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10 San Diego Fall Activities With Kids


Planning a trip to San Diego or Carlsbad? Read more about Southern California.

Summer might be over, but your year’s travel doesn’t have to be. Autumn is a great time for low-key weekend jaunts and day trips. Family destinations are less crowded and festivals start to abound. Carlsbad, outside of San Diego, is just the destination for a quick fall getaway on the west coast. Here are 10  activities in the San Diego and Carlsbad areas that are perfect for a day out or as the basis for a weekend away.

carlsbad beach near san diego1. Extend the Summer

Not quite ready to roll out the jeans and sweaters? Head out to any of many local beaches (Carlsbad alone has five) to walk, play, fly kites or kayak. With daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s you might even be able to grab your boogie boards and hit the waves.

2. Bring the Kids for Free

San Diego County’s Kids Free Month returns each October with 100 restaurants, hotels and sites participating. Kids can do all kinds of things ranging from eating waffles to kayaking to learning to surf to visiting SeaWorld for free (with a parent, of course).

bagby beer and pizza near San Diego3. Try the Local Taps

Some are dubbing a 60-mile stretch of Route 78 The Hops Highway. An area stretching from Oceanside south to San Diego and inland to Escondido is home to more than 70 microbreweries including Ballast Point, Mother Earth and Stone Brewing Co.

San Diego Beer Week is a whole week of events exploring the best of these great breweries in early October.

Note: Several of the breweries claim family-friendly tasting rooms with games, toys and snacks. But they don’t all serve food and some rely on part-time food trucks. Check a brewery’s website before you head out to make sure it’s a fit for you.

4. Try a Museum

Should you hit upon a rainy day, Carlsbad’s museums have some collections you don’t see every day. The Museum of Making Music focuses on music history with its vast collection of vintage and unusual instruments. There are some interactive elements for the kids, too–if your ears can take it. The Gemological Institute Of America displays some of the world’s rarest gemstones and jewels. If you are bummed it’s raining on your beach day settle for learning about So-Cal’s surf culture and history at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.

LegoLand halloween, a short hop from San Diego5. Get Spooked

Legoland California will hold its annual Brick-or-Treat Halloween celebration on several October weekends. Visit the park at night, wear a costume, enjoy seasonal Lego creations like  4-foot tall jack-o-lantern, trick-or-treating along the park’s Brick-or-Treat Trail. This year they are keeping more rides open. (Read our Legoland Hotel Review.)

6. Eat Local Food

The growing season lasts longer in California, which means fresh produce and other local ingredients well into the fall. One great way to sample the local dining scene is San Diego Restaurant Week, which runs in late September. More than 180 restaurants across San Diego County, including several in Carlsbad, will offer prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus at a discount.

Note: Reservations are good idea. And plan to arrive promptly. This can be a busy week for restaurants.

the maker faire is a great san diego weekend7. Try A Maker Faire

At beautiful Balboa Park, The Maker Faire San Diego is a festival celebrating garage and basement tinkerers and can be a fun day out for kids and parents. Look for fun, innovative DIY creations in tech,  arts, crafts, science, and more.  Some exhibits will be hands on, while others will be look-and-be-wowed. Try minor soldering, building and firing sky rockets or masking tape art.

8. Go To the Movies

Parents with teen film buffs can check out the annual La Costa Film Festival, or part of the five-day San Diego Film Festival, both in October. Catch new documentaries, short films, features and extreme sports films.

del mar race track in carlsbad, CA9. Bet on a Horse

Nearby Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is the second largest track in the Western United States and arguably the most stylish. Bing Crosby attended this storied track’s 1937 opening and Seabiscuit raced here. The fall often holds Bing Crosby Season in late October through early December to celebrate the crooner and has affinity for racing. A racetrack like this can make for a surprisingly fun family outing, check out the horsesm admire the track and bet among yourselves on the winners.

10. Leave Your Car at Home

Visitors who want to explore the area without driving can book a ride on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, which does 12 daily scenic runs from San Diego up through Anaheim, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and finally San Luis Obispo.

Note: Better still, Amtrak participates in the Kids Free Month for this route.

Planning a trip? Look for hotels and packages on *Expedia.

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10 fall family activities around San Diego

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21 Comments

  1. Rachael@safari254
    October 6, 2016 at 7:37 am — Reply

    Kids Free Month sounds like an awesome initiative. I would love it if it happened in Nairobi, that way I’d take my niece and nephew out more.

    • October 6, 2016 at 1:57 pm — Reply

      These initiatives are great and we’re lucky to have them. Target Stores also sponsors free family days and evenings at cultural institutions around the country, too. They really help to make the arts affordable and accessible.

  2. October 2, 2016 at 5:48 pm — Reply

    It’s amazing what you can find to do in a place when you do your research and you have done a wonderful job here. I have heard that San Diego is a great place for a visit. Next time we come to California we will have to put this on our itinerary.

  3. October 8, 2015 at 1:33 am — Reply

    I love seeing all these activities especially as a San Diego resident. I didn’t know that I live by Hops Highway 🙂 Fall is a great time to visit. We also have a lot of pumpkin patches and apple picking in Julian. Thanks for reminding me about Carlsbad ArtSplash,

    • October 4, 2016 at 2:21 am — Reply

      Great list! The museum of making music is really nice.

      • October 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm — Reply

        I bet it is. Seems like a place with wide appeal.

  4. October 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    A great list here! San Diego always has so much to do, it can be hard to choose an activity. Thanks for sharing these family-friendly things to do!

  5. September 15, 2015 at 10:09 am — Reply

    This is a great list!! We love San Diego.

  6. September 14, 2015 at 7:38 pm — Reply

    I wish I could go to San Diego for the weekend, but it’s a bit far. I do want to see it some day, though! Thanks for the suggestions on what to see, though. Looks like fun!

  7. September 14, 2015 at 10:16 am — Reply

    San Diego is one of my favorite family travel destinations. That Art Splash event sounds fun. I’d love to watch those chalk artists at work. I’ve contemplated doing the Amtrak up to visit family in Santa Barbara, but then the speediness and convenience of having a car always ends up winning out.

  8. September 13, 2015 at 11:15 pm — Reply

    i SO want to go to San Diego! I think you would need a month (or months?!) to experience all that there is to do for families. It really does sound like an awesome city!

  9. September 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    San Diego is such a beautiful place to visit any time of the year and one of my favorite places. It has such a comfortable climate and so many things to see and do.

  10. September 13, 2015 at 10:25 am — Reply

    I’m from L.A., and so much of this applies to general SoCal I’m, so excited to be visiting home soon. Thanks for the inspiration as I look forward!

  11. September 13, 2015 at 3:05 am — Reply

    Some really great ideas here. All those free activities for kids in October would have brought us to San Diego if they did it back when we lived in California. Now my kids are teens, practically adults – so I am sure they would not be free.

  12. September 12, 2015 at 8:14 pm — Reply

    Lots of good ideas in here! San Diego (and Southern California) is an all season destination. So, you can visit any time and have a great time. Right now, we have super hot weather for those who want to hit the beach.

  13. September 12, 2015 at 6:26 am — Reply

    San Diego seems to offer so much. I think I would get artsy and eat local food.

  14. September 12, 2015 at 6:20 am — Reply

    Looks like some fun events happening around San Diego over the coming month or so with the perfect weather to match.

  15. September 12, 2015 at 6:00 am — Reply

    Lovely…

  16. September 11, 2015 at 7:06 am — Reply

    Some fun ideas. If I had to pick one, it would be going to the races. I don’t know anything about horse racing, but the atmosphere always seems so fun.

    • eileen g
      September 11, 2015 at 1:57 pm — Reply

      Horse racing IS fun! you have to go sometime! My husband won with 8:1 odds on a horse in Hong Kong! we only bet $10 but that won us a nice dinner!

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