Family Vacation Guide in San Diego
Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden

Your Guide to the Ultimate Family Vacation in San Diego

From Museums to Tide Pools, These Kid-Friendly Activities Are Sure to Entertain the Whole Fam

San Diego is consistently rated as one of America’s top tourist destinations for family getaways—and for good reason! With sandy beaches, new and noteworthy restaurants and an abundance of renowned attractions, this vibrant city boasts a little bit of everything. Families will appreciate the year-round beach weather and endless family-friendly activities. Spend the morning soaking in a crisp ocean breeze on the Carlsbad coast before wandering inland to explore the popular Asian district, Kearny Mesa. Head south to Point Loma where you’ll be enamored by breathtaking, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. No matter where you choose to spend your day, San Diego is chock-full of excursions the whole family will enjoy. Here’s how to do an action-packed, family-friendly San Diego vacation!

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STAY

Check-in to The Cassara Carlsbad

Family Vacation Guide in San Diego
Credit: The Cassara Carlsbad

Situated along seven miles of scenic coastline and less than five minutes from LEGOLAND, The Cassara Carlsbad provides the ultimate getaway destination for a relaxing stay in San Diego. This quintessential California resort combines luxury and family-friendly accommodations with their Karlsbad Family Suite and children’s splash pad pool.

Customize your trip with one of their exclusive packages that provide special access to surrounding attractions, such as the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, the Carlsbad Lagoon and The Crossings at Carlsbad—a nearby 18-hole golf course overlooking the Pacific. For families whose vacations are incomplete without their furry friends, check out The Cassara’s Petcation Package, which offers designated pet-friendly rooms, treats and toys to pamper your four-legged companion.

Tucked between whispering palms, The Cassara Kitchen & Bar, one of the hotel’s two on-site restaurants. With new all-day happy hour and pool menus, the Mediterranean-inspired small bites and signature cocktails provide a hint of summer while you lounge by the resort’s stunning pool.

Location: Carlsbad

 

DINE 

Enjoy a Nostalgic Breakfast at Studio Diner

Credit: Marcella Flores

Step back in time to the 1940s at Studio Diner, a retro, movie-themed diner in Kearny Mesa. This local gem was converted into a full-service restaurant after years of use as a film set for Stu Segall Productions. The vintage decor and theater exterior provide a timeless ambiance while preserving the building’s unique heritage. Studio Diner combines classic diner food while putting a unique spin on their menu with several movie-inspired dishes. Indulge in decadent breakfast options, like the Studio Toast, Movie Reel Pancakes and Improv Omelettes. With all-day dining hours, it’s the perfect spot for a late-night breakfast in one of their cozy, oversized booths. 

Location: Kearny Mesa

 

Order the Character Buns at Harumama

Credit: Jaclyn Weidaw

It’s no secret that San Diego is a melting pot of cultures, providing an eclectic dining scene for both tourists and locals. Harumama is an Asian-inspired eatery with locations all across the city. Perhaps best known for their playful character buns, it’s the ideal spot to capture fun family photos while collecting content that’s sure to elevate your Instagram feed. Their menu features traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes, including noodles, ramen and colorful poke bowls. Whether you’re craving something sweet or savory, Harumama offers a variety of flavors to satisfy your preferences. Guests can also mix and match the famous steamed buns to create a custom dining experience!

Locations: Little Italy, Carlsbad, Ocean Beach, Encinitas and La Jolla

 

Kick Back and Play at My Yard Live Beer Co.

It’s hard to beat the comfort of a backyard barbecue with the smell of sizzling burgers and music that echoes nostalgic summer nights. My Yard Live Beer Co. replicates this timeless American tradition with classic eats, live music, leisure games and a backyard vibe. Located in San Marcos, it’s the perfect gathering place for guests of all ages to relax. Snag a table on their cozy outdoor patio and try your hand at Skee Ball in their full arcade. Embrace happy hour all summer long with extended hours Wednesday through Sunday while enjoying performances from featured bands. Their menu consists of everything from classic munchies to a decadent Brownie Skillet, which the kiddos will devour.

Location: San Marcos

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DO

Experience Immersive Art at WNDR Museum

Family Vacation Guide in San Diego
Credit: Tyler Curtis

Located in the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego, WNDR Museum is an interactive, immersive museum featuring innovative designs by poets, artists and scientists. Each exhibit is curated to encourage visitors to explore their inner desires and curiosities through various simulations. Admission prices range from $22 for children, $32 for general admission and $50 for the VIP Experience. The museum features over 20 exhibits, each one combining creative visuals with state-of-the-art technology. One of their most popular attractions is the Quantum Mirror. Containing over 150 mirrors and digital visuals, the infinity room mimics our changing self-perceptions spurred by society’s obsession with social media. 

Location: Gaslamp Quarter

 

Spend a Day at LEGOLAND

Credit: LEGOLAND

No family vacation to San Diego is complete without visiting the iconic LEGOLAND California Resort. With daring thrill rides, such as the Technic Coaster, the Sea Life Aquarium and a water park, it’s an experience that fuels every kid’s imagination. Single-day tickets start at $89 and annual passes begin at $15 per month for those seeking multiple excursions a year. Check out one of the many interactive live shows overlapping every hour that draw their inspiration from popular Lego films and collections. The Cassara Carlsbad also offers free shuttle service to and from the park, so when the kids need lunch or a nap, you can pop back and forth!

Location: Carlsbad

 

Make Your Own Candles at Toby’s

Since 1992, Toby’s Candle & Soap Shop has been specializing in handmade, authentic candles that are the epitome of skilled craftsmanship. This vibrant, family-founded shop is located in the Old Town Historic Park and offers a variety of artisan products, such as fragrance oils, mistral soap and bath salts. The store hosts custom candle-making workshops where families can take candle-dipping classes or learn how to mold sand wax and kaleidoscope candles. Reservations are not required to participate in classes, and walk-ins are always welcome! End your visit by following the savory aroma of Mexican cuisine and cheerful music that permeates this Spanish marketplace, where you can explore a variety of local boutiques.

Location: Old Town

 

EXPLORE

Wander Through the San Diego Botanic Garden

Family Vacation Guide in San Diego
Credit: San Diego Botanic Garden

Teeming with lush vegetation and diverse microclimates, the San Diego Botanic Garden supports topography from around the globe on the cusp of Southern California’s coastline. Wander the 37-acre property that features a large collection of garden exhibits, including their Children’s Gardens and Bamboo Garden. The unique habitat boasts the largest collection of living bamboo in North America! This captivating oasis combines learning and conservation into a cohesive experience that allows visitors to view exotic and native habitats in their natural state. There’s never a wrong time to visit the gardens, as exhibits are regularly rotated to reflect what’s in bloom during the current season. 

Location: Encinitas

 

Spread Kindness in Dave’s Rock Garden

Credit: cultivar413

What started as a small passion project by Encinitas local Dave Dean in 2015 has morphed into the community-wide sensation now known as Dave’s Rock Garden. Visit this hidden gem in Encinitas to find it overflowing with thousands of painted rocks conveying positive, inspirational messages. The garden’s succulent-lined pathways and peaceful aura provide a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors are encouraged to add to the growing collection of intricately painted stones while remaining respectful of others’ contributions. The garden’s success is a testament to the transformative impact that arises from the small, significant act of spreading kindness through art.

Location: Encinitas

 

Explore the Point Loma Tide Pools

Credit: Scott Gustin

One of San Diego’s most beloved jewels, the Point Loma Tide Pools, hosts diverse marine life surrounded by scenic coastal beauty. Sheltered by the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, the tide pools can be accessed through the main park entrance with available parking close to the beach. There is an entry fee per vehicle, which gives you access to the museum, coastal trails and beaches. Perfect for letting little ones explore sea life while taking in stunning views of the neighboring Coronado Island, it’s an outing the entire family will enjoy. Be sure to check the tide charts before heading out to ensure safe access to the tide pools.

Location: Point Loma

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