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The Best of San Diego 2024: Kids & Family

Try these family and kid-friendly activities to occupy the little ones this year
Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring FUNbelievable play center in Lakeside
Courtesy of FUNbelievable

Best Controlled Chaos


A seventh birthday party at the playground is all fun and games until the slide gets backed up, there’s a line for the swings, and everybody’s crying. Move the festivities to FUNbelievable, an action-packed play zone in Lakeside providing massive slides and multiple rooms to explore (including one where kids load balls into suction tubes, an apparently mesmerizing activity that seems to occupy them for hours—or at least 15 minutes). The business’s party package comes with a private room, plus pizza, salad, snacks, and drinks. The other parents will thank you when they take their wiped-out kiddos home.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring Legoland California's new Dino Valley exhibit in Carlsbad
Courtesy of Legoland California

Best Jurassic Plastic

Dino Valley at Legoland

Legoland California celebrates its 25th anniversary with the new Dino Valley, a pint-sized, fright-free version of Jurassic Park. Get prehistoric with three new rides: Coastersaurus, Little Dino Trail, and Explorer River Quest (the latter two lack height requirements, so the smallest of tykes can still join the fun). There’s also a build-and-play area with Duplo dinosaur bricks and fossils to uncover.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring MexiVet Express veterinarian services
Courtesy of MexiVet Express

Best Puppy Passport Service

MexiVet Express

Affordable veterinary options in San Diego feel more limited by the day, so MexiVet Express drives your canine, feline, or rodent across the border to get them the care they need in Tijuana, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This courier service also helps you find the right provider, book an appointment, translate, organize important documents, and, most importantly, give your pet all the love and adoration they deserve.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring TwainFest in Old Town
Courtesy of TwainFest

Best Fest for Young Pagemasters


For one Saturday every August, Old Town becomes a 19th-century-literature-themed playground, complete with free books. Take tea with the Mad Hatter and Alice, paint a fence with Tom Sawyer, test your nimble tongue at the liar’s contest, play arcade-style games, or visit the author’s salon. The park bustles with hoop skirts, bowler hats, unicycles, and wandering giant puppets like a charmingly creepy Edgar Allan Poe. Let the kids sprint around with the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest while you grab tacos and watch from a bench.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas
Courtesy of Coastal Roots Farm

Best Day in the Dirt

Coastal Roots Farm

Everyone needs to get their hands dirty sometimes. Thursday, Friday, and Sunday mornings, parents cart their little ones to Coastal Roots nonprofit Jewish community farm in Encinitas for Nature Play. Designed for kids ages zero to 10 and their families, the program is run by farm staff, who oversee interactive storytime, animal encounters like feeding chickens, and other sensory activities, including play in the outdoor “kitchens.” Afterward, stop by their pay-what-you-can farm stand (those in need can get up to $30 of produce free) to take home organic veggies and herbs.

Best Way to Adjust to Tiny Humans

Post Pamper

The delicate period after a baby arrives can be isolating, exacerbated by the fact that postpartum care is often an afterthought in the US. But SD’s first postpartum retreat is looking to shift that narrative during the so-called fourth trimester with postnatal assistance in a luxury setting. Trained doulas help parents and little ones adjust to their new lives with round-the-clock feeding support, meals, and education. Happier parents mean happier babies. Next step? Convincing American insurance to cover postpartum care for everyone.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring the human claw machine at Escondido's North County Mall
Photo Credit: Lindsay Viripeaff

Best Live-Action Toy Story

Human Claw Machine

Most kids know those claw machines in arcades are usually a dark lesson in deep disappointment. Blow enough quarters trying to capture a stuffed Pikachu, and your sheer rage is almost enough to send you crawling into the machine to grab it yourself. Escondido’s North County Mall understands that impulse—which is why they offer a human claw machine that lowers kids into a pile of plushies so they can scoop stuff up. The experience starts at $10.

Best Place to Douse Your Kids in Sunscreen

SDSU Mission Valley River Park

Toddlers are like greyhounds— they’re born to run. Toddlers are also like monkeys: born to climb, jump, and wreak havoc. For parents looking for an all-purpose place their kids can wear themselves out, the newly opened, 34-acre River Park offers room to run. With miles of (tricycle) trails, a children’s play area, and seemingly endless grass, this is where to go to exhaust your little animals. Enjoy that early bedtime.

Best of San Diego 2024 Kids & Family featuring CFA's San Diego Cat Fanciers Food & Water Bowl Cat Show
Courtesy of CFA’s San Diego Cat Show

Best Agility Contest with No Winners

San Diego Cat Fanciers Food & Water Bowl

Every January, the finest fur babies (some with no hair at all) gather in Del Mar for the largest cat show in the Western US. Cat people can ogle regal Persians and skinny Sphinxes, buy gear for their own pets, and adopt a new four-legged overlord… we mean, companion. Depending on whether you actually care if an animal goes through the weave poles instead of licking its paw, unbothered, in front of them, it’s also home to either the best or the worst agility contest on the planet.

Best Place to Feel Small

The Sky Tonight

Are aliens real? How far can the Webb Space Telescope see into the universe? What do space volcanoes look like? Get answers at The Sky Tonight, a recurring astronomy presentation and lecture series on the first Wednesday of every month in the Fleet Science Center’s IMAX theater. Afterwards, members of the San Diego Astronomy Association set up telescopes outside for close-up looks at the moon, Saturn, and other celestial bodies.

See our complete list of the Best of San Diego here


By SDM Staff

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