Golden Gate Bridge Drive

Exploring the Marin Headlands of San Francisco’s Bay Area

Early in August, we set off for our annual family summer trip and chose to spend a week exploring Northern California. We have been to San Diego and Southern California many times and have all loved it. This time, we thought we’d enjoy exploring the northern coast and the Bay Area.

With ten days to plan, it wasn’t hard filling up our time and were able to do a wide variety of things that pleased everyone in our family of four. From hiking the mystical Marin Headlands, to getting lost within the towering giant redwoods of John Muir’s famous quotes, and being mesmerized in San Francisco’s Chinatown, there was plenty of nature, culture, and togetherness for our family.

Over the course of nine days, we began our trip in Marin County moving next down the coast to Monterey and finishing up our journey in San Francisco for two days before flying home. It was a wonderful vacation filled with beauty and adventure.

With so much to do and see in the area, it can be a bit overwhelming to make the most of your stay. Here are some tips on what to do and see in the Marin Headlands before heading south down the coast.

First stop: Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

After arriving at the San Francisco International Airport, we got our luggage, rented a car and headed 20 miles north on Highway 280 to the Marin Headlands across the bay from San Francisco. It was our first taste of real California traffic and we were quite thankful that we were heading into town in the middle of the day as opposed to rush hour.

After crossing the glorious Golden Gate Bridge in full fog, we pulled over at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point on the edge of the craggy Marin Headlands overlooking the bay. Although it was quite busy, we had no problem waiting for a car to pull out and grab the spot. This is where we took our first photo of this iconic landmark graced in fog.

Golden Gate Bridge

Our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. My daughter smiles proudly. 

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The Flower Fields San Diego CA

An afternoon at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Springtime in San Diego is a wonderful time to visit as the weather is perfect and all the gorgeous flowers are in bloom. My family and I went for my children’s spring break vacation during the first week of April and despite the crowds at some of the main tourist sites, it was a fabulous time to go.

One afternoon while the kids were enjoying Legoland, I decided I needed a break from the crowds and commotion and decided to check out the neighboring Carlsbad Flower Fields. I had read about it in my guidebook and knew that it would be something I’d enjoy seeing especially after a long, colorless winter in Minnesota.

The Flower Fields San Diego CA

Open every spring, the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is an extraordinary burst of color and beauty with thousands of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers  in bloom, covering over 50 acres of hillside property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. To see the Flower Fields is quite an experience. The striking inundating colorful hills of flowers juxtaposed against the backdrop of the dark blue water is spectacular especially for the color-craved eyes.

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Torrey Pines State Reserve CA

Top Five Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

This year for our kid’s spring break, we decided to do something a little different. Instead of spending our entire vacation in Tucson with my parents, we split our vacation in half and spent four days in San Diego and the remainder of the week in Tucson. We had never been to San Diego before and had heard it was a great place to visit with kids. We booked our ticket to fly from Minneapolis to San Diego and return from Tucson, Arizona. Given the high price of airline tickets, it really wasn’t that much different and would save us driving time.

I had high expectations for San Diego and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. It is a fabulous city with tons to do, beautiful weather, excellent outdoor dining and enough sunshine and ocean air to make anyone smile, even a grumpy kid. What I loved so much about San Diego is its ease for pleasing everyone and its endless amount of things to do outside. By carefully planning a trip that involved a little bit for everyone, we all had a fabulous, memorable time.

When traveling with kids, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything that is kid-focussed and kid-friendly. But after you read this post, you will see that you can easily find enough fun for all ages making San Diego the perfect place for a family vacation.

Here is my top five list of what to do in San Diego with Kids:

An evening in La Jolla

La Jolla is magical, simply serene in its beauty and tranquility. And, what can be better than seeing all the mama and baby seals in the wild? The kids loved this place as did I. We meandered along the boardwalk taking in the gorgeous views, watched the seals and their pups and then finished with a spectacular Italian meal on an outside patio near the beach. In my book, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.

A day exploring the San Diego Zoo

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La Jolla Caves, San Diego California

An afternoon in La Jolla

Nestled along the coastline north of San Diego lies the beautiful, hilly seaside town of La Jolla. Known as the one of the most affluent addresses in all of San Diego, La Jolla is the perfect place to dine, shop, and visit some of California’s most beautiful beaches.

I had heard all the rave reviews of La Jolla and was curious to see if it would meet my expectations. After landing in San Diego on a Friday afternoon in late March, we headed to our hotel in nearby Del Mar to check in and then drove straight to La Jolla. As soon as we arrived and we saw the spectacular, rugged 7-mile coastline I knew La Jolla would be wonderful. La Jolla is a place that anyone instantly falls in love with.

La Jolla Caves, San Diego California

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