San Diego with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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San Diego with Kids: A Family Vacation

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The thought of planning a vacation with children can be daunting. Lucky for you, San Diego, Calif., is an ideal destination for families with kids under 7. With near-perfect weather and endless activities to choose from, planning a perfect day of fun is easy.

Here is our suggested itinerary for your family vacation day in San Diego:

Morning


Start your day off with a quick bite from Champagne French Bakery Cafe (11925 Carmel Mountain Road; 858-613-7767). Order a breakfast panini, bowl of oatmeal or some delicious crepes from the cafe menu, or grab some pastries or bread from the bakery menu. No matter what you order, everything tastes good! Open at 6:30AM.

What youngster would not like to get their hands on some creatures from the sea? A trip to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla (2300 Expedition Way, 858-534-3474) is the perfect place for your child to learn about ocean life in the pacific through hands-on, educational exhibits that will captivate any child for hours.

The Birch Aquarium, which opened in 1992, is smaller and more intimate than most other aquariums, making it easier for younger children and their parents to explore all of its offerings without getting tired or bored! Don't miss the tide pool plaza, where kids can touch critters such as starfish, lobsters and crabs. Walk through the hall of fishes and view over 60 habitats. The 13,000-gallon shark tank and coral display is also popular. Check the aquarium's website for a list of rotating exhibits. Admission is $12 for adults, $9for seniors, $8.50 for ages 3-17, and free for children 2 and under.

Insider tip: The aquarium opens daily at 9AM; get there early to avoid the crowds.

After a morning of learning about fish, why not eat some for lunch? Head over to Fin's Mexican Eatery (8657 Villa La Jolla Dr., La Jolla; 858-270-3467) to pick up some food to go. This popular local joint has some of the best fish tacos in San Diego. Kids love the batter-fried fillets topped with salsa, white sauce and cabbage. They also serve chicken, lobster and steak tacos as well as burritos. The prices are inexpensive, with most items under well under $10.

With tacos in hand, take a short drive to La Jolla Cove Children's Pool (850 Coast Blvd., Casa Beach) and take in the views of the California sea lions that now reside on this beach. This protected cove was once used as a safe area for children to swim and play, but has since become invaded by sea lions! Walk along the sea wall to watch them playing in the water or sunning themselves on the beach. There are plenty of grassy areas surrounding the cove, making it an ideal place to take a break and enjoy your lunch. Don't forget to bring your camera -- as there will be lots of photo ops here. For more information, check out the La Jolla Friends of the Seals website.

Afternoon


An afternoon of fun awaits you and your kids on your vacation day at Balboa Park located near downtown San Diego, California. Balboa Park is the largest cultural park in the United States and is home to the San Diego Zoo. The park houses many museums, gardens, restaurants and a variety of cultural exhibits. It's a wonderful place to explore with your children; however there are a couple standouts for the younger crowd:

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (1875 El Prado; 619-238-1233) is a great place for children to play with over 100 interactive science exhibits. There are several hands-on, educational, fun galleries as well as Southern California's only IMAX dome theater showing stunning films about our planet and space. Kids from infants to age 5 will love Kid City, an interactive learning zone just for them. Hours are 10AM-7PM daily (till 8PM Friday). Price of admission is $10 for adults and $8.75 for children. IMAX films are extra.

Insider tip:
It's better to hit the science center in the afternoon to avoid the morning school field-trip crowds.

For kids (and adults) who love trains, make sure to stop by the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (1649 El Prado; 619-696-0199). It is the world's largest operating railroad museum giving visitors a history of California railroads. The museum has interactive toy trains among many other large-scale working train models. For smaller children, they have installed stairs and platforms every few feet along the larger displays to give everyone the opportunity to watch the trains. There is also children's play area, and railroad themed gift shop. Open 11AM-4PM Monday-Friday, 11AM-5PM Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors; free for children under 15 when accompanied by an adult.

Evening


With evening fast approaching there is no better place to wind down a fun-filled vacation day in San Diego than at Seaport Village on the waterfront (Kettner Boulevard and West Harbor Drive). Just a short drive from Balboa Park, this is the perfect place to catch the sunset along the bay. If you children still have some energy, take them for a ride on the historic carousel hand-carved in 1895. There are several different animals, but make sure to get on one of the horses since they move up and down. The ride only lasts a few minutes, but it's worth the $2 to ride a piece of history!

For dinner, take advantage of one of several kid-friendly, casual restaurants located throughout the Village. Choose from burgers, pizza, Greek and, of course, seafood! After dinner, take your kids to the Candy Shack & Yogurt (619-234-7688) for a special treat. Try one of their delicious candy apples or partake in some yogurt, salt-water taffy, or candy.

What a sweet ending to your perfect family vacation day with kids in San Diego, California!

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