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16+ Things to Do in San Marcos with Kids (2018 Guide)

16+ Things to Do in San Marcos with Kids (2018 Guide)

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Located in the foothills of northern San Diego County, San Marcos is home to over 90,000 residents. All those people mean lots of families! San Marcos is packed with family entertainment. Parks, trails, and libraries are only a fraction of what the city has to offer.

See the Whole City on Top of Double Peak

Double Peak Park sits on the highest peak in North County and has 360º views of north county. Kids will love being able to see from the ocean to the mountains, the summit even has a telescope to see farther. Double Peak also has a small playground with climbing rocks and ropes. The park is a great place to have a picnic and is also a trailhead for the area.

Spend the Day on Lake San Marcos

Lake San Marcos is a small neighborhood lake just south of San Marcos High School. The lake is a great place for families to spend the day together. Boating, Fishing, or Paddleboarding, there are many options for different ages. The Marina at the Lakehouse Hotel and Resort is open to the public and rents out a variety of boats. From small fishing boats to Pontoon boats and for the ultimate luxury, the Bennington, which comes with a captain. For active families, the Marina has Water Trikes, double and single kayaks, and Stand Up Paddle Boards. For families that prefer to stay on land, you can rent a pole and fish from the dock, or feed the ducks (duck food is a quarter).

Take a Dip at a Local Pool

San Marcos has two public pools, Las Posas Park Pool and Woodland Park Pool. Las Posas Pool has a 25m lap pool, a picnic area, and a colorful splash pad. Great for younger kids, the pool has a shallow area and the splash pad is a great way to get wet without even jumping in. Offseason hours are Saturday and Sunday, 12:30pm-4:30pm.

Woodland Park Pool has a 1m diving board, water slide, wading pool, 25m lap pool and picnic areas. Older kids will love trying out the diving board and the water slide! Woodland Park Pool opens for its offseason on May 26th. Off season hours are Saturday and Sunday 12:30pm-4:30pm.

Explore Nature at Jack’s Pond

Just west of Highway 78, Jack’s Pond Park is a wonderful place to spend the day. The big red barn is hard to miss and houses the Nature Center. Open on Saturday and Sunday, the Nature Center has small displays about the San Marcos area. In the park, there is a native plants garden to show what the area would look like without landscaping. The Nature Center is also available for Field Trips, Scout Groups, and Birthday Parties.

Jacks Pond also has a great play structure and covered picnic tables. Beyond the barn and grassy area, there is a trail that leads to the pond. Mostly paved, the trail is great for a family walk.

Take a Walk Around Discovery Lake

A hidden gem, Discovery Lake is nestled in a quiet residential area. The 5-acre lake has a paved 0.8-mile loop around it. This easy trail allows people to walk, run, bike, scooter, or even ride horseback! One half of the trail is shaded by trees, and the other is in full sun. Smaller kids will love to see the ducks and coots from the dock afterward. Fishing is also allowed from the dock or the water’s edge. If you have older kids that are up for a challenge, there are several other trails that stem from the lake, including one that goes all the way to the top of Double Peak!

Lakeview Park is located right next to the lake and has a gazebo, splash pad, and a newly remodeled play structure. The park is quaint but has nice grassy and shaded areas. Conveniently, bathrooms can be found next to the parking area. Leashed dogs are permitted and there are doggie stations if needed.

Discovery lake is a great place to spend the day for a lovely walk or picnic. It’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of the city when visiting this scenic location.

Cool Down at a Splash Pad

San Marcos has several parks that have water features. On hot days it’s great to be able to take kids to the park and let them cool down. Sunset Park has a colorful waterplay area right next to the eastern playground. The water shoots up from the ground in separate fountains. The playground is also shaded, which makes this park popular on sunny days. San Elijo Park has a large concrete splash pad just below the lower playground. The water comes up in different types of sprays and keeps the kids guessing where it’s going to come from next. There is a covered picnic area next to the water play area and a large grassy hill for kids to run down. Lakeview Park has a water play area with one fountain. On a timer, the fountain fills a small pool and runs down a waterfall. The pool is surrounded by tiered steps, that allow parents to be close by, without getting wet.

For a complete list of San Marcos parks with water play areas follow the link below.

Enjoy Storytime at the SDCL San Marcos Branch

Part of the San Diego County Library System, the San Marcos Branch is located in the Civic Center. The branch is small but has a dedicated children’s area that includes a small playroom. The San Marcos Branch offers several storytime options. Baby, Toddler and Preschool Storytimes are weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There are several foreign language storytimes, including Japanese, Spanish, Persian, and Hindi. The San Marcos Branch also has several crafts and special events for kids that change each month.

Super STEM Saturday at CSUSM

Held once a year, Super STEM Saturday at CSUSM is the first event in the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. The event takes over the San Marcos Campus and includes over 100 interactive demonstrations. Kids can build rockets and robots, have animal encounters or become a DNA detective. This free event is designed for kids to have fun and engage with science, technology, engineering, and math. Food is available on campus, but if you have younger children make sure to pack snacks!

Make Family Game Night Mighty Awesome

For families that love game nights, Mighty Awesome Escape Rooms are a must-try. Each family is given a backstory and then escorted to one of the themed rooms. From there they only have 60 minutes to solve the mystery. Families will have to collaborate and communicate to find and solve various clues, codes, and puzzles. A Game Master oversees the progress and will help guide teams in the right direction. Escape Rooms are a great change of pace for family game night, away from home and screens!

Mighty Awesome has different themes to choose from. Families can retrace the footsteps of a missing Professor. After finding the discovery of a lifetime, she vanished! Work together and find out that the discovery was and where Professor R.K. Alogee is now! The second theme has a Twilight Zone feel. After the death of a famous screenwriter, the search commenced for his long-lost screenplay. Everyone that has gone looking hasn’t been heard from again. All evidence suggests that the cause is supernatural. And as legend has it, if they aren’t set free, their spirits will be lost forever!

Mighty Awesome is a fun and out-of-the-ordinary treat for families with older children. It’s a great way to bond in a new environment. Mighty Awesome is also available for birthday parties.

Have a Fantasy Tea Party at the Wood House

So many kids love to play dress up and pretend. The historic Wood House provides the perfect settings with its Fantasy Tea Parties. Aimed at ages 4-12 years old, the tea parties are great for Girl Scout groups, playgroups, and birthday parties! The parties are typically 2 hours long and include Painting teacups, baking scones, games, and tea (apple juice). Guests are encouraged to dress up and the Wood House has fun hats and feather boas to add to the occasion. Kids will also have fun making a take-home craft. The Wood House Fantasy Tea Party brings the magic to life and is a fun and unique way to spend an afternoon with friends.

Go Bowling at Bowlero

Located on San Marcos Boulevard, Bowlero has taken the local bowling alley and updated it completely. The whole place vibrates with a fun, lively atmosphere. Bowlero has 40 glow-in-the-dark lanes, video walls, and an arcade. Prices vary, but after school offers the most reasonable rates. For teens, there are many lane specials after 8 pm. Bowlero is also available for birthday parties.

Encourage Reading at Sky High Comics

Comic books open imaginations and encourage a love of reading at a young age. The great thing about comics is that they are geared towards every age range. An early reader can start with wordless comics and follow pictures. Whereas teens can delve into more complex worlds and storylines. Sky High Comics in San Marcos is a great resource for comics and has a knowledgeable staff that can point you in the right direction. For older kids, Sky High also hosts different games nightly.

Get a First Haircut at Pigtails and Crewcuts

A child’s first haircut can be a daunting experience. The chairs are too big, there is a stranger wielding sharp objects, and the kids are expected to sit still. To avoid this scenario, many parents avoid haircuts for as long as possible. Pigtails and Crewcuts is a salon built specifically for children. Instead of salon chairs, kids get to ride in an airplane or drive a police car. Flat screens are set up with favorite movies to help with the wiggles. If there is a wait? There is a play area complete with train table.

Pigtails and Crewcuts aims to make your child’s first haircut a wonderful experience. The First Haircut Package commemorates this important milestone with souvenir card, a photo, and a lock of hair.

Pigtails and Crewcuts is also available for birthday parties.

Defend Your Base at Invasion Laser Tag

Invasion Laser Tag is a completely immersive experience. The 5,000 square foot, multi-level arena provides the best stage for a battle. Players navigate a maze to tag opponents, while defending their own base. Lights, music, fog and props all add to the ambiance. Players 7 and up will want to play over and over again. The lobby has arcade games and air hockey, but the games are more for the parents waiting for kids to want to stop playing!

Invasion has special pricing on Wednesday and Thursday: $5 games all day! For older kids, Invasion offers specials on Fridays and Saturdays. Twilight Tagging ($16) includes unlimited play from 7:30pm-9:30pm. Midnight Madness ($25) includes unlimited play from 9pm-12am. Dedicated players can purchase the Mega Madness package ($30), which allows unlimited play from 7:30pm-12am. Midnight Madness mixes specialty games in with the regular game formats. The newest addition is Zombie Defense – where players are thrust in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.  Invasion Laser Tag is also available for groups and birthday parties.

Explore Veterinary Skills with Advanced Veterinary Care of San Elijo

Advanced Veterinary Care hosts a unique children’s program that shows insight into the veterinary field and promotes responsible pet ownership. The PAWS children’s program is educational, fun and rewarding. The program, offered every second Wednesday quarterly, teaches children about pet health, safety, and other animal-related topics. The classes are hands-on and topics vary based on age. PAWS classes are also available for scout groups.

Climb to New Heights at Vertical Hold San Marcos

Indoor rock climbing is great for family bonding. You have to work together and help each other reach the top. Vertical Hold in San Marcos is open to climbers of all ages. New climbers can take a beginner rock climbing lesson for $30 (includes a day pass, belay lesson, and gear).

Vertical Hold also has a Youth Climbing Team. The team helps to build strength, confidence, problem-solving skills and fitness. The Recreational Team (for ages 7-17), uses drills and games to build climbing technique and skill. The team is for all levels of climbing and provides a casual and safe environment for learning. Vertical Hold also has a Competition Team. The team focuses on technique, strategy, endurance, and character on and off the wall. Vertical Hold also offers summer camps and is available for birthday parties.

Family Fun at Sky Zone San Marcos

Sky Zone in San Marcos is under new ownership and is more popular than ever.

Most of the space is dedicated to the massive wall-to-wall trampoline floor where kids can enjoy good, healthy fun. If you have younger kids, there is a dedicated Toddler Zone for children 5 and under. Sky Zone also has a dodgeball court, Skyslam (where you can dunk a basketball like a pro), a Skyladder to test balance, and the Foam Zone to flip and fly safely. In addition to the attractions, Sky Zone offers an array of unique programs geared to children of all ages.

Toddler Time

Weekday mornings from 10am-12pm, Sky Zone opens its doors for the younger crowd. Toddler time is a great way for parents and kids to jump and have fun without interference from the big kids. The price is reasonable at $8/hour, and parents get in free.

Sensory Hours

On Wednesdays from 10am-12pm, Sky Zone has Sensory Hour. During this time the area is quieter for kids with special needs. $8/child, caregiver is free.

Homeschool PE

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12pm-2pm Sky Zone offers discounted jump prices specifically for homeschoolers. It’s a great way to break up the day and get some healthy exercise. $10/hour.

Drop and Go

On Thursday Nights Sky Zone has a Drop and Go option for parents. Great for running errands or date nights, Drop and Go let’s kids play for 3 hours and feeds them (pizza or PB&J)! $35 for the first child, half price each additional child. Thursdays: 5pm-8pm.

Club Glow

On weekend nights, Sky Zone transforms into a dance club. Music, lasers, blacklight and more! Glow is great for older kids who want to meet up with their friends. Glow shirts are required for visibility, purchase on for as low as $5 or wear your own. $16 per hour or $22 for 2 hours. Friday-Saturday: 7:30pm-11pm.

Sky Zone is also available for Scout Groups, Field Trips, and Birthday Parties.

Pump It Up San Marcos

Pump It Up San Marcos is a popular place for birthday parties. The playroom is large and filled with indoor inflatables. Slide down a giant slide, race through an obstacle course and bounce on everything. Tuesdays and Wednesdays Pump It Up has Open Gym for younger jumpers. Kids 10 and under can jump from 10am-1pm or from 3pm-6pm. The times are perfect for a playdate or some after-school fun. Jumpers must wear socks and have to be at least 34” tall. Pump It Up is also available from group events, field trips and birthday parties.

Let Kids Explore their Artistic Side at A Colorful Universe

A Colorful Universe is a great art resource in the heart of San Elijo Hills. SEH is a fast growing community in San Marcos, it is quaint and has a wonderful small-town feel. A Colorful Universe is right in the center of town and offers many options for kids to explore their artistic side. The studio is open daily for walk-ins. There is a great selection of pottery, paints, and projects to choose from. You can also walk-in to work with Warm-Fused Glass or Clay Impression, but the studio suggests you call ahead to ensure that the staff on hand can help you. A Colorful Universe also offers various camps throughout the year and is available for birthday parties and scout groups.

After School Classes

Tuesday-Thursday, A Colorful Universe offers after school art classes suitable for any level. Students create one project per class and are taught techniques and skills that they can build on. Classes are held from 4pm-5:30pm and cost $20 (per class).

Tuesday’s focus in on Warm Fused Glass (not applicable the month of September). Kids learn to cut glass into shapes, which can be layered and then fused together. The result is a vibrant glass tile or dish that shows hints of the stacked dimension.

On Wednesday, the class learns about Sculptural Clay and the Clay Wheel (not applicable the month of September). Sculptural Clay is just as it sounds, kids take clay and mold it into an array of shapes and figures. An evolution from Play-Doh, kids can actually keep their creations! A Colorful Universe allows the clay to dry for 5-7 days before they fire it. After the clay is fired, students can return and paint their creation for the discounted rate of $3. Older kids can experiment with clay on a wheel. Wheels spin to let the clay form into bowls, mugs, vases, plates or anything the imagination can conjure.

Thursday after school is a directed canvas paint class. Each week the students will sit in front of their very own artist isle and paint something new. From tropical sunsets to cheeky monkeys, there is a wide range of canvas subjects.

Walking School Bus

For children attending schools within the area, A Colorful Universe offers a Walking School Bus. After school, a seasoned counselor will pick up the children from school and walk them down to the studio.

Kids Night Out

Every Saturday, A Colorful Universe hosts a Kids Night Out. From 4:30-7pm, parents can drop off their kids and know that they are going to have a great time. The first hour is spent doing an art project, like a directed canvas painting or pottery. After that, the kids get to munch on popcorn and watch a movie, until it’s time to let the parents back in. For $20, this great mini-camp is a super fun way for kids to enjoy a night off from their adults. For kids 12 years old and under.

Photo Credit: Double Peak Park

Drea Colores: Drea Colores grew up in Tucson, AZ and now lives in Carlsbad. Writer + Maker + Photographer. IG: dreacolores