San Diego offers family fun beyond the usual fare

Sunday Signal

San Diego, just a few hours away by car or Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from Union Station in downtown L.A., is well-known for its zoo, beaches and Sea World. However, family fun can also be found throughout San Diego.

Relax on the Surfliner and take in the incredible views along the way. First, take Metrolink from any of the three Santa Clarita Valley stations — Via Princessa, Santa Clarita or Newhall — and connect at Union Station with any of more than a half dozen Surfliner trains to one of two stations in San Diego: Old Town Transportation Center or Santa Fe Depot.


San Diego offers fun family adventures, as well as world class events and festivals.

Upcoming events

Saturdays, July 17-Aug. 18

Stagecoach Days

Noon – 4 p.m.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park


Stagecoach Days celebrates San Diego culture and history. It is filled with activities that reflect early San Diego life and celebrates the West. Enjoy the historic park that showcases life from the early Mexican-American period of 1821-1872 through rich living history programs.

Aug. 10

Surf Dog Competition

Elder Avenue, Imperial Beach


Dozens of dogs take to the waves during the annual Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach. Visitors can take in the fun as more than 60 dogs compete in surfing and paddle boarding challenges. The family-friendly event raises funds for the San Diego Humane Society.

Aug. 31-Sept. 2

U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and 3D Art Exposition


Broadway Pier and Pavilion, 1000 North Harbor Drive, San Diego

More than 300 tons of sand will be carved and molded into beautiful

sculptures during the annual U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and 3D Art Exposition. Held at the Broadway Pier and Pavilion on San Diego Bay, the event features live entertainment, food trucks and fun kids’ activities.

Around town

Old Town San Diego

4002 Wallace St., San Diego


Old Town is the historic heart of San Diego. Created in 1769, Old Town San Diego was California’s first settlement with only a mission and a fort.

Take a tour of Whaley House, which was featured on the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted. This was San Diego’s first house made from bricks and has been used as a courthouse, theater, billiard hall and school.

La Casa de Estudillo Museum

4000 Mason St., San Diego

This national landmark, built between 1827 and 1829, is one of the oldest surviving examples of a typical large Spanish-Mexican one-story townhouse in California.

La Jolla Cove

1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla


Visit Ellen Scripps Park to fly kites, enjoy picnics and walk to the Children’s Pool. This arena was created with children and their safety in mind. Local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps donated funds in 1931 to form the seawall which helps creates an open ocean pool with safe, serene waters.

Swim, snorkel, build sand castles and see the seals that often fill the entire beach. The cove is also a great place for young children to explore tide pools.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla


See more than 5,000 fish in 60-plus habitats plus a museum featuring cutting edge research from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. Take in spectacular panoramic ocean views and get hands on with interactive activities. This is a great place to visit with young children as it offers an up-close view of tanks filled with glowing moon jellies, beautiful lion fish, silvery sardines, sharks and other sea creatures. Children can also gently pet sandpapery sea stars and slimy sea cucumbers at the outdoor Tide Pool Plaza.

Balboa Park

1549 El Prado, San Diego


The location of the first-ever World’s Fair, Balboa Park offers 17 museums, a multitude of gardens, five playgrounds, a carousel, a train for children, the famous Old Globe Theatre and more.

The view of the Botanical Building with the Lily Pond is one of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park and a “must-see” destination in San Diego. Built for the 1915-16 Exposition, the historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. The Botanical Building plantings include more than 2,100 permanent plants.

Visit the California Tower, another “must-see” Balboa Park attraction. Often used as a symbol of Balboa Park and the city of San Diego, the Tower recently re-opened for tours that offer panoramic views of San Diego.

Take a stroll through Alcazar Garden, in the shadow of the California Tower. It is one of the most photogenic spots in the park.

Apollo 9 is one of only two Apollo command modules flown in space on display west of the Rocky Mountains. Found at the San Diego Air & Space Museum Apollo 9’s 10-day mission launched on March 3, 1969. The crew accomplished the first tests of the lunar module, or LM, that would take a crew to the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969. See this important piece of history now, during the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. While at the museum visit the Kid’s Aviation Action Hangar, a special play area for kids.

A hit with preschoolers, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum houses one of the largest indoor model train displays in the world. Bigger kids will enjoy the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

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