San Diego Zoo
This world famous zoo will amaze children and adults alike! The habitat inspired enclosures make the experience unique and enjoyable. Be sure to watch the swimming hippos and polar bears. Also, visit the tigers, pandas, koalas and Children’s zoo. Please note: the zoo is set on a steep hill be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring or rent a stroller.
If you’re determined to see the whole property, consider the popular hop-on, hop-off bus. The zoo also pre-books private tours which are definitely worth considering.
The zoo’s sister property located in the northeast section of the county is the “safari” style Wild Animal Park. There is a monorail that runs through expansive enclosures. For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, they offer special encounters like a “photo safari” and overnight camp outs.
No matter what ages your children are, the beach is always fun. San Diego offers miles of public beaches. Some with boardwalks and college crowds (Pacific Beach), some with tide pools (La Jolla), all with the natural beauty the Pacific has to offer. The beautiful ocean and San Diego weather provide many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Sea World is the perfect combination between education and amusement. The shows are informative and entertaining. Bring hats to avoid roasting while sitting in the bleachers. Also, if your kid loves getting soaked…thoroughly soaked, by whales or dolphins bring a change of clothes.
There’s a “fun zone” with fantastic climbing structures, a water play zone and even a roller coaster. What more do you need? For smaller kids, consider hand feeding the dolphins or walruses and exploring sea animals in the tidal pool exhibit. You can also pre-book “exclusive experiences” to feed or train different animals.
Birch Aquarium & La Jolla
La Jolla means “the jewel” and truly this is a special little town. Start at Birch Aquarium located at the nation’s leading oceanography research center. This is an intimate sight that takes about 45 minutes to explore. The back terrace offers some of the best beach views, as well as, a small tide pool. It’s an easy destination for any age.
Within a few miles you have many fun options. You can watch the hang-gliders soar from the cliffs (keep toddlers close), hike Torrey Pines National Reserve, or go to La Jolla Cove to run, play eat and gallery hop. We love Children’s Cove because the seals are right on the beach and you can get within 20 feet and they are truly entertaining. Don’t miss the Brockton Villa for a great breakfast overlooking the cove.
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre complex, which is home to the zoo, but also offers a multitude of museums, theatres and large open areas to run. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is a favorite among children that love hands-on exhibits. We also love the Old Globe Theater and the Starlight (open-air) Theater.
Note: If you only are in San Diego for a short time, you may want to skip LegoLand. It can be fun, however, the lines are often horribly long. We have had many meltdowns waiting over an hour for the little kid rides. That said, the structures created are truly amazing and the rides are fun. Consider the pricey, but helpful VIP pass and definitely go on a weekday.
Photo by Nancy Solomon