San Diego Baby + Toddler Bucket List

I've been asked a lot about what I do with my time as a "stay-at-home" mom and how my son and I fill our days. I feel so blessed to get to spend this season of life showing my son the world, but I'll admit, at first it was tough to figure out what the heck to do with this little human after I had recovered from a c-section. I decided to create a baby and toddler bucket list to get all our options down in one place! I used these lists the first two years of Zanden's life to get us out of the house, make new friends and explore what San Diego / Southern California has to offer. As a new mom, getting out with a baby and forming a routine you enjoy can be a challenge. In the beginning, I literally would just check things off day by day. The items were as simple as going to the park or as exciting as our first trip to Disneyland. Over time, we've learned what activities are our favorites and what we may skip with baby #2, who will be joining our family this summer!


Stroller/Carrier Walks. I joined a local Meetup group where I ended up meeting a bunch of great friends to walk with, since we are relatively new to the San Diego area and few of my current friends had kids. I also did Stroller Strides for a period of time before my son became more mobile. Here is a list of some great stroller walks to check out:
     -Batiquitos Lagoon (Carlsbad).
     -Discovery Lake (San Marcos).
     -Carlsbad Village boardwalk from Starbucks to Tamarack (Carlsbad).

Park Play Dates. Here are some of the parks we have checked out and enjoyed:
     -Hidden Canyon Community Park (Carlsbad).
     -Shadowridge Park (Vista).
     -Calavera Hills Community Park (Carlsbad). Sand and some nice shady spots.
     -Aviara Community Park (Carlsbad).
     -Poinsettia Community Park (Carlsbad).
     -Alga Norte Community Park (Carlsbad). Sand and modern playground. Fun to watch the skateboarders too!
     -Cottonwood Creek Park (Encinitas).
     -Glen Park (Cardiff). Sand and trains that go by!
     -Sunset Park (San Marcos). Awesome splash pad during the warmer months!

Beach Days. I like having my husband or a childless friend with me for these because the sand/lounge gear factor can be a little tough to manage by yourself while carrying a baby or wrangling a toddler! We love Moonlight and Beacon's Beach (Encinitas), Carlsbad State Beach and Ponto Beach (Carlsbad).

Leo Carrillo Ranch (Carlsbad). Free, cool/historic place to walk around, see peacocks and have a picnic.

Strawberry Picking (Carlsbad). Such a fun springtime activity! Prepare for a filthy-dirty toddler covered in strawberry juice and red dirt!

Apple Picking (Julian). A must-do for fall! We went in September with a big group of 18-month-olds to Peacefield Boutique Orchard and had the best time! Here's some photos from our trip.



Pumpkin Patch (various locations). Such a great fall tradition to get a photo of your babe with the pumpkins every year!

Bernardo Winery (Rancho Bernardo). 

Bike Rides. My husband loves taking Zanden on the back of his bike, in our neighborhood or at the Carlsbad beach boardwalk.

Babywearing Hike. My husband and I love hiking around Torrey Pines!





GroovaRoo Babywearing Dance (various locations). I did these classes every week with my son from four to 18 months old, until he no longer liked being in the Tula/Ergo carrier. It was such a special bonding time for us and a great community of first-time moms! You can drop in or buy a class punch card.

Musical Sing and Sign (Encinitas). A woman named Laura Greer teaches musical sign language classes at the Encinitas Library and a drop-in class at her home for crawlers - early walkers. Great for teaching your baby some signs to jump start communication!

Library Story Times (Dove Library, Cole Library, Encinitas Library). Check out your local library's kids calendar for a list of FREE drop-in story times for kids of all ages! My toddler likes the Movers and Shakers class at Cole Library the best.

Gymnastics Classes. We did First Step Gymnastics at Calavera Hills Community Park when Zanden was about 18 months. He conquered some fears through the course of the class (climbing up the bouncy slide, balance beam, trusting his teacher) and worked on some self-control skills during circle time. It is a six-week structured program through the city of Carlsbad. We are now trying out JW Tumbles in Encinitas. 

Mommy and Me Preschool. Encinitas Country Day School has a FREE Mommy and Me Preschool program. They have indoor and outdoor free play time, music time and snack time twice a week from 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. Best of all, it's commitment! 


Join a Moms Group. We do MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which is a Christian organization that has local chapters all over the country. Their meetings are a great way to meet other moms in the same stage of life and learn from experienced mentor moms as well. We also have a moms group through my church that is wonderful!

Off to the Farmhouse Mommy and Me (San Marcos). This small family farm has baby goats, mama goats, chickens, bunnies and a pig! My guy loved holding and feeding the animals all morning! Must reserve a spot in advance via their Facebook page. Best for toddlers close to age two and up.


Swim Lessons. A must for any baby/toddler in Southern California to learn pool safety and get comfortable in the water! My husband takes our son to Waterworks on weekday nights as a fun father-son activity.

Babywearing Barre. Not my cup of tea, but some people love it. We tried a class at The Daily Method in Carlsbad. 

Little Rascalz Soccer. The parent participation league for 18 months - three years old is the cutest thing ever!

Play Gyms. We've tried out Gymboree and Lil Busy Bodies. My two-year-old loved the Level 5 class at Gymboree! 


Get Air Trampoline Gym (Vista). $8 per hour or two hours for the price of one on Tuesdays. My little guy loved bouncing around and running into the foam pits. Make sure to go during the week when it's not busy - you don't want your toddler getting trampled by older kids / adults. They do have a "little air" area which is supposed to be for smaller tots. Best for toddlers close to age two and up.

Kidsville (Carlsbad). Not our favorite spot (germs and crazy older kids not being well-supervised), but worth checking out for the sake of variety. Best for toddlers close to age two and up.

YMCA Open Gym (Carlsbad). The Magdalena Ecke YMCA has open gym Monday-Saturday for ages six months - five years. Check their website for cost and times. My son loves the foam pit, balance beams, slides and trampoline! You can pay at the door; no need to reserve a spot.



San Diego Zoo Safari Park / San Diego Zoo (Escondido, San Diego). An annual pass to the Safari Park / SD Zoo is a perfect first birthday gift! We have gone about twice a month since getting our pass and my son loves it more and more each time we go! Great for babies between one and two years old especially.


San Diego Botanic Garden (Encinitas). They have free admission ($2 parking) for San Diego residents the first Tuesday of every month. Babies will be happy cruising around in a stroller and older toddlers will enjoy the sand pit, water fountain, train area and a treehouse play structure.

Legoland and Sea Life Aquarium (Carlsbad). We decided to get annual passes when my son was a little over a year old since it's a short drive away. We go to the aquarium 2-3 times a month for just an hour or two and will be heading to the water park splash pad in the warmer months. My two-year-old can only go on a handful of the theme park rides, but they do have some fun playground areas, a carousel and a boat ride that he loves.

Birch Aquarium (La Jolla). Small aquarium, but worth checking out. Pretty outdoor area overlooking the ocean.

Free Flight Bird Sanctuary (Del Mar). Cute little place with lots of exotic birds to meet and greet. Some are friendly enough to hold on your arm! Small entry fee.

The Flower Fields (Carlsbad). Not good for active crawlers (muddy red dirt), but fun for babies in the stroller/carrier or steady walkers. Great for pictures in the spring!



San Diego Children's Discovery Museum (Escondido). My 18-month-old had a blast here! They have lots to do indoors and outdoors - a pirate ship, interactive science exhibits, a bubble station, a water station, a sand pit, a chicken coop, etc.

Train Ride / Zoomars Petting Zoo (San Juan Capistrano). One of my favorite things I've done with my almost two-year-old was when we took the Pacific Surfliner train up North to San Juan Capistrano! It was a short 40-minute ride from Oceanside Transit Center. The SJC train stop is a block away from Zoomars - a fun petting zoo with guinea pigs, goats, horses, llamas, pigs, pony rides, a train and a playground.


Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation (Carlsbad). Donation-based place to see/hold some small pets and reptiles. You can also grab a bite to eat in their parking lot cafe. 

San Diego County Fair (Del Mar). This event runs through most of June and into early July. Parking was a little crazy but they had so many fun rides for my two-year-old! He absolutely loved getting to go all by himself in race cars, boats, flying name it! He also loved getting to see all the farm animals and climb on tractors. Will definitely be going again next year!


Petco Park (San Diego). Petco Park is a great venue to check off your bucket list. We've taken Zanden to a Padre Game here when he was a baby and Monster Jam as a toddler. He is obsessed with monster trucks, so the show was a hit!


Choice Juicery (Carlsbad). Great spot to meet up for a healthy lunch or smoothie while toddlers run around the artificial grass area or babies play on a blanket.

Crack Shack (Encinitas). Long lines as you approach lunch time, but if you get there before 11:00 a.m., they have quick service and a great sand pit for toddlers to play in while you eat your gourmet chicken sandwich.

Out of TowN

Catalina Island. We had an awesome weekend on Catalina with our 18-month-old and in-laws. We stayed in a beautiful condo at Hamilton Cove, cruised around Avalon in the golf cart and had a fun beach day at Descanso Beach Club. Note: bring your carseat - you still have to use one on a golf cart! Here's some photos from our trip.

Disneyland. We took Zanden for the first time when he was 22 months and I couldn't have asked for a more fun time! I grew up going to Disneyland with my family, and it was so special to see it through a child's eyes again. He loves all the characters and rides so much!


Palm Springs. An easy weekend getaway with plenty of kid-friendly hotels and rental homes to choose from.

Balboa Island. My family and I had the best time staying four nights on Balboa Island this year! We rented a house walking distance from the bay and the main street with all the shops and restaurants. Zanden had a blast digging in the sand at the bay (so much easier than the beach), watching the boats, and taking the ferry over to the fun zone. Such an easy family vacay!


New Children's Museum
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
Cabrillo Tide Pools
Music Class
Seaport Village
La Jolla Cove
San Elijo Lagoon
Keys Creek Lavender Farm