Every veteran parent knows that variety is the secret to a successful family vacation. You need up time, down time, nap time, and plenty of options for tasty eats, especially if you’re traveling with kids aged 8-13 (is there a harsher critic than an 11-year-old?). No fear, parents! Here are options for things to do that cover all the bases, taking advantage of our miles of sandy beaches, cultural attractions, cool neighborhood vibes, and amazing food scene.
Oceanside boasts a great line up of year-round events that are a perfect part of a family vacation experience. Check out our events calendar and plan your trip around the great outdoors, cultural attractions and entertainment happenings to keep every member of the family smiling.
O’side is super bike friendly. You’ll see locals scooting around doing their shopping or just enjoying the epic weather, so grab some bikes and cruise! Check out the surrey rentals at Wheel Fun Rentals on the strand for a fun and easy way to bike as a family. There are a variety of routes around town help you get your bearings and find hangs and haunts you want to return to and explore.
We think of skateboarding as land surfing, and we’re into it. Martin Luther King Skatepark, Melba Bishop Skatepark, and the Alex Road Skatepark were all built by Grindline Skateparks and feature a variety of challenging pipes, pools, ledges, and more. Skateboard shops around town have gear and boards.
Consistent swells and epic weather make O’side one of the top surf destinations in the world. You could spend a beach day just watching the line-up or book the groms a lesson (boards are provided) and help them discover a new lifelong passion. A trip to the California Surf Museum provides inspiration.
It’s a leisurely 1,954-foot walk to the end of the O’side Pier, one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast, and every inch provides prime people watching. Down below, surfers lineup for one of the best breaks in O’side, and you’ll often spot sea lions and dolphins frolicking with them. Rent poles and buy some bait and you can drop a line with the anglers fishing off the pier. Watch out for gulls and pelicans!
Book an excursion and set sail from the harbor for a two-hour whale and dolphin spotting catamaran cruise. Year-round, you’ll encounter an awe-inspiring variety of marine life plus stunning views up and down the coast.
The Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center is your home base for exploring the 220-acre Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve. It’s a bird sanctuary filled with feathered friends you can spot from trails winding through the freshwater ponds.
More than 120 animal ambassadors—including a cuddly crew of cheetahs—await you at Wild Wonders, dedicated to animal rescue, education, and conservation. Take a tour or participate in a keeper chat.
The Mellano Farm Stand hosts seasonal weekend events and festivals with live music, crafts, and more, including the Spring Flower Fields and an October pumpkin patch and corn maze. The farm stand has fresh produce year-round.
Sun’s up and it’s grub time! In the heart of downtown, The Beach Break Café on South Coast Highway is a hometown face, serving up omelets,scrambles, and fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a heaping side of O’side vibes (note the surf motif on the hand-drawn kid’s menu).
Barely a stone’s throw from the pier, High/Low offers a family-friendly breakfast fix (we like the Huevos Rancheros) before heading to the beach—the portions are big enough for kids to split.
The Pier View Coffee Co. is practically next door, serving breakfast sandwiches, an acai bowl, fruit smoothies, and—very important—all the caffeinated beverages.
On the north end of town at Stratford at the Harbor (spoiler alert: it’s located at the Harbor), you can enjoy your cinnamon bacon pancakes or a Killer Joe scramble outside under a fringed umbrella while the kids watch the boats drift in and out of the marina.
O’side keeps it real, which means you don’t have to look hard to find a killer burger, a kid’s menu, and a laid-back come-as-you-are vibe for lunch.
In the heart of downtown The LAB Collaborative is great for that indoor/outdoor fresh-air experience. While the parents can relax and catch their favorite game on the big-screens, the kids can watch all the action through the windows of the showcase kitchen (btw – we dig the “O’side or No Side” chicken sandwich – tons of attitude on a bun).
Mission Avenue Bar & Grill is a little more gastropub, with a cocktail menu and dishes like crawfish mac-and-cheese and fish & chips rounding out its burger offerings, but the vibe is decidedly kid-friendly.
When you’re burger-ed out, maybe lean into some super healthy menu options at Swami’s Café – the salads, sands and smoothies have become a smart-eating fixture with the locals throughout North County. The chill vibe and fresh food are the perfect way to power up for the rest of your afternoon.
Dining with kids hinges on two things: kid-friendly fare (that adults want to eat, too), and plenty of drinks.
The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza in South O ticks both boxes, with artisan pizza (try the Brixton for an elevated take on pepperoni), some killer meatballs and pasta dishes, and a world-class wine list.
At Harney Sushi Oceanside near the pier, the kids can get their own bento box while you dig into fresh sashimi, nigiri, and specialty rolls—plus cocktails.
Or you can feast on market-fresh fish with a glass of wine while watching the sunset over the Harbor at the Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill, then take the kids for a twilight stroll to listen for the sounds of barking sea lions settling in for their evening slumber.
Having multiple rooms for privacy and space makes traveling with kids more comfortable for everybody.
Located on the waterfront overlooking the Pier, The Seabird Resort by Hyatt has multi-room suites, including some with outdoor terraces and patios (and for babies and younger kids, you can rent strollers, cribs, toys, and a variety of other gear through their BabyQuip program and have it all delivered right to your room).
If the Oceanside Harbor is more your scene, then The Holiday Inn Oceanside Marina is just a short walk away and is family friendly and kid appropriate. Or check out the numerous O’side property rentals available through sites like Airbnb. You’ll find everything from inland estates to beachfront condos.
For more lodging options, click on the Stay page of the website and find the place to suit your needs.