1. Torrey Pines State Park

If you’ve been following Off the 56 for a while, you’ve probably seen Torrey Pines State Park come up over and over again. That’s because there’s tons of great stuff to do for kids and parents alike! Besides the beach, there are several great trails in the reserve that aren’t too difficult for young kids. A lot of it is pretty flat, plus you can choose how far you go. And, it has the best view of any hiking trail in San Diego.

Check out our first visit to Torrey Pines State Park on Off the 56 here.

2. Carlsbad Flower Fields

Located in North County San Diego, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are known for their gorgeous giant ranunculus flowers. While the exact dates the Flower Field is open changes every year depending on the flowers, usually you can see the blooms between March and May.

Aside from the flowers, they have tractor rides through the fields, a maze, food, and more. You do need tickets to get in, but tickets are relatively reasonable. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to take beautiful family photos amongst the flowers.

3. La Jolla Cove

While San Diego offers locals many great beaches with stunning views, La Jolla Cove makes our list of the best things to do with kids in San Diego in part because of the abundance of sea lions that hang out there! No matter when you go or what the weather, you’re sure to find several dozen sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks or splashing in the water. Kids absolutely love watching the animals and listening to them bark!

Insider Tip: when the tide is out, you can actually walk through the cave at the edge of the cove and explore the tide pools. Pretty neat!

4. Birch Aquarium

While you’re in La Jolla checking out the sea lions, make a stop at Birch Aquarium. Not only is it extremely affordable for families, they have lots of great exhibits without it being too overwhelming for your youngest kids. There are lots of hands-on activities and special events throughout the year like their Green Flash Concert Series.

When you’re done exploring the aquarium, head to the patio to check out one of the best views in all of San Diego! You’ll be able to look out over the pier and take in all of La Jolla.

5. San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

Of course the zoo made the list – it’s world famous after all!

At the San Diego Zoo, we particularly love taking the double decker bus through the park and spending time at the reptile house. But there’s something for everyone at a zoo this size – there’s even a petting zoo near the front! And if you come at different times of the day, you’ll see different animals as some are more active at dawn and dusk than during the day.

The San Diego Safari Park is a little smaller in size, but no less fun. Much like the zoo, you’ll find creatures living in different habitats up near the front. But you can take the tram around the whole thing and see some of the animals that are living out in the large group enclosure. If you have older kids, you may want to treat them to one of the “safaris” where you’ll actually be driven out into the herd to meet the animals. You may even get to feed some giraffes! Plus, you can even go zip lining at the Safari Park!


While LEGOLAND California isn’t as big as Disneyland or California Adventure, it’s much more manageable for kids and more affordable for parents. With its location in Carlsbad, it’s also much easier to get to.

Even if you’re not into LEGOs, there’s something for everything there. They have Star Wars, Ninjago, a water park, aquarium, live shows, and more. And if you’re looking for a staycation, you can stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel.

Insider tip: Visit Costco and buy their LEGOLAND pass for great savings!

7. San Diego Botanic Garden

One of San Diego’s best-kept secrets, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is a wonderland for families. It’s scenic, walkable, and full of activities for kids. They even have a giant tree house for the kids to go nuts with. Plus they have different events throughout the year, like their Holiday Garden of Lights.

8. Belmont Park

If you’ve never been to Belmont Park, it’s like taking a trip to an East Coast amusement park without hopping on a plane. Located right on the boardwalk in Mission Beach, they have a giant wooden roller coaster, a merry go round, pool, tons of fair games, food, and more.  

9. New Children’s Museum

If you have younger kids, you’ll definitely want to check out the New Children’s Museum in Downtown San Diego. This is a great museum for kids between ages one to eight. It’s a three-story hip and modern space with lots for kids to do. There’s plenty of things to climb on, crawl under, and experiment with. They have rotating exhibits as well so even if you’ve been before, you’ll want to come back again and check out what’s new. Our kids always have a blast at this museum!

10. Whale Watching

December through April is whale-watching season in San Diego as the whales migrate along the coast. It’s estimated that over 20,000 whales pass through the waters of San Diego each year! There are different boat companies that take you out to see the whales and you’ll usually spot at least one if you go during this prime season.

Insider Tip: Check Groupon for ticket deals to help you save some money on this family excursion.

11. Julian, CA

Last on our list is historic Julian, CA! A great daytrip from San Diego, you’ll step back in time as you visit this picturesque mining town. While Julian is known for their apple pie, you can also browse the antique shops, go hiking, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, take a tour of the old mines, and even visit the local cemetery. In the fall, you can also go apple picking!

What’d you think of this list? Anything you’d add? Leave a comment below and maybe we’ll check it out soon on Off the 56!

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