This summer I have a toddler who wants to run and explore! Whether your kiddo is younger or older than that, the list I assembled below has tons of summer San Diego FUN for active kids (AND us parents! :)) All work well for a wiggle worm who needs a safe place to roam.
- Outdoor concerts:
- Ticketed and Free: https://www.sandiego.org/campaigns/summer-in-san-diego/summer-music.aspx
- Balboa Twilight in the Park: https://www.sandiego.org/members/visitor-information-centers/balboa-park/events/twilight-in-the-park-summer-concerts.aspx
- Outdoor movies around town at Parks etc: https://www.pacificsandiego.com/things-to-do/story/2019-05-29/san-diego-summer-outdoor-movies-2019
- Drive Through Movies: If it’s past bedtime and the little one enjoys sleeping in the carseat, this might be worth it (beware if it’s a hot night though!). Usually 2 movies per ticket, and you pay by adult or kids age 5&up. Many bring folding chairs too, although sitting on the ground is banned for safety. Bonus you can easily bring in your own food. Beware letting your car battery die to play the audio though 😛 The bumpy pavement, darkness and (mostly stationary) cars don’t make it feel like a place for little legs to roam without supervision though.
- Splash pads! Lots of mist or spraying water that kids can run around in for free in parks nearby or elsewhere. Some of my favorites are at the downtown Embarcadero Park (also by a great playground), the quieter Civitas Park, or the La Jolla YMCA (fenced in and free for members of any SD YMCA). Here’s a bigger list of free and paid areas: https://www.10news.com/lifestyle/exploring-san-diego/beat-the-heat-at-san-diegos-fantastic-splash-pads-and-water-parks or https://redtri.com/socal/free-water-play-in-san-diego/
- Baseball Games: This screams summer and luckily The Padres have a grassy field and playground that lets kids get their wiggles out, plus some Friar Family Days with free hotdogs and soda with the ticket. Anyone can sit in the field if you get a ticket for elsewhere (and regular tickets are nearly the same price, but able to book them farther in advance than the 2 weeks before for the grassy field). https://www.mlb.com/padres/tickets/specials/friar-family-days
- Evening events: Many SD places open up later for summer crowds- plus evenings tend to be cooler and less crowded– so if your little one is still awake to run around it can be perfect! SD Night Time Zoo (the membership for locals is a great deal if you go twice and/or have guests in town); Summer Astronomy events at the Fleet Science Center; San Diego Botanical Garden in Encinitas (great kid’s garden and music at night; otherwise go for free the first Tuesday of the month!); Balboa Park evening music and food trucks (see above), plus Liberty Station evening events (Stone Brewery has great outdoor space for kids to run plus the playgrounds or fields around there are great! See more info in my prior articles.
- Camping: I tried San Elijo/Carlsbad region beach camping off season (got cold, smaller sites right by road-so not the best for bolting toddlers-but great views! Up the hill/stairs from the water and have to book in advance and not that cheap); Palomar Mountain on their free astronomy viewing night is my plan for this summer; Mt Laguna or Cuyamaca Rancho are on my short list–more info on all those and lots more options below!
- Tips to make it smooth with babies or toddlers: https://www.sandiegofamily.com/baby/camping-with-babies-and-toddlers
- Good Family Camping Spots (fancy to simple): http://redtri.com/socal/camping-and-glamping-in-san-diego/ or https://www.sandiego.org/articles/family/camping.aspx
- More Family Camping Spot Tips (local tips for mostly tent-based sites): https://www.sandiegofamily.com/summer-camps-and-programs-in-san-diego/family-camping-in-san-diego
- Top 16 SoCal Camping tips: https://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/April-2018/16-Great-Places-to-Go-Camping-in-Southern-California-and-Baja/
- More “Best Camping Locations in San Diego: https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/san-diego/the-best-san-diego-camping-trips
- Free camping secret: https://www.cheersnature.com/free-camping-in-secret-san-diego-the-laguna-mountains/
One to Skip- County Fair: I went before 2019 (which had a very sad sickness outbreak in kids possibly linked to the petting zoo). In general it’s crowded and maybe hard to watch a running little one- but the animals might be a draw. Unless you love the crowds, concerts or fair food yourself, I’d opt instead for a quieter petting zoo to get your animal fix– we liked the one at Ponyland: http://www.ponylandsandiego.com/ It’s near the border and call to check its hours first, as they vary by season.
There are lots more things, but that’s a start! Get out there and enjoy!