35 BEST Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

San Diego County overflows with fun for families. As a mom who lived in this Southern California beach city for many years and returns regularly with her brood, I’m excited to share the best things to do in San Diego with kids. There are plentiful activities to keep all ages content from theme parks and animal adventures to nature play and museums. Take a look at 35 San Diego attractions for families!

Children on the beach
My daughter and friends on the beach in San Diego, California (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Find San Diego deals including attraction ticket discounts and discounted hotel packages. Scroll to the bottom of this list of San Diego attractions for kids to find a special San Diego discount just for Travel Mamas readers!

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1. The Beach

When considering the best San Diego attractions for kids, the beach always tops the list. This Southern California city is renowned for its long sandy beaches and surfable waves. In fact, San Diego boasts more than 70 miles of coastline. No matter what time of year you visit, beauty and fun abound at San Diego beaches.

In summer, the beautiful beaches bustle with picnicking families. Families can build sandcastles and splash in the waves. Or, participate in water sports like surfing lessons, boogie boarding, or a sea-kayaking tour.


Cooler spring and fall temperatures mean more space to relax and spread out a beach blanket. For me, that’s the best time to visit the beach in San Diego. Take a long walk on the sand, listen to the waves roll in and out, and watch the seagulls dive into the water for a seafood snack.

Those visiting in winter are often surprised to find the beaches too chilly for swimming. But wetsuits are available from surf shops for die-hard ocean lovers. Winter months are a great time to explore San Diego tide pools, searching for hermit crabs, sea stars, mussels, and other sea life at low tide.

La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in La Jolla, California
Beach time in San Diego (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Beaches in San Diego for Families

With so many San Diego beaches along the Pacific Ocean, it can be hard to choose the right one for your family. Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach buzz with active boardwalks, beach volleyball, and horseshoe-playing college kids. For less hubbub, families may prefer the immaculate Coronado Island Beach.

The crescent-shaped La Jolla Shores Beach is also a stunner. Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach is always a family favorite with its sweet beachside playground. Meanwhile, Mission Beach offers very mellow waves for young children.

Balboa Park Lily Pond and Conservatory
Balboa Park Lily Pond and Conservatory (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Balboa Park

The location of the first-ever World’s Fair, Balboa Park is definitely one of the best things to do in San Diego with kids. It feels like a grand old European boulevard. Enjoy free admission to this spacious park with its multitude of gardens and five playgrounds.

The entire family will enjoy wandering through the park’s beautiful grounds. Be sure to visit the Balboa Park Rose Garden to stop and smell the fragrant flowers. For even more fun, sign up for a Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt.

Pay extra to explore Balboa Park’s 17 onsite museums. San Diego’s renowned Old Globe Theatre also puts on performances here throughout the year. The San Diego Zoo is technically part of Balboa Park, too.

This koala at San Diego Zoo looks like he's waving hello, doesn't he?
Koala at San Diego Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. San Diego Zoo

Of course, you can’t go to San Diego with kids without visiting its famous zoo. Widely regarded as one of the best zoological centers in the world, the San Diego Zoo wows animal lovers. This zoo’s focus is on the conservation of endangered animals and educating the public about the world’s creatures.

Four thousand animals representing 800 species make their homes here. Take a peek at lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). But there are also koalas, Komodo dragons, kangaroos, and many other animals to fascinate visitors.

Once home to giant pandas on loan from China, visitors can still see red pandas at the San Diego Zoo.


Kids will enjoy visiting the Children’s Zoo. There they can play on the Fisher-Price Discovery Playground and interact with goats, sheep, and other mellow creatures in the petting zoo.

Since the zoo is located within the beautiful Balboa Park, you could easily bring a cooler filled with food to keep in your (rental) car in the parking lot. Enjoy a meal at one of the picnic tables in the park and then reenter the zoo once your bellies are full.

Read my tips for making the most of visiting the San Diego Zoo with kids and buy your San Diego Zoo entry passes!

Safari Caravan at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Caravan Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global)

4. San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Safari Park is just as impressive as its sister property, the world-famous San Diego Zoo. This animal park encompasses a whopping 1,800 acres, compared to the zoo’s 100.

The African Tram is the park’s king attraction. It transports visitors through a wide-open landscape similar to that of the African Savannah. Riders spy on such creatures as rhinos, giraffes, and Cape buffaloes. Pay an additional fee to get up close to the animals on a Caravan Safari (shown above).

But that’s not the only memorable adventure at the Safari Park. Purchase a cup of nectar at Lorikeet Landing to come nose to beak with brightly plumed lorikeet parrots. You can even zip-line at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park over the heads of wild animals. Or, for a truly memorable adventure, sign up for the Roar and Snore overnight camping in the park.

On hot days, bring swim gear for children to cool off in the animal-shaped fountains at the Savannah Cool Zone.

Buy your San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets now!

Legoland California theme park
LEGOLAND California theme park (Photo credit: Legoland California)

5. LEGOLAND California

While many amusement parks present passive entertainment, parents will be pleased to discover interactive attractions at LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad.

At the Volvo Driving School, children drive pint-sized cars around streets dotted with stop signs and working stoplights. Kids can also build and race LEGO vehicles and even program computerized LEGO Mindstorms robots.

The Police and Fire Academy Rescue ride gets Mom and Dad involved. Families pile into a fire truck or police car. Then they power it by pumping levers up and down as they race other teams to put out a “fire” and stop make-believe robbers.

Purchase discounted LEGOLAND California tickets now!

Belmont Park in Mission Bay
Belmont Park (Photo credit: f8grapher, Depositphotos.com)

6. Belmont Park

Kids adore Belmont Park on the Mission Beach Boardwalk. Go to this waterfront park for carnival games with prizes, ice creams, funnel cakes, and a handful of fun rides.

Admission is free at this popular San Diego attraction for families. Pay as you go so swing by to ride and play what you like and move on. For unlimited access to 13 rides and included parking, purchase a Belmont Park Ride & Play Pass.

Giant Dipper Roller Coaster

The star attraction is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. This historic wooden roller coaster was originally built in 1925 and has been restored for your rickety riding pleasure. Be warned that this is a very jerky ride. Teens will love it. Grown-ups? Probably less.

Kiddie Rides

Expect kiddie rides on dry land like Super Grover’s Box Car Derby mini roller coaster. Parades and beloved Sesame Street character meet-and-greets round out the family fun.

Water Park Rides

For a splashing good time, young kids will enjoy amusements like Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides and The Count’s Splash Castle. Bigger kids will be excited to find thrilling water slides, too. For example, Cookie’s Monster Mixer is a 4-story raft ride that sends families on a swirling, swishing adventure.

The Children's Pool in La Jolla
The Children’s Pool in La Jolla (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla is well-known for its designer shops and upscale dining options. But La Jolla Cove is also a fabulous place to enjoy outdoor activities.

Enjoy a picnic lunch on an expansive grassy area overlooking the ocean at Scripps Parkway. Come at low tide to look for marine life in tide pools along the Pacific Ocean.

Then, walk along sea cliffs and peer at California Harbor seals and sea lions lazing on the beach at Children’s Pool. This is a small cove protected by a concrete breaker, which particularly appeals to these ocean mammals.

Dolphin Days show at SeaWorld San Diego
Dolphin Days show at SeaWorld San Diego (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego is best known for shows starring ocean animals like dolphins and sea lions. Aquariums filled with sea life abound here, too, including a walk-through shark tank. For an extra special treat, book a Premier Experience, like a Dine with Orcas Meal or Penguin Encounter.

This theme park also features fun rides. Sesame Street Bay of Play provides sweet rides for young ones like Elmo’s Flying Fish and Abby’s Sea Star Spin. The Sky Tower and Bayside Skyride provide impressive views of Mission Bay. Meanwhile, roller coasters like Manta and Shipwreck Rapids thrill adventurous parkgoers.

Read my tips for visiting SeaWorld San Diego with kids and buy your SeaWorld San Diego Skip-the-Line Tickets!

Scripps Birch Aquarium in San Diego with kids
Scripps Birch Aquarium (Photo credit: Wayne Martin Belger, courtesy of Birch Aquarium)

9. Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This aquarium in La Jolla provides a worthwhile alternative to SeaWorld San Diego. It’s a great place for families on a tight budget or with limited time. The focus at Birch Aquarium is on ocean education, animal care, and conservation.

I especially recommend this San Diego attraction for families with babies and toddlers. Young ones love to get an up-close view of tanks filled with fish. Get your fill of glowing moon jellies, beautiful lionfish, silvery sardines, sharks, and other sea creatures.

Older children also enjoy viewing marine life and exploring hands-on exhibits. They can even gently pet sandpapery sea stars and slimy sea cucumbers in faux tide pools at the outdoor Tide Pool Plaza.

Read all my tips for exploring Birch Aquarium with kids.

San Diego Botanic Garden
San Diego Botanic Garden (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. San Diego Botanic Garden

The 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden contains more than two dozen themed gardens situated along four miles of trails. This is one of my personal favorite things to do in San Diego with kids and a must-see every time we return to our former hometown in Southern California.

Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden

The Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden is geared toward young kids (kindergarten and younger). Children might enjoy making bubbles with tubs of soapy water and wands. Then, dig up buried plastic dinosaurs. A child-sized playhouse is always a hit for pretend play. Best of all is the model railroad track with trains that chug through the garden.

Hamilton Children’s Garden

Meanwhile, Hamilton Children’s Garden appeals to bigger kids. Families can start by playing a giant game of tic-tac-toe. Next, wander through a labyrinth made of feathery plants. Children can learn to read a sundial and climb the centerpiece treehouse, too. During hot summer months, kids play with toy boats and cool off their tootsies in a miniature stream.

Learn more in my full San Diego Botanic Garden review.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (Photo credit: Feverpitch, Depositphotos.com)

11. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The reserve is home to the rare twisty Torrey pine as well as desert brush, prickly pear cactus, wildflowers, and other native plants. Choose from eight hiking trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. After your hike, cool off in the ocean at the Torrey Pines State Beach below beach cliffs.

My preferred path is the Beach Trail, which descends over three-quarters of a mile from the sea cliff to the beach. Take in sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean along the way.

An easier path, Guy Fleming Trail, is a 2/3-mile loop. This is probably the best pick for families with young children.

Everyone, including those in wheelchairs or strollers, can enjoy Discovery Trail. This short 1/2-mile loop near the Torrey Pines Lodge features information markers about local plants.

Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego (Photo courtesy of SanDiego.org)

12. Old Town San Diego

Step back in time in this historic area of San Diego. Staking claim as the birthplace of modern California, Old Town is where the first Spanish settlers arrived in 1769 and built the first of 21 missions in the state.

Today, vacationers and locals wander through 15 historic buildings in Old Town San Diego. Shop a variety of stores peddling souvenirs, homemade soaps, candies, and more.

Old Town Trolley Tour
Old Town Trolley Tour (Photo credit: Old Town Trolley Tour)

The real reason my family loves Old Town? The food! With over 25 eateries within a one-mile radius, you are sure to find something to please every family member’s taste buds. The specialty here, though, is Mexican cuisine. Menus burst with traditional dishes like tamales, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos.

Get more out of your visit with an Old Town California: Hop-On Hop-Off Narrated Trolley Tour.

The New Children's Museum in San Diego
The New Children’s Museum (Photo courtesy of The New Children’s Museum)

13. The New Children’s Museum

With 17 museums at Balboa Park, it’s easy to miss this great spot for children in the heart of San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp Quarter. This museum was designed to encourage children to think, play, and create using hands-on exhibitions and artistic activities.

Some areas of The New Children’s Museum are age-specific, like Sketch Aquarium for ages 2+ and Reconnecting to Home for ages 6+. Other spaces engage children across age groups. It’s the perfect place for parents to rest a bit while the kids play.

Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument (Photo credit: bonandbon, Depositphotos.com)

14. Cabrillo National Monument

Bring the kids to Cabrillo National Monument for a San Diego history lesson. Then hike along the Bayside Trail to take in gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean and city below. You may even see migrating whales in January and February!

This national monument is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. In 1542, he was the leader of the first European expedition on what is now the West Coast of the United States.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

The highlight of a visit to Cabrillo National Monument is Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This lit the way for sailors entering San Diego Bay from 1855 to 1891. Today, visitors get a glimpse of life in the 1800s through period furnishings and lighthouse tools on display.

The Joker Soaker at  Legoland Water Park
The Joker Soaker at Legoland Water Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. LEGOLAND Water Park

For water lovers, LEGOLAND Water Park is definitely one of the best things to do in San Diego with kids. This aquatic center offers exciting full-sized water slides and a lazy river for big kids, teens, and grown-ups. For young kids, there are water playgrounds with mellow waterslides and animal-shaped fountains.

Dive into all the splashy fun with my LEGOLAND Water Park tips.

Whale watching in Southern California
Whale watching in Southern California (Photo credit: ronniechua, Depositphotos.com)

16. Whale Watching in San Diego

San Diego is one of the best places to go whale watching all year long. Gray whales migrate from Mexico to Alaska and back from mid-December to mid-March. Off the Pacific Coast in summers, you might even spot the world’s largest animals, blue whales. You’ll likely spot dolphins, too, during your San Diego whale-watching adventure.

My daughter and I sometimes suffer from seasickness and we both fared well on our San Diego whale watching tour. For families who suffer from motion sickness, pack some Dramamine just in case.

Book your San Diego whale-watching tour now with our partner, GetYourGuide!

Sesame Place San Diego
Sesame Place San Diego (Photo credit: Sesame Place)

17. Sesame Place San Diego

Sesame Place opened in the southern suburb of Chula Vista in 2022. This theme park was designed specifically for children aged 3 to 10.

Expect live shows, parades, and photo ops with beloved characters like Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Cookie Monster. There are a handful of sweet rides for young ones like Super Grover’s Box Car Derby and the Sunny Day Carousel.

Enjoy several splashy water rides at this theme park, too. Think waterslides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and The Count’s Splash Tower with a 500-gallon water bucket drop.

Seaport Village
Seaport Village (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

18. Seaport Village

Wander through quirky boutiques and souvenir shops at the waterfront Seaport Village shopping and entertainment complex. It’s situated beside San Diego Bay near downtown San Diego.

This is one of the best places to take in bay views over a restaurant meal. Kids will especially enjoy the Historic Carousel and video game arcade here.

Parents and kids in Carlsbad, California
My family at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

19. Carlsbad Flower Fields

Every spring locals and tourists alike flock to the Flower Fields at Carlsbad. Smell the ranunculus and pose for amazing photo opportunities among thousands of blooms.

Ride a tractor-pulled wagon through more than 50 acres of rainbow-colored rows of flowers. Then tiptoe through a maze made of sweet peas. Older kids who like a challenge can stamp paper passports at stations throughout the Flower Fields.

At Santa’s Playground, children climb and slide among restored playhouses and gigantic mushrooms. These were once part of the popular Santa’s Village amusement area. It was located in Lake Arrowhead from 1955 to 1998 before being relocated to the flower fields.

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad are typically open from March through Mother’s Day each year. Read my advice for visiting the Carlsbad Flower Fields with kids.

Petco Park
Petco Park (Photo credit: SherryVSmith, Depositphotos.com)

20. Petco Park

One of the coolest places in the country to watch a baseball game is Petco Park. That’s because it’s built right into the historic Western Metal Supply Company Building in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Take in views of downtown while cheering on the home team, the San Diego Padres. Plus, there are plenty of places to explore right before or after the game.

Petco Park is also the only major league baseball stadium with a hotel directly connected to it. My husband and I stayed here one weekend and it was such a thrill to walk right across the skyway from the hotel to the stadium! Look for special baseball packages at the Omni Hotel San Diego.

Hotel del Coronado is one of the best hotels in San Diego
Hotel del Coronado (Photo credit: Hotel del Coronado)

21. Hotel del Coronado

Yes, it’s a hotel. But the Hotel Del Coronado is also a tourist attraction in its own right. Many people come to this famous resort just for the day.

The Hotel Del Coronado is renowned for its extravagant weekend brunch, fancy-schmancy shops, and immaculate stretch of beach. The beach is public so anyone can splash and play here.

The Del (as it’s known to locals) is worthy of a visit year-round. During winter holidays, day visitors and hotel guests alike can take a spin on the oceanside outdoor ice skating rink.

Adding to the glamorous vibe, many movies have been filmed here, most notably Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe.

The Hotel Del is located on Coronado Island across from downtown San Diego. The “island” is actually a peninsula, but it’s got an island vibe and feels worlds away from the city. It made our list of the best beach hotels in the world.

Little Italy San Diego
Little Italy San Diego (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

22. Little Italy

San Diego’s Little Italy packs a tasty punch. This is a super fun place to stroll and dine. Meander through art galleries and darling shops in this neighborhood near the Gaslamp Quarter.

Of course, the main draw is delicious Italian cuisine. From gelaterias and pasta shops to high-end cuisine, you won’t go hungry in Little Italy.

The most fun for families is Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. A wee grocery filled with delightfully stinky cheeses, hanging salamis, and other Italian goodies will entertain hungry customers waiting for a table. And the pizza? Fugheddaboudit!

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
Fleet Science Center (Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

23. Fleet Science Center

Located at Balboa Park, Fleet Science Center (formerly Reuben H. Fleet Science Center) is filled with interactive exhibits. Kids of all ages will have so much fun turning knobs and pressing buttons, they won’t realize they’re learning about science.

The Star of India at the Maritime Museum
The Star of India at the Maritime Museum (Photo credit: neilld, Depositphotos.com)

24. Maritime Museum of San Diego

The whole family will enjoy touring unique sailing vessels at the floating Maritime Museum. Steam-powered boats, sailing ships, and submarines make up the museum’s fleet of nine boats.


The experience includes the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing yacht. Kids get a kick out of pretending they are pirates on the high seas.

USS Midway Museum
USS Midway Museum (Photo credit: dcwcreations, Depositphotos.com)

25. USS Midway Museum

Not far from the Maritime Museum, seafarers and military buffs will appreciate the USS Midway Museum at Naval Pier. Climb aboard to explore this retired naval aircraft carrier. Reserve your USS Midway Museum Skip-the-Line Tickets now!

SEA LIFE Aquarium
SEA LIFE Aquarium (Photo credit: SEA LIFE Aquarium)

26. Sea Life Carlsbad Aquarium

Visitors get a glimpse of what it’s like to live under the sea at Sea Life Carlsbad Aquarium from encapsulated pop-up plastic bubbles in fish-filled tanks. Purchase separate tickets or choose park hoppers to explore this aquarium located at LEGOLAND California.

Learn more about both the theme park and the aquarium with my LEGOLAND California tips.

Balboa Park Carousel
Balboa Park Carousel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Balboa Park Carousel was built in 1910. It features three chariots, 27 hand-carved horses, and 25 other animals including giraffes, pigs, and a dragon. The carousel is open typically on weekends and school holidays.

This is one of the few carousels in the world that still offers the brass ring game. Big kids and adults who want to play should choose an outside horse. Then, reach out to grasp the small rings on each spin. Iron rings don’t count. Only the rider who nabs the brass ring wins a free ride!

Balboa Park Railroad
Balboa Park Railroad (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

28. Balboa Park Railroad

Climb aboard a miniature train located just outside the San Diego Zoo’s entrance. It takes 3 minutes to chug through Balboa Park’s grassy landscape and a long tunnel.

If sharing a train ride with a gaggle of school-aged children, then beware that field-tripping kids scream in unison through the tunnel. It’s best to wait for the next train.

The train typically runs every day during summer and spring break, but only on weekends off-season.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum
San Diego Model Railroad Museum (Photo credit: San Diego Model Railroad Museum Facebook page)

29. San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Got a kid who loves trains? Then the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is for your family! It houses one of the largest indoor model train displays in the world.

This attraction is a huge hit with the preschooler set. Find this museum celebrating all things choo-choo at Balboa Park.

San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego Natural History Museum (Photo credit: SherryVSmith, Depositphotos.com)

30. San Diego Natural History Museum

The entire family will enjoy learning about dinosaurs, ocean creatures, geodes, and more at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. Kids will be enthralled by the huge fountain out front, too.

Unconditional Surrender Statue in San Diego
Unconditional Surrender Statue (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

31. Unconditional Surrender

In front of the USS Midway in the waterfront park, Tuna Harbor, you’ll find the iconic Unconditional Surrender statue. This 25-foot-tall sculpture celebrates the victory of the Allied Forces after World War II.

It is based on the famous photo of a sailor and a nurse embracing in a kiss after the news of Japan’s surrender in 1945.

There is some controversy about this statue because the pair were not a couple. Rather, the woman was grabbed by a stranger who kissed her.

Grilled corn at San Diego County Fair
Grilled corn at San Diego County Fair (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

32. San Diego County Fair

If visiting San Diego with kids in the summer, then hit up the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. It typically runs from early June through early July each year.

Expect theme park rides, carnival games with prizes, livestock displays, unusual retail offerings, and live entertainment. Food, garden, and art contests are also fun to peruse.

Fair food is another major draw. Get the grilled corn on the cob and slather it with cotija cheese and chili powder for a Mexican street corn treat. Deep-fried Twinkies and frybread tacos are always a hit, too. Parents will want to swing by the beer garden for an adult beverage to wash it all down.

Whaley House in Old Town San Diego
Whaley House in Old Town San Diego (Photo credit: iriana88w, Depositphotos.com)

33. Whaley House

While exploring Old Town San Diego, older kids might enjoy a tour of Whaley House. This supposedly haunted building was featured on the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted. 

It is also San Diego’s first house made of bricks. Over the years, the building has been used as a courthouse, theatre, billiard hall, and school.

San Diego Air and Space Museum
San Diego Air and Space Museum (Photo credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum)

34. San Diego Air and Space Museum

The San Diego Air and Space Museum is popular with would-be pilots and astronauts. Experience aerospace history with a re-creation of the Wright Brothers’ 1901 glider. Also, view fighter planes from World War I, World War II, the Golden Age of Flight, and way beyond.

“Be the Astronaut” gives kids and adults alike a taste of space travel. This hands-on exhibit teaches about the excitement and challenges of exploring our solar system.

San Diego SEAL Tour
San Diego SEAL Tour (Photo credit: San Diego SEAL Tour )

35. San Diego SEAL Tour

Take in the sights of San Diego during a fun 1.5-hour San Diego SEAL Tour. It takes place on both land and sea.

The narrated tour starts at Seaport Village and continues along San Diego streets. You’ll learn about the history of the city along the way. Then your amphibious vehicle will carry your family into the harbor for a floating tour of the bay.

Save Money on Your San Diego Family Vacation

Want to save money on the best things to do in San Diego with kids? Of course, you do!

Get Away Today

Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two-ticket minimum) when you book through our partner, Get Away Today. Also, find San Diego deals, including attraction ticket discounts!

Kids Free San Diego Month

Those considering a fall visit are in luck! October is Kids Free San Diego Month, with over 100 deals just for kids. It’s a great way to save a bunch and gives families a good reason to head to San Diego off-season. Take a look at which attractions, hotels, and restaurants are offering freebies to families.

Go San Diego Card

It’s well worth investing in a Go San Diego Card. You’ll save up to 55% on fun things to do in San Diego, like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, the New Children’s Museum, and much more!


It makes good sense to check Groupon for discounts on activities and restaurants in your destination, and San Diego is no exception. View Groupon San Diego deals now.

Expedia Kids in the City San Diego video

Learn More About California with Kids

Looking for good food in San Diego? Read my picks for the best San Diego restaurants for families.

A fabulous San Diego vacation needs fabulous accommodations. Take a look at the best hotels for kids in San Diego.

Check out my San Diego attractions with kids video that I made as part of Expedia’s Kids in the City campaign. This project highlights 12 of America’s most popular destinations, with recommendations from some top family travel bloggers.

Explore more of the Golden State with these California vacations for families.

Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

Keep These San Diego Attractions

For future reference, save this list of things to do in San Diego with kids. The best way is to pin the image above to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What do you think are the best San Diego attractions for kids? Let us know your tips and questions in the comments below!

Travel Mamas was compensated by Expedia for participating in the Kids in the City project when this story launched in 2012. This blog post is updated regularly to reflect San Diego’s current offerings for families. 


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  1. Thank you for putting this wonderful list together. We have an impromptu stay in with the little ones in SD, so this is great.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I have been a bit overwhelmed planning our vacation but these are a lot of great ideas, and not only super pricey ones! It is well laid-out and thorough.

    1. So glad my tips have been helpful in planning your San Diego trip! Have a wonderful time in America’s Finest City!

  3. We sure loved the trolley ride tour with my 4 and 5 year-olds. They loved seeing all the sites and exploring in different areas. The bay side of Mission Beach was our favorite hang out spot. The water was super calm for the girls. Love these ideas. We hope to get back to San Diego soon. My five-year-old is convinced she is moving there when she is all grown up!

    1. Such fun, Brooke! We’ve done so much in San Diego with kids over the years but have never done the trolley tour. Must give this a try during our next visit to America’s Finest City!

  4. Hi Colleen,
    We are heading to San Diego in July for two weeks to visit my daughter and granddaughter. Would like to do all of these great outings. And coupon ideas to save a few $$$$?

    1. Hi Martha – I suggest looking up Groupon and Living Social for the San Diego area to see if there are any discounted activities/restaurants that look appealing to you. GoCard San Diego also provides a great opportunity to save if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions. You can get San Diego discount deals when you book through Get Away Today. Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two ticket minimum) when you book here: https://www.getawaytoday.com/?referrerid=7425 Check out their attraction discounts here: https://www.getawaytoday.com/tickets/sandiego/?referrerid=7425 Have a fabulous time in San Diego!

  5. hi there,
    Thanks for this great article, really tempted to go!
    Do I need to rent a car to go to these places? I will be travelling by myself with 2 young children.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jenny – Once upon a time I would have said you definitely need a car, but now with Uber you could probably skip it. That is, if you don’t mind using Uber with two little kids. Some hotels do offer free shuttles to the main attractions, but San Diego is definitely spread out so planning to rent a car or use Uber/Lyft is definitely the way to go. Enjoy San Diego! It’s such a great place for families with young kids!

      1. Hi Colleen, thanks so much for your reply!
        The concern I have is my oldest in a booster, and the youngest still in a car seat…
        And I am planning to go with an AirBnb, way more affordable than a hotel room, although I will check out the ones you indicate first!
        Many thanks for the wealth of information!

      2. Since you’re still dealing with car seats, I’d definitely rent a car. I love AirBnB too, but sometimes it’s worth the extra cost for the amenities at a hotel. Whichever way you go, I hope you have a fab time in beautiful San Diego!

      3. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer! 🙂
        I am also trying to go on vacation on the cheap side (sorry!), but I really want to offer some vacation to the kids!

      4. No need to apologize! I love saving money while traveling. It means I can travel MORE! There are plenty of free and affordable things to do in San Diego like…the BEACH! Enjoy!

  6. Thank you for this list! Going to San Diego next week with 5 kids and I now have PLENTY of things for us to do!

  7. Are there any food tours that you would recommend with small children, or any that allow small children to come?

    1. Hi Trina – I haven’t done a food tour with my kids in San Diego. (I did a booze and food tour with my husband in SD once, but clearly that wouldn’t be good for families.) My suggestion would be to book a private tour for your family with one of the San Diego food tour companies: http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/5724902/type/dlg/https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60750-Activities-c42-t204-San_Diego_California.html That way you can have the tour guide customize the tour to meet your family’s needs. (I know that Bite San Diego offers private tours.) And then if they kids get squirrely, you can move on to another place without worrying about the other tour goers! Otherwise, give a call to the tour companies and see if they have a family-friendly tour that would work for you. Enjoy & bon appetit!

  8. It’s not FAIR that this are attractions for kids 😀 Just kidding, but LEGOLAND California is definitely a place I will visit as I simply love LEGO, it doesn’t matter how old are you in order to play LEGO, if you grow up with LEGOs then you know what I’m talking about.

  9. Great article! We will be using some of your suggestions when we visit the area next month with our one and three year old boys.

    1. So glad you found the tips helpful, Elizabeth! Have a wonderful time in San Diego with your little one!

  10. We recently visited San Diego with our kids. We went to the San Diego Zoo and to Sea World and had a blast! We’ve been to Legoland before too! So many fun things to do!

    1. So true – there are plenty of things for kids AND adults to enjoy in San Diego!

    1. There’s oh-so-much to do in San Diego! I miss having so many awesome family-friendly options now that I live in Arizona.