Crayons and a kid’s menu to color not cutting it? Waiting for the food to arrive at a restaurant with squirmy, ‘hangry’ tykes can feel like an eternity! Fear not parents who want to dine out in a civilized manner with young ones in tow! We’ve found 11 restaurants that have pre-meal distractions including giant swings, lounging seals, a dune buggy to climb and a playground to roam. Read on to see where your next family meal will be!

photo: William Perls

Viewpoint Brewing

What's not to love about giant swings with a view and fun games like bean bag toss? Without a doubt, this craft brewery has a picturesque view of the San Dieguito Lagoon, with good beer and a delicious menu to boot. Try the house burger, chicken wings and melon arugula salad, which all deserve a shout out. Further, dogs are welcome (on the patio) too!

Del Mar Neighborhood
2201 San Dieguito, Suite D
San Diego, Ca


Officine Buona Forchetta

Swings, a seesaw and tasty Italian food––that's amore. It's a parent's paradise when kids can play on the playground before and after dinner. Even more, the pizza and pasta dishes are homemade and the menu is huge. Also, you can sit outside on the heated covered patio with a full view of the play area.

Liberty Station/Point Loma Neighborhood
2865 Sims Rd.
San Diego, Ca

Mendocino Farms

Little eaters beeline to the wall chalkboard. Truly, it's adorable with a tic-tac-toe game and cute farm animals. Further, you'll find a bean bag toss and foosball too. While little hands are busy, order up a farm fresh organic turkey and avocado sandwich or the chicken Cobb salad––the kids will love the grilled cheese. Everyone leaves happy and full.

Del Mar Heights Neighborhood
12873 El Camino Real
Del Mar, Ca

The Shops at La Jolla Village
8795 Villa La Jolla Dr.
La Jolla, Ca

Karl Strauss Brewery Gardens

Whether it's Sunday brunch or afternoon eats this local brewery's koi fish pond keeps the littles entertained. We appreciate the kid's menu with items like mac n' cheese and grilled chicken breast. Also, you can order a craft brew flight and you can't go wrong with the fish and chips. On the other hand, it's a perfect Sunday brunch spot where it's loud enough for kid noise and you'll find items like pancakes, eggs and a carving station. Whatever you do, be sure to put this eatery on your list of places to go.

Sorrento-Mesa Neighborhood
9675 Scranton Rd.
San Diego, Ca
Online: karlstrauss.sorrento-mesa

(There are also locations in Carlsbad, La Jolla and 4S Ranch).

UTC Food Court

Ice skaters twirl and jump while you chow down in this cool food court that boasts a great selection of food including hamburgers and craft pizza to pho and gyros. Or try the new Shake Shack and carry it into the ice arena. When you're finished eating, hit up the tots play area by Macy's and get a little shopping done.

La Jolla Neighborhood
University Towne Center
4545 La Jolla Village Dr.
La Jolla, Ca

photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum

Flight Path Grill

Kids' meals and plane watching! Grab the lunch combo after checking out the museum. Little aviation experts love digging into a grilled cheese (with apples or chips) while watching planes fly over. The view is beautiful and you can have a glass of wine too. Notably, plan on making a day of it since you must visit the museum (or pay admission) to get to the grill.

Hours: Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (check for summer hours)

Balboa Park
San Diego Air & Space Museum
2001 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, Ca
Online: sandiegoairandspace.flightpathgrill

Hello Betty Fishhouse

After ordering, little surfers can run to play in the dune buggy (right in the middle of the restaurant). More still, the pinball machines are tons of fun. You'll eat up the mahi-mahi fish tacos and peel and eat shrimp. Likewise, kids will dig the chicken strips or burger (off the kid's menu). Make it a family date night with a walk to the nearby theater or Oceanside Pier.

Oceanside Neighborhood
211 Mission Ave.
Oceanside, Ca

photo: Landon's

Landon's Gourmet Kitchen

Parent date night with the tots in tow? Yes! Landon’s is a fresh farm-to-table eatery that has kids care right in the restaurant! Perfect for littles that need time to transition to the playroom. Moreover, they can order a meal, read books, play with car racetracks and much more. Also, for older kids, there are video games, iPads and movies. Enjoy gourmet food and grown-up convo with your little tyke being cared for in the on-site playroom.

Read our full review of Landon's Gourmet Kitchen here.

San Marcos Neighborhood
1020 W. San Marcos Blvd., Suite 138
San Marcos, Ca

Soda & Swine

A giant foosball table where many people can play is a highlight for half-pints. If they need more action, just head to the front for a game of corn hole. Food-wise, yummy three-and-a-half dollar sliders like the meatball with marinara and mozzarella or the chipotle bbq vegan hit the spot. And the three dollar small plates like spaghetti are perfect for sharing. For dessert, the apple pie a la mode deserves a special mention.

Liberty Station
2750 Dewey Rd., Suite 104
San Diego, Ca

photo: Mitch's Seafood

Mitch's Seafood

Watch the fishing boats dock with the day's catch while eating fresh fish. Also, the seagulls and seals in the water make for great entertainment. You'll find a little guppy menu with fish and chips and a cheeseburger. If kiddos need to move around, there's a small beach next to the restaurant. In short, we recommend this place for the fresh seafood and the views of the seals, ships and boats.

Point Loma Neighborhood
1403 Scott St.
San Diego, Ca

Village Pizzeria Bayside

Start a day trip with the ferry to Coronado Island. Stop to refuel at this eatery serving gigantic pizzas. Sit on the back patio where littles keep busy spotting helicopters and boats. Also, if they're fidgety, there's a grass area to let off some steam nearby. Plus, for you, there's craft brew and a beautiful view of the San Diego skyline. Also, good to know there's a kid menu to order from too.

Coronado Neighborhood
1201 First St.
Coronado, Ca

Do you know an eatery with a good pre-meal distraction? Let us know in the comments!

–Nikki Walsh


Order Up! The Best Kid’s Menus in San Diego

8 Super Family Date Spots in San Diego

5 Urban Playdates & Lunch Dates With Your Preschooler