The Getaway
15 Fun Activities for Kids in San Diego

San Diego isn't just a sunny paradise for adults; it's a wonderland of adventure and discovery for kids, too! From world-famous animal encounters to hands-on science experiments, this vibrant city offers an incredible array of experiences that will captivate young minds and create lasting family memories.

Whether your little ones are fascinated by marine life, budding historians, or aspiring artists, San Diego has something to spark every child's imagination. Get ready to embark on a journey through some of the most exciting, educational, and downright fun activities that will have your kids begging to extend their stay.

So, pack your sunscreen and sense of wonder – it's time to explore the very best of kid-friendly San Diego!


01 Visit the Famous San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo, founded in 1916, is a globally recognized center for animal conservation and a major highlight of the city. Covering 100 acres in Balboa Park, this famous site houses over 3,700 animals from more than 650 species, providing a unique experience with nature.

Popular exhibits include the Australian Outback, where kids can observe koalas and kangaroos, and the Urban Jungle, featuring playful primates. The Panda Trek, though no longer housing giant pandas, remains a fascinating journey through Asian habitats. For an immersive experience, families can hop aboard the Skyfari Aerial Tram for a bird's-eye view of the zoo.

Educational programs abound, with the 'Animals in Action' sessions allowing children to witness animal feedings and training up close. The zoo's commitment to conservation is evident in its interactive displays and hands-on learning opportunities, inspiring young minds to become future wildlife advocates.

To maximize your visit, consider purchasing a 'Kids Free San Diego' pass in October, which offers free admission for children. With its diverse animal collection and educational focus, the San Diego Zoo promises an unforgettable adventure for the whole family.


02 Discover Marine Life at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego provides a special mix of marine learning and fun, making it a perfect place for families. The park's signature attraction, the 'Orca Encounter,' provides an educational and awe-inspiring experience, showcasing the natural behaviors of killer whales in a live setting. Children can marvel at the power and grace of these magnificent creatures while learning about marine conservation.

For thrill-seekers, SeaWorld boasts exciting rides suitable for various age groups. The Electric Eel, San Diego's tallest and fastest roller coaster, offers an exhilarating experience for older kids, while gentler attractions like the Sesame Street Bay of Play cater to younger visitors.

SeaWorld's commitment to marine life extends beyond entertainment. The park's Rescue Team has aided over 38,000 animals to date, emphasizing the importance of ocean conservation to young visitors. Interactive exhibits allow children to touch and learn about various marine species, fostering a deeper appreciation for sea life.

To maximize your visit, consider going on weekdays to avoid crowds and enjoy shorter wait times. With its blend of education, conservation efforts, and family-friendly attractions, SeaWorld San Diego promises an unforgettable marine adventure for kids of all ages.


03 Build and play at LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California is a paradise for young builders and LEGO enthusiasts, offering a unique blend of creativity, adventure, and hands-on fun. The park features over 60 rides, shows, and attractions spread across themed areas that bring the world of LEGO to life. One of the park's highlights is 'Miniland USA,' an impressive display using over 32 million LEGO bricks to recreate iconic American landmarks in stunning detail.

For budding engineers, the park offers numerous hands-on building experiences and workshops. These interactive zones allow children to construct their own LEGO creations, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills. The park also includes a water park and aquarium, providing additional entertainment options for families.

To maximize your visit, consider purchasing combo tickets that grant access to the theme park, water park, and aquarium. This offers the best value and allows families to experience all LEGOLAND California has to offer. For younger visitors, the park caters exceptionally well to children under 12, with numerous attractions designed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers.

Remember to arrive early to beat the crowds and make the most of your day in this colorful, brick-filled wonderland.


04 Enjoy beach fun at Coronado Island

Aerial of Coronado Golf course during sunset with a view of Coronado beach and Pacific ocean

Coronado Island offers a perfect blend of sun, sand, and family-friendly activities, making it an ideal destination for kids and parents alike. The crown jewel of the island is Coronado Central Beach, renowned for its sparkling sand due to the presence of mica. This pristine shoreline, stretching for 1.5 miles, was named the #1 beach in America by Dr. Beach in 2012, offering ample space for sandcastle building, beach volleyball, and splashing in the gentle waves.

For a unique aquatic experience, families can participate in mermaid fitness classes offered by the historic Hotel del Coronado. These fun, fun-filled sessions combine swimming with core exercises, delighting children and adults alike. To explore the island's charming streets and scenic coastline, consider renting a Surrey bike from Wheel Fun Rentals. These multi-person cycles provide a memorable way for families to tour the island together, taking in sights like the majestic Hotel del Coronado and the picturesque Spreckels Park.

For a change of scenery, visit Coronado Tidelands Park, which boasts a small beach with stunning views of the Coronado Bridge and downtown San Diego. Though swimming isn't recommended here, it's a great place for a family picnic or to enjoy the sunset over the bay.


05 Visit the USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway Museum offers an unparalleled experience for young history enthusiasts and aspiring aviators. This decommissioned aircraft carrier, which served for an impressive 47 years, now stands as a floating museum in downtown San Diego. Children can explore over 60 exhibits across the ship's various decks, gaining insight into naval operations and aviation history.

One of the museum's highlights is the collection of more than 30 restored aircraft on the flight deck. Kids can climb into cockpits, marvel at the size of these machines, and learn about their roles in naval aviation. The interactive flight simulators provide an exciting opportunity for children to experience what it's like to pilot a jet.

For younger visitors aged 7-12, the "Little Skippers" program offers a kid-friendly audio tour, making complex naval concepts accessible and engaging. The Junior Pilot Program allows children to earn their wings by completing various activities throughout the ship, adding an element of achievement to their visit.

To make the most of your visit, plan to spend at least four hours exploring the museum. Consider arriving early to beat the crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures on the flight deck.


06 Hike and explore Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Broken Hill at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and State Park La Jolla San Diego California sunset ocean landscape

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve provides families a special chance to enjoy the coastal wilderness of Southern California. This 1,750-acre park is home to America's rarest pine tree, the Torrey pine, found only here and on Santa Rosa Island. The reserve boasts family-friendly hiking trails with breathtaking ocean views, making it an ideal outdoor adventure for kids of all ages.

For young explorers, the Guy Fleming Trail is a perfect starting point. This easy 0.7-mile loop features relatively flat terrain and showcases diverse plant life, wildlife, and stunning coastal vistas. Along the way, children can spot various bird species and maybe even catch a glimpse of dolphins or whales in the distance.

To enhance the educational experience, families should stop by the Nature Center to pick up a Junior Ranger activity booklet. This program engages children in a fun, interactive learning about the reserve's unique ecosystem. As they complete activities, kids can earn their Junior Ranger badge, fostering a sense of accomplishment and environmental stewardship.

For the best experience, visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures. Don't forget to bring water, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes for your family's Torrey Pines adventure.


07 Experience Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

SAN DIEGO, CA/USA - SEPTEMBER 3, 2016: Entrance to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Step back in time to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, often referred to as the "birthplace" of California. This living history museum offers families a unique opportunity to experience 19th-century San Diego through interactive demonstrations and exhibits.

Children can explore restored buildings from the 1800s, including the first public schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and the state's first newspaper office. These hands-on experiences bring history to life, allowing kids to imagine what life was like in early California. The park also features kid-friendly museums and shops where young visitors can try on period costumes or purchase old-fashioned toys.

For a spooky adventure, visit the Whaley House Museum, reputed to be the most haunted house in America. The Whaley House may be too intense for very young children, but older children might find the ghost stories fascinating.

Plan your visit during special events like Cinco de Mayo to enjoy family-oriented activities and performances that celebrate culture. Start your journey at the Robinson Rose House, the park's visitor center, where you can pick up a map and join guided walking tours.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water, as you'll be doing plenty of walking through this historic gem.


08 Learn and Play at the Fleet Science Center

The Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park is a treasure trove of interactive learning experiences for children of all ages. With over 100 hands-on exhibits, this science center brings complex scientific concepts to life in fun and engaging ways. The "Kid City" area, designed specifically for children under 5, allows even the youngest visitors to explore and learn through play.

One of the center's highlights is the IMAX theater, which showcases educational films on a massive dome screen. These immersive experiences transport viewers into the heart of scientific phenomena, from deep-sea exploration to space adventures. For a more focused learning experience, the center offers special workshops and events tailored for kids, covering topics from robotics to chemistry.

The Fleet Science Center's commitment to accessibility is evident in its monthly "$10 after 6 PM" program on the first Wednesday of each month. This initiative makes science education more affordable for families, encouraging repeat visits and deeper engagement with the exhibits.

A must-visit exhibit is "Pause|Play," which invites visitors to step away from their busy lives and rediscover the joy and benefits of play. From a dynamic Basketball Court to hands-on experiments, this exhibition demonstrates that learning through play is not only effective but also incredibly fun.


09 Explore Balboa Park

San Diego, CA, USA - August 7, 2023: Balboa Park.

Balboa Park, often called the "Smithsonian of the West," is a cultural oasis in the heart of San Diego that offers endless opportunities for family fun and learning. This 1,200-acre urban park is home to 17 museums, each catering to different interests, from art and history to science and technology. The San Diego Natural History Museum, for instance, features interactive exhibits on local ecosystems, while the San Diego Air & Space Museum showcases aviation history through restored aircraft and flight simulators.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Balboa Park boasts beautiful gardens and green spaces. The Japanese Friendship Garden, with its koi ponds and bonsai trees, offers a tranquil retreat, while the Botanical Building houses over 2,100 plants, including rare tropical species. Families can also enjoy a ride on the historic Balboa Park Miniature Train, which has been delighting visitors since 1948, or take a spin on the antique carousel.

To make the most of your visit, think about getting an Explorer Pass, which offers reduced prices for entry to several museums. This allows families to visit a range of attractions without spending too much. Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water, as exploring the park involves plenty of walking. With its diverse offerings, Balboa Park promises a day filled with discovery and wonder for visitors of all ages.


10 Surf lessons at La Jolla Shores

Image from girl starting surfing in the morning at Santa Teresa in Costa Rica

La Jolla Shores offers an ideal setting for kids to experience the thrill of surfing in a safe, family-friendly environment. Known for its gentle waves and long, sandy beach, this location is perfect for beginners to catch their first waves. Professional surf schools, such as Surf Diva, offer specialized "Surf Clinics" designed for children aged 5-17, ensuring age-appropriate instruction and safety measures.

These lessons typically cover essential skills like paddling, standing up on the board, and reading waves. Instructors are trained to work with young learners, making the experience both educational and fun. Many schools provide all necessary equipment, including wetsuits and soft-top surfboards, which are safer for beginners.

For families looking to extend their ocean adventure, La Jolla Shores also offers opportunities for kayaking and snorkeling. After a surf lesson, consider visiting the nearby Birch Aquarium to round out a day of marine exploration. This combination of activities provides a comprehensive introduction to San Diego's rich coastal ecosystem.

To make the most of your surfing experience, arrive early to beat the crowds and enjoy calmer waters. Remember to apply sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout the day.


11 Visit the New Children's Museum

The New Children's Museum in downtown San Diego offers a unique blend of art and play designed to spark creativity and imagination in young minds. This innovative space features hands-on exhibits that encourage children to explore, create, and interact with art in ways they've never experienced before.

One of the museum's most popular attractions is the "Sketch Aquarium," where children can watch their drawings come to life on a giant digital screen. Kids draw sea creatures on paper, which are then scanned and animated, swimming alongside other children's creations in a virtual aquarium.

For younger visitors, the museum offers toddler-specific areas with age-appropriate activities and sensory experiences. The "Wonder Sound" installation, a multi-level playhouse, provides an exciting space for exploration and imaginative play for children of all ages.

The museum's commitment to accessibility is evident in its monthly free admission day, offered on the second Sunday of each month. This initiative ensures that all families can experience the joy and educational value of the museum's exhibits.

To make the most of your visit, plan to spend at least 2-3 hours exploring the various installations and participating in hands-on activities. Remember to check the museum's website for information on current exhibits and special events.


12 Enjoy Belmont Park

Aerial view of Mission Bay & Beaches in San Diego, California. USA. Community built on a sandbar with villas, sea port. & recreational Mission Bay Park.

Belmont Park, San Diego's historic beachfront amusement park, offers a perfect blend of nostalgia and modern-day thrills for families. The park's centerpiece is the Giant Dipper roller coaster, a wooden coaster built in 1925 and now a National Historic Landmark. This classic ride provides an exhilarating experience for older children and adults, while younger visitors can enjoy gentler attractions like the classic carousel.

For those seeking additional excitement, the park features a variety of rides and attractions suitable for different age groups. The Beach Blaster swing ride and the Control Freak provide thrills for adventure-seekers, while the Liberty Carousel and Tilt-A-Whirl offer fun for all ages. Families can also enjoy friendly competition at the park's mini-golf course or test their skills at the extensive arcade.

To maximize your visit, consider purchasing a "Ride & Play" combo pass, which grants unlimited access to rides and attractions. For budget-conscious families, visiting during the "Kids Free October" promotion can offer significant savings. Remember to arrive early to beat the crowds and enjoy shorter wait times, especially during peak summer months.


13 Explore Mission Bay Park

Crown Point and Fishermans Channel in Mission Bay, San Diego, aerial

Mission Bay Park, the largest man-made aquatic park in the country, offers a wealth of family-friendly activities across its sprawling 4,235 acres. With nearly half of the park covered in water, it's a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.

Families can enjoy a variety of water activities suitable for all ages. Rent a family-sized pedal boat from Aqua Adventures for a fun and safe water experience, allowing kids to help navigate the calm waters of the bay. For more adventurous families, kayaking, paddleboarding, and jet skiing are also popular options.

The park's numerous playgrounds and picnic areas provide perfect spots for land-based fun and relaxation. Children can burn off energy on the play equipment while parents prepare a picnic lunch with stunning bay views as a backdrop.

During summer evenings, visitors can enjoy a free fireworks show from SeaWorld, which is visible from various points around the park. This spectacular display adds a magical touch to a day of family fun.

To make the most of your visit, arrive early to secure a good spot on the beach or in the picnic areas. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, water, and snacks for a full day of outdoor enjoyment in this expansive aquatic playground.


14 Visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is a hidden gem in Balboa Park that offers a captivating experience for train enthusiasts of all ages. As the largest indoor model railroad museum in North America, it boasts over 27,000 square feet of intricate train layouts, bringing miniature worlds to life.

Children will be mesmerized by the detailed landscapes and tiny trains chugging along miles of track. The museum features several interactive exhibits where kids can control trains themselves, fostering a hands-on learning experience. The Toy Train Gallery is particularly popular, allowing young visitors to operate trains and explore the mechanics behind these miniature marvels.

Throughout the year, the museum hosts special events and workshops tailored for children, providing opportunities to learn about railroad history and model-building techniques. These events often include hands-on activities that spark creativity and interest in engineering.

For budget-conscious families, the museum offers free admission on the first Tuesday of each month for San Diego residents. This initiative makes the experience accessible to local families and encourages repeat visits to explore the ever-changing exhibits.

To maximize your visit, plan to spend at least 2-3 hours exploring the various layouts and participating in interactive displays. The museum's commitment to education and entertainment ensures a memorable experience for train lovers and curious minds alike.


15 Explore Cabrillo National Monument

San Diego, California - May 9, 2017: The Entrance Sign of Cabrillo National Monument with Panoramic View of San Diego bay. Monument is at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument offers families a unique mix of history, nature, and stunning views. Perched on the southern tip of Point Loma Peninsula, this site commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's landing in 1542, marking the first European exploration of the West Coast.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been standing since 1855, is a highlight for many visitors. Children can climb the winding staircase to the top, imagining life as a lighthouse keeper in the 19th century. The adjacent exhibit room provides fascinating insights into the lighthouse's history and operation.

For young marine enthusiasts, the tide pools at the base of the bluffs are a treasure trove of discovery. During low tide, families can explore these rocky intertidal zones, observing diverse marine life such as sea anemones, hermit crabs, and colorful sea stars. Remember to check the tide schedules to plan your visit accordingly.

The park's Junior Ranger program is an excellent way for children to engage with the monument's natural and cultural resources. By completing activities in the provided booklet, kids can earn a badge and certificate, fostering a sense of stewardship for national parks.

To maximize your visit, arrive early to beat the crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures. Don't forget to bring binoculars to watch whales during migration seasons.


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