San Diego, California is one of the best places for family vacations and kid-friendly activities. Aside from its beaches and parks, it has several attractions that will delight any child. This includes award-winning zoos, the largest urban park in the USA, and a plethora of museums with interactive exhibits.
Here are some of our favorite fun family things to do in San Diego, California. All these destinations are kid-friendly, and have hundreds of glowing reviews from travelers from around the world.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world. It has over 12,000 animals from more than 650 species. It was also the first zoo to have cageless, open-air exhibits that replicate the animals’ natural habitat.
The zoo is divided into different sections. For example, the Monkey Forest Trail houses several species from Africa and Asia, while the Reptile Walk houses hundreds of different kinds of turtles, snakes, lizards, etc.
Kids can also sign up for the Wildlife Explorers Base Camp. It has four unique play areas inspired by different habitats: Wild Woods, Desert Dunes, Marsh Meadows, and Rainforest. They also have indoor exhibits, the underwater-themed Reptile House and the cave-themed Invertebrate House.
San Diego Safari Park
The sprawling San Diego Safari park is home to over 2,600 animals from all over the world, including lions, elephants, giraffes, and more.
You can freely tour the area, but we recommend scheduling a safari. There’s an African Tram Tour, or, you can join a Caravan that covers the sections of the Asian and African savannahs, or sign up for the Zipline Safari or Balloon Safari and see the animal exposures from above.
You can also arrange for a customized safari experience, or book an overnight sleepover safari (they have different themes for different ages). Kids can also take a ride on the Conservation Carousel, use the Play Areas, or visit the petting zoo.
This is one of the best family resorts in the state. Aside from enjoying the Lego exhibits and driving around in the brick go karts, kids can check out the life-sized Lego Ferrari F40, and try to build their own and test it out on the tracks. They can also digitally scan their creation, and join a virtual race.
The resort also has a theme park, water park, and (one of our favorite areas) the Sea Life Aquarium. The Aquarium has an interactive touch pool, several exhibits, and a game area where they can learn about shark facts on a giant touch screen.
SeaWorld San Diego
This is a must-visit for kids! They will love seeing dolphins, penguins and other sea creatures up close—including reef sharks and giant sharks in the walk-through shark tank.
And then there are the amazing amusement park rides, including the Emperor—California’s first floorless dive coaster, and one of the most anticipated rides of 2022 according to USA Today. Other thrillers are the water rides Shipwreck Rapids, the swing ride Tentacle Twirl, and the flume ride Journey to Atlantis.
Little kids can also have fun at the teacup rides, mini submarines, swing rides, and up and down rides. Stay until sunset, and you can ride a gondola that soars through the park and the picturesque Mission Bay. Or, head for the Sky Tower and see an amazing view of the ocean and San Diego skyline.
Come and play in one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world! Sesame Place is the second theme park (and only one located in the West Coast) that is based on the popular children’s show Sesame Street.
Kids can walk through the iconic neighborhood, taking pictures with favorite characters and exploring interactive play areas. There are also multiple live character shows, and an award-winning parade.
The park also has 18 family-friendly rides with adorable Sesame Street themes and a 500,000-gallon wave pool (one of the biggest ones in California).
San Diego Natural History Museum
Learn about geology, eco-systems, and history. The San Diego Natural History Museum has exhibits with fossils, gemstones, archaeological finds, specimens, skulls, and more.
Located across the courtyard from the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Natural History Museum is home to fossils, scavenger hunts, and exhibits regarding local geology, ecosystems, and history.
There’s also an area that features the unique habitats of Southern California, a demonstration lab where they can watch scientists at work, and a backyard play area where kids can learn about the natural world through play.
Fleet Science Center
To infinity and beyond! The Fleet Science Center introduces kids to science concepts in a fun, entertaining and engaging way. Permanent exhibits include the Illusion Gallery, Space Gallery, Sustainable City, and NASA’S Sun, Earth and the Universe.
There is a play area called Kid City for kids under five years old, including a crawling area for babies with different textured surfaces. There’s even a “street city” area that teaches preschoolers about street safety, and a ball wall for toddlers.
San Diego Botanic Garden
This award-winning botanic garden offers both nature trails and special programs for kids. SAPLiGs (short for Science, Art and Play in Garden Spaces) is especially designed to stimulate kids’ imagination, creativity, curiosity, and love for nature.
Visit the website for their monthly themes, which focus on particular science concepts. There are also special daily activities in the Incredible Edibles Garden, storytelling in the Hamilton Children’s Garden, and scavenger hunts.
This is the biggest urban cultural recreational park in the United States, with over 17 museums and gardens. You can go bird watching, look for different plant species in the gardens (including 50 species of palms in Palm Canyon, and over 2,000 tropical plants at Lily Pond), and see the second largest fig tree in California.
It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and California sunshine! Entrance to Balboa is free, though you will have to buy tickets for the museums clustered around the park. If you plan to go there frequently, consider getting the Balboa Park pass. Or, you can check the website for announcements of special events and performances.
Explore San Diego with your family
With San Diego’s numerous family-friendly attractions, you’re bound to find something that suits your children’s ages and interests.