16 Only-in-San-Diego Quirky Sites Your Kids Will Love

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Coronado’s hidden message, a house perched off the edge of a building, a towering 25-foot sculpture, a fairytale-like topiary garden… unbelievable places like these and many more are sprinkled throughout the city to wow and inspire all. Read on to see the most amazing locales in San Diego and to discover some lesser-known gems that will really give your family something to talk about.

Munchkin House

Head up Hillside Drive in La Jolla and look for the white house that's low to the ground. What is it? Legend has it, it's the last remaining munchkin house (where the actors from the Wizard of Oz) lived while filming. You and the crew judge for yourself. Rumor has it, the home's architect tried to embrace the natural hill environment. See if you can spot it and decide the truth.

Hillside Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037

Coronado's Hidden Message

If you do a flyover of these sandy shores, then you'll see the words "Coronado" and "Beach" written with the ice plant in the dunes. What's the scoop? A city worker decided to get creative when removing the kelp and seaweed from the beach. See if you can detect a letter in the dunes.

Coronado Beach
Ocean Boulevard
Coronado, CA 92118

Musical Bridge

Music makes the world go round––and you can listen to an artful melody as you walk (or drive!) across this bridge. Called Crab Carillon, artist Roman de Salva and composer Joseph Water made this noted work. Find a large stick or other object to ring the chimes as you cross the bridge!

763-799 25th St.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: sandiego.gov/publicart

Eagle Mine 1870

Strike gold in Julian with a tour of this 1870s hillside mine. Walk inside and explore 1,000 feet of tunnels (made from rock). Next, try your hand at mining for gold using historic mining tips and tricks. Take the crew for apple pie and ice cream and explore the town when done mining. Check out our ultimate guide to Julian.

2320 C St.
Julian, CA 92036
Cost: $10/adult; $5/child
Online: theeaglemining.com

Victorian Houses in Old Town

We love the Mexican food, shops and festivities of Old Town San Diego. Extend your tour with the crew by exploring the restored Victorian Houses from the 1880s-1890s located in the preserved Heritage Park Victorian Village. (It even has a teahouse!). Just off Juan St. in Old Town.

2454 Heritage Park Row
San Diego, CA 92110
Online: sdparks.org/Heritage

Fallen Star House

This precarious sculpture looks like it just landed on the corner of the Jacobs Engineering building at the University of California, San Diego. It's as if a wild tornado (think Wizard of Oz) left it there. Created by Do Ho Suh for the Stuart Collection, it challenges us to ponder our definition of home. You can visit the house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tues. and Thurs. It's even furnished inside!

UCSD Jacob's School of Engineering
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093
Online: stuartcollection.ucsd.edu

Beth Shea

Unconditional Surrender

Measuring 25 feet tall, this World War II returning sailor and nurse kissing in an unconditional embrace on the harbor with military ships in the background is quintessential San Diego. Head down for a great photo-op and beautiful background next time you and the fam are cruisin' downtown.

Tuna Harbor Park
55 Tuna Lane
San Diego, CA 92132

‘Nikigator’ Sculpture

Silly little climbers will love playing on this wacky, playful, gator-like sculpture. You'll find this beautiful yet quirky mosaic-tile creature, named the Nikigator and designed by Niki de Saint Phalle just outside the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. Good to know that the area beneath this sculpture is soft and padded, so little warriors falling off this work of art will have an easy landing.

After you admire this extraordinary sight, see where else to enjoy the day at Balboa Park via our guide to the gorgeous locale.

Balboa Park
Plaza de Panama
1439 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101

Harper’s Topiary Garden

Passerby young and old delight in the garden creations of owner (and artist) Edna Harper who (with her husband) fashions all kinds of magical topiary critters for the enjoyment of everyone. Inspired by her worldly travels, you'll find elephants, a Buddha, a surfer, a fairy and even Mickey Mouse. We say it's worth the trip to find this secret San Diego green spot.

Vine & Union St.
South Mission Hills
San Diego, CA 92103

Cardiff Kook

Seek out the Cardiff Kook statue along South Pacific Coast Highway. You'll find that locals love to dress him up. From Santa Claus and Jaws to a Pterodactyl and birthday wishes, this surf dude gets lots of attention! Originally named the Magic Carpet Ride by sculptor Matthew Antichevich, cruise by to behold this sight––we hope you get an interesting pic.

South Coast Highway 101 & Chesterfield Dr.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

The Champs Table at Lucha Libre

A 24-hour advance reservation is required to eat at the golden Champs Table at the Lucha Libre Taco Shop. You'll drink from oversized golden mugs, wear the gold champ's belt and eat on a gold tablecloth. They back up their decor with fresh gourmet tacos and a yummy California burrito with shrimp and french fries.

1810 W. Washington St.
San Diego, CA 92104
Online: tacosmackdown.com

Quirky Desert Garden

The rumor is that Dr. Seuss himself was inspired by the diverse-looking plants at this Desert Garden created in 1976 in Balboa Park. Stop by for a nature walk after visiting the Nat or Fleet Science Center. (It's right across the street by the Rose Garden). Your little green thumbs will rave about the cool-shaped cacti. You'll be surprised that there's a tree that you can climb into.

Balboa Park
Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92102
Online: balboapark.org/desertgarden

Sunny Jim Cave

You'll have to shell out a bit of cash to explore this cave, but it's worth it! Two men with a pick and a shovel dug out this cave in 1902-1903. Later, 145 steps were added for safety. The story goes that the creator of The Wizard of Oz inspired the cave's names when he noticed that the opening looks like the Sunny Jim cartoon character. The legend also reports that bootleggers and smugglers used this cave for passage.

Cost: $5/adult; $3/youth (ages 3-17)

Cave Store
1325 Coast Blvd.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Online: cavestore.com

Dr. Seuss & Cat in the Hat Bronze Statue

If you check out the Fallen Star House on the UC San Diego campus make sure to head over to the Geisel library for a perfect photo-op with a bronze statue of Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat. Celebrating 100 years of Dr. Seuss this statue is of Seuss writing at his desk with his most famous book's character standing nearby.

Click here to learn about more Dr. Seuss sights in San Diego!

UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093
Online: ucsd.edu

Jail Time at The Headquarters

Check out the historic jail cells at The Headquarters. Step inside the preserved police headquarters built in 1939. Discover historic pictures of people held in the cells, take a fun mug shot and view a display of old police department memorabilia. If you head outside, you'll find shops, food, toys and treats.

789 W. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: theheadquarters.com

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Built in 1912 to cross the canyon and connect the 4th and 5th Ave. trolley stops, the City of San Diego maintains this bridge today. Since it's a suspension pedestrian bridge, it does indeed sway in the middle, when the wind blows or a group of people all cross at once. Young bridge crossers have tons of fun and there are nice views of the canyon.

Banker's Hill
West of First Avenue on Spruce Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Featured image: Blewin G. via Yelp

––Nikki Walsh


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