If you have kiddos who are constantly seeking an adrenaline rush, it’s time to channel that wanderlust from the backyard to the great outdoors. And with the National Park Service celebrating 100 years of service, we’ve rounded some amazing activities in San Diego to celebrate our own national treasures and embark on a lifelong adventure.

Photo: Barbara MacGillivray


Don’t Miss the National Parks Adventure IMAX
Start your adventure by watching National Parks Adventure IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. The new film is set in Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Arches and several other beautiful parks will take your breath away and provide inspiration for outdoor fun this summer. The scenery, music and amazing feats of the explorers will leave you feeling exhilarated, wanting to plan time sharing nature with the whole family and singing, “This land was made for you and me.”

The film features awe-inspiring views of the Yosemite Valley, history of how the national parks began, and jaw-dropping scenes of rock climbing in Arches National Park and mountain biking in Canyonlands National Park. Rachel Pohl, one of the main adventurers in the movie is a rock climber and artist. She recalls her best childhood memories as ones that took place “outdoors playing in the dirt, and family road trips.” Pohl’s unexpected favorite place while making the film will leave your family awe-struck. At lesser known Pictured Rocks in upper Michigan, the adventurers explored an ice cave that Pohl describes as a “magical scene … like a chandelier with snowflakes upon icicles.”

Pohl urges families to spend time outside with their kids, ” It’s so simple to just go outside. You don’t have to do it on a grand scale…Just a short drive can put you in more in touch with nature and create a lot of excitement.”

Cost: Fleet Admission, $19.95/adults, $16.95/kids 3-12

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado
San Diego Ca
Online: rhfleet.org


Photo: Kathleen Berkson

Cabrillo National Monument: San Diego’s Own National Park
San Diego’s Cabrillo National Park overlooks a gorgeous coastline, cool tide pools, and kid-friendly hiking paths. This national park has an exciting event planned for Sat., May 21, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., that will have the whole family acting as scientists for the day collecting data as you hike beautiful seaside trails. At the Biodiversity Festival try out the many hands-on arts and activities, all nature and science based. From origami, to Native American rock art to snakes, there is something for everyone to learn.

Insider’s Tip: Download the app iNaturalist and familiarize yourself with its features before attending.

Cost: Free park entrance this day

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92106
Online: cabrilloevents.org/bioblitz2016/

Photo: San Diego River Park Foundation Facebook page

A River Runs Through Our Town
San Diego River Days events span two weekends in May and hosts a variety of terrific opportunities for families to get outside to explore nature together or volunteer to help keep San Diego’s natural spaces clean. The idea behind River Days is to celebrate this once forgotten resource and enjoy and enhance its beauty. Some events are especially family friendly. On May 14, plant a tree in Santee, or tour and clean up the riverbed in Ocean Beach. On May 15, volunteer in a native garden in Pt. Loma or learn how to cast and fly fish at Lake Murray. On May 22, take a kid-friendly hike in Julian and explore plants and animals. Make sure to sign up online to participate in the events.

Online: SDRiverDays.org

Photo: Cherie Gough

Explore Mission Trails Day
This fun and free event has three staging areas each with popular hands-on activities for kids. The exciting day has something for every little nature explorer: a rock wall, mini mountain bike track, pony rides, short hikes with nature scavenger hunts and exploration tables to learn about rocks, native animals and the history of the area. At the Visitor’s Center watch a Ms. Frizzle science show. End the day at a star gazing party with your little astronomer.

When: Sat., May 21, 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.

1 Father Junipero Serra Trail
San Diego, Ca 92119
Online: mtrp.org/emtday


On Your Bike
Is your kiddo ready to get on his bike and explore more than just the cul-de-sac? San Diego has tons of family-friendly bike trails. We recommend biking a loop at Mission Bay, Lake Miramar or Santee Lakes for their easy and mainly flat terrain.

Older kiddos will get an adrenaline rush when Mission Trails hosts its Take a Kid Mountain Biking day on June 11. This event will help kids gain skills and confidence on their bikes. There will even be mountain bikes to share if you need to try out some equipment before making a big purchase.


Get a Passport to Nature at City Parks & Recreation
Did you know the City of San Diego holds ranger-led hikes and activities throughout many city parks? These special events held now through October get people of all ages outdoors exploring the natural region all around us.  To add to the fun for kids, pick up a “passport” at your local rec center and get it stamped each time you participate in an event. Many of the children’s programs will be held at local canyons such as Rose Canyon and Manzanita  Canyon.

Plan Your Own National Park Adventure
If your family is fortunate enough to be planning a trip to a national park this summer, make sure to explore our favorite national parks and activities aimed at families who love the outdoors.

How does your family celebrate the great outdoors? How many national parks have you visited?

— Cherie Gough