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Last-minute spring break activities for kids

Spectators from all over visit Carlsbad Flower Fields in these photos taken on March 2, 2022
Carlos Castillo
Spectators from all over visit Carlsbad Flower Fields in these photos taken on March 2, 2022

Spring has sprung — even though it might not feel like it. Regardless of the weather, San Diego County students are on spring break, and if the not-so-sunny weather created some planning procrastination on your part, here are some fun last-minute activities in San Diego.

In bloom

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad are now open and in bloom. Enjoy 50 acres of multicolored ranunculus, tractor rides, art exhibits, bird aviaries and snacks. Tickets must be purchased online here. Children $12, Adults $23, Seniors/Military $21. 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad.


The Water Conservation Garden has six acres of displays that teach water conservation through themed gardens, such as native plants and vegetables. More info can be found here. Open Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adults $11, Children (3-17) $7, Seniors/Students/Military $8. (Free every second Friday of the month) 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, El Cajon.

Japanese Friendship Garden has blossomed at Balboa Park. The garden features blooming cherry blossom trees, bonsai exhibits, and art exhibits. San Diego residents get free admission every Tuesday, and on April 18, the garden will host "Culture Day," a day meant to experience different cultures through dance, food and demonstrations. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Adults $18, Students/Seniors/Military $12, Children six and under are free. Balboa Park, 2215 Pan American Road. E., San Diego.

Cherry Blossoms in bloom at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, spring 2021.<br/>
Courtesy of Domonick Kotas / Japanese Friendship Garden
Cherry Blossoms in bloom at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, spring 2021.

Kid-friendly hikes

Mission Trails Regional Park is so green with all the recent rain, you might see a few wildflowers and unique plants, geology and animals. Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday the park offers free, guided nature walks led by a MTRP Trail Guide. On the hike, you'll learn about the very plants, animals, geology, history, and ecology of the park. The trails used are easy, but have uneven surfaces, so sturdy shoes are recommended, along with hats, sunscreen and water. All walks start from the visitor center. 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego CA 92119.

Also, every second and fourth Sunday and Monday at 10 a.m. the park offers a guided walk specifically for young children 2 to 5 years old. The event includes a read-aloud story time, free crafts and a short walk led by MTRP staff. Register here. It begins at the Visitor Center.


Annie's Canyon is a slot canyon trail with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and San Elijo Lagoon as you descend along sandstone walls. It's a 1.6 miles round-trip if you start from the Solana Hills trailhead and 1.4 miles if you start from Rios Ave. It's an easy hike with some strenuous portions.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers a wide range of activities from scenic hikes to a visitor center with exhibits on the Torrey pine and the animal species found in the reserve. Information about the different trails can be found here. The reserve is open from 7:15 a.m. to sunset every day. Entrance into the reserve is free although parking will cost $10-$25. More info here.

The tower of the California Building is shown in this picture on December 6, 2022.
Carlos Castillo
The tower of the California Building is shown in this picture on Dec. 6, 2022.


You can find hands-on activities, interactives and exhibits designed for kids, and even some movies. Note: Many museums offer EBT discounts; make sure to check the institution's website before visiting.

Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park is a museum and IMAX theater devoted to science and discovery, where each exhibit invites visitors to play and be curious about science, plus they have an interactive play zone. The movie theater is also screening three documentaries if you want to an afternoon with dreams of travel and adventure: "Antarctica," "Train Time," and "Turtle Odyssey." 1875 El Prado, Balboa Park. $19.95-$24.95.

San Diego History Center currently has a fun exhibit geared towards kids and families: Marston's History Emporium and Learning Lab. You can listen to stories from San Diegans, learn about some famous local, historical figures, explore a big collage of photos of San Diego kids from decades ago (including some from the 1800s!), create some art and play games. 1649 El Prado, Ste. 3, Balboa Park. Donation-based.

The New Children's Museum doesn't need much of an introduction for families, but if you haven't been in a while, be sure to check out a handful of new kid-friendly, play-based art installations by exciting contemporary artists: "Breathing Room" from Michelle Montjoy, "El Más Allá" from Panca and "Teatro Piñata" by David Israel Reynoso, to name a few. 200 W. Island Ave. San Diego. $15-$20.

San Diego Natural History Museum is a hit with curious minds of all ages. Don't miss the recently added "Expedition Baja" exhibit and their indoor play space, "The Backyard." 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park. $12-$22.

The San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido has four main exhibit sections with activities fitting into the themes of “Discover,” “Experiment,” “Imagine,” and “Explore.” Expect activities ranging from a sailboat-themed playset to percussion instruments to science experiments, all designed to cultivate children’s motor skills, critical thinking, cultural understanding and more. 320 North Broadway, Escondido. $0-$11.50.

With more than 27,000 square feet of trains and tracks, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum certainly seeks to research and educate visitors about American railroading. The scale models of railroads across California are extremely detailed, with not only trains but tiny people, homes, stores, animals, mountain ranges and more. 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park. $0-$19.50.

For an indoor option to see and learn about live animals, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography has more than 5,000 fish in its various exhibits, including some rare species like the weedy seadragon. 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla. $0-$24.95.

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is shown from the San Diego Bay, July 3, 2021.
KPBS Staff
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is shown from the San Diego Bay, July 3, 2021.

Entertainment and performances

San Diego Symphony holds open rehearsals at the Rady Shell that are open to the public. Bring a blanket or picnic and enjoy some classical music as San Diego's world-class musicians practice. The rehearsal schedule and more information can be found here.

Rady Shell at Jacob's Park, 222 Marina Park Way, San Diego. Free.

San Diego Junior Theatre puts on kid-centric plays and musicals every few months. "Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical'' runs April 28 through May 14. Showtimes here. Casa Del Prado Theatre, Balboa Park.

The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater was recently closed for routine painting and repairs but is back with regular puppet shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 2130 Pan American Rd., Balboa Park. $5.

Find a library story time near you at any San Diego County Library or San Diego Public Library branch.

Day camps

Media Arts Center San Diego offers movie-making camps for kids age 6-12. At camp, attendees learn camerawork, editing, stop-motion animation, how to use a green screen and other movie-making skills. The first week is already happening, but there are two more sessions April 3-7 and April 10-14. Register here. $300. Camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at UCSD Park & Market, 1100 Market Street, San Diego.

Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center has several different day camp options for a variety of age ranges, from bubbles and balloons to Star Wars cooking and robotics — there's something for every age group. Register here. $342 April 3-5, Jacobs Family Campus, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla

Corrected: March 29, 2023 at 5:20 PM PDT
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the Water Conservation Garden.
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