Calling all explorers – size small and smaller! Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo made history as the first European to set foot on the west coast, Pt. Loma to be exact, when he sailed his San Salvador flagship to San Diego Bay in 1542 – and BOOM – discovered San Diego! This September, your mini Cabrillo can retrace history by learning about San Diego and explore the birthplace of California – starting with the San Salvador! If your little one loves history as much as we do, read on to find out more about these cool San Diego attractions.

Festival of Sail-Photo credit Maggie WaltonPhoto credit: Maggie Walton

Festival of Sail
Grab your brood of aficionados and check out the historically accurate, working replica of the San Salvador at the Festival of Sail, the largest tall ship festival on the left coast (Sept 5-7). To kick off the festival, the San Salvador will lead a parade of ships on San Diego Bay the day before (Sept 4). No doubt the littles will be delighted by the massive vessel standing 60 feet tall and weighing 230 tons. It took Maritime Museum of San Diego 5 years to complete the replica and it’s made entirely of wood just like the original. The Parade of Sail will also include a fleet of ships from all over California, and a few from various parts of the world. Kiddos will be mesmerized as tall majestic ships sail by, perform cannon fire salutes, and finally, dock next to the Maritime Museum. For a time-lapse video of the ship’s construction, click here.

Your tireless little historians will want to stake out uncharted territory in the days following at the Festival of Sail. Held over Labor Day weekend, the festival features visiting ships, kids’ activities like face painting, crafts, and a petting zoo, ship cannon battles, beer garden, onstage entertainment, lots of food and drink options, and more.

Insider Tip: Parking will be extremely limited, we suggest festival visitors use public transportation. The trolley station is only 3 blocks from the festival.

Parade of Sail
Sept. 4, 12:30 – 5 p.m., Cost: Free, cruises are an additional cost
Sept. 5-7, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Cost: $5-$7, cruises are an additional cost.

Online: sdmaritime.org

San Diego skyline from Cabrillo National Monument -Courtesy James BlankPhoto credit: James Blank

Cabrillo National Monument
While they’ve got Mr. Cabrillo on their minds, take your tiny scouts to Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego’s only national park! Kiddos will enjoy the century-old monument featuring a 14-foot tall statue of Cabrillo himself and a birds-eye view of the San Diego harbor, the Pacific Ocean, and the city. During the months of January and February, whales can often be spotted from the lookout. Venture up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse where kiddos can learn about the light keepers and their families who once lived there. Parents will appreciate the lookout spot above Ballast Point while the scouts have fun trying to translate the multilingual recorded message about Cabrillo’s voyage.

Insider Tip: During low tides, look out for the pools that form at the base of the shore. You may catch a glimpse of sea anemones, octopi, sea sponges and more!

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92106
Online: nps.gov

Presidio Hill-Junipero Serra Museum-Courtesy Jim Blank (1)Photo credit: Jim Blank

Junípero Serra Museum
Round up your little history buffs and step back in time – way back to 1769 – when Spanish Franciscan missionary father Junípero Serra and a group of soldiers established Alta California’s first mission and presidio, a fort atop Presidio Hill. Kiddos will love visiting one of San Diego’s most familiar landmarks, the Junípero Serra Museum, where Parents can snap a few photos using the Spanish Revival architecture as a backdrop.

Insider Tip: Make a day of it! Pack a lunch and spend a sunny San Diego day at Presidio Park.

2727 Presidio Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92103
Online: sandiegohistory.org

Mission Trails Regional Park- courtesy Ce HeltonPhoto credit: Ce Helton

Mission Trails Regional Park
Want to get in a day of recreation, culture and history? Look no further! Check out Mission Trails Regional Park which offers a triad of San Diego fun! At nearly 6,000 acres, it is said that this park is the “largest urban open space park west of the Mississippi.” If that’s not enough to impress the littles, they can choose between 40 miles of trails for walking, hiking, biking or rock climbing. Kiddos can check out the Visitor Interpretive Center, two lakes, the Old Mission Dam, the San Diego River, or the equestrian staging center. The park also features exhibits dedicated to the history of San Diego’s native inhabitants, the Kumeyaay Indians, who lived within the park as long as 1,000 years ago. The best part? Everything at Mission Trails Regional Park is free!

Insider Tip: The park offers free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

One Junípero Father Serra Trail
San Diego, Ca 92119
Online: mtrp.org

How have you explored San Diego history? Tell us in the comments below! 

—Elizabeth Silva