Sure, Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo get a lot of (well-deserved) glory. And they’re stops as delightful for residents as for first-time visitors to the area.
But something happens when your kids hit, say, the ripe old age of 10. They start to roll their eyes (ever so discretely at first) when you chirp, “Let’s do something fun this weekend! As a family!”
Don’t worry, sooner than you think, they’ll grow out of the tween years…hit the teen years…and then one day, they’ll come back to their senses. In the meantime, remember they’re still young enough to enjoy a lot of “kid-friendly” activities, even if they carefully mask their enjoyment with some well-timed eye rolls.
Tweens are also able to participate in many activities more suited to adults, that parents will enjoy too – much more than a petting zoo!
Below, a fresh list of family-friendly things to do in San Diego (and nearby), especially well-suited for tweens in those magical middle school years, and their families.
Footnote: Get Some Extra Credit in History
If you haven’t taken your family to the USS Midway, well, you should. And if your tweens were mere babes when you visited, it’s time to go again. ‘Nuff said.
The Mormon Battalion Historical Site is quaint, picturesque, and often overlooked by locals and tourists alike. Why is it a smart place to take your tween? Middle schoolers are just beginning to to consider the cultural differences and viewpoints of others. They’re really starting to think for themselves, and see that some decisions have larger, long-term ramifications than others.
In that regard, the San Diego Mormon Battalion Historical Site offers a lot of thoughtful fodder for the dinner table. Like, why would Latter-day Saint men and women join the U.S. Army? What groups besides Latter-Day Saints have struggled throughout U.S. history?
Admission is free.
Get Outta Town
If your kids have reached double-digits age and have yet to go camping, shame on you. It’s easy to rectify the situation, however. Try a night at Cuyamaca State Park, where primitive, RV, and family campsites are available. (Reservations are required April-October.)
Not sure you really want to rough it? Look at commercial campgrounds like Pinezanita, where you can rent a cottage rather than pitch a tent.
Paintball! With the Parents?
When your kids are in teetering on the brink of the teenage years, you have to meet them where they are. Sometimes, they’re still sweet little kids, happy to play with their parents and siblings. Other times…not so much. Make a reservation to play paintball, and they can get in touch with both the sweet kid side and the mixed-up middle schooler – and play with their parents. Down side: yep, you probably will get embarrassed. Up side: you’ll be making family memories that won’t fade.
Bonus: Yes! This counts as exercise!
Tip: Make a reservation, for two reasons. One, once committed, it’ll happen (you probably know that tweens are famous forchanging their minds, sometimes at the last minute). Two, you actually need a reservation. (Not sure just what to expect?Contact us. We talk to nervous parents all the time.)
Plan a Ducky Day Out
You know that kid who used to love to jump in mud puddles and scoop up worms? He’s still there, just sometimes hard to recognize under that pre-teen facade.
Grab a bag of stale bread and go find a duck pond. No kidding, San Diego’s climate makes this area a duck-watcher’s dream, almost all year long. A little break from screens and a walk around a serene lake or pond will do you and your tween a lot of good. If you don’t already have a spot in mind, consider Lake Murray, on the edge of Mission Trails Regional Park, is a good choice.
Smart stuff: If your kid has an interest in scientist, see what he can tell you about migration patterns and duck behavior.
If feeding the ducks is way too tame for your tween-turning-into-a-teen (or just sounds boring to the rest of the family) maybe a haunted tour or just a visit to a site with a lot of scary lore would be more to your liking. Because there are many San Diego haunts, we recommend checking online reviews or with friends who have participated in particular events to judge which ones are best suited to your family’s taste for the supernatural.
Whatever you and your tween end up doing together, enjoy it. Like every other phase of childhood, this one – eye-rolling and all – will pass quickly.
You can even shoot some zombies this Halloween at San Diego Paintball Park! Check out the image below for info on our annual San Diego Zombie Shoot.