UPDATE: I have just updated this list here.
I keep forgetting all the things there are to do with young kids in my neighborhood, so I’m going to make a list here, to remind myself to stop just going to the same old places, and maybe to help some other parents looking for things to do with toddlers around Encinitas.
- Astroturf at Seaside Market (FREE, but you’ll probably get frozen yogurt or a slice of pizza while you’re there). Over to the side of the market, by the frozen yogurt place, there’s this surprisingly appealing area of astroturf that is a toddler’s paradise. Somehow the stairs, sculptures, shade, space size or something combine to create the perfect little triangle for two-year-olds.
- Beaches (FREE) especially the ones with playgrounds (Moonlight, Fletcher’s Cove).
- Birch Aquarium at Scripps. One of the most beautiful aquariums anywhere.
- Brunch at the french bakery-place at the Lumberyard Market. Sophie actually brings her rubber duckies here, to bob in the fountain (FREE) after she eats her chocolate croissant. It’s the best brunch spot for a kid who likes to run around. Not to slight Swami’s or Pipe’s or VG’s or Naked Cafe or E-Street Cafe or Pannikin or that place across the street from Swami’s that gives out the great plastic monkeys with every drink — they’re all good, and it really depends on my mood and my need for acai, Dana, donuts, baked goods, or monkeys — but the Lumberyard does have the best fountain.
- Baby Loves Disco is temporarily without a San Diego location, but I plan to attend as soon as they’re back.
- Carmel Valley Recreation Center. The rumor is that they have a kids’ pool / water park / wading area kind of place. Next hot day, we’re heading here.
- Family Swim at the Magdalene Ecke YMCA. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are the only times when the family-swim schedule matches Sophie’s nap-schedule, unfortunately, but that means it gets to be a Daddy-daughter trip.
- Fish tacos at Roberto’s or that place at the top of the beach stairway at the Cardiff Campground.
- Hullabaloo Kids’ Concerts at the Encinitas Community Center, on some Mondays at 10:30 — and at other local libraries and parks, so check their website for the schedule.
- Lagoon walks (FREE) at San Elijo Lagoon or Batiquitos Lagoon.
- Legoland. Amazingly, we haven’t yet visited. I heard a rumor that you get free admission if you show up an hour before closing.
- Library Story Times (FREE). Schedules are here or here. Since I work Tuesday through Thursday, I miss out on the Encinitas branch’s famous Thursday 10-am story-time, but that was getting crowded anyway. I get to choose from the Friday 10 am storytime at Cardiff, Saturday 10:30 am at Cardiff, Mondays 9:30 am at Solana Beach, or Mondays 11 am at Encinitas. Not a bad choice, especially on days when it’s too sunny to go outside all day. Somehow, our county has ended up with fabulous libraries.
- The New Children’s Museum in San Diego. We haven’t been yet, but we’ve heard rave reviews.
- Pizza at Best-a-wan or Pizza Port.
- Quail Botanical Gardens kids’ garden: musical instruments, stackable wood, alphabet-plants, and more. Summer evening concerts, Christmas lights display that is not-to-be-missed…
- San Diego Zoo, of course. It’s expensive, but if you can get a visiting relative to buy you a membership, you can go as often as you like after that.
- Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens (FREE) are gorgeous, calm, and surprisingly kid-friendly as long as you use a sling (strollers and stairs aren’t a good match) or have a kid who likes to climb stairs. Sophie loves the koi fish here.
- Tidepooling (FREE).
- Tiny Tumblers Open Gym at the Magdalene Ecke YMCA gymnastics location (6100 Avenida Encinas in Carlsbad). 11 am on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays (noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays, just in case you don’t share my work-schedule or Sophe’s nap-schedule).
- Train rides north to San Clemente, for lunch and the petting zoo (or maybe even the mission, if you’re feeling ambitious). South to Old Town San Diego. Either direction is good. Sunset train rides are especially good.
- Wild Animal Park as long as the day isn’t too hot, because this place is inland. My friend took her 5-year-old niece here for their sleep-with-the-lions safari. My friend is the coolest aunt ever.
I’ll probably think of more things as soon as I publish this. I may have left off your favorite thing, too. Add it in the comments. Collectively, we can create a pretty good guide to north county toddler times, I think.