photo: Visit Carlsbad

San Diego is treasured for its endless summer vibes, iconic palm trees and gorgeous beaches. It’s no wonder people flock to this amazing destination for vacation, and locals feel like they’re on an eternal staycation. There are so many places to explore from LEGOLAND and Balboa Park to the San Diego Zoo––and plenty to sink your teeth into at delectable restaurants dishing up creative culinary delights. At the end of a fantastic day, it’s comforting to know you can relax at well-appointed hotels and resorts that cater to families. Read on for the best places to eat, play and stay in sunny San Diego.

photo: The Crack Shack

Eat

San Diego’s culinary scene is bustling with options to suit every taste. For a delicious sampling of eats from over 30 vendors, head to Liberty Public Market. Here you’ll find artisanal fare including Thai food, Peruvian cuisine, prized ramen, steamed bao buns, Korean BBQ, French crepes, fresh Maine Lobster rolls, gigantic stuffed hamburgers and so much more. Grab your favorite dish and head out to the Market’s family-friendly patio to dine al fresco.

If you’ve got a hankering for Southern California fried chicken, cross the proverbial road to The Crack Shack and order up the Coop Deville: fried chicken, pickled fresno chilies, lime mayo and napa cabbage piled high on a brioche bun. Your little chickadees will dig playing in the restaurant’s sand pit too.

For authentic Mexican food with a fun twist, venture to Luche Libre Gourmet Taco Shop. Slide into the Champions Table (book it the day before your visit). It’s a sparkling gold table and booth filled with Mexican wrestling paraphernalia. Order the Surfin’ California burrito and Knockout fries (stacked with fixins like queso enchilado and secret chipotle sauce), for a meal you won’t soon forget.

Play

A trip to San Diego wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the San Diego Zoo and/or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. These world famous destinations are home to some of the most magnificent and rare creatures on earth, including Future, an 8-week-old female southern white rhino calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Don’t miss the Zoo’s Africa Rocks exhibit, where you wind your way through six animal habitats of African terrain from the savannah grasslands to the tropical rainforest, or the Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia where you roam among kangaroos and wallabies and have close encounters with wombats and kookaburras.

photo: taken Jan. 17, 2020 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Visit the beautiful 1,200-acre urban cultural mecca Balboa Park to find buskers showcasing their musical talents. It’s a fun way to hear new music for free. Explore the 17 museums that call the Park home, ride the carousel, climb the tower and hop on the train on the miniature railroad. Afterwards, sit with a picnic on a grassy knoll and watch the many planes that fly by on their way to and from the airport.

Your little minifigs will go wild over a trip to LEGOLAND. In addition to the theme park’s 60+ thrilling rides for all ages, kids will also love the LEGOLAND Water Park, Sea Life Aquarium and the mind-boggling LEGO brick creations and displays throughout the Park that range from gigantic to tiny and intricate. And hold on to your Granny’s Apple Fries (arguably the best treat in the Park), because the LEGO Movie World is opening in spring 2020! The whole fam will want to visit this immersive world wherein the hit LEGO movies come to life.

Stay

Marriott boasts a trio of San Diego hotel options that feature amenities for the whole family. From adjoining suites and kitchenettes to spas and outdoor pools, you’ll be able to relax and rejuvenate or dive into even more fun at your home away from home.

The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is a waterfront hotel in the heart of downtown San Diego with unbeatable views of the marina and San Diego Bay. Located near several must-see attractions including Balboa Park and Seaport Village, a stay here includes an expansive resort-style pool, award winning restaurants with incredible views, and access to paddle-board, boat, and bicycle rentals.

The Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa is located on what’s known as San Diego’s crown jewel: Coronado. This blissful retreat from city life grants you views of the San Diego skyline and Coronado Bridge. The completely renovated resort offers guests three pools, delicious patio dining, a pickleball court, and an expansive wellness center and day spa so you’ll never need to leave the resort.

The Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina‘s stunning Harbor Island location lends itself to waterfront views and airy accommodations complete with private balcony or patio to soak up the idyllic surroundings. Situated close to downtown, the San Diego Zoo and Petco Park, guests are at the heart of the city, poised for every local jaunt. The sprawling outdoor pool complex, state of the art fitness center and luxury spa make this hotel a wonderful retreat.

With Marriott Bonvoy™, members can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check-in and the ability to earn and redeem points at Marriott’s thousands of hotels. Not a Marriott Bonvoy member? Join for free when you book! Save on your trip to San Diego here!

Hear What Other Parents Are Saying:

Marriott Marquis San Diego:
“We stayed here with our family in adjoining rooms. It’s always so nice, plenty of room for all of us and we always have such a great time. Everywhere you go you need to have a keycard for access so it’s super secure. We let the kids have roam of the hotel and Marina. We are always super comfortable with this location, it’s super safe. The pool, rooms, restaurants, room service (late night desserts) ;-), staff are all top notch! Highly recommend this hotel.” ––Christine & John Kelly, Littleton, CO, via TripAdvisor

Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa:
“The hotel was very well appointed, beautiful pool and shoreline overlooking San Diego harbour. The restaurant had a wonderful menu, something for everyone. We took advantage of the free bikes to ride around the island.” ––S. Arthur, Oakville, Canada, via TripAdvisor

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina:
“This is a fantastic property with lovely pools, marina access with great activities for the entire family and good location, close to downtown, Little Italy, beaches and the Harbor. We will definitely return on our next stay in San Diego.” ––Michelle, via TripAdvisor

—Beth Shea