7 Fun & Free Things to Do with Kids in January

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After the mad rush of the holidays is over, you’ll want to find some peace and quiet. Take a hike, explore historic homesteads, gaze at public art and stroll through secret gardens. These seven places will refresh your spirits to help you re-focus on new adventures for the new year.

Hiking

Get some fresh air for a fresh start to your new year and hit the trails. There are so many hiking trails in the city, along the coast, inland or in the forest. Pull up the map on your phone, type in “hiking” and look for all the green dashed lines to choose from. Read the reviews and click on the photos to get a sense of if that’s the right trail for you. Below are two favorite kid-friendly trails to check out.

Mission Trails Regional Park
Start at the Visitor’s Center for an easy 1.5-mile loop trail, head down to the Kumeyaay Lake Campground for a 1-mile loop nature walk or start at the Old Mission Dam and after throwing rocks in the water head out for a fun 1-mile loop on the Oak Grove Trail.

1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Carlos
619-668-3281
Online: mtrp.org

Louis A. Stelzer County Park
After the koi pond, turn right to start your loop hike that will take you through shaded oak trees, around large boulders for climbing, up and over the hill and down around to the shaded playground, bathrooms and picnic tables. You’ll end up right where you started from so you can just turn left and get there too. Parking is $3 at all county parks, bring cash.

11470 Wildcat Canyon Rd., Lakeside
619-561-0580
Online: sdparks.org

 

Ranch Houses

Get some perspective and see what life was like in the early days of San Diego. You can tour these historic ranch houses inside during business hours and outside you can walk around anytime. Both of these have great kid-friendly trails that you can take a little walkabout and the Rancho Penasquitos Adobe has goats and chickens around back that you can feed if the ranger is there.

Rancho Penasquitos Adobe
12122 Canyonside Park Dr., Rancho Penasquitos
858-484-7504
Online: sdparks.org

Sikes Adobe Farmstead
12655 Sunset Dr., Escondido
858-674-2275
Online: sdrp.org

Tide Pooling

Get your feet wet in the new year and look for some sea creatures that the tide brings in. Winter is the best time for tide pooling due to the lower tides and few people. Here are a couple of good spots to find sea urchins and starfish.

Scripps Memorial Pier
Just north of Scripps Pier
8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla

Cardiff State Beach Tide Pools
Just south of Lifeguard Tower 10
355 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff

Libraries

Libraries have more fun than just checking out a new book; which you should still totally do. Check your local library events calendar for fun kids programs for activities like afternoon movies, storytimes, kids yoga, craft activities and tons more. Each library varies with its events and some require advanced registration and fill up quickly. Don’t forget that each city usually has its own library, along with the county having its own library system too.

San Diego Public Library
Online: sandiego.gov

San Diego County Library
Online: sdcl.org

Balboa Park

Wander around the museums at Balboa Park for free on Resident’s Free Tuesdays. General admission is free to San Diego residents on a rotating basis, check the schedule here to see which museums are open on which Tuesdays. Valid with proof of residency for locals and active duty military and their dependents. Favorite kid-friendly museums include Fleet Science Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Balboa Park
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park
619-239-0512
Online: balboapark.org

Liberty Station

Discuss your interpretation of art as you walk along the art scavenger hunt trail and find the various public art displays as you go. This will take you all around Liberty Station, up to a secret rooftop, around the water fountains and through the public market. Scan the QR codes on the art displays and log them into the online entry form to win some discounts for the local shops when you finish. Plan to stop for brunch or lunch at the public market and have a picnic outside in the large grassy field. Plan for some extra time to play at the playground (bathrooms nearby!), down by the bay.

Liberty Station
2640 Historic Decatur Rd., Point Loma
619-573-9300
Online: libertystation.com

Garden Walks

Stop and smell the flowers at these beautiful gardens. Balboa Park has over 13 gardens that anyone can walk through and they will take you all over the park to find them. Point Loma Native Plant Garden and Mission Valley River Garden are usually pretty empty because very few people know about these hidden gems. After strolling these fields, you’ll leave with a renewed feeling of joy to start your year off right.

Balboa Park
1363 El Prado, Balboa Park
619-239-0512
Online: balboapark.org

Point Loma Native Plant Garden
2275 Mendocino Blvd., Point Loma
619-297-7380
Online: sandiegoriver.org

Mission Valley River Garden
3376 Camino del Rio N, Mission Valley
619-297-7380
Online: sandiegoriver.org

—Bonnie Taylor

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