Best of...Family Fun!
Best of Family Fun 2017 Winners and Top Picks
Best Place to Get Wet
It’s no secret that San Diegans love the water, and where better to enjoy a whole day in the water for free, than the beach? Whether it’s building sandcastles on Coronado’s iconic white sand beach, boogie boarding with the locals at Pacific Beach, or surfing Del Mar’s scenic coastline, San Diego has no shortage of spectacular coastline to explore.
Best Family Day Trip
“An annual drive to Julian is a must. Local small-town charm, apple picking, horse-drawn carriages, shopping in quaint shops and a visit to the general store. Plus, it’s a beautiful drive! Stop at Dudley’s along the way for fresh-baked bread, rolls and pie!” ~Laura of Mira Mesa
Best Party Venue for Kids (ages 5-11)
Planning a birthday party or celebration? At Funbelievable parents relax while the kids run, hop, jump, skip and slide through the indoor play center. Kids can conquer the giant jungle gym with ropes, slides, ladders, ball pits and more. Themed birthday party packages make hosting a “piece of cake.”
Best Local Donut Shop
With locations in Santee and Lakeside, Mary’s Donuts treats residents and visitors to fresh, homemade donuts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Customer favorites include the raspberry filled cream puffs, maple bacon bar and blueberry classic donut. “Fresh simple donuts, wonderful customer service,” says Margie of Chula Vista.
Best Spot for Date Night
Indulge in a kid free evening of art, food and entertainment. Have dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants, enjoy drinks and a movie at The Lot luxury theaters, take a stroll through Liberty Public Market’s food and craft stands, or meet local artists in the Arts District at Friday Night Liberty Art Walk.
The Prado at Balboa Park
Hotel del Coronado
Best Party Venue for Toddlers
“The creative atmosphere is perfect for parties plus the party planners take care of all the details. Toddlers feel like they are walking into a world of their own imagination,” says Chloe of Escondido.
Chuck E. Cheese
Best Kid’s Menu
The 50’s style diner offers an expansive kid’s menu with classic American diner fare and kid favorites like grilled cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fingers and corn dogs. All kid’s menu items come with a soft drink and choice of french fries, steamed veggies, apple sauce or carrots and ranch.
Best Activity for Teens
Volunteering is a great way for teens to spend free time. After all, there is tremendous satisfaction that comes from making the world a better place. Visit our website to learn about local opportunities, such as helping at Junior Adaptive Sports Camp.
Best Restaurant with Kid-Friendly Play Space
Corvette Diner’s Gamers Garage is a great place for kids to let loose after dinner, whether you’re hosting a birthday party or enjoying a family night out. Purchase a Gamers Card for access to over 60 classic arcade games like air hockey, pinball, skee ball and much more.
Nate’s Garden Grill
San Diego’s Best Hidden Gem
City Farmers Nursery
Whether or not you’re in the market for new plants, City Farmers Nursery is a must see. Kids love visiting with the adorable animal residents and parents love listening to live music on the patio next door or relaxing among the bonsai in the tranquil Buddha Garden.
Japanese Friendship Garden
La Jolla Sea Caves
Best Place to Get Creative
The New Children’s Museum
Take part in free entertainment and art making workshops inspired by discovery, diversity and community. Claire of San Diego says, “There are so many creative activities! From clay and painting to inventing and science based workshops. This museum has it all!” Don’t miss the museum’s annual Mass Creativity Day.
Best App for Parents
A great tool to stay informed about what’s going on in your own neighborhood, whether it’s finding a reliable dog walker, learning about an upcoming concert in the park, or hearing about a rash of neighborhood break-ins.
Dr. Seuss Read, Learn & Play apps
MomCo, where moms connect
Best Free Activity/Event
Free Museum Days
Resident Free Tuesdays offer free admission to select Balboa Park museums for San Diego County residents, active military personnel and their dependents. Museums offer free admission on rotating Tuesdays, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
Summer Movies in the Park
Summer outdoor concerts
Best Live Performance for Families
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Every holiday season, the beloved Dr. Seuss children’s book comes to life on stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. The Grinch is a family favorite that delights audiences with its whimsical storytelling and holiday carols. Check the schedule for sensory-friendly performances geared to families with special needs.
San Diego Junior Theatre
Disney on Ice
Best Local Breakfast Spot
The Original Pancake House
The Pancake House offers classic breakfast dishes like eggs benedict, strawberry crepes and mouthwatering potato pancakes that you can’t get anywhere else. Katelyn of Scripps Ranch says, “It’s been our family’s favorite breakfast spot since I was a baby. Both locations serve up the most delicious pancakes you could ever hope for. Get the German Pancake!”
Best Place for an Animal Encounter
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
“Each visit is a different experience, as the animals are always up to something new! Keeper Talks let you learn in depth about a specific animal, while Animal Encounters let you get up close,” says Katie of Scripps Ranch.
Living Coast Discovery Center
Best Museum for Families
Fleet Science Center
Hands-on, educational exhibits teach both kids and adults about science and encourage curiosity about the world. Twelve permanent exhibits like So Watt! An Illuminating Look at Energy and the Tinkering Studio inspire playfulness and discovery in fun and exciting ways.
New Children’s Museum
The NAT (Natural History Museum)
Best Local Tourist Attraction
Take a ride on the historic carousel, listen to a live outdoor organ concert, stroll through exotic plants at the Botanical Garden or enjoy a leisurely ride into Balboa Park’s past on an electriquette, a small motorized chair that visitors drove around Balboa Park at the 1915 Panama Exhibition.
San Diego Zoo
Best Educational Outing
“I have a lot of great memories of going to Birch Aquarium as a kid. I learned so much about the marine life in San Diego that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. As an adult I still love to take visitors from out of town.” ~Adrian of Mira Mesa
Fleet Science Center
The NAT (Natural History Museum)
Best Frozen Treat
The Baked Bear
A San Diego original, The Baked Bear serves up delicious customizable ice cream sandwiches. First choose a donut, brownie or cookie in a variety of homemade flavors. Then select from a dozen original ice cream flavors and finally, pick a topping like Heath Bar bits or Oreo crumbles. Make sure to get your sandwich hot pressed!
Rita’s Italian Ice
Best Amusement Center
Lisa of Rancho Peñasquitos sums it up best: “In addition to the historic roller coaster and beachfront location, they’ve added lots of fun attractions like laser tag, ropes course, miniature golf, and a zipline for kids. There’s something for everyone! Plus, they have Dole Whip. What’s not to love?”
Dave & Busters
Best Place to Connect with Nature
Mission Trails Regional Park
Bring the kids and explore one of the largest urban parks in the United States and original home to the native Kumeyaay people. Enjoy more than 60 miles of hiking trails, guided Family Nature Walks, horseback riding, animal sightings and more.
Torrey Pines Nature Reserve
Best Place to Play Indoors
The New Children’s Museum
Kids’ imaginations run wild at the dress-up station, sandbox gallery or life-sized sketch aquarium. Let them loose in Wobbleland, a unique play area featuring over-sized climbable fruit sculptures. Maria of Southcrest says, “There are so many interactive things to do, like climbing, painting, drawing, building and playing!”
Best Activity for Thrill Seekers
Kayaking La Jolla Sea Caves
Thrill seekers, adventurers and water enthusiasts love to explore La Jolla’s unique coastline up close and personal on a kayak expedition. Choose from one of several kayak tour companies. Paddle through narrow sea caves or visit with sea lions and otters (from a distance, of course.)
Hang gliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Best Family-Friendly Brewery
A San Diego favorite with four locations, Pizza Port is part pizza parlor, part brewery. Original craft beers and handcrafted pizzas are inspired by California beach culture. The laid-back atmosphere and delicious pizza pies make it a great dinner spot that the whole family will enjoy. Don’t forget to order the Beer Buddies (bite-sized pieces of seasoned pizza crust)—yum!
Best Place to Take a Family Photo
Looking for a perfect spot to take a holiday or graduation photo? Make an afternoon of it and head over to San Diego’s beloved Balboa Park. Favorite photo spots include the Lily Pond and Botanical Garden, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Japanese Friendship Garden and Alcazar Garden.
Best Place for Kids to Break a Sweat
The YMCA is a wonderful place for kids to get exercise while having fun. The Y has multiple locations offering a variety of classes and camps for kids such as swimming, martial arts, gymnastics and sports camp. Parents can also partake in family fitness classes.
Best Party Venue for Teens
Ultrazone Laser Tag
Who doesn’t love a good game of laser tag? Grab your crew and head over to Ultrazone in Point Loma where you’ll wind your way through an expansive maze of lights, tunnels and secret passageways. It’s a great party venue for kids, teens and parents alike.
Miramar Speed Circuit
Best Mom Blogger
The Mom’s Guide to San Diego – Jennifer Humora & Chelsea Maxson
San Diego moms Jennifer Humora and Chelsea Maxson are co-authors and founders of The Mom’s Guide to San Diego, a fun and informative resource for local moms. You’ll find resources on the blog for everything from local events and entertainment to birthing and fertility services.
Addison Reads – Sam Munoz
100 Days of Real Food – Lisa Leake
Best Family Resort or Getaway
Less than two hours from San Diego, Disneyland Resort offers a wonderful family getaway adventure. While staying at The Disneyland Hotel, The Grand Californian or Paradise Pier, dine with your Disney friends at a special meet-and-greet character breakfast, indulge in delicious cuisine at Downtown Disney, and enjoy easy access to theme park gates.
Great Wolf Lodge
Updated: July 2017