This post is long overdue! Having only lived in San Diego for 3 years I don’t feel like I’m the best person for this guide, but it’s a request I get often and with spring break and summer around the corner now is a great time to share a list of some of our families favorite spots here in San Diego! A question often asked is what area to stay in in San Diego for families. Honestly, anywhere. But I prefer Del Mar, Encinitas and La Jolla.
THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO
WHERE TO STAY:
INTERCONTINENTAL – this bay side 5 star hotel downtown is brand new to San Diego. We stayed there a few months ago as seen HERE. It’s gorgeous and in such a great spot!
L’AUBERGE – located in Del Mar right across the street from the studio Poppy and I train at. It’s the perfect location if you are coming to SD for the horse races, KAABOO, or the fair. It’s one of my favorite hotels!
FOUR SEASONS AVIARA – located in Carlsbad, this is a favorite spot for our family! We’ve stayed their twice and they even hosted Goldie’s birthday party ( see post HERE). The service is exceptional and so are all the restaurants! Highly recommend.
RANCHO SANTA FE INN – ahh, the grounds are gorgeous and the hotel is nice and secluded. Lots of wedding happen here and I shoot quite a few of my blog posts in the surrounding neighborhood.
HOTEL DEL CORONADO – the del brings back a lot of childhood memories for me. We stayed here several times as a family when my dad would come for medical meetings. It’s historic and you really cannot beat Coronado Island. It’s dreamy!
THE PENDRY – hip, fun, great location downtown. If you love nightlife, this is your spot!
LA VALENCIA – located in the heart of La Jolla, La Valencia is beautiful in a great spot for shopping, dining, the beach and seeing my esthetician, Dr. Zoe!
RANCHO BERNARDO INN – located inland and known for luxury relaxation and couples getaways.
FAIRMONT GRAND DEL MAR – such great spot for families. Located inland so be prepared to drive to the beach, but the grounds are beautiful.
WHERE TO EAT:
CUCINA ENOTECA – A few locations throughout California. Get the burnt brussels with hot sauce and truffle fries!!
DIN TAI FUNG – Oh man…the best dumplings of your entire life. Located at UTC mall. Plan to put your name in and then shop for an hour or 2 before they call your name. Worth it!!!
NORTH – Originated in Arizona. It was a favorite of mine before I moved to California. New to SD located at Fashion Valley Mall. Go!
DEL MAR PIZZA – Pizza and a great chopped salad! Located across the street from L’Auberge
RUDY’S – Our favorite taco shop in North County. It’s pretty dirty, but the food is great!
TACO STAND – A tourist favorite. Located in Encinitas and La Jolla. The line is always super long!
BEACH HUT DELI – I was so excited when I spotted this next door to the Intercontinental Hotel. We had several of these in Orange County. It’s hands down the best sandwich! Get the pastrami. Incredible.
HERB and WOOD – Owned by Brian Malarkey and located downtown SD. On my list to visit, the reviews are amazing!
VG’S DONUTS – A local favorite! To be honest I don’t think it’s that amazing, but if I don’t I’ll get 10 DM’s telling me I should try VG’s..haha.
LEUCADIA DONUTS – I prefer more than VG’s. They sell out usually by noon so get their early.
BEST PIZZA – Located in Cardiff next to VG’s. Pizza by the slice and a bacon Mac n’ Cheese. So good!
SNOOZE – A few locations to choose from. Such a great breakfast spot!!
JUNIPER & IVY – I’ve yet to visit this spot, but it’s owned by Top Chef Richard Blais. It’s on my list.
FLOWER CHILD – Located in Del Mar. You know our family LOVES all Sam Fox Restaurants. I get the Mother Earth Bowl and all of their soups are incredible!
PUESTO – Omg! Arielle took me here after a shoot for Kopari. Several locations, get the mushroom taco!!
SEARSUCKER – One location in Del Mar and one downtown SD.
HOOKED ON SUSHI – located in Encinitas. My favorite is the Super Mario roll
SAMBAZON ACAI – located in Cardiff across from the beach. Get the PB Bowl
IN N’ OUT – basically I just added this if you live in a state that doesn’t have In N’ Out.
SHAKE SHACK – I think SD has 3 locations now: UTC, Mission Valley and new to open at One Paseo
HANDEL’S – located in Encinitas. The best ice cream shop in town. Over 40 homemade flavors. I love Oreodough and banana cream pie.
WHERE TO SHOP:
ONE PASEO – I am so excited One Paseo is opening in Del Mar this month! I was hired to cover the opening and share the stores, restaurants and what to do so stay tuned for that. But this new shopping center will have it all: Salt N Straw, Shake Shack, SoulCycle, Bodyrok, Marrow Fine, Drybar, and about 3o other shops!
FASHION VALLEY – The best mall San Diego has to offer. From Forever 21 to Gucci, Fashion Valley has something for everyone.
UTC – Newly renovated UTC in La Jolla totally stepped up their game and created such a beautiful outdoor shopping/dining experience. Great for families.
DOWNTOWN LA JOLLA – Go downtown and walk the streets with all the shops. From boutiques to stores like Ralph Lauren, you can find it all.
BRANDY MELVILLE – Located in Pacific Beach and one of my teens favorite place to shop. I buy a lot of my basics and sweatsuits there too.
THE FORUM – This is my local spot located just a couple miles from us. Free People, Urban, Anthropologie, Madewell, Everything But Water, lululemon, JCrew, etc. It’s such cute spot! There is a solid chance you’ll run into us here.
OUR FAVORITE BEACHES:
I think a lot of visitors get stuck on beaches like Mission, Ocean and Pacific Beach. They are very popular among tourists. I personally think they are dirty compared to the list below.
SEASIDE – located in Cardiff. Easy to park and great for families.
PONTO – if your kids like to wander and make friends at the beach, this is a great one! So many kids come here! Located in Carlsbad
WINDANSEA – located in La Jolla off Neptune. It’s absolutely beautiful and such a great spot for photos.
PIPES SAN ELIJO – a local favorite and Jeff’s favorite surf spot.
STONESTEPS – another local favorite spot in Encinitas
LA JOLLA SHORES – great spot for families
BLACK’S BEACH – a major surf spot! Not easy to get to, but worth it
FLETCHER COVE – located in Solana Beach and one of my all time favorite! Reminds me of Laguna Beach which is my favorite place on earth.
MOONLIGHT – located in Encinitas. We avoid it during tourist seasons. It’s so crowded and not my favorite beach, at all. However I get why travelers love it, the location is great!
D STREET – just down from Moonlight, less crowded and more of a local spot. It a favorite for teens.
WHAT TO DO IN SAN DIEGO:
* google any of the below for location, hours, and what to do
OLD TOWN – if you are staying in North County, take the train. The kids love it.
GASLAMP DISTRICT –
SAN DIEGO ZOO
SAN ELIJO LAGOON TRAIL – See post HERE
CARLSBAD FLOWER FIELDS – just opened last week!
STRAWBEERY PICKING IN CARLSBAD
PETCO PARK for BASEBALL
TORREY PINES STATE PARK
AIR and SPACE MUSEUM
BELMONT AMUSEMENT PARK
USS MIDWAY MUSEUM
LEARN TO SURF
GO SAILING on CORONADO ISLAND
KAYAK SEA CAVES
- This H&M RIB KNIT DRESS would be perfect for a day around San Diego! Love the v-neck and how many ways you can style!
- I love all of the fun colors this RUFFLE DETAIL DRESS comes in! Perfect for the beach or for a dinner with a view.
- This EVITA DRESS is so beautiful! I love the tiered skirt and how easy it is to dress up or down.
- This ANINE BING BODYSUIT is so flattering and great for any family day in San Diego. Love the deep scoop neck.
- I love my pair of these AGOLDE PARKER VINTAGE SHORTS. So cute and so many ways to style!
- Love the polka dots on this H&M RUFFLE DRESS! so adorable and great to add a pop of color with.
- This HAT ATTACK TOTE is amazing for the beach and carries so much! Love the simple, woven style.
- Obsessed with these SAINT LAURENT CAT EYE SUNGLASSES! So cute for vacation and easy to pair with any look.
- This JERSEY SLEEVELESS TOP is a perfect tee for any vacation! Tuck into some shorts or wear to the beach.
- Love the stripes on this HIGH LEG SWIMSUIT! The tie straps are super cute.
- I’m in love with the floral pattern on this TONINA TOP. So flattering and beautiful!
- These TOVEN SANDALS are so cute and perfect, simple sandals for summer. Love the jewels!
- Love these RAY BAN AVIATOR SUNGLASSES! They’re so easy to style and so cute. Love the color.
- The square neck on this H&M SWIMSUIT is so cute! The blue is adorable and makes for a great, staple one piece.
- Love the length on these FRANNIE SHORTS! So adorable and great for vacations.
- This BB DAKOTA MAGIC TOP is so cute and a perfect summertime blouse!
- These SUPERGA PLATFORM SNEAKERS are the perfect summer sneaker. Easy to style and comfortable.
- Love this MIRAKAMI DRESS and the beautiful, flowy style! Another great option for a San Diego day!
- The purple on these CALI LYCRA SANDALS is so cute! I love the puffy straps.
Enjoy San Diego!
10 thoughts on “The Best Family Guide To San Diego”
There’s a Taco Stand in North Park now too! It’s almost never busy 🙂
You have to check out Herb and Wood and it’s lunch/brunch spot Herb and Eatery. I’d argue way better than Juniper & Ivy 🙂
I’m so excited you posted this. My husband and I are visiting SD next month, staying at Four Seasons Aviara. Cannot wait to explore! BTW – absolutely love your site!
SO helpful!! Thank you for posting!
SO helpful! Thanks for posting!
I moved to San Diego in August and used this guide to find my favorite spots here! Your restaurant list was (and still is) so helpful, would you consider making a post dedicated to all your favorite food spots throughout San Diego?