HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TIME IN SAN DIEGO WITH A TODDLER
San Diego is one of the best destinations for families with toddlers. If you ask us me it is the best place for kids of all ages because there is something for everyone. Who doesn’t like beaches, warm weather, LEGOLAND California, Safari Park, and Tide Pools? If you want the perfect destination for your next family vacation then look no further, San Diego is the winner. I could also be a little biased considering I lived in North San Diego County for four years. It is where I married my wife and had my son so it has a special place in my heart.
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San Diego is also a launching pad for epic road trips and the perfect place to start conquering your USA bucket list. You can even head down to Mexico for the day, spark some romance, and enjoy the amazing food. The possibilities are endless.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SAN DIEGO WITH A TODDLER
One of the best things about San Diego is that you can visit any time of the year. The weather allows you to enjoy activities year-round. Certain times of the year should be avoided such as July due to Comic-Con. The summer months are crowded in all of the major tourist areas and the prices are higher.
Our favorite time in San Diego is in the spring when the weather is mild and there is a nice breeze in the air. Prices are a little lower when kids are in school as expected with most vacation destinations.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO WITH TODDLERS
The best places to stay in San Diego with a toddler are dependent on what you would like to do with your little one. Keep in mind, San Diego (the city) is small and parking can be limited in the popular areas. If you plan to stay in a hotel parking is usually an average of $25 per night. If you are focusing on toddler-friendly activities here are the best places to stay in San Diego.
We like to use Airbnb when we travel because it is a much cheaper alternative than hotels. For less than what you would pay for a hotel, you can rent an apartment or condo with a full kitchen and oftentimes parking. It is a great way to save money by cooking some days instead of eating out every day.
We stayed at an awesome trailer in San Diego with our 15-month-old. The hosts were amazing and thought of everything to make you feel at home. It is located on a quiet and safe cul-de-sac only 25 minutes away from all of the major attractions. There is even breakfast available for the duration of your stay. How awesome is that?
This guesthouse is located near all of the major attractions in San Diego especially if you plan on going to SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo. What makes it so great? There is free parking, stores close by, and it is pet-friendly. We stayed here the weekend we got married and everything was amazing.
We are not a resort family, but there are some resorts in San Diego that are family-friendly for families with toddlers.
The Welks Resort is located in Escondido, which is in North San Diego County near San Diego Safari Park. It is located 40 minutes north of San Diego and is a great place if you want to get away. We stayed here 2 nights while I was pregnant and enjoyed our stay. We were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite with a deep soaking tub, fireplace, and full kitchen. It was relaxing and the views of the mountains were beautiful as we walked around the resort. A bonus was free parking because I do not like paying to park.
There is a game room for older kids as well as swimming pools and splash pads for your little one. You can also enjoy game nights in the multipurpose center. If you are looking to save money on food by cooking, I recommend going to the grocery store before checking in because it is somewhat in a secluded area.
GETTING AROUND SAN DIEGO WITH A TODDLER
The easiest way to get around San Diego with a toddler is with a rental car. It is a necessary evil in San Diego because although everything may seem close having a car makes it a lot easier. Having a rental car is easier for us since we still rely on a car seat for our 1-year old. Public transportation is available but it is not convenient with a toddler and there will be a lot of walking involved. Save yourself the trouble and find a good price on a rental car before arriving. We use CarRental8 to find the best price when we travel.
If you plan to stay in the main San Diego area then Uber or Lyft are great options. You have to keep an eye out for surge pricing because during rush hour (7:30 am-10 am and 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm) the price can triple due to demand. Keep in mind, you may have to have your car seat with you because some drivers will refuse to drive with your toddler without a car seat or booster seat.
THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO WITH A TODDLER
San Diego has some of the best things to do with a toddler. There are museums, play gyms, amusement parks, beaches, and city parks. The possibilities are endless to enjoy a weekend or a long vacation.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is our favorite place to go in San Diego with our toddler. We bought an annual pass so we could enjoy anytime. We like to get there first thing in the morning during the week when there are no crowds. It is so much fun when it is less crowded, you can truly enjoy everything at a nice pace. The least busy days are Tuesday – Thursday and you may be able to get parking on top of the hill.
Pro Tip: If you purchase a bottle of water, you can receive free refill anywhere in the park for free.
San Diego Zoo
Although the pandas are no longer there the San Diego zoo is a great place for not only for toddlers but for kids of all ages. I prefer Safari Park
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
We went to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum before out little one was a toddler. He was only 10 months when we spent the day here and he had a blast. Kids under 12 months are free as well as military/police officers/firefights during a certain part of the year. There are interactive activities, slides, pretend play area, blocks, drums, water legos, chickens, and a garden. If you are looking for a place to let your toddler run around this is it.
There are also classes daily that are included in the price of admission. There is toddler time, storytime, dance parties, and so much more for you and your toddler to enjoy. After a few hours here your little one will be ready for a nap.
Pro Tip: There is a park located across the street from the museum with a cool train, but be careful there are oftentimes people loitering in the park.
Children’s Pool Beach
LEGOLAND is our favorite amusement park, even better than Disney. We love it because of the short lines, reasonable prices, baby center, size, and cool LEGO builds. We went during Christmas with our 1-year old and had the time of our lives. The park is manageable for a toddler and can be done in one day. I recommend purchasing the combo ticket with the aquarium and going during offseason for the best prices (avoid holidays and summer). We were able to get on a lot of rides with our 1-year old and he enjoyed the DUPLO play area.
If you are looking to spend the day enjoying the sun and getting fresh air Balboa Park is the place to go. It is filled with museums, food, gardens, and fun. Your toddler can spend the entire day running in the grass or taking the time to visit the Japanese Garden. There is enough walking to tire out your toddler
The New Children’s Museum
USS Midway Museum
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
This aquarium is small and can be done in 30-40 minutes with a little one in tow. It is not as fun as the aquarium in LEGOLAND, but it is a cool place to see fish. If you are looking for something extravagant this is not the place for you. Although there is an amazing view of the ocean when you go outside of the aquarium.
Sesame Place **Coming 2021**
We are excited about the opening of Sesame Place in San Diego in 2021. There is currently only one Sesame Place located in Philedaphelia, PA. As a mom of a toddler that loves Sesame Street and Elmo, this is a welcomed addition to San Diego. This will be one of a few places dedicated to toddlers and we couldn’t be more excited. I know families on the West Coast will be flooding this amusement park with their little ones to hang out with Elmo, Oscar, and Cookie Monster.
There is something for kids of all ages. The park even has a dedicated area for kids with Autism. Sesame Place is the first theme park to have a Certified Autism Center. Julia, a 4-year-old with autism is a character on Sesame Street that is a little different from everyone else. She had a difficult time looking people in the eye, but she just wanted to do friends. If your little one has developmental disabilities you can arrange a sensory guide before your visit.