19 Fun Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

This list of fun and kid-friendly activities in San Diego features unmissable things to do so you can start planning a vacation or staycation full of thrills!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
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Fun Kid Attractions at Belmont Park in Mission BeachTwo Sea Horses at Birch Aquarium

Are you planning a family vacation to San Diego? Or are you looking for fun weekend activities for San Diego residents with kids? In either case, you won’t be disappointed with the array of family-friendly attractions you’ll find in San Diego County.

If you’re in search of the Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids, you’re in luck! There are countless fun and exciting activities and attractions just waiting to be discovered.

Explore the sights in neighborhoods like Old Town San Diego, La Jolla, and Del Mar. Many of these attractions are just a few miles from the San Diego International Airport (SAN), making them ideal if you’re flying into San Diego.

Maybe you’re in the mood for educational attractions like the Natural History Museum (theNat), Maritime Museum, USS Midway Museum, and Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. Or your kids might enjoy all-out excitement at SeaWorld San Diego or exceptional children’s beaches like La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, and seaside areas like Pacific Beach.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, purchasing a Go City San Diego pass using our discount code, GVSD5OFF, is a great way to save while making the most of visiting San Diego!

Tour the never-ending thrills of Belmont Park's rides and games as Todd takes an insider look at this fun-filled favorite attraction. Keep the fun going with the Go City San Diego ride and play pass!

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19 Fun Things to Do with Kids in San Diego County

From famous attractions like the San Diego Zoo and PETCO Park to hidden gems like botanic gardens and sailing classes, San Diego is a veritable playground for families. Parents and kids alike can explore, learn, and play at these 19 unmissable attractions located around San Diego!

Birch Aquarium Kids Shark Photo Booth
Birch Aquarium Kids Shark Photo Booth

1) Go to Birch Aquarium at Scripps

San Diego Attractions: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

No family-friendly trip to San Diego is complete without visiting the one-of-a-kind Birch Aquarium at Scripps. This aquarium run by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography is both fun and educational, introducing kids and adults alike to an underwater world filled with tropical fish, sea turtles, octopi, sharks, and other marine creatures.

The Birch Aquarium is one of the Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids, especially for young animal lovers. You can even get hands-on with some aquatic animals at the touch tanks, or watch a live feeding. Be sure to check out exciting exhibits like the Tide Pool Plaza and Shark Shores.

This year there is a new member in the aquarium family, it's the first blue penguin born in captivity and it's causing a sensation among visitors. Don't miss the opportunity to bring your children and teach them the importance that this event has in conservation.

The Birch Aquarium is part of the Go City San Diego pass. Save on admission costs to the aquarium and many other attractions around San Diego when you purchase a pass using our discount code, GVSD5OFF, before your visit!

Buy Aquarium Tickets
Boardwalk at North Pacific Beach
Boardwalk at North Pacific Beach

2) Enjoy Beach Activities for Kids in San Diego at North Pacific Beach

Beach: North Pacific Beach

Hitting the beach is a can’t-miss activity and one of the Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids. Any of the city’s coastlines are worth a visit, but if you’re looking for the most kid-friendly experience, consider going to North Pacific Beach.

This shoreline in Pacific Beach is known for its calm waters perfect for beginner swimmers, making it one of our picks for the Best Swimming Beaches in San Diego. You can also enjoy fun activities like kayaking, fishing, surfing, and paddleboarding, or simply sunbathe while the kids make sand castles.

If you want to get an early start at the beach, book a stay at the Pacific Terrace Hotel, which is just steps from the sand and surf.

3) Play at Sesame Place San Diego

Kids can meet all their favorite Sesame Street characters while also exploring a fun theme park at Sesame Place San Diego. Feel like you’re walking down Sesame Street in real life as you explore the neighborhood, complete with landmarks straight from the show like 123 Stoop, Big Bird’s nest, and Hooper’s Store.

Sesame Place features live shows and parades, as well as character meet and greets. There are also plenty of fun rides, games, and other attractions located around the park. Ride roller coasters and carousels, or head over to the water park for slides and wave pools.

All attractions are designed to be child-friendly and appropriate for kids young and old. With so much to do and see in this Sesame Street-themed park, a day of fun and thrills awaits!

Buy Tickets to Sesame Place San Diego
Kids Admiring the Lego Knight at Legoland California
Kids Admiring the Lego Knight at Legoland California

4) Stay at LEGOLAND Castle Hotel & go to LEGOLAND California

San Diego Attractions: LEGOLAND® California

Plan a thrilling LEGO-themed day for you and the kids. Start with an afternoon at LEGOLAND California, one of the most famous attractions on the West Coast. Go on rides, watch themed live shows, explore, build, and nurture your child’s curiosity and sense of creativity.

Then continue the fun in the evening at LEGOLAND Castle Hotel right near the park’s main entrance. This hotel brings the LEGO theme into common areas and guest rooms alike. Choose from different themes including Magic Wizard, Royal Princess, and Knights & Dragons so you can sleep like royalty or keep adventuring in your dreams.

These attractions are the perfect pair, especially when you grab a Go City San Diego pass using our discount code, GVSD5OFF, and save!

Skip the Link 1 Day Ticket - LEGOLAND California
Golden Gate Bridge at Legoland California
Golden Gate Bridge at Legoland California

5) Visit Water Parks in San Diego for the Kids at LEGOLAND Water Park

San Diego Attractions: LEGOLAND® California

If LEGOLAND is already on your trip list, why not keep the fun going at LEGOLAND Water Park too? This park is filled with water slides and rides perfect for adventurous kids. Younger children can explore dedicated play areas, swimming pools, and more.

Enjoy unique LEGO-themed areas throughout the park such as Pirate Reef, Legends of CHIMA park, and Build-A-Raft River. LEGOLAND Water Park even has its own private beaches!

Admission to the LEGOLAND Water Park can be added onto regular park admission for an additional fee at the time of purchase. Also enjoy admission to the SEA LIFE Aquarium where families can immerse themselves in an underwater world.

Skip the Link 1 Day Ticket - LEGOLAND California
Atlantis Water Roller Coaster Ride at SeaWorld San Diego
Atlantis Water Roller Coaster Ride at SeaWorld San Diego

6) Experience Shows and Rides at SeaWorld San Diego

San Diego Attractions: SeaWorld San Diego

Nature and thrill rides converge at SeaWorld San Diego, which is famous for its breathtaking marine animal shows. Get up-close and personal with a variety of sea creatures including dolphins, whales, penguins, sea horses, seals, and more. Kids can learn about these animals and local conservation efforts through educational demonstrations, performances, and feedings.

SeaWorld is also stuffed to the gills with rides, games, and other theme park delights. From swimming with dolphins to riding roller coasters, SeaWorld is one of San Diego’s stand out attractions, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

A trip to the park is also another great way to take advantage of the discounts offered through the Go City San Diego pass!

Skip the Link 1 Day Ticket - SeaWorld San Diego
Huge Ice Cream at Belmont Park
Huge Ice Cream at Belmont Park

7) Visit Belmont Park, One of the Best Theme Parks for Kids in San Diego

San Diego Attractions: Belmont Park

The Belmont Park theme park dates all the way back to 1925. This Mission Beach attraction has been entertaining guests of all ages for decades with its unique blend of historic attractions and updated rides and games.

You can easily spend multiple days at this park, so consider picking up an all-inclusive Go City San Diego pass using our discount code, GVSD5OFF, to take advantage of the Belmont Park Ride and Play Pass for the duration of your visit.

Belmont Park’s varied attractions include the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, a carousel, laser tag, the Plunge indoor swimming pool, and an arcade. Bumper cars and other high-octane rides like the Beach Blaster are designed for young thrill seekers, while dining and shopping await those who prefer a more laid-back day at the park.

Don’t forget to stop in Sweet Shoppe for massive ice cream cones and other sweet treats!

Buy an Unlimited Ride & Play Pass at Belmont Park
Aviary Inside the San Diego Zoo
Aviary Inside the San Diego Zoo

8) Spend the Day at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Attractions: San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is one of the city’s premier attractions, especially if you have young animal enthusiasts. As part of the Go City San Diego all-inclusive pass, a visit to the zoo justifies buying the pass with our discount code, GVSD5OFF, all on its own, though there’s always more to enjoy!

You can see a wide range of animals at the San Diego Zoo, including endangered species like black rhinos and California condors. Take photos of rare and exotic species from around the world such as koalas, big cats, arctic foxes, orangutans, and more! Some of the zoo’s animals serve as animal ambassadors, and you can watch them in shows or learn more about them in up-close encounters.

Alongside its variety of animals and plantlife, the San Diego Zoo plays a crucial role in conservation and rehabilitation for endangered animals. Many programs hosted by the zoo are educational, helping to foster a love for the environment in visitors young and old.

Skip the Link 1 Day Ticket - San Diego Zoo
Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

9) Go to San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Attractions: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Craving a more personal experience with animals that features free-range exhibits? See animals from around the world roaming outdoors in carefully tailored habitats at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. You’ll feel like you’re on a real safari excursion through the savannah and the jungles of Africa, all without leaving sunny San Diego!

Like the San Diego Zoo itself, the Safari Park is also part of the Go City San Diego pass. Hit both attractions to maximize your fun and extend your animal adventure.

Ride the Africa tram, visit the cheetah run, and climb to the canopy to see the dozens of different exhibits on display at the safari park. There are activity centers located throughout the park for younger kids, as well as plenty of convenient food stands and restrooms.

Skip the Link 1 Day Ticket - San Diego Zoo Safari
The Bahia Belle Sailing in Mission Bay
The Bahia Belle Sailing in Mission Bay

10) Attend a Sailing Class at Mission Bay Aquatic Center

Neighborhood: Mission Bay Park

The Mission Bay Aquatic Center in Mission Bay Park is a hub for all ocean activities. These include wakeboarding, surfing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and of course, sailing. If you’ve ever wanted to give sailing in San Diego a shot, there’s no better place to learn how than at the classes taught by the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

These family-friendly classes teach the basics of sailing, including basic terminology, how to tie knots, and how to navigate. You don’t need any prior sailing experience. In a single afternoon, you’ll go from classroom instruction to on-the-water practice.

Basic sailing classes are open to everyone ages 14 and up. If you have young children, consider enrolling them in one of the aquatic center’s camps for kids, where they’ll learn sailing basics and other ocean activities in a safe and kid-focused environment.

Desert Garden at Balboa Park
Desert Garden at Balboa Park

11) Run, Hike, or Bike at Balboa Park

Neighborhood: Balboa Park

The beautiful grounds of Balboa Park are the perfect spot to enjoy one of San Diego’s typical sunny days. Best of all, visiting the park is completely free, so you don’t have to pay a cent to take in the luscious plantlife surrounding the park’s walkways.

Go for a family jog, rent bikes, or hike the park’s trails. Explore at your own pace and enjoy a picnic lunch on the green, or stop at one of the many sidewalk cafes and other eateries in the area. Leashed pets are welcome too, so bring Fido along for a full family outing!

Whether you choose to visit one of Balboa Park’s many museums and attractions or you’re just looking for a relaxing spot with some light exercise, it’s more than worth a visit.

Entrance to the Uniquely Beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park
Entrance to the Uniquely Beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park

12) Attend an Ikebana Class at Japanese Friendship Garden

Balboa Park Museums: Japanese Friendship Garden

The floral paradise of the Japanese Friendship Garden makes for a relaxing backdrop to any activity. In between strolling its pathways, you might decide to attend one of the many educational classes offered by the Japanese Friendship Garden. This is a great opportunity to learn about Ikebana, the Japanese art of making floral arrangements.

If you’ve never done Ikebana before, don’t worry. These classes are designed for beginners, so even kids can try their hand at making creative and expressive works of art with flowers, though lessons for more experienced artists are also available.

While you can buy a Go City San Diego pass to save on admission to the garden, classes cost an additional small fee. All you have to bring is your own flowers, so consider hunting for wildflowers or growing a garden with your kids before the class as an additional fun activity.

Free Admission with the Go City San Diego Pass
Main Entrance at the Hotel Del Coronado
Main Entrance at the Hotel Del Coronado

13) Visit the Del at the Hotel Del Coronado for a Banana Split at Sundae's

Hotel: Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

Luxury and history meet at the famous Hotel del Coronado, referred to by locals as simply “the Del.” Among the many reasons to visit or stay here is Sundaes, which serves up ice cream, gelato, and paletas. Treat yourself to something sweet with the gorgeous nearby beach as a scenic backdrop.

Hotel del Coronado routinely hosts fun activities like this, and there’s a lot to enjoy about the grounds if you plan on booking a stay there. Dine at the classy on-site restaurant, soothe your body and mind at the spa, and stay in a well-appointed Victorian or contemporary styled room. Head down to Coronado Central Beach right in front of the hotel for some sunbathing, or visit in the evening for s’mores at a beach bonfire.

Book a Room at the Hotel Del Coronado
Dia De Los Muertos Face Painting in Old Town
Dia De Los Muertos Face Painting in Old Town

14) Get your Face Painted for the Día de los Muertos Celebrations

Holidays in San Diego: Día de los Muertos in Old Town San Diego 2023

Many parts of San Diego, such as the neighborhood of Old Town, are heavily influenced by Mexican culture and heritage. As a result, Día de los Muertos celebrations can be found all over San Diego in the days leading up to the holiday.

In late October and early November, celebrations commence, including music performances and family-friendly festivals. Like our picks for Kids Free Activities in San Diego in October, there are many free and cheap ways to commemorate this holiday. Face painting is always a favorite, especially given its connections to Mexican culture and history.

Decorated skulls have long been associated with Día de los Muertos, but face paint in particular calls back to the Mexican folklore character of La Catrina. Kids and adults alike can sit for face painting during pre-holiday events and on the Day of the Dead itself, Nov. 2. Try out a simple skull face paint, or go for something more intricate with a full Catrinas look.

Art for All Ages at the New Childrens Museum
Art for All Ages at the New Childrens Museum

15) Take your Kids to the The New Children’s Museum in Downtown San Diego

San Diego Area Museums: The New Children’s Museum

Art museums may not be your typical kid-friendly kind of attraction, but at The New Children’s Museum, boredom is nowhere to be seen. This is because the museum elevates the typical learn-and-play experience to far greater heights, featuring exhibits and whole rooms filled with fun play objects and engaging activities.

Trade out old paintings and fragile sculptures for huge, tactile art installations that invite kids to touch, play, and experiment. Exhibits are made with soft materials and comforting soundscapes to ensure all guests have a safe and fun time. Standout activities include an oversized sandbox, bouncy mattresses, a wall-to-wall hammock, a replica house, and an art studio.

The New Children’s Museum is designed for younger children, aiming to help build and nurture a love of arts and exploration early in life. It’s ideal for kids ages 6 and under, with dedicated classes and camps for toddlers hosted throughout the year.

Fleet Science Center Main Entrance
Fleet Science Center Main Entrance

16) Explore Educational Attractions for the Kids at the Fleet Science Center

Balboa Park Museums: Fleet Science Center

If you have a child who is curious about scientific advancements, the Fleet Science Center is a can’t-miss attraction!

This museum features over 100 exhibits bringing interesting stories and various technologies from the science world to the forefront. These include exhibits about outer space, renewable energy, illusions, and more.

The Fleet Science Center is a great educational experience for kids about 7 and over, though parents are sure to learn and enjoy their time in the museum too. Visit the Fleet Science Center’s IMAX theater to watch educational films, or be transported to far-off worlds in the planetarium. There’s even a dedicated area for young learners, Kid City, which has various interactive exhibits.

Like many of the attractions in Balboa Park, the Fleet Science Center offers reduced costs on admission through the Go City San Diego pass. Use our exclusive discount code, GVSD5OFF, to save when you visit!

Free Admission with the Go City San Diego Pass

17) Go Go-Kart Racing at K1 Speedway

Neighborhood: Chula Vista

Looking for high octane fun that’s still family friendly? Kids and adults alike can race in go-karts on an indoor track at K1 Speedway. The speedway is located in Chula Vista at 1709 Main St. San Diego, CA 92113 with varying hours throughout the week.

K1 Speedway features an Arrive & Drive set-up that gives visitors the flexibility to drop by at any time and still feel like they’re competing in a race. Victory is determined by lap time, so you don’t have to worry about starting order, and no reservation is needed. Alternatively, groups of 8 or more people can book a go-kart racing package, which is perfect for bigger families or birthday parties.

The speedway also includes a spacious lounge for relaxing in between races and fun racing-themed decor on the walls. Fuel up at the Paddock Lounge eatery without having to leave the property.

Free Admission with the Go City San Diego Pass

18) Learn About Plants and Flowers at San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego Area Museums: San Diego Botanic Garden

See tropical plants from all around the world at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. The Botanic Garden is highly diverse with thousands of species of flowers, hedges, fruit trees, herbs, and other plants. There are even different biomes showcasing the adaptability of various types of foliage, from desert shrublands and cacti to flourishing jungle gardens.

Walk along the Botanic Garden’s trails for some light exercise as you explore the grounds. There are plenty of photo opportunities perfect for making lasting memories with your kids. If you’re looking for an escape from the more urban areas of San Diego like the bustle of Downtown, the garden is the ideal spot to cool down and get in touch with nature.

The San Diego Botanic Garden also serves as a wildlife habitat. It was originally founded as a home for quails, and has since grown to attract and house various species of birds, frogs, and butterflies. Kids can learn at various sections of the garden dedicated to showcasing this biodiversity, such as the Landscape for Fire Safety, the Bird and Butterfly Garden, and the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory.

Catch a Padres Baseball Game at Petco Park in Downtown San Diego
Catch a Padres Baseball Game at Petco Park in Downtown San Diego

19) Go to Kidsfest at Petco Park

San Diego Theaters & Venues: PETCO Park

Sports fans flock to PETCO Park during the baseball season to watch the Padres play in their home city. If you have a young baseball enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the park on a Petco Park tour, but if you’re looking for something really special, attend during a Kidsfest celebration.

Kidsfest days take place two hours prior to Sunday home games. During Kidsfest, children are invited to take the field and enjoy a range of fun games and themed activities. These include bounce houses, balloon artists, face painting, and plenty of other interactive activities. Certain Sundays throughout the year also have a giveaway for the first 8,000 kids in attendance. After the game, children can also participate in Kids Run the Bases to feel what it’s like to be part of the Padres team.

Be sure to check the official site for future dates and any date or time changes that may occur due to reschedulings.

Free Petco Park Tour with the Go City San Diego Pa
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Kids looking at knight at LEGOLAND California
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Create family memories at LEGOLAND California! Admission is included with your All-Inclusive Go City pass - enjoy over 60 rides and attractions! Bundle admission with Birch Aquarium at Scripps or the Safari Park for the ultimate day of savings!
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What attractions are included with a Go City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Tips for Exploring San Diego With Kids

Family-friendly fun awaits! Check out these things to know before you go to make your time in Southern California the best it can be.

Sightsee at San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay is a great spot for sightseeing. Many of the best harbor cruises are family friendly with stunning views of the city skyline and Pacific Ocean.

The boardwalks are bustling with energy and perfect for a walk, bike ride or picnic in one of the many green spaces. Venture to the area later in the day and you and your family will likely be treated to one of the best sunset spots in all of San Diego!

Kids Free San Diego Attractions

On top of grabbing a Go City San Diego pass, there are plenty of options for cheap and even free attractions for kids!

Go for a walk around Balboa Park, window shop in Seaport Village, and splash around at free beaches. For more ideas, check out our list of Free Things to Do in San Diego with Kids.

Combine Learning and Fun

Many of San Diego’s most popular museums, like the Maritime Museum and Natural History Museum, combine education and entertainment. These attractions are great for encouraging kids’ natural curiosity about the world around them.

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Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
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The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
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Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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