If you haven’t been to Oceanside California, you don’t know what you’re missing. This exciting beach town has it all: a boardwalk, beautiful beaches, fun activities, gorgeous beach front hotels, and delicious food. Located in the northern part of San Diego County, this is the place for your next family vacation. Here are some of the best things to do in Oceanside with kids!
We were guests of Visit Oceanside for the purpose of this review. As always, opinions are 100% our own.
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Family Friendly Things to do in Oceanside
Head to the Oceanside Pier
Oceanside’s pier is hard to miss. Measuring close to 2,000 feet long, it’s a popular attraction for both visitors and locals alike. If your kids want to try their hand fishing off the pier, there are rods and bait available for rent. This is also the perfect spot to watch the surfers from above. My kids were mesmerized watching them take on the waves.
Take a spin on the boardwalk
One of our favorite things to do when traveling is to explore a new city by bike. Thankfully, Oceanside has miles of bike trails and an awesome boardwalk that runs along the beach. We rented a four person Surrey bike from Wheel Fun Rentals. It brought back so many fond memories of my childhood vacations to southern California.
Learn about Oceanside’s surfing history
The California Surf Museum is the place to learn about Oceanside’s surf history. One of the more interesting things why reading about why Oceanside is popular with surfers.
The community is situated so that it receives surfable swells at all times, even when there are no waves to surf elsewhere in the county.
You can also see their historic surf board collection and note the differences as surfing progressed through the years.
And of course you can’t miss their exhibit on Bethany Hamilton, who was just 13 when she lost her arm to a tiger shark while surfing in Hawaii. The museum has her board, bathing suit, and the story of this fascinating event that was made into the movie “Soul Surfer”.
Experience California history
Mission San Luis Rey is located in Oceanside. It is the largest of the California missions and is known as the “King of the Missions”. The mission was founded in 1798 and features the classical and baroque architecture that was popular during this time.
Be sure to explore the gardens where you’ll find the oldest pepper tree in California. The story goes that a traveler from Peru came to the mission over 200 years ago and gave the priests the seeds for the tree that stands in the courtyard today.
In front of the mission is a nice grassy area where kids can have a quick snack if needed.
Spend the day at Oceanside’s beaches
The beaches in Oceanside are wide and flat, with plenty of space for spreading out. There are three miles of oceanfront and various food vendors congregate near the pier. Several companies and hotels offer beach umbrella and chair rentals or you can bring your own.
Visit the Oceanside Museum of Art and the Oceanside Farmers Market
Every Thursday morning year round, head out to the local farmers market where you’ll find fresh produce, flowers, and gourmet treats. Once you’re finished head to the Oceanside Museum of Art down the street where you can admire the artwork of many local artists in a variety of exhibits.
If you happen to visit on a Thursday night, be sure to check out the Oceanside Sunset Market that features over 200 vendors, live music, and food from around the world.
Go for a boat ride
A trip to Oceanside wouldn’t be complete without some time on the water. There are kayaks and paddle boards to rent in the harbor and explore on your own. If you would rather someone else do the driving, there are whale watching and sport fishing tours that can be booked year round.
Where to Eat in Oceanside
This cool takeout restaurant serves Japanese fried chicken (karaage) and sandos (sandwiches). We tried their Famous Karaage Sando, the Kanikama Sando (crab), and the Ebi Filet-O (shrimp), and each one was delicious.
The Rooftop at Mission Pacific
Located on the roof of Mission Pacific Hotel, this fun restaurant has some amazing small bites like ceviche and tacos. Throw in some creative cocktails and local craft beers and you have an amazing place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re craving doughnuts, don’t miss Parlor. Their doughnuts are layered and flaky with a dozen or more fun flavors. We tried the Campfire, Reese’s, French Toast, and Maple Bacon and they were all delicious. Oh, and their coffee is good too!
Expect to see a line here throughout the day because the food is that good. The restaurant serves everything from açai bowls to burritos and pancakes.
Beach Break Cafe
This surf inspired diner serves all the traditional breakfast and brunch meals you’ve ever dreamed about. Be sure to try their famous cinnamon coffee cake with icing drizzle and their massive four egg omelets.
Pacific Coast Spirits
If you’re a fan of local craft distilleries, this is the place to go in Oceanside. With an outdoor patio and live music both inside and out (depending on the day), the atmosphere is extremely family friendly.
Serving farm to table food and fabulous cocktails, everyone will find a new favorite on the menu. Be sure to try the mac & cheese, the burgers, and tacos. None of them disappoints!
Piper at Seabird Resort
Located inside The Seabird Resort, the Piper Restaurant serves a killer breakfast. I’m told eventually it will be a made-to-order pasta restaurant, but for now don’t miss the avocado toast and carmelized French toast. I’m drooling just thinking about them!
Where to Stay in Oceanside
The Seabird Resort
Newly opened in May of 2021, The Seabird Resort is one of those properties you’ll want to return to again and again. With an inviting lobby featuring stylish coastal design features, gorgeous fresh sunflowers, and local artwork, we think you’ll be hooked too.
The property is managed by Hyatt, but the feel is completely different from their other properties. Located on the beachfront, the majority of the resort’s 226 rooms have ocean views. Our room was on the fourth floor with unobstructed water views. We had two queens, ample space, and a very large bathroom.
Some unique hotel features include the art collection in the lobby (in collaboration with the Oceanside Museum of Art), the second floor library, the largest hotel fitness center I’ve seen in a long time, and fabulous gathering spaces like The Shelter Club and The Shore Room.
Everything is walking distance from this resort, restaurants, farmers markets, museums, but you could never leave the property and have an amazing vacation. In fact, your kids might never want to leave the amazing pool with ocean views!
Adults looking for a getaway without kids shouldn’t miss the adjacent Hyatt property, Mission Pacific, with a completely different vibe, but same ocean views. On its property, you’ll find athe Victorian style beach cottage from the movie Top Gun. This will eventually be a dessert bar called Charlie’s, a nod to Kelly McGillis’s character in the film. There is reciprocity between the two hotels so families can enjoy them both.
I told several people in Oceanside that the city reminds me of my trips to San Diego as a child. Clean boardwalks, stellar hotels, friendly locals, and fabulous dining, make Oceanside one vacation destination in southern California you won’t want to miss.