This Popular City Is An Unexpected West Coast Destination For Fun Family Adventures

Sun, surf, and sand are the perfect combination for any vacation. Add big-time attractions, unique hotels, and year-round warm weather, making this destination even more appealing. But what about those traveling with kids? While finding locations ideal for all ages can be tricky, one city on California's Pacific coast is an exceptionally fantastic vacation spot for family adventures.

San Diego attracts travelers from all over the globe. With plenty of sunshine, this waterfront city boasts beautiful beaches, award-winning restaurants, vast urban parks, and plenty of things to do. Perfect for parents and their little ones, families can choose between spending a day at the beach, splashing in hotel pools, and exploring the many popular family-friendly attractions throughout the scenic city. Plus, San Diego is easy to get to. Just a little over two hours south of Los Angeles, the journey along the I-5 is easy and direct, although there might be traffic depending on the time of day. Flying into San Diego? Even easier. The San Diego International Airport conveniently sits near both Harbor Island and downtown.

Fun family-friendly things to do in San Diego

San Diego's 70 miles of coastline is full of family-friendly beaches, but favorites include La Jolla Shores and Mission Beach. La Jolla Shores is a mile-long sandy stretch. You'll find younger kids splashing in the water while older kids surf and kayak. Downtown La Jolla offers plenty of lunch spots, like Duke's La Jolla, offering Hawaiian-style dining and tropical cocktails. The whole family will love the seals and sea lions who now claim the Children's Pool, a small cove nearby. 

Another fun option, Mission Beach, is a wide sandy space adjacent to Belmont Park. Families can build sandcastles, swim, ride the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, play arcade games, and shop at surf stores. For more water adventures, sign up for any watersport class, including sailing, at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

For animal-loving families, San Diego is the place to be. The San Diego Zoo ($69 per adult; $59 per child aged 3 to 11) is located north of downtown in Balboa Park. It is one of the most incredible zoos in the U.S., home to 650 species of animals and a botanical garden. Alternatively, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park ($90 and up) is in Escondido, about 30 miles from downtown. Families can spot animals from an open-air safari truck. SeaWorld ($64.99 and up for ages 3+) is conveniently located in Mission Bay Park. Wrap up the day by taking family photos at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park to immortalize your adventures.

Family-friendly hotels in San Diego

Plenty of San Diego hotels beautifully balance kid-loved amenities with much-needed relaxation and fun for parents. Looking for luxury accommodations? The Fairmont Grand Del Mar (approximately $650 per night) is one of the best family-friendly hotels in San Diego. There is so much to do here. The hotel is the starting point for 27 miles of hiking trails. Families can compete in a friendly game of tennis or pickleball, take archery lessons, spend the afternoon at one of the many pools, and have their choice between fine dining and casual café. Plus, kids will likely love the Kids Exploration Club, where they can dive into outdoor adventures and indoor crafts.

Another fantastic family-friendly option is the Hotel del Coronado (approximately $470 per night). The iconic, red-roofed hotel offers the opportunity to roast s'mores in the sand, take a surf lesson, and lounge by the beach or pool, and kids aged 5 to 12 can enroll in an Ocean Explorer's Program. Here, kids will learn all about the underwater world via an underwater aquarium and tide pools.

San Diego Mission Bay Resort (starting from $233 per night) is another family-friendly hotel in San Diego. The beach is beautiful, the waterfront pool is enormous, the wading pool is perfect for tots, and the whole family will love bonfires and s'mores nights. The hotel also offers tennis, pickleball, and nightly live music. As an added bonus, families can reserve in-room tents to help keep kids entertained indoors.