summer Pops concert by the world-class San Diego Symphony along San Diego Bay. During the summer, light jackets and blankets are often recommended after the sun sets above San Diego’s most beautiful outdoor music venue.
Splash Zoo at LEGOLAND California
5. Build a raft and float down a lazy river at the LEGOLAND Water Park in LEGOLAND California Resort. Visitors can enjoy a variety of splash-filled water activities including a wet-and-wild climbing structure, six-person raft slide, tube slides, body slides and much more.
6. Take a libation break with a frosty pint of some of San Diego’s award-winning craft beers. Rated the “#1 Beer City in the U.S.” by Men’s Journal magazine, San Diego’s 35 local breweries are sure to quench the thirst of the most parched beer lovers.
Tatqiq (left) and Kalluk (right) at Polar Bear Plunge. Photo by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.
7. Embark on an expedition to the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo and encounter the rulers of the frozen tundra: the mighty polar bears. Along the way, guests can also come across other northern neighbors like reindeer and Arctic diving ducks.
8. Let the wind blow through your hair as you take a thrilling ride on San Diego Bay with San Diego Speedboat Adventures. Guests sit in the captain’s seat and charter their own two-person mini speedboat around San Diego’s busy harbor, enjoying one-of-a-kind views of U.S. Navy ships, the sweeping San Diego-Coronado Bridge, downtown skyline, USS Midway Museum and more.
The gentle waters of Mission Bay are ideal for SUP (standup paddleboarding)
9. Take a relaxing, carefree bicycle ride along the 27 miles of pathways on the shores of Mission Bay. After bike riding, guests can enjoy waterskiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, or SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) in this 4,600-acre water playground.
10. Feast on local fresh seafood and produce at one of San Diego’s many waterfront restaurants. Peohe’s on Coronado offers foodies award-winning meals along with spectacular downtown views, while George’s at the Cove in La Jolla offers a chic, modern dining experience with gorgeous views of La Jolla Cove and the Pacific.
Click the link below and enter the Thank a Million sweepstakes from Smart Destinations
Go San Diego Card(from Smart Destinations) is a multi-attraction ticket that gives you access to many of these “cool” San Diego attactions and activities. Throughout the entire month of August, Smart Destinations is running a sweepstakes as part of their “Thanks A Million” promotion to celebrate the passing of their millionth customer.
Click hereand get entered to win one of the great prizes: a 3-day Go City Card for any destination (including San Diego) or an Explorer Pass for any 3 attractions in New York City or Las Vegas; plus the Grand Prize of a 4-day/3-night vacation for two to any Smart Destination locale, along with two 3-day passes for that destination!
Do you love visiting San Diego? Really love it? Then enter to win our sweepstakes and you could win a 5 night stay at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel and airfare for two! And as the big winner, you’ll have five whole days to enjoy all that San Diego has to offer. Never been to San Diego or interested in trying something new? Here’s how I would spend my five days highlighting the outdoors and our amazing beaches.
Waking up each morning at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel will provide inspiration as you plan your day. The hotel, located on the waterfront, features sun and sea inspired design and a casually sophisticated design.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
Day 1: Explore trails while overlooking the ocean
Hike Torrey Pines State Reserve or take a guided tour. Among the eight miles of trails, guests can encounter native chaparral plants, wildflowers, birds, reptiles and butterflies. My favorite trail is the beach trail. During low tide, you can take the stairs down to the ocean and walk between the ocean and cliffs.
Sail on the Bay
Day 2: Set sail on the San Diego Bay
Strap on your sea legs and rent a sailboat in Coronado from Seaforth Rentals. Choose from over 200 rental boats, including boats for sailing, cruising, skiing and fishing, jetskis, speedboats, fishing charters, sunset sails.
Day 3: Cruise the boardwalk in Pacific and Mission Beach
The favorite hangouts of active young sun-worshipers, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are connected by a three-mile boardwalk crowded with inline skaters, skateboarders, runners and bikers – and beachgoers just wanting “to be seen.” End your stroll by walking to the end of the Crystal Pier for a beautiful coastline view.
Sunset Kayak Cruise
Day 4: Take a sunset kayaking trip and witness the sun dip into the Pacific
Try Hike Bike Kayak’s popular Sunset Paddle Tour, where you’ll kayak along the La Jolla sea caves and ecological reserve during a beautiful sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Expert naturalist guides provide insights and fun facts about the amazing environment.
Day 5: Hang out in Ocean Beach – doggies included! Ocean Beach is one of San Diego’s prime surf spots. The neighborhood is also popular for its kid-friendly tide pools, long wooden pier that is perfect for fishing and Dog Beach, where even the tail-wagging members of the family can play Frisbee and romp in the surf.
Enter to Win a 5-night hotel stay and two round trip airfare tickets here!