Whether you’re homeschooling or your kids are back in class, you can take their education outside of the living room/classroom and plan your own field trips for the upcoming school year. There are so many places to explore safely in San Diego, all while learning (and teaching) along the way. Read on for 7 places where your kids can have fun while discovering something new. Use the discussion points we’ve included below during your outing or ask your student to write or draw about it in class the next day.

Editor’s note: At the time of this writing, all of the places featured here are open to the public. Check directly with each locale before you go because things are always changing. Face masks and social distancing are required in public and in places of businesses at this time. Be sure to research the most current policies before you head out.

San Diego Botanic Garden

Discover flora and fauna that grows around the world in these international gardens right here in San Diego. As you stroll along the landscaped pathways, you’ll notice that each section of the gardens is devoted to a specific geographic location for what grows in that part of the world. From Africa to New Zealand and everywhere in between you’ll discover which plants are native to those regions.

The San Diego Botanic Garden is currently open. Timed tickets must be purchased in advance online for your chosen time slot, no walk-ups are allowed. Capacity is limited. Please read all guidelines on their website before you go.

Kids Discussion Topics: photosynthesis, parts of a plant, climate growing zones, plant identification, medicinal plants, edible plants

Revised Hours: Wednesday – Sunday from 10am-5pm

(closed Mondays & Tuesdays)

300 Quail Gardens Dr.,
Online: sdbgarden.org

Batiquitos Lagoon

It’s always amazing to watch a big blue heron flap it’s 6 foot wingspan over the water as it comes to a graceful landing. And then to watch it ever so slowly find its prey and wait for the perfect time to snatch it up. There are plenty of other bird species to discover from the pure white egrets, to ibises and spoonbills. Take your binoculars along to see what you’ll discover flying, floating or wading in the San Diego lagoons and bays.

The Batiquitos Lagoon is just one of many places to go bird watching. While the foundation is currently closed, trails and parking lots remain open.

Kids Discussion Topics: bird habitats, how and what birds eat, why their beak shape matters, conservation and protection (look up the Migratory Bird Treaty Act)

7380 Gabbiano Ln.
Online: batiquitosfoundation.org

Hillcrest Farmers Market

There are more than 38 farmers markets all over in San Diego and the Hillcrest Market has a reputation for being one of the best. Going to a local farmer’s market can be a great way to introduce kids to new fruits vegetables. Kids are more inclined to try new foods if they pick them out themselves. Give them some bonus points if they help you make something with their produce selections at home in the kitchen.

Kids Discussion Topics: harvest seasons, identify a new fruit or vegetable, nutritional information, recommended daily servings, definition of fruit and vegetable

Hours: Sundays from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

3960 Normal St.
Online: hillcrestfarmersmarket.com

For a list of all other farmers markets: sdfarmbureau.org/farmers-market

Cabrillo Tide Pools

Head down to the beach when the tide goes out and you’ll be amazed to find what gets left behind in the pools of water. You’ll find a variety from starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs, chitons, limpets and sometimes even fish and octopus! The best time to see the tide pools is generally 2 hours before and after the low tide. Check the tide charts before you go, but generally in the summer the second low tide of the day occurs around 5 p.m. Winter is the best time for tide pooling because low tides happen during the day.

Other good tide pooling spots can be found at Cardiff State Beach, Tourmaline Beach, Scripps Pier and Swami’s State Beach. Read about our favorite tide pooling spots here.

Kids Discussion Topics: what are tides and how do they work, life inside a tide pool, how do the sea creatures eat, tide pool etiquette

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
Pt. Loma
Online: nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Mission San Luis Rey

Visit the largest of the 21 Spanish missions in California that was established in 1798. Take a self-guided walking tour around the grounds and envision life through the periods of its occupation; including the historic mission church; the extensive lavanderia washing and water conservation system; soldier’s barracks; cemetery; various workshops like adobe brick making, soap making and blacksmithing; as well as the Spanish Colonial architecture.

The church and cemetery grounds are open daily (no masses are being held), while the museum is currently closed.

Kids Discussion Topics: architecture, buildings that make up a mission and what their purpose is, daily life inside a working mission, adobe brick making

Hours: Daily 9am-4pm

4050 Mission Ave.
Online: sanluisrey.org

Liberty Station

Learn about San Diego’s military history as a former Naval Training Center that opened in 1923, and is now called Liberty Station. You’ll find placards, statues, canons and buildings that are steeped in history. Take the walking tour outside, but also go inside the buildings to find various memorials and installations about naval history. You’ll even find one of the navy training ships stuck in the ground that recruits used to train on. The NTC has been renovated and is now a public space for commerce, history and arts. You’ll find restaurants, a public food market, arts centers of all kinds, outdoor sculptures and murals, a playground (currently closed) and miles of walking and biking paths.

Kids Discussion Topics: what did the navy recruits learn there, what were some of the buildings that made up the training center, what did they do for fun

2850 Womble Rd.
Pt. Loma
Online: libertystation.com


Go back in time to 1869 when Julian was first settled as a gold mining town. Take a self-guided historic walking tour around the center of town and you’ll see the old Julian Jail cell, the school house, cemetery and you can tour a mining site. The Julian Mining Co. is open at this time for gold & gem mining Friday-Sunday. Apple picking will be open from Sep.-Oct. in the nearby orchards, so that would be a perfect time to plan your field trip to Julian.

Kids Discussion Topics: why did people move to Julian, what’s a gold mine, what businesses were needed to support the miners, why is Julian known for its apples

2129 Main St.
Online: visitjulian.com

–Bonnie Taylor


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