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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Located in sunny Southern California, San Diego is widely known for its majestic beaches. Year-round mild temperatures coupled with endless sunshine makes the 70 miles of coastline a true treasure. No matter when you visit, you’ll want to explore the surf and sand of San Diego beaches.

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There are a number of beaches dotting the San Diego coastline, and their offerings are as varied as the towns built around them. Reefs, rocky cliffs, tide pools and sandy beaches are just a few of the landscapes you’ll discover. No matter which beach you visit, stay for the sunset!

Grab your sunscreen, a beach towel and dive into an ocean of fun at one of these beaches.

San Diego Beaches

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Coronado Beach: Flickr/Rajapal

Coronado Beach
902 Ocean Blvd
Coronado, CA

A fantastic family beach due to the calm waters, this park is also dog-friendly and the perfect place to stroll the beach.

Ocean Beach
1950 Abbott St
San Diego, CA

Surfers flock to this beach, as do dog owners as it is one of the only beaches where your dog can roam freely – leash free.

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Mission Bay Park/Flickr: Tony Webster

Imperial Beach
2 Elder Ave
Imperial Beach, CA

Located a half-hour north of San Diego, this beach is great for swimming and building sand sculptures.

Mission Bay Park
2688 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA

Mission Bay Park is a veritable playground stretching over 4,200 acres. There are 27 miles of bay front and is a popular place for watersports.

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Mission Beach: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Bonita Cove
1100 W Mission Bay Dr
San Diego, CA

Enclosed within Mission Bay Park, families like Bonita Cove for its tranquil waters and grassy picnic areas.

Mission Beach
Mission Blvd & Ventura Place
San Diego, CA

Usually bustling with activity, people watching and volleyball are two popular activities. Extending from Belmont Park to the south end of West Mission Bay Drive, parking can be difficult to find but is worth the hassle.

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Pacific Beach: Flickr/Gary J. Wood

Pacific Beach
974 Thomas Ave
San Diego, CA

Another busy beach, Pacific Beach is located along Ocean Front Walk. Surfing is popular here, especially at Tourmaline Surfing Park which prohibits swimming. Lifeguards are always on duty here, which adds an extra level of safety.

Windansea Beach
6800 Neptune Pl
San Diego, CA

Although not ideal for swimming, it is a beautiful stretch of beach worth exploring. It also offers excellent surfing conditions.

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Windansea Beach: Flickr/Jeeheon

Children’s Pool
850 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, San Diego, CA

You can swim at Children’s Pool but the real attraction is the harbor seal population. You can easily spot dozens soaking up the California sun from fall to spring.

La Jolla Cove
1100 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, CA

A beautiful setting and calm, protected waters make this a haven for snorkeling and scuba diving. Visit to explore the unique Underwater Park, home to deep canyons, tidal pools and artificial reefs.

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La Jolla Beach: Flickr/Thomas Galvez

La Jolla Shores/Beach
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA

Postcard perfect, the setting of La Jolla Shores brings the crowds. Activities here include jogging, swimming, kayaking, scuba diving and surfing. Plus, you can easily spot seals sunbathing at this beach.

Black’s Beach
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr
La Jolla, CA

Secluded and good for swimming and surfing, Black’s Beach is most notable for its nude bathing. Even though it’s technically illegal, don’t’ be surprised by the nudity if you decide to stop by.

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La Jolla Beach: Flickr/Łukasz Lech

Torrey Pines Beach
12600 N Torrey Pines Rd
San Diego, CA

Combining the great outdoors with a seaside experience, Torrey Pines is rarely has a crowd and is a fantastic for beach walking.

Del Mar Beach
1700 Coast Blvd
Del Mar, CA

Grassy cliffs and a playground area highlight this beach, located 15 miles from downtown San Diego.

All of these San Diego beaches are open to the public. So, grab your swimsuit and beach bag and great ready for fun and sun in Southern California.


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.

San Diego

Just as the state California has so much diversity in geography, weather, and populations, the San Diego beaches each have their unique spirit and offerings, so it’s good to know which are best to for you and your family.   Whether your family is young, and you have toddlers waddling their way to the water, or your kids are teens, and they want to learn how to surf, San Diego has a great beach for you! Here is my list for the best San Diego beaches for families.

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Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach
Best for: All Ages

This beach is my favorite beach in San Diego, simply because of how massive it is. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you can always find your own space to layout, play paddleball or play football. You might not be too close to the water, but if you want some relaxation time AND the opportunity to play in the calm waves, this beach is perfect. You won’t have people stepping over you. The coolest thing about this beach, however, is the fact that just north of it is the landing strip to the Navy airport. On working days, you can watch massive fighter jets fly around and land.

Insider tips: Parking is tough near the beach, but the entire pseudo island of Coronado has parking throughout the residential streets, and it’s free! Dogs are welcome on the north end of the beach.

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

Mission Beach
Best for: Teens and older

At Mission Beach, you’ll find your quintessential SoCal boardwalk, a historic amusement park with rides and games, small waves for the novice surfer, and a bayside to the east for boat launching, picnics in the grass, and biking. Since there is so much to do in Mission Beach, that it attracts thousands of people during the summer, and that’s why I think it’s a great beach for teens. They can bike around, learn how to surf, and get burritos after riding the historic rollercoaster at Belmont Park.

Insider tips: If you decide to stay at the beach, or in the area after sunset, be sure to stay for the firework show at Sea World at 9pm.

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La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores
Best for: All Ages

This beach has shark-infested waters that do not pose any threats to beach visitors. You can rent snorkels to get a glance of the bottom-feeding leopard sharks, and tell all of your friends and family at home that you swam with sharks in San Diego! This beautiful beach sits in between the Torrey Pines cliffs and the 7 Caves of La Jolla, offering visitors incredible sunset views and a thrilling kayak experience.

Insider tips: There are bonfire pits, a grassy area for picnicking near the water, but parking is tough. You may want to consider taking a kayak tour with one of the tour companies off of Avenida de la playa.

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Moonlight State Beach
Photo Credit: Bjorn/flickr

Moonlight State Beach
Best for: All Ages

This North County beach is a popular one amongst the locals. It has a play area for kids, volleyball nets, bonfires, picnic tables, and a beach rental shop. The waves don’t get huge, making it a great place for surfers and swimmers. It does get crowded, but the beach is long, so you may have to walk north or south to get the perfect spot to set up camp.

Insider tips: Parking is limited, and you will have to walk back uphill to your car. There is one way in and out of the beach, so I would suggest against trying to park in their parking lot is it’s past 10am in the summer. Kids and teens can take surf lessons at this beach.

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Del Mar Powerhouse Park Beach
Photo Credit: Chris Lee/flickr

Del Mar Powerhouse Park at the Beach
Best for: All Ages

This patch of grassy area just above the sand to the beach is a huge family favorite. You will find families of all sizes with picnics on the grass while kids play in the sand and in the water. The train track is situated just behind the grass, making it a fun way for young kids to learn about trains, and watch them in action.

Insider tips: I would suggest grabbing lunch or dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. You can walkup to the Plaza for sunset and outdoor dining.

Now that you have a good idea of which beaches to visit while you’re in San Diego, you can start prepping for your big beach day! Don’t forget your sunscreen, towels and toys! And, remember to check the weather because even the best San Diego beaches can be cooler than expected, even in the middle of summer!


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.

Searching for a new place to take your family on vacation? Head to San Diego, California for unique, family-friendly fun things to do. From animal attractions to theme park amusements, this destination caters to families with kids of all ages. Need a nudge to get started? Read my San Diego family vacation ideas for inspiration!

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

San_Diego_Zoo_Safari_Park_72940Animals are a sure fire way to please kids. They just love them! Luckily, San Diego attractions offer world-renowned animal encounters and experiences. To view an array of animals, from pandas to hippos to polar bears, visit the San Diego Zoo. For an African-inspired retreat, try the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Home to elephants, giraffes, zebras, tigers and gorillas, this animal preserve spotlights animal conversation. Looking for aquatic animals? Reserve SeaWorld San Diego tickets. You’ll see dolphins, killer whales, sea lions and other creatures up-close and within splashing distance! Through mid-April, you can reserve a whale watching cruise with companies such as Hornblower and Flagship Cruises. It’s an optimal way to see these magnificent creatures up-close during a San Diego family vacation.

Build Memories at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND MindstormsIf your kids are 12 and under, this park is perfect. It’s created for that age set, specifically, and if they love LEGO’s…even better! Located just north of San Diego, the 138-acre park makes is the first theme park built just for kids. They can get a driver’s license at Driving School. Save the day at Fun Town Police and Fire Academy. Journey to a galaxy far, far away at the LEGO Star War Miniland model display. In need of a cool down? Add the LEGOLAND Water Park to your visit. It’s located within LEGOLAND and with its colorful slides and lazy river, is kid-sized super fun.

Spend the Day at the Beach

Parents giving piggyback ride to kids at the beachNothing beats relaxing on a warm beach! Soak up some sun, listen to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, and watch your kid’s frolick in the sand and surf. With 70 miles of sandy beaches at your disposal, you can create an ideal beach day for you and your family. Kayak the coastline, learn to surf or let the kids play while mom and dad get a waterfront massage.

The beach fun doesn’t end there, though! On a San Diego Family vacation you can go for a beach hike at Torrey Pines, or get thisclose to sea lions at La Jolla Cove. Of course, you don’t want to miss the tide pools and beautiful terrain of Point Loma. You’ll witness exceptional views of the coast, all while breathing in refreshing seaside air.

Entertain yet Educate

USS_Midway_Museum_(5125)Kids might think education and entertainment don’t go hand-in-hand. In San Diego, though, you can prove them wrong! Spend time at the New Children’s Museum, where engaging and inventive art experiences foster creativity. Daily activities let your little ones discover the artists, inventor or maker inside. Plus, fun-filled exhibitions, special artistic performances, and an outdoor park add to the things to do at the museum. Mix in some history lessons with visits to sites like USS Midway, one of the longest-serving aircraft carriers in U.S. history. Experience 60 exhibits, get an up close look at 25 restored aircraft or hop into a simulator and feel what it’s like to be an aviator launching off a flight deck, engaging the enemy and then returning safely. At Balboa Park, culture is on full display at botanical gardens, art museums, and outdoor exhibits. Often call the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast collection of museums, families can explore the kid-friendly Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum; and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

These are some of the best ways to play during a San Diego family vacation. Have any suggestions? Tell me about them in the comments.


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.

Every time I’m in La Jolla, I’m reminded of why I’m so lucky to hail from such an incredible place. Its gorgeous coastline, beautiful homes, marine wildlife, and the happy people who call it home all make La Jolla a true San Diego gem. Anyone who visits San Diego should make it a point to visit La Jolla.

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Wind and Sea Beach
Photo Credit: Mojo2u

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Surfing at Wind and Sea Beach

The beaches in La Jolla are unparalleled. You won’t find a busy boardwalk or street performers at these beaches. Instead, you’ll find surfers, kayak tours through caves, leopard sharks, tropical fish, seals and sea lions, and athletic swimmers. There is so much diversity! The best beaches are Wind and Sea and La Jolla Shores. Wind and Sea is a local’s beach where surfers gather for some of the best waves in San Diego. La Jolla Shores is a family beach, and attracts many visitors. At any given time, you’ll see about 30+ kayaks off the shore. As a kayaker or snorkeler, you can see leopard sharks lurking at the ocean’s floor. The view of the iconic caves is quite remarkable from this beach.

Museum Contemporary Art San Diego

Museum Contemporary Art San Diego
Photo Credit: La Jolla Blue Book

Aside from the beaches, the La Jolla community is quite cultured. You can visit the popular Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. It sits right on the coast overlooking the water, amongst many other art galleries sprinkled throughout the Village. From photographic arts to abstract art, any art aficionado will enjoy a day in the area. If you’re into performing arts, you can watch an original musical or play at the La Jolla Playhouse up at the UCSD campus, or get a good laugh in at the original Comedy Store. I love coming to La Jolla with a plan to visit the galleries or shows, but I always make it a point to visit a good restaurant before or after.

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La Jolla Sunset Cliffs

In La Jolla, you can find an array of restaurants. They range from fine dining with spectacular views, to a local take out joint perfect for a beach picnic meal. I find myself drawn to these restaurants the most when I’m in the area:

Eddy V’s – This is probably my favorite spot in La Jolla. It is a chain, but the views are breathtaking, and they have a nice lounge area on the terrace outside with a fire pit, as well as jazz music everyday starting at 5:00pm. Seriously…I LOVE coming here!

La Valencia Hotel

Photo Credit: La Valencia Hotel

La Valencia – This hotel has a great restaurant with a terrace that overlooks the water on the west side for the perfect sunset spot.

Puesto – This is a casual taco shop that was introduced to the area by young locals who went to La Jolla High School. The restaurant was automatically popular, and since then, they have expanded their La Jolla location as well as opened another restaurant in Downtown San Diego.

El Pescador – I love getting the fish sandwiches here. This fish market/restaurant is a casual, local spot, and ideal for a to-go beach picnic.

Whisknladle – If you’re a foodie, you must check this place out. Its non-pretentious vibe and really good food will surprise you. From octopus, to bone marrow, to a legitimate Caesar salad, and homemade pasta, this place please my palate every time.

These is so much to see in La Jolla. It’s impossible to put it all in one article. However, all you really need to know is that La Jolla will absolutely take your breath away. If you are interested in getting to know La Jolla a bit better, you can always take a tour with my friends Tour Guide Tim or We Love Tourists. They will certainly entertain and enlighten you with facts and history of the gorgeous neighborhood.


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.