Fun Things for Families to do with Kids in San Diego

by TessaSchlesinger

by Tessa Schlesinger. Find something new, educational, or different to do with your kids.

Fun for families in San Diego is on the menu as I write this piece! They might be looking for some kid friendly activities in San Diego. It might be one of those days when everybody is bored and diversions - whether birthdays, alone days, or just plain something to do during summer vacation time - are needed. Here are some kid friendly activities to consider. They are many fun activities for the family to do with kids in San Diego! Some of them can even be educational.

Visit the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Details

The San Diego Zoo is world famous. It is also enormous and it’s not possible to see all of it in one day. Your best option is to do some research beforehand and to see those sections that best appeal to you - a Conifer forest, a Nairobi village, herb gardens, bird worlds, lion camps, meerkat entertainment, or more. Bring a picnic basket so that when feet get tired, you can find a bench and eat happily. There are many benches situated throughout the zoo, as well as numerous dining options at cafes and restaurants.

There is a wonderful barnyard where children can interact with domestic animals. In the collage of photos below, I captured a goal in a tub! You can sit on the benches in the enclosure and enjoy the sandwiches and drinks you brought along.

There are also fun educational courses to keep anyone entertained. For instance, there is ninety minute jungle rope safari in which kids can swing from ropes, jump over logs, and more. Adults participate along with children. 

In fact, there is so much to offer at the San Diego Zoo that it’s one of those places where it’s a great investment to buy an annual ticket (a few dollars more than a one day ticket) and use it for different activities often. The kids will never be bored. Nor will you be. In order to get the best price, look for special offers on the web. You can get an idea of the different activities offered by the zoo by looking at this San Diego Zoo Safari Map.

This is a collage of San Diego Zoo photos that I made...

San Diego Zoo Collage
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo

Visit Seaport Village

Seaport Village San Diego, Midway, Ferry, Sailing Ships,

The walk on the embarcadero alongside Seaport village is bursting with entertainment during both the week and the weekends. There are many different kind of performers, including fortune tellers, storytellers, kite flyers, and artists. In addition, there are boats for hire, ducks to observe, musicians to dance to, and burgers to consume. It’s a vital, colorful place with much to see and do.

In the collage of photos below, I have given you some hints. There's a Cinderella Carriage to take you and the kids for a ride. There's the Kite Store with a gazillion different types of kites, and if it's a windy day, you'll see the kite flyers out in front flying their kites. You can either bring your own kites to fly or purchase some at the kite store. There are niche stores, a roundabout, coffee shops and ice cream vendors. Kids can watch the ducks on the pond while you try to read the newspaper - or not.  

If you decide to walk alongside the broadwalk, the left taks you to a luxury yacht harbor while the right takes you to the Midway Museum. The Midway Museum is a battleship with a great tour to keep everybody entranced.

A Collage I made of Seaport Village in San Diego

Seaport Village, San Diego
Seaport Village
Seaport Village

Try an Art Day at Balboa Park

Balboa park San Diego

There are both sights and events at Balboa Park, but it’s not necessary to spend any money for a fabulous day where kids can keep themselves entertained. The green laws, massive trees, sidewalk entertainers, and free museum entry each Tuesday make it a great choice. In order to something different, collect some art supplies, some food and drink, a ground blanket, find a spot outside the massive Greenhouse and get the kids to draw all the things around them. If you look at the collage of photos below, the bottom right hand corner shows a koi pond with the greenhouse behind it. That is a massive area of lawns where families and friends often gather for home prepared alfresco meals. Incidentally, the center picture in the collage is of the Spanish Village. All the stores boast art of one type or another, so it's a good finish to a great day.

Balboa Park also offers summer camps as well as  educational museums like the Reuben H Fleet Science Museum. If you look at the collage below, you will see three young NASA uniformed instructors. The young lady on the right is my daughter. She worked as a flight director for five years simulating NASA Challenger missions for young school kids. And, yes, the uniforms are quite genuine. NASA paid towards the program so the information is first rate as well. The Reuben H Fleet also has great education movies for young ones. 

On Sunday afternoons, the international village is open. This area comprises cottages from every nation and gives samples of food from those nations (donation expected) plus give information about the different countries. The International Village also gives free shows on some Sunday afternoons of the various folk dancing in the different countries. In the collage of photos below, second row on the left is a bevy of beaties strutting their folk dancing best.

Balboa Park hosts many different museums - to name a few... art, auto, photography, space, sports, railroad, and the awesome natural history museum. Each Tuesday, a handful offer free entry. Your best bet, again, is to look for special offers on the web. 

Balboa park also offers many different events through the year and you will need to go to the website to check the calendar.

This is a Collage I made of Balboa Park photos

Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park Collage
Balboa Park Collage

Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove

Snorkeling, Diving, Kayaking, La Jolla Cove San Diego

La Jolla Cove deserves its reputation as a wonderful place to snorkel and dive. While diving might not be for younger children, snorkeling is something that everybody in the family can do, provided they can swim. The cove is sheltered from the open sea so it's a safe haven for newbies. Many different kind of fish can be seen in their natural habitat - like yellowtail, rays, and even a few leopard sharks! 

While Kayaks are permitted, surfing of any kind is not. Nor are any other types of floating gizmos permitted. That's to ensure the safety of swimmers, divers, and those who are snorkeling with their faces down, gazing at the sea life below. Lifeguards staff the beach during the day so safety is assured.

In addition, there is a bathroom with shower facilties as well as picnic areas.

The Collage I made of La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove, San Diego
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove

Point Loma Tide Pools

Tide Pools, Point Loma, San Diego

When I was a kid growing up in South Africa in the 50s, tide pools and shells littered the beaches like cheese on a pizza. These days, one has to go far out to see those things. That said, they are a must for every young child growing up. There are quite a few beaches in the San Diego area that offer tide pools. La Jolla Shores is one and Point Loma is another. I'm going to focus on Point Loma because they have an excellent reputation and they're easier to get to.

The lovely thing about spending three or four happy hours exploring tide pools is that it doesn't have to be a hot day. It can just as well be a cloudy, cool day, and the experience will be just as blissful. For a more educational experience, read up about the many snails, sea urchins, small fish, and crabs that frequent these pools so that you can name them when your young ones find them. You can expect to find sea hares, sculpin, shrimp, starfish, octopi, mussels (masses of those), limpets, hermit crabs, anemones, and starfish depending on which day you go and which rock pool you find.

Just be sure that everybody wears suitable shoes because most rock pools are -well - on rocks. They are really pools of water that are left behind when the tide goes out.

Collage I made of Point Loma Tide Pools

Point Loma Tide Pools
Tide Pools
Tide Pools

A Day at Sea World

Seaworld, San Diego

There’s no way anyone can be bored at Sea World. There are numerous shows and activities plus an aquarium. And just like Balboa Park and the zoo, it's not possible to do it all in one day. So it's best to decide on a few activities you would prefer and purchase an annual ticket so that you can come back often. Even in winter, Sea World is a good buy. It's educational and there are many indoor activities.

Just to name a few of the rides (best done in summer), Journey to Atlantis (an actual ride on the water), Wild Arctic Ride (a simulated ride in a helicopter), the Sky Tower which takes you high above for a view never to be forgotten, the castaway rapids (which is awesome fun and one of my favorite rides even though I’m all grown up), and swimming with the dolphins! 

Activities that don't involve water splatter or water immersion include roller coaster rides, going up to the Sky Tower to see a spectacular view of San Diego (Well, I assume that as I'm frightened of heights and the last time I was that high was my hapless journley to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I was so frightened I went right down again),  watch one of the shows be it about pets or one of the whales performing. and/or do a walk through the underwater tunnel. It's simply amazing. The only other underwater tunnel I've been in was the one in Barcelona (Spain) which is also pretty amazing. You simply have to do one walk through a water tunnel in your life, and the kids will absolutely love it!

Again, look for special deals for Seaworld in ads on the web, newspapers, and coupons.

A Collage of Photos I made of SeaWorld in San Diego

Seaworld San Diego
Seaworld San Diego
Seaworld San Diego

Take the Ferry to Coronado Island, and Ride a Bike!

Coronado Island, San Diego

It’s a couple of bucks to take the ferry to Coronado island. You'll alight on the side of the island that faces San Diego and will be witness to one of the most spectacular (and much photographed) views of America's favorite city. (Where did that come from?) That photo of the sailing ship on the middle left of the collage is one I took from the ferry, and the middle right is the ferry I took.

You can explore the touristy shops at this end of Coronado Island then take the bus (only two run) to the other side of the island. Ask the bus driver to tell you when you're at Hotel Del Coronado and walk to the Del.

I'm going to walk you through Coronado Island using the collage of photos I put together below. Firstly, that's me in the center. I am an hons Interior design major, but in another life, would probably have been an architect (or a geologistor  one of the Star Trek staff, but those are other stories). Anyway, I just love old architecture and Coronado Island is a mesh of the most spectacular colorful homes.  I know that kiddies probably aren't interested in beautiful homes, but the streets are wide and empty of traffic, and bike rides are awesome! Coronado Island has many bike paths so riding around the island is a must. If you don't have your own bikes, there's rent a bike store in the village. 

The photo on the top left is of the Del Coronado Hotel which used to be world famous to our parents (or grandparents). On the right top row of the collage, I share a photo that is part of the Del's collection of famous people who visited her. In this particular one Errol Flynn is shown with his friends.

The Del hotel is quite fascinating to explore. It contains lovely little shops as well as awesome ice cream and an amazing breakfast. If you arrive on the early ferry, having breakfast on the outside terrace and watching the beach is also nice. Then take the kids to the beach. It has a few rock pools on the left and a wide, white beach that stretches forever (forever means the military base on the other side of the island).

If you decide not to spend the day at the beach, there's a bike path that runs alongside the main road to Imperial Beach. The road is a scenic drive in the best manner possible with wide stretches of ocean on both sides of the road. It's rather like crossing the ocean on a bridge, but at ground level. 

A Collage of Photos I made of Coronado Island

Coronado Island, San Diego
Coronado Island
Coronado Island

Year Round Events in San Diego

Events San Diego.

They say if you're tired of London, you're tired of life. I say if you can't find an event in San Diego, you're living somewhere else. San Diego is full of events. They range from parades, competitive sand castle building, san diego comic-con, sailing on tall ships, renaissance fairss, the San Diego fair, and more. For action packed days any time of the year, simply pick up a free copy of The San Diego Reader and see which event is on. Most are family events. So, once more, I'm going to walk you through the collage of photos I have put together below.

Tall Ships and other Nautical Shows.
First row on the left, is the Bounty sailing ship. Once a year, San Diego has a Tall ships festival and tall ships come from all over the world and dock there, and the general public pays a fee and then boards all the ships. You can even sail out into the bay on some of them. Incidentally, the Bounty has a history. It was used in one of the Pirates of the Carribean movies and recently sunk as a consequence of being caught in Hurricane Sandy. Two lives were lost as well as the ship. Thankfully, all over passengers were rescued.

Fairs - The San Diego County Fair 
What's life without a fair? And children just love fairs. The middle picture on the top row was taken a couple of years ago of pirates partaking in an Oceanside fair. But it's the San Diego County Fair that's the real big one. It runs in summer for close to a month and it has numerous entertainments. There's also the Renaissance Fair (middle row on the left) that is so much fun. I just love the staged battles between knights in shinning armor and the representation of how things looked in the middle ages. . The collage (left middle) shows some ladies dressed in middle ages apparel..

San Diego Comic-Con
I'm biased over here becauise I'm a staffer. If you look at the collage below, that's me standing next to the Battle Los Angeles whirlybird. Sunday is the big day for children to go to the con. These days you have to book nine months in advance so if you haven't made your reservations yet, now's the time.

It used to drive me crazy living just off University Avenue because I used to be woken up at least once a month on a Sunday morning for yet another parade. Now that I moved out of that area, I guess I'm still waking up early Sunday mornings to go see the parade - only this time I have to travel! :)

So there's the San Diego Parade of Lights in early December. The yachts (boats) sail from Shelter Island, alongside San Diego shoreline, and finish up at Coronado Island. Each yacht is decorated according to a them. 

The center photo of my collage is the Gay Pride parade. It's an amazing parade and probably one of the biggest and most colorful in San Diego. Then there's Day of the Dead Parade in Old Town (that's me standing next to that huge skull bottom left hand corner) and the St. Patricks Day Parade (alongside Balboa Park), and the Mardi Gras parade which takes place in downtown San Diego in the evening on Fat Tuesday. 

Sand Castle Contests and Competitions
Building magnificent sand castles appears to becoming more and more popular. There seem to be smaller ones popping up here and there and you'll have to check google for details However, the really big one takes place on labor day weekend. The photo on the last line in the middle was taken at Pacific Beach a couple of years ago.

Block Parties, Street Markets, and Cultural Events
Block parties happen quite often and nobody seems to care who comes.Street markets are a way of life in San Diego and each day of the week will find one somewhere. Generally they have some form of entertainment attached. You will need to do your homework on this one as they are all so different and change from year to year. In the block party picture I have of myself (last line, first on left), the organisers arranged a competition for the best dressed bicyle and little kiddies just loved it! Some of the cultural events have an air castle or something for the kids to jump on.

Collage of Year Round Events in San Diego

San Diego Events
San Diego Events
San Diego Events

San Diego Fun Things to Do For Families

Fun Activities for Familes in San Diego

So there you have it! Whether you've decided to take the kids with crayons, paper, and a picnic basket to the Spanish Art Village at Balboa Park and park yourself on a bench with a table while everybody draws, or you're set on a day cycling through Coronado Island, it's great fun for everybody in the family- big kids, small kids, and in between kids. San Diego is an amazing place.

Updated: 11/23/2012, TessaSchlesinger
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TessaSchlesinger on 11/15/2012

Thank you Dustytoes - much appreciated. :)

dustytoes on 11/15/2012

I've never been to San Diego but your photos are fantastic and the info here is enough to keep everyone very busy when visiting. Wonderful page!

TessaSchlesinger on 11/14/2012

Thank you, Mira. :)

Mira on 11/14/2012

Wow! How amazing! San Diego is a wonderful place. I knew about the zoo, but not much besides that.

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