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Adventures in Kidifornia

Adventures in Kidifornia is a new original “edutainment” video series that showcases some of the most exciting—and enriching—family destinations in CaliforniaUsing a unique blend of 2-D animation and live-action footage, Adventures in Kidifornia will inspire parents and kids to engage in discovery throughout the Golden State.

The first three episodes are set in San Diego and spotlight the USS Midway MuseumCabrillo National Monument, and SeaWorld San Diego.

The USS Midway Museum is a magnificent spectacle to behold: a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is permanently docked on the San Diego waterfront. It features more than 30 restored aircraft and nearly 10 acres of displays, providing visitors with hands-on access and the most complete cross-section of carrier aviation in the world. Guests can explore the bridge and the main engine room and develop a deep understanding of life on a military vessel.

The museum’s Junior Pilot Program is designed specially for kids and allows them to earn their own junior pilot wings. By following Airman Sam Rodriquez on an audio tour around the Midway, young ones will complete a variety of tasks and then be treated to a ceremony performed by one of the many volunteer docents.

At Cabrillo National Monument, young adventurers can walk in the footsteps of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who led the crew of the first Europeans to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. More than 200,000 people visit annually to climb to the top of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, learn more about Cabrillo’s arrival in 1542, and enjoy some stunning views of the San Diego coastline.

Tidepooling and whale watching are huge draws as well, and the southern end of Cabrillo is one of Southern California’s most accessible spots to explore the marine ecosystems. The mile-long Coastal Trail is an easy walk for youngsters and leads to shallow pools teeming with marine life. From mid-December to late March, the bluffs are also a great place to watch migrating Pacific gray whales.

No family trip to San Diego County is complete without a visit to SeaWorld San Diego, a world famous theme park that helps young ones understand the world around them—along with a healthy dose of fun.

From swooshing and swooping rides to interactive animal experiences and world-class attractions, SeaWorld San Diego truly makes a big splash. See—and learn about—the amazing undersea worlds of animals from around the globe, including penguins, turtles, walruses, beluga whales, and sea lions. Behind the scenes, SeaWorld is also home to marine animals that were injured or orphaned on Southern California beaches, and are being nursed or rehabilitated before they can be returned to the wild. 

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USS Midway & the Waterfront
Experience hands on maritime history that will shiver your timbers

Most kids love boats, so you can imagine how excited they get about a really, really big boat. Downtown San Diego’s USS Midway Museum is just that: a retired aircraft carrier that is now permanently docked and open to visitors along the city’s Embarcadero. The deck of the enormous ship is covered with naval aircraft from World War II through Operation Desert Storm—not just for looking at but for climbing inside and exploring, too. Other interactive exhibits include you-are-there-style recordings of real conversations between military pilots and a chance to ride in a flight simulator.

Also on the downtown waterfront, the Maritime Museum of San Diego is fittingly housed within one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the awe-inspiring sailing ships Star of India, HMS Surprise (the floating star of Pirates of the Caribbean 4), and the Californian, a replica of a gold rush-era revenue cutter and the Official Tall Ship of the State of California. Coolest of all, some of the ships go sailing and whale watching, with you aboard; including a 75-minute tour of San Diego Bay aboard an aptly named, Vietnam War-era Swift Boat.

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Cabrillo National Monument
Learn about San Diego’s Spanish roots, go tidepooling, and watch for whales at this historic park

Charged by his native Spain to explore new worlds, Spaniard explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped ashore at this tip of land in 1542, making him the first European to set foot on the West Coast. The Cabrillo National Monument, established in 1913, commemorates his discovery on the point of Point Loma in San Diego.

Start at the visitor center, where short films and ranger talks offer interesting insights into Cabrillo and his history. Walk to the Old Point Loma Lighthousewhich has been restored to reflect what lighthouse life was like for lightkeepers and their families in the 1800s.

But locals (and sage visitors) also know that this tip-of-land perch offers astounding views of the San Diego skyline and the seething Pacific. Hiking trails twist through 660 acres/267 hectares of coastal habitat, so it’s easy to strike out on your own for even more panoramic beauty.

The 2.5-mile/4-km Bayside Trail looks out to San Diego Bay, and the easy Coastal Tidepool Trail takes you to some of the best tidepooling in California (look, but don’t touch). Visit in late fall or winter for the best viewing opportunities, when low tides occur during daylight hours. Keep an eye out for multiple tidepool species, which range from periwinkle snails and acorn barnacles to anemones and sea stars, in a variety of different intertidal zones. 

Look for the coastal defense systems the city put in place in World War II to fend off the Japanese Navy. From mid-December to late March, the bluffs—and specifically the Whale Overlook—are a great place to watch migrating Pacific gray whales. If you forget binoculars, a limited number are available at the visitors center.

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SeaWorld San Diego for Small Children
This hands-on park is perfect for even the smallest kids

Tired of shouting, “Don’t touch”? Then SeaWorld San Diego is the spot for you and your younger kids. At this San Diego attraction, kids are invited to get their sticky fingers on everything—including the sea life itself. At the Explorer’s Reef and California tide pools, they can get touchy-feely with schools of cleanerfish, crabs, sea stars, and brownbanded bamboo sharks before heading to the park’s two-acre kid zone, Sesame Street Bay of Play. In addition to the water fun and three Muppet-themed rides—Abby’s Sea Star Spin, Elmo’s Flying Fish, and Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel—kids will get a chance for a photo op with Elmo himself. Or perhaps the giggle-inducing Pets Rule! show, where rescue animals perform off-the-wall stunts.

You won’t find much refuge from the SoCal sun here, so stay on top of the sunscreen and take advantage of the indoor exhibits. Tots can put their noses to the enormous Turtle Reef window, walk through the acrylic viewing tunnel at Shark Encounter (as sand tiger and bonnethead sharks circle overhead). 

To help ensure a stress-free day, rent a stroller at Guest Services inside the park entrance. For mobile kids who might like to wander, pick up a wristband on which you can enter your cell phone number if you and your kids get separated. And if your children love to sit in splash zones, stash a change of dry clothes in your day pack.