One week in San Diego with kids: San Diego itinerary

San Diego is one of our favorite spring break destinations: it’s warm, offers up both beaches and culture, and can be affordable for a week-long visit. Here’s what not to miss with kids during a one week San Diego itinerary:

Where to stay and how to get around:

Decide where you want to center your home base for your San Diego itinerary: downtown San Diego or the Carlsbad area where beaches and LegoLand will beckon. If you opt for downtown, we recommend the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina or the Grand Hyatt. Keep in mind that while you’ll be on the water, this is the marina side, so you won’t have access to swimming beaches. If you opt for Carlsbad, we love the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort and Spa. You can also get a taste of both marina and beach, city and neighborhood, by renting a house in lively Mission Beach.

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San Diego is a car-centric city, so you’ll need a rental car to get around. Rent a car in San Diego starting at around $130 for a week, with prices going up from there if you need a larger vehicle. Renting from the airport location is always the most convenient, but you might save some cash if you can rent at your hotel or off-site.

What to do with a week in San Diego:

San Diego attractions that families will want to dedicate a full day to:

Legoland: If you have kids between the ages of 2-12, Legoland needs to be on the itinerary! Make sure to pack swim suits, too, for the waterpark section, and give yourselves the entire day, if not two days. Get our top tips for Legoland Calfornia here.

San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld San Diego: Depending on the choices your family makes, both of these parks will require a full day. We lean toward the zoo, where we feel the conservation efforts and educational aspects outweigh those at SeaWorld. Get our top tips for the San Diego Zoo here and for Seaworld San Diego here.

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Beach day: Plan for at least one full day at a San Diego beach! Our top picks include the bustling Mission Beach district if you have older kids and want to do some dining and shopping as well (there are also paddle board and bike rentals in abundance). If you have younger kids, head over the bridge to Coronado and enjoy the gentle surf and flat sand on this relatively quieter island.

San Diego attractions that only require half a day:

Old Town San Diego: Often overlooked, we love Old Town! You can tour Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where The Junipero Serra Museum lies right on Presidio Drive in Presidio Park, marking the exact location where historical scholars say the state of California was born. Outside in the Presidio is a wonderful place for an afternoon picnic and restful place to take a breather.

Extra Tip: if you want to learn more about the history of the city, consider a walking tour with a California State park guide. Tours begin at the visitor’s center on the plaza, and no reservations are required. Parents with little ones can detour from the tour whenever tired feet dictate.

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After getting a solid historical background, you’ll want to kick back and enjoy some of the color and flavor of the Old Town marketplaces. Take your pick between Fiesta de Reyes, where the streets are always alive with a party, and Bazaar Del Mundo, which features goods from all over the world. Toy stores selling historically-based toys and candy shops with old-fashioned treats can also be found in the state park section of town.

Use Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the area without stress…it will also take you over to Coronado and through downtown attractions if you want to make touring San Diego without a car into a day’s activity.

Balboa Park and museums: Certainly, Balboa Park can take up an entire day, but with kids, you’ll want to pick and choose which museums and attractions to explore, based on their age. The San Diego Museum of Natural History is here, plus the Museum of Art, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the Museum of Man. When kids need a break and want to run around, be sure to check out the botanical building.

USS Midway

U.S.S. Midway: Kids will notice this aircraft carrier sitting in the bay almost immediately, and they’ll want to explore it. Luckily you can! A tour of the USS Midway takes a few hours, but is very interesting to all ages. We have tips for best exploring this attraction, which is right on the water on the marina downtown.

Enjoy your San Diego itinerary with kids! Spring break is coming…are you ready?

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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