POV: When Your Parents Let You Plan a Kid-Friendly San Diego Vacation
When we say San Diego has a little something for everyone, we mean it. Especially if “everyone” includes the kids! Our city is absolutely chock-full of family-friendly activities that young visitors — and their big people — can enjoy equally. So we thought it would be fun to imagine what might happen if the responsibility of planning an escape to “America’s Finest City” fell to the youngest members of the crew. With that in mind, here are some great activities to consider when planning your family-friendly San Diego vacation.
Adventure Water Sports (just steps away!)
Our good friends at Adventure Water Sports offer family watercraft rentals so you and your squad can set off on a fun aquatic adventure. Their fleet features easy-to-operate craft like twin-engine waterskiing boats, waverunners, pontoon boats perfect for leisurely cruising, and other multi-passenger craft ideal for fun and exploration. Best of all, they have a location right here at the Dana! So you won’t have to go far to find a great day.
1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
SeaWorld San Diego (1 mile)
You find out your family is taking you to sunny San Diego, and aside from boogie boards at the beach, what else comes to mind? A day at SeaWorld! This attraction has delighted generations of visitors with its entertaining and educational up-close marine-life exhibits of playful seals, orcas, dolphins, and more. Any kid-friendly day would have to include riding the brand new Emperor rollercoaster, watching the high-flying Dolphin Adventure show, and zipping through the fastest, longest straddle coaster of the West Coast with speeds of 40 mph on Arctic Rescue.
500 SeaWorld Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
Belmont Park (1.1 miles away)
Families, thrillseekers, and (of course) kids looking for a great day out will find much to love at Belmont Park. This timeless boardwalk-style waterfront destination is the perfect place to have lots of family fun. Belmont Park is located in picturesque Mission Beach and features favorite attractions like the Giant Dipper coaster, mini-golf, rock climbing, classic oceanside dining, and more.
3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
See The Seals
If you’d like to check out some marine life in its natural habitat, a famous colony of seals and sea lions lives near the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. Be sure to bring your camera to capture these playful animals. And speaking of seals, San Diego SEAL Tours offers an experience kids always give their “seal of approval”! During the tour, the whole family can climb aboard an amphibious vehicle, drive directly into the water, and see the city sights.
Children’s Pool: 834 Coast S Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037 (6.7 miles)
San Diego Seal Tours: 500 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101 (7.2 miles)
Balboa Park (10 miles)
The city’s most famous green space isn’t just a beautiful crown jewel, it’s also full of amazing attractions kids love. When you go, don’t miss taking the family to fantastic destinations like the Fleet Science Center, and its IMAX Dome Theatre. Current features include the Train Time and Design Zone exhibits, and the epic Antarctica and Turtle Odyssey documentary films. Once you’re back outside, why not go for a ride on the carousel, or stop for some fun at one of the many playgrounds within the park? Grab a quick bite to eat at any of several in-park restaurants, and then stop in and see the animals at the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego Botanic Garden (10 miles away)
The breathtaking San Diego Botanic Garden offers visitors more than two dozen themed gardens over 37 colorful and freshly fragrant acres. The Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden delights younger guests with giant soap bubbles, a kid-sized railroad, and playhouse to explore. Older kids will enjoy Hamilton Children’s Garden, where they can play a giant game of tic-tac-toe, navigate a labyrinth, and learn how sundials work.
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Sesame Place San Diego (23.3 miles)
(Photo: @sesameplaceca )
San Diego’s news family attraction is also proving to be one of its most popular, and for good reason. Sesame Place is a delightful destination for all ages, featuring all the charm of one of the most treasured kids’ shows in history. Visitors will also discover rides, shows, amazing food, a daily parade, pictures with the characters, and even a picture-perfect reproduction of Sesame Street itself. So come and play. Everything’s A-OK!
2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, CA 91911
LEGOLand California (32 miles away)
If the kids are calling the shots, chances are you’re going to find yourself taking a short trip up the coast to LEGOLand California. LEGOLand in neighboring Carlsbad is an area favorite that’s not to be missed. Thrill rides, live shows, and larger-than-life displays of brick-based art have delighted families here for more than two decades. The park also offers regular seasonal festivals, fantastic food, and meet-and-greets (and photo ops!) with kid-favorite characters. Be sure to check the gift shop to pick up LEGO apparel, snacks, and even souvenir toy sets.
One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
San Diego Zoo Safari Park (34.7 miles)
You and the crew won’t want to miss out on the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in nearby Escondido. The Safari Park offers visitors a wildlife experience not to be missed. At just over 1,800 acres, it’s one of the largest free-range animal habitats in the world. Visitors here enjoy a true safari experience as they observe over 2,600 different animals across 300 species (and even feed giraffes!), all thriving in an environment much as they would occupy in the wild. Check out the family activities they offer — such as overnight camping, guided tours, and other family-friendly activities — right here.
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027
No crew travels on an empty stomach. But, let’s face it: kids can be “discerning” when it comes to dining out. Luckily, San Diego is full of fantastic family-friendly restaurants — including our own poolside Firefly Eatery & Bar with its kid-approved Lightning Bugs menu. Plus, every Tuesday, kids 12 and under eat free! Be sure to also check out these family-first eateries as well:
- The Baked Bear: Customize a create-your-own ice-cream sandwich.
- Grater Grilled Cheese: The classic comfort-food favorite in endless variations.
- Working Class: Sandwiches, sliders, wings, rings, fries, and mac & cheese.
- Corvette Diner: Fun ‘50s-style diner full of chrome, milkshakes and doo-wop.
- Station Tavern: Pub grub with an outdoor play area to help burn energy.
Bring the Squad for a Stay at The Dana
There’s no better place for your roving band of adventurers to bunk during your San Diego escapades than right here at The Dana on Mission Bay. Not only do we offer a central location and great rates, kids absolutely love our family-friendly amenities — like “dive-in movies” you can watch from the pool! When you’re ready to plan, take a look at our Special Offers page, and book your stay today!