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Crystal Pier at the Pacific Beach in San Diego

Fun Family Activities When Visiting San Diego

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If you are looking for ideas for your next fun-filled family trip, I highly recommend visiting San Diego as a destination you should consider. After researching several beach and ski options, our family decided to head there during a recent Spring Break. We had a ton of fun and can’t wait to return to this great city on California’s southern coast.

Here are some of my family’s memorable experiences that I would highly recommend to others visiting San Diego:

Legoland

We started our trip by driving to one of the top attractions in the area, Legoland. I have to admit the park completely exceeded my expectations… it was so much fun! Truth be told, we have some pretty die-hard LEGO aficionados in our family, but I cannot imagine any kid, regardless of age or gender, not loving it. I highly recommend a visit despite the pricey entrance fees.

SeaWorld

Because we only had a few days, we had to prioritize SeaWorld over the famous San Diego Zoo. (While perhaps not comparable, we have two pretty great zoos in Chicago.) Similar to Legoland, this was another fantastic, all-day experience. Visit the funny sea lion and acrobatic dolphins shows. Have your kids feed fish to the seals. Take a wild ride on the Shipwreck Rapids (but don’t forget the ponchos!) or ride the Atlantis roller coaster. For a break from all the walking and beautiful vistas of the bay, our family took a ride on Sea World’s Sky Bucket. But the most memorable experience of the park, hands down, was visiting the giant orcas and watching their amazing show. Our children kept chanting sha-mu, sha-mu for the rest of our trip!

USS Midway

I highly recommend paying a visit to the USS Midway, located in downtown San Diego Bay. At the time, my 8-year old son was obsessed with the military, so he insisted that we visit. This turned out to be an incredible experience for our entire family, despite my initial doubts. We had so much fun exploring the many decks, visiting the crew’s quarters and learning about the life on the aircraft carrier (there are over 60 exhibits). Our children loved ringing the ship’s bell, getting a knot-tying lesson and particularly, visiting the ship’s jail (the brig). The grand finale of our visit was the top deck (the tour starts on the lowest deck) with its unbelievable display of Naval aircraft. My son was beaming when he sat in the F-14 Tomcat (cue the Top Gun music!) and posed for a picture. Definitely plan to spend the entire day here… there is so much to see and do. We actually ran out of steam and never got to visit the bridge, which we will have to do the next time we visit.

Learning how to read flag signals aboard USS Midway when visiting San Diego

Learning how to read flag signals aboard USS Midway.

Torrey Pines State Park

A friend who lives in the area suggested a visit to Torrey Pines State Park. I’m glad we followed her advice, because this turned out to be another highly memorable experience for us! The park had us at hello, or I should say, its entrance! Start your visit at the Visitor Center to learn many fascinating facts about the majestic pines that give the park its name and the natural reserve where they grow. Torrey pines are the rarest pines in the U.S. and famous for their five needle clusters. There are several fantastic hikes, varying in length and difficulty, all offering spectacular views of the Pacific coast. I highly recommend one that ends at the beach where you can have a picnic lunch; there is no food or drink in the park so make sure you plan accordingly. Our kids loved it! The park is splendid year round, but a visit to this area during our Spring Break was particularly rewarding as much of the vegetation was in full bloom offering an amazing show of colors.

Hiking in Torrey Pines State Park when visiting San Diego

Hiking in Torrey Pines State Park.

Coronado Island

Another experience I very much recommend is a drive over the impressive Coronado Bridge to visit to the picturesque Coronado Island. A great way to leisurely explore the island, even if you drove here, is to rent bikes. Make sure to pay a visit to the majestic Hotel del Coronado, rich in history and representing a bit of old world San Diego (the hotel is proclaimed a National Historic Landmark). After exploring the hotel grounds, take a family photo directly on the spot where Marilyn Monroe took her famous pose while filming Some Like It Hot. Ask any hotel employee or simply look at the picture available in the small museum which is part of the hotel. Consider scheduling your visit in the afternoon and then staying for dinner at one of Hotel del Coronado’s restaurants while watching the sunset over the Pacific, which can be a particularly memorable experience. Our family took a lovely pre-dinner stroll along the incredible beach stretching out directly behind the hotel.

La Jolla

Drive slightly north of the city to visit the cheery town of La Jolla. It is a lovely place to spend a leisurely day with your family. You will enjoy walking around the downtown area, visiting many interesting shops and trying some of its excellent restaurants. The most memorable experience for children, however, is without a doubt La Jolla’s a stroll to the beach area to see famous sea lions, basking in the on giant rocks just off the shore. There are also large colonies of birds. But be prepared… the stench from the bird droppings and sea lions is very pungent and extends well beyond the beach area (so you should have an easy time finding your way to them). For families with older kids, I recommend booking a kayaking tour, another great way to see the sea lions and cliffs of La Jolla.

Pacific Beach

Of course it is impossible to talk about visiting San Diego without mentioning the miles of its fantastic sandy beaches where you can take relaxing walks, play in the sand, catch a wave or simply sunbathe. Pacific Beach was one of our favorite areas and we especially enjoyed exploring scenic Crystal Pier.

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A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…

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