Things to Do with Kids in San Diego: Family Friendly Activities

  • 01 of 08

    #7. Find a Family Friendly Beach

    IMG_6444-a.jpg
    ••• Young Beachgoers at La Jolla Shores. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    San Diego is a destination custom-made for families. With pleasant year-round weather, dozens of public parks, 70 miles of beaches and a myriad of family friendly museums, it has plenty of activities to amuse children of all ages.

    If you need more help to plan your trip to San Diego with the kids, look no further than the San Diego Vacation Planner. It covers where to stay when to go - and more.

    You'll also find more things to do in San Diego that are geared toward people of all ages. Your family might enjoy some of them, too.

    Take the Kids to the Beach

    San Diego has dozens of beaches, and at some of them, you can rent boogie boards and surfboards, or even a bike.

    Coronado Beach is an excellent choice if you're staying in that part of town. La Jolla Shores has wide, gently sloping sand and fewer waves because it's protected in a cove. And nearby La Jolla Cove is tops for great tidepools.

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  • 02 of 08

    #6. Check Out the Birch Aquarium

    Visitors at the Birch Aquarium
    ••• Visitors at the Birch Aquarium. David Madison / Getty Images

    Budding oceanographers and kids who love animals will enjoy La Jolla's Birch Aquarium, where they can see a marine laboratory, learn about products made from things in the sea and watch sea horses and leafy sea dragons floating in the water.

    The Birch Aquarium is a great aquarium, big enough to have lots of interesting exhibits. It's small enough that the kids won't get too tired or lose interest.

    Find out everything you need to know for a great visit in the Birch Aquarium Visitor Guide.

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  • 03 of 08

    #5. Visit Sea World San Diego

    Exploring a Touch Pool at Sea World San Diego
    ••• Exploring a Touch Pool at Sea World San Diego. ©Betsy Malloy Photography.

    Sea World is home to Shamu the killer whale and dozens of other marine animal acts and exhibits. It has lots of shows, a few fun rides and attractions - and some fun touch pools, too.

    If you or your kids have seen the film Blackfish, you may have already decided that Sea World isn't for you. 

    Nevertheless, the families and children we see there seem to be having a great time.

    Get all the information you need for a great visit, find out how to get discounted tickets and get some handy tips in the Sea World Visitor Guide.

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  • 04 of 08

    #4. Go to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

    Watching the Hippos at the San Diego Zoo
    ••• Watching the Hippos at the San Diego Zoo. ©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    The world-famous San Diego Zoo runs two parks in the San Diego area: a traditional Zoo, located in Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park located north of town.

    Allow a full day to see each one if you can.

    If you and your kids like zoos and don't mind seeing animals in captivity, you'll probably like the San Diego Zoo. During the busiest times of year (summer) it can be hot during the day - and crowded.

    The Safari Park offers a different experience, with fewer cages and a chance to see some animals living together like they might in the wild. It's a long drive out of town and hard to reach via public transportation.

    To find out more, learn how to save money on tickets and get tips for having a great visit, check out these resources.

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  • 05 of 08

    #3. Explore Balboa Park

    Model Train Museum at Balboa Park
    ••• Model Train Museum at Balboa Park. ©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Balboa Park is home to a lot more than just the zoo. The best museums for the kids include:

    Lots of families overlook Balboa Park, thinking all the museums there are boring - or that the kids wouldn't like it. Besides the museums listed above, there are lots of open, shady spaces where the kids can run and play.

    To find out about everything that's in Balboa Park, when to visit and how to enjoy it, use the Balboa Park Visitor Guide

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  • 06 of 08

    #2. Play at Mission Bay

    Mission Bay, San Diego
    ••• Mission Bay, San Diego. Phil Konstantin/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The best skating spot for the younger crowd is along Mission Bay, which also has several playgrounds and acres of grass for kite flying. Teens will like the skating action along the Mission Beach boardwalk, which is a busy skating and biking thoroughfare.

    Belmont Park at the Mission Beach boardwalk features two restored landmarks: The Plunge, Southern California's largest indoor swimming pool when it opened in 1925 and the Giant Dipper, a restored, wooden roller coaster sporting more than 2,600 feet of tracks and 13 hills.

    Mission Bay is one of the San Diego's nicest public parks, with lots of shoreline and things to do. If you like water play, that is. Otherwise, you won't find much to keep you entertained. It can also be very crowded on weekends.

    Get more information in the Mission Bay Visitor Guide.

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  • 07 of 08

    #1. Take the Kids to Legoland

    Pirate Picnic at Legoland
    ••• Pirate Picnic at Legoland. ©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Legoland California is just north of San Diego. This park features lots of things made of the ever-popular Lego blocks and is a fun (and quiet) option for smaller children.

    Legoland is the best park in California for young children, with lots of rides designed with little ones in mind. Adults enjoy all the Lego creations.

    Older children may be bored, especially if they're the type who like roller coasters and thrill rides.

    Get all the tips you need, find out how to get discount tickets and more in the Legoland Visitor Guide.

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  • 08 of 08

    A Few More Ideas

    Riding the Rollercoaster at Belmont Park
    ••• Riding the Rollercoaster at Belmont Park. Joe McBride / Getty Images

    More Places to Take the Kids

    Old Town is not the best of places for a family visit unless your child is especially interested in history. However, they may enjoy their living history day or visiting the shops and colorful Mexican restaurants. 

    The New Children's Museum is downtown near the Convention Center, and sports-loving kids may like to tour Petco baseball park or go to a game.

    More Things You Can Do in San Diego

    There's a lot more to do in San Diego. You may want to start by finding out why you should skip some places you've heard about. If you're a contrarian traveler who seeks out the undiscovered spots, then don't miss these  9 Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Do in San Diego.

    If your budget is limited (which applies to most of us), you can have a lot of fun without spending a penny. Just use the Guide to Things to Do for Free in San Diego.

    If you want to find out what the most popular San Diego tourist attractions are, you can find them (with their pros and cons) in the Top...MORE Things to Do in San Diego.

    Even though San Diego weather is mostly sunny, it might rain in the winter. Here's what to do in San Diego if those raindrops start falling on your head. And if it's summertime when you visit, you'll definitely want to know What to Do on a Summer Night in San Diego.

    Day Trips

    Scientifically oriented kids may enjoy the Mount Palomar Observatory.

    Nearby Julian, with a gold mine tour and apple pies galore, is old-fashioned fun for the whole family. Not far from there is the Oasis Camel Dairy which is open to visitors about once a month.