Just for Kids
With its spacious parks and beaches, family-friendly attractions and terrific climate, San Diego is a perfect vacation spot for kids. With so much to see and do, it helps to have an itinerary planned in advance. This day-long adventure begins in North County at the Legoland theme park, continues with a visit to Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, and concludes at San Diego's downtown waterfront for a cruise around the bay.
LEGOLAND® California in Carlsbad was the first LEGO theme park in North America, and it offers far more than classic building blocks. The park, which is geared toward children ages 2 through 12, has more than 50 shows, rides and exhibits - many of which provide learning opportunities and creative play as well as entertainment. Among the most popular: Kids can dig for "fossils" at Dino Island, pilot their own Lego-built boats at Skipper School, view life-size dinosaurs from the Coastersaurus ride, or attend "driving school." Don't miss Miniland -- miniature replicas of famous structures throughout the world sure to fascinate grownups and children alike. The park offers a number of shops and dining options; nearby casual restaurants include Tip Top Meats and Karl Strauss. Note: Legoland's days of operation follow school schedules, and the park may be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the school year. Be sure to call ahead for hours; LEGOLAND California.
From Legoland, drive south along the coast on Highway 101, which carries you through a series of beach towns and ocean vistas on your way to the Birch Aquarium. This stunning La Jolla landmark attracts visitors of all ages. Children are especially attracted to the "touch and learn" exhibit of starfish and other sea creatures; the outdoor tidepool; the fanciful seahorses; and the impressive collection of sharks. On certain days, guests can watch divers descend into the 70,000-gallon giant kelp forest tank to point out various species of fish, feed them, and answer audience questions. The aquarium also has an Explorers Gallery with science displays and interactive features, and a simulator ride with surround sound and computer-generated visuals that mimics an underwater adventure. Open daily except major holidays; Birch Aquarium.
Now that you've spent some time learning about the ocean, it's time for a scenic cruise around San Diego Bay. Both the San Diego Harbor Excursion and Hornblower Cruises offer narrated one-hour tours featuring either the north or south end of the bay. Highlights (depending on the itinerary) include the Coronado Bridge, naval aircraft carriers and other military ships; San Diego's working shipyards; Shelter and Harbor Islands; the submarine base; and Point Loma. You'll often see seals and sea lions perched on the buoys as well as a colorful variety of sail and power boats, especially on the weekends. Families will appreciate the comfortable cruise boats that feature snack bars, indoor and outdoor seating, and bathroom facilities. Bring a sweater; even when the weather's warm, sea breezes can add a chill out on the water. After your cruise, walk along the bayfront to see the Star of India (a classic sailing ship) and the ferryboat Berkeley. Nearby family-friendly dining options include Anthony's Fish Grotto and the Fish Market. Note: Dinner cruises are also offered by the tour boats; check with the companies for details.