My husband had a conference in San Diego in September and we decided to tag along with him. This was our first 4-hour plane ride with our almost 4-year old. It was overall a successful trip and here’s our tips and suggestions on things to do with children in San Diego. We packed a bunch of plane activities for the plane to keep us all from losing our sanity.
We didn’t rent a car in San Diego. Uber is prevalent, and fast and easy in San Diego. Since Olivia is almost four we also didn’t pack her car seat but bought this Safe Rider contraption for use inside cabs. Another thing to note was that San Diego schools start back shortly after Labor Day. Therefore we had few crowds where we ventured because most everyone was back in school.
Since our flight from Chicago didn’t arrive until 5pm Pacific, we really only had the energy and stamina to get to the hotel, check in and walk to dinner. We all were tired from a 4 hour flight with a toddler and the time change. We were staying at the Kimpton Hotel Solamar in Gaslamp and it was a fantastic location with many restaurants, coffee houses and shops within walking distance, most being across the street or only a few blocks away.
Waterfront Park & Seaport Village
The time change affected Olivia and she was up at 5am local time which was 7am our local CST time. We walked to an early breakfast and then took an Uber to Waterfront park. Seaport Village has over 80 shops and restaurants and is located near downtown and is on the waterfront, so we also made a pit stop there.
Balboa Park & Lunch at The Prado
Once daddy had to head back to his conference Olivia and I started our adventure with Balboa Park. It’s massive and bigger than Central Park in NYC. San Diego was genius IMO and put all 16 of their museums, botanic gardens, the zoo on the same plot of land. We arrived just in time for a puppet show.
After the puppet show, we roamed around and explored Balboa Park. Thankfully, There is a free trolley that took us from one end of Balboa Park to the other because I forgot to pack the travel stroller. We had lunch at the Prado which was very good and very pretty.
After lunch we headed back to Waterfront Park where we played in the splash pad.
We headed back to the hotel to rest and reset before heading to dinner at Corvette Diner. This is such a great restaurant for kids! I was so impressed. I love anything that helps me entertain my child. Their waitresses are dressed up and they sing to your table. There are games so that after you eat you can play basketball, pin ball, EVERYTHING. We sat in the black light room which Olivia found very cool.
The San Diego Zoo
We walked to get an easy, quick breakfast and bagels at Don’t Spill the Beans, then started our venture to the Zoo. I’m not typically a zoo person. I find them depressing and rarely see animals that look happy. But after hearing all the rave reviews about the San Diego Zoo being rated the best in the WORLD…..I figured we had to check it out. We loved the pandas, the moving sidewalks, the sky tram, and the Koalas.
We ate offsite at Puesto back at Sea Port Village and then headed back to the hotel for rest.
Victorian Village, Belmont Park & Mission Beach
Daddy had part of the day with us. We started our day late and made a pit stop in Old Town – Victorian Village. Then we decided to spend the rest of our day together as a family at Belmont Park.
Some tips with Belmont Park – buy your toddlers child the unlimited bracelet, it’s worth the money. They allow adults to do a discounted unlimited ride bracelet if you toddler isn’t tall enough to ride all the rides. Tickets are less expensive if you buy them online ahead of time.
Today was our first full day together as a family and we went to explore La Jolla. The Cave Store reminded us of the movie The Goonies. Walking down the 144 stairs is scary but adventurous. There is a small fee for the cave entrance and it’s worth it to experience the cave.
After The Cave store, we just walked the path through La Jolla for more sightseeing. The cliffs and landscape are stunning and we had gorgeous weather. The Children’s Pool is an area of beach where the sea lions took over. Unfortunately there weren’t a ton of sea lions sun bathing the time we were exploring. We had lunch downtown La Jolla and then headed back to the hotel for nap time.
Sunday we flew home on an early morning flight. We highly recommend San Diego! It’s a super kid-friendly city that is very fun for parents to explore with children. I can’t wait to go back again as a family! We love California!
Options for Our Next Trip to San Diego
Children’s Museum, Birch Aquarium, Botanic Gardens (west coast’s largest children’s garden), California Surf Museum. My previous post on San Diego has more options for traveling with children as well.