SanDiegofamilyvacation3days whattodoOur 3-day family trip to San Diego, California was just the right amount of time to enjoy the sun, sights and food. It was also enough to whet my appetite for another trip in the future, :-).

Here are the details of my family trip, to make your planning a little easier.

We took an early morning flight, which is awesome from the east coast. Landing at 9:30 in the morning gave us time to pick up a rental car, check into our hotel, relax a little and enjoy our first day.

After looking at many San Diego-area hotels, I chose Embassy Suites San Diego Bay Downtown. I often choose Embassy Suites for our vacations because the suites work well for our family of 5. Plus, free breakfast is a perfect incentive to get up, get ready and start our day.

Other benefits of this hotel? It’s in a safe area, and you can walk to the Gaslamp District and the bay front. Oh yeah, we LOVED the happy hour! Many places have a cocktail reception, but the happy hour here had veggies, chips and dips, and other snacks. It was very family friendly and a welcomed treat after we were out all day.

One thing to note is the parking. The hotel only offers valet parking and it is upwards of $40/night. This is typical for the downtown area, and since parking in the downtown area is tight, you’re pretty much going to pay no matter where you park. If you don’t have to get your car early during the weekend, you can try one of the decks in the Gaslamp district and walk a few blocks. One night we parked at the train station a few blocks away and that was cheaper. There is also street parking, but be sure to pay attention to the signs if you go that route.

For things to do and visiting attractions we purchased the two-day San Diego Go Pass. If you want to do Sea World you’ll need to buy a 3-day or more pass. The pass is a deal!

Before you purchase your pass do an internet search for a discount code. I was able to find a temporary code and saved even more. Here’s what I loved about it, aside from saving money. It gave me ideas of things to do that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. For instance, on day two we went to the San Diego Zoo and Boomers. I wouldn’t have known about Boomer’s, but it was the perfect way to spend our afternoon after starting our day at the zoo. If we had more time, we would have gone to Belmont Park, so check that one out if you decide not to go to Boomers.


The first day was our “get acclimated and leisure” day. After checking in we relaxed in our room for a while, then walked out for food.

We had lunch at Escape Fish bar in the Gaslamp District. GO. HERE! Can I tell you how good the pumpkinseed slaw was?! And I’m still dreaming about the fries.

Our second day we started at San Diego Zoo. It is wise to go here when they open and start with the guided bus tour. The bus tour will make it easier for you to follow the map later, because you’ll have an idea of where certain animals are located. After we left the zoo we grabbed lunch at a local restaurant and then went to Boomers. The girls had a great time at both places and were exhausted when we made it back to the room.

The third day we went to LegoLand and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  We started at LegoLand early in the morning and stayed until mid-afternoon. Then we visited the Safari Park. It’s wise to visit these on the same day because they are both north of downtown.  And they are both AWESOME! When you do the Safari Park, go to the African tram first, and then walk back through the zoo.

Leaving the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, we stopped by the beach in La Jolla and saw a GORGEOUS sunset!!! If you do nothing but stop to wade in the water it’s worth it. There is also a strip here where you can get dinner. We ate at the sushi bar, but I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of the choices. Most of the restaurants were close to full.

Summary Itinerary  For Our Three Day Family Trip to San Diego Itinerary

Day 1

  • Hotel check-in
  • Picked up San Diego Go pass
  • Lunch at Escape Fish Bar
  • Scenic drive along the coast
  • Walked to waterfront (There was a sand castle competition!).

Day 2

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Lunch
  • Belmont Park
  • Dinner at local deli

Day 3

  • Legoland
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • La Jolla beachfront
  • Dinner ( we chose a sushi restaurant along the La Jolla strip)

Day 4

  • Flight home

Other tips for planning your vacation:

  • Rent a car. Lots of things are walking distance, and there is a transit system, but it will be much easier with a car if you’re going to visit more than a couple of places.
  • You’ll note we didn’t use the Go pass our first day. The clock on the pass starts the first day you use it, and I wanted to make sure we had two full days!

Hope this helps and enjoy San Diego!

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