Beyond Disneyland – Great Things to Do in Southern California with Kids

Orange County is one of my favorite places to spend time because there is so much to do in this sunny SoCal area! Besides Disneyland in the Anaheim area, there are other amusements very close in Buena Park, Santa Ana, and San Juan Capistrano. And you can’t forget the sandy beach side fun all along the Pacific Ocean. These are my suggestions for things to do in Orange County, beyond Disneyland!

Things To Do in Orange County With Kids

Hey, y’all know how much I love Disneyland! But Southern California is more than just a single amusement park. Come to Orange County for one thing and you’ll miss out on some really cool attractions. I’ve compiled a list of my top ten don’t-miss things in the OC.

Start off your SoCal travel planning by checking out this travel guide from Visit Buena Park filled with tips, transportation, maps and special event information.

I have received compensation by Visit Buena Park for writing this post. Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

4 Things to Do at Knott’s

With humble beginnings in the 1930s, Knott’s Berry Farm has built upon the success of the boysenberry and Mrs. Knott’s fried chicken to create a family-friendly destination. The theme park, restaurant, water park and historical  Consider an overnight at the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel so all the Knott’s fun will be within quick walking distance.

1. Knott’s Berry Farm

Looking for family fun? How about thrill rides? What about history and a look back into the old West? Or maybe you just love really good food! Well, Knott’s Berry Farm has you covered on all fronts. With Camp Snoopy for little visitors and extreme coasters for big kids & adults, there is entertainment for all. We’ve loved our trips to Knott’s Berry Farm over the years (I’ve been visiting since I was very young). Don’t miss Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies. That’s our favorite show (they used to perform in the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland). The amazingly detailed Calico Mine Ride is a don’t-miss family attraction! And my big kids hit all the thrill rides like Xcellerator and GhostRider. For more, read my tips on taking kids of all ages to Knott’s.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

Knott’s Berry Farm day passes are considerable less expensive than Disneyland. Purchase discounted Knott’s Berry Farm tickets through my partner Get Away Today (under tickets, click “Huntington Beach” to find them).

SoCal Insider Tip: Line waits for the rides in Camp Snoopy can be ridiculously long, especially on the weekend. Be sure to check out my post on how to maximize your time with little ones at Knott’s Berry Farm.

2. Knott’s Soak City

Making a splash under the California sun is a great way to spend the day! Knott’s Soak City features 7 new water attractions including one with an Aqua-Launch chamber – the floor drops out from under your feet! I love a good lazy river and the one at Knott’s Soak City is one-third mile in length – one of the longest water park lazy rivers in the world. Knott’s Soak City is located across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.

SoCal Insider Tip: This seasonal water park will be open in mid-May 2018 to early September 2018. Be sure to check the schedule online as Soak City is only open select days during the season.


3. Knott’s Independence Hall

History lovers will enjoy a side-trip to Knott’s Independence Hall, an exact, brick-by-brick replica of the original building in Philadelphia. This is the nation’s only exact replica of the Philadelphia landmark. View a replica of the Liberty Bell, explore presidential artifacts and hear the forefathers discuss the Declaration of Independence.

Independence Hall is located outside Knott’s Soak City (across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm) and is open every day except Christmas from 10 am – 5 pm. Admission to Knott’s Independence Hall is always free.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

4. Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant

Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park offers a pretty great All Day Dining Plan. However I still recommend leaving the park for at least lunch or dinner to hit this popular restaurant. You can sometimes walk-in, but to avoid a long wait it’s best to make a reservation.

Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant has been recently remodeled since my family’s last visit. I was able to look at the new design online and it reflects a rustic chic design that is so popular now. The restaurant is very large, with three indoor dining rooms, outdoor seating and a full-service bar (with boysenberry-infused cocktails!)

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

Order the chicken dinner, you won’t regret it! Each complete dinner comes with handmade biscuits, side salad, choice of cabbage or cherry rhubarb, three pieces of fried chicken and mashed potatoes smothered with gravy. And for dessert,  your choice of boysenberry pie or boysenberry sherbet. Seriously, the BEST fried chicken!

SoCal Insider Tip: Share the chicken dinner- the portions are huge. But order an extra dessert, because you won’t want to share the boysenberry pie!

5. Discovery Cube Science Center

Just down the freeway about ten minutes from Disneyland is the Discovery Cube Orange County, a science center with a hands-on focus for kids. Ongoing exhibits (like the water lab and healthy kitchen) are mixed in with limited time exhibits (like Rainforest Adventure). During spring break, their annual Bubblefest is can’t miss (extra add-on cost per ticket).

SoCal Insider Tip: The Discover Cube does not allow in and out privileges and guests cannot bring in snacks or food. There is a Bean Sprouts restaurant inside with healthier options, however the prices are higher than the usual fast food choices.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

6. Lunch Suggestions All Over the OC

Looking for a reliable and delicious lunch spot in SoCal that the entire family will enjoy? These four restaurants have locations all over the OC. A quick Google search while you’re out-and-about should pinpoint them on a map for you. I’ve chosen chain dining so where ever you are in the area, one of these restaurants should be close by.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill

More than just seafood, through you should at least try the original fish taco. Beer battered fish drizzled with white sauce and topped with cabbage and salsa, it’s a California tradition! I’m a fan of the loaded grilled chicken nachos (big enough to share). Don’t forget to try the salsa verde and roasted chipotle salsa, they are delicious!

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

Fancier dining than you expect for a brewery (crispy tofu appetizers, black garlic fondue, veggie linguine). Or course there’s plenty for kids too, including burgers, mac and cheese and root beer floats. Plan ahead and call to book a brewery tour during your visit.

Blaze Pizza

I love pizza but I don’t always love the toppings that my husband wants to order. And the two little ones always just want pepperoni. I like that Blaze Pizza is super fast – pizzas cook in 180 seconds! And everyone can order their own personal sized pizza with whatever toppings they want.


This is one restaurant we frequently regularly because it offers something for everyone. The large salad bar has amazingly fresh toppings. Then there are the fresh baked breads and muffins, fruit, pasta and soups. You won’t leave hungry! I sign up for their email list and get great coupons.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

Don’t forget the soft serve after your Souplantation meal!

7. Hit the Beach

No matter where you are along the coast of Southern California, you’re never too far from the sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Beaches in the OC feature some great view points, walking trails, tide pools and yes, even ocean swimming. Note that these are not tropical waters and even in the early summer, the Pacific Ocean can still be quite chilly. If you plan on visiting the beach early in the day, bring at least a hoodie to keep you warm from the “May Gray” or “June Gloom”.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach offers ten miles of coastline for surfing, swimming or sun on the sand. The 10.5-mile Back Bay Loop Trail in Upper Newport Bay is great for hiking and biking. Kids will be drawn to the Balboa Fun Zone amusement areas with the waterfront Ferris Wheel and arcade games.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

Huntington Beach

Enjoy Huntington Beach’s ten unbroken miles of sand for swimming and sand castles by day and beach bonfires at night. If it’s salty sea air in your hair that you’re after consider a ride on Captain Dave’s Dolphin And Whale Watching Safari. Hi-speed catamarans take you out in search of gray whales, blue whales and dolphins. Discounted tickets for the Safari can be found through my partner Get Away Today (under tickets click “Huntington Beach” to find them).

Laguna Beach

Seven miles of coastline include tucked-away coves and viewing-only tide pools in beautiful Laguna Beach. This is also home to the famous Pageant of the Masters theater show in which actors recreate famous works of art (you have to see it to believe it!)

8. Dinner & a Show at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

My kids and I were able to visit the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament a few years ago while in the Buena Park area (you can read about our entire Medieval Times experience here). In a nutshell, this attraction is well worth the cost! Exploring the castle grounds during the pre-show is fun. The meal is hands-on delicious. And the show is really top notch entertainment!

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

9. Farrell’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour

Farrell’s isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a lot of fun! Yes, they have burgers, salads and sandwiches. But save room for dessert because there are shakes, build-your-own sundaes and a candy shop with old-fashioned favorites.

Back when I was a kid, Farrell’s was the place to have your birthday party. I have distinct memories of spending one of my earliest birthdays hiding under the table because my family had ordered THE ZOO! This enormous ice cream sundae big enough to feed ten was delivered to your table in a loud fanfare of banging drums and sirens! Farrell’s has the same tradition today, should your family order THE ZOO.

SoCal Insider Tip: Dine on Tuesday night and the kids will eat free with the purchase of an adult entree.

10. San Juan Capistrano

Visit Mission San Juan Capistrano, the legendary location where the swallows return each year. These birds migrate 6,000 miles from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano in large groups, arriving every March 19th. Founded nearly 200 hundred years ago, guests visiting the Mission San Juan Capistrano can still see the chapel where Saint Junipero Serra celebrated Mass. Hands-on activities like basket weaving, art and both audio and guided tours are engaging for older children. There are also 10-acres of beautiful gardens and fountains for little ones who just want to be outdoors.

SoCal Insider Tip: There are a number of businesses occupying historic buildings around the Mission, including several museums that offer more details on the heritage of the area.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! But these are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!)

Photo credit: LaVerne McMillion

Looking for More?

For more information on what to do in Orange County, be sure to download the Buena Park travel guide stuffed with tips, transportation, maps and special event information.

Of course you can't miss Disneyland when visiting SoCal! There are so many great things to do in Orange County with kids! These are the top 10 can't-miss things to see and do in Southern California (other than Disneyland!) #VisitBuenaPark #Snoopy

Family Fun at SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular is making a splash this fall season. This fun daytime family event is included with park admission, and takes place every Saturday and Sunday from September 23 through October 29, 2017.

My family and I enjoyed SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular several times in the past but this was our first visit in several years. We packed up the kids and a few costumes and headed for SeaWorld San Diego this past weekend.

My family and I received complimentary admission to SeaWorld San Diego to enjoy the Halloween Spooktacular event. All thoughts and opinions are my own! Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Costumes Encouraged, But Not Necessary

We brought Halloween costumes for our two littles, just to help them get in the spirit of the event. You can totally collect treats without the costume but it is fun to wear one if you have it. We brought extra clothes for the kids to change into when they didn’t want to wear their costumes anymore.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Collecting treats at SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular

We even saw mermaid costumes at one of the shops, in case you wanted to purchase a costume while you’re in the Park!

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Costumes for sale inside SeaWorld

Treat-or-Treat Stations

Located all over the Park are designated trick-or-treat stations. Each station offers something different from SunRype fruit snacks, Sugar Babies, lollipops and gummies. Grown ups can participate too! We were encouraged to hop in line with the kids to receive treats. It was nice to be able to just jump into a trick-or-treat line while roaming the Park at our own pace. Perhaps it’s because this was the first weekend of the Halloween event, but the treat lines were never busy.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

One of the many treat stations located around SeaWorld San Diego

Dia de los Muertos

A special themed area (near the entrance to the Manta ride) celebrates Día de los Muertos. Colorful flags fly overhead and there are detailed displays to teach guests about this traditional Mexican holiday.

Bring Your Own Treat Bag

In a conservation effort, SeaWorld requests that trick-or-treaters bring in their own candy collection bag. Reusable bags are available in the gift shop for around a dollar, with 5% of each bag purchase going directly to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. We brought one trick-or-treat  collection bucket that the kindergartener carried and we all tossed our treats inside.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

One of the Halloween-themed activity stations

Dance Party Fun and More

With the addition of the newest area Ocean Explorer, the location of the dance party has moved since the last time we were there. Located just in front of the entrance to the Sky Tower, the Halloween Spooktacular dance party area is set with a stage, free play activities and carnival style games. The DJ was spinning family-friendly tunes and costumed characters like Tabitha Taffy and Timothy Toffee encouraged families to join the party.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

My little zebra was intrigued by the candy-encrusted shoes on one of the dancers but refused to bust a move on her own. The kindergartner loved that there were bubbles! My older kids also enjoyed running their hands through the bins of moon sand at various activity stations. I was thankful that the music wasn’t too loud and that there were places for parents to sit while the kids danced. However it’s quite hot under the sun and shade is very limited here.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Soaking in the SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular Dance party

Party at SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular for FREE?!

Did you know that kids admission is FREE to SeaWorld San Diego in the month of October? For every adult ticket purchased, you’ll be able to bring in a child for free. Purchase your adult SeaWorld San Diego tickets ahead of time at my affiliate Get Away Today and you’ll be able to receive the free child’s ticket.

Halloween Shows and Attractions

The comical California sea lion duo team up again for Clyde and Seamore’s Big Halloween Bash. The younger kids will love Who Said Boo?! that features Sesame Street characters in a live Halloween-themed show. Manta has been made-over for Halloween into Manta Madness with spooky special effects. My kindergartner was just a half-inch shy of the 48″ height requirement and was so disappointed not to be able to ride!

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Enjoy the Rest of the Park!

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular takes place during the day time hours at SeaWorld. Everything in the Park remains open for enjoyment including the various aquariums, rides, and shows.

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

Tentacle Twirl at SeaWorld San Diego

What sounds like the most fun at SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular?

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween Spooktacular offers family fun including trick or treating and Halloween activities!

LEGOLAND California – A New Adventure is Here!

LEGOLAND California is Perfect for Preschoolers

Lots of new things going on at LEGOLAND California this year which makes it the best time to plan your SoCal visit! We’ve always loved LEGOLAND for the ability to entertain everyone from a toddler who wants to drive his own car to the grown-up who is fascinated by the Star Wars MiniLand exhibits.

Ninjago World rides are being assembled as we speak, the LEGOLAND water parks will reopen for the warm weather season in March and there is a fun new show, The LEGO® Movie™ 4D -A New Adventure!

As a new Official LEGOLAND Blogger, my preschooler and I were recently treated to a special event in honor of the new 4D film being shown exclusively at LEGOLAND. What a special evening, complete with character meet n’ greets, a red carpet and fun foods. And don’t you know, 3-D glasses make everything awesome!


The film was fantastic too; really cool special 4-D effects, fast paced and humor interjected throughout. It’s under 15 minutes long, so anyone 3+ would love it!


Be sure to check out my newest post at TravelingMom about this Park, LEGOLAND California – a Delightful Amusement Park for Preschoolers.

Legoland Blogger


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!

SoCal Guide – Hands-on Fun at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Ever visited the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park? There are tons of hands-on science-minded activities for kids and adults alike. The IMAX movies are fantastic in the dome theater. We especially like visiting if it’s a rare rainy San Diego day because there is enough here to fill up the entire day.

Stop over at the Traveling Mom’s website and read my newest article, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego -100 Ways for Kids to Learn and Play.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego

Kids FREE in San Diego for October!

Head West for the autumn and take advantage of all that’s available for kids, free in San Diego for October! 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 thinned, 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.

Find out What's New at LEGOLAND California, including the innovative NINJAGO World

Legoland CA (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland California)

Kids Free in San Diego

From free restaurant dining, free museum visits, free amusement park tickets, free whale watching to free transportation, there’s enough here for a month of fun!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!


Book your San Diego vacation directly through my affiliate Get Away Today and save even more!! You can even purchase your adult tickets on the site and the kid’s tickets are free.

What’s FREE for Kids in San Diego?

We are talking big deal savings here (click the links to read one of my personal posts with tips about each attraction)

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

SeaWorld San Diego (including their Halloween Spooktacular event

LEGOland California

Birch Aquarium

New Children’s Museum

Cabrillo National Monument (see this post about Point Loma that also includes a review of restaurant Officine Buona Forcetta, offering kids free ice cream in October)

Balboa Park attractions and Museums, including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and Model Railroad Museum.

Downtown San Diego itinerary attractions, including the U.S.S. Midway.

Seaport Village restaurant kid meal at Buster’s Beachhouse

Fishing at H&M Landing

Free Play & Rides at Belmont Park

Old Town attractions, including free Old Town Trolley Tours and kid’s meal at Casa Guadalajara.

100+ free kids attractions, theme parks and dining in San Diego for the month of October.

How to Get Your Tickets

You can purchase adult tickets for the following attractions at Get Away Today and one child’s ticket per paying adult will be included for free!

LEGOLAND California

SeaWorld San Diego

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Safari Park

U.S.S. Midway

Old Town Trolley Tours

Kids free in San Diego?! 100+ free kids attractions, theme parks and dining in San Diego for the month of October.


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

Image from

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

Image from

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

Image from

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 Orcas

Have you ever dined with an orca whale? It’s an amazing experience that you can have on your SeaWorld San Diego vacation. Dine With Orcas is a meal experience you won’t soon forget. Find out more about Dine with Orcas including cost, the food quality and what’s included for the price.

Dine With Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you! My family received four complimentary buffet meals to faciliate this post. All comments and opinions are my own.

My family and I have been visiting SeaWorld San Diego for 40+ years. However none of us had ever experienced Dine With Orcas before. This meal experience puts guests up-close to killer whales, while offering an expansive buffet lunch.

Our reservation for the Dine With Orcas lunch 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 a killer whale. Unfortunately we were the last ones leaving at the end of the meal (one of the littles took a long time in the bathroom!) As a result we never did see or receive our photo.

Poolside Patio Dining

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 Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales.

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  getting close to the glass.

The killer whales 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 Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales.

Buffet-Style Dining

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.

Dine With Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales.

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

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 Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales.

Sustainable Foods at SeaWorld

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 Orcas Experience

We had a wonderful experience at the Dine with Orcas 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.

Dine With Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales.

Tickets for Dine With Orcas

The current cost of Dine With Orcas can be found on the SeaWorld website.  Click SAN DIEGO under the PARKS tab, then DINE WITH ORCAS under the “Get Up Close to Killer Whales” section. The adult ticket is discounted via this link!

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 Orcas area).

SeaWorld Tickets

You can also purchase your Park tickets, SoCal City Pass or Preschool Fun Card via the SeaWorld website. Be sure to check out the military discounts and Teacher Fun Card as well!

Dine With Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego for a unique experience and amazing buffet meal, poolside next to killer whales. Find out the details on this meal experience, including where to get tickets & what's included.

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.

SoCal Guide – San Diego Zoo

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

You can also find a more detailed review of the San Diego Zoo at Traveling Mom.

At a vast 100 acres, the San Diego Zoo is a sprawling paradise in the middle of the city. Plenty has evolved at the zoo over the years including a move away from isolated cages towards lush, natural exhibits that mimic that animal’s habitat.

The zoo is a pleasurable outdoor experience that takes all day to properly explore. It is home to more than 3700 rare and endangered animals and a botanical collection with 700,000+ plants. The zoo sits within Balboa Park, a 1200 acre cultural park (the nation’s largest).

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

There are many ways to explore the San Diego Zoo (see MAP here). Guests can take a 35-minute Guided Bus Tour on double-decker buses that give a good overview of the zoo. There is also the option of the “Kangaroo” Express Bus that stops at several locations for guests to access different areas. The Guided Bus Tour & Express Bus is included in the 1-Day Pass admission price (Zoo pass members pay extra).

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

There are many pathways that guests can walk, which reach aviaries and enclosures that the zoo does not cover on the bus. I highly recommend that guests take one of the bus tours first and from there plan their own walking tour to more deeply explore other areas. Please note that many of the trails are quite steep so be sure to take advantage of the Skyfari Aeriel Tram. This will transport you quickly across the zoo to the higher regions and you can work your way back downhill. I love this amazing view of the city and Balboa Park museums over the lush treetops of the zoo!

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

The zoo offers a few shows and animal presentations. The shows are a nice place to get off your feet for a bit though you will be in the sun. Check out the animal encounter section to see what Keeper Talks are planned during your visit. We usually catch them on Front Street coming in and out of the park.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

Even if you don’t have kids with you, please make it a point to stop in at the Children’s Zoo area. There are animals here that you won’t find in other areas including the amusing Naked Mole-Rats. My little one’s favorite area is the Petting Paddock where he can pet the goats and sheep. Just inside the entrance to this area there is also a playground so we usually spend about 30 minutes letting our stroller-bound toddler run around. There are several other play areas around the park where kids can explore.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

Accessed only by the walking paths, making your way through the cool confines of one of the aviaries is one of the most fascinating parts of a San Diego Zoo visit. If you walk too fast you’ll miss a lot so make sure to find a bench to bird-watch. Many of these birds are camouflaged in the lush trees and bushes and you won’t see them until you pause to look. Keepers set up trays of fruit and the birds stop over to nibble.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

Panda Canyon has three giant pandas on exhibit and they are so fun and playful to watch as they climb trees and strip bamboo. The hippos have a cool upper and lower exhibit so you can watch them swim (so graceful under water!) Elephant Odyssey is awesome; Last time we were there the elephants were loping around to grab branches from each other and it was so cool to watch! Take a stroll through Monkey Trails – Orangutans are one of my favorites, they can be so silly! Many of the animals have live cameras on their enclosure so you can also watch them from home.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

Dining at the Zoo is mostly walk-up with outdoor patio dining. Offerings are wide and include sandwiches, grilled burgers & chicken, salads, wraps and Chinese. The full-service dining restaurant, Albert’s offers a more elegant selection. You can also bring in any of your own food from home (which we frequently do) and have a picnic lunch in the Treetops Cafe seating area. Please note that straws are not permitted as they are a choking hazard to the animals.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo offers special experiences at an additional fee, including an early-morning tour to visit the pandas, overnight sleepovers in the park or Breakfast with Koalas, a buffet that overlooks the koala exhibit. Educational classes and camps can also be booked.

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo

Parking in the lot is free. You can purchase zoo tickets in advance online or at the booths. And as the old advertising jingle went, “You Belong in the Zoo…The San Diego Zoo!”

SoCal Guide - San Diego Zoo