San Diego is known for its casual dining vibe. Flip flops and board shorts are usually welcome and often-times celebrated. So, although families can pop into most spots and feel comfortable because they’re never overly stuffy, there are a select few restaurants that make dining with kids a real, must-do experience. From climbing treehouses and canoodling with purr-fect cats to noshing on the cutest cartoon-like, steamed dumplings or ready-to-make s’mores, we have a diverse list of places to try for every taste and adventure level. Scroll down to book a table at a nearby themed restaurant that will make it a dinner to remember.

My Yard Live

My Yard Live

Think community center, park, upscale beer garden, and one-of-a-kind live entertainment all in own. My Yard Live feels like a backyard BBQ if you had the backyard of your dreams and a killer chef behind the grill. From BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and mac n' cheese to a giant treehouse for little ones to explore and locally brewed beer, you can eat and drink while the kids play corn hole, ping pong, 80s arcade games, and more at this cool new restaurant in San Marcos that's designed to resemble your dream yard. Head here on a Saturday from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for the Pop-up Play with fun extras (that are free) like sensory play, crafting, and live music!

Insider's Tip: There's a separate line for food and drinks, so plan ahead and order enough for everyone!

288 Rancheros Dr.
San Marcos, CA 92069

Cat & Craft

Cat & Craft

Your kitties will grin like the Cheshire Cat after visiting this cute cafe in San Marcos. Go for a visit and order a latte and hot cocoa (for the littles) with a lemon loaf or scone. Sit and watch the cats jump, sleep and play through a giant 8-foot separation window. Even more, make a reservation for (kiddos 7 and older) to go inside and frolic with the felines. If you have a younger kid, you can sign-up for the special Kiddie Cat Hour ($12 for adult + child). Kids can also attend a movie night in the cat lounge. So fun, so purr-fect!

Insider Tip: If you find a kitty you love, you can adopt it!

3211 Business Park Dr.
Vista, CA 92081

One Door North

Honor that awesome report card or celebrate a birthday with a glamping dinner in one of the safari tents at One Door North in North Park. From oysters and braised short rib tacos to a kids menu and ready-to-make s'mores, you'll find everyone leaves a happy camper. Make a reservation early, as the two safari tents go fast!

Insider's Tip: Get the homemade chocolate cookie (made in a cast-iron skillet!) served with vanilla ice cream on top for dessert.

Northpark Neighborhood
3422 30th St.
San Diego, CA 92104



Kids will get a real kick out of the playful takes on Asian fare found at Harumama. How could anyone resist these adorable, cartoon-like character steamed buns? We think the panda bun (filled with a not-too-sweet purple potato) tastes yummy. Also, the cute chicken bun showers your taste buds with the creamy egg custard inside. You'll also find traditional ramen with a contemporary twist, specialty sushi rolls, bites and greens, small plates, noodles, bao buns and bowls on the menu. Wash your dim sum down with Japanese beer including Asahi and Kirin, along with local craft beer, specially imported beers, wine, sake, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Little Italy Neighborhood
1901 Columbia St.
San Diego, CA 92101



Sugar Factory

Truly a sweet way to celebrate a big event. Whether it's the 28 ice cream scoops in the King Kong Sundae topped with brownie, strawberries, peanut butter cups, unicorn pops, and sparklers or the Tie Dye Milkshake, you're sure to have an insta-worthy shot with these desserts. Come for the colorful sliders, stay for the sweet treats.

Insider's Tip: Go for the combo! Here you'll find a movie theater, candy store and restaurant all in one spot. 

701 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

Single Fin Surf Grill

Surf's up! Enjoy fresh fish and chips, fish tacos or a South of the Border Salad at Single Fin––a surf-themed restaurant with good eats. Blue booths surrounded by surf fins and driftwood make this a fitting Mission Beach lunch spot.

Insider's Tip: Take a bike ride along the Mission Bay bike trails then head here for eats.

Mission Beach Neighborhood
3844 Mission Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92109

Lazy Dog Restaurant

Are you a dog-loving family? Then this is your spot. Bring Fido to cheers a birthday or just for a fun family night out. Even more, there's a doggie menu, dog decor, and each dog gets a water bowl. Kids love this pooch-friendly place given all the dog watching, the kids coloring menu and free birthday sundae dessert. Grown-ups can gobble down the Green Goddess Salad, the Chicken Pot Pie and the Pig Candy Grilled Cheese. This hot spot is great for big groups. Check out their new spring menu here. 

Insider's Tip: Dogs are allowed on the patio and with a leash at all times.

1202 Camino Del Rio N.
San Diego, CA 92108

Del’s Hideout

Free soft serve and craft brew with a techie twist? What could be more fun than Del's Hideout? There's a cool kid play area (for ages 10 and younger) that keeps the littles busy while you eat Texas-style BBQ from rotisserie chicken to baby back ribs. You can sit and have your pick of over 36 beers on tap while your sidekick plays nearby. Also, you'll find a kids' menu, communal seating, and arcade games.

Insider's Tip: Order the giant cinnamon roll.

5351 Adobe Falls Rd.
San Diego, CA 92129

Lucha Libre

A golden gourmet taco cafe! Reserve the gold table with giant goblets, gold platters and your personal salsa bar for special occasions out with the crew. Our fave food here is the Surfin' California Burrito with steak, shrimp, french fries, and avocado. Young diners have a menu with choices like a cheese quesadilla or TJ dog with french fries and a drink.

Insider's Tip: Reservations for the gold Champion Booth must be made 24 hours in advance.

North Park
3016 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92104

Mission Hills
1810 W. Washington St.
San Diego, CA 92103


Classics Malt Shop

Everyone loves a malt shop! From classic burgers and fries to chicken wings dipped in homemade buttermilk, ranch dressing, root beer floats and banana splits, this local spot is a fam favorite. Even more, you'll find they treat the customers like gold.

Insider's Tip: They have outdoor seating that is dog-friendly.

Point Loma Neighborhood
3625 Midway Dr., Ste B
San Diego, CA 92110

––Aimee Della Bitta & Nikki Walsh


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