Hot California

Family Guide to Old Town San Diego with kids – Where to eat, stay & play

Find out why Old Town San Diego has become one of our favorite spots to visit in the world

Old Town San Diego is the birthplace of California and 200 hundred years later continues to be the hubbub of excitement. The history, the culture, the proximity to sea and the tequila, make Old Town one of my favorite places to visit in San Diego.

Although there are said to be plenty of ghosts, this is no ghost town. There is so much to do with all the shops, restaurants, bars and historic sites. The constant hustle and bustle of activity keeps it full of life every day. With so see, do and enjoy, it is no wonder why I love visiting Old Town San Diego with kids on the regular.

See a video from our YouTube Channel on visiting Old Town San Diego with Kids, including the Hacienda Hotel.

Where to stay in Old Town:

Hacienda Hotel:

This charming hotel is in the heart of Old Town and walking distance from all the shops and restaurants. The Spanish-style façade with romantic patios, balconies and courtyards are reminiscent of early Californian missions. We love the atmosphere of the Hacienda as well as the location. After a night enjoying yard beers at O’Hungry’s it is nice to just stumble across the street and fall into bed. It is definitely our favorite place to drop our bags. Rates are around $200 a night which is pricey, but it possible to find deals on various travel sites as well package deals. See my full post, Here.

Old Town San Diego Hacienda Hotel
Cosmopolitan Hotel:

Built in 1827 as a private residence, this boutique hotel has only 10 rooms which are all beautifully decorated with furnishing from the 1870’s in Victorian-style, staying true to the time. The Cosmopolitan is centrally located within the main plaza, but isn’t the best for families. The rooms are more for couples, containing only one queen to twin size beds.  It is also said to be haunted and if you are into that added spook factor check out the history on my post: Haunted Hotels in San Diego. Considering the location and history, the rates aren’t too bad either. Check rates HERE.

Old Town San Diego Cosmopolitan HotelMission Bay RV Resort:

The best value and a ton of fun. We love to park the RV for the weekend at Mission Bay, because it is on the bay and it is so close to Old Town. We like to take the kids for a dip in the bay in the morning and then spend an afternoon in Old Town. Rates start $65 a night and only $95 for bay view. A whole weekend at Mission Bay RV Resort is less expensive than one night at a hotel. We usually travel with a large group so this is the most cost effective way to stay and play. See my full post, HERE.

Mission Bay San Diego with kids

Places to eat in Old Town San Diego:

If you love Mexican food you are in luck, because there are plenty of delicious options. From the upscale to the traditional comfort food, no one will go hungry in Old Town.

Casa De Reyes:

My favorite restaurant to hit up, because of the great food and proximity to live entertainment. All outdoor seating, Casa De Reyes feels like you are at a party in the back yard. The portions are large, perfect for sharing family-style. It is loud and wild, perfect for dining with kids. It is one of our favorite places to go to hear live music with the kids. Check out why we love it and other places in the US to hear live music with your kids in our Hot List.


Old Town Mexican Café:

In operation for over 30 years, this establishment has great homemade tortillas and hosts amazing tequila dinner showcases which feature different brands of tequila paired with food throughout a four-course dining experience.

Old Town Mexican Cafe

El Agave:

A little off the beaten path, but still walk-able from the plaza, this restaurant focuses on upscale Mexican dishes that incorporate the universal flavors that come from greater Mexico.

Barra Barra:

Same executive chef as Casa De Reyes, but here the menu takes a more complex twist. Like El Agave, Barra Barra branches out from the comfort food familiar to the masses as it tries to represent boarder Mexican cuisine. Location is great, right within the plaza with an awesome patio over looking the historic state park.

Old Town San Diego Barra Barra Restaurant

Tequila Factory:

It is a rare trip to Old San Diego that we don’t eat at the Tequila Factory. We usually stay at the Hacienda Hotel and always start our day with an amazing Mexican brunch and live music. Actually, we end up having so much fun here that we end up booking another night just so we can keep the party going. The patio has amazing panoramic views of the Old Town that make you feel on top of the world.


Places to Grab a Drink with Kids:

Hello tequila! Mama is home. As Iggy Azalea would say, I take my liquor straight; never chase that. Tequila is my favorite spirit and Old Town San Diego is my happy place. Just miles from the Mexican broader, many establishments house a wide selection of award wining tequila and even participate in the annual Old Town Tequila Trail and The Spirit of Mexico Festival! Don’t worry parents; most of these venues are family-friendly. So grab the kids and get to sipping. See my full post on where to drink in Old Town, HERE.

Casa De Reyes:

They have really cute bar with a wonderful selection of tequila and home to the El Jefe Margarita, if you are feeling like a boss.

Casa De Reyes Tequila and Beer

Old Town San Diego Big Margarita

El Agave:

With over 2,000 tequilas including their private label, El Agave Artesanal, El Agave Tequileria is not just a restaurant, but a tequila museum.

Old Town San Diego El Agave


The yard beers are a must. This is usually our first stop. We start our afternoon with one these bad boys and the rest of the day is a breeze. UPDATE: O Hungry’s is under new ownership and no longer has full yard beers and has lost a lot of its original character. Bummer.

Old Town San Diego Yard Beer O Hungrys

Barra Barra Saloon:

Home to the best margarita in town for only $5 as well as a fascinating cocktail list.

Fun Things to do in Old Town:

Time to have some fun and walk off those drinks! Old Town San Diego has tons of shops, activities, live music, historic sites and open spaces to have with the kids. So, let’s explore the things to do in Old Town San Diego with kids.

The Historic State Park:

Located within the main plaza, this park was established in 1846 when the American flag was first raised. My kids love old school houses and a visit to the Mason School house which was built in 1865 and was the first public school house in San Diego. Families can still enjoy this historic jewel, letting the kids run around the same flag pole that has stood firmly for 200 years.

Old Town San Diego Fun with kids

Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop:

The kids love to dip their candles, an activity we do every time we’re in town. It’s fun, inexpensive and makes for a great souvenir.

Kid at Old Town San Diego candle shop

kids making candles

Music and Dancing:

All day there is live music and dancing going on in the plaza. It makes for a celebratory atmosphere. The kids love to dance as well as watch the many performances going on at any given time at Fiesta De Reyes.

Young girl dancing in Old Town

Whaley House:

According to Travel Channel, Whaley House is the most haunted place in America. Just down the road is the El Campo Santo Cemetery dating back to 1850. Old Town is so much fun, even the ghost stick around. Wonder if they like tequila too?

Old Town San Diego Whaley House

Trolley Tours:

This is a great way to see Old Town and all the historic sites such as the Heritage Victorian Village and the many adobe homes built in the 1800’s which housed some of California’s most important historical figures. They given have a ghost tour for those who would like to see the spookier sides of town.

Old Town San Diego Trolley Tour


Wonder through the narrow streets in search for unique and sometime bizarre items to take home. Everyone is sure to find something that suits their tastes.

Old Town San Diego Market with kids

Cousin’s Candy Shop:

If Mama gets her tequila, then it is only reasonable for the kids to get their candy!

Racine & Laramie Tobacconist:

An authentic 1846 cigar shop. This darling little historic building houses another one of HotMama’s favorite adult treats! Cigars!!! The smell of old wood combines with the haunting aroma of cigar smoke here to create a magical sensation. It just feels good. If you are into cigars too, you should check out cigar reviews on my husbands new site called Cigar & Chill.

Old Town San Diego Cigar shop

hot mama with cigar

Sheriff’s Museum:

Free admission, the Sheriff’s Museum is fun and interactive experience where families can learn about the history of the sheriff’s department. You can see what if feels like to be locked in a cell, solve a crime scene, be a defendant in court and even sit in real Sheriff vehicles like squad cars, motorcycles and helicopters. The kids took some fun mug shots while we there and I even got to give them a “time-out” in a jail cell. They definitely behaved for mama beer break. Ha. 


El Campo Santo:

This is quaint old cemetery was established in 1849. Located in the heart of Old Town San Diego this historic landmark is a great way to step into San Diego’s past and mingle with the locals. This is also known to be a hot bed of paranormal activity and is a popular stop on ghost tours. We love to make frequent visits to the cemetery, say hello and give the old souls some company.

el-campo-cemetery-old-town-san-diego That’s a Wrap:

After writing this post I am about to throw the kids in the minivan and head to Old Town San Diego. I am thirsty for some tequila and I am thirsty for a good time! What better place to take the kids than a town all about celebrating family, culture and history! Come celebrate life with me in Old Town San Diego with kids!

Old Town San Diego with kids

Have you ever been to Old Town San Diego?

What looks the most exciting to you?


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


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  5. I love visiting Old Town in San Diego. When we have out of town guests, we always take them there first. There’s so much to do without spending any money at all, and if you want to dine there, the options are plentiful. You didn’t mention one of our favorite activities — visiting the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center. There, they have lots of interactive displays and themed rooms that depict the longest military march in US history. Rooms include a desert campsite, a general store where kids are dressed up and “outfitted” for the march, and a replica of the first San Diego courtroom. Kids get to make adobe bricks and pan for gold in the back yard. Anyway, there’s a lot more there than I’ve written about. If you haven’t been, you should check it out. It’s completely free, and there’s even a dedicated parking lot for it!

    • Yes! So much to do and I just love the history. It is our favorite place in San Diego. Plus, it is walking distance from the train station!

  6. Looks like a lot of fun ( and tequila) in San Diego. I’m due for a return trip and definitely inspired now.

  7. This looks like a great place for families. From the food to the adventure, it looks like a win/win. In my opinion, January is always a good time of year to go anywhere south.

  8. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!!
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  9. It looks like a lovely place to visit. The drinks, especially, are interesting! I would also love the candle dipping and visiting the historic park.

  10. Being European, it’s lovely for me to see a place in the U.S. that offers some culture and history. I think San Diego would suit me – I must visit one day.

  11. I love the idea of the trolley tours. Even the ghost tour sounds like fun. It is a pity I don’t live in the States or else I would be heading to San Diego to go exploring.

  12. Old Town sounds like a blast! Definitely going to add it to my list of West Coast stuff I want to do. The food and drinks are right up my alley.

    • Yes, we love going to Old Town to eat and drink! That’s the main thing on our to-do list.

  13. The Sheriff’s Museum is a great stop for all ages, and the entry fee is simply a donation. They have a lot of cool props and photo ops too. They aren’t open every day though, so check their website for hours:

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