Free Things for Families in San Diego’s Balboa Park

Free Things for Families in San Diego's Balboa Park

Free things for families to do together is always great, right? And in a location with a 100+ year history that’s full of outdoor hiking trails, culture, playgrounds, museums, art, music and dancing? It’s the perfect place for learning and exploring…or even just a simple picnic and a nap on the grass!

Check out my top 21 things to do in San Diego’s Balboa Park that are completely free. Please stop over at TravelingMom to find out more!

I’m an Official LEGOLAND Blogger!

My family and I have been visiting the LEGOLAND California Resort since shortly after it opened in 1999. I’ve written about it here on my own blog as well as on the Traveling Mom website. We were annual pass holders for several years. My kids love to visit, whether it’s for the rides, attractions, water park, shows or simply to wander through Miniland and recreate the scenes at one of the many building stations.

Legoland Blogger

I’m proud to say that I’ve just been given the title of Official LEGOLAND Blogger! So, what does that mean? As a LEGOLAND Insider, that means I’ll be able to share with you some of the cool new rides and attractions that will be coming to the LEGOLAND California Resort, including the highly anticipated Ninjago The Ride. The ride vehicles were just delivered to the Park last week and are getting ready for the grand opening this spring.


According to the LEGOLAND Calfornia Resort, “NINJAGO World features LEGO® building stations, a game to test reflexes, spinners to test balance, Asian cuisine and a new shopping venue.” Sounds like another winning addition to this already action-packed resort!

I’m looking forward to this new opportunity and to bring you more news of this fun resort in the San Diego area.

Have you ever visited the LEGOLAND California Resort? What’s your favorite part?




SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration

My family and I were recently able to visit SeaWorld San Diego during its annual Christmas Celebration. The park is beautifully decorated all over for the holidays with lights, trees and a fun Christmas party atmosphere. Read more about it on my post at Traveling Mom.

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration


Kids FREE in San Diego for October!

Kids FREE in San Diego for October!

Kids free?! Take advantage of 100+ free activities and deals for kids in the month of October throughout San Diego county!

October is a great time to visit San Diego. The summer crowds have gone, the weather is still quite warm and of course, all the fun, free things for kids that are being offered in the San Diego area for the entire month.

From free restaurant dining, free museum visits, free amusement park tickets to free transportation; We are talking big deal savings here, including free admission to the World Famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park , SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOland California! See the Model Railroad Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the New Children’s Museum. Take free rides on the Amtrack Pacific Surfliner and free cruises on the Hornblower. Kids dine free at the Corvette Diner, Hard Rock Cafe and many hotel restaurants. Visit the Birch Aquarium, U.S.S. Midway and Belmont Park…for free!




Magical Blogorail Best Aquariums – Sea World San Diego

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

Welcome to the next stop on Magical Blogorail Peach. Today we are discussing aquariums that your family needs to visit.

For my kids, the best part about visiting aquariums is getting hands-on with the creatures. The touch pools at Sea World San Diego are a place for interaction and learning.

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

Explorer’s Reef – This is a new exhibit, right up at the front entrance. Explorer’s Reef features four touch-pools including bamboo sharks, horseshoe crabs and cleaner fish that tickle your fingers.

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

This area has plenty of shade and my kids spent lots of time here touching the fish (we had to encourage them to wash up so we could move further into the park!)

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

California Tide Pool – Hold a sea star or a spiky sea urchin under the water. Kids are fascinated to feel the sea star curve its arms to fit in the palm of their hand. This has been a favorite area for us at Sea World San Diego for many years. Handlers will remind guests not to lift the creatures out of the water but you can hold them just under the surface.

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

Bat Rays – “Pet” the bat rays as they slide across the water but watch out for errant fins, you could really get soaked! All of these rays have had their stingers removed so they are completely safe to touch.

Hands on fun & learning in the touch pools at Sea World San Diego

One thing you’ll notice about all my Sea World San Diego touch pool images is that my son always has his hands in the water. He’s definitely my adventure seeker! I’m not fond of putting my hand in the cold water or touching the fish myself but I can still learn without touching.

  • Ask the handlers any question and they are always more than generous with their responses.
  • There is also always a good amount of info posted around the park about each creature that lives there.
  • Brush up online before your visit so you’ll know what to expect about each creature.


Here is the map of our Blogorail Peach | Family Adventure : Aquariums


SoCal Guide – Stack Up the Fun at LEGOland California!

Stack Up the Fun at Legoland California! -What to ride, see & eat at LEGOland Ca.

LEGOland is a wonderful park for a wide variety of ages. There are play areas for toddlers, rides that will please older kids and LEGO displays that will put any adult in awe. Here’s what you can expect of a day at LEGOland, California.

It had been at least 5 years since I last visited LEGOland California. My two older boys and I were annual passholders for several years and LEGOland was one of our favorite weekend spots. We loved the LEGOland Brick or Treat Halloween Party, sharing a tub of Granny’s Apple Fries or simply building creations inside the Imagination Zone. On each visit we enjoyed a stroll through Miniland USA, the heartbeat of the Park.

With a drive of 30 minutes from our house, my kids and I were happy to escape our Saturday chores last weekend and visit LEGOland California for the day!

What to do at Legoland California

Since it had been so long since my last visit, I was looking forward to seeing the changes that Park had made over the last few years. You can’t miss the largest addition, the LEGOland Hotel located at the front entrance of the Park. My kids stayed their last summer with their grandmother and said it was so much fun. LEGOland is known for their unique, tongue-in-cheek humor so it was no surprise to me that the hotel features a disco ball in the elevator and a treasure hunt inside the rooms!

What to do at Legoland California

I noticed right off the bat that there were more large LEGO figures. A lifesize Darth Vader greeted guests. There were more animals on the Safari Trek and more figures on the Fairy Tale Brook. The addition of LEGO Star Wars to Miniland was a highlight.

What to do at Legoland California

What to do at Legoland California

My stepdaughter has Autism so I inquired with Guest Services at the start of our visit. She supplied me with a simple “Assisted Access Pass”. This business card had the date, number of people in our party and my daughter’s name. Instructions on the card let us know that we were permitted to enter rides through the exit and wait there so we didn’t have to stand in a crowded queue. This definitely helped alleviate any stress (helpful for me since I was the only adult on this adventure!)

What to do at Legoland California

This day marked the first time that my preschooler had been to LEGOland. I familiarized him with a few of the rides on the LEGOland website beforehand so he was excited to try them out! He has just reached 40″ tall (yes, at only 3 years and 2 months old!) so he was tall enough to ride several of the coasters. He braved the Coastersaurus first thing and after a few “Oh, my tummy!” moments on the ride, he was craving more!

What to do at Legoland California

Duplo Village was a hit, as I expected it to be! There are quaint little houses set up like a town including a firestation with a pole and tons of stairs and slides. A tiny train, the LEGOland Express, rides around here as well. Plan for plenty of time in this area if you have a preschooler, they absolutely love this place!

What to do at Legoland California

What to do at Legoland California

Fun Town really is…fun! Skipper School and Driving School with their trackless vehicles are can’t miss attractions. There is even a Junior Driving School for little ones aged 3-5. My preschooler got about a quarter of the way around the track before crashing, it was adorable to watch the little ones in their cars! The Adventure’s Club walk-through is a favorite for my older ones though my preschooler was too nervous of the dark areas.

What to do at Legoland California

What to do at Legoland California

The new LEGO Star Wars area in Miniland USA did not disappoint. There are some amazingly detailed scenes from the movies featured here! This area was incredible and a must see for any Star Wars fan.

Star Wars Miniland at Legoland California

What to do at Legoland California

We ate lunch at Burger Stop which had hearty sized Angus beef burgers. There are many unusual and healthy dining choices throughout the Park, including salad bar, panini sandwiches, stir fry or homemade soups.

What to do at Legoland California

After lunch we made our way over to the Land of Adventure, where my kids slid down the Dune Raiders slide several times, I rode the Cargo Ace with my little one and we shot laser guns in the Lost Kingdom Adventure ride.


What to do at Legoland California

My little one was ready to conquer the Dragon coaster in Castle Hill, in which more “Oh, my tummy!” moments occurred! LEGOland is full of sweet areas that highlight their master builder’s works including the Enchanted Walk which features woodland animals. The big kids braved the Knights’ Tournament and the LEGO Technic Coaster.

What to do at Legoland California

We ended the day on the Coast Cruise, where more of that silly LEGO humor is on display. Poor George, he’s getting his ears cleaned out!

What to do at Legoland California

What to do at Legoland California

An enjoyable day was had by all! Next time we’ll plan our visit when we can don our bathing suits and get splashed at one of the LEGOland water parks (additional admission fee required). They are closed in the off season but reopen in the spring. If you have extra time, plan a visit to see the SeaLife Aquarium  (separate admission required).




SoCal Guide – Legoland Holiday Snow Days + Winter Nights

Celebrate a rare snow day in San Diego at the LEGOLAND California Resort! For those of us in San Diego, snow is a novelty…a special treat to be sure! And it’s especially fun to frolic in the frost at such a whimsical place as the Legoland California Resort.

Image from Mobile

Legoland Holiday Snow Days + Winter Nights event is going on now (November 22nd to January 4th). Their special gift to guests attending this event? Receive a FREE return ticket to be used early in the new year! Present any paid admission ticket at the Our Gift To You kiosk inside the Park, and receive a ticket to return to Legoland California and SEA LIFE Aquarium between January 5 – March 1, 2015 (You must request your free return ticket on the day of your paid visit. Free tickets valid only between January 5 – March 1, 2015. Additional restrictions may apply).

With the admission ticket guests will enjoy hillside snow tubing, snowball toss games and can build a snowman with LEGO accessories.

Follow the adventures on the Event Guide and handy map.

Image from Visit

When night falls, Winter Nights at Legoland kicks off. There’s even a food truck with yummy treats served by Santa’s Elves!

Stay for the nightly fireworks over Miniland USA (December 26 – 30). Witness the lighting of the 30-foot tall LEGO Christmas Tree and enjoy live entertainment with LEGO Friends Live. Stand by the life-sized LEGO Brick Santa and Reindeer for the perfect family photo opportunity.

Image from California Legoland

Review the event calendar to see what is happening and when:

  • Winter Nights festivities at 5-7pm on November 28, 29 and December 6, 13, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.
  • Official Tree Lighting on December 1, nightly Tree Lighting at 5pm, December 4-25th.
  • Holiday Fireworks at 7pm on December 26-30th.
  • Kids’ New Year’s Eve celebration from 3 – 6pm with fireworks and a “Brick Drop” at 6pm on December 31st. (capacity limited)

New this year for guests 3+ is Ice Skating (separate pricing for admission and skate rental).

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Have you enjoyed Legoland Holiday Snow Days + Winter Night event before? What is your favorite part of the event? Share below in the comments and please sign up for my newsletter to receive notification of future posts.


SoCal Guide – Budget-Friendly Winter Fun in San Diego

Image from San

Looking for Winter fun in San Diego? Pull out your calendar and fill it in with these budget-friendly family ideas. Some start as early as this weekend!

Balboa Park December Nights

Image from A Plus

Friday Dec 5th from 3-11pm

Saturday Dec 6th from Noon-11pm

The 37th consecutive year of San Diego’s largest free community festival! Participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 pm both evenings. This is always a busy event so arrive early!

Enjoy food from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages. Watch the traditional Santa Lucia Procession at the Plaza de California. Gift shop at the museum stores and Spanish Village. There are also musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree.

New this year is the “December Flights” Zipline. Take a two hundred foot Zipline ride past the historic and beautifully lit Moreton Bay Fig Tree!

Viejas Outlets Presents…Winter Wonderland

Image from Red

December 5-7th at 6pm

Exclusive viewing of the movie Frozen will take place at the Viejas Ice Rink. Plus, the Snow Queen and Snow Princess will visit the Outlets on Friday, December 5, from 5:30pm to 8:30pm!

Guests can skate at the rink (for a fee) from November 1, 2014 through January 4, 2015.

Together: A Holiday Spectacular  – The Viejas Outlets comes alive with Holiday Spirit

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Opens November 21, 2014
Every 15 Minutes, 5pm – 10pm, 7 Days a Week

Enjoy enchanting holiday vignettes that combine fire and snow, water and light. The show features water fountains, lasers, fire cannons, pyrotechnics and state-of-the-art special effects, all choreographed to best loved Christmas music!

La Mesa Village Christmas in the Village

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Friday, Dec. 12, 2014  5pm-10pm

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014  5pm-10pm

Pre-Parade starts at 4:30 with our Salute to America. Holiday Parade starts at 5pm both nights.

Santa will be at the Goodwill Plaza this year at 8250 La Mesa Blvd. Come and see Santa right after the Parade to 10 pm. (No charge to see Santa)

The Village is transformed into a Victorian Wonderland complete with strolling minstrels, carolers and street entertainers. Live Music is featured in a number of stage areas. There will be carnival rides, ponies and puppet shows for the kids. Warm up at one of the many bonfires that fill the Boulevard and enjoy the shop, boutiques and restaurants that stay open late during event.

Old Town Holiday in the Park & Las Posadas

Image from Old Town Mexican

December 13th & 14th from 6pm – 9pm

Museums, historic homes, stores and restaurants in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park will be open late and richly decorated in period holiday adornment (admission fees still apply to some locations). Enjoy special holiday treats, activities and extended shopping hours, along with strolling carolers and do some holiday shopping at the same time.

63rd Annual Las Posadas re-enactment begins at 2:30pm on December 14th. This centuries-old tradition is a re-enactment of the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph through the town of Bethlehem. The event begins at 2:30 PM with carolers and children’s choirs in the state park, with the live theatrical procession starting promptly at 5:00 PM. A piñata party for all the children follows the parade.

North Park Toyland Parade & Festival

Image from La Jolla

Saturday, December 6th

Parade 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Festival 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

All day parking will be available at the North Park Parking Garage for $1.

For the 51st year, this joyous holiday parade marches through the historic neighborhood of North Park From University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets, the parade includes marching bands, dance groups, vintage cars and of course, Santa Claus will be riding atop a red fire engine!

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

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Sunday December 7th, 1:30pm

The event through downtown La Jolla includes marching bands, floats, equestrian units, vintage automobiles and an appearance by Santa Claus. The theme for this year’s parade is “Spirit of Christmas – Peace on Earth.”

Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade

Image from The

December 26th at 3pm

Free street-side viewing or purchase a seat in the grandstands for $20, here.

This is “America’s Largest Balloon Parade”! World-class marching bands, magnificent floats, drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons (more than any other parade!) This parade is broadcast to a nationwide television audience.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Image from SD Parade of

Sunday December 14th & Sunday December 21st

The procession will start at 5:30 p.m. and will follow the predetermined parade  route.

More than 80 boats lavishly decorated according to a new theme each year (Theme for 2014 is Children’s Stories). The parade takes approximately one  hour to one and a half hours to pass any given point along the parade route.  The approximate arrival time of the parade at various locations are:

  • Shelter Island (start of parade) -5:30 p.m.
  • Harbor Island                             -6 p.m.
  • The Embarcadero                       -6:30 p.m.
  • Seaport Village                            -7 p.m.
  • Ferry Landing on Coronado       -7:30 p.m.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

Saturday December 13th from 6pm – 9pm

Dozens of vessels take to the water for the annual parade. The boat parade starts at Quivira Basin. Best viewing is from Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island.

Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights

Image from Visit

Saturday December 13th from 7pm -9pm
Fishing boats, sail boats, yachts, kayaks and dingys dressed up in holiday swag circle the Oceanside Harbor. One of the best viewing spots is along the side of the Oceanside Harbor near the fishing dock and police station.

Holiday Wonderland at Petco Park

Image from NBC San











Open for 12 nights in December.

Event hours are 5-10 pm.

Adult admission is $15 and child admission is $10. Kids under three will be admitted free of charge. Military, group and event discounts are available.

Walk through the magical lighting displays, ride Polar Express trains, explore Candyland, feed live reindeer, take a photo with Santa near a 40′-tall Christmas Tree, enjoy the festive fare and so much more!  Parking will be available in the Lexus Premier Lot, Padres Parkade and Tailgate Parking Lot for $10.

Holidays at the Del

Image from Hotel Del

It was at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1904 that America experienced the first electrically-lit outdoor Christmas tree! This year’s holiday theme is “Building Seaside Memories”. The resort’s lobby Christmas tree will be decorated in an elegant ocean theme. Stop by to admire the holiday decor, book a Sunday brunch with Santa or the Holiday Tea, purchase tickets to see An American Christmas performed by Lamb’s Players Theatre and enjoy outdoor Ice Skating at Hotel Del Coronado Skating by the Sea.

Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Image from San Diego Botanic

December 6th – 30th from 5 pm to 9 pm (Closed on December 24-25)

Price: Members – $8
Non-members Adults – $14
Seniors, Active Military & Students – $10
All Children 3-12 – $6
Children 2 and Under – Free

The Garden has been transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights. Activities include horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, refreshments and hot mulled wine (on select evenings). Some of these activities are included, others are an added cost. Snow also ‘falls’ on select nights!



SoCal Guide – SeaWorld San Diego Dine with Shamu

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

Have you ever dined with an orca whale? We have! It’s an experience not to forget. Shamu dines and entertains luncheon guests at Sea World San Diego in the Dine with Shamu event.

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

Our reservation was at 12:30 and we arrived 15-minutes early to wait in line. My family was able to see the orca whales swimming in the underwater viewing area while we waited. We had our photo taken as a group in front of a large picture of Shamu. We were never given anything or shown our picture so I’m not sure what the picture op was for!

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

The host seated us at a long table against the glass with a great view of the pool. The dining space was in a curve around a viewing pool with the buffet room and restrooms in the center. A trainer was speaking over a microphone for the guests to hear but unfortunately most of the people were in line for the buffet and probably didn’t catch the educational talk.

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

I stayed behind with our toddler while the rest of my group got their plates of food so I was able to listen to the trainer talk and watch her toss fish by the handfuls to the orcas. Fortunately by the time most everyone was back at the tables with their food, the two orca whales were doing some performing and getting close to the glass.

Dining with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

They jumped, twirled, stuck their tongues out and pulled themselves up on the deck right next to our table! It was incredible to be so close to these beautiful creatures!

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

A waitress took drink orders and kept on top of bringing refills for everyone in our party. Standard soft drinks, coffee and tea were included in the price and alcohol and specialty drinks were extra. The kid’s drinks were served in souvenir plastic cups that we took home with us.

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

As for the food, it was really quite delicious and not the typical buffet-fare. There were a variety of unique and tasty salads. My family enjoyed the sustainable fish dishes including the salmon and shrimp. There was a pot of steaming hot clam chowder, soft rolls with butter and a server was carving fresh pork. The smashed red potatoes were perfect alongside a saucy chicken breast and steamed veggies. The “kid’s section” included Swedish meatballs, creamy mac and cheese, mixed vegetables and breaded chicken.

Fortunately by the time most everyone was back at the tables with their food, the two orca whales were doing some performing and getting close to the glass.

The dessert bar was heavenly! It included carrot cupcakes (my toddler took mine right off my plate!), fresh fruit salad, and chocolate-covered Shamu shaped cookies. There was cheesecake with a variety of toppings; I had the pumpkin cheesecake with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce…amazing! The cherry on top of the meal were the delicious vanilla mint canolis. We had several of them, they were so yummy!

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

This is from SeaWorld’s website in regards to the food that they serve:

Our commitment to care for the natural world extends to the food that we serve. From sustainable seafood to organic coffee, even our menu items promote environmental responsibility.

Why is it important to choose sustainable seafood? As the world’s appetite for seafood skyrockets and commercial fishing becomes increasingly efficient, many of our ocean’s fisheries are overfished, overexploited or collapsing. Choosing sustainable seafood that was responsibly fished or farmed replenishes our oceans, preserves species and ensures a healthy world for future generations.

Our signature Dine With Shamu dining experience also features menu items that are sustainable, organic and locally sourced. From fresh California salad greens to locally-grown vegetables, in-season produce is selected straight from regional farmers. This ensures not only that our guests are getting the freshest produce available, but also that this produce has a minimal carbon footprint.

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

We had a wonderful experience at the Dine with Shamu lunch! It was so nice to have such an up-close and personal view of the whales. I appreciated that the food wasn’t an afterthought to the show and instead was a delicious and filling meal.

Other dining options for SeaWorld San Diego include Breakfast with Shamu or the All-Day Dining Deal which is good for other dining locations (not the Dine with Shamu area).

Dine with Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego

We received four complimentary buffet meals in exchange for this post. All comments and opinions are my own.


SoCal Guide – SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular

Sea World San Diego - Halloween Spooktacular

My family and I had the pleasure of experiencing SeaWorld San Diego’s fun Halloween Spooktacular event this past weekend. We brought our three kids dressed in their costumes for the event: Ninja, Vanellope Von Schweetz and Mickey Mouse, along with their cousin Elsa from Frozen!

Sea World San Diego - Halloween Spooktacular

The main Spooktacular area is called Otto and Penelope’s Pumpkinfish Patch. DJ Rock Candy was spinning fun tunes and two costumed dancers (Red the Licorice Kid and cowgirl Sally Taffy) were engaging the crowd. My three kids hovered on the fringe and prefered to just watch the action instead of dancing along. But if they’d wanted to dance, I’d have been right alongside them!

A costumed mermaid was taking photos with the kids. For an additional charge kids could decorate cookies or paint pumpkins at one of the many shaded picnic tables. There were great underwater/Halloween-themed photo areas, including these pumpkinfish!

Sea World San Diego - Halloween Spooktacular

There are ten trick-or-treat areas spread out around the park for this event. These stations are designated on the map we were given when we entered the park. Costume or not, young guests are welcome to grab a free bag and receive a treat. Our kids received great treats including Jelly Belly candy corn & jelly bean packs, M&Ms, SunRype Fruit Strips and Junior Mints.

Sea World San Diego - Halloween Spooktacular

We missed Clyde & Seamore’s Spooky Adventure Halloween-themed show but I’m sure it was comical; the sea lion show is always a hoot. We did catch the Sesame Street gang dressed up in their costumes and posing for pictures over at Sesame Street Bay of Play. Elmo was dressed as a skeleton!

Sea World San Diego - Halloween Spooktacular

The SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular is included with the regular park admission. Open weekends until Oct 26th, 2014. For the rest of October kids are free (ages 3-9 years old) with a full-price paid adult admission.