San Diego kids can enjoy the best parks in San Diego and the coolest playgrounds open during Covid since California is allowing playgrounds to stay open if visitors practice physical and social distancing and wear masks. From the newly opened Maruta Gardner playground to swing sets with ocean views to pirate ship adventures, and castle-top lookouts, to bike pump tracks, skate parks, sliding through a giant bunch of grapes, and a bike park you’ve got to see––here’s where to find endless thrills at the best parks in San Diego!
Maruta Gardner Playground
Maruta Gardner Playground in Bonita Cove is open for playtime! Named after the late community leader and activist, this vibrant destination will be a favorite for kids. The playground recently received a whopping 3.4 million dollar makeover and boasts an epic ropes course modeled after Belmont Park's Giant Dipper Roller Coaster which is located just across the street. Other fun structures and savvy design elements include spinners, saucer swings, shaded play area for younger kids, and hammocks. The rubber ground surface means less scraped knees too! Stick around for a beautiful palm tree-lined sunset after playtime.
Civita Park in San Diego’s Mission Valley is an urban oasis with 60 acres of parks, trails and public spaces. San Diegans have dubbed it our city's version of "Central Park." Civita Park has a large splash pad and two playgrounds filled with colorful and engaging climbing and play structures. One of the playgrounds is geared for kids ages 2-5 and the other is designed for kids ages 5-12. In addition to the playground equipment, the park also invites kids to enjoy rock climbing walls, rope bridges, swings, spinners and playing among giant tree trunks.
Find this gem on the north side of Friars Road at Mission Center Road, between I-163 and I-805.
Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park
Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park is a gorgeous newer park in San Diego. It boasts a tot lot, baby swings, group swing, rubber ground and bark, monkey bars, lots of interesting, unique and challenging climbing walls and domes, a small slide, and a 4-person seesaw. The Discovery Area has a sand lot with a cool funnel, music elements, and a (fake) climbing rock. Additionally the park has five acres of turf field, two dog parks, a playground for older kids, a skate plaza, parkour area and bike pump track. There are also baseball fields, a nice loop for walking/jogging and fitness stations, picnic areas and basketball courts. Kids will surely love playing here, whether it's navigating all the amazing playground equipment, riding bikes, running free or skateboarding!
5977 Village Center Loop Rd.
San Diego, CA 92130
The City of Santee recently celebrated the grand opening of Mast Park after a $10 million renovation. The Park features amazing playgrounds designed for kids ages 2-5 and ages 5-12 years. Highlights include a shaded forest-themed playground and Forest Service play truck, a three-story slide, swings (including 1 ADA) and a Global Motion Spinner. Curious explorers will love the nature discovery area which boasts repurposed Mast Park trees, leaves, bark, sticks and rocks to explore. Let little ones use their imagination to build and create with these elements.
Additionally, there are cement ping pong tables and bean bag toss stations. Bring your own balls, paddles and bean bags.
Bonus: There's a concession stand selling burgers and beer at the Park as well.
9125 Carlton Hills Blvd.
Santee, CA 92071
Sweetwater Bike Park
Get your little free wheelin' kids to catch some air on their bikes on the dirt tracks and hills of this epic new bike park! The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation recently opened the region’s first bike skills park: Sweetwater Bike Park in Bonita. The free, publicly accessible, 4.2-acre bike skills park will teach visitors about cycling as a healthy means of recreation and transportation, and will encourage kids to get involved in healthy outdoor pursuits. It will be open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., (unless otherwise posted).
6057 Miguel Rd.
Bonita, CA 91902
Poinsettia Community Park
This Carlsbad Park just got an extreme makeover with a brand new, expansive playground boasting tons of fun, engaging equipment kids will love. Additionally, the Park has new pickleball courts and a multi-sport arena field. The playground is divided into sections for kids ages 2-5 and kids ages 5-12. With regard to the exciting destination, the city of Carlsbad states, "The playground has been designed for ‘inclusive play’ which creates an environment that welcomes kids and families of all abilities to learn, play and grow together. Prior to the opening of these elements, the consulting playground inspector told staff that “this is one of the most unique playgrounds I’ve seen in over 20 years!”
6600 Hidden Valley Rd.
Carlsbad, CA 92011
Sixth Avenue Playground
This gem of a crazy, colorful playground has structures designed for kids of all ages to play, climb and swing on. One side of the play area is designed for kids ages 5 and up and features futuristic obstacles and climbing structures. The other side is especially for kids five and under and boasts a fire engine-themed jungle gym with ropes, slides and climbing bars.
6th Ave. & Spruce St.
Old Poway Park
While this park does have a fun playground, the even bigger draw are the train rides and the expansive grassy areas and small bridges to run and explore. Little engineers will relish the chance to climb aboard a steam locomotive or speeder train and take a ride around the park (rides only cost $1 for kids). Click here for the train operating schedule. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon here.
14134 Midland Rd.
Poway, CA 92064
Carmel Mountain Ranch Community Park
Looking for a gigantic, shaded play structure your kids can spend a lot of time navigating? Carmel Mountain Ranch Community Park has an expansive array of age-appropriate playground equipment for younger and older kids as well as basketball courts, baseball diamonds and a soccer field. The playground is set atop sand, so bring buckets and shovels for tots who want some sandy playtime.
10152 Rancho Carmel Dr.
San Diego, CA 92128
This off the beaten path playground is perfect for a warmer, sunny day because it's totally shaded to keep kids cool. The play structures are engaging and designed for kids young and older and include a fire engine structure for make-believe play. Bring the kids' helmets and scooters because at the opposite end of the park from the playground is a large, cement sidewalk track that's perfect for wheeling around 'til their hearts content. Fido will like walking the track while the kids ride on.
12948 La Tortola
San Diego, CA 92129
At first glance, you may notice the 8-acres of grass and beautiful shade trees. Upon further investigation, you'll appreciate the large playground made with little tykes in mind, the bathrooms, picnic tables and the fact that the public library is across the street. You can plan a cool day-trip to Coronado, including library time, play time and don't forget to pack a lunch!
601 Orange Ave.
De Anza Cove Park
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 little play-date will love the pirate ship and just might pretend that it’s almost ready to set sail into the bay.
3000 N. Mission Bay Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109
4S Ranch Community Park
On a hot, sunny day, you'll be made in the shade at 4S Ranch Community Park, where the play area is shielded from the sun and there are picnic tables under a shaded gazebo. Kids can roam the 3 acres on a bike or scooter along the paved path that surrounds the playground. The play structure has a variety of fun, engaging equipment so kids can monkey around on the monkey bars, slide down slides and navigate their way across wobbly drawbridges til their heart's content!
16118 4S Ranch Pkwy.
San Diego, CA 92127
Quack, quack! Head to this hidden gem of a park with a lake view and (new!) playground equipment to boot. If you have both big and little kids, they can play on the two different play areas all within your keen view. Also, little ones can walk or ride around the three-quarter mile paved lake road to get that extra energy out. Even more, you'll see plenty of ducks and you can fish too. Plus, splash about in the water feature that goes off at different (posted!) times during the day.
650 Foxhall Dr.
San Marcos, CA
Fletcher Cove Park
The perfect park combo. Where else can you find a playground, half-court basketball and a nice grassy area right by the beach? The playground is smaller (with two swings), but kids love it. Also, many families picnic on the grass or picnic tables with a picturesque ocean view. Even more, bring the swimsuits, it's great because there's a lifeguard station too! When done, there are restrooms and an outdoor shower to rinse off the sand.
111 S. Sierra Ave.
Solona Beach, CA
Play ball! Whether it's soccer or volleyball, you'll find plenty of space to have a ball at this grassy green park. Even more, pack lunch and picnic at the tables with the crew. You'll enjoy the view of the city and the bay. And, you'll find clean restrooms and not too many people. Take the kiddies and have a nice afternoon.
999 Bayside Pkwy
Chula Vista, CA
Park at the Park
Take me out to the ballgame! If your little sluggers like to bat the ball around or just play in the sandbox, then this 2.7-acre park on the North side of Petco Park is a good family spot. You'll find grass, a mini-baseball diamond (for half-pints) and a tot lot. On game days, you can buy a ticket and sprawl out with the family and watch the game on the giant screen. On other days it's open to the public, so bring a blanket and enjoy.
100 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA
A swing with a view! This cute smaller park right next Del Mar beach is a perfect pit stop for a funday afternoon. Little surfers like to swing, ride the wobble animals and climb the playset. You'll let out a little breather for the surrounding fence and soft padded ground. Moreover, pack a lunch to eat on the large grass area while taking in the breathtaking ocean views. Del Mar beach, our fave family-friendly beach is just a few steps below this park!
1601 Coast Blvd.
Del Mar, CA
Hilton Head Park
Thar she blows! You'll find two climbing structures, a splash pad, set of swings and twisty slide at this 10-acre pirate-themed park. First off, your park-goer can spot a water-spouting whale from the (dry) pirate ship play structure. Further, remember to bring your little's swimsuit and change of clothes. Even more, pack a bbq to cook-up and eat on the shaded picnic tables. Good to note, the splash pad is $3 per day, but the park is free.
16005 Hilton Head Rd.
El Cajon, CA
Cottonwood Creek Park
This creek-themed park will remind you of when you were a kid. Encourage your littles to explore the manmade creek that flows down the middle of the playground. They can set up a dam, float a boat and build sand castles with moats. School-aged kids love the challenge of climbing the giant boulder on the playground. Another kid fave is the stand-and-spin. There are bathrooms, tennis courts, basketball courts a giant play structure and plenty of grass to play on.
95 N. Vulcan Ave.
If you want to hang out in a grassy San Diego park right by the beach, Kellogg Park in La Jolla is the place to go. It has a great playground for kids, tons of green grass, restroom facilities and a no-alcohol rule, unlike many beach area parks. Parking can be difficult during busy times, so plan to drop by at off hours or leave time for a stroll to and from the playground.
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA
Grape Day Park
We heard it through the grapevine. This historic Escondido Park is right across the street from the San Diego Children's Discovery Museum–– so make a day of it! Let your littles discover the wonders at the museum from water spray to grocery play, then go across the street to explore this harvest-themed park. You'll find a newly expanded playground, picnic tables, grass area, bathrooms and even free WiFi. Pack a lunch, sit and eat, then let the kiddos run about. Great photo-ops with the giant bunch of grapes clustered around a tunnel slide too!
321 N. Broadway
Alga Norte Park
Big kids or little kids? This park has got you covered. With two-levels of fun and plenty of playground equipment, a large grass area and infant swings, your fam will have a fantastic time. There's also a large skate park and fenced-in doggie park too! You'll find covered picnic tables, a community pool, basketball courts and clean bathrooms. There's a large easy-access parking lot that's half-shaded with solar panels.
6565 Alicante Rd.
Pepper Grove Park
A perfect place to let off some steam after visiting the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center or theNAT at Balboa Park. At these two large playgrounds, kids can sit on the panda bear's lap, lounge on the hippo or jump on the turtle's back. Head off for a spin at the second playground or climb the large play structure. You're sure to see the ice cream man parked on the street in the summer.
2200 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA
Lake Murray Community Park
This playground boasts a healthy mix of nature and play structures. You won't be able to get your kiddo off the cool roller slide and toddlers love the sit-spinner. Plus swings, a clatter bridge and slides keep everyone engaged. Bring some food to feed the ducks by the lake after playtime.
Good to note: there are only port-a-potties and the parking is a short walk away.
7001 Murray Park Dr.
San Diego, CA
This cool downtown park is best known for its whimsical water fountains, which are a toddler magnet and a great way to cool off, but in addition to making a splash, the epic play structure is not to be missed either. The modern blue-themed playground has a soft ground, rock climbing and a spider-net that make your kids feel like a superhero. There are picnic tables, benches, security guards and clean bathrooms. The super fast slides, swings, see-saw and climbing structures make for an engaging and entertaining park playdate for kids. Plus, the unbeatable view of the city skyline makes it worth the drive to downtown.
1600 Pacific Hwy.
San Diego, CA
Solana Ranch Park
Head to this hidden gem in Carmel Valley––it's a perfect spot for half-pints. There are two play structures one for toddlers and one for bigger kids, a sweet spin machine that fits four and plenty of swings. Bring food to barbecue and try out the large charcoal grill. Everyone can stay cool at the three covered picnic tables.
13605 Pacific Highlands Ranch Pkwy.
San Diego, CA
—Nikki Walsh, Jeannette Swanson & Beth Shea