First timers in San Diego have a sensational array of attractions to choose from. The long white beaches, the onshore wildlife and the vibrant culture makes San Diego utterly fascinating. I only went for a couple of days and still managed to pack in a ton of activities. There can be an overwhelming about to do in San Diego, so making an itinerary can be tricky.
San Diego is a very family friendly city, and accommodates to all ages, tastes and preferences.
Here’s a quick list of family friendly things that are a must:
Visit the San Diego beaches
As if you didn’t know already, but San Diego has an amazing coast. Not only because it’s so vast, but the landscape is stunning and you can get up close to some amazing wildlife, like seals, just don’t touch them they will bite.
La Jolla is known as San Diego’s “jewel by the sea” for it’s long coastlines and magnificent views. It’s a surreal experience to stand on top of the cliff and feel the sea breeze brush past you. On one side stands the fantastic coastline, that illustrates a timeline of the shore, and on the other side a herd of seals congregating to soak up the sun on the warm rocks.
There’s more to La Jolla than scenic walks and caves, there’s also a chance to play golf on a number of world class golf courses. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a chance to take in the local art, there are many gallery’s and boutiques in the area. On top of that, the food in the neighborhood is deeeelicious.
Mission Beach is a great place where you can rent segways and bikes, and just cruise along the golden long coast line. Located in central San Diego, Mission Beach is built on a sand bar and offers a vibrant and lively diversity of activities. From street performers, to night clubs, to fun eateries, there’s a whole days worth of things to do.
Bordering the ocean there’s a fun fair attraction called Belmont Park. Like any other fair ground, it’s animated with hyper children running around, the sound of arcade games going off and reeks of burnt sugar. It’s a great place to let the kids burn off their energy, and it’s just off the beach, so that’s a bonus.
During peak times, Belmont Park can be overwhelmingly crowded. If the suns out, and it’s a weekend, don’t count on getting a parking space. It’s a very popular place, so plan wisely to avoid the rush.
Shopping in San Diego
The shopping in San Diego is great, it can get a little pricey, but it all depends on where you want to swipe your credit card. Below are 3 options that are all easily accessible with a car.
Horton Plaza is located just off Gaslamp district and can be easily accessed by car or foot. It’s a pleasant outdoor mall, with all typical American stores you’d want. The design can be a little confusing and will require some walking between each level.
Tip: Parking is free for the first 3 hours, so don’t forget to validate your ticket before you leave the mall. Also, when parking your car pay close attention to where you park, it can be confusing to find again.
Fashion Valley Mall is an upscale mall and filled with great stores, quick food options and open air space. Like any other mall it can get over crowded, however since it is open, it makes it feel less claustrophobic. Parking can be tough on busy days, like the weekends, so be prepared.
Outlets are the holy grail of shopping addicts. where designer and high-end stores slash their prices (or seemingly so).
The Gaslamp Quarter is full of San Diegan culture and is a must for anyone visiting the area. Considered as heart of San Diego’s nightlife, it caters to families, couples and weekend retreaters. This area houses a mixture of fine dining, boutique shops, bars, and nightclubs.
You can spend the whole day exploring this cosmopolitan district, there’s so much to see, eat and buy. To virtually explore the area, visit: http://gaslamp.org/
Located minutes from the main Gaslamp Quarter area is the marina, just outside of the Marriott hotel. It stretches for a couple of miles, and traces the stunning San Diego coastline. It’s a great opportunity to take a stroll or a bike ride, and glance at the enormous boats docked. There are a couple restaurants a long the way which is perfect for a brunch date.
If you don’t have kids then LEGOLAND might not be for you. It can be an overwhelming experience going childless. Regardless, the Lego architecture is fascinating, so if you’re interested in going I’d suggest going on a weekday. They have rides for all ages, even for the adults.
Top tip: Upgrade to the new Reserve ‘N’ Ride electronic ride reservation system, which allows you to plan and reserve a space on the top 12 rides in the park.
Tickets are around $88/adult and $82 for a child. It’s a whole day out, very interactive and great for the family.
More to do:
Unfortunately, I was only able to spend a couple days in San Diego, so there was a lot I couldn’t do. However, if you’re interested in exploring more options here are the top attractions:
- San Diego Zoo
- Coronado Beach
- Petco Park – If it’s baseball season you can catch a game at Petco Park.
- Seaport Village
- Local craft breweries – If you’re in to your craft beers here’s a great map of all the breweries in San Diego: San Diego Brewers Guild
- USS Midway Museum – explore the sleeping quarters, galleys and the engine room of a aircraft carrier
If you’re looking for places to eat in San Diego, check out another post I wrote about Where to eat (and where not to).
There’s so much to do in San Diego that you will probably want to visit it again and again to absorb it’s true beauty. Let me know how your trip went or if you think there should be other activities added to the list.