With a population of over 1.3 million, San Diego is a popular place to live as well as visit, boasting a plethora of attractions. When looking for the best things to do in San Diego with kids, you will not have much difficulty because the city caters to young families with fun places like the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Belmont Park, Seaworld San Diego, and San Diego Bay.
Some of the most enjoyable things to do in San Diego with kids are downtown San Diego where you can find dozens of San Diego attractions that are fun for kids of all ages. Visiting San Diego with kids is perfect any time of year since the weather is warm and sunny year-round, making San Diego beaches a major attraction.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is another place to enjoy with the kids where you will find several museums and other historic sites like the model railroad museum. This is one of the things to do in San Diego with kids that is absolutely free as well, making your San Diego family vacation even better.
While you are off enjoying the things to do in San Diego with kids, be sure to check out the San Diego Museum, the San Diego harbor, and the Fleet Science Center. Mission Beach, La Jolla Cove, and La Jolla Shores Beach are also fun places to visit.
As you look for things to do in San Diego with kids, do not miss the sea lions at the San Diego Zoo and the coasters at Belmont Park. Since you cannot bring your luggage with you, find the nearest San Diego luggage storage facility to leave them for safekeeping. That way you and the kids can enjoy the San Diego attractions unhindered, which is way more fun.
San Diego Zoo
One of the best things to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the San Diego Zoo. Located in Balboa Park, the zoo features over 3,700 rare and endangered animals and more than 700,000 plants. It is the best zoological park in the San Diego area and should not be missed on your San Diego trip.
The park boasts 15 exhibits with some of the favorites being the Monkey Trail, Panda Canyon, Polar Bear Plunge, and the Lost Forest as well as the Elephant Odyssey, Africa Rocks, and the Sun Bear Forest. As part of the San Diego Zoo Global, it is important in saving many animals from extinction like koalas, gorillas, and giraffes.
If you want to get more hands-on with wildlife, take a tour of the Safari Park. With more than 1,800 acres, it is one of the biggest attractions in San Diego. There are 10 different attractions and exhibits including the Tiger Trail, Hidden Jungle, and Lion Camp. If the kids get too hot, let them play in the Savannah cool zone.
One of the most popular activities for the whole family is the tethered balloon ride where you can see the exhibits from 400 feet up. Although it is not included in the price of admission, it is well worth the money if you are not afraid of heights. The Africa Tram Tour is also worth a visit.
No matter what else you find to do in San Diego with kids, Balboa Park is one of the best. Not only is it home to the San Diego Zoo, but it also features a carousel, lawn bowling, a swimming pool, and bocce ball as well as disc golf, an RC car racetrack, and a Velodrome bike racing track.
The San Diego Tourism Authority lists Balboa Park as one of the best attractions for kids in southern California. The children's pool is one of the San Diego kids' activities that is most popular and the miniature train is great for the little ones.
You cannot say you visited San Diego if you have not gone to at least one of the beaches. Just south of Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach is one of the most popular spots to play in the water. But it is not just a beach, it is a neighborhood with several beaches as well as attractions like the tide pools full of sea life, a historic walk, and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
Mission Bay Park is also nearby where you can do some boogie boarding, go swimming, and surfing or watch the skaters at the skate park. The Cabrillo National Monument is also a really neat attraction on the Point Loma Peninsula. It was named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the expedition that landed there in 1542.
North of Ocean Beach in Mission Beach, Belmont Park is an amusement park with 13 attractions including the Giant Dipper, a wooden coaster that has been making kids scream since 1925. They also have the Beach Blaster coaster, Octotron Unicoaster, tower rides, and bumper cars.
Other great attractions in the park include a rock wall, zip line, miniature golf, a laser tag maze, and the Xanadu 7D Theater. After working up an appetite, get some carnival food like Wetzel's Pretzels, Dippin' Dots, and Hot Dog on a Stick. This is one of the best things to do with your kids in San Diego.
SeaWorld San Diego
At SeaWorld, you can see more than just sea lions. The park is actually more of a theme park with 16 attractions including five roller coasters and two water rides. Some of the favorites include the Skytower, Shipwreck Rapids, the Electric Eel, and the Tidal Twister.
The Sesame Street Bay of Play is the perfect toddler area where the little ones can burn off some of that energy they never seem to run out of. Pack a swimsuit and sunscreen so you can all cool off. They also have animal exhibits, of course, with dolphins, whales, seals, and sea lions.
Not just a place to build things, LEGOLAND California is a theme park and miniature park as well as an aquarium. Featuring 60 attractions with four coasters and eight water rides, the park has 11 fun areas including Fun Town, Miniland, Pirate Shores, and The LEGO Movie World.
In case you get bored, The Police and Fire Academy Rescue ride is perfect for adults to enjoy with the kids. Race against three other fire trucks on a track and stop to shoot water at a target to win. You can also enjoy the Sea Life Aquarium where they have a walkthrough tunnel.
Old Town San Diego Historic Park
Located in the Old Town District of San Diego, this is one of the things to do in San Diego with kids that will be fun for everyone. Let one of the Old Town Trolley Tours introduce you to all the attractions without wearing out your feet. See some of the live demonstrations to learn about the history of the town.
Also known as the birthplace of modern California, you will find five historic buildings featuring 12 museums, restaurants, and retail shops. You can also see an old town pipe store, blacksmith shop, and schoolhouse. San Diego's first newspaper office is also one of the attractions.
La Jolla Cove is San Diego's most popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and swimming with its calm waters and gorgeous beaches. With warm weather all year long, it is always a good time to go to the beach no matter when you take your family trip. Whether you are going in the water or just want to see the Shell Beach tide pools, the west coast has it all.
La Jolla Shores Park is also nearby and features several fantastic playgrounds, fun hiking trails, and California harbor seals. The whole neighborhood of La Jolla is kid-friendly with all sorts of family fun to enjoy. Although it is known for its sea cliffs and rugged beaches, you can also find some great fun in La Jolla Village.
San Diego Botanic Garden
This special garden in San Diego County features almost 40 acres of flora in over 20 themed areas. The Hamilton Children's Garden has a bunch of fun activities for the kids like a giant tic-tac-toe game, mazes, and a treehouse. They can even play with the toy boats in the miniature stream.
Besides all that, you will all love exploring other Bird & Butterfly Garden, Canary Island, the Junior Quail Trail, and the Overlook Natural Area with stunning ocean views. Be sure to take the kids to see the Kumeyaay homesite on the Native Plants and People Trail.
San Diego Natural History Museum
Located in Balboa Park, the most important museum to learn about San Diego's history, this San Diego Museum features a variety of exhibits for all ages. As one of the most popular things to do with kids in San Diego, the NAT is the oldest scientific museum in California, opening in 1933.
One of the most popular exhibits for kids is the Allosaurus dinosaur, which is 28 feet in length. The Finback Whale skull is also really popular and the Fossil Mysteries with 75 million years of fossils from dinosaurs to mastodons. The kids can watch the scientists work and learn more about what happens behind the scenes.
New Children's Museum
The San Diego Children's Museum is one of the best things to do with the kids in San Diego. The colorful mural of Brian and the Bugs illustrates the connection between bugs and flowers. The El Mas Alla play area has a giant slide and foam blocks to play with.
The Teatro Pinata is a favorite with everyone featuring a backstage world of a traveling caravan. The Rain House is a creative area where kids can play inside the house as it "rains." Kids under four will love Wobbleland where they can play with food.
San Diego Seal Tours
You cannot visit San Diego without seeing this awesome attraction that only lasts 90 minutes but you will be talking about it for years. This may just be the most enjoyable 90 minutes of your San Diego vacation. You will do a tour of both land and sea on an amphibious vehicle.
Start at Seaport Village and head down Harbor Drive to see the Bay before driving right into it. In the water, you will cruise by Vacation Isle, SeaWorld, and other waterfront attractions.
Let the Old Town Trolley take you and the kids on a sightseeing tour all over town. You can also get caricatures of yourselves drawn at Funny Features, ride the Historic Carousel made in 1895, and visit the Studio by the Bay. Do some toy shopping at Geppetto's, Safari Animal Collection, or Kite Flite.
Santa's Workshop is fun all year long and Magnuts is a really interesting magnet shop with some unique toys and gifts. When you get hungry, grab a burger and fries and the San Diego Burger Company where they even serve buffalo and ostrich burgers.
Kids Free San Diego
One thing to note is that October is Kids Free San Diego. All month long, kids under 12 can stay free at many motels as well as get into many attractions for free.
Take the Family to San Diego
There is so much to do when you visit San Diego, we cannot possibly include them all. Some of the ones we did not review that are too good not to mention include the San Diego Air and Space Museum, Safari Park, Spanish Village Art Center, and Coronado Central Beach on Coronado Island in front of Hotel del Coronado.
You and the family may also enjoy a picnic lunch at a waterfront park in San Diego Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. They have plenty of picnic tables to choose from. Museums are always a great activity. The kids may also enjoy taking a tour of the San Diego USS Midway Museum, seeing other ships at the Maritime Museum, and visiting the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.