What To Do In San Diego

We recently took our first all-family vacation to San Diego, CA. It was Lilly’s first time on a plane, and our first trip outside of the state with her, the whole kit-and-caboodle. I have a lot of family who lives in California, but they all are in the northern part of the state, so I had never been to the southern end of sunny California before, and I was excited to explore a new area with Lilly. My husband was attending a conference while we were there, so a lot of the trip was me on my own with our girl during the day, and family time at night. So here I am, sharing my way to see San Diego.


Coronado Island -

I fell in love with this sleepy beach town at first sight. If the houses didn’t cost millions I would instantly move there and live the beach life. The houses are beautiful, brightly colored, the streets are filled with cute shops,restaurants, and the beaches literally sparkle. Not to mention this is the home of the famous Coronado Hotel, where Marilyn Monroe shot the movie “Some Like It Hot”. The beach was our destination on day one, we hiked ourselves right over there and plopped down for some sunshine and ocean views. Lilly apparently isn’t a fan of sand though so we didn’t last that long and eventually wandered up to the hotel where there is a little shop that rents out chairs and umbrellas for about $20. Once we rented a chair (which Lilly sat on) we got comfortable again, had a drink and enjoyed the people watching. Even though we ended up renting a chair you can easily wander the streets and lounge on the beach without spending a dime. So take a walk, see the hotel and the shops, and enjoy the gorgeous views.



Del Mar -

Another amazing, quiet oceanfront town. This little town is filled with more houses that will make you want to pack up and move, restaurants sitting right on the beach, ice cream shops along the main drag, and an overwhelmingly calm feeling to it. There are stunning parks and playgrounds sitting right above the beach for you to take the kiddos to. Take some time to have dinner at one of their restaurants, and if you’re celebrating something or want a great seafood dinner visit Posiedon and have a glass of wine with a picturesque view of the water.


Balboa Park -

I had heard a lot of great things about Balboa Park in all of my reading about San Diego, so this was a must see on my list. It it a huge, beautiful area with museums, gardens, and squares complete with fountains. This is also home to the San Diego Zoo, so if you plan on doing that you might spend quite a bit of time in the park. Lil and I got there early in the morning and it was so quiet, barely anyone was there. But I could see how it would be a fun and lively place at night as well. We walked past the  Spanish buildings and hung out in the square. We walked through the Botanic House (hello, florist here) which was filled with spectacular orchids, and greenery. After that we meandered into the Spanish Village Arts Center, which I fell in love with. The sidewalks are all brick, and painted in bright colors of blue, red, yellow and green. The storefronts are tiny cottages with so much character and charm, all surrounding a square full of incredible trees that were bursting with purple blooms. At the northern end there is a little coffee cart, and benches to sit and enjoy the day. It is such a charming area, I had a hard time leaving it!


La Jolla Children's Cove -

La Jolla is an oceanfront neighborhood with lots of life, it’s a bit more bustling than Del Mar or Coronado. It is also home to UC San Diego. I had read that there was a children's cove here, where you could go see sea lions bathing on the rocks in their natural habitat, which I knew Lil would love. So I packed her into the car and off we went. The cove is exactly that, a tiny little area tucked away from the big waves, but if you don’t want to go down into the sand, there is a little pier with metal rails that walks out into the ocean, where we could see dozens of sea lions bathing on the rocks. We got up close and personal with them! We saw babies and their moms, we watched them get up onto the rocks, and to say Lilly was enthralled would be an understatement. After our fill of the sea lions we walked up the coast and just took in the views. It’s the perfect place for a leisurely morning stroll.



Birch Aquarium -

This was so worth the money to me. After seeing the sea lions we went here for more wildlife. My ticket for admission was $18.50 and Lilly was free, so not too bad at all! Birch Aquarium is run by UC San Diego and is a very learning-oriented experience. With lots of magnificent tanks, and a dedicated educational area, we had endless amounts of entertainment. They have a balcony with a touch zone in it where kiddos can go up and stick their hands into some ocean water and touch some sea life, which needless to say was a huge hit, plus it overlooks an amazing view.  They also have a water learning zone where kids can experiment with water, how it moves, the energy it creates and so much more. We spent a whole afternoon here and Lilly ran through the whole thing, with a smile on her face the entire time.

So while we did not do the typical San Diego to-do’s like the Zoo or Sea World, we found some amazingly fun things to do that worked well for us on our first family trip, with a toddler who was a bit grumpy. You don’t have go far to have a good time, or to get a great San Diego experience.