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What's open ON Thanksgiving Day to Take Family in San Diego (2021)

We all know that kids' energy doesn't take a holiday! It might even be best to run them around before or after the big meal. Below are some favorite places to venture out ON Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Weekend. (Don't forget Green Friday, details at the bottom.💚 )

What's open and where to go ON Thanksgiving Day in San Diego (2021)?

Start new traditions and make some memories by exploring somewhere new to spend the holiday. From museums to theme parks, cruises, gardens, hikes, playgrounds and beaches...there are plenty of places to go ON Thanksgiving Day and Weekend. If you have out of town visitors or if your family is just driving you crazy, a change of scenery always puts everyone in a good mood.

(Anything can change, so check hours, info & safety policies before you go. ;)

Quick at a glance info, click the name for more details!

🦃 = open ON Thanksgiving Day


🦃 Hrs: several cruises avail Thur-Sun

🦃 Hrs: several cruises avail Thur-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 2:30pm Fri-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, several tours avail Fri-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, several tours avail Fri-Sun


🦃 Hrs: Park dawn-dusk; Fountain Jets 11-7

🦃 Hrs: 11-5 Thur, 11-7 Fri-Sun


🦃 Hrs: 9-4 Thur-Sun

🦃 Hrs: 7-5 Thur-Sun (*gates CLOSE at 5pm!)

🦃 Hrs: dawn-dusk or check the tides

🦃 Hrs: open 24 hrs/day to walk around outside

🦃 Hrs: 10-5 Thur-Sun (go watch the new Ghostbusters in IMAX on Thanksgiving!)

🦃 Hrs: 10-6 Thur-Sun; 6 and under are FREE!


🦃 Hrs: 11-4:30 Thur-Sun


🦃 Hrs: 11:30-5:30 Thur-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 10-4 Fri-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 11-4 Fri-Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 11-5 Fri, 10-5 Sat & Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 10-4:30 Fri-Sun


🦃 Hrs: 11-6 Thur, 11-10 Fri & Sat, 11-9 Sun

Hrs: closed Thur, 9-5 Fri-Sun

🦃 Hrs: 9-5 Thur-Sun

🦃 Hrs: 9-5 Thur, 9-8 Fri-Sun

🦃 Hrs: 10-7:30 Thur & Sun, 10-8 Fri & Sat 👾 LEGOLAND (Carlsbad)

🦃 Hrs: 10-5 Thur, 10-6 Fri-Sun


(🦃 = open ON Thanksgiving Day)


Be a tourist for the day! When's the last time you re-discovered your city?! This is the perfect way to spend the day with out of town visitors, especially if grandma or grandpa would prefer more of a "sitting" activity while still seeing the sights and spending time with the family. For deals, check Groupon as these are all usually listed.

🛳 Harbor Cruises

Cruise the Big Bay for a 1 hour sightseeing cruise or sign up for a sunset, brunch, lunch or dinner cruise. They have endless options during the holidays like Thanksgiving lunch or dinner cruises, even on Christmas Eve/Day and New Year's Eve/Day cruises. Either one you choose will make for such special memories together. Both boat tour companies below offer similar cruising experiences and both board along the Embarcadero, so plan ahead to walk over from a nearby paid parking lot. Deals: Check Groupon for deals. (This description is just for 1 & 2 below.)

🦃 1. HARBOR CITY CRUISES (Embarcadero)

Check out their Holiday Parade of Lights Dinner Cruise (Dec. 12 & 19, 2021), available as a dinner cruise only. You can see the dinner menu online, no mention of "children's" food though.

DEALS: Current offer for 20% off December Dining Cruises with the code "Cyber20"; deal ends 11/29/21.

HOURS: several available ON Thanksgiving Day and Weekend.

970 N Harbor Dr., Embarcadero



🦃 2. FLAGSHIP CRUISES & EVENTS (Embarcadero)

Check out their Holiday Parade of Lights Dinner Cruise (Dec. 12 & 19, 2021), available as a dinner cruise OR as a spectator cruise! You can see the dinner menu online, they even have a "Junior Sailor" menu.

DEALS: Get 10% off Sunday brunch & nightly dinner cruises with the code "Local"; also AAA, senior & military discounts.

HOURS: several available ON Thanksgiving Day and Weekend.

990 N Harbor Dr., Embarcadero



3. TIKI TIME BAY TOURS (Shelter Island)

A truly unique way to tour the bay is on this fun tiki boat excursion. They tour the Big Bay (not Mission Bay) with entertaining yet very knowledgeable tour guides. Boats hold a max of 30 people and private charters are available. This tour boards near Shelter Island so parking is cheap and easy.

HOURS: closed Thur; Fri-Sun, Nov. 26-29 at 2:30pm

2803 Emerson St., Shelter Island



🚌 SEAL Tours (Seaport Village)

View America's Finest City from a boat with wheels! That's right, it's am amphibious open-air bus/boat. You'll tour around the city to see the sights by land and then it will drive straight into the water for a tour of the bay by water. This tour boards at Seaport Village (see below), so you'll definitely want to make a day of it.

HOURS: closed on Thanksgiving Day, but several are available all weekend.

500 Kettner Blvd., Seaport Village



🚋 Old Town Trolley Tours (Old Town)

Hop on and off, or just stay on, for your fun tour around San Diego. You'll ride to the best sights like Old Town, Balboa Park, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Gaslamp District, Barrio Logan and over the bridge to the Hotel del Coronado. This is an open-air trolley (the back is more open and breezy, if the windows are down just ask if they'll put them up for fresh air flow) and the tour guides are very lively and will tell you fun stories along the way.

HOURS: closed on Thanksgiving Day, but several are available all weekend.

PLAN AHEAD: Their Holiday Tour Lights & Sights runs from Dec. 6-24, 26-30 for a 75 min nighttime tour to see San Diego's holiday lights; Christmas caroling included! This one sells out fast.

4010 Twiggs St., Old Town



💦 🦃 Waterfront Park (downtown/Little Italy)

Have a splash at the Waterfront Park! This is a fairly new park in San Diego where locals love to hang out. There's a large "Euro-style" playground with picnic tables on one side and then fountain jets that spray into the wading pools for kids to run and splash. The wading pools have a zero entry and only hold just a few inches of water so they're perfect for littles and bigs. There are bathrooms and a snack stand is sometimes open.

I highly suggest walking across the street to the newly opened Portside Pier where you'll find Gelato, coffee, Ketch Grill & Taps for fish & chips, Miguel's Cocina Restaurant and the Brigantine Seafood Restaurant (Portside Pier restaurants are not open on Thanksgiving Day, but they are that weekend.)

PARK HOURS: 6am-10pm daily


*Note: fountains and wading pools will not be operating starting at 7pm Sat Nov. 27 - Dec. 21 at 10:30am

COST: Free

PARKING: park in the underground parking garage right below the park, $10/day

1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101



🛍 🦃 Seaport Village (downtown/Embarcadero)

Shop, dine, walk and play in this 14 acre waterfront destination. You'll have views for days of the Coronado Bay Bridge, marinas for boats to oogle over and the sailboats and military ships as they cruise through the Big Bay.

What To Do: Check to see if the historic carousel is running ($4/rider cash only, ask for a locals reward card), walk south towards the marina to find surrey and bike rentals, buy a kite from Kite Flite (if you ask nicely he'll even let you check out one of his kites) to fly at the Embarcadero Marina Park; which is the perfect windy peninsula with a large grassy field for kite flying. This is where the SEALS Tour departs from (see above). There's so much to do that you can spend a couple hours or all day here.

Where To Eat: Some of our favorite restaurants there are Samburger by local famous Sam the Cooking Guy, San Diego Burger Co., Margaritas Cantina, Tuk Tuk asian eats, Mr. Moto Pizza and of course the Seaport Fudge Factory with Ben & Jerry's right next door.


11-5 Thur (most of the shops will likely be closed, but most of the restaurants will be open)

11-7 Fri-Sun

PARKING: park in the gated paid lot, push the button to take the ticket with you and Don't Forget to get it validated from one of your purchases for the "discounted" rate; otherwise you'll pay the "full" rate.

PLAN AHEAD: Holidays By The Bay starts on Nov. 27th with the annual arrival of Surfin' Santa, parade and photos. Throughout the month they'll have a breakfast with Santa (Dec. 11), photos with Santa (Nov. 13 - Dec. 24), story time with an elf, live entertainment with carolers, stilt walkers and other festive events. Don't miss their surfboard-style Christmas tree!

MORE ABOUT SEAPORT VILLAGE: Tune into my podcast episode that I did with All in San Diego and you'll learn all about Seaport Village, my tips and favorite spots, and a spooky past hiding among all the shopping. Episode 37 Seaport Village with @famdiego

849 W Harbor Dr., downtown/Embarcadero



🌺 🦃 San Diego Botanic Garden (Encinitas)

Wander through this "37 acre urban oasis with four miles of trails and the West Coast's largest children's garden." Kids will love climbing up and all around the live tree house in the Hamilton Children's Garden, making music with the outdoor instruments or playing in the stream or large sand box. Over at the Seeds of Wonder Children's Garden (on the opposite side of the gardens) are dinosaurs and trains. Everyone will love finding the turtle pond or just enjoying the beautiful grounds and waterfall.

HOURS: 9-4 Thur-Sun

TICKETS: entry by timed tickets available online

PLAN AHEAD: Botanic Wonderland is a beautiful annual holiday event that transforms the gardens into an illuminated display of twinkling lights. Grab some dinner from the food trucks, pull up to a fire pit and listen to carolers roaming, write letters to Santa and even take photos with Santa! Dates: Dec. 4-5, 10-23, 26-30.

300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas



⛰ 🦃 Mission Trails Regional Park (San Carlos)

Get in some fresh air, exercise and nature with a walk or hike at Mission Trails. There are plenty of trails to access either from the visitor center, the campground or from the other entrance on Jackson Dr.

HOURS: 7-5 Thur-Sun

*make sure you're driving out of the gates BEFORE they CLOSE AT 5PM so plan ahead to turn around on your hike so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the trails without having to rush back


1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Carlos




Don’t forget that your local playgrounds, parks and beaches are open too! There are too many to list here but for playgrounds we love Grape Day Park in Escondido, Powerhouse Park in Del Mar and Civita in Mission Valley. For parks we love Rohr Park in Bonita and San Dieguito County Park in Del Mar. For beaches we love any of them along Mission Bay, next to the Bahia or the Catamaran Hotels are great and Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Check the tide tables and go on a Tide Pooling Adventure. Winter time is the best season for tide pooling. You'll want to go about 1-2 hours before or after the low tide. Some of our favorite spots are Cabrillo Tide Pools and Scripps Pier.

HOURS: usually dawn-dusk, check tide tables if planning on going tide pooling


⛲️ 🦃 Balboa Park

Balboa Park is open 24 hours a day to walk around; however, only some of the museums & activities are partially open on Thanksgiving Day. It's such a great place to just walk around and enjoy the free open-air gardens and beautiful architecture. There's often food vendors, street musicians, magicians, the bubble guy for kids, and other performers. You'll always find something happening here any day of the year.

1549 El Prado, Balboa Park


See below for what's open at Balboa Park ON Thanksgiving Day + Thanksgiving Weekend:

🔭 🦃 Fleet Science Center

One of our all-time favorite places to go any day because they're open 365 days a year.

They just upgraded their IMAX dome screen to a laser projection; which means they're now showing Blockbuster movies on the B-I-G IMAX Screen! On Thanksgiving Day you can even watch the new release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife (I suggest you get tickets ahead of time). You can always watch their beautiful short wildlife films that are about 45 minutes long and are the perfect length to keep kids' attention spans hooked on the screen to see larger-than-life animals. (psst...they have popcorn, snacks, drinks and dranks too ;)

They have a new exhibit upstairs called DigitalMe that's a fun way to explore how your online presence affects everything you do, but it's done in a really creative and fun way. They have a cute Automata exhibit that explores the old world art of wood-carving + mechanical movement.

There are lots of other fun interactive exhibits here, but you should definitely do their Virtual Reality experience while you still can because it'll be going away around the end of the year.

HOURS: 10-5 every day of the year, including holidays

COST: $21.95/ages 13+; $19.95/ages 65+; $18.95/ages 3-12; Free for ages 2 and under; includes 1 documentary IMAX film. Blockbuster Movies on the IMAX are $18.

1875 El Prado, Balboa Park



⛩ 🦃 Japanese Friendship Garden

Find peace and tranquility here in these beautifully and ornately landscaped gardens. There's a smooth flat trail that meanders from the top down into the bottom of the ravine so it's perfect for strollers, walkers & wheelchairs. You'll pass bamboo water fountains, koi fish pond, Japanese sculptures, bonsai trees as you go over arched bridges and jump across the stepping stones. There are two waterfalls that feed into a stream that flows through the center of these gardens. At the bottom is another koi fish pond, museum and a snack bar with patio tables. Bathrooms are at the top and bottom of this trail.

Hours: 10-6 Thur-Sun, 6 and under are FREE!

TICKETS: Reservations are no longer needed, buy tickets online if you can but they will sell as a walk-up

COST: $12/ages 7+; $10/students + seniors + military; FREE for kids ages 6 and under!!

Memberships are totally worth it and pay for itself with usually just 2-3 visits, so if you're local or visit San Diego often you should consider getting one. They start at $40/individual, $60/family 2 adults + 2 kids, $90/generational 4 adults and go up from there. NOTE: Your membership here will get you in for FREE to other nearby gardens in San Diego and in the country, through the reciprocal admission program of the American Horticultural Society.

2215 Pan American Rd. E., Balboa Park



All other Balboa Park Museums are closed ON Thanksgiving Day, but are open Thanksgiving Weekend. These are just some of our kid's favorite museums at Balboa Park:

🦕 San Diego Natural History Museum

Hours: closed Thur, 10-4 Fri-Sun;

🚂 San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Hours: closed Thur, 11-4 Fri-Sun;

🚗 San Diego Automotive Museum

Hours: closed Thur, 11-5 Fri, 10-5 Sat & Sun;

🚀 San Diego Air & Space Museum

Hours: closed Thur, 10-4:30 Fri-Sun;

MORE ABOUT BALBOA PARK: Tune into my podcast episode that I did with All in San Diego and you'll learn all about Balboa Park, my tips and favorite spots. Episode 1 Balboa Park with @famdiego


🚂 🦃 Balboa Park Mini Train

The cutest little train has ride-on cars for kids and adults to enjoy. A 5 minute loop ride will take you around a beautifully landscaped exhibit full of "wild" animals and a fun tunnel at the end.

HOURS: 11-4:30 on weekends and "most school holidays"

COST: $3/pp ages 1+; ages 5 and younger must ride with a paying adult

1800 Zoo Pl., Balboa Park (next to the Zoo & Carousel)



🎠 🦃 Balboa Park Carousel

Previous notes indicates it's NOT open ON Thanksgiving Day, but open all other days the week; however, their website says they're open on "school holidays" which would be Thanksgiving. I'll update this info when I have it confirmed.

HOURS: 11:30-5:30 on weekends and "most school holidays"

COST: $3/ride or 4 for $10

1889 Zoo Pl., Balboa Park (next to the Zoo and Mini Train)



🎢 🦃 Belmont Park (Mission Beach)

Nothing says a San Diego holiday more than spending it at this beachside amusement park where you can eat and play all day. Ride the iconic historic wooden roller coaster, or the classic carousel, or any of the other spinning, rolling and twisting rides (several of these allow little kids to ride). The arcade is fun, there's even a zipline and their Tiki Town has miniature golf, a ropes course suspended in air and the famous Dole Whip Pineapple soft serve truck. Indulge in the classic amusement park food options like pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers or step it up a notch at one of their ocean-view sit-down restaurants. You can also rent bikes at their rental shop to cruise up and down the boardwalk.

HOURS: 11-6 Thur, 11-10 Fri & Sat, 11-9 Sun

TIP: Check out their ride heights and ticket requirements online before you go to help you plan your day and spending

COST: starts at $10 for 10 tickets (or you can buy single tickets), but it's best to buy a bundle; or even an annual pass if you're local and visit often

PLAN AHEAD: Winter Wonderland is a holiday spectacular that starts on Friday Nov. 26 - Jan. 2 and will put you in a festive mood for the holidays. They'll feature illuminated larger-than-life holiday sculptures, a Christmas Tree Farm, seasonal character appearances, face painting, balloon art, and even holiday movie nights. (Movies: 11/26 National Lampoons Christmas Vacation; 12/3 The Grince; 12/10 Frozen; 12/17 elf.)

MORE ABOUT BELMONT PARK: Tune into my podcast episode that I did with All in San Diego and you'll learn all about Belmont Park, my tips and favorite spots. Episode 13 Belmont Park with @famdiego

3146 Mission Blvd., Mission Beach



🐠 Birch Aquarium (La Jolla)

Explore what's under the sea at Birch Aquarium. Their show-stoppers are the floor to ceiling window viewing of the kelp forest and their inhabitants (stunning!) and their outside touch pools have one of the THE best views of the San Diego coastline (also stunning!). My kids' favorite is their outdoor back patio that has all of the water play tables and activities for kids.

Go inside to see one of my favorite exhibits "Oddities" where you'll see what superpowers the sea creatures have; think electric eels and glow-in-the-dark powers. Their jelly-fish and seadragons/seahorses tanks are pretty mesmerizing too.

Don't miss one of my other favorite spots here...the Splash Cafe is amazing. It's run by our local The French Gourmet restaurant and the food is worth coming here for. Since the Cafe is outside before the entrance, you don't even need to go into aquarium to enjoy a bite here; which you definitely should. They have excellent kids choices, hot, cold & healthy options too. Seating is outside patio only.

HOURS: closed Thur, 9-5 Fri-Sun

TICKETS: entry by reservation & online tickets only, no walk-up sales

COST: $24.95/adults; $19.95/kids 3-17; Free for ages 2 and under; $22.95/seniors + military

Memberships are totally worth it and pay for themself with usually just 3 visits, so if you're local or visit San Diego often you should consider getting one. They start at $74/individual; $99/for two adults; $179/family + four kids and up from there.

PLAN AHEAD: Seas 'n' Greetings starts Dec. 1-24, 26-31 where you can find some holiday magic in the depths of the sea. Scuba Santa usually makes an appearance in the kelp forest, SEAsonal decor, music and holiday activities will keep the whole family entertained.

2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla



🦁 🦃 San Diego Zoo (Balboa Park)

The San Diego Zoo is open EVERY DAY of the year, rain or shine! If you have a membership you can easily go for an hour or two. Heck, you can even enjoy a festive gourmet Thanksgiving meal at Albert's Restaurant (plan ahead because it always sells out) or a casual meal at their other restaurants.

For any guests with difficulty walking, you should know that this is a big zoo with lots of hills. BUT, I highly recommend taking the guided bus tour where you can sit down and see a lot of animals. You can rent a motorized chair, take the Skyfari gondola ride that zips through the air above the zoo and either get off on the other side or ride it back. So there are lots of things to see and do for those with impaired mobility.

HOURS: 9-5 Thur-Sun

COST: Day passes are $62/ages 12+; $52/ages 3-11 and Free for those 2 and under.

Memberships are totally worth it and pay for itself with usually just 2 visits, so if you're local or visit San Diego often you should consider getting one. They start at $95/ages 18+ and $62/ages 3-17 and includes entry into BOTH parks: the San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park and the Safari Park in Escondido.

Reservations are no longer required.

2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101



🐘 🦃 Safari Park (Escondido)

The Safari Park is open EVERY DAY of the year, rain or shine! If you have a membership you can easily go for an hour or two.

*Note: Wild Holidays starts on Friday Nov. 26th and runs through Jan. 2nd. Holiday lights, Santa's Village, story time and live music.

HOURS: 9-5 Thur, 9-8 Fri-Sun

COST: Day passes are $62/ages 12+; $52/ages 3-11 and Free for those 2 and under.

Memberships are totally worth it and pay for itself with usually just 2 visits, so if you're local or visit San Diego often you should consider getting one. They start at $95/ages 18+ and $62/ages 3-17 and includes entry into BOTH parks: the San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park and the Safari Park in Escondido.

Reservations are no longer required.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido



🐬 🦃 SeaWorld (Mission Bay)

Christmas starts early at SeaWorld with their Christmas Celebration from Nov. 12 - Jan. 2. All of their fun and educational animal shows have a really cute holiday twist to them, these are my personal favorite to see here. Some of their main features this year are the New Santa's Circus Show and Snowfall, Elmo's Christmas Wish Show, Santa's Cottage where you can take photos and share your wishes with him, cookie decorating with Cookie Monster, character sightings, holiday shopping, festive food & drinks, the lighted tunnel with synchronized music is a MUST, and nightly tree lighting and fireworks on select nights. There's so much to be jolly about!

TIP: See their website for all the details and showtimes so you can plan your day around which shows you don't want to miss. Daily Schedule here

SANTA PHOTOS: If you're looking for that perfect Santa Photo, this might be the spot for you because SeaWorld's Santa Photo backgrounds are the best that I've seen of anywhere in San Diego. ;)

HOURS: 10-7:30 Thur, 10-8 Fri-Sun


500 Sea World Dr., Mission Bay



👾 🦃 LEGOLAND California (Carlsbad)

May your holidays be awesome when you visit LEGOLAND California during Nov. 20 - Jan. 2. Take photos with life-size LEGO friends like Santa on his sleigh, the Toy Soldier and the Gingerbread Man. Even more impressive is their LEGO Tree decorated with over 400 LEGO ornaments with a "snow" fall as the lights dance to holiday music at the Light Show. There'll be live music, festive food and of course the 60+ rides, shows and other attractions that we love at LEGOLAND.

If you have too much fun, you won't have far to walk if you plan ahead to spend the night at their LEGOLAND Hotel on-site.

HOURS: 10-5 Thur, 10-6 Fri-Sun

TICKETS: entry by dated ticket or advanced reservations only


1-day starts at $104.99 for Thanksgiving Day and Weekend Fri-Sun

1-day starts at $89.99 for a non-holiday mid-week

*If you plan to go more than two days then it's better to buy an annual pass (Gold passes are on sale now for early Black Friday Sale)

One Legoland Dr., Carlsbad




The Friday after Thanksgiving, the San Diego Parks & Rec are encouraging everyone to swap their day of shopping for a day in the park! They're waiving the day use fees and even partnered with Lyft for Free rides to select parks. See website for details!

On the day after Thanksgiving, County Parks encourages San Diegans to swap shopping plans for outdoor experiences. We celebrate the 'upside of outside' with family-friendly activities in parks and preserves across the region, on a holiday we’ve coined Green Friday!

Green Friday promotes fitness and fun in County parks. From ranger-led hikes and bike rides to touch tables and birds-of-prey expos, events are both active and educational – aligning with County Parks’ mission to balance recreation opportunity with efforts to protect and preserve land and local wildlife.

This year we’re taking things to the next level with new activities, partners, sponsors and expanded reach by partnering with Live Well San Diego!

Green Friday events are open to the public and there is no cost to attend. In fact, even the day-use fees (at parks where they are collected) are waived.

We’re so THANKFUL to live in such an AMAZING city that has so many FUN and stimulating places for KIDS! 💛

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