San Diego is consistently ranked one of the top family destinations in America. Whether you live in San Diego and are looking for a fun excursion or you are planning a San Diego family vacation the below 52 best things to do in San Diego with kids will keep you busy having fun!
Whether you love a day at the beach building sandcastles, exploring tide pools, visiting theme parks, state parks or water parks, San Diego offers all of this and more! We have great tips for exploring kid-friendly museums and hiking trails as well!
Ads are how we pay our bills and keep our blog free for you to enjoy. We also use affiliate links; if you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Are you ready to know why families always have a blast in San Diego? Keep reading for the ultimate family vacation list of ideas for your time in San Diego!
Best San Diego Things to do with Kids
Ready for fun in the California sun? Below are our favorite things to do in San Diego with kids. These are all family-friendly San Diego activities and include our top ideas for family adventure!
Best Beach Family Activities in San Diego
San Diego is a beach town and there are a lot to choose from! You can surf, boogie board and skim board and most San Diego beaches. Just look for the flags to designate the swimming sections vs. the surfing areas.
1. Visit Mission Beach & Belmont Park
Mission Beach has it all! It’s is a great choice for a day at the beach, walking along the boardwalk or heading to Belmont Park for rides and games. The huge wooden roller coaster, the Big Dipper is the star attractions, but there are plenty of other rides, arcade games, ice cream shops and more!
2. Visit Ocean Beach
Visit Ocean Beach and take a walk on the longest concrete pier on the West Coast. Another fun thing to do here is explore the Ocean Beach Tidepools, which are Located at the foot of Newport Ave and beneath the Pier.
While in Ocean Beach, you can explore the hippy-centric shops on Newport Avenue. Make sure to stop in at Hodad’s for their famous bacon cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings, and giant milkshakes.
3. Have a Dog? Head to Dog Beach
52. Help your dog beat the dog days of summer and let him crash through waves and run through the sand leash-free at the designated Dog Beaches in Ocean Beach, Del Mar, Coronado, and Mission Bay.
4. Ride a Bike From Mission Beach to La Jolla
The boardwalk bike path from Mission Beach (heading North) takes you through Pacific Beach and into La Jolla. This is a fun and easy ride along the Pacific Ocean. You can rent bikes at several shops in Mission Beach.
5. Explore La Jolla’s Beaches
Filled with diverse marine life, La Jolla Cove’s abundant reefs and caves make it a prime location for snorkeling and kayaking!
Walk further along the cove to find the adorable seals and sea lions lounging around at the Children’s Pool!
6. Have Fun in Mission Bay
7. Have a Bonfire on the Beach
Nothing says summer vacation like a bonfire on the beach. Bring the fixings for s’mores for the ultimate summer memories!
8. Head to the Beach for a Grunion Run
Grunion run during the 4 days surrounding full and new moons from March through August. The runs happen at night and it’s a beautiful site!
During the open season, a California fishing license is required for persons 16 years and older. Click here for the San Diego Grunion run schedule.
Downtown San Diego With Kids
9. Visit Little Italy
Enjoy a variety of ethnic cuisine and live music at the Little Italy Mercato Market, San Diego’s LARGEST farmer’s market, which has hundreds of vendors selling organic produce, fresh flowers, and art pieces!
10. Play in Fountain at Waterfront Park
Let your kids splash and play at Waterfront Park’s fountain pool areas, playgrounds, and picnic field!
11. Visit the Gaslamp Quarter
If you have older kids or one’s who like a foodie experience or shopping, you can revitalize your taste buds in downtown’s Gaslamp area! Indulge yourself in city life with its many urban cafes, and shopping boutiques.
12. Visit the USS Midway
Tour the most-visited naval ship museum in the world! The USS Midway fitted with restored aircraft allows visitors to experience what it was like on a real war battleship! Stop by the HUGE Unconditional Surrender kissing statue right outside the museum!
Location: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
13. Explore the Ships at The Maritime Museum of San Diego
National Historic Landmark Vessels, including sailing ships, steam-powered, and submarine. You can board and explore our ships.
Maritime Museum of San Diego is a collection of more than 10 ships including four on the National Register which are the PCF 816 Swift Boat, 1914 Pilot boat, the world’s oldest active sailing ship Star of India, and the 1898 steam ferry boat Berkeley.
In the museum ship collection is California’s official state tall ship, the Californian.
Tours include boarding each ship and exploring the deck and below deck galleries.
Location: The Maritime Museum of San Diego is located on Harbor Drive near the corner of Ash Street
14. Explore Seaport Village
Do some fine dining and shopping at Seaport Village, famous among celebrities, the waterfront cobblestoned center is a great place to get souvenirs!
15. Take a Harbor Cruise
Tour the beautiful Downtown Harbor and catch its coastal breezes on a pedicab or a short cruise of the bay. The bay cruises are a great way to see wonderful views of the San Diego skyline, Coronado Bridge, USS Midway, Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma and so much more!
If you are hungry after your adventure, there are some great seafood restaurants along Harbor Drive.
What to do in Old Town San Diego with Kids
Old Town San Diego isn’t just the best place for margarita’s and Mexican food in San Diego. There are quite a few fun activities the whole family will enjoy!
Of course, after your Old Town adventures make sure to save time to visit one of the many Mexican restaurants. Our favorite is Casa de Reyes.
16. Visit The Haunted Whaley House
The Whaley House was built in 1857 and is a California Historical Landmark and listed by the United States Department of Commerce as an authentic haunted house. Among others, it is said the ghost of Thomas Whaley has been reported to be seen on the second-floor landing, dressed in a black frock coat and a wide-brimmed hat.
Guided tours are available and take about 30 minutes.
Location: 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
Related Post: 13 Most Haunted Places in San Diego
17. Visit La Casa de Estudillo
La Casa de Estudillo is one of many historic sites in Old Town. The historic adobe house is free to tour this historic adobe home built in 1827 (small donations encouraged for preservation). It is an educational museum with a nice little garden in the courtyard and re-creation of old-style bedrooms with antique furniture.
Address: 4000 Mason St, San Diego, CA 92110
San Diego Siteseeing Activities That Are Fun For Kids
There is a huge array of things to do in San Diego and it’s outskirts. Below are some of our favorite activities for the whole family.
18. Visit the Cabrillo National Monument Tidepools
Cabrillo National Monument is San Diego’s “only” National Park. They have the best tidepools in San Diego!
The best time to visit tidepools is approximately two hours before low tide (when the tide is receding) and two hours after (when the tide is coming back in).
Tip: Shoes with good gripping soles are best, as rocky areas become slippery with water and algae. Closed toe shoes are recommended such as Saguaro. Sandals or flip flops are strongly discouraged due to their inability to provide a good grip on the slippery rocks.
Location: Lands End Road (off Catalina Blvd), San Diego, CA 92106
19. Point Loma Lighthouse
If you visit the Cabrillo National Monument, drive a few miles further to visit the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse, one of the eight original lighthouses on the west coast.
Location: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
Hikes & Outdoor Adventures
20. Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves
Get down and dirty in the estimated 5 million-year-old Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves. Search for fossils, but try not to get lost in what is said to be one of the most extensive caves in the world!
21. Visit One of San Diego’s Lakes
Get away from the coast and skip some rocks, feed some ducks, or have a nice stroll around one of San Diego’s glistening and serene lakes, such as Miramar Lake, Otay Lake, and El Capitan Lake!
22. Torrey Pines Beach Trail Hike
See Mother Nature at work on one of San Diego’s many hikes. Torrey Pines Beach Trail is an easy hike with beautiful ocean views. Take the Beach Trail loop, a gradual trek up a well-maintained road that leads to a bluff with views of the beautiful beaches of La Jolla. It’s also a great place to watch hang-gliders launching off the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
GPS to get to trail head: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA, 92037
23. Visit a Waterfall
Follow the sound of rushing waters to the 80 ft tall Cedar Creek Falls! The hike on the way up to the waterfall is often spent bird watching!
24. Carlsbad’s Flower Fields
Get lost in a field of flowers at Carlsbad’s Flower Fields. This 50-acre vibrant hillside full of blooms happens yearly during the months of April and May!
25. Camp at Campland On the Bay
Get out of the house or hotel and camp for a night or two! Located on the shores of Mission Bay, Campland offers waterfront RV and tent camping. Campland is very family-friendly and offers a wide range of amenities and activities.
Location: 2211 Pacific Beach Dr. San Diego, CA. 92109
Only In San Diego County Things to do with Kids
From the Del Mar Fair, Del Mar Racetrack, Comic Con, the San Diego Zoo, to Legoland (the list goes on and on) there are so many things you can truly only do in San Diego!
26. Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
Pay tribute to fallen soldiers at Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, a beautiful monument atop a hill that gives sight-seers a mouth-dropping view.
27. Head to the San Diego County Fair
Get the best greasy fair foods at San Diego County Fair. Some of our favorites are the Blooming Onion, Triple-Decker Donut Hamburgers, and Deep-Fried Butter. Yum!
There are fun rides, loads of games, livestock showings, wine tasting and so much to keep you busy at the fair. Plus the live music! It’s worth a visit if you are in San Diego in early summer.
Release your inner geek at the largest comic convention in the country, Comic-Con International. Hundreds of thousands attend this famous event because it is chock full of celebrity panels, artists, and video games!
29. Olympic Training Center
Tour the Olympic Training Center and spectate over the intense Cal-State Games, such as archery, BMX, and field hockey competitions.
30. Fun with Ceramics
Try your hand at a potter’s wheel and make/paint your own pottery at Claytime Ceramics.
31. Go to a Drive-In Movie
Catch a film under the stars in the comfort of your own car at the Santee Drive-In Theatre.
32. Catch a Theatre Performance
33. Visit Balboa Park
Awe at Balboa Park’s beautiful architecture and immerse yourself in their culturally rich museums!
34. Go to a Padres Baseball Game
Eat some peanuts and hot dogs while watching a ball game at Petco Park stadium.
35. Head to Seaworld
Plunge into the vibrant marine life with Seaworld’s many interactive animal experiences, thrilling water rides, and inspirational shows/exhibits. Get splashed by Shamu!
36. Visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo
39. The San Diego Zoo is one of the biggest and one of the best. Come to see their #1 attraction, their lovable Chinese Giant Pandas!
37. Have an Adventure at the Safari Park
Have an up-close experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where you can get a guided tram tour through fields to see animals in their “natural” habitat!
38. Visit the Birch Aquarium
Get hands-on with sea stars and stingrays at Birch Aquarium! Let your kids goggle at the huge tanks full of deep sea monsters.
39. Visit Legoland
Channel your inner child by visiting the huge Lego-themed amusement park and resort, LEGOLAND!
40. Head to Kobey’s Swap Meet
Are you a nifty thrifter? Kobey’s Swap Meet is a great place for you to trade, sell, and scrummage for hidden treasures.
41. With its exquisite architectural character, The Headquarters is a restored historic treasure that is full of outdoor entertainment such as fashion shows, concerts, and a weekly farmers market.
42. Meditate and find your core at the tranquil gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple.
43. Jump around in a gym where the floor is a huge trampoline! Skyhigh Sports has several foam pits and rounds of dodgeballs for our fellow athletes to do some flips over!
Foodie Fun for Families!
44. Bates Nut Farm
Bates Nut Farm is a unique rural festival that allows kids to go through hay mazes, pick through a pumpkin patch, and pet some animals every Fall!
45. Visit the Night Market
The Night Market on Convoy is a great Asian cultural experience full of street food, live entertainment, and traditional festive games.
46. Visit the Fish Market
If you have kiddos who love to fish, this will be fun! The Open Air Fish Market down at the harbor lets you really experience the bustling life of a seaside town. Grab some freshly caught fish for dinner!
47. Bali Hai
Feast at Bali Hai restaurant on Shelter Island for one of the best views of the city’s skyline!
Fall & Winter Adventure in San Diego
48. Head to ScreamZone at Halloween Time
Want to have a nice scare? Get chased by zombies at the Screamzone held at Delmar Fairgrounds. There is Zombie Paintball, The Chamber, the House of Horror, and a Haunted Hayride.
49. Pick Apples
50. Ice Skate at the Beach
Ride a ferry to Coronado Island where you can go ice-skating outside right next to a beautiful beach in winter!
Fun Christmas & Holiday Kids Activities in San Diego
51. December Nights at Balboa Park
December Nights is an annual Christmas event at Balboa Park that is awaited by all. A huge holiday festival of music and food, and get this, many of the museums are even open for free!
52. Christmas Card Lane
11. San Diego has some neighborhoods that are filled to the top with holiday spirit! Visit one of the neighborhoods hosting Christmas Card Lane to be surrounded by amazing Christmas lights and holiday decorations.
Read More Tips to Inspire Your Next Trip!
- The Ultimate Travel To Do List
- 52 Reasons to Visit Indonesia
- 52 Things To Do in Buenos Aires
- 52 Reasons to Visit Macedonia and Insider Travel Tips
Grown and raised in sunny San Diego, she’s developed a sense of wanderlust from just travelling around her own city. In her free time, she likes to document her travels through photographs, videos, and blogs.