Planes, Trains & Automobiles


Boys (and girls!) who love things that “go” have a lot to love in (and near) San Diego. Here are some favorite ways kids can enjoy automation and aviation… 



Gillespie Field

Located at 1960 Joe Crosson Drive in El Cajon, Gillespie Field hosts an annual air show in June, is home to a San Diego Air & Space Museum annex and features the Gillespie Field Cafe.


Montgomery Field

Located at 3750 John J Montgomery Drive in the Kearny Mesa area, Montgomery Field has three runways, meaning lots of plane traffic. Casa Machado Mexican restaurant sits atop the main terminal building, offering very good food and even better views of the planes.

Kids love to watch the planes while eating at Casa Machado / Montgomery Field.

Kids love to watch the planes while eating at Casa Machado / Montgomery Field.


USS Midway

Featuring meticulously restored aircraft from World War II to Operation Desert Storm, the USS Midway aircraft carrier is one of San Diego’s most popular attractions. Featuring an annual 4th of July event with excellent views of San Diego Bay fireworks, the Midway is located near Searport Village. Children under age 6 tour for free!

My boy loves the Midway!

My boy loves the Midway!


Miramar Air Show

The Miramar Air Show is scheduled for October 3-5 at MCAS Miramar. This annual event features the Blue Angels, Navy Leap Frog parachute teams, aircraft displays, fireworks and more.


Air & Space Museum

Aviation history unfolds at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, located in Balboa Park. The museum offers educational camps, birthday parties and has a small children’s play area.


Flying Leathernecks

Offering “open cockpit days” throughout the summer, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is located at MCAS Miramar and honors the contributions of marine aviators.




Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association

This non-profit educational organization is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of railroads as they existed in the Pacific Southwest. Although it operates the small La Mesa Depot Museum, open on Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m., the museum is better known for its weekend excursions on portions of the San Diego & Arizona Railway utilizing actual vintage equipment, and special events like the North Pole Limited ride with Santa.

Visiting with Santa aboard The North Pole Express

Visiting with Santa aboard The North Pole Limited


Poway Midland Railroad

The Poway-Midland Railroad is a full-size, narrow-gauge railroad in Old Poway Park that carries passengers aboard vintage and antique railroad equipment. The railroad is owned by the City of Poway, and operated as a non-profit. The trains run on Saturdays and Sundays. Fairs range from .50 for kids and up to $2.50 for adults.

Poway-Midland Steam Engine

Poway-Midland Steam Engine


Balboa Park Miniature Railroad

Take a 3-minute, ½-mile trip through four acres of Balboa Park on the San Diego Zoo’s model G16    – a rare antique with as few as fifty currently remaining. The train runs on Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays. Tickets are $3 for anyone over age 1.


San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Enjoy one the largest indoor model railroad displays in the world right here in San Diego. Residents can visit for free on the first Tuesday of each month, and children 5 and younger are always free. The museum offers summer camps and birthday parties.


The North County Transit District operates the Coaster commuter train, which runs between Oceanside and downtown San Diego. Families can take the Coaster to Padres games and the fair, students can take advantage of a classroom day pass program, and each December hundreds take the 90-minute Holiday Express train ride, mingling and singing with Santa, Mrs. Claus and The Grinch.


San Diego Trolley

Our city’s red trolley is a great way to reach family-friendly destinations like Qualcomm Stadium for Chargers games and Petco Park for Padres games, but it’s also fun for kids to simply ride the trolley to nowhere in particular. Children 5 and younger are free with any paid passenger.


Orange Empire Railway Museum

While not in San Diego, Day Out With Thomas is worth the 1.5 hour drive to Perris, CA for Thomas-crazy kids. This annual November event offers children and their grownups the opportunity to take a 25-minute ride with the classic story book friend Thomas the Tank Engine and meet Sir Topham Hatt.


Thomas photo by Randy Doss

Thomas photo by Randy Doss

Lee’s Kiddie Train

It’s fun to make a trip to the mall with mom when you get to climb aboard the adorable train at Westfield UTC. Don’t forget to bring your mom’s guide BOGO ad for your next visit!





Whether they love race cars, police cars, garbage trucks, military vehicles, school buses, your kids will love Touch-a-Truck. If it has wheels you’re likely to find it at the annual Touch-a-Truck event.

Hands on fun at Touch-a-Truck

Hands on fun at Touch-a-Truck

San Diego Automotive Museum

The San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park offers a wonderful selection of vintage and classic American and European vehicles and motorcycles. Kids 6 and younger visit for free, and residents are free on the fourth Tuesday of each month.


Back to the 50s

The La Mesa Car Show transports kids and adults “back to the 50s” every Thursday night in June, July and August.


2 thoughts on “Planes, Trains & Automobiles

  1. Caryn says:

    This is a great list! Thank you!

  2. Phyllis says:

    This year marks the 40th anniversary for Chula Vista Live Steamers Located at Rohr Park. The trains operate the second weekend of every month from noon to 230 pm EXCLUDING the month of September in which is always on Labor Day weekend. This year will be the 40th Anniversary and on August 30 the City of Chula Vista will be out there to help celebrate the festivities from 10 am to 4 pm. This will be a fantastic time to come out to Rohr Park and RIDE the trains !! Come out and ride trains !! They do private parties for birthdays!!

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