Take It From Me: These Are the 10 Things You MUST Do on Your Next Family Vacay to San Diego
San Diego, California, is a family vacation hot spot for more reasons than one.
It has tons of noteworthy attractions (San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Seaport Village just to name a few), amazing views and beaches and loads of great food (hello, it's home of the California burrito????).
I've visited the scenic beach city a fair share in my lifetime, and through my many visits I've gathered a handful of fave places to dine, see and explore.
On my most recent weekend getaway to the city, I compiled a list of my ten all-time favorite things in SD, and now I'm here to share them with you.
Pack your bags, grab your fam, but no need to plan an itinerary—take it from me, these are the things you must do.
1. Stay at the El Cordova Hotel on Coronado Island
Located on the quaint and cute Coronado Island (just a short ferry ride under or drive over the San Diego-Coronado Bridge), lies the El Cordova Hotel. This place, known for its historic charm, has always been one of my favorite places in San Diego.
This hotel sums up my childhood—we've stayed here for gigantic family reunions, for many spring breaks and even a few Thanksgivings. It's a little piece of home in San Diego.
It offers a Spanish garden, a courtyard with 12 boutique shops and four restaurants and is less than one block from the beach and the famous Hotel del Coronado.
I personally love this place because of the atmosphere—you truly feel like you're walking into an old Spanish-style town when you enter the premises.
2. Dine at Fabrison's French Creperie and Cafe
If you're anything like me, you can't begin your day without a hearty breakfast.
One of my forever favorite spots in Coronado to eat is Fabrison's French Creperie and Cafe—a family owned and operated eatery located right on El Cordova's lot.
The restaurant was under construction during my visit, so I got to eat my bfast in the hotel's adorable little courtyard.
This place is fantastic and offers a variety of goodies—everything from breakfast crepes to savory and sweet crepes.
I opted for their So-Cal Breakfast Crepe, packed with one egg, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, avocado and served with a side of aioli.
I practically drool just thinking about their offerings.
3. Start Your Day at the Air and Space Museum at Balboa Park
If you haven't heard of Balboa Park in San Diego, it's an urban cultural space packed with gardens, walking paths, outdoor theaters, several museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
While most everyone visits the San Diego Zoo on their trip to SD, there are several lesser-known attractions at this park that get overlooked.
On this trip, I vowed to explore new places, and boy did I find some gems, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
Before you keep scrolling or comment that this place couldn't at all spark your interest, hold on just a second and give it a chance—I, too, had the same thoughts before visiting.
This museum will truly be entertaining for anyone in your fam, yourself included. Not only is it full of flight history (everything from da Vinci to space exploration is covered), it has plenty of interactive and fun attractions you won't want to miss.
During my visit, I had the chance to sit in a Robinson R44 helicopter, view spectacular art (I mean, who wouldn't want to own a pink space man?) and even take a ride on a two-seat moving flight simulator that allowed me to take action in an aerial combat.
I would've never guessed this museum would be such a blast. Pun intended. ????
4. Unwind at the Japanese Friendship Garden
After such an exhilarating time at the Air and Space Museum, there's literally no better way to calm your senses than with a visit to the Japanese Friendship Garden also located within Balboa Park.
If you're all about zen, you'll love everything this place has to offer, including a tea pavilion, koi pond, viewing deck and several strolling paths.
All it took was 20 minutes in this tranquil place before I was totally calm, cool and collected.
On a beautiful, sunny day in San Diego, what more could you ask for?
5. Visit the Beautiful Botanical Building
Part of my mission on this trip was to explore all of Balboa Park, as opposed to just visiting the most highly populated areas.
One area of the park I've bypassed before is the Botanical Building, a wood lath structure built in 1951 that houses more than 2,000 tropical plants.
Now that I've been inside, I won't be able to visit SD without making a pit stop here.
As you walk around, you can take in some of the most beautiful plants and flowers from all over the world—a truly breathtaking experience.
6. Pop in the Natural History Museum
After my visit to the Japanese Friendship Garden and Botanical Building, I was totally at ease and ready to hit up a place I know an animal-lover and history buff like myself would surely enjoy—San Diego's Natural History Museum.
This museum, which was founded in 1874, holds so much history and focuses on southern California and Baja California's natural resources.
I don't care if you love history or not, this museum is packed full of interactive exhibits and photo ops galore.
I took advantage of every photo opportunity as you can see below.
7. Live a Little on San Diego Speed Boat Adventures' Harbor Tour
Because I'd been cooped up most of the day in museums, I thought it was about time to get outside and enjoy the California sunshine.
I headed down to the San Diego harbor, and spied an opportunity I couldn't turn down: a chance to hop on the water with San Diego Speed Boat Adventures.
This company offers a fully narrated 13-mile tour through the harbor on a St. Martin Powerboat—and the best part is, you're the captain!
You navigate your own two-person boat through the harbor to see highlights including historic ships of the Maritime Museum, Seaport Village, the downtown skyline and the Coronado Bridge.
I'm not the biggest adrenaline junkie, so I sat in the passenger seat and enjoyed the scenery and ocean breeze as we zipped from location to location at 30 mph.
Even for a scaredy cat like me, this was an invigorating experience I could enjoy. Seriously, anyone would love this—but especially those that have a need for speed. ????
8. Nom on the Best Queso Dip San Diego Has to Offer at Miguel's
After so much activity, you better believe I was hungry, and there's no other place I would have rather eaten at than Miguel's Cocina on Coronado Island.
This small, but amazing restaurant situated right in El Cordova's courtyard serves up some of the best, if not the best, Mexican food I've ever eaten.
I seriously would take a trip to SD just for their food.
Although I love everything on their menu including their signature fajitas and taco plates, there's one item that always hits the spot: their jalapeño white sauce (aka queso).
This stuff is magic. One bite and you're in love.
9. Take a Sunset Stroll to Hotel del Coronado
Once I had a nice little food coma going, I was ready to take a walk.
If you're lucky enough to stay on Coronado Island like I did, head on over to the famous Hotel del Coronado and venture to the beach to catch a stellar sunset.
Money can help you visit some pretty awesome attractions in SD, but it can't buy a priceless sunset like the one below.
I mean, look at this beauty I managed to snap. ????
10. Soak in the Beauty at Anza-Borrego State Desert Park
The following day, I decided to finish off my trip with a bang by visiting a place I'd always dreamed of going—Anza-Borrego State Desert Park.
Located about two hours outside of downtown San Diego, this place is known for its beautiful canyons and its super bloom of flowers in the spring.
My visit to San Diego this year happened to land upon one of California's biggest super blooms, and there was no chance I was missing it.
If you have the time and are visiting in the spring, do yourself a favor and visit this place bursting with color.
I have never seen so many flowers in one place. It was truly a sight to see.
If you find yourself in San Diego, I really hope you, too, get to experience all the food, fun and history that it offers. No matter what you discover, however, take it from me, it will be a trip you never forget!
Heading on a family road trip any time soon? Then you'll definitely want to read THESE handy tips for surviving the vacation.