10 Adventure-Fueled Pit Stops for Transportation-Crazed Kids

Kids love all things that ‘go.’ Whether trains, planes, ships, trucks or cars get your little expert’s motor running, we know exactly where to go to put the wind in his/her sails. From tucked away spots with optimal views to watch airplanes soar to hidden model train tracks, naval boats and hundreds of old-fashioned trucks, it’s time to ship out for your family’s next adventure. Scroll down for our great, off the beaten path finds and let’s get this show on the road.

photo: Nyna H. via Yelp

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Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum
Your budding aviation buff will see Navy and Marine airplanes and helicopters up close (and touchable) at this MCAS Miramar Museum. Walk inside to explore military flight history and spot the different flight uniforms worn throughout time. Plan your visit on Open Cockpit Days when kids can sit in the aircraft and get a pilot’s perspective. Find the museum at a separate entrance off of Miramar Rd. with free parking.

Hours: Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

4203 Angerson Ave.
San Diego, Ca
Online: flyingleathernecks.org

The Landings in Carlsbad
Why not grab a bite to eat while watching the airplanes? The Landings at Carlsbad restaurant is a sweet spot for an aviation lunch. Eat a grilled cheese sandwich or the kid’s sliders, right outside next to the runway, where airplanes and helicopters take off, land and taxi. This eatery is a perfect place for your little pilot’s birthday lunch.

2198 Palomar Airport Rd.
Carlsbad, Ca
Online: carlsbadlandings.com

Harbor & Laurel Plane Spotting
Officially recognized as a plane viewing area by the Airport Authority, this parking lot is the perfect spot to see the planes landing, taxiing, and taking off up really close. From Southwest Airlines 737 and British Airways 777 to a daily Hawaiian A330, there are many types of aircraft to spot. Be sure to make a bathroom pit stop before you go and brings snacks to munch while viewing.

Corner of Laurel & Harbor
N. Harbor Dr. and W. Laurel St.
San Diego, Ca

photo: Wendy L. via Yelp

Navy Pier
Take the Coaster train down to the Santa Fe Depot and walk out to the Navy Pier. Board the USS Midway and check out the planes on the flight deck or explore the Aircraft Museum. Step inside historical airplanes. Talk to a pilot (who has landed on the ship!). Experience the ship, the galley, the crews and the officers quarters. Walk north along the pier and look at the fighter planes and ships across at the Naval station.

910 N. Harbor Dr.
Midway, Ca
Online: www.midway.org

Chula Vista Steamer Trains
Toot! Toot! Whether it’s a steam train or a diesel engine your little train expert would love riding, the real miniature trains in Rohnert Park are a must-do. The railroad club offers rides for free, although donations are appreciated. Just show up on one of the Public Run Days and have fun!

4548 Sweetwater Rd.
Bonita, Ca
Online: chulavistalivesteamers.org

Lake Poway Boats
Why not rent a boat and explore Lake Poway? Let your little captains sail the seas (or lake) til their heart’s content. Or bring your fishing poles and see what you catch. Just head to the concession stand where you can rent a boat and safety equipment. There are pedal boats, rowboats and motorboats––all perfect for the lake adventure.

Hours: Weds.-Sun., 6 a.m.-near sunset

14644 Lake Poway Rd.
Poway, Ca
Online: poway.org/boating

photo: Tami D. via Yelp

Old Town Model Railroad Museum
Worth a stop by if you’re in Old Town or head to this museum and enjoy the festivities of Old Town San Diego after your visit. There are two model railroad rooms, one for daytime and one for nighttime. Little engineer enthusiasts will appreciate the step stools to get the best view of the tracks. Look for the blue buttons to push to activate the sounds and movement in the display.

Hours: Weds.-Mon., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free

Old Town San Diego
2415 San Diego Ave.
San Diego, Ca
Online: oldtownsandiego.org

J. A. Cooley Museum
If you have a half-pint who’s an auto history buff, then this small museum is a perfect place to cruise. You’ll find a wall of old license plates and explore three-wheeled cars, plus several early Cadillacs. Train lovers can spot the vintage train set and interesting antique toys.

Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun., Noon-4 p.m.
Cost: $5/person

North Park
4233 Park Blvd.
San Diego, Ca
Online: gothere.com/cooley

photo: Merrily C. via Yelp

Motor Transport Museum
You’ve cruised through all the local auto museums and now you’re looking for a four-wheeled adventure? Then the hour long trip to Campo on a Saturday will make your budding transportation expert’s day. You’ll find over 200 trucks dating back to the 1900’s, quarry mining equipment and even a custom-built log splitter. There are plenty of photo ops at this truck museum.

Hours: Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $2 donation/person

31949 Hwy. 94
Campo, Ca
Online: motortransportmuseum.org

Model Railroad Museum
How about checking out North America’s largest railroad museum? Grab you little conductors and head out to Balboa Park. You’ll see trains, planes, boats, and autos––all miniature sized, of course. There are towns, mountains, tunnels and more. Look for the minute hidden details like a dinosaur in a cage or a shark in the water.

Hours: Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $11/adult; $5/child (ages 6-14)

Balboa Park
1649 El Prado
San Diego, Ca
Online: sdmrm.org

Do you know of a great place to take transportation-crazed kids? Tell us in the comments below.

—Nikki Walsh

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