Summer's here and if your kids are like most, they're restless to get out and live it up, so take 'em to San Diego, which is rife with youth-oriented places. However, not all children's attractions are created with parents in mind. Careful planning, though -- and knowing about these nine places -- can ensure that everyone in the family will equally enjoy their San Diego trip.
1. SeaWorld (www.seaworld.com/sandiego), a renowned ocean-themed amusement park, is peppered with animal exhibits (including seals who'll howl at you for food), critter-filled shows, and engaging rides. Many travelers head to San Diego just to come here.
2. With some 4,000 animals, the San Diego Zoo (www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/index.html) lets kids visit their favorite, learn about new species, and see an endangered species only kept at a select few locations around the world: the panda. Kids love the guided bus tour and the aerial tram.
3. Inspire the young engineer with a trip to Legoland (www.legoland.com/california.htm), the perfect place at which to connect the toy chest to the toolbox. The park's models include replicas of major cities, animals, vehicles, and more, all painstakingly designed with millions of Lego bricks. Visitors can also get their kicks on theme rides, some of which leave riders soaked.
4. Take a safari at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (www.sandiegozoo.org/wap/index.html) to get kids up close to big animals from North American habitats, the African savannah, and jungle environs. The 25-mintue "Journey Into Africa" tour captivates most visitors, young and old.
5. Balboa Park (www.balboapark.org) is an urban cultural center that captures even the shortest attention spans. The grounds include gardens, art venues, and museums, but kids are likeliest to get pumped about the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (it's got an IMAX planetarium and a motion-simulator ride), the Air & Space Museum, the Hall of Champions Sports Museum, the Model Railroad Museum, and the top-notch San Diego Natural History Museum.
6. Nothing beats a family day at the ballpark; bring a glove in hopes of catching one of the Padres' foul balls at Petco Park (http://sandiego.padres.mlb.com), which is among America's newest and most heralded baseball stadiums. Kids younger than 15 can join the "Junior Padres" ($10) to get two tickets, a watch, a Jake Peavy backpack, baseball cards, and a cap.
7. A day of sun and fun at Mission Beach's Belmont Park (www.belmontpark.com) will be remembered for decades. The historic "Giant Dipper" has been thrilling visitors for the greater part of a century. But if the tots aren't big enough for roller coaster thrills, try the carousel or a round of miniature golf. When the youngsters are done with the rides, step out of the park and onto the beach for natural fun in the waves.
8. Fuel their daydreams at Chula Vista's U.S. Olympic Training Center (www.usoc.org/content/index/1375). Let the older kids who are racing toward their finish at Vancouver in 2010 or London in 2012 show your little ones where dedication can lead; stopping in on field hockey, softball, tennis, or track could very well put young onlookers on the path to the high school varsity locker room -- and farther. Tours are given Tuesday through Saturday at 1:30pm.
9. Take them to the races at the Del Mar Racetrack (www.dmtc.com), where children younger than 18 get free admission. Family Fun Day, July 26 this year, offers activities that kids can get excited about, including rock-climbing, carnival games, pony rides (of course), an obstacle course, and magic shows.
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