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Daring Gourmet Vacations: San Diego, California (Part I)

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san diego family vacation zoo seaworld

We just got back a couple of weeks ago from our family vacation to southern California.  With a rambunctious 2 and 4 year old we were a little stressed at the thought of how it would all play out.  But I’m happy to report we all made it back in one piece having had a ton of fun with lasting memories to treasure!

We had a blast in San Diego!  Here is Part I of our adventures, featuring a couple of San Diego’s most popular family attractions.

We specifically chose to go in October for a couple of reasons:  We figured with school back in session there would be fewer crowds and the weather is still great in October.  We were pleased on both counts.  And coincidentally we also came to find out that October happens to be “Kids Free” month in San Diego.   We couldn’t believe everything that was on the list – during the entire month of October kids can enjoy free deals on over 100 attractions, including the world famous San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, over 30 museums, free public tours and transportation, free restaurant meals, and more!

It’s incredible how many free attractions children have access to during the entire month.  San Diego has got to be the most kid-friendly city in the country!  It’s nice to see a city that not only realizes the importance of fun and educational experiences for children but encourages them to participate by making those opportunities fully accessible during an entire month out of the year.  Standing ovation for the city of San Diego!

Before heading down to San Diego we had spent a few days in Los Angeles seeing some of the attractions there.  Even amidst the exciting things we did there, our 4 year old son couldn’t stop talking about wanting to go to the zoo.  As far as he was concerned, nothing else existed – no, not even Disneyland.  As fun as that was, he had Zoo-on-the-Brain and there was no sidetracking him.  So needless to say, when we finally arrived in San Diego the zoo was the first thing we hit!

Zoo 3

With so many things to see, our son immediately ran to the map to check out all the options and he and our daughter more or less led the way, calling out the different animals they wanted to see next.

The San Diego Zoo is massive!  We came prepared with a convenient kid carrier that was also able to fit our water and snacks.  The zoo allows you to bring your own food in with you and we recommend that as the food there is quite expensive.  Our kids were both such troopers and wanted to walk the entire time.  But when you’re in need of a break, the zoo also has buses that allow you to conveniently get from one location to the next.

Zoo Collage 9

Zoo 2

Zoo 7

Zoo Collage 2

Even though October is Kids Free Month, we went in the morning and it wasn’t too overcrowded.  And the October weather was perfect.

Zoo Collage 11

The zoo has an aerial tram, the Skyfari, that runs all day long and offers spectacular views of the zoo.  We were a little nervous taking our kids on it, but they remained seated with our arms around them and enjoyed it so much they requested to go again.

Zoo 27

Zoo 34

Zoo Collage 12

Our kids had way more stamina than we did and could have continued on indefinitely it seemed.  But rather than walk all the way back to the entrance, we rode the zoo’s Kangaroo Express.  We got to see quite a few animals during the drive and the kids really enjoyed it.  Our driver was friendly, enthusiastic and engaging and told us some facts about the various animals as we drove around.

Our kids had a blast at the San Diego Zoo and we’ll definitely be coming again.

Zoo Collage 6

The next day we hit SeaWorld and our kids were ready for another big day!

Sea World 29

Again, so much to see and we let our kids lead the way.

Sea World 26

Of everything our son probably enjoyed the mantas the most, probably because he was able to interact with them.  Those mantas weren’t shy in the least!  They came right up to the kids and they were able to reach in and touch them several times.

SeaWorld Collage 1

They really loved the seals, too.

Sea World 13

Sea World 12

Seals have always been one of my favorites and these ones were particularly cute.  Such proud expressions!

Sea World 15

The park was decorated for Halloween throughout which added to the fun.  The kids really liked the Shark Encounter, you get to ride through an underwater tunnel made of glass on all sides and see the shark swimming all around you.  (*faint sound of the music from “JAWS”*)SeaWorld Collage 2

Another kids’ favorite were the penguins.  It was definitely mine and my husband’s favorite attraction – because it provided a nice cold break from the hot weather!

SeaWorld Collage 3

Our kids really enjoyed their time at both the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.  A warm “thank you” to both of them for participating in San Diego’s Kids Free Month!  It was fun, educational, and we enjoyed some great family time together.  Memories like that are priceless.

And another round of applause for the city of San Diego!

For more information on the San Diego Zoo, visit their website:  San Diego Zoo

For more information on SeaWorld, visit their website:  San Diego SeaWorld

For more information on other San Diego Attractions, including special events and offers like Kids Free Month, visit San Diego’s Official Travel Resource.

Join us for more family fun in the upcoming PART II of our vacation as we explore more amazing San Diego sites, including Coronado Beach for some surfin’ USA, Balboa Park, and some awesome family-friendly restaurants!


Disclosure:  The kids enjoyed free admission per San Diego’s Kids Free Month and we were provided with complimentary tickets.  As always, all opinions are entirely my own.


kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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  1. Kids Free MONTH?? That is amazing! :) I know I have seen weekends where certain attractions are free for the kiddos, but never entire months! And that Skyfari looks so cool! And now I am adding San Diego to the family travel bucket list… ;)

    1. San Diego deserves to be in every family’s travel bucket list! :) I know, what really impressed me too were all the participants in the free month – even the mega big attractions like SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo participated. Two thumbs up for them!