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Father's Day Fun with Kids in San Diego (June 2024)

(photo by @famdiego at Chollas Lake)

6 Ways to Show Dad some fun this month, but make it kid-friendly! This way ALL of the "kids" will have a good time. (I don't need to explain myself, do I?) 😉 Read below for some fun options for everyone from North to South and East to Coast.



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🎣 Fishing, But Not Boring

Treat dad to a morning of fishing at one of San Diego's piers or stocked lakes. Some of these have playgrounds, walking trails or boat rentals to make it more entertaining for the kids. Be sure to check local fishing & licensing laws. Some of these places let kids fish for free and some are catch & release, make sure you know before you go.

NORTH: Dixon Lake in Escondido is a large park with a drive around lake to find your perfect spot. You can rent boats or fish from the shore. When the kids are done fishing take them to the playground so they can get the rest of their energy out. Other favorite north county fishing holes are found at Lake Hodges near Rancho Bernardo, South Lake Park in San Marcos and Lake Poway.

SOUTH: Lower Otay Lake in Eastlake will feel like you're worlds away from San Diego with the surrounding mountains reflecting off the large lake. There is a boat ramp with rentals and a fishing dock for you to fish from. Bring the bikes and take a ride on the lake side dirt trail when you're done fishing. There are bathrooms here and if you drive down to the end of the road you'll enter the county park ($3 to park) where you'll find a quiet playground with gorgeous lake and mountain views. Open Wed, Sat & Sun from sunrise-sunest (closed 2nd Wed each month). Other south county fishing holes are found at Bayside Park/J St. in South Bay, Pepper Park in South Bay has a playground near the small fishing pier.

EAST: Santee Lakes is the best place in east county to spend the day with the family. They stock the lake for fishing but you can also rent pedal boats, go camping overnight (tent, RV or rent one of their lakeside cabins), there are 7 playgrounds including a fun splash pad for kids and grab a bite to eat at their full service restaurant on the lake. Parking is $4/weekdays, $7/weekends & holidays. Other east county fishing holes are found at Lake Murray in La Mesa that also has a playground and paved trail for wheels or walking; or head out of town to Lake Cuyamaca for the fresh mountain air. There's a restaurant next door to the Cuyamaca Recreation Park to grab a bite to eat at after a day of fishing.

CENTRAL: Shelter Island on the Big Bay is a fun place to cast your line and catch some fish. There's a fish & tackle shop on the pier that also serves up brew and food. There's a beach here for kids to play on as well as a playground further down from the pier and bring the wheels for kids to ride along the paved pathway with gorgeous bayside views.


⛳️ Golfing, But Mini

Hit the mini links for a round of mini golf with fun and challenging courses. These mini golf courses also have food and other fun options nearby.

NORTH: Pelly's at Del Mar has two mini golf courses to choose from and when you're done grab a burger and a beer or a slushy for the kids at their decent walk-up snack bar. It has shaded picnic tables right in front of the entrance to the mini-golf courses with bathrooms nearby. You can also drive 5 min. south to Viewpoint Brewing for a kid-friendly atmosphere and views of the lagoon.

SOUTH: The only mini golf furthest south that I'm aware of is at Liberty Station in Point Loma. The Loma Club has 2 mini golf courses that are fun to play and you can grab a beer and some bites at their on-site patio restaurant. Or you walk 5 min. over to Liberty Station Public Market for the amazing food options inside where there's something for everyone; or get a table at The Presley, Go Go Amigo, Buona Forchetta, or even Stone Brewing.

EAST: none that I know of

CENTRAL: Belmont Park on Mission Beach has a fun tiki-themed mini-golf course tucked away behind their ropes course. While you're there jump on the roller coaster, ride some rides, do some rock climbing or zip lining for some extra fun. Grab a bite or treat at one of their many restaurants nearby and on-site. I love the Cannonball restaurant for their rooftop sushi and with views of the ocean you can't go wrong.


🍺 Beer Tasting, But For Little "Pints"

Take dad on a beer tasting tour to sample some of San Diego's finest brews. Many breweries offer kid-friendly fun alongside your pops on hops.

NORTH: Draft Republic San Marcos has a large indoor/outdoor dining and entertainment space with an 8 lane boutique bowling alley, state of the art Full Swing Golf Simulator, modern arcade and over 30+ TV’s plus LED video wall to watch all your favorite sports. The Americana décor and open-air concept showcases an expansive dining room with large garage door walls leading out to several patio areas equipped with shuffleboard and cornhole. Listen to live music in our outdoor beer garden featuring 40+ beers on tap as well as an extensive craft cocktail list.

SOUTH: Novo Brazil Brewpub in Imperial Beach at the southend of the Southbay has a huge outside patio area for kids to run around. Located at the south end of San Diego Bay with beautiful views of the bay, Coronado Bridge and downtown skyline in the distance, our main dining room of 7,500 sq feet has a capacity for 283 people seated. It has 2 giant LED screens + 60 taps of draft beers, beer cocktails, hard seltzers, and Kombucha with an extensive food menu including steaks, hamburgers, vegan options, tacos, and more! Bring the bikes to link up with the Bayshore Bikeway; which is a flat and easy paved biking trail with gorgeous views of the southbaby. Or bike/walk over the Sellers-Keever Park (no playground or bathrooms) which is a small bayfront park for wildlife viewing and open dirt trails for traipsing.

EAST: Mike Hess Brewing in Alpine is a great spot to try some new brew with the whole family. There's a full menu with pizza, wagyu burgers, salads and a good kids menu. They have more than 20 beers and seltzers on draft, wine, kombucha and cider, a large outdoor grass area and a lovely, landscaped patio with shade sails, firepit, and an impressive outdoor bar. Bring the whole family and toss some cornhole bags, breathe in that fresh mountain air, eat, drink and chill with us in Alpine. As with all of our locations, MHB—Alpine is kid-friendly and pet-friendly. (Also in Imperial Beach, North Park, Ocean Beach & Seaport Village.)

CENTRAL: Station Tavern in Southpark is parent tested and kid approved with their outdoor picnic tables and enclosed kids play area. Located in the heart of South Park, Station Tavern provides fresh and delicious comfort food (including the perfect crispy tater tots), and offers daily specials, a rotating selection of local and craft beers, and a full bar. Station Tavern’s laid-back atmosphere boasts a large backyard that features communal picnic-table-style dining and a fun family environment. The Station is also pet-friendly—four-legged friends are welcome to hang out in our outdoor dining area.


🍖 Beach BBQ, But Take-Out

Pack a picnic basket with dad's favorite take-out BBQ treats and head to one of San Diego's beautiful beaches for a relaxing Father's Day picnic.

NORTH: Felix's BBQ With Soul and head to the beach at the Oceanside Harbor Beach. This is a paid parking lot at the Oceanside Harbor Beach, but it's worth it because there are fewer people that come here and the beach is right next to the parking lot so you don't have to walk very far to get there. The playground is right on the beach and bathrooms are right next to it. This is a huge beach with plenty of room to find your own quiet spot.

SOUTH: Bowlegged BBQ in Lincoln Park or L&L Hawaiian BBQ near the Southbay and head to Bayside Park in the Southbay. There are playgrounds and bathrooms here with a long paved pathway for biking and scooting along the bayfront.

EAST: Cali BBQ in Spring Valley and head to Chollas Lake near Rolando. Ok so this one is kind of cheating because it's a lake beach, but this is inland so there you have it. Chollas Lake is perfect for kiddos to run around the flat and short lake loop trail, there's a playground, hiking trails and a large beachy area. Bathrooms are at the end of the parking lot.

CENTRAL: Bull's Smokin' BBQ in Morena or Phil's BBQ in Midway and head to...I'm giving you 3 options here: 1. head to Mission Beach for your classic beachside ocean vibes. 2. head to the new playgrounds on the quieter Mission Bay at the Tecolote Shores Playgrounds (there are two amazing new playgrounds here, north and south, about 5 min walk apart) just south of the San Diego Mission Bay Resort for reference. Parking here is "back-in angle parking only" and yes they will ticket. This is for the safety of the cyclists and runners along this road. 3. head to Fiesta Island and park you-know-where and catch the SeaWorld fireworks for free (they go off at 8:50pm this year on Sunday Father's Day).


🏔 Hike & Picnic, But Short & Easy

Go for a scenic hike in one of San Diego's many nature reserves or trails. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while getting in some nature.

NORTH: San Dieguito County Park is just inland from Solana Beach. It has super fun and easy kid-friendly hikes, including a fun swing bridge, animal interpretive trails with animal facts, playgrounds and a butterfly garden. This park is really spread out and be sure to pay to park INSIDE the park after you check-in with the ranger at the entrance. Those who park outside for free are known to have had their cars broken into. Please don't let that discourage you from coming here.

SOUTH: Tijuana River Estuary is a peaceful flat walk around the estuary where you'll see lots of marsh birds. The trails are long and flat so it's easy to keep eyes on the kids as they run ahead. This isn't really a "hike" per se, but it's a nice easy nature walk where your kids won't complain.

EAST: Flynn Springs County Park is 15 minutes east of El Cajon off the I-8 eastbound. This is one of my favorite hike/playground combos for kids. There is some elevation to climb up and around that you might get some complaints about, but they'll have fun climbing over the big boulders and will soon forget about it once they're back at the playground. This is a county park so you have to pay $3 to park, but I love county parks for this reason because there are fewer people that come here, park rangers are always nearby and they're well-kept.

CENTRAL: Mission Trails near Santee is the obvious central location of choice because there are lots of little kid-friendly easy and short trails for them. Start at the Dam and walk over the bridge above the stream. Walk out as far as their legs will go and turn around. Older kids who have more resilient hiking legs can walk this trail for miles and it loops around as you follow the signs. Once you're back to the Dam kids will love throwing rocks into the water then find a picnic table nearby to relax and much. Port-a-potties are near the small parking lot; which is free. Or there is plenty of parking along side the road (Father Junipero Serra Trail Rd.) Another option is to head towards the Visitor's Center and take the short 1 mile Visitor's Center Trail Loop; which is super easy for kiddos.


🎮 Arcades, But Let The Kids Win

Bond with Dad over a classic pinball game or challenge him to a car racing game at the local arcade. Lots of fun restaurants have a game zone inside so you can eat, drink and be the next pac-man champ.

NORTH: Boomers in Vista is still going strong and they've got more than just arcades. Think go-karts, amusement rides, mini-golf and bumper boats.

SOUTH: La Bella Cafe & Games is a casual Italian restaurant with lots of gaming options inside like arcades, fooseball, pool tables and video games. This is your one-stop for dinner and fun!

EAST: The Boardwalk in El Cajon has all you need to entertain everyone for a couple of hours including arcades, glow-in-the-dark bumper cars, VR, a small bounce house and even a bowling alley next door at Parkway Bowl if you want to keep the good times rolling.

CENTRAL: Dave & Buster's in Mission Valley is always a fun place to challenge each other to a game of skeeball or race car driving. This a large place with tons of gaming options in addition to their on-site full service restaurant so you can stay and play and eat too.




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