Today’s post is very specific but very necessary – a parent’s guide to San Diego. Hear me out.
I first set out to make a blog post out of our favorite parks in San Diego. Any sensible parent knows that having a great list of local parks up your sleeve is crucial. And San Diego has SO many amazing ones that my kids just lose their minds over.
Then I thought, why stop there? Any WISE parent knows that the best kind of a park trip is conducted with an iced coffee in hand.
Tyler and I have turned the park/coffee shop outing into an art form. The girls know that any trip to the park must begin with a stop at a coffee shop. It’s kind of the ultimate “fold your kids into your lifestyle” mentality moment.
These will either be within walking distance or just a short drive of each other.
We’ve had so much fun exploring San Diego these past few years. I did grow up in San Diego county but lived really far inland in this town that no one’s heard of. My knowledge of the coastal cities began with burritos from Cessy’s in Carlsbad and ended with this one specific beach access spot off Beech Street that everyone from my high school would congregate at on Saturday afternoons.
Needless to say, living on the west side of the county has been a blast. We take every opportunity we can to adventure around with the girls. I love living here in University City and have a really hard time picturing us anywhere else.
I say all this to try to communicate the passion behind this list. We love all of these spots so much and hope this roundup is helpful.
The list moves mostly from north to south, and I’ll be sure to link any relevant blog posts in each area too!
(And if you’re thinking about questioning the amount of our hard-earned money that goes straight towards cold brew, just move it right along sis!!!)
Lofty will appear a couple of times on this list, and for good reason. They have the best coffee and really good food and treats too. I love the acai bowl, the salted caramel latte, and the pumpkin muffins here. Parking at the Encinitas location can be annoying, so just find one spot in the neighborhood behind Lofty and plan to walk down the hill to the park at Moonlight Beach. My girls love this park.
Check out the rest of our favorite coffee shops in Encinitas here.
Mark my words, Tyler and I will retire in Cardiff. We adore this little town. We love both the pour-over and cold brew from Bump, and don’t sleep on their empanadas!! Also, we usually have a better time finding easy parking actually right at Glen Park which is a five minute walk away from Bump–a great chance to get some steps in before letting the kids loose at the park.
I love Cardiff so much that I have a whole guide about it–check it out here.
Fletcher Cove Park in Solana Beach is simple but perfect, complete with an ocean view and beach access if you’re feeling really ambitious. But first, coffee. I recommend stopping by Lofty on the drive in–they usually have plenty of spots in their little lot on Cedros. Then drive across PCH and park in the lot by the park or across the street.
Check out a bigger list of coffee shops in Solana Beach here.
Powerhouse Park in Del Mar might be my personal favorite on this list. It’s right on the water and just so stunning. I love the views and the shade-covered sandbox. Also, this might make me a bad mom, but they took out the swings a while back. This means I can be the “hands off” mom I strive to be without them bugging me to push them “big higher” lol. Don’t forget to hit Bird Rock for a cold brew on the way in.
I included Kellogg Park at La Jolla Shores because it’s a great park to visit on a weekday, but be warned that the traffic and parking situation on the weekend will make you want to tear your hair out. Pull into one of the 20 minute spots at The Corner Mercantile on your way in and grab a cold brew before driving over and parking at the La Jolla Shores Park.
This is our most-frequented pairing, as we head over to La Jolla cove at least once or twice a week. We usually split a cold brew from Parakeet, but we also love the smoothies at their sister juicery next store. Then we either walk straight down Silverado to the La Jolla Rec Center OR take the scenic route–down Gerard and then Jenner, along the coastal walk, and then up Cuvier to the rec center. The girls love the playground here, and sometimes we rent out soccer balls from the office and let them kick them up and down the field before heading home too. I have dreams of playing tennis at the courts here–just need to learn how to, you know, play tennis first.
Read my entire La Jolla travel guide here.
Bird Rock is one of our favorite little areas to “house hunt” (gawk). We like to swing by the OG Bird Rock Coffee and then make our way down to the waterfront Calumet Park. This grassy park is a great place to watch the sunset and let the girls kick a soccer ball around, although there isn’t an actual playgrounds, FYI. It’s more of a picnic spot but still very fun and pretty.
Communal Coffee holds a special place in my heart because Tyler and I used to always try to stop here when we’d fly down to visit my family before we moved here. All of the coffee drinks are delicious, and I love basically the entire toast section of the menu. They also have this new sausage sandwich that is SO satisfying. I love that Communal shares a space with Native Poppy Floral, so when Tyler is trying to make a big gesture he can grab a latte and a bouquet in one fell swoop. Communal is also only five minutes from the San Diego Zoo, making it the ideal stop to gear up for a big day of exploring.
Some days just call for a harbor walk. It’s one of my favorite things to do. We always let the girls run around at the Waterfront Park before we start walking and like to grab coffee at Portal Coffee before we head out to look at the boats. If you go early enough, it’s easy to find a spot on the embarcadero near the Star of India. Downtown San Diego sometimes gets a bad rap, but I still think it has one of the prettiest waterfronts in the world.
Liberty Station has it all, and we’ve spent many Saturday mornings at the playground or scootering along the water walkway. We love Moniker Coffee Co–both for coffee and breakfast (my faves are the avocado toast and the acai bowl). The girls and I all really get a kick out of the planes taking off right over our heads too.
Is there a dreamier place than Coronado? No. We love to load the bikes up and ride around Coronado once a month or so, and Tyler and I spent the night on our anniversary last year at the Hotel Marisol in downtown. The girls really love the playground at the Tidelands Park, so we usually let them play before we start our ride. Brunch or a to-go coffee from The Henry is an absolute must after.
You can read more Coronado recs here.
I’m sure I’m missing some amazing spots, so please let me know if there’s a park we need to check out in the comments section.
It’s a pre-weekend pick me up: just a little note with links to the latest blog posts, what I’m reading lately, and products I’m obsessed with. Think of it as a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning--you know?