Art Wager/Getty Images
With beautiful weather year round, gorgeous beaches, and plenty of things to do for all ages and interests, San Diego is a great destination for all kinds of travelers. That includes families, who will love the city’s museums, hiking trails, amusement parks, and activities that combine learning and fun. And whether you choose to stay downtown, near the beach, or conveniently close to Balboa Park, San Diego offers a variety of accommodations at a range of prices.
Here are 22 things to do in San Diego with kids.
Spot wildlife on a coastal hike.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers a variety of hiking trails along with a glimpse into the geology and human history of the area. The reserve is home to endangered native plants as well as habitats for shorebirds, quail, mule deer, coyotes, and bobcats.
Find the perfect beach for swimming, surfing, or sunbathing.
With more than 70 miles of coastline, San Diego has a beach for everyone, including many that welcome your furry friends. At Mission Bay, there’s kayaking, water skiing, sailing, kite surfing, and boating, and on the shore, visitors can picnic, barbecue, or enjoy a bonfire.
Watch Major League Baseball or tour Petco Park in Downtown San Diego.
Home of the San Diego Padres, Petco Park offers guided tours that include behind-the-scenes places like the press box, luxury suites, and Padres Hall of Fame. During the season, enjoy a game and feast on nachos, burgers, pizza, ice cream, and, of course, hot dogs.
See model trains from California’s past with realistic layouts and historic details.
Model train fans will enjoy the exhibits at the Railroad Museum. The Cabrillo Southwestern and the San Diego & Arizona Eastern railroad models represent California in the 1950s, while the Pacific Desert Line shows the original 1855 planned route — be sure to look closely for hidden surprises.
Learn something new at Fleet Science Center.
At the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park, interactive activities teach fascinating lessons covering everything from optical illusions to electricity, solar power, and nanotechnology. Visitors ages five and under can explore Kid City and the Little Learner’s Lab.
Visit Old Town to learn about San Diego history.
Take a one-hour guided walking tour to learn about Old Town, the site of California’s first European settlement, or visit a park, museum, or haunted building. After the short history lesson, stop for a snack, listen to strolling mariachis, or browse through Old Town’s eclectic shops.
Ride a Lego-themed roller coaster at Legoland.
More than 60 Legoland rides, shows, and attractions are geared toward families with children between the ages of two and 12. Stay at the Legoland Hotel or Legoland Castle Hotel for the complete experience, and take a factory tour to see how Lego bricks are made.
Shop and eat your way through Seaport Village.
Shop for souvenirs, pick up a kite to fly on the beach, and grab an ice cream or an adult beverage at Seaport Village. Or if it’s time for lunch or dinner, enjoy a meal with a view of the boardwalk or bay.
Marvel at marine life at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.
Take a private tour, offered daily, for a look into the fascinating world of seahorses, or explore tide pools with a naturalist for a real-life outdoor learning adventure. Guests ages nine and up can take a walking tour of Scripps Pier featuring hands-on experiences.
Tour San Diego on land and sea in an amphibious vehicle.
On a SEAL Tour, you wind through the city’s streets before splashing into San Diego Bay to cruise among seals, sea lions, pelicans, and other wildlife. Depart from Seaport Village or the Embarcadero for a sightseeing tour of San Diego led by experienced guides.
Paddle along the La Jolla Sea Caves.
Visitors ages six and up can take a kayak tour to explore the La Jolla Sea Caves and Ecological Reserve. A two-hour guided tour offers the chance to spot the local sea animals and enjoy the breathtaking scenery up close.
Explore the San Diego Zoo.
The San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the U.S., so it’s a popular stop for families visiting the area. See your favorite animals as you stroll among the exhibits, and explore the park on a guided bus tour, Skyfari Aerial Tram, or miniature train ride.
Ride a classic wooden roller coaster at Belmont Park.
This vintage amusement park features bumper cars, a carousel, and other classic attractions as well as shops, restaurants, and snacks. Spend a fun day here and stay to watch the sun set over the ocean.
Get creative at The New Children’s Museum.
Engaging exhibits, colorful interactive play areas, and hands-on art installations offer fun for young kids. Plus, the museum hosts family-friendly activities (including art-making opportunities) at Museum Park on the weekends.
Ride around Mission Bay on two wheels.
Car-free paved bike paths offer great sightseeing with routes through Pacific Beach, La Jolla, and Ocean Beach. The 12-mile Mission Bay Bike Route and Ocean Beach Bike Path pass wildlife sanctuaries, shops, restaurants, and parks.
Go for a hike at Cabrillo National Monument.
Enjoy the views, hike a scenic two-mile trail, wade in tide pools, and watch for passing whales (during winter months) at Cabrillo National Monument. The monument, commemorating the expedition of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, offers Junior Ranger activities, an expansive Visitor Center, and the opportunity to learn a little California history in a beautiful setting.
Visit Sesame Place for story time with Big Bird or a ride on the Sunny Day Carousel.
At 17-acre Sesame Place, a kid-friendly roller coaster and Elmo’s Rockin’ Rockets are just a few of the fun rides. There’s also a dance party, parade, and character meet and greets. Stop at Grover’s Grill or Oscar’s Grouchy Grub for a meal or snack.
Stay at the legendary Hotel Del Coronado.
More than a resort, Hotel Del Coronado — often called “Hotel Del” — is a legendary property dating to 1888. Ideal for families with a variety of accommodation options from guest rooms and suites to the new Shore House, Hotel Del offers a stunning beach, several pools, and the Ocean Explorers program for kids ages five through 12.
Watch scientists at work and see fossils at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
At the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, visitors can watch scientists as they prepare and study specimens in the Demonstration Lab. The Living Lab is another exhibit to check out, with rattlesnakes, arachnids, frogs, and centipedes, and kids five and younger can play in The Backyard, a space made just for them.
Check out Liberty Public Market.
Point Loma’s historic Liberty Station is the site of the Liberty Public Market. Visitors can learn about the area’s past with a walking tour or explore public art through a scavenger hunt. Then it’s time to shop for artisan products and dine on everything from Nashville hot chicken to tacos.
Watch sea lions lounge on the beach.
The sea lions have made their home in La Jolla Cove, and it’s fun to watch them from the coastal walkway above as they jostle for space. Depending on the season, you might even see their newborn pups. While you’re there, enjoy the view and stroll among the boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and shops of the lovely coastal town.
Walk among the colorful murals of Chicano Park.
The large collection of murals, sculptures, and outdoor art located under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Mexican-American community, the art attracts thousands of visitors each year. While you’re there, don’t miss the neighborhood’s authentic Mexican food, coffee, and craft brews.