Forget to book that trip out of town for winter break? Stop scrambling to fill your family’s calendar. We’re here to help you bust boredom by collecting 15 outings worth adding to your staycation planner. Read on to discover your best winter break yet!


Photo: Children’s Nature Retreat

1. An alternative to the zoo, livestock from around the world can be found at the Children’s Nature Retreat. Admission is $45/adults; $35/children under 12; free for those under 2 and you’re welcome to feed the animals for free with sprouted barely from the grounds. And if you’re lucky you might arrive on a day that they’re giving out fresh eggs.

2. Root on the Pacific gray whale as they near the end of their 10,000 mile annual migration. They’ve traveled from Alaska and would like to you to know that contrary to popular belief, Dec. is an opportune time to join a whale watching tour. There are many options for tours including San Diego Whale Watch, Hornblower Cruise & Events and Flagship Cruises & Events.

3. Most of us have heard of the famed downtown donut shop, but few of us have had time to brave the line. Treat yourselves to a sugary bite at the Donut Bar and then head to Mission Hills to take a gander at a front yard hillside topiary. More than 50 innovative creations will amaze your passengers at Harper’s Topiary Garden located at 3549 Union St.

Insider Tip: This is a private residence and is best viewed from the car or sidewalk. 


Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo via Flickr

4. The Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego has a very interesting upstairs neighbor. It shares its rooftop with a small blue house named Fallen Star, whose back end juts daringly off the 7th floor. This artistic oddity can be toured for free Tues. & Thurs. 11 a.m.-2p.m.

5. The Helen Woodward Center will be hosting Winter Critter Camp for grades Pre-K to 6th Dec. 19-23 & 27-30. In their new pack, your animal lover will learn all the cool facts about how their favorite animals adapt to the colder temps of winter.

6. Take a ride on a narrow-gauge engine at the Poway Midland Railroad on a Sat. or Sun. over winter break. Towards the end of December the cable car and speeder will be ready for departing passengers. After a jaunt around the park, enjoy a packed lunch before heading home.


7. Join a MOMS Club ®. Membership into a chapter of this international mothers club is based on your location and lucky for us, there’s a handful of chapters around San Diego. Find a chapter near you and let the club populate your winter break calendar and beyond.

8. Seaport Village may be well known, but it’s a spot we probably don’t go often enough. This is a fun place to people watch and to see who can successfully play keep away from the resident seagulls.

9. Head north for a scenic walk along the Carlsbad Sea Wall. This walkway is roughly one mile and there’s plenty of sand for digging once you’d like to just sit and admire the crashing waves.


Photo: Jeannette Swanson

10. Let the downtown skyscrapers be your little’s backdrop as they travel down the aluminum slides and onto the soft turf. The Waterfront Park is innovative and large enough so that it’s unlikely to feel overly crowded even when a large volume of littles are present. This is a great spot to make new friends since a lot of winter breakers are likely to come here to let off some steam.

11. Nickel City might remind you of that other business whose mascot is a mouse, but this arcade is easier on the wallet. Admission is $2.50 and games may take up to 10 nickels. No food or drink may be brought in, but they have an assortment of carnival-like eats on the menu and hot coffee for us.

Photo: Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens

12. With original structures that date back to 1898, the Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens is reminiscent of South Carolina Low Country. The architecture beautifully marries the lush gardens and there are many ways to immerse yourself in its tranquility. There’s an area that’s inhibited by goats and 20 ft. tree houses and bridges that allow them to proudly trip trop for us. After visiting the goats, head to the farmhouse and create a mini merry garden. Tots are encouraged to dig in and choose from an assortment of fairies, geodes, succulents and more.

13. Lions, Tigers and Bears might have you singing that tune from The Wizard of Oz, but this animal sanctuary provides a unique experience for the animal lover. Located in Alpine and open by appointment only Wed. – Sat., visitors will be taken on a guided tour and introduced to the 19 species of inhabitants. The tours can last up to 2 hours, so strollers, carriers, snacks and water should be included for this trip.


Photo: Jeannette Swanson

14. Families seem to flock to the larger park near the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, but there’s a quieter park on the north end that’s worth a visit. At De Anza Park there’s a picnic shelter just steps from the small, well kept playground and the bay is a comfortable distance from the play structure. Your winter date will love the pirate ship and just might pretend that it’s almost ready to set sail into the bay.

15. School’s out, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on recess. Take the family to Rockin’ Jump for some calorie burning fun. This indoor trampoline center will continue to host Rockin’ Tots for ages up to 6 on Tues. & Wed., 9-11 a.m. and Sat. 8-10 a.m. along with their open jump for all ages Mon.-Sun.

What will you be doing during Winter Break? Let us know in the comments!

— Jeannette Swanson