Make a splash
If you know anything about San Diego, it’s probably that one of its iconic attractions is SeaWorld. As a kid, my family visited the park often. But in recent years, SeaWorld has come under fire for its treatment of marine animals, particularly its resident orcas. Since learning more, I’ve made the decision not to go back, though the park has taken steps to add new rides and animal exhibits, as well as to promote its conservation and rescue efforts. The good news is, you don’t need Shamu to make a splash with your family. San Diego offers plenty of other ways to experience amazing coastal creatures.
The La Jolla Tide Pools
Especially if you’re visiting during winter months, you’ll want to head to the La Jolla Tide Pools. From December to March, the area’s tides are low, and a delightful array of marine life becomes viewable from exposed nooks and crannies along the cliffside.
Living Coast Discovery Center
One hidden gem local families love is Chula Vista’s Living Coast Discovery Center, an environmental education center that has an impressive offering of exhibits featuring marine and land birds and animals, walking tours and trails, hands-on animal encounters, a walk-in aviary and several observatory tanks where kids can peep sea turtles, sharks and other sea creatures in their natural habitat.
The Tijuana Estuary
Located along the international border between the United States and Mexico, the Tijuana Estuary is the largest coastal wetland in Southern California. Home to nearly 400 bird species and over 20 other sensitive and endangered species, the estuary offers 4 beautiful miles of hiking and horse trails with stunning views. Kids can observe native plants and birds, as well as visit a Mexico-United States border monument. Stop off at the visitor center to grab a field guide to identify local species and get more information about site trails.
No trip to California is complete without a grub stop at In-N-Out Burger. Order an off-menu “secret” item such as its Neapolitan milkshake or “Animal Style” fries to really savor a local’s experience. Or head to La Bella’s Pizza Garden for cheap, out-of-this-world pizza, Pliny the Elder IPA on tap and arcade games.