Spring is no longer “almost” upon us. It is here. And while we haven’t completely dried out from rainy skies and heavy snowfalls, we’re fortunate to have some really great escapes that promise sun, relaxation, mocktails and cocktails by the pool or sea, whatever your pleasure, almost any time of the year. As our calendars collide with Spring breaks and Summer vacation planning, it makes sense to share a sampling of my favorite Family-Friendly destinations in our beautiful USA.
Every day, for the next week, I’ll highlight one of my most favorite Kiddin’ Around destinations for your best family vacation yet. Whether you’re searching for luxury or less is more, stay tuned for my hints, suggestions and secrets in this year’s Kiddin’ Around – 2017 Spring Break Edition.
Being partial to my home state, California, we’ll start on the West Coast. With many beautiful and diverse cities, California features two cities by the bay that offer year-round entertainment for children and their parents alike: San Diego and San Francisco.
Both cities are easy to get to, play in, eat well and have fun. Below you’ll find my “Can’t Miss Destinations” for San Diego! Stay tuned the rest of the week for all of my Spring Break and Summer hot spots. And read to the end of this article for a sneak peak at my upcoming destination guide.
Can’t Miss Sights & Spots while Kiddin’ Around:
Cabrillo National Monument and Park – This Park commemorates the exploration of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who led the first European expedition to what is now the U.S. west coast, in 1542. This National Monument marks Cabrillo’s landing site in the San Diego Bay. You can hike the 2-mile Bayside Trail for the BEST views of city and bay. Your children will also enjoy the tide pools on the western side of the point. Near the whale overlook is historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse. www.nps.gov/cabr
Balboa Park – With a multitude of different adventures for families with children, there is literally something for everyone to enjoy-together or separately in this glorious destination. With over 40 museums and attractions and 1,200 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, Balboa Park is a special place for families to spend time together. (Hint: Grab some food and water before plopping everyone down on the gorgeously manicured grounds for a family picnic, followed by a ride on the Balboa Park Carousel. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser for all ages.) http://www.balboapark.org/visit/kids
Old Town California – In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation established Old Town State Historic Park to preserve the rich heritage that characterized San Diego during the 1821 to 1872 period. The park includes a main plaza, exhibits, museums and living history demonstrations. With over 15 restaurants, every member of your family is sure to be full. (Hint: Café Coyote & Cantina for delicious Mexican food.)
Smaller (and beyond worthy) Museums: The New Children’s Museum and The Birch Aquarium at Scripps. In the heart of Downtown’s gaslamp quarter is where you’ll find The New Children’s Museum. The take-away here is family time equals playtime. Enjoy, learn, get messy, and create. Just please, whatever you do, have fun together! (Hint: Nearby Café 222 is a MUST DO for mouthwatering breakfast or lunch that you can all agree upon. You’ll be anxiously awaiting your next visit before this one is over.) https://thinkplaycreate.org
For families on a tighter budget and/or traveling with tykes who may not want the larger and crowded amusement parks (see #10 below), The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is your child’s ticket to happiness. With over 5,000 fish in 60+ habitats, this is still an awe-inspiring destination for young eyes and ears. Your families can get hands on with interactive activities, see a tank feeding, and experience so much more – all in a less overwhelming but equally stimulating environment.https://aquarium.ucsd.edu
Torrey Pines State National Reserve® – Located between La Jolla and Del Mar, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve® remains one of the wildest stretches of land on our Southern California coast! Whether you’re looking for a simple loop hike or something more challenging, you’ll find it here. My favorite hikes are Beach Trail, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean along the way and the Guy Fleming Trail, a two-third-mile loop, which means it’s a good option if you’re traveling with really young children in tow. https://torreypine.org
La Jolla Village and Cove - La Jolla Cove is a very small beach, tucked between sandstone cliffs, just below La Jolla Village. While the Village boasts world-class shopping and one-of-a-kind dining, the shores below are some of the most photographed in all of Southern California. With small surf in the summer months, the north facing La Jolla Cove is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. What else do I love about La Jolla Cove? (Hint: It is one of nine beaches that has permanent lifeguard stations patrolled by San Diego Lifeguards making it one of the safest and cleanest beaches around.) http://www.lajollabythesea.com
Solana Beach – This beautiful community is located along the northern coast of San Diego County. It is my favorite area in all of San Diego and one of the best (in my humble opinion) beaches in the area, as well. While Solana is quite popular with surfers, it is also well known for it’s shopping. With a mix of interesting art galleries and boutiques, furniture shops, surfing stores and other delightful finds, you’ll always find me in the Cedros Design District. (Hint: Hungry in Solana? MUST visit Claire’s on Cedros; Not too far from Solana, in Cardiff, is one of my all-time fave food pit stops, Ki’s Restaurant. Both are beyond family friendly!) http://www.ci.solana-beach.ca.us, http://www.clairesoncedros.com
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch – With nearly 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that make up the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, you and your children will literally feel like you’re walking through a planted rainbow. The colors are astounding. This is a destination that I cannot wait to return to. The flowers are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year – from early March through early May. This annual burst of color is one of nature’s official ways of announcing the arrival of spring in southern California. (Hint: The colors make this an awesome photo spot whether you’re taking selfies or something more “professional”.) http://www.theflowerfields.com
San Diego Botanic Gardens - With over 35-acres to visit, this destination boasts over two-dozen themed gardens situated along four miles of trails. Parents often tell me it’s difficult to find a place that will meet the needs of multiple-aged siblings in a single family. The Botanic Gardens is your answer! The Seeds of Wonder Children's Garden is geared towards little ones (kindergarten and younger) with water and sensory play. While the Hamilton Children's Garden appeals to bigger kids. Your older ones can indulge in a giant game of tic-tac-toe, wander through a labyrinth made of feathery plants, learn to read a sundial, and play in a tree house. The mission of the Garden is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature. I have to say, mission accomplished!http://www.sdbgarden.org
The Big 4: LEGOLAND, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld. San Diego wouldn’t be the year-round family destination it has become without these four well-known Amusement Parks. Whether your children are into rides, animals, adventures, educational entertainment, water play, building, creation, imagination and over-the-top entertainment, these are your go-to hot spots. Just remember that little ones can get easily overwhelmed in large parks. If hitting any or all of these destinations while in San Diego, stay hydrated, well fed and covered in sunscreen. Trust me on this one. http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org, http://sdzsafaripark.org, https://www.legoland.com/california/, https://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sandiego/
Check back for more Kiddin’ Around – 2017 Spring Break, parts 2-7. Sneak peak at our upcoming destinations: Hawaii, San Francisco, Boston, Florida, Road Trips and what is the #1 Family Cruise on the wild seas? Stay tuned to find out.