Best Things to do in San Diego with Kids in 2023
Here are best things to do in San Diego with kids in 2023 that will entertain the whole family. There are a number of superb animal parks like the San Diego Zoo as well as the San Diego Safari Park Zoo and if you like marine life you can visit SeaWorld or the Birch Aquarium at Scripps as well as the Living Coastal Discovery Center. When you want to enjoy a little adrenaline then visit Miramar Speed Center or Belmont Park with its wooden roller coaster and Aquatica is ideal for water fun. You can visit one of the many museums within Balboa Park such as the San Diego Model Railroad Museum or the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Other exciting activities with kids in San Diego for you range from the U.S.S. Midway Museum to the Fleet Science Center to the New Children’s Museum.
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San Diego Zoo
When you want to visit one of the most popular zoos in the United States as well as the best thing to do in San Diego with kids then you need to go to the San Diego Zoo. Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is situated on 100-acres and is home to over 3,700 animals from over 800 species from around the world. The San Diego Zoo has more than ten specific habitat areas that range from the Urban Jungle to Panda Canyon to the Asian Passage to Africa Rocks. Within specially designed habitat viewing areas you will see animals such as an Amur leopard, bonobo monkeys, Chinese alligator, giant panda, penguins and orangutans. The San Diego Zoo has several superb garden areas that feature exotic plants from around the world. There are a number of ways to experience the San Diego Zoo from riding an aerial tram to a guided bus tour to an express bus and you can even attend special lectures by trained biologists on such animals as koalas, maned wolves and there is an excellent petting paddock for children. Also within the zoo there is a 4D Theater and several playgrounds to help keep your family entertained for the day.
San Diego Safari Park Zoo
When you want to feel like you are on an actual safari with your family then the best thing to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the San Diego Safari Park Zoo. Located in the San Pasquel Valley near Escondido, the San Diego Safari Park Zoo is situated on 1,800-acres and features more than 3,500 animals from 430 species. Some of the specially designed habitats include Elephant Valley, Condor Ridge, Asian Savanna, Gorilla Forest, Lion Camp and the African Outpost. You will be excited at the variety of animals that range from African Rhino to Bighorn Sheep to Cheetahs to Gorillas. You have a wide assortment of ways to view the park such as a stimulating 30-minute safari ride in an open air vehicle through the African Savanna to a ride in a helium balloon for a bird’s eye view to a stimulating flight line safari to a photograph caravan and you can even arrange to spend the night. The San Diego Safari Park Zoo has several amphitheaters throughout the park which hosts educational programs about the various animals in the park.
SeaWorld San Diego
When you are ready to combine some thrilling rides with animal encounters and shows then a superb thing to do in San Diego with kids is to plan a trip to SeaWorld San Diego. Located in the Mission Bay area, SeaWorld San Diego is situated on 190-acres and showcases incredible marine life from around the world as well as several adrenaline filled rides. SeaWorld San Diego has nine specific marine life viewing areas such as Pacific Point, Penguin Encounter, Explorer’s Reef and Shark Encounter. These aquariums are packed with a variety of marine life from beluga whales to loggerhead turtles to brightly colored tropical fish. SeaWorld San Diego has eight entertaining shows that are educational that include Sea Lions Tonite, Dolphin Days and there is a new Orca Encounter presentation. Other interesting animal encounters like swimming with dolphins, petting penguins and touching shark can be experienced. There are sixteen different amusement style rides at SeaWorld which include three high thrill rides like the Manta roller coaster as well as three medium thrill rides such as Shipwreck Rapids. Children will be pleased with ten low thrill rides including the Submarine Quest, Elmo’s Flying Fish and the Bayside Skyride is ideal for families.
Fun Things to do in San Diego with kids - USS Midway Museum
When you are interested in learning more about U.S. Naval history then the perfect thing to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the U.S.S. Midway Museum. Located at the Navy Pier in San Diego Harbor, the U.S.S. Midway Museum is situated within the U.S.S. Midway which was a flagship aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1991. As you are browsing the different levels of this aircraft carrier you will view over 60 interactive exhibits that include places such as the crew’s sleeping quarters, the engine room, sick bay and machine shops. Other places of interest like the bridge, the control tower and admiral’s war room are all open for viewing with plenty of information about this ship’s travels during war time. The flight deck is superb and allows you the opportunity to see famous airplanes like F-4 Phantom, F9F Panther, a TBM Avenger, an A-6 Intruder as well as a Huey Gunship. The U.S.S. Midway Museum has three flight simulators, knot tying classes, the Ejection Seat Theater and your family can meet former veterans from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War as well as active duty armed service people.
When you are seeking water fun that is packed with adrenaline as well as plenty of places to relax then an ideal thing to do in San Diego with kids is to take a trip to Aquatica. Located in Chula Vista only 10-miles southeast of San Diego, Aquatica is situated in the former Knott’s Soak City San Diego and features several exciting waterslides as well as pool areas which are ideal for children. Aquatica is home to seven thrilling waterslides which include the HooRoo that drops some 80-feet as well as two waterslides with drops of over 70-feet and three other waterslides that drop 60-feet. Pool areas include the Big Surf Shores which contains 550,000 gallons of water and creates 5-foot waves as well as a 1,250-foot long lazy river and three areas like Slippity Dippity which have been designed especially for children. There are two animal attractions at Aquatica which are a Flamingo habitat as well as children can view over 55 fresh water turtles that were abandoned and now cared for by the San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society.
Fun Things to do in San Diego with kids - Belmont Park
If you are searching for a perfect family day next to the beach then the best thing to do in San Diego with kids is to visit Belmont Park. Located one mile west of SeaWorld San Diego, Belmont Park is situated along Mission Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean and houses the Giant Dipper which is a wooden roller coaster that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Belmont Park features free admission and a daily pass or a pay-as-you-ride option. The amusement park area features twelve rides that include the thrilling Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, the Beach Blaster as well as the Control Freak with most rides being designed for children to ride with a chaperone. Other fascinating attractions within Belmont Park include miniature golf, the Sky Ropes obstacle course, a 30-foot climbing wall, Laser Tag and Lasermaze as well as a zipline or you can try the challenging Escapology game. One of the more unique attractions is the FlowRider wave pool and the FlowBarrel is the only one in the United States that creates giant tubular waves for surfing. Belmont Park also boasts an arcade and a midway with carnival style games.
Photo by Smart Destinations
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla)
When you want to visit one the premier aquariums in the United States then a superb thing to do in San Diego with kids is to plan a trip to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Located in La Jolla just north of downtown San Diego, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is situated in a 64,157 square feet facility within the campus of the University of California at San Diego. This aquarium will fascinate all member of the family with over 60 separate tanks which hold over 5,000 animals from over 380 different species from around the world. There are several unique tank exhibitions that include the Hall of Fishes with 60 Pacific Ocean habitats; the Giant Kelp Forest features leopard sharks and moray eels; Tide Pool Plaza concentrates on starfish and ElasmoBeach has blacktip reef sharks, brownbanded bamboo sharks and Port Jackson sharks. Interactive exhibitions include the Mexican Seas, a virtual ride on the R/V Sally Ride, research on coral reefs and Boundless Energy focuses on renewable energy. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of world’s leading research facilities and continues to upgrade exhibitions while acquiring cutting edge knowledge about of oceans.
Photo by Brandon Leon
Boomers San Diego
When you are searching for somewhere with lots of exciting family activities in one place then a perfect thing to do in San Diego with kids is to try Boomers San Diego. Located in the Clairemont area just north of Balboa Park, Boomers San Diego boasts several superb attractions that will surely please everyone in the family. Activities include a thrilling go-kart track where you can race around hairpin turns and turn on the gas down the straightaways before crossing the finish line. When you want something laidback try their miniature golf course which is complete with water features as well as windmills and everyone will like the challenging 32-foot climbing wall. There are batting cages to hone your swing and the Flame Thrower is perfect for a quick pick me up of adrenaline. Families will be delighted with the bumper boats that are equipped with water cannons to help cool you down. Your children will be thrilled with the Kid’s County Fair which is a scaled down amusement park that boasts a ferris wheel, tea cups, a train ride and the lolli swings.
Photo by Smart Destinations
Fun Things to do in San Diego with kids - Miramar Speed Circuit
When you are searching for an exciting indoor activity that includes challenging yourself on the racetrack then an ideal thing to do in San Diego with kids is to plan a trip to the Miramar Speed Circuit. Located in Miramar which is just north of San Diego and west of La Jolla, the Miramar Speed Circuit is a perfect place for families that want an exciting time on the racetrack. Miramar Speed Circuit offers a go-kart track, a laser tag arena and a fabulous arcade room that will keep everyone busy while you visit. The quarter-mile asphalt racetrack has two straightaways which allow you to reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour as well as four tight turns for challenging driving conditions. There are plenty of barriers and borders to keep all drivers safe as you zoom around the racetrack. If you are not into racing then try the 5,000 square feet laser tag arena which is situated on two levels for optimal fun and strategic tactics. The arcade room is perfect for unwinding before you head to your next adventure.
La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
When you are ready for an exciting time of watching marine life and viewing some of the finest natural scenery in Southern California then the perfect thing to do in San Diego with kids is to go on the La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak tour. Your 2-hour excursion is perfect for novices as well as expert paddlers and begins when you meet your expert naturalist guide where you will be fitted with all the necessary equipment. Once you enter the water your naturalist guide will explain many interesting facts about what you are viewing and the wildlife you will see. As you paddle along the rugged La Jolla cliffs you will be pleased with the beauty of the area as you watch marine life like seals, sea lions and maybe dolphins play in their natural habitat. If the conditions are right you will enter the sea caves where you will explore these unique rock formations that have been created by the crashing waves. After you are finished viewing the caves and the magnificent kelp forests you will take an adrenaline filled surf ride back to the shoreline where your excursion concludes.
San Diego Seal Tour
When you are looking for a great thing to do in San Diego with kids that is informative and fun then you should try the San Diego Seal tour. Your 90-minute excursion begins when you meet your expert tour guide at Seaport Village who will give a superb narrative on the history of the area as you travel from point to point. Once you are on board our unique amphibious vehicle you will drive down Harbor Drive enjoying perfect views of the San Diego Bay. Here you will enter the water near Shelter Island where you will see sights like from the water such as Cabrillo National Monument where you will get a great vantage point of Point Loma as well as the Naval Air Station North Island and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As you cruise you will be delighted with the marine life which includes playful seals and sea lions as well as birds such as the California brown pelican. When you exit the water you will once again travel down Harbor Drive where you will pass the U.S.S. Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Your tour concludes when you reach your starting point at Seaport Village.
La Jolla and San Diego Beaches Tour
When you want to see historic sites, panoramic views and play at the beach then an ideal thing to do in San Diego with kids is to try the La Jolla and San Diego Beaches Tour. Your 5.5-hour excursion begins when you meet your expert tour guide at Old Town where you will learn interesting facts about the early settlement of the Sand Diego area and the state of California. From Old Town you will take a trolley to the top of Mount Soledad which boasts tremendous panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego region as well as a veteran’s memorial with a large cross. Once you are finished taking photographs you will travel to the beaches of La Jolla where you will have 3.5-hours to relax on the beach, play in the Pacific Ocean or you can wander the streets browsing the many art galleries and shopping venues. From La Jolla you will then have an opportunity to view Windansea Beach, Pacific Beach and you will stop at Mission Beach which sports a 2-mile stretch of beautiful sand. Here you can watch surfers, skateboarders or a volleyball game on the beach. If you want more excitement wander to Belmont Park and take a ride on an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster. Your tour concludes when you transported back to Old Town.
San Diego Natural History Museum
When you want to see one of the finest natural history collections in the United States then the perfect thing to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the San Diego Natural History Museum. Located inside Balboa Park, the San Diego Natural History Museum is situated within a 150,000 square feet facility that highlights the natural world of the San Diego area as well as Baja California. The museum is especially known for the quality of research that highly trained individuals have completed over the years and put into exhibit form. The San Diego Natural History Museum is an ideal place to learn about the dinosaurs that roamed the area, the biodiversity of the area as well as the minerals and water supply of Southern California. The museum has a fascinating skull collection that ranges from a finback whale to kit fox to a fossilized saber tooth cat. Children will enjoy the numerous interactive exhibits that will keep their minds challenged and there is a 3D theater inside.
San Diego Air and Space Museum
When your family wants to learn more about the technology that has been created over the years with regards to air and space travel then the best thing to do in San Diego with kids is to go to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Located within Balboa Park, the San Diego Air and Space Museum is situated within the fascinating Ford Building which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The San Diego Air and Space Museum features a fascinating look at air and space travel from its early beginnings to present day. The museum has several exhibits such as the Golden Age of Flight Gallery, Modern Jet and Space Gallery as well as World War I and II Galleries. You will be amazed at the artifact collection that includes over 30 airplanes and spacecraft such as the Apollo 9 Command Module, a Japanese Zero, Spitfire, Mig-17, F-4 Phantom, A-12 Oxcart as well as replicas of the Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright Flyer and the Vin Fiz Flyer which was the first aircraft to compete a transcontinental flight over America.
Photo by Tomás Del Coro
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
One of the more entertaining things to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum which displays several iconic railroads that were crucial to the state of California and the United States. Located on the lower level of Casa de Balboa within Balboa Park, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is situated within 27,000 square feet of space which displays the largest model train collection in North America. Everyone will be thrilled visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and you will be quickly reminded of the ambience that was created when people relied on the railroads for vacations, business travels and transporting manufactured goods. Each scaled down railroad model is a wonderful piece of quality craftsmanship that exactly replicates each train car and the associated scenery of each exhibition. Some of the exhibits inside the museum include the Pacific Desert Line and Tehachapi Line as well as the Centennial Railway Garden which portrays Balboa Park in 1915 and is complete with trolley cars. Everyone will be pleased with learning more about interesting history of the railroads when they are finished marveling at these incredible pieces of art.
Photo by Klaus Nahr
Fun Things to do in San Diego with kids - New Children’s Museum
When you are interested in having your children learn and create something new then the best thing to do in San Diego with kids is to take a trip to the New Children’s Museum. Located just east of the Gaslamp Quarter adjacent to Children’s Park, the New Children’s Museum is situated on three floors of interactive and creative stations that allow your child to open their minds to different challenges. The New Children’s Museum has fourteen different art oriented stations for your child to explore which include the Nature Matching System, Make/Shift, the Wonder Sound, Sketch Aquarium and Globos. Children are encouraged to climb, play, think and create as they stroll through the museum which is packed with numerous interactive stations for them to enjoy. Your child will be challenged with creativity by the stations that are dedicated to painting and making sculptures which help them discover their own artistic style. There are numerous events daily at the New Children’s Museum which adds value to your visit. When they are finished exploring the museum you can let them tire themselves out more at the wonderful Children’s Park which has a fantastic playground.
Photo by Jason Taellious
Fleet Science Center
One of the more popular things to do in San Diego with kids is to visit the unique exhibits at the Fleet Science Center. Located inside Balboa Park adjacent to the Bea Evenson Fountain just 2-blocks south of the San Diego Zoo, the Fleet Science Center is home to the first IMAX Theater in the United States and features over 100 interactive science based exhibitions. The Fleet Science Center is a perfect place to explore with twelve permanent exhibitions such as San Diego’s Water, Block Busters, Kid City, So Watt, Power Play San Diego, Nano and the Tinkering Studio. Traveling exhibits in the past have included Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery where you solve the crime; Retro-Active Science where exhibits range for light and perception to physics and engineering; Game Masters: The Exhibition concentrates on playable games from arcade style to modern video games and So Moved: The Art and Science of Motion is incredible with objects displaying wave motion, random motion and optical motion. The IMAX Theater also doubles as a planetarium and there are numerous movies as well as events on a daily basis.
Photo by Balboa Park Cultural Partnership
Living Coast Discovery Center
If you like to have your children get connected with the natural world of plants and animals then a superb thing to do in San Diego with kids is to go to the Living Coast Discovery Center. Located in Chula Vista just 12-miles southeast of San Diego, the Living Coast Discovery Center is situated within the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Once at the Living Coast Discovery Center you will be delighted with the experience of learning about the different species of animals and plants that thrive in the surrounding area. There are exhibits on the native species, invasive species, the urban jungle area and the bay front residents as well as the ocean. There is also a Native Pollinator Garden which features butterflies, humming birds, bats and bees that are crucial for our environment. The Living Coast Discovery Center boasts several animal encounters that are great for families and include encounters with stingrays, sharks, owls, desert tortoise and green sea turtles. The center also provides for overnight experiences as well as sports a number of hikes with naturalists for you to enjoy.