City Guide: San Diego

Your one-stop city guide, packed with information on family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and local and unique attractions.

By The Editors

With its beautiful beaches, amazing attractions and mild temperatures, San Diego has all of the ingredients for a great family vacation year-round.  

HOTELS:

Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 
(800) 468-3533
www.hoteldel.com
Price: Rooms starting at $325/night

Stay at one of America’s long heralded most beautiful beach resorts, Hotel del Coronado. At “the Del” you’ll be staying in a National Historic Landmark, as designated in 1977. In 2012, Coronado was named America’s best beach by Dr. Beach, a coastal expert. While you will love relaxing at the resort’s gorgeous beach or grabbing a pina coloda near the pool, your grandchildren will love Kidtopia Camp, the Del’s facility for children ages 4-12.

Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay
1355 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 
(619) 232-3861
www.hisandiegoonthebay.com
Price: Rooms starting at $119/night

Have the best of both worlds at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. It’s only a short walk to many of San Diego’s main attractions and offers spectacular views of the Bay. Spend the day at the beautiful heated outdoor pool or enjoy lunch at one of three on-site dining destinations.

Old Town Inn
4444 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA
(619) 260-8024
www.oldtown-inn.com
Price: Rooms starting at $120/night

The Old Town Inn is a beautiful and colorful place to stay in San Diego, located within the heart of Old Town San Diego. A great place to stay for those relying on public transportation, the Old Town Inn is a short walk from the Old Town Transit Center, where you can find a trolley to any of San Diego’s main attractions. At the Old Town Inn, parking, internet, breakfast and movies are always free.


San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina
333 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 234-1500
www.marriott.com
Price: Rooms starting at $229/night

There are great deals to be found at the newly renovated San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. Book a Sunshine Package for free self-parking and a daily $40 food and beverage credit. If you’re looking to rent a car for your stay, there’s a Hertz rental right on the hotel property.
 

Fish Tacos
FlickrCC/Jing a Ling
Fish Tacos

FOOD:

San Diego Burger Company
879 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 239-7901
www.sandiegoburgercompany.com
Hours:
September-May: 10am-9pm
June-August: 10am-10pm
Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

There’s something for the whole family at the San Diego Burger Company. Try one of their award winning sirloin burgers. Or if beef isn’t for you, try a turkey burger, a garden burger. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, order a buffalo burger, a kangaroo burger or an ostrich burger!

Old Town Mexican Café
2489 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA
(619) 297-4330
www.oldtownmexcafe.com
Hours: 7am-2am (daily)
Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

The Old Town Mexican Café prides itself on having “the best tacos in town” and has the awards to back it up. This family-friendly atmosphere is great after a long day of exploring the Missions in Old Town San Diego. Your grandchildren will love the mariachi bands that roam through the dining room and watching the café workers make fresh homemade tortillas.

Station Tavern  
2204 Fern Street, San Diego, CA
(619) 255-0657
www.stationtavern.com
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday: 11:30am-11pm, Friday-Saturday: 11:30am-12am
Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Station Tavern always serves up fresh, local food. But what makes this spot one of the most kid friendly places to eat in San Diego is the atmosphere. The large backyard features picnic table style dining and a play area for kids complete with chalkboards and a miniature trolley. The simple menu and “Lil Riders” options guarantee that everyone will find something they love.

Corvette Diner
2965 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA
(619) 542-1476
www.cohnrestaurants.com/menu-restaurants/corvette-diner
Hours:
Sunday: 11am-9pm
Monday-Thursday: 11:30am-9pm
Friday: 11:30am-11pm
Saturday: 11am-11pm

Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Milkshake, rattle and roll at the Corvette diner! This blast from the past dining destination will remind you of your own days as a youngin’. It’s modeled after a 1950’s diner, complete with sassy waitresses in poodle skirts and bouffant hair-dos. With a fully-stocked game room that features air hockey and pinball machines, kids will have no problem waiting for the food to arrive.

Hodad’s
5010 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA
(619) 224-4623
www.hodadies.com
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11am-9pm, Friday-Saturday: 11am-10pm
Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Come sun burnt, come sweating, come however you want! Hodad’s is the quintessential place for a “casual” bite to eat, promising that no shirt and no shoes is no problem. The restaurant is always loud, so no need to worry about bringing a lot of children. The menu is strictly burgers, sides and drinks so if you’re looking for a great tasting meal (they claim they have the world’s best burger!) without the fuss, Hodad’s is the place.

ATTRACTIONS:

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 231-1515
www.sandiegozoo.org
Hours: 9am-5pm (daily)
Price: Children (ages 3-11): $32, Adults (ages 12+): $42
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

No trip to San Diego is complete without visiting its most famous attraction: the San Diego Zoo. This zoo is one of the biggest in the world and is home to the largest number of giant pandas outside of mainland China. Kids will especially love the Skyfari aerial tram, giving them a bird’s-eye view of the entire park.

Sea World San Diego
500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 226-3915
seaworldparks.com/en.seaworld-sandiego
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9am-11pm
Price: Children: $70, Adults: $78
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

With plenty of rides, shows and exhibits, there will never be a moment of boredom at Sea World San Diego.  Spend the day on rides like Shipwreck Rapids (a wild water rafting adventure) and Manta (the park’s newest mega-coaster) or take in a show like Shamu Rocks or Sea Lions LIVE.  At the Sesame Street Bay of Play, your grandchildren can meet their favorite TV characters and splash around in the fountains and pool areas.

LEGOLAND California
1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, CA
(760) 918-5346
california.legoland.com
Hours: Monday, Thursday-Sunday: 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Wednesday: Closed
Price: Children (ages 3-12): $65, Adults (ages 13+): $75
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween

If you have grandchildren with grand imaginations, a trip to LEGOLAND is certainly recommended. It’s located about 40 minutes outside of San Diego in Carlsbad, but the trip to the 128-acre theme park is certainly mandatory for any young LEGO architect. Take a ride on the Bionicle Blaster or visit Dino Island to see life-sized LEGO brick dinosaurs, including a 1,100 pound Brachiosaurus!

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
2130 Pan American Road West, San Diego, CA
(619) 544-9203
www.balboaparkpuppets.com
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 11am, 1pm, 2:30pm
Price: $5 per person
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

The puppet theater, located in Balboa Park, offers shows for children of all ages and adults. Come see Muppet-style puppets, marionettes and more in a variety of shows like Cinderella, Peter and the Wolf, and King Midas. Each season brings new shows, so there’s always a reason for another visit.

Balboa Park
1549 El Prado Road, San Diego, CA
(619) 239-0512
www.balboapark.org
Hours: Open daily
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

On a beautiful day, look no further than taking a trip to Balboa Park, “a landscape of art and culture.” At the nation’s largest urban cultural park you can experience museums, performing arts venues, gardens, trails and play areas. Younger grandchildren will love the Balboa Park Carousel and Miniature Railroad, while older grands may be interested in catching a game of lawn bowling or taking a Foxtrot lesson with the Balboa Park Dancers.

Cabrillo National Monument
1549 El Prado Road, San Diego, CA
(619) 557-5450
www.nps.gov/cabr
Hours: 9am-5pm (daily)
Price: $5.00 per vehicle, $3.00 per walk-in, bicycle, motorcycle
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Take in amazing views of San Diego and the harbor at the Cabrillo National Monument. Take a hike on the two-mile Bayside Trail or relax at Whale Overlook, where it’s common to see whales in January and February and offers pleasant views all year long. Your grandchildren will love tide pooling during low tide and visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, one of the original eight lighthouses on the West Coast.

Petco Park
100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA
(619) 795-5000
www.petcoparkevents.com
Hours: Varies by game time
Prices: Ticket prices vary
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Take your grandchildren out to the ballgame at Petco Park! Catch a game up-close or take a behind the scenes tour. A true testament to Southern California, Petco Park even features a beach. “The Beach” is located just beyond right field and is open to all ticket holders from gate opening to the beginning of the game, then strictly for bleacher seat ticket holders at game time.

Maritime Museum of San Diego
1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 234-9153
www.sdmaritime.org
Hours: 9am-8pm (daily)
Price: Children (ages 6-12): $8, Students (ages 13-17): $11, Adults (ages 18-61): $15, Seniors (ages 62+): $11
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

If you and your grandchildren love to sail (or have always wanted to try), what better way to spend a day than on the world’s oldest active ship? Star of India, which first set sail in 1863, is just one of the historical ships available to tour at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

San Diego Natural History Museum
1788 El Prado Road, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
(619) 232-3821
www.sdnhm.org
Hours: Sunday-Friday: 10am-5pm, Saturday: 9am-5pm
Price: Children (ages 3-12): $11, Students (ages 13-17): $12, Adults (ages 18-61): $17, Seniors (ages 62+): $15
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen


If you’re looking for a wild and weird experience, check out the San Diego Natural History Museum’s “SKULLS” collection. Researchers have put together a collection of over 200 different skulls of animals ranging from snakes to a rhinoceros. On the SKULLS chalkboard, grandkids can draw their own or write down a question for the scientists. If a day of examining skulls doesn’t quite thrill you, the museum has plenty of other lively exhibits like “California: A Water Story” where your grandchildren can learn about the effects of climate change on bodies of water including the Pacific Ocean.

The New Children’s Museum
200 West Island Avenue, San Diego, CA
(619) 233-8792
www.thinkplaycreate.org
Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 10am-4pm
Thursday: 10am-6pm
Sunday: 12pm-4pm
Price: $10 per person
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary


The New Children’s Museum gives youngsters the chance to think, play and create in lots of interactive exhibits including a climbing wall, a chalkboard wall and craft tables. The museum currently has a “Trash Art” gallery, where children can play games while learning about the importance of recycling.

LOCAL UNIQUES:

Old Town San Diego
San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA
(619) 220-5422
www.oldtownsandiego.org
Hours: Open daily
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Visit the birthplace of California in historic Old Town San Diego, the site where the first permanent Spanish settlement was built in 1769. Check out three historic parks, hundreds of stores and restaurants and historic sites like the Mason Street School, San Diego’s first one room schoolhouse.  Brave grandchildren may want to explore the Whaley House, ranked one of the most haunted houses in the United States, located on San Diego Avenue.

Seaport Village
849 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
(619) 235-4014
www.seaportvillage.com
Hours: 10am-10pm (daily)
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Seaport Village is a great place to spend a relaxing day near the water. It has plenty of shops of restaurants to visit, but what makes it a great place for you and your grandchildren is the outdoor entertainment. Sit near the fountain or the East Gazebo to catch the live music performances. Or take a walk along the harbor right as the sun sets for breathtaking skies.

Mission Beach Boardwalk
Mission Boulevard, San Diego, CA
(858) 488-9484
www.sandiego.org/what-to-do/beaches/mission-beach.aspx
Hours: 10am-10pm (daily)
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Mission Beach Boardwalk is the heart and soul of San Diego’s beach community and a great trip to make with the entire family. Splash around in the Pacific Ocean, lie on the beach or find a spot on land for some very interesting people watching. If it’s not too hot out, rent bicycles or roller blades to cruise up and down the boardwalk. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen before you start having too much fun!

Belmont Park
3190 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, CA
(858) 488-1549
www.belmontpark.com
Hours: Opens at 11am (closing times vary)
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Experience the fun of Oceanside amusements like Atlantic City and Coney Island on the West Coast at Belmont Park. Here you can ride dozens of rides, play carnival games at Midway Games or climb into adventure on the Sky Ropes. There’s plenty of fun--both indoors and outdoors--for you and your grandchildren. One of Belmont Parks most popular attractions is the Wave House, where simulated surfing and body boarding are a must try.

 

Comments

Great listing of places to visit. I have also used another resource at www.sdfamilyfun.com during my visit to San Diego. My grandchildren had so much fun and many of the activities and events were FREE!!! :-)

PattyLeePutter on 2013-10-02 12:21:43

For those of you who are looking into moving into San Diego, even for being closer to your family there, check out: http://www.wesellsandiegorealty.com for help in looking for a wonderful home close to your relatives. They will help you look for what you want.

J3rry on 2013-04-29 09:55:27

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