LEGOLAND California San Diego SoCal Guide

LEGOLAND California is a wonderful park for a wide variety of ages. There are play areas for toddlers, rides that will please elementary-aged kids and LEGO displays that will put any teen or adult in awe. I have the LEGOLAND tips on everything there is to see and do at this theme park in San Diego. Here’s what you can expect of a day at LEGOLAND California, with my LEGOLAND insider tips for building the best day!

LEGOLAND provided complimentary day passes for me & my family. Please note that this post includes affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you! This post was originally posted on Jan 20th, 2015 and contains updated information.

LEGOLAND Overview

As a San Diego native, my family and I have been going to LEGOLAND California since it first opened! There are over 60 rides and attractions in the 128-acre park. LEGOLAND has grown quite a bit over the years but some things have remained constant throughout. This theme park is family-friendly with an emphasis on younger guests that is safe, clean and well-kept. LEGOLAND is located in Carlsbad, about 45 minutes drive north of downtown San Diego and about 60 minutes drive south from Anaheim (where Disneyland is located). These are my LEGOLAND tips for visiting with kids.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

These larger-than-life LEGO master builder models are located all over the park.

LEGOLAND California Tips

These LEGOLAND tips for traveling with kids will help you properly plan your day. The park is very easy to navigate, but includes a lot of walking with stops for rides and attractions along the way. Start your planning by looking at the LEGOLAND California park map and plot out your day. Even on a visit during non-peak season, you’ll be hard-pressed to see and do everything in one day. Hours at LEGOLAND California vary throughout the year, so always check the calendar before your visit. LEGOLAND does have mid-week days when it’s completely closed in the off-season.

What Should I Bring to LEGOLAND?

LEGOLAND California is located in Carlsbad, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. It can be chilly and windy, especially during the winter and spring. Bring a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt. Definitely pack your sunscreen. While it might be overcast early in the day, the sun often peeks out after noon and it may get very hot.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Parking at LEGOLAND

The LEGOLAND parking fee is $20 per car, per day. If you arrive early, you’ll be very close to the front entrance, though there is still a short (slightly inclined) walk to the front entrance. It’s not necessary to purchase the “preferred parking”.

Security Checks

All backpacks, bags, purses and strollers will be checked before entering the park.


From cool rides, water parks and billions of bricks, here's why you should plan a LEGOLAND California vacation!

Mia’s Riding Camp

Save Money on Your LEGOLAND Vacation Tickets!

Before your vacation, you can purchase LEGOLAND California tickets online. You can purchase discounted LEGOLAND vacation packages or just LEGOLAND tickets on the Get Away Today website. You can also purchase park tickets at the booths but you will pay full price. I highly recommend purchasing the tickets from Get Away Today before your trip to save money!

https://www.getawaytoday.com/?referrerid=7529

READ MORE: My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes shares more LEGOLAND budgeting advice.

Newest Must-Do Attraction at LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND’s newest attraction, LEGO City Deep Sea Adventure is a cool hybrid attraction that’s part interactive treasure hunt, submarine ride and aquarium. Riders board a submarine, then peer through the portholes and windows to peek at the 2000 types of real sea life, including sharks! There are fun LEGO items to spy along the way as well. The touch-screens inside the ride encourage kids to treasure hunt on a search for items on the checklist.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Deep Sea Adventure is part interactive treasure hunt, submarine ride and aquarium.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Inside the new Deep Sea Adventure interactive submarine ride

Tips for LEGOLAND Attractions:

  • Download the LEGOLAND California Resort mobile app to check ride wait times, see an interactive park map, dining options and show times.
  • Many queue areas have LEGO building stations. Kids can build here while parents are waiting in line.
These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGO play areas in queue

Thrill Rides at LEGOLAND in San Diego

A majority of the rides at LEGOLAND California are geared for younger kids. However there are a few thrill-type rides that are appropriate for elementary-aged kids and would please teens and adults as well. Nothing too crazy but still thrilling! The tallest height restriction is 42″ and several rides have an age requirement as well, so check the signage.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

The Knight’s Tournament has several “levels”, including this one that tosses guests upside down!

  • LEGO Technic Coaster
  • Knight’s Tournament
  • The Dragon Coaster
  • Coastersaurus (at 36″ height restriction, it’s a good first coaster for younger kids)

Tips for LEGOLAND Thrill Rides:

  • Don’t like waiting in lines? Consider purchasing Reserve ‘n’ Ride. This add-on offers three levels that will reduce wait times 25-99% at an additional cost from between $35 to $100 per person.
  • Rides offer a “parent swap” so that one parent can wait with a non-riding child and then switch places so that the other parent can ride.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

More Can’t Miss LEGOLAND California Attractions

  • Bring out the competitive spirit on the Lost Kingdom Adventure ride to shoot laser guns and tally points.
  • Get soaked on a warm day at Pirate Reef or Splash Battle, both located in the Pirate Shores area. Kids can even get wet by splashing at the Heartlake Fountain and Swabbie’s Deck (feel free to bring swim suits and towels to let the kids get wet).
  • LEGO NINGAGO is a small area in the park that features a very cool 4-D, interactive ride. There’s no height restriction so anyone can ride.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

  • Fun Town really is…fun! Kids love participating as a team with their family at the LEGOLAND Police & Fire Academy.
  • Skipper School and Driving School with their trackless vehicles are can’t-miss LEGOLAND attractions. Most kids will say these are their favorite attractions. There is also a Junior Driving School for little ones aged 3-5. Kids can even purchase their own LEGOLAND Driving School license.
These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Skipper School lets kids drive their own trackless boat.

LEGOLAND Miniland USA

LEGOLAND’s Miniland USA is an awesome attraction that is at the heart of what LEGO is all about. Built by their “master builders”, these city representations include New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington DC and Las Vegas. There are small buttons kids can push to play a sound clip or to make one of the features in the scene move. Tiny LEGO cars move, LEGO figures dance and more. Plan to spend at least an hour exploring Miniland USA, as there’s lots of see in this detailed area.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND California Miniland USA Las Vegas

After you’ve explored the Miniland USA cities, take a walk on the Miniland USA “Block of Fame” and see famous faces (like this one of Elvis!). There are also famous Star Wars characters as well.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

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

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Miniland Star Wars

Other Fun Things to Do at LEGOLAND

Even if you never step foot on an actual ride at LEGOLAND, there’s so much to keep busy kids active throughout the day. Check out these other great things to do at LEGOLAND after the rides.

  • If you have a child who can’t get enough of simply building LEGO creations, be sure to stop inside several of these areas (Imagination Zone Build and Test, LEGO Mindstorms, Heartlake Stables and LEGO Life Zone). Kids can build and play with the thousands of LEGOS that are available in these areas.
These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

The Hideaways play area

  • If your kids need to run and play, there are a few areas where they can burn off steam. The Hideaways is a complex arrangement of rope ladders and slides. There’s only one way in and out so parents can sit on the wall surrounding the play area and not worry their kids will leave without them. There’s a rock climbing wall in LEGO Ninjago area. In Land of Adventure, kids and adults can slide down the Dune Raiders. In Pharaoh’s Revenge, kids can shoot foam balls at each other.
  • Watch LEGO NINJAGO Master of the 4th Dimension, a 4D show inside the LEGO Show Place Theater.
  • The Adventure’s Club walk-through is a favorite for my older ones though my preschooler was a little nervous of the darker areas and sounds inside.
  • Don’t miss the LEGO Factory Tour to see how LEGO bricks are made!
These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Keep your eyes open for the quirky LEGO humor!

LEGOLAND Dining Options

If you’re expecting the same boring theme park options for dining, no fear! LEGOLAND California offers only fresh, made-on-site meals that are unique and delicious. Quite often dishes are prepared right in front of you. This makes for a hot meal that’s made to order. It can also mean that wait times for meals can be longer than normal for amusement parks.

Choose from items like the pork belly bao sandwiches, pesto chicken salad sandwich or freshly prepared stir fry from Wok n’ Bowl (photo below). The Pizza & Pasta buffet is a popular place for all-you-can-eat with a great salad bar and creative offerings. We’ve also enjoyed the Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ with slowcooked Texas BBQ dishes and craft beer.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

And yes, you can still find the usual burgers, fries and soft serve cones if that’s what you want to eat! For dessert, you have to grab a box of Granny’s Apple Fries. You might not want to share!

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND Assisted Access Pass

If you have a guest with special needs, visit Guest Services before entering the park. You’ll be supplied with a simple “Assisted Access Pass”. This business card will be noted with the date, number of people in your party and the name of the person for whom the card is issued. We used this card in the past for my daughter (who has autism). 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.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Carefully read signage in regards to age & height restrictions

LEGOLAND with Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

There are quite a few rides in LEGOLAND that do not have height restrictions, so they’re perfect for babies and toddlers. I highly recommend the Fairy Tale Brook, Mia’s Riding Camp and Coast Cruise. There are a few rides that have surprising height restrictions, though they seem appropriately aged for toddlers (like Safari Trek), so be aware of signage before getting in line.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Duplo Playtown is a must with toddlers and preschoolers!

Duplo Playtown is going to be a hit with your toddler! There are quaint little houses set up like a town including a fire station with a pole and tons of stairs and slides. The LEGOLAND Express, a small train, circles around here as well. Plan for plenty of time in this area if you have a toddler or preschooler, they’ll absolutely love this place!

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND strollers available for rent in the parks

There are areas that are appropriate for toddlers to hang out while waiting for older siblings to ride. My daughter enjoyed playing in the sand at Dig Those Dinos. Queue waiting areas sometimes have larger Duplo blocks but check for the tiny LEGO bricks, which may be a choking hazard for toddlers.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND Royal Joust

The Royal Joust is for kids aged 4-12 only (and must be 36″ as well). This adorable horse ride takes kids on a journey through the Castle Hill area. Make sure to ride Coast Cruise, where you’ll be able to see LEGO displays from around the world, including the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower or George Washington getting his ears cleaned at Mount Rushmore!

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Where to Get Discounted LEGOLAND California Tickets

Did you know that each October in San Diego, there are many theme parks and restaurants that offer FREE entertainment for kids?! LEGOLAND is a participant in this special offer, so click through and find out how you can get your kid’s free offer! Kids FREE in San Diego for October!

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND California Water Park

When the weather warms, our thoughts turn to the water-play activities at the expansive LEGOLAND Water Park! From toddler splash pads, water slides for big kids and a giant wave pool, there’s plenty here for the whole family. Entrance to the water park is on top of the regular park admission. Water park days and hours of operation vary upon the season, so check the LEGOLAND website to make sure it’s open during your visit before you pack your swim suits!

Read More: 10 Things to Know Before Visiting the LEGOLAND California Water Park

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND Halloween Special Event

Brick-or-Treat Party Nights at LEGOLAND offers children and their families trick-or-treating and entertainment throughout the Park on Saturday nights in October. This is a special ticketed event that is not included with regular park admission. Guests are invited to dress in costume and there is candy given, certain rides are open during the event as well as a costume contest and not-too-scary Halloween-themed entertainment for kids.

Read More: Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Halloween Celebration at LEGOLAND® California Resort

LEGOLAND® California Resort Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Halloween Celebration

LEGOLAND Holidays

All of LEGOLAND gets into the holiday spirit during the winter season, with festivities and shows that are included in the regular park admission. There are also seasonal foods and treats, holiday decor and special gift shopping areas. Visit Miniland U.S.A. to see more of the Christmas spirit, where many of the buildings have fun holiday touches, including Santa and his sleigh and wreaths decorating the LEGO White House.

Read More: Holidays at LEGOLAND California – Ultimate Seasonal Guide

Celebrate the holidays at LEGOLAND in California with seasonal shows, treats and LEGO-sized Christmas touches around the park!

LEGOLAND Sea Life Aquarium

The Sea Life Aquarium combines a real, learning aquarium of actual sea life with fun LEGO models. Guests can see jelly fish and seahorses, spy octopus and sharks, reach inside touch pools, and experience feeder talks.

The Sea Life Aquarium is compact and will take about an hour to completely walk through. During busier seasons and holiday events, strollers are not allowed inside so make arrangements for little ones (I brought a front carrier for my baby so I wouldn’t have to hold her in my arms the entire time). Admission to the Sea Life Aquarium can be purchased separately or as an add-on to your LEGOLAND park ticket.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Inside the LEGOLAND Sea Life Aquarium

LEGOLAND Hotels

LEGOLAND is known for their unique, tongue-in-cheek humor so it was no surprise to me that these unique hotels feature a disco ball in the elevator and a treasure hunt inside the rooms!

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Rooms at both the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel and the original LEGOLAND Hotel are heavily themed. At the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel guests can choose from castle-themed rooms, naturally – Knights & Dragons, Royal Princess or Magic Wizard. And at the LEGOLAND Hotel, pick from Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, Friends, and LEGO NINJAGO.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

A stay at one of the two LEGOLAND hotels includes a complimentary buffet breakfast. Kids will also receive a welcome treasure hunt with a LEGO prize. One of the nicest features (for the benefit of the grown-ups!) is a separate kid’s sleeping area with entertainment center, bunk bed and pull out trundle.

READ MORE: My friend Karen at Desert Chica has a review on the new LEGOLAND Castle Hotel with in-room photos.


These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium. #LEGOLAND #LegolandCA #California #SanDiego #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #Carlsbad #ThemeParks #AmusementParks #LEGO

Kids FREE in San Diego for October!

Head West in the fall and take advantage of all that’s available for kids free in San Diego for October! There are 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 and free things for kids that are being offered in the San Diego area for the entire month.

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

LEGOLAND California’s newest attraction

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! Keep reading to find out where you’ll be able to visit in San Diego with the kids for free and where to find those special admission tickets.

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

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!

Editor’s Note: This post originally published Sept 29th, 2015 and has updated information for 2018

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


BUY ADULT TICKET AND THE KIDS TICKETS ARE FREE!

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.

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! Click each of the locations below to find out where to buy your tickets.

LEGOLAND California

SeaWorld San Diego

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Safari Park

U.S.S. Midway

Flagship Cruises

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.

The Halloween event at SeaWorld is included in the day pass!

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)

READ MORE33 Things to Do Outside In San Diego with Kids

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

SoCal Guide – San Diego Zoo with Kids and Families

As a San Diego native, my family and I have been going to the San Diego Zoo since I was a baby! The park has changed immensely over the years but some things have remained constant throughout. The San Diego Zoo has always been a place for learning, fun and unique experiences. It’s always safe, clean and well-kept – the ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon in San Diego. These are my tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids.

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

This post was originally published Oct 17th, 2014

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo with Kids – SoCal Guide Overview

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 one of the must see things in San Diego.

The San Diego Zoo is a pleasurable outdoor experience that takes all day to properly explore. It is home to around 3500 rare and endangered animals of more than 650 species (the largest collection of species in the world). It also boasts a gorgeous botanical collection with 700,000+ plants.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo Guide

My San Diego Zoo with kids guide tips will help you properly plan your day. The park can be a challenge to navigate, with so much ground to cover. There are also varied elevations so unless you’re up for a long hike, you’ll want to know how to properly see everything. Start your planning by looking at the park map and plot out your day. It is quite possible to see all of the exhibits in one day. You’ll have to stay from morning to night and not linger too long in any one place. You’ll also probably walk 4 miles to cover the entire Zoo!

Zoo Location: The San Diego Zoo is located in the heart of Balboa Park. This 1200 acre park features museums, walking trails and gardens.

Tickets: San Diego Zoo tickets might be higher cost than you’re used to for local zoos. However this zoo is a non-profit and all proceeds go towards the animals. I recommend pre-purchasing discount tickets ahead of time. You can purchase discounted San Diego Zoo vacation packages or just Zoo tickets on the Get Away Today website. You can also purchase zoo tickets at the booths but you will pay full price.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Buy tickets from Get Away Today for the best pricing!

What Should You Bring to the Zoo?

The Zoo is located in downtown San Diego and it can be chilly and windy during the winter and spring. The Skyfari ride can be especially cold. Bring a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt. A considerable amount of the park offers large tree shade protection but you should still pack your sunscreen. While it might be overcast early in the day, the sun often peeks out after noon and it may get very hot.

Parking: 

Parking at the San Diego Zoo is totally FREE! There is a very large lot in front of the park, however during busy seasons, it does fill up. You can also seek parking elsewhere in Balboa Park and then walk to the Zoo.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and what NOT to miss!

Is Outside Food Allowed at the San Diego Zoo?

The San Diego Zoo allows outside food so feel free to bring a picnic lunch, bottled water and whatever snacks you need for the day.

Security Checks:

While most San Diego area theme parks will check your packages, backpacks and purses before park entry, there are no such security inspections at the San Diego Zoo.

Rides at the San Diego Zoo

There are many ways to explore the San Diego Zoo. 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 & Kangaroo Bus is included in your admission price.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Also included in the Zoo admission is unlimited rides on the Skyfari Aeriel Tram. This ride 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!

Tips for San Diego Zoo Rides & Tours:

  • Jump on the Guided Bus Tour first thing in the morning. From there, plan your own walking tour to deeply explore other areas.
  • You’ll be able to see the animals better from the first deck of the guided bus (rather than sitting on the top of the bus). I recommend sitting on the right side of the bus towards the middle for the best views.
  • The line for the Skyfari is always longer at the front of the park since most people take it to the top elevations and then walk back. Visit early in the day (try right after the Guided Bus).
Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

See the Skyfari in the distance?

Must-See Exhibits at the San Diego Zoo

There are many pathways that guests can walk, which reach aviaries and enclosures that you won’t see on the bus.  Please note that many of the trails are quite steep so be sure to take advantage of the Skyfari Aeriel Tram to take you to the top of the hill.

Bird Aviaries

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.

Panda Canyon

Panda Canyon has two giant pandas on exhibit, one of the few zoos outside of China. These adorable pandas are so fun and playful to watch as they climb trees and strip bamboo. If you plan to visit the pandas, do so first thing in the morning.

Hippo Trail in the Lost Forest

The hippos have a cool upper and lower exhibit so you can watch them swim (so graceful under water!)

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Koala Outback

The San Diego Zoo has the most koala as well as the most successful koala breeding program outside of Australia!

Elephant Odyssey

Take a stroll through Elephant Odyssey for a close look at both African and Asian elephants. Last time we were there the elephants were loping around to grab branches from each other!

Monkey Trails

Monkeys, gorillas & orangutans are housed in these open air enclosed under deep shade. This is a lovely walk in the heat of the day.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Africa Rocks

The newest area at the San Diego Zoo, Africa Rocks is the new home for leopards and African penguins. Be sure to walk behind the big waterfall for an unforgettable photo experience.

Insect House

Located inside the Children’s Zoo area, the Insect House is one of the most fascinating places to get up close and personal with bugs! The creepy-crawlies are all behind glass (except when a trainer brings one out for a closer look). We loved watching the busy Leafcutter Ants and Diving Beetles.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Animal Interactions at the 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 on your daily map to see what Keeper Talks are planned during your visit. We usually catch them on Front Street coming in and out of the park. On our last visit we “met” a giant walking stick inside the Insect House!

Other Fun Things to Do at the San Diego Zoo with Kids

  • There are several 4-D theaters located at the Zoo and you can watch a show inside for an additional fee.
  • Looking for a major splurge for adults? Try the San Diego Zoo Keeper for a Day! Shadow either a giraffe or koala keeper, which includes preparing food, stepping inside the enclosure and even cleaning the exhibit.
  • Before coming to the Zoo, show your kids the live internet cams on the San Diego Zoo website to build up excitement for the visit!
  • Even if you don’t have young kids with you, 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.
  • Just outside of the Zoo gates is a children’s mini train and carousel. It’s a fun way to end your Zoo day with a ride on these (extra cost).
Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

The mini train located outside the Zoo entrance

San Diego Zoo with Kids, Toddlers and Babies

Toddlers and babies will greatly enjoy the outdoors at the San Diego Zoo. Because the Zoo is so large, I highly recommend bringing your own stroller or renting a stroller inside. There are some exhibits with high bushes so you may have to lift your little one out of their seat for them to see the animals. In other exhibits, the windows reach the floor and your baby will have a great view from the stroller.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Visit the Petting Paddock inside the Children’s Zoo where kids can pet the goats. 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.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Dining at the 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 only full-service dining restaurant, Albert’s, offers a more elegant selection and happy hour. There’s also soft serve ice cream at many locations in the park (which makes my kids very happy on a hot day!)

You can also bring in any of your own food from home (which we frequently do). Have a picnic lunch in the Treetops Cafe seating area. There’s plenty of covered seating and an amazing view of the city. Please note that straws are not permitted as they are a choking hazard to the animals.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Chocolate soft serve in the Treetops area of the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Special Events

Nighttime Zoo

Throughout the entire summer, the San Diego Zoo stays open late for Nighttime Zoo. Included in your daily park admission, the Zoo is open as late at 9 pm for special evening shows, live music and animal encounters. There are also summertime food offerings including Berry Walnut Salad and a Loaded Hot Dog.

Extra Zoo Experiences

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 even children’s birthday parties. Educational classes and camps can also be booked.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Meerkat lookout

Kids Play FREE at the San Diego Zoo in October!

Yes, in addition to free admission at the San Diego Zoo, kids also get in free at LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld. They’ll also dine free at participating restaurants. Read more about the kids free in San Diego for October promotion.

WATCH THE VIDEO for more San Diego Zoo with Kids tips!

Read this post for more tips if you only have one day to explore the San Diego Zoo.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo.

Peeking at the tortoise


Save Money on Your San Diego Zoo Vacation!

Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

If you’re also planning to visit SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo with kids consider purchasing a discounted ticket bundle that includes both locations.


READ MORE:

Visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids? Read this ultimate guide on what to do and see, what's new at the Zoo, how to navigate and where to purchase discounted tickets for the San Diego Zoo. #California #SanDiego #SanDiegoZoo #Zoo #Travel #TravelwithKids #FamilyTravel #SoCal #ThemeParks


Must-Have Vacation Travel Products for Toddlers, Kids and Parents

Have the right travel products can truly make your vacation that much smoother! Some of these travel products are always going to be inside your luggage, like t-shirts and shoes. Other items you might not have ever considered – but once you use these unique travel accessories, you’ll wonder how you vacationed without them! I’ve also included airplane travel packing ideas for toddlers. So grab your travel bag and let’s see what travel products for toddlers, kids and grown-ups you could use on your next trip.

I have received complimentary product of some of these items to facilitate this post. No other compensation has been made and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Comfortable Vacation Tees

A cozy cotton t-shirt is a vacation must-have for everyone in the family. And if you’re headed on a “magical” vacation, like my family just did, these tees from the Polka Dot Pixie Shop are perfect for packing! Soft and comfortable, they were perfect for summertime in Orlando. I absolutely loved the creative designs and so did everyone else who saw them. I was stopped so many times in the Disney parks, asking where I got my shirts!

Many of the styles and designs are unisex (so that means I can snag my teenage son’s Jungle Cruise shirt whenever I want!) And each design is sold in a wide variety of sizes so it’s ideal if you like to do matching shirts on vacation.

DISCOUNT CODE: Use coupon code PIXIE at Polka Dot Pixie Shop for 15% off any order.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Hello Vacation! T-shirt by Polka Dot Pixie Shop

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

This tee from Polka Dot Pixie Shop is perfect for Disney’s Animal Kingdom (see the Hidden Mickey?)

See this post for more ideas on what to wear to Disney parks!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves (including Disney-inspired tees!) for your next trip. #Disney #Travel #TravelwithKids #FamilyTravel #Vacation #Tshirts

Sleep Mask for Sweet Nights

We decided to keep our family on West coast time when we traveled to Florida. This meant staying up till midnight and sleeping in until 9 am most days in an effort to maintain their usual sleeping and waking times. My body instinctively wakes up as soon the sun shines into the room, so a well-fitting sleep mask is a vacation must-have.

This Brave Era Sleep Mask is 100% silk and hypoallergenic. It’s very comfortable and blocks out all ambient light in the room. I always sleep so much better when I slip on my sleep mask before falling asleep. Brave Era also offers silk travel sheets for the ultimate in vacation luxury!

Comfortable Camera Strap (With a Surprise!)

I’ve had the same Canon DSLR for years and it’s had the most uncomfortable strap ever. It would dig into the back of my neck so much I never wanted to take my camera anywhere. Wow, am I glad to have found Wrapped Creations comfy camera strap! She carries a variety of designs, including more Disney-themed straps like my Toy Story Land-inspired version!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

The Wrapped Creations camera strap was so comfortable to wear all day

Simply attach the strap to your camera and it’s sooo much easier to carry a heavy DSLR. No more painful neck as the strap is made of soft fabric. And my favorite part? The hidden zippered compartment where you could store your cell phone, cash, cards or passport! I received so many comments on this unique travel accessory. In fact, while I was waiting with my daughter in line to see Goofy, someone asked me about the strap and they ordered themselves one immediately from their phone!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

The hidden pouch on the camera strap from Wrapped Creations

Cross-Body Bag That Holds it All

When I’m traveling I want to be hands-free. With 4 kids I usually have my hands full enough, I don’t need to be holding onto my purse too! That’s why I prefer a cross-body purse and Baggallini are my favorite. I’ve had several versions over the years because they are so great even for everyday use. Right now I’m loving the Baggallini Everything Bag because it has a designated flap pocket for my cell phone. Roomy enough to hold your boarding pass and travel itinerary but with many individual zippered compartments to hold things like sunscreen and lipstick.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip. #Travel #TravelTips #TravelPacking #Packing #TravelAccessories

Comfortable Shoes for All Types of Weather

Pediped shoes are the go-to for my little ones on a daily basis. Since we were planning on lots of water play during our trip I was delighted to see that pediped has water shoes as well. Turns out visiting Orlando during Hurricane Season meant that we got a LOT more rain than we’d ever expected! Fortunately all of the pediped shoes that my kids wore during our trip were comfortable and dried quickly.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Pediped shoes have no “breaking-in period” so my kids were able to wear their brand-new shoes into the parks without any complaints about sore feet. Plus they are SO cute! Check out the pediped Outlet for discounts, then use code THANKYOU18 for an additional $10 off!

Here are more tips on choosing the best shoes for Disney!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Pediped shoes went easily from water to sidewalk

Travel Products for Toddlers Offers Safe Freedom

We have a “runner” in the family. When we took our family trip to Palm Springs, each time opened up the hotel room door, our toddler would shoot down the hall and run out of sight. I knew that when we traveled to Disney World I needed something that would keep her close but still allow some necessary freedom. Skip Hop backpack with harness for the win!!

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

When traveling at the airport, I filled it with travel entertainment (more details on that in the next section). When we were in the parks, I put in a diaper, pack of wipes and disposable bibs for dining. My toddler liked having the choice of sitting in her stroller or wearing the Skip Hop backpack (she’d hand us the harness strap and say, “Hold my tail”!)

It was the perfect compromise for letting our toddler walk but still keeping her within arms reach. Skip Hop has an entire line of Zoo collection with whimsical travel accessories, including luggage and meal sets.

Entertaining Travel Products for Toddlers

The last time I’d traveled with my daughter on a plane she’d just turned one year old. Her “in-air” entertainment consisted of a teething toy before nursing to sleep. Now that she’s two I knew I’d need a bag of tricks to keep her occupied on the 5 hour flight. It appears that I packed all the right things because there was no boredom and zero tantrums on the flight! I was aiming for inexpensive and lightweight. Here’s what travel products for toddlers I packed inside her backpack.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Plastic Zoo Animal Figures – I brought a bag of these and divvied them up between my two littlest kids. Since there were so many of them and they were so inexpensive, I wasn’t worried if a camel fell on the plane floor. The kids loved lining them up on the tray table and “feeding” their animals Southwest Airlines pretzels!

Lacing Cards – My just-turned two year old might have been a little young for these but I was surprised by how long she played with them.

Disney Moana’s Necklace – This was a last-minute addition to my daughter’s travel accessories and I’m so glad I brought it. The necklace glowed when opened. She played with it frequently on the plane, showed it off to fellow travelers and used it on the trip as well.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Imagine Ink Magic Ink Coloring Book – These travel-sized “coloring books” include just one marker that does it all! No-mess, my toddler was able to scribble to her heart’s content onto the pages of the Magic Ink book with miraculously colorful results.

Stickers – My toddler happily peeled and stuck stickers for a long time. Don’t forget to bring paper or a coloring book to put the stickers in.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves for your next trip.

Great travel products and accessories can make your vacation so much better! Check out these family vacation must-haves (including these items that are toddler must-haves!) for your next trip. #Travel #TravelwithKids #FamilyTravel #Vacation #Toddler #ToddlerTravel

8 Things to Do in Palm Springs with Kids of All Ages

Whether exploring the golf courses in Indian Wells, the water park in Cathedral City, the zoo in Palm Desert or the aeriel tramway in Coachella Valley you’re sure to find adventure in Palm Springs with kids of all ages. With a toddler, 6-year old and two teens in our family, finding activities that interest all of them can be a challenge. Occasionally when we’re on a family vacation, my husband and I have to divide up so that the big kids can do activities just for them. It’s worth it for some activities, as you’ll read. I’ve also included a list of activities that are family friendly and that young kids and adults alike will enjoy together!

Visit Greater Palm Springs arranged complimentary admission to several of these activities (Living Desert, Children’s Discovery Museum, Wet n’ Wild Water Park & Red Jeep Tour). Renaissance Indian Wells provided lodging and dining credit. All opinions are my own.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

Palm Springs With Kids

While my family of six has taken California road trips in the past, we’d never explored Palm Springs together. Palm Springs takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive from San Diego, though we did run into some traffic that extended the drive on a Friday afternoon. We stopped for healthy snacks at a convenience store along the way. I’m sharing tips on where to stay and advice for lots of family activities when taking on Palm Springs with kids.

Renaissance Indian Wells

If you’re looking for a Palm Springs kid friendly resort that’s also classy and high in family-friendly amenties, the Renaissance Indian Wells is perfect all-around. From the moment we arrived, the staff made us feel welcome, telling us about the resort amenities (including complimentary bikes for touring the resort).

My family of six were placed into a 1 bedroom Executive suite, with a connecting two Queen bed room. Each room had a private balcony with an incredible pool and mountain view. Seriously, it was gorgeous waking up to this view! The spaciousness of the rooms and the ability to close doors between the spaces was ideal. While my big kids slept and my husband watched television, I was able to sit with the toddler in the quiet living space until she fell asleep.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

Roomy queen bed room at the Renaissance Indian Wells.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

The spacious living room in the executive suite.

What’s for Families at the Renaissance Indian Wells?

The large and beautiful pool at the Renaissance Indian Wells is a big draw for families. After my 6-year old got over the disappointment that the resort pool didn’t have a water slide, he consoled himself on the sandy beach and in one of the two hot tubs! The pool area does get extremely crowded during the day and it’s easy to lose track of the kids. Also there aren’t any lifeguards on duty, so keep a close eye. There are towels available poolside, but bring your own flotation device for non-swimmers. I had to do a Target run for our toddler to purchase one.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

The pool area is open very late which means if you have a pool view, you’re going to hear the noise. On one of the nights of our visit, there was an extremely loud “dive in movie” at the pool going on until nearly 10 pm. I recommend bringing ear plugs if you’re an early sleeper. A sleep mask is another good thing to pack as there were no blackout curtains in our room and the shutters didn’t fully block all the light.

There’s plenty to do at the Renaissance Indian Wells without the kids too. Check the young ones (ages 4-13) into Camp Oasis for the morning or evening session (reservations are recommended). Then adults can enjoy the resort spa, Spa Esmeralda with a variety of pampering services and treatments. My husband let me sleep in with the kids one morning while he took advantage of the fitness center and free classes. For dining, we enjoyed the unique and delicious burgers at CAVA for lunch. We found this location to be upscale but still comfortable enough for kids. There’s also Japanese specialties at Glo Sushi or Italian dining at Sirocco Pizza Company. Read my travel dining hacks with kids.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

A variety of burgers and fries to share at CAVA, Renaissance Indian Wells.

Tips About Palm Springs with Kids

The Palm Springs area is quite easy to navigate. The Renaissance Indian Wells is located towards the southern end of the Palm Desert area. Driving on the 111, we were able to access many of the family activities around Palm Springs within 30 minutes or so. As California natives we’ve done a lot of exploring outdoors in San Diego. If you’re not used to the warmth of the desert you’ll definitely have a few extra considerations. Use sunscreen and reapply a lot. Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration. Aim to avoid the direct sun mid-day, seeking indoor activities when the weather is hottest.

1. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

While my husband and older kids took a guided tour on a jeep, my toddler and I explored at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert. We’ve done children’s museums in San Diego before but I was thrilled by the unique variety of things for my toddler to do here! We definitely could have spent the entire day playing here, my daughter was having a wonderful time.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

The Children’s Discovery Museum offers over 80 hands-on exhibits, some of which are traveling for a limited time. My daughter is recently 2 years old and I was pleased that there was so much she was able to do here. She happily played “veterinarian” to stuffed puppy dogs, shopped for groceries, tested how balls and silks could “balance” on air jets and had a tea party in Toddlertown. I know that my six year old son would have enjoyed the museum and some of the more scientific experiments as well.

There are both indoor playgrounds and grassy areas outside (with balls and toys). There are also shaded picnic benches. When you enter into the main building be sure to head outside to visit the other galleries. Each of the buildings is air conditioned but you’ll be in the sun when walking between the galleries. Seating is limited for adults inside the galleries but that’s only to encourage grown ups to play alongside their kids!

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

You might not think to pack the sunscreen for a museum but you’ll be walking outside between galleries.

2. Palm Springs Golfing for All Ages

Palm Springs is known for their golf courses. But you might not think to take the kids! The Indian Wells Golf Resort is conveniently located right next door to the Renaissance Indian Wells resort. Guests of the Renaissance Indian Wells resort can practice putting or driving balls for free after noon! You don’t even need your own clubs or reservations, just show up. A complimentary shuttle transports guests back and forth.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages.

Free putting in Palm Springs

My older kids (and my husband!) were so excited to try “real” golfing for the first time. While my husband and older kids played, the toddler and I walked around the pretty resort, taking pictures of the landscaping. There is a grill and bar with food for purchase, or complimentary water to stay hydrated.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

I took a few swings with the club too (it’s harder than it looks!)

3. Palm Springs Ariel Tramway

I have to admit that I declined the offer to take the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway. My fear of heights got the best of me and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to take that ride! However if heights don’t bother you, I highly recommend taking the tramway and you can read more about it on this TravelingMom post.

4. Palm Springs Red Jeep Tours

If you’re looking for a desert adventure, here are many tour companies that will take you on a Jeep tour of  Joshua Tree National Park, Indian Canyons or Mecca Hills. The San Andreas Fault Jeep tour is what my family took with Desert Adventure’s Red Jeep Tours. Complimentary hotel pickup is available for guests staying in Palm Desert or Indian Wells. I opted out of taking the toddler so my three older kids and husband took the Red Jeep Tour. Phil was their tour guide. He picked them up directly in front of our hotel, which was extremely convenient. If your child rides in a booster seat, you’ll need to install it into the Jeep.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

The tour takes place at the private Metate Ranch preserve on the San Andreas Fault. Phil tailored the private tour for my husband and kids. The tour takes place along an active earthquake fault system, which my teenagers thought was cool. My family learned about the Cahuilla Indians, about the plants and animals in the desert and saw a natural palm oasis with bubbling water from an underground aquifer. They also had time to explore in the deep canyons and take a brief hike. After panning for gold, my kids received a vial with some of the gold chips they’d discovered.

This is quote from my 6-year old about the Red Jeep Tour experience:

I liked panning for gold. I learned about a fire in the palm trees and heard stories about the Indian spirit words. Mine was called “Bright Spirit”. I like when I got the Indian arrowhead at the end.

This guided tour was my teenage son’s favorite part of our entire Palm Springs weekend:

It was a day to remember. I enjoyed the humor of our tour guide Phil and learning the history of Palm Springs. My favorite part was going to visit the reservoirs and see how they get water in the desert.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages.

5. Palm Springs Air Museum

With one of the world’s largest collections of flyable WWII aircraft the Palm Springs Air Museum will appeal to aviation fans and history buffs alike. My friend (and self-professed “aviation geek”) Leslie of Trips with Tykes talks more about the Palm Springs Air Museum.

6. Cabazon Dinosaurs

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are one of the quirkiest roadside attractions! Located along the 10 fwy, you can’t miss this collection of dino statues while driving into the Palm Springs area. If you’re a fan of the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure you’ll recognize this area as one of the scenes. If you want to climb inside Mr. Rex’s mouth like Pee-Wee did, there’s a additional fee. Otherwise you can view and take photos of the other dinosaurs without any charge.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

7. Living Desert Zoo

As a San Diego native, I’m very familiar with our San Diego Zoo and didn’t know what to expect in Palm Springs. I was so pleased with our visit to the Living Desert Zoo! We visited early on Father’s Day and the crowds were very light, something I’m definitely not used to at the overly crowded San Diego Zoo. We were easily able to get close with the animals and linger as long as we wanted. I personally love the giraffes and it was incredible to be so close to them! You can even feed them for an additional fee.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

My husband and teens were excited to point out some of the plants in the botanical gardens, recognizing them from the jeep tour the day prior. There are 1,400 different species of plants here, all beautifully maintained.

In addition to the gardens and animals, the Living Desert also has nature hiking trails in its preserve. Each of the three trails is varied in difficulty. The Living Desert Zoo itself is very walk-able. We didn’t even bring a stroller for the toddler, allowing her to walk freely on the paved paths and the dirt trails. I do recommend close toed shoes. I wore sandals and my feet were quite dusty after walking through the exhibits! If you want to minimize walking or enjoy more of a tour, there is an in-park shuttle service for a small additional fee.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages.

Take time for the kids to admire the trains garden. This G-scale model train display is large and intricate with lots of fun interactive areas. Another can’t miss for young kids is Gecko Gulch. This play area offers plenty of shade and gives kids the chance to run around. The Saguaro cactus slide was a favorite!

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

The train exhibit at the Living Desert is a must-see for kids.

Note that summer hours are abbreviated. On the day of our visit (mid-June) the park was only open from 8 am to 1:30 pm. Also some activities, like the carousel, camel rides, nature trails and lorikeet feedings aren’t available year-round so be sure to check the online calendar.

8. Wet n’ Wild Water Park

If you’re visiting Palm Springs in the summer you might wonder how you can beat the heat. A day at the Wet n’ Wild Palm Springs water park was a great way for us to cool off as a family. Wet n’ Wild has attractions for everyone, including an intermittent wave pool, lazy river and several family-type slides. Of course there are also thrilling water slides for the adventure seekers too!

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Spring. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert with kids of all ages.

There are plenty of dining options, offering the usual burgers, fries, pizza and nachos. Ice cream, funnel cake and Dippin’ Dots are choices for your sweet tooth. Unfortunately outside food is not allowed inside the park. However you can leave and return without additional parking charges (just keep and show your receipt) if you want to leave and eat elsewhere.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages.

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages.

You can bring bottled water, sports drinks and juice inside the park. You’ll also need your own towels. Lockers are available to rent and if you arrive early, grab a chaise under the shade. There are cabanas available to rent at an additional charge. Wet n’ Wild is not open year-round so be sure to check their online calendar before your visit.

What’s your favorite family-friendly activity in Palm Springs with kids?

There are lots of things to families to do in Palm Springs. Find out the top 8 desert adventures including golfing, museums, and water parks. Lots of tips on where to stay and what to do in the California desert of Palm Springs with kids of all ages. #PalmSprings #VisitGreaterPS #RenIW #Desert #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #California

 

How My Family Chose Healthy Road Trip Snacks at the Convenience Store

Road trips call for great musical playlists, memorable in car photo-ops and conversations and of course, plenty of snacks to keep everyone happy! As a family of 6, when we pile everyone inside the minivan for a road trip, we want to avoid bickering, whining and grumbling bellies. Having well-balanced, healthy snacks (that are still fun!) are important. Find out how my family chose healthy road trip snacks for everyone, aged toddler to adult on our recent drive to Palm Springs. I’ve included my healthy road trip food list that includes suggestions on substitutes for favorite road trip snacks.

This post is sponsored by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). All thoughts & opinions expressed are my own. 

Family Road Trip Must-Haves

Recently my family headed out to Palm Springs for the weekend. It was supposed to be a 2 1/2 hour drive that stretched out to nearly 3 1/2 hours. We’d intended to hit the convenience store to fill up on snacks but were stuck in traffic, unable to get off the freeway. As you can see, at least one of the kids was not pleased!

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Our hungry toddler was ready for a pit stop!

Why Are Road Trip Snacks Important?

Snacks are especially important for kids. Their stomachs are smaller and they burn off their food quicker. Healthy road trip snacks for kids can prevent dips in blood sugar as well as crankiness in the car! Keep in mind that snacks should not be replacing regular meals on the road. If you’re taking a very long drive, skip the fast food drive thru. Try to stop every 2-3 hours so that everyone can get out of the car, stretch and have a snack. Full meals should stay on your usual time schedule. Read my eating out tips for dining with kids.

There may be times on the road trip that everyone will want to eat a snack while driving. Consider snacks that are less likely to make a mess (ie: choose applesauce in a squeezable pouch instead of a cup that requires a spoon). You’ll also want to think about the foods that may be choking hazards for younger kids, avoiding raisins, popcorn and nuts. My friend Becca at This Crazy Adventure Called Life has more tips on the best road trip snacks.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

You can’t go wrong with chilled cut fresh fruit

Choosing Healthy Convenience Store Snacks on the Road

My family and I recently took a road trip to Palm Springs, driving from San Diego. It took us over 3 hours driving there in traffic. We stopped at a convenience store to grab snacks for the trip. The NACS survey shows that convenience stores offer the top three reasons that most people stop on the road: 96% use the restroom, 95% get gasoline and 91% buy food and drinks! Convenience stores that are also a gas station make this the perfect rest stop location while on the road.

I took my kids inside to see what kind of healthy snacks they’d choose for the road. The teens didn’t want to be on camera (figures!) But my 6 year old was all smiles while he took me around the store to show me which road trip snacks he thought were the healthiest.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

My 6-yr old headed straight for the cookies! Probably NOT the healthiest choices.

What Constitutes a Healthy Snack?

When choosing a road trip snack, aim for these general healthy guidelines: A snack should be around 150 to 250 calories, contain about 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and not have more than 12 grams of fat. The best snacks are low in sugar, fat, and salt. Protein and fiber will help you feel full and satisfied between meals.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Read the labels. Some of these trail mixes are more than one serving or have a lot of sugar.

We aim for choosing healthy snacks that have no trans fats and are low in sugar and sodium. We consider beverages to be a snack as well, since so many of them are high in sugar and we try to avoid this.

Take a minute to look at the labels before choosing snacks. The front of the packaging can be misleading but if you read the label on the back you’ll see the low-down on calories, fiber, protein, fat and sugar. Also look at the “serving size”. Some snacks are really intended for two people. This small “healthy” protein bar had 21 grams of sugar. Too much for us, so it was a “pass”.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Healthy Road Trip Snacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Within 10 minutes of hitting the road, our toddler was down for her usual mid-day nap. We pressed on, driving as far as we could while she slept. However once she awoke (earlier than we’d anticipated), she was hungry and ready for a snack! These are a few healthy snack choices for toddlers and preschoolers.

Pack a spill proof sipper cup with you to fill with your toddler’s favorite beverage. If you have a cooler, grab a bag of ice from inside the convenience store and fill it so you can stock up on bottled milk and water. Then when you stop for a diaper change, refill your toddler’s cup along the way.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

We grabbed milk to keep in the cooler for our toddler.

Use a “spill-proof” travel snack cup for toddler snacks on the road. I was able to fill my daughter’s snack cup with bite sized snacks, like dry cereal and the toddler favorite, Goldfish crackers! If they dropped onto the floor or in the car seat, these dry and mess-free snacks were easy to clean up. She happily snacked and then finished up her nap (thank goodness!)

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Tortilla chip in hand – this is one full and sleepy toddler!

Elementary Aged Kids Healthy Road Trip Snacks

When it comes to beverages, my 6-year old goes straight for the flavored drinks like Gatorade. We don’t allow him to drink energy drinks or soda but I agree, sometimes water is boring! Purchase flavored water enhancement, like Mio. This will add flavor to plain water without adding any sugar.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

My kiddo can be very particular about his food (aka: he’s a picky eater, like I was as a child). He loves to eat chips for the salty crunch. I’m not a fan of messy cheesy-coated fingers in the car or the crumbs inside the booster seat! Consider these chilled pickle chips instead.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Cheese, crackers and deli meat is an easy grab-n’-go snack while traveling. These smaller sized Lunchables trays are great for sharing and ideal for road trips. Low in calories and fat but high in protein. Deli meat is higher in sodium so be sure to drink plenty of water. My kids also enjoy individual meat-wrapped cheese sticks for a protein-packed snack.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Healthy Road Trip Snacks That Appeal to Teens & Adults

My teenagers are generally healthy eaters on a daily basis. Naturally they also like to treat themselves to something sweet when on vacation. It’s not too hard to find something fun to eat on the road that won’t make them crash and burn with too much sugar. These are some good snack choices for teens and adults.

The convenience store offered wrapped hard boiled eggs, a perfect choice for my husband. My big kids went right to the jerky. There was a great variety to satisfy varying taste buds including teriyaki, jalapeno and sweet & spicy.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Protein bars are always the first choice of my husband and me. However many of them are high in sugar as well. I found this high protein bar that is also low in sugar (only one gram). It’s a fun treat that is also going to satisfy more than a candy bar. So much better than any of the best road trip junk food and you’ll feel a lot better after indulging.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Only one gram of sugar but high in protein and fiber – this ONE bar is a healthy road trip snack winner!

Healthy Snack Swaps

While we avoided the candy aisle completely, you may want to choose something like this for the family to share. Licorice is a popular choice and while it does have sugar, it’s also fat-free.

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Choose wisely in the candy aisle.

Snacks that have a salty & sweet combo are what I (and my sweet tooth!) gravitate towards. Certain trail mixes can contain a high percentage of candy or sugar, negating the healthy parts, like the protein-packed nuts. These trail mix blends had a nice mix of nuts and seeds with dark chocolate for sweetness. Nuts contain the healthy fats which are good for you, so feel free to indulge!

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

When driving the long-haul, grabbing a caffeinated energy drink may be tempting. Be sure to check the label to see how much sugar the can contains. You’ll probably be better off with black coffee or diet cola to avoid the sugar high and then the crash!

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Chips are a popular choice, but many are high in sodium and covered in artificial flavorings. Consider multi-grain chips, low-sodium popcorn or crackers if you’re craving a crunch. If you like a chip and dip combo, nix the fatty bean dip or sour cream mix and choose this savory hummus and pretzel combo!

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

When snack time is over, everyone in our car gets a bottle of water to drink and I hand out sugar-free gum to chew (not for the toddler!) Sugar-free gum is a great after-snack choice. For my kids, gum signals that snack time is over. It also cleanses food from the teeth and can help with ear pressure when traveling through higher elevations. It’s a road-trip must-have for us!

Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Choosing between bubble gum, peppermint or cinnamon sugar-free gum.

What are your favorite road trip snacks? Do you choose healthy or let-it-go on vacations? I’d love to hear your comments!Looking for the best healthy road trip snacks for toddlers, kids, teens and adults on your next family adventure? Find out what are the healthiest options to choose at your next road trip convenience store stop! #Snacks #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #RoadTripFood #RoadTrip @ConvenienceStore #JoyintheJourney #AD

Restaurant Hacks for Kids That Make Eating Out Easier

Eating out with kids can be an ordeal. You just want an enjoyable meal but often feel rushed and busy cutting food, entertaining the kids and wiping up messy faces (all while trying to eat a hot meal yourself!) What if you have a picky eater and have to pack food that they’ll actually eat? Then there’s the potential for mess. A BIG mess. Is it better just to eat at home? I like to eat out, especially when traveling, but sometimes I dread it with all the kids! Here are my travel dining hacks for kids, including products that can make eating out with kids easier!

I received free product for several of the items mentioned in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I include affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

How to Take Young Kids to a Restaurant – Travel Dining Hacks for Kids

To be fully honest, when we’re at home we don’t really eat out in restaurants very often. Restaurant dining with kids is reserved for times when we’re traveling and far from our kitchen. Being able to enjoy a special meal out is something we don’t do often, but absoutely plan for when we travel. Since we have a toddler, kindergartener and two teens, I have a bag of tricks to keep them entertained and happy until the food arrives! (Hint: This doesn’t have to include electronic devices, keep reading!) I’ve included my travel dining hacks for kids with lots of tips on eating out as well as the must have travel items for babies, big kids and toddlers when restaurant dining is in your plans.

Choosing the Best Restaurants for Kids

Sure, you can take your kid to just about any restaurant you want, but do you really want to? I know I don’t want to eat in a fancy place with my noisy toddler and feel like I’m needing to shush her every 2 seconds when she uses her “outside” voice indoors! Personally when I’m eating in a restaurant with my kids I choose a place that might be just a bit more noisy and more on the casual side.

Before you step inside, check out the ambiance and weigh whether you think it’s a good place for your kiddos. Second, peek at the menu. If there’s something there that your kids will eat, then proceed! If you have a picky eater in the family, see my post with practical dining tips for at home or on the road.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

What to Order Kids in a Restaurant?

When we go out to eat (which isn’t very often), we usually encourage the kids to order something they don’t usually eat at home. Why get buttered spaghetti noodles when you can order steak and baked potato with all the fixings?!

My middle son always orders chicken nuggets and fries because we simply don’t feed him that at home. For him, that’s his special restaurant meal. I’m not going to spend dinner out arguing with him to try something new, especially if I may get push back. Restaurant dining isn’t the time to pressure your kids. And if nuggets and fries is something he’ll eat (and usually finish!) then that’s what I let him order!

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

Give ’em what they want! If ordering nuggets & fries will get them to eat, then so be it!

1. Table Covers Keep Food From Touching Dirty Tables

If you’ve been eating out with kids before, you know that the food doesn’t always stay on the plate. In fact, if given a plate of food my two-year old will immediately dump all the contents directly onto the table! Instead of giving your toddler an entire plate to herself, dole out a few pieces here and there to minimize mess. I use disposable table covers so I know her food stays away from germs.

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

The moment right before the pizza hit the table – thank goodness for the disposable table cover!

2. Portable High Chair for Babies and Toddlers

Dirty restaurant highchair? Skip toting around the bulky cover and consider the Totseat Chair Harness. Quickly convert a regular chair into a secure seat for babies on the go.

3. Drink Up! Kid’s Travel Cups That Are Easy to Clean

My baby daughter used to make the biggest mess when she tried to drink out of a cup. She never grasped how to drink out of a bottle and drinking from a sippy cup had been equally challenging. Fortunately she learned how to drink out of a straw very early on. But that still didn’t minimize the mess (she tended to let whatever she doesn’t swallow dribble down her chin!)

When we went on vacation, I brought along a set of Silikids Siliskin Silicone Sippy Tops. These silicone tops stretch over your own cup, turning it into a child-friendly sipper. While in the hotel room, I was able to convert a small drinking glass into a sippy cup for milk. And when taking her in the stroller, I placed a Siliskin Sippy Top onto a plastic cup filled with water.

The Siliskin Sippy Top has tiny holes that do not leak out liquid. The child has to gently bite on the top and suck to drink. This made it much less of a mess because my daughter only took in what she was swallowing. I really liked having these on-the-go to convert any cup into a sipper. They are dishwasher and microwave safe, though I just washed by hand in the hotel bathroom sink.

I also have the Silikids Siliskin Silicone Straw Cup. I’ve always been hesitant to purchase sippy cups with straws because of the cleaning aspect (tiny parts are challenging to get totally clean, even in the dishwasher).

This cup is only three simple parts and all can be boiled in water to sanitize. The straw is really quite big for my toddler daughter to use but my preschooler drinks from it perfectly (and I don’t have to worry about spills in the car).

4. Entertaining Ideas for Baby

I’ve taken my baby on a few trips by myself, including traveling alone to Walt Disney World. If you don’t have extra hands, make sure to pack a few things that will make your dining experience more enjoyable. A few toys for entertaining baby and a clever strap that keeps the bottle or sippy cup from falling to the floor.

If your baby is in the loud screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs phase request a seat on the patio where the extra noise may be better absorbed. If Disney is your destination, check out this post with additional tips for dining with a baby.

5. Keep ‘Em Clean with Disposable Bibs

Other than taking extra clothes with you (always a good idea anyway, I guess), a bib is the best way to keep clothes clean when eating out with kids. A disposable bib is even better! Pop it on, fold in the bottom to catch any food that falls and then toss it when done with the meal. So much better than toting around crusty clothes!

If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

Disposable bibs are a must in my travel bag!

6. Best Travel Snack Ideas for Kids

Despite your best efforts for choosing kid-friendly restaurants, some kids just won’t eat. Consider packing in a few of their favorite snacks that you know they’ll eat. I like the b. box Snack Pack. There are two separate compartments. And it comes with a child-sized utensil that snaps in to the lid!

In between meals or while on the road, try the Munchkin Snack Catcher. I use it in the car with my toddler and big kids! You can fill it up with an age-appropriate snack (fishy crackers for little ones, trail mix for older kids). This really helps to minimize spills and mess in the car when they drop it (because you know they will!)If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families!

7. Kid’s Restaurant Busy Bag (Aka: The Device-Free Dinner)

We went to a restaurant a few years ago and before my kids were even in their seats they were each handed an electronic tablet to play games. We weren’t even asked by the waitress if it was okay. Our kids don’t use devices at home so naturally it was a special occasion. Was the wait for the meal really quiet? Yep. They had their noses pressed against the screens the entire time, silently playing their individual games.

There are times that having the devices come in handy during travel (like on a boring road trip). But for me personally, I’m not a fan of having electronics at the dinner table. We let our kids play with them at this particular restaurant for about ten minutes before removing them and asking the waitress to take them away. My husband and I enjoy chatting with our kids together and while it was certainly quiet, it didn’t connect us as a family to have the kids playing games alone. However do what you have to do – if the kids are bickering and all you want is 10 quiet minutes, then maybe letting the kids use a device is what you need to do.

Waiting for food to arrive can make young diners impatient. Some restaurants will offer paper and crayons but not all. Consider having a restaurant “busy bag” to occupy kids. The contents inside the bag can be items that the entire family would enjoy. Supply a grab-bag of goodies to keep kids entertained while you wait. Here are a few mess-free ideas for different age ranges, from babies to big kids! Grown ups, set your phones down and pick up one of these family favorites.


If your vacation plans include eating out in restaurants, these are the must-know travel dining hacks with kids! Tips include the best products to pack and lots of helpful (device-free!) tips for families! #Restaurant #TravelWithKids #FamilyTravel #EatingOut #Dining

6 Useful Tips for Walking Outside With Your Baby

Shortly after the birth of your baby, your doctor will likely recommend walking as a first exercise. Walking is perfect, because your pace can be as quick or slow as you wish and you may walk for as long as you feel comfortable. And my favorite: you can exercise when baby is with you! Here are my useful tips on walking outside with your baby.

I received an Ergobaby 180 Stroller to facilitate this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Put All Your Walking Essentials Together

When I’m ready to take my baby for a walk, I don’t want to make a dozen trips back inside the house to get what I need. I created a place in my garage that holds all of my walking essentials in one place. Think about the things that you use when you go for a walk and place them in one central spot for quick access.

  • Walking shoes & socks
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen (for you and for the baby)
  • Sunglasses
  • Music player & ear buds
  • Water bottle
  • Sweatshirt (for chilly days)
  • Cooling Towel (for hot days – one for you & one for baby!)
  • Baby care needs, including diaper/wipes and sipper cup and snacks for toddlers

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

2. Choosing the Right Stroller for Your Baby

My family is already a fan of the Ergobaby line. I have the Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier. I’ve called it my “must-have travel item for babies“! It’s come in so handy on vacation. But I also use it every day when I need to hold my toddler but also remain hands-free.

As soon as your doctor gives the okay, it’s usually fine to take your healthy newborn outside for a walk. At first you may choose to place your baby inside of the front carrier. But eventually you’ll probably want to graduate to a stroller. The Ergobaby 180 Stroller has so many great features, including a reversible handlebar that quickly adjusts for height. I like the simple recline with breathable mesh side panels so my daughter can comfortably nap on our walk. It’s a very simple-to-use stroller, with one-hand folding and easy-tap foot brakes. Having a stroller that’s equally easy to maneuver and also comfortable for your baby is ideal.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

3. Where to Walk With Baby?

If you live in a neighborhood or city, hitting the sidewalk right outside your front door is great. On particularly hot days, I’ve taken my baby and stroller to the indoor mall for window shopping while walking. The Ergobaby 180 stroller has 4-wheel steering and easily moves from smooth sidewalks to rougher terrain. You can quickly adjust the wheel locks by pressing a button to adjust each wheel.

I personally love to walk in the park. Local parks often have looping walking paths that are perfect for walking with your baby. At just 20 lbs, the stroller is lightweight for travel and easily folds with one hand. It’s also car seat compatible (with the car seat adapter, sold separately). Grab your walking essentials, load the stroller into the car and head out to the park!

4. Best Time of Day to Walk With Baby

In the warmer summer months, early morning hours are ideal for walking with your baby. However I have a toddler, so my daily walk is intended to kick-start her nap time! I usually don’t start my walk until around 11 am. This means it can be warm outside and I need to take the proper precautions to prevent overheating.

I make sure that my daughter has her sipper cup filled with water and that I’ve applied sunscreen to her legs. The Ergobaby 180 stroller has an over sized sun canopy to protect her from too much exposure. The stroller also has roll-up panels that reveal full mesh sidewalls. This helps to keep air circulating and prevents the baby from overheating when she naps on our walk.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

5. Benefits of Taking Baby for a Walk

  • Fresh air, exercise and stimulation! I find that a daily walk helps me to work out my thoughts, improves my sleep at night and gets me moving (especially in those early months with a newborn, when you only feel like you’re sitting and nursing all day!)
  • If Baby is overstimulated by the view or if you simply want to keep an eye on her while you walk, the Ergobaby 180 stroller has a quick response. The handlebar has an easy flip option so you can turn it to face either way in about three seconds!
  • My daughter is just two-years old, so I like taking her for a walk in preparation for nap time. Sometimes I’ll walk to the store and pick up a few essentials. The under-stroller basket on the Ergobaby 180 stroller is extra large for holding plenty! Usually my goal is getting her to fall asleep so a long walk benefits us both.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

6. Safety Concerns

  • Don’t walk where you don’t feel comfortable. Choose walking areas away from vehicle traffic and that are well-lit.
  • Consider walking in a group with other people.
  • Use the brakes on the stroller every time, even if you stop on flat ground. You never know if Baby’s movements will cause the stroller to roll.
  • Don’t put your wallet or phone where it can get grabbed. The Ergobaby 180 has a hidden storage pocket behind the seat where I place my valuables and then zip it closed.

My toddler and I really do like the ease and comfort of the Ergobaby 180 Stroller. We’ve already taken the stroller on a trip and appreciated the lightweight frame & ability to fold down small into the trunk. Click the link to purchase and you’ll receive a code for a free snack tray attachment with your stroller order (offered for a limited time).

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

 

33 Things to Do Outside In San Diego with Kids

With its temperate climate year-round, San Diego is a beautiful place to explore outdoors. Fortunately there are tons of things for families with kids to do in San Diego county. From the beaches to the mountains (and all the spots in between!) I’ve included my top 33 things to do outside in San Diego with kids.

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

Things to Do Outside in San Diego

I’ve lived in San Diego my entire life and I have a confession to make. Even I haven’t done everything on this list! There’s just so much to see and do outside in San Diego with kids. It’s my goal to get through everything here with my kids. We’re going to hit all the outdoor adventures in San Diego from North County to the South Bay! I have suggestions for things to do with toddlers and teens, and all ages in between. I’ve even included some free things to do in San Diego! These are my suggestions for the best San Diego attractions for kids to do outside.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

Fly a kite, ride a bike or just run on the grass at Embarcadero Park.

If you’re looking to save money on your San Diego vacation, check out these specials from Get Away Today, my travel partner. There are hotel discounts, ticket savings and even a San Diego travel coupon book! Also if you book a SoCal vacation package, use my special code REWRITTEN for an extra $10 off!

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Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

Old Point Loma Lighthouse at the Cabrillo Monument.

Outdoor Learning for Kids in San Diego

Julian – Step back to the Gold Rush days in the quaint town of Julian. Particularly popular in the fall (during apple pie season) or winter (when there’s lots of snow on the ground).

Living Coast Discovery Center – Located south of downtown San Diego in Chula Vista, this zoo & aquarium offers environmental education and animal encounters with SoCal wildlife.

Cabrillo Monument – Located in the Point Loma area, see where Juan Cabrillo first landed in San Diego nearly 400 years ago. The Cabrillo Monument houses a visitor center, lighthouse, trails and tide pools. The only cost here is $10 per vehicle. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn and Suites is an ideal overnight location near Shelter Island.

San Diego Harbor – Take tours on the USS Midway aircraft carrier or Maritime Museum of San Diego with the Star of India and HMS Surprise.

Free Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

If you’re looking for more free things for kids in San Diego, check out this post with all the freebies offered annually in October.

Balboa Park – You could spend a week in this huge outdoor venue and still not experience everything! From weekly outdoor concerts at the organ pavilion, hiking trails and free special events, there’s a lot of ground to cover at Balboa Park.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

So many outdoor places to explore at Balboa Park.

Embarcadero Park – Walking and biking paths along with lots of shady trees and green space for napping or running around. Bring a kite as this location has some of the best kite flying wind around!

Old Town – The perfect place to start if you want to give kids a history lesson on the beginnings of this city. Kids can walk through the free museums of Old Town, including the old school house to see how people lived in San Diego 150 years ago. Consider staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Old Town.

Waterfront Park – Kids can make a splash in this outdoor play area with splash pads and fountains along San Diego harbor. Free to play, just bring water shoes and a towel.

Outdoor Places to Eat in San Diego with Kids

Liberty Station – This hip center houses many restaurants, a movie theater, art studios, boutiques as well as historical museums, rose gardens and fountains. You can work up an appetite walking the length of the large Liberty Station area. We personally enjoyed the al fresco dining at Officine Buona Forcetta. The authentic Italian food is incredible and there is a play set outside for the kids.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

The outdoor patio at Buona Forcetta (there’s a play structure for the kids on the lawn)

Little Italy – This tight-knit community is host to a weekly outdoor mercado farmer’s market. There are also many family-friendly patio cafes, including our favorite restaurant in Little Italy, Civico 1845.

Seaport Village – This 14-acre shopping district is located along the bay, with some beautiful boardwalk views. Seaport Village offers a lot of outdoor dining, including Buster’s Beach House (order the Short Board Sampler!)

Dine with Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego – Definitely one of the most memorable meals! Click through to read more about Dine with Orcas (and find out how to get discounted tickets).

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

Gardens to Explore with Kids

Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch – This seasonal event includes oceans of gorgeous flower gardens, tractor rides, mazes and Santa’s Playground. Check the website calendar when specific days are designated for kids with face painting, bubbles and more.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – Families can hike the Pacific Crest Trail to see some of the beautiful wildflowers that bloom in this 600,000-acre state park. Cost is per vehicle, charged Fri/Sat/Sun.

Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego – Kids can learn about water conservation, drought tolerant plants and rain water collection in this large series of gardens. Kids especially enjoy the sensory garden. I’ve loved the gardens as a pretty place for taking photos of the kids. No cost for admission, though donations are accepted.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

The Water Conservation Garden has some beautiful back drops for portrait taking of the kids.

Carlsbad Lagoon – Rent an aqua cycle, stand up paddleboard, canoe or peddle boat to get kids active on the water! For more power they also rent waverunners, pontoon boats and power boats.

San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas – Kids can play in several of the beautiful gardens and look at the 4,000 different species growing here.

Outdoor Recreation in San Diego

Santee Lakes – Grab your fishing pole and toss a line into one of the many lakes here. Bring a bike, a suit and towel for the splash pad or just play at one of the playgrounds. There are also boats for rent.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

Enjoying the weekend with a fishing pole at Santee Lakes

Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad – The tidal wetlands trail here is stroller friendly and you can spy habitats for birds, fish and other animals.

Mission Trails – Start at the Visitor Center where you can learn history of the area and about natural wildlife. Then lace up your hiking shoes for one of the many rugged trails here (not stroller appropriate).

Old Poway Park – While the park is open each day, the Poway-Midland Railroad, Nelson House and Heritage Museum are only open on weekends.

Biking at the Beach – My two little ones and I enjoyed a bike ride along the coast in Carlsbad last year. Pedego Electric Bikes gave me a bike with a seat in front for my toddler. They even had a bike with training wheels for my kindergartner! You can find bike rental locations all over San Diego, especially near the shore.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego

Adventures Outdoors in San Diego

Coronado Ferry – Hop aboard one of these “Flagship Cruises” that take you from downtown San Diego over to Coronado Island. Takes about 15 minutes total for less than $5 per person one way. Once at the Coronado Ferry Landing, you can walk or bike the paths along the water and enjoy the grassy areas, playgrounds, sandy beaches and public restrooms.

Aquatica Waterpark- Everyone can have fun in the sun at SeaWorld’s water park (located in South Bay, not near SeaWorld). Be sure to check the schedule online as to when this water park will be open.

Potato Chip Rock – Adventurous kids who like to hike will enjoy standing on this famous rock near the top of Mt. Woodson in Poway.

Petco Park – What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the sun, watching a major league baseball game in downtown San Diego. Purchase tickets in the Park at the Park and kids can kick back on the grass (bring a blanket!) Join the Compadres for Kids and after Sunday home games, kids will have access to special activities like running the bases, bounce houses, playing catch on the field, autograph signings and more.

San Diego Theme Parks for Kids

Click the red links to find out how you can purchase discount tickets to these popular attractions!

Sea World San DiegoEveryone can make a splash at the aquariums, thrill rides and family fun theme park. SeaWorld San Diego has a focus on animal education and learning in a safe environment with touch pools, shows and sealife interaction.

Find out where you can touch and interact with sea life at SeaWorld San Diego including special tours that get you into the water. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

LEGOLAND California and Waterpark – LEGOLAND is a family favorite with amusement park rides that are best suited for ages 3-10. The LEGOLAND waterpark is a newer addition that just keeps growing. It’s a great place for teens and adults as well with giant wave pools and adventurous slides. Here’s what you should know before visiting

San Diego Zoo This is the ultimate zoo for nearly every animal under the sun! Read more on how to cover the San Diego Zoo in a single day.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park These are the animals you’d see on safari. Bring your walking shoes, this 1800 acre park in Escondido covers a lot of ground. Don’t miss the Africa Tram, you’ll be able to get a closer view of the animals.

Best Beaches in San Diego for Kids

Mission Beach – Arrive early to grab free parking in one of the lots to enjoy this popular boardwalk beach with lots of sand and waves. Mission Beach also houses Belmont Park with amusements like the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, Wave House and other kid-friendly activities. I’m partial to nearby Mission Bay, with the grassy parks and playgrounds. Consider a stay at the Bahia Resort Hotel, right along beautiful Mission Bay.

Carlsbad – There are 2 great beach spots for families here including Tamarack-State Beach and South Ponto Beach. Both have lifeguards on duty and public restrooms with showers.

Snorkling in La Jolla Cove – You’ll find Garibaldi and leopard sharks (both tame to swim around) in the beautiful waters of La Jolla. Bring your snorkle to spy these creatures. The beach here is very tiny and extremely popular so arrive early to stake out parking and a spot on the sand.

Dozens of ideas on outdoor activities to do with kids in San Diego, from the beaches to the mountains (and everywhere in between!) Includes suggestions for FREE events and locations as well #SanDiego


 

Review of Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park California

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a family-friendly combination of live theater, dinner and dramatic entertainment. Located on Beach Blvd, this dinner theater is in the same area as Knott’s Berry Farm and Medieval Times. Disneyland is a 15 minute drive away. With so many excellent entertainment choices, is Pirate’s Dinner Adventure a good choice for your family? Keep reading for my full, honest review!

My family and I received complimentary tickets to attend Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. 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!

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure in Buena Park

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is located in Buena Park, a city in Los Angeles/Orange County. It’s just a few blocks from Knott’s Berry Farm and about 15-minutes drive from Disneyland. My family (including my husband, toddler, six-year old and two teenagers) visited Pirate’s Dinner Adventure for the first time.

For more ideas on what to do in the Buena Park and Southern California area, be sure to check out my post.

Many guests were dressed in pirate garb, which is encouraged for young and old alike. My son brought his pirate hat and we saw many guests wearing bandanas and carrying light-up pirate swords. There are, of course, plenty of costuming accessories for sale in the souvenir shops inside the lobby. The lobby is appropriately decorated with a giant pirate’s map and skeletons.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Purchasing Tickets for the Event

When I was at the ticket window getting our tickets there was a family of 7 next to me trying to get seats for that night. Unfortunately the show had sold out, which I understand is fairly regular. Don’t expect to just show up and try to purchase tickets, it’s best to buy ahead of time. Tickets can be found on the website or through Groupon (for select nights only). Sign up through Ebates first, then click Groupon to purchase – you’ll receive an additional 9% cash back! Even with your Groupon ticket, you’ll still need to call ahead of time to book your reservation.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Pre-Show Entertainment & Appetizers

Before entering the theater you’ll have your group photo taken. Printed pictures will be brought to you tableside during the show. You can purchase them, or not. It was recommended that we arrive 60 minutes before the show. This allowed plenty of time for purchasing a drink at the bar, souvenir shopping, taking in the pirate decor and a restroom break. There is the opportunity to have your child’s face painted for an additional charge. Unless you’re planning on shopping, I don’t think you need to get there quite that early. We did a lot of standing around, waiting for the doors to open. Actually we have a toddler, so technically that just meant we took turns chasing her through the crowds!

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

As far as the pre-show appetizers, they are tray-passed through the lobby. We saw meatballs on toast, ham and cheese open-faced sandwiches, and carrots and celery with ranch dressing. Not too special, I’d wait to eat and save room for the hearty dinner instead. However you can purchase both alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks in the lobby, then bring them into the theater.

There is a pre-show in the bar area which introduced the pirates. We were in the entryway room but were able to watch on a television. Each pirate walks through the lobby, carrying a colored flag and leading guests that are seated in his colored section. We waited until the orange pirate came through and then followed him with the rest of our group into the theater!

Seating Inside Pirate’s Dinner Adventure

If you choose a seat in the upper part of the theater, know that you won’t be allowed much elbow room. Guests were squeezed in pretty tight in those last few rows. Also, there are some seats that don’t have very good views of the action. In fact some spots have obstructed views with all the pirate ship rigging and poles in the way.

I recommend opting for a seating upgrade that allows for more space and an unobstructed and closer view of the action. My family and I were seated in the second row of the orange section, which offered us a perfect view of the stage.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Food Review

The Pirate’s Dinner Adventure includes a three-course meal. Non-alcoholic drinks like soda, water, lemonade, coffee and tea are included. You can also request a vegetarian. gluten-free or vegan meal in place of the traditional dishes. Children will receive the kid’s platter, which includes small portions of mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, and cubed melon alongside a generous amount of chicken nuggets.

Soup or Salad – Guests have their choice of either a large dinner salad or a small bowl of vegetable soup. I ordered the salad, which was large for a dinner salad. It was already covered with ranch dressing, which was fine, except that the server never asked me what kind of dressing I wanted (and I usually request dressing on the side). My older two kids ordered soup.

Main Course – Roasted quarter chicken leg and thigh. The meat was moist and flavorful. There was a veggie and shrimp skewer, which was also tasty. Carrots and zucchini are served on the side (zucchini was slightly under cooked, which was better than being overcooked in my opinion). Creamy mashed potatoes rounded out the plate. Our server did bring a platter with more chicken to see if anyone wanted another piece (my husband did).

Dessert – A slice of tres leches cake that is drizzled with chocolate. Usually not my favorite dessert but this was delicious!

Overall the food is good and our platters were served hot. Note that your entire party may not be served at once (my older kids didn’t get their plates until about 5 minutes after their dad and me). There are additional upgrades that can be made to your meal, including adding lobster and champagne or three-layer chocolate cake.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Service

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is a loud and boisterous place. This means it can be a challenge to get messages to the server. We were seated at a long bench table and if you’re seated in the middle, you won’t really be able to speak to your server directly without yelling! I had to “talk” to the server by telling my husband and having him pass the message to the server. Meal plates are passed from the ends to the guests in the middle of the table. Not every seat is like that in the theater, but having the bench seats without server access made it difficult.

We received beverages at the beginning of the show but they were never refilled. Guests are encouraged to “Drink! Drink!” at times during the show and my 6-year old said to me with his stein turned upside down, “I can’t drink, my cup is empty!”

Audience Participation

Throughout the show, the audience is encouraged to participate. Each colored seating section is assigned their own pirate. We sat in the orange section and cheered on our themed pirate throughout the show. Shouting, standing, banging your cup and cheering is all encouraged! My husband was given the job of raising our orange flag. Some children were invited to the stage to ride in one of the row boats. Other guests were included in the show as well. It’s a boisterous place and that adds to the fun!

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

The Show – Legend of the Loch Ness Monster

This action-packed show takes place on what looks like a Spanish galleon. The ship is surrounded by 200,000 gallons of water on which row boats float. The “stage” is impressive for sure, and the colorful lighting and dramatic music adds to the effect. Did I mention the shirtless pirates? These singing, dancing and sword fighting pirates swing from ropes, leap on trampolines and duel each other throughout the show. Each pirate has their own personality and allows for plenty of comic relief in between the drama.

There is also a comedic “pirate in training”, a headstrong princess, an acrobatic gypsy girl, a teensy-bit of romance and lots of one-on-one pirate battles. The stunts are all great quality. The swinging ladder was my favorite part (I held my breath the entire time!) Don’t bother trying to figure out the story plot in between eating. Just watch and enjoy (ahem, shirtless pirates!)

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Can You Take a Baby or a Toddler?

We mentioned on the reservation that we would have a toddler with us. I asked initially if there were high chairs and was assured that there were. However our seats were in the second row, which was all bench seating with one long table. There wasn’t any way to get a high chair there for our toddler. I asked our server for a booster seat, but it was never brought.

The seat and table were too far away from each other for my petite toddler to sit at (she is just a few weeks shy of her second birthday). My husband and I ended up taking turns holding her on our laps so that she could reach the table to eat. She watched most of the show but started to get bored towards the end (naturally, after the cake was served!) I took her out into the lobby to run around until the show was over.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Trying to hold a squirmy toddler while watching the show.

What Age Is Most Appropriate?

We attended Pirate’s Dinner Adventure with our almost-2 year old daughter, 6 year old son and two 14 year olds (boy and girl). I already shared about my toddler in the section above. There are some loud moments (like thunder sounds or cracking whips) that might startle young children. The show is appropriate for all ages but at 2 hours, it might be too long for some children. My older three kids were highly entertained. They all liked the food and enjoyed the action. My 6 year old lamented that he wished he’d been chosen to go onto the stage! There is one scene at the end that frightened my son and he hid under the table (I promise, it’s not that scary!) My teenagers both liked the show though my jaded older son said it was a “little corny”, but I don’t think that was a bad thing.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark

Who Will Enjoy Pirate’s Dinner Adventure?

If you’re looking for a high-brow, elegant dinner, this is not the place for you. If you like to relax, enjoy live entertainment and can get into the fun atmosphere, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure is a great family place! You can read my review of Medieval Times (which is literally a block away from Pirate’s Dinner Adventure) so you can compare the two and see which is the better choice for your family.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is a combination of live theater, 3-course meal and swashbuckling entertainment. Read my honest review on who should go, what the food is like and what to expect during the show. #VisitBuenaPark