With world-class attractions and pristine beaches, it’s no secret that San Diego is one of the nation’s most popular family vacation destinations. If you’re the type of traveler who trades the guidebook for exclusive experiences and opportunities to dive a bit more into the local scene, check out these five unique things to do in San Diego with kids in tow (or not)—brought to you in partnership with Expedia Viewfinder.
See Also: Things To Do In Downtown San Diego.
1. Watch the Pandas Eat Breakfast
Here’s your chance to visit the San Diego Zoo before it officially opens. Early Morning with the Pandas provides exclusive access to the panda enclosure as they chow down on bamboo in the morning. The keepers share interesting details regarding the personality traits of each panda (Bai Yun eats her dessert first, always) and answer any questions you might have. You’ll have an unobstructed panda viewing–rare during opening hours–for about 45 minutes.
Next, keepers drive guests in carts around the park while sharing insider details regarding upcoming events, conservation and other animals in residence. Our tour ended with another highlight–feeding lettuce to a giraffe. If you aren’t familiar with the San Diego Zoo, I highly recommend this experience because it will help you get oriented before exploring on your own.
2. Spend a Luxe Day at the Beach
You don’t have to be an overnight guest of the Hotel Del Coronado to enjoy day rentals at Del Beach, located on what is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most beautiful beaches. The first come, first serve equipment rentals include sturdy umbrellas, towels, comfortable day beds and lounge chairs. Boogie boards can be rented a bit south of the beach near the hotel’s pool.
Here is another major selling point: Adult beverages (try the margarita) and a small menu snacks, sandwiches and salads can be delivered to you on the sand. Booze is otherwise banned on this beach and most others throughout the county. Bottoms up!
3. Enjoy Dramatic High Tide Dining
During seasonal high tides, The Marine Room hosts special breakfasts and dinners to celebrate the fact that waves will likely crash on the restaurant’s expansive windows while you eat. The Marine Room rests literally in the sand on La Jolla Shores Beach and the view is spectacular regardless of where your table is.
Menus feature seafood with global influences and though it’s a fine dining restaurant (no dress code, however), it is particularly kid-friendly during the day, though we have no problem taking our daughter for dinner. High tide meal dates and times are posted on The Marine Room’s website but note that dining here any time throughout the year is a good idea.
4. Go Paddle Boarding at Night
Head over to San Diego Bay Adventures at sunset, located just steps from the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina. After a quick paddle boarding demo, guests hop on to LED-lit boards and paddle out into the calm marina for an unusual look at sea life and the city after dark. The water glows as you glide through it which draws various fish to the surface.
LED-lit kayaks are also available. The tour lasts about 1.5 hours and wraps up with authentic Hawaiian music and folklore as well as non-alcoholic drinks.
5. Spend the Night in the Wild
Forget the flights to Africa. Book a special overnight camping adventure overlooking the African Plains exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. See and hear giraffes, rhinos, antelope, gazelles, and other denizens of Africa go about their daily business long after the park closes. Guests are treated to guided walks and campfire programming. Dinner and a hot breakfast are included. Yes, you’ll hear the animals throughout the night while sleeping safely in your tent. Speaking of tents, opt for ones with beds if you don’t feel like roughing it, though they sell out quickly.
Important tip: Do book these things in advance to avoid disappointment. Has your family enjoyed a unique experience in San Diego lately?
Looking for more to do in San Diego? Learn how to buy San Diego Zoo Safari Discount Tickets!