How to Spend Three Days in San Diego with Toddlers

by | Oct 12, 2023 | California | 0 comments

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San Diego is the perfect place to visit with young kids year round. The weather is great and there are so many fun things to do in this city for kids of all ages. We visited San Diego with our 1 and 3 year old and they had a great time. There are so many things to see and do in this city that it can be hard to figure exactly what to do. Since we only had a few days in San Diego, we did some of the more popular things that we knew our kids would love. If you have young kids, San Diego should definitely be on your list of places to visit. This article will show you how to have the best time in San Diego with toddlers.

Where to Stay:

San Diego is a fairly easy place to get around. There are lots of options of places to stay and some of it may depend on what you want to see and do. We chose to base ourselves in Mission Bay as this was a central location for the things we wanted to do.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Resort which was located right on the bay. We loved this resort for its great location and the pool area was perfect for young kids. They had three water slides and a zero entry pool area. The kids loved the pool area and it was a great way to spend our afternoons after exploring the city in the morning. We also enjoyed that they had some larger room options for families. We stayed in an end unit suite which gave us a little more room with our two small kids. You can check out my full review of our stay at this hotel here.

How to Get Around:

The easiest way to get around San Diego is by car. We rented a car and it made getting around the city very easy. All the places we visited had free parking or street parking so we didn’t have to pay any extra by having a car. The only place we had to pay for parking was at our hotel. Most hotels in the San Diego area do have a fee for parking which is something to keep in mind. Even with paid parking at our hotel, we still enjoyed having a car to get around the city.

Day One: La Jolla Cove

We spent our first full day in San Diego visiting the famous La Jolla area. There is lots of free street parking on Coast Boulevard if you are wanting to see the sea lions and seals. We were able to find a parking spot fairly easily but we did go early. I would highly recommend arriving before 10am if you want to find a spot easily. If you have young kids, getting to La Jolla before 10am shouldn’t be a problem.

The first thing we did was visit the sea lions. The kids absolutely loved this and we enjoyed watching them for about 15-20 minutes. The kids loved all the noises that they made and thought they were super funny. There is a really nice path that is paved all along the coast so it makes it easy to walk with strollers and young kids.

The next place we stopped was Children’s Pool. This area is where the seals usually hang out and there were lots of birds to watch as well. There is a walkway that you can go out on but there are steps that lead down to it. There are some nice views on this walkway and it is worth a walk out in my opinion. There is a chance you could get wet while on this walkway if the waves are higher.

After we saw the sea lion and the seals, we enjoyed some time walking along the coast and enjoying the views. We found some nice green spaces to let the kids run around as well. After our walk, we went and found a place for lunch. There are lots of great places to eat in La Jolla and we really enjoyed eating at The Cove House. It was a great spot for lunch and the kids loved it.

Every afternoon we would head back for naps and then have some pool time. The kids loved playing in the pool and going down the water slides. It was perfect to have a nice pool area to come back to in the afternoons.

In the evenings, we would go out to dinner. There are so many great restaurants in San Diego that it can be hard to choose where to go. On the first night we ate at the Classics Malt Shop. This place was very family friendly and they have the best customer service. We really enjoyed our meal here and it was a great place for a quick dinner on our first night in San Diego.

Day Two: San Diego Zoo

We spent the next day visiting the world famous San Diego Zoo. This was a must do activity for us as both our kids love animals and visiting zoos. Obviously this zoo is extremely large and it is impossible to see it all in one day with little kids. It is a good idea to figure what some of your must see animals are and then plan out your day from there.

We arrived right at 9am which is when the zoo opens. We also chose to go on a weekday as it is usually not as busy. The day we went was overcast with some light rain in the morning which was perfect as there was hardly anyone there when we arrived. If you are visiting with young kids, I highly recommend that you bring a stroller. The zoo is huge and there are a lot of hills to walk up.

Thankfully, there is an amazing bus system that you can use to transport you across the zoo. This is included with your admission which is a great perk. The other thing that is included with your ticket is the use of the Skyfari Aerial Tram. This is a gondola type ride which takes you from the entrance to a corner near the back of the zoo. There is also a guided tour bus that is included with your ticket. It is about 45 minutes long and gives you an entire overview of the zoo. We didn’t take the tour as our little guy probably would not have enjoyed the 45 minute ride but it seemed like a great thing to do if you have older kids.

We spent about 4-5 hours at the zoo and had a great time. The kids loved seeing all the different animals and they both enjoyed the bus and the skyfari. You can read my full review and recommendations for the San Diego Zoo in this blog post here.

After the zoo, we went back to our hotel for naps and pool time. We then went to dinner at this adorable asian restaurant called Harumama. They had the cutest bao buns that were shaped liked animals that the kids loved! It was a super unique restaurants that the kids enjoyed. 

Day Three: La Jolla Shores Beach

We spent our last full day in San Diego at the beach. Our kids love the beach so this was a must do activity when visiting California. We chose to go to the La Jolla Shores Beach as it was close to where we were staying and it has a large parking lot right on the beach.

La Jolla Shores Beach was the perfect spot for a family beach day. We picked up some sandwiches from The Cheese Shop on our way to the beach so we could have a picnic later in the day. The sandwiches were delicious and I would highly recommend grabbing some lunch from this place if you have the chance.

The beach itself was perfect. The sand was great and the waves were pretty gentle for young kids. My kids had a great time just playing in the sand and running out into the waves. The beach does have a bit of seaweed that washes up near the water but the sand further back from the ocean was clean and soft.

The best part about this beach is that there is a large parking lot that is free to park in. If you arrive before noon during the week, you shouldn’t have any problem getting a parking spot. We showed up around 10:30/11:00 during the week and there was plenty of parking to be found. I also liked that there was a playground right on the beach for the kids to play on as well.

We spent most of the day at the beach and then decided to go for some pizza for an early dinner. We went to Pizza Port which was a great choice for a quick dinner. The pizza was great and the environment was super casual. This was great for the kids after a long day on the beach.

There are so many thing to see and do in San Diego that it can be hard to choose what to do. We based our itinerary on some our kids interests and things that seemed to be toddler friendly. We definitely could have spent more time in San Diego with all the things to see and do. We will definitely be back again to explore more of this amazing city.