While the rest of America wallows in freezing weather, Southern California doesn’t miss a beat. San Diego is open 24/7, 365 days a year – with locals liking winter the most due to the off-season, relaxed vibe of the city. Beaches, attractions and San Diego theme parks have fewer crowds, and cultural as well as outdoor activities are abundant. The seasonal temps and sunshine easily whisk away those winter blues, so take a look at the many things to do in San Diego this winter and get inspired.

Whale watching

Whale Watching

Each year over 20,000 gray whales make the migration from Alaska to Baja California. The warm waters are ideal for female whales to birth their young. Lucky for San Diego, 70 miles of the city’s coastline are right in the migration path. You can see impressive creatures by land at sites like Torrey Pines State Reserve and the Cabrillo National Monument. For a closer look, reserve a San Diego whale watching tour with operators like Flagship Cruises and Hornblower Cruises. Not only will you gain extensive knowledge of whales, but you’ll be able to see the San Diego skyline from a different point of view.

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Famous for wildflowers, the blooms here start as early as mid-February so you can get an early vision of spring. Each canyon and valley of the dessert is a welcome home for various annual flowers. Every corner of Anza-Borrego blossoms with different varieties. Be on the look for Dune Evening Primrose, Desert Chicory, and Desert Sand Verbena.

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February Museum Month

San Diego has a wealth of museums, but in February you don’t have to spend your wealth to visit. That’s because February Museum Month features half-off entry fees at 45 San Diego Museum. Pick up a pass at any of the fourteen Macy’s location in the area, then receive discount admission to museums such as San Diego Museum of Art, USS Midway Museum and Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

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Mardi Gras Merriment

San Diego may be far west of the Louisiana Bayou, but that doesn’t mean they city doesn’t know how to celebrate. Join the Gaslamp Quarter for a Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade on February 6, 2016. Twenty-Two city blocks within the venue will feature 3 main stages and 3 satellite stages along and adjacent to 5th Avenue. The Big Easy Parade start at 9:30pm, complete with Celebrity Grand Marshall and 60 over-top-floats. This one San Diego party you don’t want to miss!

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Explore La Jolla

This seaside town is perfect for winter time exploration. With temps in the 60s, the beaches might be too chilly to dive in but are still great for dolphin and seal watching, as well as sunsets. Along with quirky galleries, charming cafes and scenic walks, you’ll find museums like La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Birch Aquarium. My favorite La Jolla Winter activity? Grabbing breakfast at the Marine Room while watching high tide. Waves up to two-stories high with a side of bacon? Yes, please!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

If you’re searching for a place to vacation with the kids, stop! You’ve found it in San Diego, California. With weather that’s wonderful year-round, engaging entertainment options and a family-friendly vibe, this vacation destination does not disappoint. Accordingly, it’s a favorite city for parents and kids to play. Use this list to hop, skip and jump your way around SoCal experiencing the best things to do in San Diego for families.

Plan your vacation around these things to do in San Diego for families.

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Beach days are the best!

1) The Beach

This one’s kind of a given, right? San Diego has miles of sunny and sandy coastline just begging to be visited. Parents like the fact several San Diego beaches are super family-friendly, too. With that in mind, here are a few kid-approved beaches:

  • Silver Strand State Park
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Oceanside


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San Diego Zoo is one of the only zoos in the world with pandas

2) San Diego Zoo

One of America’s best zoos is located here. And it’s can’t miss! With world-class animal exhibits, including rare pandas, parents will enjoy this outing just as much as the kids. Be sure to go on the guided bus tour, great for getting an overview of this 100-acre zoo. To learn even more expert tips for visiting San Diego Zoo, watch our insider video.

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Balboa Park is one of the prettiest in America

3) Balboa Park

San Diego Zoo is technically located within Balboa Park, but there’s a whole lot more to see here. Home to 14 museums and gorgeous gardens, you can easily spend a whole day exploring with your family. Highlights for families include:

  • San Diego Natural History Museum: animatronic dinosaurs
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: hands on science exhibits
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum: Dress up like an astronaut


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View seals in their natural environment at La Jolla Cove

4) La Jolla Cove

Upscale home and shops surround La Jolla Cove, but the real gem of the area is its cove. The picturesque cove, and its surrounding sea cliffs, have a large population of sea lions. Get out and mingle with them. Your kids will flip! And you’ll probably take about 100 photos. I know I did!


Cabrillo National Monumnet: By Ctorbann, via Wikimedia Commons

5) Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is a fun way to give your kids a hands-on history lesson. Tour the museum highlighting the first expedition to San Diego as well as Point Loma Lighthouse. In addition, the Point Loma Tide Pools are nearby. Kids love checking out the scenery and the sea life there.

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Hand up for fun!

6) LEGOLAND California

If you’re kids are young, and love LEGOs, you’ve got to go to this theme park. It was created with them in mind, with everything from hands-on exhibits to kid-sized rides. Moreover, there’s an on-site water park perfect for those hot San Diego days.


Up close experiences are a signature of SeaWorld

7) SeaWorld San Diego

You’re near the ocean, so why not learn about it at SeaWorld San Diego? This marine park has immersive exhibits dedicated to sea life. Thus, you can explore penguins, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and more. Combine this with exciting shows and rides and you’ve got one of the top things to do in San Diego for families.

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Kids can’t get enough of the Birch Aquarium: Birch Aquarium/Facebook

8) Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This La Jolla aquarium is another way to get an ocean education in San Diego. There are touch pools and tanks with up-close views of moon jellies, sharks, lion fish and more. All of this means families with babies and toddlers will especially enjoy Birch Aquarium.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The beach and sea cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

9) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is stunningly beautiful and one of the best showcases of the natural beauty of San Diego. For this reason, it’s one of the best places to get outdoors in SoCal. There are eight trails to trek, with the Beach Trail and Razor Point trail two favorites. You can easily make a beach day of it here, too, as the Beach Trail has beach access.


The USS Midway is educational yet fun for kids

10) USS Midway

Located along Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, USS Midway Museum features the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Kids will get a kick being aboard this real life carrier, where they can engage in activities like listening to real pilot conversations during Desert Storm, climbing in bunks, and more.

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Bonus: Catch a Game

If your family are baseball fans, why not catch a game in San Diego? Petco Stadium, home to the San Diego Padres, does a top notch job of creating a unique atmosphere for ball games. Not only is weather pretty much always optimal, the stadium serves food key to the San Diego culinary scene. Think burritos, barbeque and pizza. Couple that with a better-than-most craft beer selection and you’ve got an activity sure to please every member of the family.

Which Things to Do in San Diego for Families Are For You?

With this list of the top 10 things to do in San Diego for families you’ve surely found a few perfect for your vacation. Did we miss a favorite San Diego activity? Let us know what your family loves to do here and we’ll be sure to include it in our list.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.