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san diego with kids where to stay

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: School’s out, and kids across the country are bouncing off the walls and shouting about summer break. If you’re on the hunt for ways to keep kids entertained during the lull, a trip to Southern California should be at the top of the list. While there are countless amazing adventures waiting, San Diego is home to some of the best kid-friendly activities. After booking a flight and hotel, sit down with the kids and run through this list to plan the perfect itinerary.

  1. Adventure Water Sports: The first ingredient for an amazing summer adventure is some beautiful blue water. San Diego is home to Adventure Water Sports, which offers paddle-boarding, paddle-boating, water-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking and more. Take your vehicle of choice out on Mission Bay — a man-made “aquatic playground” featuring 27 miles of shoreline and a fun network of inlets and islets to explore — and let the physical summer fun begin!
    San Diego Water Fun

    San Diego Water Fun – Image credit: hhttps://flic.kr/p/5TbmQ7

  2. LegoLand: If the name of this next attraction doesn’t speak for itself, a quick look at the map will. LegoLand includes a head-turning hotel, a plethora of rides and, for the cherry on top, a water park. Before you go, be sure to read about all the nitty gritty details, including shows and events at the park and a great list of pro tips. A few notable ones to keep in your back pocket: “Skip long lines by arriving before noon and starting in the back of the Park and enter the Water Park before 11am or after 3pm to avoid long entry line.
    LegoLand California

    LegoLand California – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/ppQk4

  3. Balboa Park: If you don’t want to shell out big bucks on amusement park tickets, head to Balboa Park, where any kid or adult can find hours of affordable entertainment. For example, there is a laundry list of museums — including options for the science-lovers, wannabe artists, or kids whose eyes light up for fast cars — on top of a carousel, miniature railroad and countless gorgeous gardens. Peruse the seemingly endless options on the full calendar. Insider tip: There are also off-the-beaten path gems, like juice vendors offering amazing fresh-squeezed options to sip on in the sun.
    Balboa Park San Diego

    Balboa Park San Diego – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/kThzNK

  4. San Diego Zoo: For the animal-lovers out there (so basically for any kid), don’t miss out on some old-fashioned fun at the San Diego Zoo. A few must-see attractions includes pandas, cheetah and elephants — enough said, right? If the kids will be in town for more than just a couple days, check out some of the cool camps offered as well. If not, the Safari Park is a great option for spicing up a zoo visit with caravans, ziplining and a jungle ropes course. Of note, San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, so you may be able to streamline your itinerary if both are of interest.
    San Diego Zoo

    San Diego Zoo – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/dQZP6o

  5. Coronado Beach: A Southern California activities list wouldn’t be complete without a little sun and sand. Coronado Beach is downright gorgeous, and the perfect destination for some quiet relaxation with the kiddos. Reviews of the beach rave about the soft sand, lack of crowds and general chill atmosphere. Strike up a beach bonfire, check out some of the local shops and restaurants and — a little plug for the supervising adults — swing by the Hotel del Coronado, where Marilyn Monroe shot Some Like it Hot. Everyone wins!
    Coronado Beach San Diego

    Coronado Beach San Diego – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/dTTGgN

  6. Historic Gaslamp District: Just a little ways south from Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo sits San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, which the city itself describes as “a veritable playground” featuring restored Victorian buildings and plenty of places for shopping and snacking — a great activity for pleasing the old and the young. This option is a bit less kid-centric than others on the list, but that’s part of its charm. Let the kids feel like adults as they ride the Trolley, pop in and out of stores and dine outside alongside folks of all ages. With that in mind, though, opt to make the Gaslamp District a part of the day-time itinerary — and if you put the kids bed or maybe make an accompanying grandparent play babysitter, be sure to check out the district’s nighttime selection or rooftop bars, live music, and more.
    San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

    San Diego Gaslamp Quarter – Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslamp_Quarter,_San_Diego

  7. USS Midway Museum: School might be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t still learn something new here or there. In San Diego, a prime destination for learning disguised as fun is the USS Midway Museum, which is located in the aforementioned Gaslamp District. The USS Midway is the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century, featuring 60 exhibits — from crew’s sleeping quarters to flight control — and 29 restored aircraft. Let’s cut to the chase, though: The best part simply has to be the flight simulators, although it’s important to note kids must be at least 42″ tall to come along.
    USS Midway Museum San Diego

    USS Midway Museum San Diego – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/coMXpN

  8. La Jolla Cove: Oftentimes simple is better when it comes to the perfect vacation. La Jolia Cove is the perfect destination to kick back on a beach with kids. Besides it gorgeous views, it’s also home to gentle waves, beginner scuba diving classes and plenty of surfers. You can’t put a price on a dip in the ocean and a gorgeous view!
    San Diego La Jolla Cove

    San Diego La Jolla Cove – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/omFdeY

  9. New Children’s Museum: Another fun and educational option in San Diego is the New Children’s Museum — also accessible by trolley and in close proximity to Balboa Square and its other attractions. If your kids roll their eyes at the word “museum” — like I used to as young-un — simply tell them you’re going to a huge building featuring a Bubble Balcony, Spy Agency, Sandbox Gallery and cooking classes … as just a quick sample. Put another way, “I’m bored,” definitely won’t come out of your kids’ mouth (whether they’re toddlers or teens) at this attraction.
    San Diego is the New Children’s Museum

    San Diego is the New Children’s Museum – Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/cLtPDE

  10. San Diego Padre’s Game: Take me out to the ballgame! Last but not least, squeeze in some time for America’s favorite pastime while you’re in San Diego. Visiting new baseball stadiums like Petco Park can be a perfect tradition for a traveling family, as the game offers an ideal mix of sports, snacks and sunshine … and it’s a consistent activity you can find nationwide. Any sports lover will be thrilled at the prospect of catching a game and hopefully a foul ball, on top of collecting baseball cards or caps from the various stadiums — especially if you make time for a stadium tour (which is just $8 for kids under 12) while in town.