Thanks to its beautiful year-round weather, its long list of kid-friendly attractions and its vibrant family atmosphere, San Diego is a wonderful vacation destination for families with children of all ages.
Whether your children are nature lovers, sports fans or budding artists, you will be able to find the perfect activity to entertain your entire family.
San Diego has an almost limitless number of family-friendly entertainment options, but the following 15 attractions and activities represent the must-sees for any family visiting this gorgeous Southern California locale.
Explore San Diego’s Famous Attractions
Catch a dolphin show at SeaWorld San Diego: While SeaWorld’s aquariums and Sesame Street Bay of Play are guaranteed to be a hit with young guests, the park’s animals shows are its biggest attraction. SeaWorld San Diego’s 20-minute Dolphin Days show highlighting these playful animals will delight the entire family.
Catch a game a Petco Park: Known as one of the most family-friendly sports arenas in the country, Petco Park is home to the San Diego Padres. While taking in a baseball game as a family, young children can indulge in the pleasures of ballpark hotdogs.
Visit over 800 species at the San Diego Zoo: No trip to San Diego is complete without a visit to its world-famous zoo. From lions to giant pandas, the San Diego Zoo is home to over four thousand critters, and the Children’s Zoo has a variety of exhibits aimed at kids including an eye-level view of frolicking otters.
Explore the African Savannah at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: At the San Diego Zoo’s sister park, families can embark on the African Tram Safari, which takes visitors on a ride through 1,800-acres of savannah-like terrain to see roaming zebras, rhinos and giraffes.
Bask in Nature
Investigate a tidepool at the Cabrillo National Monument: Offering some of the most easy-to-access tidepools in all of California, the Cabrillo National Monument allows children to examine natural aquatic habitats and complete marine ecosystems featuring a number of species of fish, invertebrates and plants that live along the California shoreline.
Hit the trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: Families with active children will love Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. With its eight trails winding along the sea cliffs, families can get an up-close view of wild flowers and prickly pear cactus while enjoying panoramic vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Spend a lazy day enjoying the sun and sand on one of San Diego’s beaches: With its 70 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches, a vacation to San Diego has to include a day of sun and waves. Older children will be delighted to take surfing lessons or go kayaking, while younger kids will have a blast making sand castles.
Watch the seals at La Jolla Cove’s Children’s Pool: La Jolla Cove is one of the best places in San Diego to observe the region’s incredible sea animals in their natural habitats, and the Children’s Pool at La Jolla Cove lets families get a closer look at California Harbor Seals as they play and sun themselves on rocks.
Take in a Museum
Explore the latest exhibits at the New Children’s Museum: With classes and exhibits appropriate for children of all ages, the New Children’s Museum is ideal for families with multiple children. Older kids can enjoy classes in the Teen Studio, while toddlers can have fun in a Barn Dance class.
Test your skill in a flight simulator at the San Diego Air & Space Museum: With exhibits highlighting moments in the history of flight from the first balloon ride to cutting-edge space exploration, kids of all ages will have a blast at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, particularly trying out the museum’s thrilling flight simulators.
Pretend to be a pirate at the Maritime Museum: Known for its collection of historic ships including the Star of India, the Maritime Museum of San Diego provides kids with the opportunity to explore submarines, sailing vessels and steam-powered ships. In the summer, families have the option to take a special overnight adventure on the HMS Surprise.
Find Delights Off the Beaten Path
Ride the carousel at Seaport Village: Seaport Village’s outdoor shopping center has a lot to offer kids and adults alike, but young children will be most excited to take a spin on the hand-carved carousel dating to 1895.
Step back in time at Old Town California: As the location of the first Spanish settlement in California, Old Town California is filled with historic buildings housing stores selling old-fashioned candies and fun souvenirs. Older children will love to visit Old Town’s Whaley House, a haunted house profiled on the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted.
Ride the miniature railroad at Balboa Park: Balboa Park is an oasis in the center of San Diego, home to a variety of museums, gardens and theaters. The park’s youngest visitors, however, will be particularly happy to take a ride on its miniature railroad, shuttling kids on a three-minute tour over four acres of the park.
Make a beautiful souvenir at the Spanish Village Art Center: A showcase for local craftsmen and artisans to display their work, the Spanish Village Art Center also offers one-day classes for children of all ages. Budding artists are guided in exploring their creative side through watercolor, ceramics, egg art, kaleidoscopes, painting, pottery, Chinese brush painting and drawing.