There is an abundance of fun activities to do in San Diego, California—no matter what your age is! From parks to museums and all in between, there is so much to do if you have little ones. So much in fact that it can end up being overwhelming trying to figure out what you should do, especially if you are only in a town for a limited number of days. I have narrowed it down to the top seven family friendly places in the city of San Diego below. It should be noted that these are great locations to visit no matter what time of year it is! It’s always sunny in San Diego, right? 😉
(Wrong. It’s been like a monsoon out there lately—but that’s rare!)
This is one of the more known places in San Diego, and for good reason! It’s my personal favorite. There is so much to do at Balboa Park, you could easily spend a few days just exploring there. The park is over one thousand acres, features beautiful architecture and gardens, and is home to 17 museums. You read that right—17! From art to prehistoric times, to science and outer space, these museums cover it all.
I love the NAT (Museum of Natural History), my husband enjoys the R.H. Fleet Science Center, and our little guy is in awe at the Air & Space Museum. There are trails to walk, you can watch planes fly above as they descend into the San Diego International Airport, performers are around every corner, and there are special events going on all the time. On the weekends you can head to the International Cottages and speak to people from other countries around the world, as well as try delicious food! Just remember to bring cash, as tips are appreciated. This place has it all!
I feel as though I do not hear as much about Seaport Village these days in regard to tourism, which is a shame because it is a must see in my book! It is an outdoor shopping and dining complex, most of which are small businesses, that is right on the ocean with stellar views of the water. It might not sound like much, but it is simply the perfect place for a stroll with loved ones (or yourself!) and there is something about it that makes you feel good.
The one downside is that parking can be a bit of a nightmare, but I have a solution to that! If you are feeling more adventurous and are wanting to take in more views of the city and waterfront, put on Maps on your phone, drive across the bridge to Coronado (more of that below) and park as near Village Pizzeria Bayside as you can. You can then buy a round trip ticket to take a ferry across the water—to right near where Seaport Village is!—at an affordable cost of less than $10 a person! Children under 3 are free. Ask when the actual big harbor ferry departs, not the water taxis, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
The heart of Coronado Island is the world class Hotel Del, a grand Victorian escape that now also has high end hut style beach properties for extra accommodations. Even if you don’t want to stay at the Del, it is worthy of getting a visit for a day, or even evening, if not just for the beautiful photographs you’ll be able to take! The beach itself is right in front of the gorgeous hotel and has some of the whiter sand for a San Diego beach. Aside from the Hotel Del Coronado, the rest of the island is also fun to walk around and explore! The homes are beautifully unique, and the main strip in the center of town is booming with restaurants and boutiques.
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
As a forewarning, the zoo and safari park are not right next to each other. In fact, they are in different cities. The San Diego Zoo is in the city of San Diego right next to Balboa Park (and parking is free because of this!) whereas the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is northeast in the city of Escondido. While a steep price unless you are able to get passes (which are worth it pretty quickly), these parks are talked about worldwide, and I think the zoo is our son’s favorite place he has been. He loves all the big aviaries and the lush foliage and they are pretty good about accommodating his food allergies. There is a lot of walking involved, so be prepared for that, but both parks are such great places to go and learn about preserving and helping endangered species with your kids.
Old Town San Diego
This is exactly what it sounds like—a preserved neighborhood of San Diego that is old. It is as though you are stepping back into the 18th and 19th centuries, where San Diego began! In 1769 Father Junipero made a Mission that became the first of many in a chain of colonizing California. One of the more famous parts of Old Town is the haunted Whaley House. The residence is a Historical Landmark revived from the mid-1800s, and even if you don’t like the paranormal it is still a cool place to visit. Basically, Old Town feels like you are stepping back into the western days a couple hundred years ago. Be sure to grab a bite to eat there, too, as their food is delicious!
Torrey Pines State Reserve
I visited this for the first time when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and ended up on a more difficult hike than I meant to. Everything was fine, it just forced us to take our time more… Which resulted in us realizing how incredible of an area it is! What makes it even more breathtaking is the plain fact that this is one of only two places in the world where the rare tree species, Torrey Pine, grow. As it is protecting endangered species, you have to pay a nominal fee to gain entrance, but it is worth it as it includes access to a glistening beach along with many, many hiking trails of varying difficulties that overlook the Pacific Ocean. I would download AllTrails—we love that app!
The New Children’s Museum
We have not actually taken our kiddo here yet, but I have heard only the best reviews about it so felt it needed to be included. The whole focus is for younger children to use creative play and art to promote leadership and confidence in real world scenarios. You can find classes they offer and more details at https://thinkplaycreate.org/ 😊
What do you think? Are you planning on visiting San Diego soon, or do you love it already?! I know there is a ton to do in San Diego so narrowing down the list was hard! What else would you add?
Thanks for stopping by—happy exploring!