San Diego’s sunny skies, warm weather and fantastic beaches attract families all year round. In addition to its natural attractions, San Diego is home to countless exciting parks and museums for kids to enjoy (hello LEGOLAND!). Whether you’re a San Diego local are one of its lucky guests traveling with children, use the guide to discover the best of what to do with kids in San Diego.
San Diego’s Top Children's Attractions
Image Credit: Tanguy Sauvin
1. Balboa Park
This 1,200 acre park in the heart of San Diego is an urban oasis home to museums, ponds, more than a dozen gardens, and even a carousel or miniature railroad. With so many kid-friendly activities, it would be easy to spend every day of your trip exploring its free grounds. If your kids need to let off some steam, check out the 60+ miles of hiking and biking trails or try your hand at lawn bowling.
Balboa Park is located at 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. The grounds and outdoor gardens are free and open 24 hours a day. Cost and hours of individual attractions vary so call or visit their website for details (or see a few in this list).
2. The New Children’s Museum
Kids will love the interactive exhibits at San Diego’s New Children’s Museum, where everything can be touched and climbed on. Parents will appreciate that the exhibits feature art installations from innovative artists. There is plenty of hands-on, inspirational fun to be had with current exhibits about food and the history of California.
The children’s museum is located at 200 W Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 and is open Wednesday through Monday. Hours are 10am-4pm every day but Friday when they open at 9:30am and Sunday when they open at noon. Admissions is $12.
3. SeaWorld San Diego
This world-famous marine life mecca features countless exciting attractions and exhibits kids and adults can appreciate. Enjoy its sea-themed rides, live shows, animal encounters, and underwater exhibits where visitors can witness sea creatures in action and learn about their life in the wild. Home to penguins, dolphins, sharks, and more, Sea World San Diego guarantees unforgettable visits.
SeaWorld is located at 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA 92109. Park hours vary so call ahead or visit their website. Admission starts at $69 if you purchase online.
Lego fans big or small will be in heaven at LEGOLAND, but with so much to do, you don’t have to be a Lego nut to enjoy this unique theme park. From roller coasters to a water park, race cars to live shows, LEGOLAND is bursting with fun attractions children of all ages will enjoy, each with a unique Lego twist. Although located in Carlsbad about 30 miles from San Diego, LEGOLAND is well worth the drive. Plus, with dozens of restaurants, cafes and even an aquarium, it’s easy to spend the entire day at LEGOLAND.
LEGOLAND is located at 1 LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008. Admission starts at $78 and hours vary by day, so check the website or call ahead.
5. San Diego Beaches
San Diego is known for its beach life and you’d be remiss not soak up some sun and sea while visiting this California paradise. With 70 miles of coastline to choose from, it’s easy to find a kid friendly beach. Tiny, tucked-away La Jolla Cove is a great option for kids thanks to its light surf (also ideal for snorkeling) and lifeguards. Or head to Torrey Pines State Park for a real feeling of wilderness within city limits and a beach that’s great for little swimmers and beachcombers.
6. Mission Bay Park
When it comes to water parks, Mission Bay has no equal. With over 4,000 acres of waterways, parks, trails, boardwalks, and ocean beaches, this super park is ripe with every kind of water recreation imaginable. Whether you and your kids are high-octane jet skiers or laid-back kayakers, Mission Bay Park has something for everyone, even little ones who are just getting their feet wet. At sunset, head to the ocean for a bonfire, as pits are provided at multiple beaches throughout the park. BYO s’mores, of course.
Mission Bay Park is located at 2688 East Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109.
7. Reuben H Fleet Science Center
From the magnitude of space to unfathomably tiny cells, science-lovers of all ages and interests will find something intriguing here. In addition to the hands-on exhibits where kids can explore and touch just about everything, the Reuben H Fleet Science Center offers IMAX movies and plenty of engaging events, lectures, and festivals for children and families to enjoy.
The science center is located in Balboa Park at 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. They are open 10am-5pm Monday through Thursday and 10am-6pm Friday through Sunday. Admission is $19.95 for ages 13 and up and $16.95 for ages 3-12.
8. San Diego Zoo
Explore a veritable world of animals - from the zoo’s star pandas to tigers and boa constrictors - any day of the year at the world class San Diego Zoo. This city landmark commemorates its centennial next year with a special anniversary celebration on May 21st, 2016, but visitors are sure to have a magnificent time exploring the San Diego Zoo any day of the year. Hosting special activities for children, like the Little Artists Camp, Giraffe Feeding and Kangaroo Bus, there are no shortage of fun-filled educational events for kids to look forward to.
The zoo is located in Balboa Park at 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 and is open every day from 9am-5pm. General admission starts at $38 for children ages 3-11 and $48 for ages 12 and up.
9. San Diego Botanic Garden
You may think a botanic garden could be a boring place for kids, but the San Diego Botanic Garden is far from it. Make the drive to this globally themed garden (located in Encinitas), home to Australian, African and Mediterranean plant species. Kids will especially love learning about nature while exploring the vibrant Seeds of Wonder garden or the Hamilton’s Children Garden, complete with tree houses and playgrounds.
The San Diego Botanic Garden is located at 230 Quail Road, Encinitas, CA 92024 and is open daily from 9am-5pm. Admission is $14 and $8 for children ages 3-12.
10. San Diego Air and Space Museum
Any kid or grown up intrigued by the wonders of flight will drool over the real live aircraft at this awesome museum. Home to the International Air and Space Hall of Fame, flight simulators, a reproduction of the Wright Brothers’ 1901 glider, a satellite, and the actual Apollo 9 Command Module, children can witness incredible pieces of history and expand their knowledge of outer space exploration while visiting the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Visit their website to learn about its fascinating featured exhibits. Visit soon to tour its current exhibit about American female pilots and Da Vinci’s flying machines.
The museum is located in Balboa Park at 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101 and is open daily from 10am- 4:30pm. General admission is $19.50 for ages 12 and up and $10.40 for kids ages 3-11.
Visiting San Diego
This article was written by Katie Vaughan and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist, Lexi Perman.