Being the second-largest city in the state of California with a pleasantly mild climate year-round, San Diego offers an abundance of fun things to do with kids — especially if it’s dealing with the outdoors. However, if you’re not a nature person fret not because we’ve also got you covered with a variety of indoor adventures you can take advantage of the next time you visit America’s finest city. So, without further ado here’s a list of fun things to do with kids in San Diego, California.
Beaches & Bays
Serving as one of San Diego’s most lively beaches, Mission Beach runs for nearly two miles and is lined by an equally long boardwalk that contains a wide variety of rental shops, eateries, and activities for the whole family to enjoy. Most of the hustle and bustle of the beach centers around Belmont Park (included later on in this list), so if you want a more mellowed experience be sure to stick to the south side of the beach.
This 4,600-acre water wonderland is home to a plethora of activities for the whole family to enjoy on and off-land. If you’re feeling adventurous take an instructional watersport lesson or rent watersport gear from the Mission Bay Aquatic Center. If you’d rather stay on land, check out Crown Point for volleyball or have a picnic on the endless grass parks and playgrounds at East Mission Bay Park.
Fiesta Island is a large waterside park and is a popular site for charity walks, youth camps, and special events. There are also bonfire rings throughout the shore of the island and dogs are allowed off-leash.
A favorite of locals and visitors alike, La Jolla Cove offers breathtaking sunsets and incredible sea lions to seaside restaurants and kid’s activities. You can snorkel, go scuba diving, bike along the coast, visit Ellen Scripps Park, and discover marine life in the tide pools amongst many other things.
Though this small beach was originally intended to be a protected swimming area for families and children, over time it has become the site of so much more. You can snorkel, swim, or just relax in the sand under the comforting presence of helpful lifeguards. One thing to note if you plan on visiting the Children’s Pool is that from Dec 15 – May 15 annually the pool is closed to the public for seal pupping season. However, you are welcomed to view the seals from a safe distance outside the beach.
Being an island, Coronado offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the San Diego area. From the dog-friendly North Beach to the prime picnic areas of Silver Strand State Beach and many more around and in between you’re sure to find the perfect spot for you and your family.
Historical Sites in San Diego
With 32 restaurants, 10 hotels, 100 boutique shops, 36 museums, and historical sites Old Town offers visitors and locals alike an incredible step into the past. In one day you can go from touring the haunted Whaley House Museum to enjoying traditional Mexican cuisine in a matter of minutes as everything is within a walking distance. And if you do plan to visit Old Town make sure to check their calendar, you may be able to swing by one of the many events held there throughout the year.
For many national parks showcasing the local history of the surrounding area is a critical mission and Cabrillo National Monument is no exception. You and your family can tour the lighthouses of Point Loma, view the Women’s Rights Virtual Exhibit, visit the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo monument, and even witness some of the local marine life during low tide in the local tide pools.
Known for restoring, maintaining, and operating historic vessels, the Maritime Museum is made up of a collection of ships and exhibits open for public tours. And if you’re looking for a water adventure they’ve got you covered with several on-water experiences to choose from including but not limited to a Tall Ship Adventure Aboard Californian and the incredible San Salvador Sailing Adventure.
Prior to being donated to the 501(c)3 nonprofit San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization in 2003 and subsequently re-opening as the USS Midway Museum in 2004, the USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th Century. Aboard the USS Midway visitors are encouraged to visit one of the many historical exhibits above and below deck, participate in a variety of activities, and even stay the night as a member of the Snooze Crewz.
If you’re interested in experiencing a slice of Spanish culture during your stay in San Diego then visiting one of the county’s two California Missions should definitely be on your itinerary. First up you have the Mission of San Luis Rey, found in 1798 and the largest of all the 21 missions in California. And next, there’s Mission San Diego De Alcala which was founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.
Attractions & Parks in San Diego
Now, if you’ve ever been to San Diego, chances are you’ve either been, driven by, or at least heard of Sea World. This 189-acre lot of land is home to thousands of animals ranging from Killer Whales to adorable Sea Otters and offers some of the most up-close-and-personal animal experiences in all of Southern California. And if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, Sea World also houses numerous rides and rollercoasters for guests of all ages.
This 100-acre zoo is known for its lush, naturalistic habitats and its one of a kind experiences. You can take a stroll through the botanical gardens, take an airborne shortcut over the Zoos towering treetops via tram, have in-person encounters with wildlife, see a show, or go on a guided tour amongst many other things. Just be sure to put on sunscreen and wear a pair of comfortable shoes.
Located in the heart of Mission Beach, Belmont Park is a must if you ever find yourself in the area. The park has plenty of fun for the whole family to enjoy. Popular activities include riding the Giant Dipper, taking a spin on the Beach Blaster, Ziplining, playing a round Mini-golf, a round Lazer Tag, Go Kart riding, grabbing a bite to eat, and, of course, relaxing on the beach.
Serving as the cultural heart of San Diego, Balboa Park boasts 17 museums and cultural institutions that showcase collections that cover local San Diego history, the history of flight/trains/automobiles, as well as the arts and cultures of populations both near and far. If you’re a resident of the City and County of San Diego or are an active military personnel the Park museums offer free general admission on a rotating basis throughout each month. Some of the most popular attractions at Balboa Park include the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the Timken Museum of Art (which is always free).
If you’re looking for a fun getaway built for families with kids between the ages of 2 and 12 then Lego Land is your best bet. In addition to the Park’s SEA LIFE aquarium, Water park, and several onsite hotels, its theme park is filled with more than 60 kid-friendly rides, shows, and attractions.
Covering over 1,800 acres of land and being home to over 3,500 animals, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is your best option if you want to take a walk on the wild side while visiting the San Diego area. Whether you and your family choose to walk freely around the park or go on one of the many guided tram and safari encounters, you’re gonna have a good time.
Activities & Events in San Diego
Typically in San Diego Whale watching season runs from mid-December to late April, during which some 20,000 Gray whales migrate through California waters. However, if you’re particularly interested in seeing Blue Whales you want to take to the waters sometime between mid-June through September. While there are a plethora of whale watching services in the San Diego area SD Whale Watch has been offering year-round whale watching longer than anyone else.
Also known more generally as the Del Mar Fair, the San Diego County Fair is an annual event that takes place in Del Mar, CA. While the dates for this year’s fair haven’t been published yet the fair typically takes place during the peak of summer. If you visit you can expect plenty of carnival games, delicious food, animal encounters and more.
This year from May 6 – 9, 2021, Spanish Landing Park will be hosting San Diego’s annual Gator by the Bay festival, a.k.a the Mardi Gras in May festival. Here you can expect southern cuisine, Louisiana cooking demos, New Orleans style jazz, dancing, and much more fun for the whole family.
Taking place at Inspiration Point Way at Balboa Park from Friday, December 4 – Sunday, December 6, the annual December Nights has ushered in the holiday season for the last 40 years. However, this year due to pandemic conditions the City of San Diego is offering a Taste of December nights where popular food vendors and trucks from previous years’ festivities will offer local favorites in a drive-thru setting from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Attracting around 250,000 people annually, San Diego Pride Weekend is undoubtedly one of the largest annual events that happen in the city. This year Pride Weekend will be taking place from Saturday, July 17, 2021 – Sunday, July 18, 2021, and will feature interactive virtual gatherings, a full in-person event, and a mid-road of both live streaming content with scaled back in-person events.
Shop & Eat
Located in Downtown San Diego, this 14-acre waterfront shopping, dining, and entertainment complex designed to look like a 20th-century seaside harbor is home to 54 one of a kind shops, 13 casual dining eateries, 4 fine dining waterfront restaurants, and is a popular destination for locals and visitors. And while the food and shopping are mainstays of Seaport Village, the village also hosts a variety of events ranging from live music to holiday events to workshops on an array of subjects.
All that aside, if you’re still looking for more fun things to do in the SoCal area be sure to check out the following posts: