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Van Life with Kids: Top 10 Places to Bring Kids to this Summer in San Diego, California


Are you looking to plan your family’s next summer road trip in your beloved van/home? It can be hard trying to appease all your kiddos while attempting to stay within a decent price range. Though vacationing can be expensive sometimes, it’s the memories that end up being priceless. Look no further, my friend, because I’ve mapped out a guide of San Diego’s top 10 places to bring the kids to this summer.

Now the idea is to make your children happy but most of these destinations can be just as fun for the adults as well! Whether your idea of fun is reading a book, unbothered, while your children keep busy at the water park, or channeling your inner child as you battle it out at laser tag. Maybe it’s bonding over unhatched dinosaur eggs. Whatever it is, keep reading to discover all the fun San Diego will offer you and the kids this summer. 

Guest Post by Brianna Walsh-Earp

Waterfront Park

Van-cationing with your children can make some great memories. Still, during the summer you might find yourself searching for activities that relieve you from the heat. Bringing your children to San Diego’s Waterfront Park around this time is the best way to have fun in the sun. With over 12 acres of water fountains, grassy lounging areas, and tranquil gardens, visitors of all ages have plenty to do here. Pack yourselves some lunch and layout for the day in one of the park’s expansive picnic areas while the kids splash around in the water fountains. The park graciously allows your four-legged companions to tag along for the trip to keep you company as you lay in the shade and catch up on your favorite book.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld is a place every child needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. Though it may not make the inexpensive list, it is quite an exciting experience. Tickets usually start around $100 each but the SeaWorld website is always running holiday deals for you and your family to take advantage of. The theme park’s main attraction includes the gorgeous sea-life marine biologists rescue every year. You can venture all around the park with your kiddos to witness the exhibits designated for sharks, sea turtles, penguins, dolphins, and plenty more. The park also features a few thrilling rollercoasters that will have you soaked from head to toe by the end. Pro Tip: Make sure to pack a change of clothes for the whole family.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego’s most popular attraction must be the San Diego Zoo, featuring an abundance of the world’s wildest animals. Consisted of 100 acres of habitats for over 12,000 endangered and rare animals, this attraction catches the eye of tourists from all around the world. One-day tickets start at $62 for ages 12 and older, $52 for ages 3-11, and children ages 2 and under always receive free admission. Consider treating your family to a tour around the park to minimize all the walking and maximize the amount of time spent viewing the animals.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

In addition to the San Diego Zoo, there is the Safari Park, which has been designated for animals from more arid environments like the African and Asian Savannas. This park features some animals that you will find in everyone’s favorite movie, The Lion King, like rhinos, lions, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, and many more. The park includes a 20–30-minute tram ride that takes you and your family all over the park to witness the animals graze below you. Understandably, your children cannot feed the safari’s animals, but the park is home to an exhibit filled with gentle goats that can eat the food right out of your hand!

USS Midway Museum

History is a huge part of our nation’s legacy, especially all the attractions dedicated to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives fighting for our country. Your children can get an up-close and personal experience of history at the USS Midway Museum, where they can tour a retired aircraft carrier after its 50 years of service. The ship is over 3 football fields in length and houses over 30 aircraft with more than 60 historically rich exhibits. Admission is between $12-$26 depending on age, but that’s just a small price to pay for all the educational and interesting activities waiting for you and your family on the USS Midway.

Legoland California

No matter how old you are, we have all felt the pain of stepping on a Lego piece. What’s a better time to reminisce about the unpleasant experience than to dedicate a day to a theme park filled with them? Though I can’t promise you won’t step on another one, I can promise that you and your van-fam will have tons of fun here. Some of the park’s attractions include: a water park, an underwater rollercoaster, a build-and-test Lego room, a Lego driving school, and the list goes on. If you happen to have a Lego enthusiast within your family, they can bring their old Lego figurines to the park and trade them for new ones at the designated trading areas.

Belmont Park

 Located in Mission Beach is Belmont Park, a historic beachfront amusement park that is free to all public guests. This family-fun-filled amusement park has tons of rides, games, and attractions that will keep you busy all day long. Challenge your spouse to a round of go-karting or show off your putting skills in a game of mini-golf. Whatever you and your family decide to spend the day at Belmont, it’ll be a day filled with good food, friendly competition, and great memories that last a lifetime.

Sesame Place

Sesame Street was a huge part of my childhood growing up, and as years have passed it continued to be a part of many kids’ lives as well. To this day, I still find myself singing “Elmo’s World” while doing chores. In 2013, Sesame place was opened in San Diego as a Certified Autism Center, where the young and the young at heart can meet everyone’s favorite furry characters. The park offers tiny-tot-friendly rides, including the Sunny Day Carousel, Ernie’s Rub-A-Dub Sub, Elmo’s Rockin’ Rockets, and loads more!

Natural History Museum

Explore the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula at the Natural History Museum. Highlighting discoveries made in their very own backyard and the nature surrounding the area, theNat, features many mesmerizing attractions. Stop by and say hello to Alice, the Allosaurus cast skeleton that accumulates many fans throughout the year. She and Meg, the Carcharodon megalodon, are just some of the Museum’s prehistoric friends that are put on display for the world to see year-round.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Considered one of San Diego’s greatest attractions and a world-renowned Scripps Institution for Oceanography, Birch Aquarium, is not just your average marine life viewing attraction. The Aquarium offers visitors of all ages to view wildlife and how we can take better care of the environment around them. Also, to ensure the marine life doesn’t get too overwhelmed with visitors, the aquarium requires a certain number of guests at a time. This means that you will have to reserve your tickets ahead of time for a chance to experience the wonders of ocean life.

Whether you are traveling full-time in your van or just planning a quick vacation, you want to make sure your children are happily busy. San Diego is a great place to plan your next van venture, offering loads of family-friendly activities for days. If you’re looking for more summer destinations, check out the RecVan website for Top Van Destinations for July 2022.