Sometimes, military installations are placed in the middle of nowhere where someone who hates mini golf or bowling is in for a world of boredom. And sometimes, the military hits the jackpot and takes up residence at a location that offers entertainment for every personality. San Diego, California is one such spot. Whether you’re looking for a break from your own military town, or you need ideas to attract some visitors of your own, we have 14 suggestions to make San Diego summer getaway absolutely perfect.

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1Visit the Sea Lions

La Jolla Cove is known for beautiful snorkeling and barking sea lions, so combine the two in one fell swoop! Gear up with your wet suits, because remember, it’s the Pacific, and then head over to the cove to see plenty of seals and sea lions basking on their rocks. There’s a separate cove especially for children called Children’s Pool Beach, in which many harbor seals like to make appearances so make sure to take the littles there.

RELATED: Why Vacations are Important to a Military Family

2Climb a Volcano

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Just 20 minutes from Camp Pendleton lies a dormant volcano called Mt. Calavera. A moderate hike, depending on the age of those hiking, this old volcano shows off an impressive view at the top, but also offers various other loop trails around its perimeter for easier hiking.

3See the Safari Park

While the San Diego Zoo is impressive, its sister “zoo” must be named in this list. The San Diego Safari Park is located about a half hour from the well-known zoo and offers larger enclosures that allow the animals to feel more at home in the natural habitat. A tram ride throughout the Africa exhibit is included in the price of admission, but the park also sells unique experiences such as a zip line, ropes course, and the Roar & Snore Safari where participants stay overnight and get an after-hours look at the wildlife.

4Surf/Paddleboard the Pacific

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Catch a wave and learn to surf or paddleboard from the ocean experts. Pick your favorite beach in San Diego and you’re guaranteed to find someone eager to show you the ropes. Or simply pack a picnic, find a spot and simply watch the locals do it.

5Discover the Sea Caves of Dana Point

For an experience up on the north side of San Diego, bring the family to the Dana Point Sea Caves. Hikers enjoy a short route along the coastline while waves gently lap at the rocks littering the pathway and end up at the largest cave, Pirate’s Cave. It’s big enough for a large party but it’s full of rocks so don’t plan on picnic lunching once you arrive. Just be sure to check here for high and low tides in order for you to get the best viewing from the cave. At low tide, you might even get to keep walking past Pirate’s Cave and find a number of smaller caves just past it.

6Hike Torrey Pines

An easy hike for all ages, walk along the cliffs of Torrey Pines with gorgeous views of the ocean at every bend. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of hang gliders who often launch near the trail.

7Trek the Ho Chi Minh Trail

This trail is for the more adventurous hiker of your group and is often used by surfers who want to get to the more secluded Black’s Beach near La Jolla. It is a short, lightly trafficked trail but includes steep crevices that drop into caverns, and loose gravel, so the hike is not ideal for little ones.

8Legoland + Sea World

While these two attractions are high profile and commonly known, they still have to be named as some of the best activities for the whole family during a San Diego summer trip. Plan a day each around both of these attractions and let the kids drain all of their pent up energy from traveling. Don’t forget about discounted and free tickets!

9Sky-dive the Ocean

Make a memory in the clouds and schedule a skydiving experience in San Diego or Oceanside, with the ocean as a beautiful backdrop to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Or get some practice before the big moment by going to one of the iFly Skydiving Centers in the area.  

10Milkshakes on Oceanside Pier

Take a load off at Ruby’s Diner at the end of one of the longest piers on the West Coast: Oceanside Pier. Reward yourself after a long day at the beach with fries and a milkshake while watching the sunset from any view in the restaurant.

11Live it Up at Liberty Station


Located in the Point Loma area of San Diego, galleries, museums, restaurants, and shops make up the entertainment hub known as Liberty Station. Between the indoor and outdoor attractions, a shop that lets you make your own pottery and public markets, Liberty Station is one stop you don’t want to miss.

12Harbor Tours

San Diego harbor is full of boats ready to take you and your family out for a spin any time of the day. Ranging from fishing tours to sunset dinners on the water to dolphin, and whale watching, the harbor is a great outlet to just relax on the water.

13Watch the Padres

Have some baseball fans in your party? Enjoy America’s favorite pastime during a San Diego summer trip with the Padres and visit the beautiful and airy Petco Park in downtown San Diego. Not staying downtown for your trip? Pro tip: take the train down to avoid parking and enjoy a view of the ocean as you ride along the coast.

14Experience Gaslamp Quarter

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Visit the historic Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego and enjoy the nightlife that this city has to offer. Full of restaurants, bars and local hotspots, this part of town is one of the most popular areas for tourists and locals alike.

Sure, Southern California has a lot of visitors every year, so all these suggestions come with a side of traffic and lots of people. However, there’s a reason all these people want to share your vacation spot, and it should definitely be considered a “pro” when deciding your next family vacation.

Start packing those bags, make sure you have a camera and ample space on your phone for pictures because your San Diego summer trip is ready to bring you some sweet memories.

Check out Living Like a Local: The Perfect Kid’s Day at Liberty Station in San Diego


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Photo Credits: Renee Dolan Photography, Lauren Lomsdale

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A journalist and teller of stories by day and introvert by night, Renee lives her life always trying to find a balance between the two. In the middle, she is a sports enthusiast, social media guru, lover of candid snapshots and daily dazzled by both her charming husband and always-entertaining baby boy. With her sense of adventure satisfied through her marriage to a Marine Corps aviator, she has enjoyed living in multiple cities but is currently rooted in San Diego, California, spending weekends with the dolphins and sea lions on her paddleboard, circled around a beach bonfire with her church community group,or cozied upon the couch with her little family, a Redbox movie and pizza. You can discover more of her journey as a military spouse on her blog, Chasing Proverbs. Instagram: @redeemed36


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