2020 San Diego Summer Bucket List - COVID-Style

Public Disclosure: An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. Changes and Closures happen frequently so check directly with each site before you head out to know if it's open or not and what their policies are.


Our Summer Bucket List is obviously very different this year. I’m definitely missing some of our favorite summer activities, like the night time Zoo, but we’ve been exploring new places and making new memories nonetheless. The amazing thing about living in San Diego is how big it really is and how many places there are to still explore while being socially distanced this summer.

What I’ve chosen to include on here are places where we know it’s easier to spread out and be more socially distant. These can fluctuate from the time of day, to the days of the week. We’ve found the least crowded times are weekday mornings or weekday evenings, so that’s usually when we’re out exploring.

Just because I call this a “bucket list”, don't feel like you have to go out and accomplish everything, or anything!, on this list if you’re not comfortable with it. Everyone’s comfort levels are all over the spectrum right now so whatever you’re doing and feeling is right for your family, then that’s the right thing for you to do. Use your own judgement. Use caution. Use precautions.

Disclaimer: Since things are constantly changing, please check directly with each place before you head out in case their hours or other info have changed. And just because I have these places listed here, doesn’t mean they’re “safe” and you can’t catch COVID or anything else; I can’t and won’t guarantee that so that’s my disclaimer. Also there may be some affiliate links in this post for which I may receive a very small commission for if you click on the link and make a purchase within the 24 hours after clicking on it.

Here are some of our favorite spots to get some fresh air and be distanced from others.

-- Balboa Park --

Weekday mornings are the best time to come here. Most museums are closed, but there’s so much more than museums here. There are lots of fun trails and gardens to explore. Bring a blanket and a picnic lunch because there are lots of places to spread out and while away the day at one of our favorite spots.

-- Seaport Village --

Weekday mornings are best here as well. We don’t really come here to shop, but since it’s somewhat of a windy spot we love to fly our kites at the Embarcadero Marina Park. There’s a large grassy area that’s just perfect for kite flying and picnics. The best part here are the views: Coronado bridge, the San Diego Bay, and watching all the boats and sailboats float by. Some other good windy spots for kite flying are at Mission Bay next to the Hilton and Kate Sessions Park.

-- Old Town --

One of our top 5 favorite places in San Diego to take the kids. The plaza has a large grassy area to run around and have a picnic. Bring a picnic or grab some take out from a nearby restaurant. Barra Barra is a good option because kids eat free there, oh and they have churros. ;) Most shops and the Casa de Estudillo are closed, but there’s so much to see from just walking around. You can find the old school house and peek inside the the windows or look for the old jail cell behind the courthouse.

You can also walk up to Heritage Park where the Victorian houses are and have a picnic in the large grassy area behind them. If you peek through the trees behind the houses, you’ll find some steps that will take you up to an easy 10 minute hiking trail but it has the most spectacular view that most people have never seen before.

-- Beaches --

This is one of the most iconic San Diego summer activity. Again, go on a weekday morning or weekday evening if you can as these are still pretty crowded on weekends and parking can be hard to find. Here are some of our favorite beach spots to take the kids. Anywhere along Mission Bay because the water is calmer and they generally have a shorter schlepping distance from the car to the beach with all of the things. Imperial Beach, Pacific Beach and Oceanside Pier beaches are some of our favorites.

My favorite beach time is an evening weekday. The crowds are mostly gone, it’s still warm out but not blazing hot, the water has warmed up and you can catch some pretty sweet sunsets.

Some quick beach tips:

Splurge and get an all terrain-wagon to haul the gear and the kids.

Bring non-talc baby powder; it helps remove sand from your feet before you get in the car

(some non-talk baby powder brands: Burt’s Bees, E’ra Organics, California Baby, Ora, MOMiN, Hello Bello, Farmstead Apothecary)

Bring a gallon of water and a towel to keep in your car so you can rinse the sand off before you get in

Less is more! You don’t need that much gear for a beach day. Just bring the basics and you’ll have less to carry and less to stress.

For littles, bring a small potty for the back of your car with liners

BYO Shade umbrella or little pop up tent, it gets the kids out of the hot sun in between splashing

Bring a little cooler so you can have ice cold drinks and snacks

A waterproof beach blanket

Turkish towels to dry off with because they’re thinner and they don’t take up as much room in your bag

Sunscreen: slather it on before you dress the kids and don’t forget to reapply

-- Waterfront Park --

Most splash pads and playgrounds are closed but the fountains and wading pools at the Waterfront Park are still on and ready for kids to splash around. This place is perfect even for littles. The water is about 12 inches deep (don’t quote me on that), it’s perfect for babies to sit and splash in the water. This park is h-u-g-e so it’s the perfect place to spread out. The large grassy area is perfect for a picnic and a shade tent (there’s no shade at all here so bring your own shade with you if you plan to spend a few hours). Tip: Most people don’t even know about the fountains on the North side of the building away from the playground. Walk north just a little and you’ll find another huge fountain wading pool and large grassy area to spread out.

-- Tide Pooling --

Search for sea anemones, sea slugs, starfish, and sometimes fish even get trapped in the tide pools. The best part about tide pooling is that you never know what you’ll find! There are so many locations to go tide pooling, but the best time is at low tide. You can check tide charts online before you go. Wear old tennis shoes because you’ll likely be climbing over rocks and need some stable shoes on.

Some of our favorite spo