We can all agree that the most stressful part of a vacation is sticking to a budget. Everything from attraction tickets to hotel rooms can eat through a travel budget in seconds, especially in a top travel destination such as sunny San Diego. To stay within budget, start by determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget.

When to Visit San Diego

For the ultimate savings, it is best to travel during the off-season. However, in San Diego, the off-season comes with a caveat. The winter months draw the lowest number of visitors to the area and for a good reason — lots of rain. If you’re willing to forgo the beach and deal with several rainstorms, you’ll find extraordinary prices on San Diego hotels during the winter.

If you’re like me and can’t pass up an opportunity for a beach vacation, you’ll want to visit either in the spring or fall. While summer is perfect beach weather, it’s also when San Diego is the busiest. Locals and frequent San Diego visitors agree that March through May and September through November are the best times to visit.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

Once you’ve decided when you’ll travel to San Diego, you can begin to research the hotels that will fit your budget. For an affordable vacation, I recommend staying at these San Diego hotels.

*The hotels listed below show pricing based on the spring season. Prices will vary by season.

Where to stay in San Diego on a budget

Best Western Oceanside Inn

Standard Room, 2 double beds – $84.68 per night

Whether you’re planning a family vacation to LEGOLAND® or visiting on business, the Best Western Oceanside Inn offers a convenient location. With attractions such as SeaWorld® and the San Diego Zoo® nearby, you’re in the middle of it all (and at a great price).

This affordable hotel offers comfortable accommodations and amenities such as a complimentary continental breakfast and an outdoor pool. The Best Western Oceanside Inn is an excellent choice for travelers deciding where to stay in San Diego on a budget.

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Good Nite Inn San Diego Near SeaWorld

Standard Room, 2 Queen Beds (Newly Renovated) – $108.00 per night

The Good Nite Inn is also conveniently located near San Diego’s top attractions such as SeaWorld®. This budget-friendly hotel is perfect for the traveler who only needs a place to sleep and recharge after a long day of exploration and attractions.

In addition to the recently renovated rooms, the hotel also offers complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby each morning. For renowned hospitality and comfortable accommodations at a price you’ll love, the Good Nite Inn San Diego is your top choice.

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Knott’s Berry Hotel

Standard Room, 2 Queen Beds – $119.00 per night

No family vacation to San Diego is complete without visiting Knott’s Berry Farm. For families looking to maximize their vacation time and budget, Knott’s Berry Hotel is the perfect hotel solution. This family-friendly hotel is seconds away from the theme park and water park and offers amenities such as an onsite restaurant and pool. Plus, just for the kids, the hotel features an entire Snoopy themed wing known as Camp Snoopy!

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Western Inn Old Town

2 Queen Beds (Non-Smoking) – $129.00 per night

The Western Inn Old Town is situated right in the heart of San Diego, minutes away from the airport, the San Diego Zoo®, and other top attractions. Determining where to stay in San Diego on a budget isn’t difficult once you look into this hotel.

Get a good night’s sleep with the hotel’s comfortable room accommodations and recharge the next day with a free continental breakfast. Visitors should note that the hotel requires self-parking, in-room safe, and other additional fees.

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Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town

Deluxe 1 King Bed or 2 Queen Beds – $131.71 per night

For a budget-conscious hotel with superior decor, book your stay at Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town. The 200-room hotel features decor inspired by the Spanish mission and is surrounded by gorgeous ocean and city views. While at the hotel, guests can dine at the Old Town Tequila Factory Restaurant and Cantina, or go for a swim in the outdoor pool.

While the hotel does offer a free airport shuttle, guests should be aware of the self-parking and pet fees that apply.

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Best Western Mission Bay

Double Queen – $139.00

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in San Diego on a budget and are hoping to procure a hotel room near Mission Beach, you’ve come to the right place. Best Western Mission Bay is pet-friendly, near the beach, and only 4.5 miles away from SeaWorld® and others points of interest.

Amenities provided by the hotel include a free breakfast, outdoor pool and whirlpool spa, a fitness room, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

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Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley

Traditional Room, 2 Queen Beds – $139.18 per night

Those searching for upscale accommodations at an affordable price will be pleased with their stay at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley. With a prime location, guests enjoy easy access to the San Diego Zoo, Mission Valley, SeaWorld®, and more.

The hotel offers a variety of rooms as well as top amenities such as a 24/7 health club, Internet access, and an outdoor pool. This 4-star San Diego hotel also features modern decor and an onsite restaurant. Do note that several fees are in place, including:

  • Breakfast fees
  • Parking fees
  • Pet-friendly fees

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Wyndham Garden San Diego Near SeaWorld

Family Suite, Multiple Beds (1 King Bed and Bunk Bed) – $139.45 per night

The Wyndham Garden San Diego hotel is ideal for families who need spacious and convenient accommodations. Located around the corner from the airport and SeaWorld®, families can reserve suites or rooms that suit their needs.

From complimentary WiFi to an onsite restaurant, this hotel has everything families need for an exciting and budget-conscious vacation in San Diego. Like other San Diego hotels, the Wyndham Garden does have an overnight parking fee.

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Hilton San Diego Mission Valley

Room, 2 Queen Beds – $149.21 per night

Located minutes away from San Diego’s top attractions, the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley hotel rounds out the best budget-friendly hotels in the area. Featuring contemporary decor, various room types, and premium amenities, guests have everything at their fingertips here.

With hotels such as this, multiple fees are in place such as parking fees, pet fees, breakfast fees, and more. If you’re fine with flexing your budget a bit for top-notch accommodations in San Diego, choose this hotel.

Book Your San Diego Hotel Today

Now that you know where to stay in San Diego on a budget, what are you waiting for? Book your room through Reserve San Diego today for the best value.

 

When you think of San Diego, what comes to mind? The sunny beaches? The culture? The price tag? People often believe that a vacation in San Diego will cost an unimaginable amount. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

You and your family can enjoy a memorable San Diego vacation without going over budget by using these tips.

Vacation in San Diego on a Budget

A vacation in San Diego doesn’t have to break the bank.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

First and foremost, you need to figure out where you’ll stay during your time in San Diego. Depending on a number of different factors, room rates can range from affordable to astronomical. To save money on lodging in San Diego, consider the following:

Location
Most travelers prefer to stay in hotels with a convenient location, which means finding a hotel in downtown San Diego. However, these hotels can charge premium rates due to their prime real estate downtown. If you don’t have a location preference, consider staying at a hotel just outside of downtown San Diego for lower rates.

Amenities
Do you need a hotel room to sleep in after a long day of exploring, or do you prefer a suite decked out to the nines? As you know, hotels with premium amenities have a larger price tag. If you don’t need luxury amenities, look for value hotels that offer cozy accommodations for a price within your budget.

Make your reservation at one of these low cost, comfortable hotels around San Diego:

Look for Hotel Deals
Remember to check resources such as Reserve San Diego for exclusive hotel and attraction packages as well as other savings. You never know what discounts you’ll find when planning your vacation in San Diego!

Travel Off Season
Hotel rates spike during peak tourist seasons and lower during off-peak seasons. To avoid crowds and surge pricing, visit San Diego from March through May or September through November.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Getting Around San Diego For Cheap

Even if you plan to drive to your vacation in San Diego, getting around San Diego can be expensive. Save money by using one of these transportation options in San Diego:

The San Diego Trolley
Instead of spending money on gas and a rental car, rely on the San Diego Trolley to get you around the greater San Diego area. The San Diego Trolley covers approximately 50+ miles of the city and stops nearby large attractions and destinations, from Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy.

For even more savings, combine your sightseeing adventures with trolley transportation on the Old Town Trolley Tours. You’ll learn about San Diego’s history, landmarks, and more while heading to your next attraction or destination. Purchase a 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off pass to make the most of your vacation in San Diego.

Consider the Cost of Parking
Parking in San Diego can be tricky to find and expensive, especially downtown. To keep a few more dollars in your wallet, consider taking public transportation or an Uber/Lyft around San Diego instead of a rental car. Should you require your own car, be prepared for high parking prices and limited space.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

Affordable (and Free) Attractions in San Diego

With several notable attractions located nearby, it is easy to understand why people think a vacation in San Diego costs a fortune. Actually, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) activities throughout the greater San Diego area.

Take advantage of these low-cost activities and attractions while in San Diego.

Purchase a Go San Diego Card

Did you know there’s a way to experience San Diego’s most popular sites such as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND® California and save money?

The Go San Diego Card is a must for every vacation in San Diego. With this exclusive pass, you receive admission to all 44 San Diego area attractions for one discounted price. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to attractions and activities such as:

With 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day passes, the Go San Diego Card is the best way to experience San Diego’s greatest attractions at a price you can afford. Simply present your card at any of the 44 attractions during operating hours and enjoy!

The Balboa Park Explorer Pass

Balboa Park is a beautiful park in San Diego that houses 17 captivating museums. Of course, visiting 17 museums with multiple people can deplete a vacation budget in a matter of seconds. To help guests save money and experience all the park has to offer, Balboa Park offers an Explorer Pass.

By purchasing an Explorer Pass, you gain access to all of the museums for one low price. When on a vacation in San Diego with multiple people, this pass is the perfect way to save money and see it all.

However, if strolling through a museum isn’t your style, you can visit the park itself completely free of charge. Balboa Park includes various gardens, 65 miles of hiking trails, and more for guests to discover.

Whether you decide to purchase an Explorer Pass or roam the park, visiting Balboa Park is an affordable way to spend your vacation in San Diego.

Visit San Diego with Kids in October

Will you be traveling to San Diego with your children? If so, visit during the month of October when San Diego offers more than 100 free activities and attractions exclusively for kids. From free theme park admission to free events, your family can save money without skipping out on the best attractions and experiences.

Go on a Sightseeing Tour

When you travel to San Diego, sightseeing needs to be on your list of things to do. From the monuments to the iconic neighborhoods, there is so much to see. Traveling to and from all of these destinations over the course of a vacation can quickly become expensive. Instead, reserve your spot on the San Diego tour of your choice.

From drool worthy food tours (my favorite, naturally) to landmark sightseeing tours, San Diego is bursting with fantastic tours that cater to every type of traveler. You’ll experience all of the top sites, maximize your time in San Diego, and keep a few dollars in your wallet all at the same time.

A trip to one of San Diego's many beaches is nearly free!

A trip to one of San Diego’s many beaches is nearly free!

Lounge on the Beach

You know a day at the beach is practically free, right? Plus, a vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without at least one day by the ocean. Visit these sunny San Diego beaches (for free) during your trip:

  • Bonita Cove
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • La Jolla Cove

Explore a State Park

Travelers who prefer to explore the great outdoors will have a fantastic vacation in San Diego. From Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you can enjoy the San Diego landscape and nature for the low cost of free.

Walk Around Gaslamp Quarter

No matter when you visit, a stroll through Gaslamp Quarter is magical and doesn’t cost a thing. From the architecture to the shops, there’s always something to see and experience in Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture your memories of the Victorian buildings and vibrant decor for years to come.

See the Sea Lions at Scripps Park

Those who know me know I can’t pass up an opportunity to see sea lions! One of the best places to spot these lovable marine mammals is at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. Why pay for aquarium admission when you’ve got one sitting right in front of you?

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

Start Planning Your Vacation in San Diego

Now that you know how to vacation in San Diego on a budget, it’s time to start planning. Don’t forget to visit Reserve San Diego to take advantage of savings that will help you stay within your vacation budget!

Need to escape the everyday? Break away from the norm by treating your family to a San Diego Spring Break. The temperatures are warm, the ocean is nearby, and there are a variety of things to do that will keep kids young and old entertained. What should you do on your San Diego Spring Break vacation? Read on.

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San Diego Zoo

Go Wild at the San Diego Zoo

If there’s one thing the whole family can agree on, it’s the San Diego Zoo. Famous the world over for its renowned animal care and exhibits. The urban paradise can easily take a whole day to see, as this place is a lot more than your typical zoo. Start your day off with a guided bus tour of the park. Gaining perspective on this nearly 100-acre park is key to making the most of your day. Decide which exhibits you want to visit again during your San Diego Spring Break vacation, then trek through the botanical canopy of the zoo for a closer look. Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.

Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.

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LEGOLAND

Build Memories at LEGOLAND

If you have children under the age of 12, LEGOLAND California is just for them. If you’re a parent, you already know the love for LEGOS. At this theme park, that love explodes with larger-than-life LEGO sculptures, Imagination Centers, LEGO-based rides with mild thrills, silly shows featuring LEGO people, and so much more. This spring visitors have exclusive access to LEGO Movie 4D: The Next Adventure, too.  Right outside LEGOLAND is SEA Life Aquarium and it’s included in your ticket purchase. Total bonus! The aquarium incorporates LEGO statues and designs into the underwater scene, a perfect complement to your day at LEGOLAND.

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Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

Take to the Outdoors

Be sure to spend at least one of your San Diego Spring Break vacation days sightseeing.  Spectacular sea cliffs, rugged desert terrain, and endless ocean combine to create a natural beauty that can be appreciated at any age. The first time I visited San Diego, I discovered Torrey Pines and have been singing its praises ever since. As a natural reserve its home to not only threatened plants and unique geological formations but stunning overlooks of the coastline and surrounding La Jolla.  The Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, with its tide pools, tall cliffs, and lighthouse, is another favorite as is Seaside Cliffs, a stretch of coastline known for its epic sunsets.

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Sun, sand, and surf are sure to bring the smiles!

Hit the Sand & Surf

San Diego has some pretty great beaches so it would be a shame to not spend any time at one. And there are so many to choose from! Coronado Beach, with the iconic Hotel Del Coronado framing its shores, is a classic beach consistently voted one of America’s best by the Travel Channel. Mission Beach is ideal for families as the meandering coastline has calm waters, there is lifeguard service during peak season, beachside eateries make it easy to snack and Belmont Park is nearby. Family-friendly La Jolla Shores has sandy beaches and mild waves so young kids can play in shallow waters and bigger kids can body board and even try to surf. Other family favorites include Del Mar, Moonlight Beach, and Tide Beach Park.

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Balboa Park

Sneak in Some Edutainment

There’s no reason kids can’t learn something new while on a San Diego Spring Break vacation. At the New Children’s Museum families will find a dynamic atmosphere filled with inventive and engaging art experiences. Get hands-on with activities and performances at this one-of-a-kind attraction. Tour the USS Midway for a unique glimpse at U.S. history. There are 60 exhibits, 25 restored aircrafts, aviator simulators and so much more to learn aboard this historic aircraft carrier. Balboa Park, with 15 educational yet entertaining museums, is known as the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast cultural offerings. Kids especially enjoy the San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

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Village Pizzeria Bayside/Facebook

Play with Your Food

Okay, I’m not really advocating playing with your food. However, eating in San Diego can certainly be categorized as fun which equals playtime in my book. Kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but kid-friendly San Diego restaurants cater to not only their taste buds but their creative side. The Village Pizzeria offers a Build-Your-Own-Pizza night every Wednesday, where kids receive their own pre-rolled dough, marina, cheese and 3 toppings of their choice to create their own specialty, custom pie. Bonus: There are 11 craft beers on tap for adults, seriously scenic views and nearby grassy area for the kids to roam. Waypoint Public has a designated kid’s area with books, games and astro turf for kids who thinking sitting still is for the birds. Plus, they have an affordable just-for-kids menu with hots dogs, mac ‘n cheese and burgers, while adults can enjoy a selection of over 30 craft beers and inventive food menu. Another notable mention is the throwback Corvette Diner, which has a massive arcade room, magicians, and live entertainment.

San Diego Spring Break Fun Awaits

Put these San Diego Spring Break vacation ideas for families to use on your escape from the ordinary. Your kids will thank you!

Be sure to book all your attraction tickets and hotel rooms with Reserve San Diego for the best money-saving deals and insider tips.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego is home to a whirlwind of fantastic attractions, sites, and excitement. With a packed vacation itinerary, the last thing you want to worry about is getting around San Diego.

Luckily, the city of San Diego offers multiple transportation options for you to use throughout your trip.

San Diego Skyline

San Diego Transportation Options

From visiting LEGOLAND® with the kids to strolling along Mission Beach, there’s so much to explore in San Diego. While planning your San Diego vacation, keep in mind that you’ll need a method of transportation to and from all of the fun.

San Diego visitors can access one or more of the following transportation options:

Rental Car
Travelers who prefer to have control over their transportation should rent a car. Getting around San Diego with a rental car is a viable option. However, those who choose this path should keep in mind that the area is infamous for traffic.

Bus
As with most cities, San Diego offers a metropolitan bus system. However, locals note that it isn’t the most reliable form of transportation. If you plan to take the bus, be prepared for delays and keep a flexible schedule. Also, it is in your favor to have a backup transportation plan, in the case that the bus doesn’t arrive on time.

On a positive note, the bus boasts an extensive amount of routes around the city. Meaning guests can get to almost every attraction, restaurant, and area of San Diego using the bus system.

San Diego Trolley going through downtown

San Diego Trolley
When you visit San Diego, you can’t miss the bright-red trolleys transporting people all over the city. This iconic vehicle should be your primary method of transportation for getting around San Diego.

The red trolleys offer 3 different lines (blue, green, and orange) that cover approximately 50+ miles of the city.

The trolley routes include stops at popular destinations such as:

  • Qualcomm Stadium
  • San Diego Convention Center
  • Santa Fe Depot
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • County Center/Little Italy

 

If you have the opportunity, you have to hop a ride on the vintage trolley — even if just for the fun of it!

Old Town Trolley Tours for Getting Around San Diego
Old Town Trolley Tours
Who said getting around San Diego couldn’t be fun and educational at the same time? By riding this trolley route, guests can hop on and hop off at premier destinations around San Diego. If you elect to do the tour, the entire trolley experience is approximately 2 hours long and filled with outstanding sites.

Whether you use Old Town Trolley Tours as an activity or a means of transportation, you’re in for a phenomenal experience.

Passenger Ferry
Want to get across the bay? Your best bet is the passenger ferry operated by Flagship Cruises and Events that transports visitors between San Diego and the Coronado Ferry landing. You can choose to travel via the Broadway Pier or San Diego Convention Center ferry schedule. Ferries depart every half an hour.

One benefit to taking the ferry is seeing the natural beauty of the bay!

Taxis
What city would complete without a taxi service? While taxis are one option for getting around San Diego, they can be quite expensive. With so much traffic and potentially long distances between attractions and activities, a taxi may be convenient but certainly not affordable.

To efficiently travel, use a taxi for short distances just outside of walking distance. This will minimize your fare and get you to your destination quickly.

Uber in San Diego
Uber and Lyft
Ridesharing apps and services, Uber and Lyft, are also available in San Diego. Both services are affordable, reliable, and safe choices for getting around San Diego. Uber and Lyft are becoming popular transportation options for travelers around the world, especially in San Diego.

The apps allow you to hail a ride, rate your experience, and pay right from your credit card instead of fumbling around trying to find the right amount of cash.

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Walking/Biking
Depending on the location of your hotel, you could easily walk to many of San Diego’s best attractions. Plus, getting around San Diego is a thrill when you immerse yourself in the city’s sights and sounds by walking to your destinations.

San Diego is also a bike-friendly city. You’ll see tourists and locals alike using bicycles to travel around the city. You can rent a bike or reserve your spot for a bike tour around San Diego’s hottest destinations and beaches.

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

Tips for Getting Around San Diego

Now that you know your options for getting around San Diego, these tips will help you have the greatest transportation experience possible.

Rush Hour can be Killer
As with any major city, traffic can put a major damper on your travel plans. Rush hour in San Diego can be horrific, so plan ahead! During the morning rush hour, south and west highways are packed while evening traffic heads to the north and east.

Not a Fast Driver? Move Over.
Driving in a new city can be a nerve-wracking experience. If you’re not a speedy driver, you should stick to the right lanes. Not only will this ensure that traffic continues to move and does not create delays, it will also help you drive safely on San Diego highways.

Know Your Route Ahead of Time
Whether you plan to walk to your destination, rent a bicycle, or drive across San Diego, knowing and reviewing your route ahead of time can be beneficial. This allows you to reduce the stress associated with traveling and get to your destination with ease.

Ride the Trolley as Much as Possible
The I-5 can be confusing to navigate, especially for those unfamiliar with San Diego’s roadways and city navigation. As a result, riding the trolleys are your best bet for getting around San Diego. With the regular and on-time schedules, affordable fare, and gorgeous views of San Diego, riding the trolley cannot be beat.

Reserve Your Trip to San Diego Today

Getting around San Diego is only part of your vacation. Do you have a hotel room reserved and activities planned out? Rely on Reserve San Diego for all of your vacation planning needs.

If you’re searching for a place to vacation with the kids, stop! You’ve found it in San Diego, California. With weather that’s wonderful year-round, engaging entertainment options and a family-friendly vibe, this vacation destination does not disappoint. Accordingly, it’s a favorite city for parents and kids to play. Use this list to hop, skip and jump your way around SoCal experiencing the best things to do in San Diego for families.

Plan your vacation around these things to do in San Diego for families.

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Beach days are the best!

1) The Beach

This one’s kind of a given, right? San Diego has miles of sunny and sandy coastline just begging to be visited. Parents like the fact several San Diego beaches are super family-friendly, too. With that in mind, here are a few kid-approved beaches:

  • Silver Strand State Park
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Oceanside

 

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San Diego Zoo is one of the only zoos in the world with pandas

2) San Diego Zoo

One of America’s best zoos is located here. And it’s can’t miss! With world-class animal exhibits, including rare pandas, parents will enjoy this outing just as much as the kids. Be sure to go on the guided bus tour, great for getting an overview of this 100-acre zoo. To learn even more expert tips for visiting San Diego Zoo, watch our insider video.

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Balboa Park is one of the prettiest in America

3) Balboa Park

San Diego Zoo is technically located within Balboa Park, but there’s a whole lot more to see here. Home to 14 museums and gorgeous gardens, you can easily spend a whole day exploring with your family. Highlights for families include:

  • San Diego Natural History Museum: animatronic dinosaurs
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: hands on science exhibits
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum: Dress up like an astronaut

 

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View seals in their natural environment at La Jolla Cove

4) La Jolla Cove

Upscale home and shops surround La Jolla Cove, but the real gem of the area is its cove. The picturesque cove, and its surrounding sea cliffs, have a large population of sea lions. Get out and mingle with them. Your kids will flip! And you’ll probably take about 100 photos. I know I did!

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Cabrillo National Monumnet: By Ctorbann, via Wikimedia Commons

5) Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is a fun way to give your kids a hands-on history lesson. Tour the museum highlighting the first expedition to San Diego as well as Point Loma Lighthouse. In addition, the Point Loma Tide Pools are nearby. Kids love checking out the scenery and the sea life there.

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Hand up for fun!

6) LEGOLAND California

If you’re kids are young, and love LEGOs, you’ve got to go to this theme park. It was created with them in mind, with everything from hands-on exhibits to kid-sized rides. Moreover, there’s an on-site water park perfect for those hot San Diego days.

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Up close experiences are a signature of SeaWorld

7) SeaWorld San Diego

You’re near the ocean, so why not learn about it at SeaWorld San Diego? This marine park has immersive exhibits dedicated to sea life. Thus, you can explore penguins, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and more. Combine this with exciting shows and rides and you’ve got one of the top things to do in San Diego for families.

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Kids can’t get enough of the Birch Aquarium: Birch Aquarium/Facebook

8) Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This La Jolla aquarium is another way to get an ocean education in San Diego. There are touch pools and tanks with up-close views of moon jellies, sharks, lion fish and more. All of this means families with babies and toddlers will especially enjoy Birch Aquarium.

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The beach and sea cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

9) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is stunningly beautiful and one of the best showcases of the natural beauty of San Diego. For this reason, it’s one of the best places to get outdoors in SoCal. There are eight trails to trek, with the Beach Trail and Razor Point trail two favorites. You can easily make a beach day of it here, too, as the Beach Trail has beach access.

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The USS Midway is educational yet fun for kids

10) USS Midway

Located along Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, USS Midway Museum features the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Kids will get a kick being aboard this real life carrier, where they can engage in activities like listening to real pilot conversations during Desert Storm, climbing in bunks, and more.

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Bonus: Catch a Game

If your family are baseball fans, why not catch a game in San Diego? Petco Stadium, home to the San Diego Padres, does a top notch job of creating a unique atmosphere for ball games. Not only is weather pretty much always optimal, the stadium serves food key to the San Diego culinary scene. Think burritos, barbeque and pizza. Couple that with a better-than-most craft beer selection and you’ve got an activity sure to please every member of the family.

Which Things to Do in San Diego for Families Are For You?

With this list of the top 10 things to do in San Diego for families you’ve surely found a few perfect for your vacation. Did we miss a favorite San Diego activity? Let us know what your family loves to do here and we’ll be sure to include it in our list.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
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LEGOLAND® Waterpark

Want to make the most of your time at LEGOLAND® California? Filled with amusement rides, a separate waterpark and even a two-story aquarium, there are plenty of things to do at this Southern California theme park. Follow these tips to maximize your time at LEGOLAND®, all while building memories with your family!

1) Optimum Water Park Hours: Visit the LEGOLAND ®Waterpark early to avoid the crowds. I recommend arriving before 11am to avoid long lines, especially for the popular CHIMA Waterpark area. Another option is to visit the waterpark after 3pm, as crowds tend to dissipate around that time.

2) Make the Most of Ride Swapping: As a family, you probably have kids of different ages which means one or more of your kids might not be able to ride certain attractions. Families can do a “child swap,” though, which allows one parent to ride with the older child and then swap with the other parent immediately after the ride. This way, families can enjoy all the park has to offer without any hassle!

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LEGOLAND® App

3) Use Package Pick-up Service: You’re at LEGOLAND® with your kids. Let’s face it – you’re going to buy some LEGO bricks. To avoid carrying your purchases around all day, use the free package pick-up service. Simply leave your purchase with the attendant at the store and you can pick it up in the Market at the end of the day.

4) Download the Free LEGOLAND® App: The app features up-to-date ride wait times for each attraction so you can plan your day accordingly. Skip the busiest rides, like Sky Cruiser and Treasure Falls, and come back when the app shows a shorter wait.

5) Avoid Long Lines: Along with the LEGOLAND® App, which will help with avoiding those long lines, you should arrive early to avoid the long lines. Start in the back of the park then work your way forward. Rides like Safari Trek, Coastersauraus and Fairy Tale Brook can be skipped initially when crowds might be high. Come back for those rides around 3pm for hardly any wait at all.

LEGOLAND Mindstorms

LEGOLAND® Mindstorms

6) Schedule Time to Build a Robot: Have a child 9 years or older? They can build a computerized robot at the Mindstorms center in the Imagination Zone. Stop by when you first arrive at the park to make a reservation for later in the day, as the activity books up fast.

7) Check Out the Baby Care Center: If you’re traveling with a little one, you know how vital a top-notch baby care center can be. At LEGOLAND® they have a premium Baby Care Center. It is equipped with bottle warmers, a microwave, refrigerator, rockers for nursing moms, high chairs and a changing station stocked with diapers. Plus, it’s one of the best quiet locations in the park for when your baby needs a break from the hustle and bustle of the theme park.

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LEGOLAND® Waterpark

8) Bring Bathing Suits: You might not plan on visiting the LEGOLANDÊ Waterpark. Even so, it’s a good idea to bring the kids’ bathing suits for those warm summer days. There are water features located throughout the main LEGOLAND® California park. The Pirates Shores water play area can get kids pretty soaked, so it’s nice to have a change of clothes.

9) Pack Snacks: LEGOLAND® allows you to bring in snacks and a water bottle, so you can stretch your hard earned dollars. Pack a few snacks and water bottles to keep the kids from getting hungry or thirty before you have an actual meal at the park.

10) Plan Your Meal Times: If you want to dine at the park, be sure to plan your meal times. Restaurants and cafes within the park have different operating hours than the actual park. Generally, they open later and close earlier. Therefore, don’t plan on trying to eat at the park an hour before it closes. Most sit-down spots will already be shutting down.

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LEGOLAND® Miniland Cruise

11) Skip Preferred Parking: The parking lot at LEGOLAND® California is fairly small. Thus, there’s no need to pay the extra money for preferred parking. At the most, your walk to the entrance will take a few minutes more.

12) Stay Protected: You’re in California. At a theme park. Under the hot sun. Bring sunscreen and reapply often to avoid any chance of sunburn, otherwise known as the “vacation ruiner.”

13) Don’t Pay Full Price:  Reserve your LEGOLAND® California tickets in advance to save your hard-earned money.  Reserve San Diego offers value-priced LEGOLAND® tickets with discounts ranging from $9-17.

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LEGOLAND® Express at Duplo Village

14) Make time for Miniland: One of the most popular areas of the park is Miniland. Set aside 30 minutes or so to walk among the LEGO bricks. They are designed as impressive models of iconic cities such as San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Washington D.C. There are even models of each episode of Star Wars. Kids will feel like giants as they view these models up-close and parents will marvel at the detail. To see all of the Miniland LEGO models, take the Coast Cruise ride.

15) What to Do if you’re Two: This is one of the most frequently asked questions of parents visiting the park with young children. Luckily, LEGOLAND® has a downloadable guide for parents of toddlers. It includes information such as rides with no height restrictions and shows designed for younger guests. Two toddlers based areas include Duplo Village and Dino Island, so definitely plan on visiting those areas.

Discover even more about LEGOLAND California experience »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

 

Kids love San Diego! If it’s not for the world famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld or LEGOLAND, it’s for the beaches, parks and activities throughout the county. San Diego has a lot to offer tiny travelers. Here is my guide on how to keep your beautiful children happy and smiling. Add these things to do with kids in San Diego to experience family fun at its finest.

Birch Aquarium FB

Birch Aquarium/Facebook

1. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Learn about the curious land under the sea as your kids explore exhibits and activities led by professional oceanographers. The Birch Aquarium sits on the La Jolla coast, and offers kids various experiences such as think tank interactive projects, animal feeding times, and animal interactions. In October, kids 12 and under enter free at many San Diego Museum Council destinations.

2. Waterfront Park
This new park sits at the Embarcadero in Downtown, San Diego and offers kids many swings, jungle gyms, and fountains. Parents can hang out of the benches as the kids monkey around on the gym, or hang out on the lawn as the kids splash in the fountain that is specially designed for the amphibious type.

Belmont Park

Belmont Park

3. Belmont Park
This historic amusement park was meticulously built on the beachfront, and offers kids rides, games, an artificial wave for surfing, and lots and lots of pizza, ice cream and burgers. Get your kids an unlimited fun wristband as you lay out by the beach, or enjoy drinks and food at The Wavehouse, home to the only artificial wave machine in San Diego.

4. Balboa Park
San Diego’s main urban park is sprinkled with museums, gardens, and theaters. There are many kid-friendly activities offered throughout the year. The Ruben H. Fleet Science Center is home to America’s first IMAX Theater that shows educational programs every day. Buy a ticket to the theater, and you and the kids can play in the interactive exhibits within the museum. On Sundays at 2pm, the World Beat Center offers kids a free African Dance class, and the San Diego Junior Theater has relatable shows for kids at the Casa del Prado Theater.

Corvette Diner

Corvette Diner

5. Corvette Diner
For an unforgettable dining experience, make sure to take the kids to the Corvette Diner, a restaurant suitable for all ages. Guests are transported to a time of poodle skirts, Elvis, and HUGE beehive hair. Several times throughout dinner, the staff will stop what they are doing, and dance in synch to the 50’s jams played by a live DJ.

As I reminisce back to when we went on family vacations, I couldn’t thank my parents enough for all of the fun activities and learning experiences they offered to me. Traveling has since been such a huge part of my life, and I know how important it is to explore the world, its people, and new and interesting experiences. Have fun at these things to do with kids in San Diego, and cherish the enthusiasm and thirst for exploration of a child.


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.

Searching for a new place to take your family on vacation? Head to San Diego, California for unique, family-friendly fun things to do. From animal attractions to theme park amusements, this destination caters to families with kids of all ages. Need a nudge to get started? Read my San Diego family vacation ideas for inspiration!

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

San_Diego_Zoo_Safari_Park_72940Animals are a sure fire way to please kids. They just love them! Luckily, San Diego attractions offer world-renowned animal encounters and experiences. To view an array of animals, from pandas to hippos to polar bears, visit the San Diego Zoo. For an African-inspired retreat, try the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Home to elephants, giraffes, zebras, tigers and gorillas, this animal preserve spotlights animal conversation. Looking for aquatic animals? Reserve SeaWorld San Diego tickets. You’ll see dolphins, killer whales, sea lions and other creatures up-close and within splashing distance! Through mid-April, you can reserve a whale watching cruise with companies such as Hornblower and Flagship Cruises. It’s an optimal way to see these magnificent creatures up-close during a San Diego family vacation.

Build Memories at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND MindstormsIf your kids are 12 and under, this park is perfect. It’s created for that age set, specifically, and if they love LEGO’s…even better! Located just north of San Diego, the 138-acre park makes is the first theme park built just for kids. They can get a driver’s license at Driving School. Save the day at Fun Town Police and Fire Academy. Journey to a galaxy far, far away at the LEGO Star War Miniland model display. In need of a cool down? Add the LEGOLAND Water Park to your visit. It’s located within LEGOLAND and with its colorful slides and lazy river, is kid-sized super fun.

Spend the Day at the Beach

Parents giving piggyback ride to kids at the beachNothing beats relaxing on a warm beach! Soak up some sun, listen to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and watch your kid’s frolick in the sand and surf. With 70 miles of sandy beaches at your disposal, you can create an ideal beach day for you and your family. Kayak the coastline, learn to surf or let the kids play while mom and dad get a waterfront massage.

The beach fun doesn’t end there, though! On a San Diego Family vacation you can go for a beach hike at Torrey Pines, or get thisclose to sea lions at La Jolla Cove. Of course, you don’t want to miss the tide pools and beautiful terrain of Point Loma. You’ll witness exceptional views of the coast, all while breathing in refreshing seaside air.

Entertain yet Educate

USS_Midway_Museum_(5125)Kids might think education and entertainment don’t go hand-in-hand. In San Diego, though, you can prove them wrong! Spend time at the New Children’s Museum, where engaging and inventive art experiences foster creativity. Daily activities let your little ones discover the artists, inventor or maker inside. Plus, fun-filled exhibitions, special artistic performances, and an outdoor park add to the things to do at the museum. Mix in some history lessons with visits to sites like USS Midway, one of the longest-serving aircraft carriers in U.S. history. Experience 60 exhibits, get an up close look at 25 restored aircraft or hop into a simulator and feel what it’s like to be an aviator launching off a flight deck, engaging the enemy and then returning safely. At Balboa Park, culture is on full display at botanical gardens, art museums, and outdoor exhibits. Often call the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast collection of museums, families can explore the kid-friendly Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum; and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

These are some of the best ways to play during a San Diego family vacation. Have any suggestions? Tell me about them in the comments.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The sunny city of San Diego has a lot to offer visitors. Some of the most popular things to do include San Diego theme parks, where thrills, spills and adventure await! Area theme parks feature the best for kids, and kids at heart, who are looking to make a vacation memory.

SeaWorld_San_Diego_26609SeaWorld

Discover an aquatic park both educational and entertaining. Standouts of the park include Turtle Reef, Dolphin Point and Penguin Encounter, all of which provide an up-close experience. You can view sea creatures of all shapes and sizes at SeaWorld San Diego, including giant Orca whales who amaze with their magnificent performances. Of course, no day at SeaWorld would be complete without hopping aboard some rides. Known for its wet and wild attractions, Journey to Atlantis is the signature wet water ride while Manta, a daring coaster full of twists, pushes limits on land. Be sure to board to ride the Bayside Skyride and SkyTower for a view of San Diego’s charming coastline.

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Kids love LEGOLAND California! With more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, it’s a hands on experience full of fun. Geared towards children ages 2-12, this theme park brings to life the legendary toys known as LEGOS. Step into the world of LEGOS on rides, touring mini-cities and splashing around at the LEGOLAND Legends of Chima Waterpark. Some of the most popular things to do for kids include earning their driver’s license at the Driving School and conquering the Dragon Coaster at Castle Hill.

Aquatica_San_Diego_(30365)Aquatica

Where better to dive into water adventure than Aquatica? The San Diego waterpark offers a huge variety of water slides, a lazy river, wave pool and much more. Easily one of the area’s best summer attractions, this tropical oasis also lets you experience up-close animal encounters as well as high speed thrills like the Taumata Race, a high-speed 325-foot water slide. Young tykes can make a splash at Aquatica too, at areas like Walkabout Waters and Kata’s Kookaburra Cove.  This tropical oasis will cool you down while adding an extra splash of fun to your San Diego vacation.

See a panda or two at the zoo!

See a panda or two at the zoo!

San Diego Zoo

Animal attractions abound at the San Diego Zoo. The urban paradise is a must-see Southern California attraction as its home to more than 4,000 rare and fascinating animals. Under the canopy of a lush botanical garden, wind through paths to discover giant pandas, tigers, gorillas, orangutans, hippos, giraffes, polar bears, elephants, koala bears, and so much more. Adding to the experience are animal encounters, interactive experiences and animals presentations and shows. Hop on the Zoo bus to get an overview of the park, then hit the pavement to see your favorite exhibits up-close. Visit the Zoo early and make a day of discovering the wild side of San Diego. Couples, families and retirees all love spending the day at this world-class zoo.

San_Diego_Zoo_Safari_Park_72940San Diego Zoo Safari Park

For an even more immersive animal experience, visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Watch as herds of animals roam in natural habitats on the 1,800-acre presence. Walk the park’s trails featuring lions lounging in grasslands, giraffes nibbling leaves, gorillas goofing around and African elephants spouting water. There are beautiful vistas throughout the park, made even more beautiful with a ride on the Balloon Safari. Choose from a variety of exciting safari expeditions by tram, caravan truck, electric cart, zip line, and more, all with expert guides and fascinating animal information.

If you have children, there’s one place you must visit on a San Diego vacation – LEGOLAND!  This park is designed just for them, with shows, attractions and rides geared towards ages 12 and under.  The immersive environment is a world filled with vibrant LEGO creations, each of which explodes with character.  Interactive and engaging, LEGOLAND is a place where imaginations soar and kids can truly be kids.

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There are nine main areas to explore at LEGOLAND California, but you’ll also want to make time to discover life under the sea at Sea Life Aquarium and aquatic fun at LEGOLAND Waterpark.  Several ticket options are available, so you can choose which admission is best for your itinerary.  Try to pre-plan for your day too, so you can make the most of the things to do at LEGOLAND.   Then, when you get to the park, you can grab a map and go!

For me, one of the best parts of a day at LEGOLAND is viewing the incredible displays built entirely of LEGOS.  From rides built of LEGO blocks to cityscapes built entirely of these blocks, you can see just how much you can do with these toys when creativity and imagination come together.  My four favorite areas of the park are Miniland USA, Castle Hill, and Pirates Shore.  If your kids are fans of Star Wars, they will marvel at Star Wars Miniland.  Twelve LEGO models are featured including Yoda, Wicket, Anakin and even Princess Leia, as well as seven of the most famous scenes from the live-action movies.  Miniland is an eye-catching area, with amazing reproductions of American landmarks and cities built using more than 24 million LEGO bricks.  Take the time to marvel at the Las Vegas Strip, New York City skyscrapers, hilly landscaped of San Francisco and capitol buildings of Washington D.C.

After exploring these modern marvels, make your way to medieval times at Castle Hill.  This area of the park is top-notch in my opinion.  The attention to detail and entertaining knight-themed rides appeal to all.  Try your hand at The Royal Joust, see if you can tame The Dragon coaster and test your skills at Knight’s Tournament.  Have some energetic kids with you?  Let them run wild at The Hideaways, an adventure themed playground with rope climbs, cargo nets and slides.

Next up is Pirates Shore, where you’ll embark on water-themed adventures designed around more than 150 LEGO models.  Test your sea-worthiness at Captain Cranky’s Challenge as you sway back and forth on a pirate ship.  Feel sea worthy?  Then set sail on the high-seas for a Splash Battle.  Board your ship, man your water cannons and spray other vessels, as well as landlubbers, as you twist and turn through the waterways.  Worried about getting wet?  Don’t be.  There are family-sized dryers available, where for a nominal fee, you can quickly dry off and enjoy the rest of your day at the park.

LEGOLAND California is a smile-inducing attraction where kids and parents can delight in all things LEGO.  Visit the California theme park today to build new memories with your family.

Add Sea Life Aquarium to your LEGOLAND visit »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.