Try out your pirate “arg,” get the hang of “hanging ten,” and have plenty of waterfront playtime.
Trip length: 2-3 days
Total distance: 85mi/138km
OCEANSIDE Start your day with enormous omelets at Beach Break Cafe . Visit the California Surf Museum . Get more ideas from the California Welcome Center . INFO 760/721-1101
CARLSBAD (3mi/5km; 9min). At LEGOLAND California’s new Pirate Reef , blast water cannons and man a 40-foot-long LEGO pirate ship. At http://www.visitsealife.com/California" onclick="tracking.run('Partner_Referral','visitsealife.com/california')">SEA LIFE Aquarium, see spider crabs in the new Claws . INFO 760/918-5346
ESCONDIDO (21mi/33km; 25min). Ride trams and ziplines to see wild animals at San Diego Zoo Safari Park . In nearby Kit Carson Park , explore Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Garden . INFO 760/721-1101
TORREY PINES STATE NATURAL RESERVE (23mi/38km; 30min). Romp on this preserve’s trails and beach . Relax with cool drinks in the Torrey Pines Golf Course clubhouse. INFO 858/755-2063
LA JOLLA (6mi/10km; 13min). When tides are low, spy sea anemones and other creatures in crystal-clear tidepools south of Casa Beach . In town, browse in appealing shops. INFO 619/236-1212
MISSION BAY (8mi/12km; 17min). At SeaWorld San Diego , the brand-new Manta attraction includes a 100,000-gallon aquarium, a bat-ray touch pool, and a mind-boggling mega-coaster thrill ride. INFO 619/226-3901
BALBOA PARK (9mi/15km; 14min). Get a free guide to kids’ activities, like the 1910 carousel and miniature railroad, from the park’s visitor center . At the San Diego Zoo , feel mist, wind, and even snow in the new 4D theater.
SEAPORT VILLAGE (4mi/7km; 11min). Dine outside at Buster’s Beach House and watch the yachts sail by. INFO 619/235-4014
CORONADO (6mi/9km; 14min). Bask and build sand castles at family-favorite Central Beach . Recharge with snacks at the B&S Bar in the Hotel del Coronado , a 124-year-old icon. INFO 619/236-1212
SILVER STRAND STATE BEACH (5mi/9km; 12min). Rent bikes to pedal this narrow strip. Bodysurf ocean waves on one side, or splash in warm and calm San Diego Bay on the other. INFO 619/435-5184