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San Diego with Kids

Experience San Diego with kids in a way that the whole family will love! Check out our tips, recommendations, and must-dos to plan a trip that’s awesome for both kids and grownups.

girl running on coronado beach in san diego

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: traveling with kids is the best. Yes, it takes more energy and more planning than a grownups-only trip (hello, fully stocked purse!) — but sharing travel experiences with the kids in your life is absolutely priceless.

Seeing a kid discover the world can help you discover it all over again. Totally worth it.

On our recent trip to Santa Barbara with kids we made a point (like we always do!) to plan a visit that’s both grownup and kid friendly — a little something for them, and a little something for us. It was a wonderful trip and we discovered some wonderful, off-the-beaten-path secret spots along with San Diego’s tried and true attractions.

Read on for all of our recommendations in San Diego with kids!

So Many Ideas for Traveling with Kids!

If you travel with kids often, be sure to check out lots of our other posts — we’ve been around the world with our kiddos and have tons to share.

And see below for lots of city-specific guides for kid-friendly travel.

child at the san diego children's musuem

Beaches and Playgrounds

boy on monkey bars in san diego

Kellogg Park / La Jolla Shores Beach. Kellogg Park in La Jolla has a great playground right on the beach front. It’s a perfect spot to let the kids run around, with lots of seating for parents. It’s right on the beach, so you could even pack a lunch and make a day of it.

Coronado Beach. One of our favorite beaches for kids in the area is Coronado Beach, just behind the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s nice and wide with soft sand for little feet. The waves are pretty kid-friendly, too.

La Jolla Cove. A pretty little cove that’s popular for diving and snorkeling because of the calm, clear water. You can also spot seals and sea lions most days.

Attractions and Secret Spots

san diego with kids

Secret Swings. One thing I wanted to try to do this trip was to find one of La Jolla’s secret swings. There are (I think) three tree swings, hidden around La Jolla. Two of them are a bit more dangerous to get to (overlooking cliffs or water), but this one was totally easy for us with a 6 and a 4 year old. To get to this swing, park in the southernmost end of the Birch Aquarium parking lot. Look for a small trail leading up the hill (you’ll have to step over a little rock-filled trench. Walk up the hill, following the trail, for about 100 feet. You should find this swing!

As a heads up, apparently sometimes the swings get taken down and then put back up at random. This particular swing gets painted over regularly. If you go, be respectful, clean up after yourself, and leave the place better than you found it for the next person.

Japanese Friendship Garden. This was a part of Balboa Park that we had never experienced before. If you’ve never been to Balboa, I highly recommend choosing a few of the museums or sights and spending a day there! The Japanese Garden is absolutely beautiful and fun to wander around in. Bring snacks and water, and consider it like a little mini hike for the kids.

woman in japanese friendship garden in balboa park in san diego

The New Children’s Museum. The New Children’s Museum is a beautiful space for kids to learn and play! It’s in the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego, with both indoor and outdoor play spaces. The museum’s focus is contemporary art, so the kids can interact with the art by climbing, playing, and exploring all over the pieces.

child at the san diego children's musuem

Fun San Diego Shops That Kids and Grownups Will Both Love

kid in front of san diego mural

Artelexia. A colorful, incredibly inspiring shop in the North Park area of San Diego (be sure to shop and wander in both North Park and South Park!). It’s full of Mexican gifts, art, and home decor. So fun to wander through for the whole family!

Pigment. A new favorite shop for sure! There are three locations (one is nearby Artelexia), but they each have similar stock. Perfect for plant shopping and all of the accessories (amazing pots, ceramics, filler, and more). There’s a kids section to keep the little ones interested.

Del Mar Plaza. A cute shopping center with a bunch of fun little shops all in one spot. There’s another Pigment here, along with some cute beachy clothing and home goods stores. There’s also a Shake Shack if you get hungry!

South Park. A few favorite spots in South Park: Thread + Seed, Gold Leaf (a great kids section!), and Communal Coffee (a cute coffee spot with a great boutique).

pigment shop in san diego

Legoland Recommendations

things to do with kids in san diego
legoland with kids

I wasn’t expecting to love Legoland, but I did! It’s a great park for kids ages 2-10 (or thereabouts).

A few tips that we found handy!

  • If the popular rides are a priority for you, hit those first. The popular ones on the day we went were Emmett’s Flying Adventure and the Technic Roller Coaster.
  • Make use of all of the climbing and play structures! If you plow straight through the park without taking your time you could conceivably finish it all before the day is done. So take your time and let your kids play on the structures. They’re all great, and there’s usually a place for parents to sit and watch nearby.
  • Definitely try the apple fries. Also, we liked our meal at Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ. There were great healthy options for all of us.
  • BYO snacks and water.
  • If you want to let your kids play in the splashpads, bring dry clothes.
  • Don’t miss MiniLand! The LEGO recreations of famous cities are so detailed and fascinating.

Restaurants to Try with Kids in San Diego

eating with kids in san diego at morning glory
eating with kids in san diego at morning glory

Morning Glory. This place feels like an adult spot, but just bring some coloring for your kiddos to entertain them and you’ll all love the food! Try the french toast.

Little Italy. In general a good spot to look for a restaurant is Little Italy. Wander the blocks and stop in a place that looks good!

Poké 123. Make your own poké bowl in Coronado! You can customize your bowl however you like and there are plenty of options that kids like too.

Fatfish. An easy, family-friendly cantina vibe in Pacific Beach with great chips, salsa, and margaritas.

Don’t Forget To Bring These Things to San Diego With Kids

kids in san diego

A few things we always bring on our travels to make them easy and extra fun!

  • Bring scooters and helmets for the kids. Especially in beach cities with boardwalks or walking paths, it helps them keep moving if we’re walking a long way.
  • Art supplies are always in my purse when we travel! I carry mini markers and small coloring books to keep the kids entertained while we wait for food at restaurants so we don’t need to resort to letting them play on a phone.
  • All the snacks. I always have a few extra snacks in my bag to avoid any of us (adults included!) getting hangry.
mother and son in old town san diego

Have you ever been to San Diego with kids? I’d love to know what some of your favorite spots are! xoxo

kids in san diego
family in coronado at the hotel del coronado near san diego

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4 thoughts on “San Diego with Kids

  1. San Diego will always have my heart! It was home for years! Next time, visit:
    1. Liberty Station for their public market, great outdoor fountains and play areas, abs so many good food spots!
    2. Seaport village is always a fun escape by downtown, equipped with shopping, food, a sea village motif (hence the name), and a land/water tour boat along the harbor!
    3. In La Jolla, sunset cliffs and the hang glider point (just north of birch aquarium and across from UCSD) are breathtakingly magnificent.
    4. Speaking of…UCSD’s campus is a random but noteworthy place to visit. It has some of the coolest art instillations around campus, a “stop you in your tracks library” that looks like a spaceship (fun fact, it has been featured in major films!) and all around great trails within main campus.
    5. The less touristy places to visit are definitely worth mentioning: hillcrest, logan heights, bird rock, ocean beach, and if you go more north, Solana beach, Carlsbad, and Encinitas (the SD botanical gardens there are amazing!).
    I love SD!!

    1. Yes! I’ve done a few of these but there are definitely some you mentioned that I need to put on my list for next time! Thanks so much for sharing.