We just got back from a week long family trip to San Diego. In addition to being the home of Ron Burgandy, San Diego boasts near perfect weather, picturesque beaches, parks, and lots of fun outdoor activities that will make the whole family happy.
You can buy tickets to each of the attractions separately, or access multiple attractions together with Go City Attraction Pass, where you can buy multi day passes from 1-7 days for lots of different activities in San Diego.
Travel tip: Don’t forget your sunscreen! The weather in San Diego somehow feels pleasant nearly all the time, so it’s easy to forget to keep putting sunblock on all day. These Coppertone sunscreen sticks are small and fit in a bag or pocket easily to help keep the kids covered throughout the day.
Below is a week long itinerary for a trip to San Diego with kiddos, based largely on our trip.
Day 1: Balboa Park
We stayed across the street from Balboa Park at Inn at the Park, convenient for us to explore without having to drive anywhere for the first few days. In addition to letting kids playing on the multiple playgrounds and explore garden, with Balboa Park visitors can explore multiple museums, take in the Spanish architecture, visit the botanical gardens, ride the trolly or carousel, or visit the Model Railroad Museum, Natural History Museum, or Fleet Science Center. This is one of my favorite sites in San Diego, and you could spend days here.
Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Day 2: San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is actually on the north side of Balboa Park, so we were able to walk there from the hotel. We spent an entire day at there and still didn’t see it all. The zoo features a new Wildlife Explorer’s Basecamp for kids with splash pad, science labs, playground, and other educational activities. The zoo also boats special attractions like a sky tram and double decker bus tours which are included with admission, as well as many rare plants. My favorite animals to see at this zoo were the giraffe and koala bears. Mila, as always, liked the cheetahs the best.
San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Day 3: Sea World
We have Sea World in Orlando, so I opted to skip it this trip and spend time with friends, but this is a must for any littles that love dolphins, whales, sharks, penguins, and sea critters of all types. Max spends part of his summer each year at Sea World Camp and absolutely loves it! (I’m including the link to Orlando’s Sea World Camp site HERE as well.)
Sea World San Diego, 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA 92109
Day 4: Beach Day
I always think it’s good to have a day to sleep in, relax and regroup in the middle of a trip. A day hitting up the best beaches in SoCal is just what the doctor ordered. The kids loved getting to run around the beach and got some of their energy out playing in the waves. I loved taking pictures of the Pacific Ocean and coastlines. I’ve included a link to the Best Beaches in San Diego County here. We enjoyed the beach by our second hotel, the Del, on Coronado Island.
Day 5: San Diego Safari Park
This was hands down, my favorite zoo experience ever and my favorite part of our trip to San Diego. The San Diego Safari Park is an easy a thirty minute drive north from downtown San Diego, and is worth every minute of the trip. We made a giant loop around the park and recommend starting on the left hand side and making a loop around to the right throughout the day. Maxwell was super excited to see the platypus (the only one in North America according to an episode of Blippi that he regularly references). I loved the kangaroo and tiger experiences the most. Your ticket includes a 2 minute safari ride through the preserve, and there’s a hot air balloon for an extra fee. (Don’t miss the views from Kilama Point!)
San Diego Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California 92027-7017
Day 6: Explore Coronado and Old Town
I’ve included Coronado Island and Old Town together because you can visit both in one day. In the morning head over to Old Town, saving Coronado for later in the day and maybe even a nice sunset on the beach.
Old Town is a living history park that recreates life in the early 1800s when San Diego was still part of Mexico. Max liked the carriage house museum and magic shop we found there. This is a California state park and is worth stopping to see, but it’s a bit busy with restaurants and shops. Admission and parking is free.
We stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado for the second half of our trip (the Del to locals). Even if you don’t stay there, it’s worth going to walk around the hotel. This historic hotel was originally constructed in 1888, and has hosted presidents and celebrities through the ages, including Marilyn Monroe who filed Some Like It Hot there in the 1950s. Just in case it looks oddly familiar to any of my Orlando friends, Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel in Florida was largely based on this style of design, except for the interiors which boast an old elevator, dark rich wood interior, and stained glass windows throughout. There are several restaurants and grassy courtyards to visit, and it sits directly on the beach.
Old Town, 4200 Wallace St, San Diego, California 92110
Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, California 92118
Day 7: Visit Seals of La Jolla
I never imagined a beach could look so magical until I visited La Jolla, in northern San Diego. This upscale seaside village sits perched upon cliffs overlooking grassy fields and colorful plants, next to the jagged rocks and Pacific Ocean below. We parked along Coast Boulevard and walked the beach and paths along the shoreline. Max and Mila loved exploring the tidal pools along the water, and getting close to the seals further down the beach. When the kids are older and more adventurous, I want to go kayaking here. You’ll find surfers, hand glider and hikers at nearby Torrey Pines State Park as well.
La Jolla, Coast Boulevard Park, La Jolla, CA 92037
We stayed at Inn at the Park for the first half of our trip, just across from Balboa Park. This allowed us to spend extra time in the park, and we didn’t need to drive much for a few days as the zoo is just on the other side of the park. It features units with kitchens so we stopped by the store so we could make some meals at the hotel. It also had a cool rooftop lounge.
Inn at the Park
525 Spruce St., San Diego, California 92103
For the second half of our trip we moved to a location by the beach and stayed at the Historic Hotel Del Coronado. This was a bucket list hotel for me, and do not regret spending the extra money. . The kids enjoyed exploring the hotel grounds, and loved the pool. There are several restaurants and shops on site, sun deck, and there’s easy access to the beach. The food there is a bit pricey, so consider bringing some items to snack on and for breakfast.
Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, California 92118