Make those welcome signs and plan your itinerary––the grandparents are coming to town! We’re here to help with super engaging activities that span generations. From the best beaches and Balboa Park museums to the USS Midway and mini-golf, you’re sure to find the perfect outing your whole family will love. Read on to see where to squeeze out every drop of merriment during their upcoming visit.
Whether the grandparents want to inspect the airplanes or just enjoy the beautiful view above deck, the USS Midway offers plenty to do––from cockpit photo-ops and exploring inside planes to talking to real life pilots and seeing what life was like living on an aircraft carrier. Even more, you'll find a place to grab a bite to eat and many amazing facts about avionics on this amazing retired ship. Check out our insider's guide to visiting the USS Midway.
What better way to create golden memories with the whole fam than by exploring sea creatures at the Birch Aquarium? From breathtaking views of La Jolla Shores and a giant octopus to outside water play and fish feedings, there's something for everyone here. Further, it doesn't take too long to see the whole aquarium, and after you can stop at the cafe for lunch outside. Check out our insider's guide of what to do on your visit to the Birch Aquarium.
Carousel Rides at Balboa Park & Seaport Village
Who doesn't love a sweet, nostalgic carousel ride that both evokes and creates childhood memories? The music, the colorful horses and vibrantly painted animals, the whizzing around in circles... not to mention the prime photo op! Hop on the carousel at Balboa Park, Seaport Village or one of these other locations across San Diego and take a spin!
Explore Balboa Park
Voted the 'Best California Attraction', Balboa Park will be a total hit with the grandparents and the kids. Culture abounds at every turn of this gem which is teeming with 17 museums, gardens galore and the world's largest outdoor pipe organ––not to mention plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. It's an easy way to spend a day in a relaxed setting that the whole family will enjoy.
Read our ultimate guide to Balboa Park before you go!
See the Animals on the Zoo Bus Tour or the Safari Park Tram
The world-famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are quite a draw for visitors, but they may not be especially easy to navigate on foot for older people. That said, each park offers wonderful tours on wheels from which the entire family can see the animals at both parks. At the Zoo, opt for the San Diego Zoo® Guided Bus Tour, Kangaroo Express Bus or the Skyfari aerial tram and at the Safari Park hop on the Africa Tram for a guided tour or splurge for a Safari Tour.
Go Mini Golfing
When in doubt, go miniature golfing! Everyone young and old will love taking a swing on these scenic courses all over the city. Most of these locales have additional adventures from arcade games to trampoline jumping so you can let the good times keep rolling even after the golf balls come to a stop.
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Choo choo! Train enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy chugging along to see the locomotives at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, which you can make a stop at on your visit to Balboa Park (another one of our top picks for visiting grandparents). Don't miss the Toy Train Layout in the Toy Train Gallery which was named one of the top 10 layouts by Classic Toy Trains Magazine.
Have a Brew with the Crew
Since San Diego's known for its plethora of craft brews, why not take pops for a beer with the littles in tow? From Pilsners and sliders with fries to beautiful views and corn hole, we've found several craft breweries with good food and plenty for the half-pints to do. Check out our crafted list of family-friendly breweries in San Diego.
The Magic of Disneyland
Whether you have a grandparent visiting from far away who hasn't yet been to Disneyland or they know the park like the back of their hand, a trip to Disneyland never disappoints. Newbies and Mouseketeers alike will be in awe of the magic in the air and overjoyed watching their grandkids having such an amazing time. Disneyland rents out electric conveyance vehicles for guests with mobility challenges.
Stroll the Beach
San Diegans are so spoiled with an amazing array of choices for beach strolling. From Coronado Beach and the historic Hotel del Coronado to pristine beaches in Del Mar, La Jolla and beyond, see our top picks for the best family-friendly beaches and go for a walk along the shore, catch a wave, build a sandcastle with grandma and grandpa and write their names in the sand.
Pacific Southwest Railway in Campo
Grannie and grandpa can take your little engineers for an actual ride on the Pacific Southwest Railway in Campo. Since 1986 this lovely excursion takes passengers on a 12-mile round-trip, hour-long journey along the San Diego and Arizona Railway. Keep in mind that fun, seasonal, holiday-themed train rides like the Pumpkin Express, North Pole Limited, and the Bunny Train run throughout the year and sell out fast––so book tickets in advance of grandparents coming to town.
San Diego Botanic Garden
The San Diego Botanic Garden made the 2017 list of the Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For, which makes it even more exciting that it's right here in Encinitas. In addition to a slew of special events always happening at the Garden, it's a feast for the eyes and a gorgeous place to relax surrounded by lush greenery. Grandparents will enjoy touring the Sculptures in the Garden exhibit and birdwatching or watching the kiddos play in the Hamilton Children's Garden. Pack a picnic to eat at the picnic tables in Eucalyptus Grove.
Old Poway Park & Another Train Ride!
Southern California's oldest operating winery not only boasts beautiful backdrops for photos and strolls, it also offers a plethora of family-friendly events year-round including craft fairs, ARTWALK, live music every Sun. from 2-5 p.m. and a farmers market every Fri. from 9 a.m.-1p.m.
Have a Family Date Night
Is the crew hungry? Well, we have a list of restaurants throughout San Diego that are perfect for everyone. Read our list of best restaurants to eat with out-of-towners and grab the kids and grandparents for a nice family lunch or dinner. You'll find good food, play areas and cuisine from Mexican to Italian and so much more.
Take a Train Trip on the Pacific Surfliner
Kids and grandparents alike will love taking a train ride with unbeatable views of the Pacific. Climb aboard the Pacific Surfliner in downtown San Diego and take in breathtaking scenery aboard this nostalgic mode of travel. Whether you hop off for a day trip in a nearby beach city or take it to the end of the line for an epic overnighter in San Luis Obispo, a multi-generational train trip will surely be a memory to treasure.
Featured photo: Vidar Nordli-Matheson via Unsplash
––Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh & Kerry Cushman