If you’re having a hard time letting go of summer, read this and you’ll be booking your family trip to San Diego faster than fall got here. When autumn arrives, San Diego’s the place to be where the weather stays warm while summer crowds quickly vanish. Fall offers some of the best reasons to visit San Diego, with “Kids Free San Diego” topping them all in October, not to mention beer and food festivals, horse racing, street fairs, and music fests that’ll take you into November.
Seriously. San Diego goes child wild in October with special deals for families, so those of you traveling with the kiddos can enjoy your time in San Diego without emptying your wallet. Here’s a checklist of all the San Diego highlights to hit with the family… all October long and beyond!
Get There On Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner
Amtrak is offering one child, ages 2-12, a free ride with one paid adult rail fare aboard the Pacific Surfliner route, servicing San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Hornblower Cruises & Events and Flagship Cruises & Events are offering kids, ages 12 and under, a free ride on their popular one- and two-hour harbor tours along picturesque San Diego Bay. Hornblower’s offer is good for two kids per each full-price paid adult admission, while Flagship offers one child per paid adult. Choo ching – let’s go!
San Diego Speed Boat Adventures, Inc. is offering kids a free guided and narrated San Diego Harbor Tour aboard their very own mini speedboat, with a paid adult tour. One child, age 12 or under, rides free per one paid adult on the entertaining, on- and off-boarding Old Town Trolley Tours of America and the San Diego SEAL Tours Sea and Land Adventures. Good luck squeezing it all in… or make a list for your next visit.
All kids, ages 10 and younger, are admitted free into the iconic San Diego Zoo, home to 4,000 rare and endangered birds, mammals and reptiles, and the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, with up-close views of the critically endangered species. If you’ve never been to the San Diego Zoo, it’s definitely worth your time!
SeaWorld San Diego celebrates its 50th anniversary by offering one child, ages 3 to 9, free admission with one full-paid adult admission. LEGOLAND® California Resort, with 128 acres of LEGO-themed fun and more than 50 interactive attractions, and SEA LIFE™ Carlsbad Aquarium, with 36,000 sq. ft. of play zones and marine exhibits including the new Jellyfish Discovery (way cool), are offering a free one-day Child Hopper Ticket for one kid, ages 12 and under, with purchase of a full-price one-day Adult Hopper Ticket. Sweet!
Belmont Park, an awesome turn-of-the-century-style seaside boardwalk and amusement park in Mission Beach, offers kids, ages 12 and under, free rides, meals, and treats with adult purchase of the same offering. Play unlimited laser tag or ride for free on the park’s 11 ticketed rides, including the National Historic Landmark “Giant Dipper,” one of only two remaining beachfront wooden roller coasters on the U.S. west coast!
HOTEL TIP: Families staying at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa along scenic Mission Bay can enjoy free rides for kids, ages 12 and under, aboard the Bahia Belle, a 1860s-era sterwheeler that tours the bay.
Kids’ Fave San Diego Arts and Culture Venues
If your kids are into planes, trains or automobiles, then get yourselves over to the many museums of Balboa Park, often called the Smithsonian of the West. The San Diego Air & Space Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, presents aviation history from first flights to space travel, while the San Diego Automotive Museum displays classic automobiles and motorcycles from yesteryear. Toy train buffs of all ages (that’s you, Dad) can see the largest indoor model railroad display in the world at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
At the Maritime Museum of San Diego you can explore the oldest active sailing ship in the world and go inside a Soviet submarine or come aboard one of the ships that starred in Pirates of the Caribbean 4 Movie.
Rock out at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, where kids can learn about the history of American Popular Music, get a glimpse into the music products industry, play on dozens of hands-on instruments in the museum’s unique Innovation Studio and explore music around the world on a state-of-the-art touch screen.
Nautical nut? – check this out!
FREE Stuff for Kids
Surfing lessons are a spectacular way to spend a day with the kids. With the purchase of one adult surfing lesson or session, one child, ages 6 to 12, gets a comp surfing session or lesson from the Surf Diva Surf School in La Jolla, the world’s first all-woman surf school. At H&M Landing, kids can experience the thrill of catching their own fish for free with every paid adult; reservations are required.
Love the beach? Check out this favorite getaway!
Landlubbers, this one’s for you. With the purchase of a paid adult public harvesting tour, kids can enjoy a free tour around Suzie’s Farm, where you learn the history and operations of this incredible 140-acre USDA-certified organic farm and have the tasty opportunity to harvest veggies to take home on a 90-minute tour.
Had to toss in a few extra autumnal San Diego suggestions including SoCal’s largest two-day (and free) musical festival, the 33rd Annual Adams Avenue Street Fair that returns Sept. 27-28 to the Normal Heights neighborhood complete with four beer gardens, seven stages, and more than 90 musical acts. Jump on it!
From Sept. 21-26 more than 180 restaurants will offer specially priced prix-fixed meals during San Diego Restaurant Week. And from Nov. 17-23, the 11th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival takes over the Embarcadero Marina Park North, next to Seaport Village, and other venues throughout downtown San Diego. Nom.
San Diego’s Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is adding a second racing season for the first time; the new Bing Crosby Season will run Nov. 7-30.
Tackle the ultimate beer tasting from Nov. 7-16 when hundreds of beer-centric events will take place during San Diego Beer Week, a countywide festival that highlights San Diego’s award-winning craft beer, breweries and pubs; event dates, times and locations vary throughout the week. Hop to it!
Halloween makes a splash at SeaWorld San Diego during its “Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld” celebration featuring trick-or-treat stations, a special Halloween-themed Clyde & Seamore’s Spooky Adventure sea lion and otter show, Penelope’s Pumpkinfish Patch, a variety of up-close animal encounters and photo opportunities at the Mermaid Grotto.
LEGOLAND® California Resort in Carlsbad joins in the Halloween fun with its annual Brick-or-Treat celebration, featuring a one-of-a-kind, four-foot-tall LEGO jack-o-lantern, costume contests and trick-or-treating with a souvenir goodie bag along the park’s Brick-or-Treat Trail.
Fall’s my favorite time of year to explore California when it’s crisp and cool yet still brimming with summer sizzle. Get out there and enjoy!