Several months ago, my family and I traveled to San Diego. It was perfect timing as Michigan was still trudging through the last of our winter-like weather and we were desperate for some sunshine, warmth and to soak up some Vitamin D. It was definitely a perfectly timed trip to get us through the early months of spring.
While in San Diego we rented a perfect little house that was a mere block from the beach. Having a little home for our family on this trip was great since our kids are still so young. We didn’t have to worry so much about them being too loud, we had our own terrace that was fenced in, and access to a kitchen which was so convenient. The home in San Diego (Mission Beach area) that we rented was perfect for our needs and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling that way with a family. It definitely made our visit more comfortable and pleasant which was so needed.
Since we were traveling with a one and three year old, we needed activities (and lots of coffee) that were easy to accommodate strollers, weren’t too overstimulating, and allowed us to do things at our own pace. Below were a few of our favorite activities and sites that we visited.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium is perfect way to spend a cloudy and cool morning. The Birch Aquarium is home to over 5000+ fish in over 60 habitats. The large and up close aquariums were great for little ones to marvel and enjoy the sea life. The bioluminescent jelly fish, sharks and seahorses were absolutely amazing to witness so closely and we loved the interactive feeding sessions. After you’ve explored the indoors, take a step outside to take in the beautiful view of surfers below and let your children have a hands on experience in the tide pool. Children and parents can enjoy touching urchins, sea cucumbers and starfish in the tide pool while volunteers and staff answer questions and educate on conservation efforts.
La Jolla Cove
After a visit to the aquarium, we headed to La Jolla cover (a few miles south) to get up close and personal with seals basking in the cove and on the rocks. There are spectacular views of sea cliffs that are peppered with hundreds of seals barking and swimming in the water. While the smell from the seals is a bit intense, it’s well worth it to venture closer and watch them in their natural habitat. My son absolutely loved being able to see them so closely and even my daughter was interested (a baby carrier is perfect for popping little ones in for this trek). After visiting the cove, be sure to check out all the upscale and unique small shops and restaurants nearby.
San Diego Zoo
I can’t get over how amazing this zoo is! It’s absolutely beautiful, the exhibits were carefully designed for optimal viewing and the animals are simply spectacular. The San Diego Zoo has been voted the #1 zoo in the world by Trip Advisor and there’s good reason why. There are over 3,500 animals (650 different species) and beyond luscious botanicals in the 10 acre zoo and so many activities to keep you and your kiddos busy that you can easily spend the whole day there. We in particular loved watching the elephants, pandas & hippos, hearing the zookeepers chat, the Skyfari (aerial tram which takes you from one side of zoo to another), and the bonus for parents: they serve beer! The next time we visit San Diego, I’d absolutely love to check out their satellite, San Diego Zoo Safari Park for a more immersive and hands-on experience.
If you’re looking for stunning sunset views, Sunset Cliffs is definitely a must see. While being a bit more rugged than more trafficked scenic areas, Sunset Cliffs is simply beautiful with coastal bluffs, sea caves and arches. Located south of Ocean Beach, it’s a quick drive from downtown and a perfect spot to spend an evening. Be sure to (carefully) walk out to the cliffside to watch the surfers below and take in the crashing of the waves.
Adjacent to San Diego Zoo is Balboa Park. Balboa Park has 17 different museums and cultural institutions within it’s grounds, countless trails, playgrounds, shops, restaurants, fountains and botanicals garden. This is a perfect place to go as a family as there is something from everyone. Make a day of it by hitting up different museums, grabbing lunch, letting the kids burn some energy at the playground and grab some ice cream or iced coffee as you peruse the grounds. Be sure to take advantage of the Balboa Park Explorer Multi-Day Pass to save on admission costs for museums and the zoo.
Mission Beach is a perfect location for families. There are miles and miles of sandy beaches, volleyball courts, Belmont Park, and a boardwalk that’s perfect for bike rides and stroller friendly. Belmont Park is a beachside amusement park that has so many activities for both children and adults. Take a ride on the famous rollercoaster, grab an ice cream cone, enjoy a drink as you watch the sunset, enjoy laser tag, or do a little shopping. We spent many afternoons exploring the beach and waves with our kids (it was their first time at the ocean!).
The U.S.S. Midway Museum is located on one of America’s longest serving aircraft carriers. As you walk through this astonishingly large carrier, you get a first hand look at what life at sea would be like. A floating city, the U.S.S. Midway has 60 exhibits, 29 aircrafts and several flight simulators. We loved being able to see the ins and outs of life at sea and be able to step inside some of the amazing aircraft they had on board.