Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could spend an entire family vacation relaxing by the beach? While it sounds ideal, it’s not realistic for those traveling with kids. The beach can only provide so much entertainment. Instead, turn your trip into an exhilarating learning experience by visiting these eight educational things to do in San Diego.

Your kids will love the hands-on activities, historic landmarks, and wild adventures and you’ll love all that they learn. It’s a win-win vacation for everyone!

Let your kids explore their creative side at the New Children’s Museum. Photo via the New Children’s Museum / Facebook.

The New Children’s Museum

For interactive activities and endless learning, bring your family to the New Children’s Museum. This particular museum focuses on art-related activities with the goal of promoting creativity among kids. In addition to the mesmerizing and engaging art installations, the museum also offers art projects, labs, and activities for kids and adults alike to enjoy.

Currently on display is the Sketch Aquarium, where ocean drawings come to life! You do not want to bypass this interactive exhibit that’s making waves (literally) throughout San Diego.

Educational Things to Do in San Diego

Your kids will discover an underwater world at Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Speaking of aquariums…

Instead of sitting by the ocean, why not learn about the thousands of animals and plants that live in it? Boasting more than 5,000 fish in 60+ habitats, it’s no wonder that Birch Aquarium at Scripps is one of the most popular educational things to do in San Diego. Watch as your kids learn about everything from sea turtles to seahorses in a single day. Don’t forget to catch the shark tank feeding!

From giraffes to cheetahs, your family can experience it all at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Do your kids love animals? I bet they do. All families should visit the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. After all, what trip would be complete without visiting these iconic San Diego attractions?

At the zoo, your kids can learn about the entire animal kingdom while coming face-to-face with their favorite animals. With more than 650 species onsite, you’ll have a wild time exploring everything the zoo has to offer. But the animal fun doesn’t stop there.

At San Diego Zoo Safari Park, your entire family can embark on a one-of-a-kind safari and learn about endangered animals from around the globe. For an exceptional safari experience, use these quick tips.

Learn about life aboard the USS Midway at this one-of-a-kind museum in San Diego.

USS Midway Museum

Also among the many educational things to do in San Diego is the USS Midway Museum. Guests can climb aboard this historic naval aircraft carrier and experience a day in the life of a sailor. The museum has onsite docents who have served in the Navy and even served on the USS Midway. Your children will love walking around the ship, checking out the flight simulators, talking to the sailors, and listening to the self-guided audio tour.

Check out restored historic vessels at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

For even more historic and nautical fun, bring your family to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This intriguing museum has a global reputation for exceptional vessel restoration and captivating educational exhibits.

Kids can explore historic vessels including a 1914 tall ship, an 1898 steam ferry, and an accurate replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate. The museum also hosts revolving special exhibits and festivals all year long for even more fun. What’s even better than touring these vessels? Sailing in one! For an additional charge, the museum offers various sailing experiences including whale watching tours.

Enjoy hands-on science activities at the Fleet Science Center. Photo via Fleet Science Center / Facebook.

Fleet Science Center

Do you have a science-obsessed kid on your hands? If so, head over to the Fleet Science Center for a world of immersive learning opportunities. From IMAX movies to self-guided exhibits, the Fleet Science Center has everything a science-loving kid could possibly want. Your child can learn about the science behind constructing a building, discover the cells of the human body, create their own inventions, and more all in one place.

With so much to do, see, and learn, it’s easy to see why the Fleet Science Center made our list of exciting educational things to do in San Diego.

By Robert Arends (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is one of the top tourist destinations in San Diego. The statue commemorates the moment Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to step foot on North America’s west coast in 1542.

Your first thought might be, “Sure, it’s an iconic landmark. But what can my kids learn from a statue?” The answer is: a whole lot. There is far more to do at this historic area than stare at a finely constructed statue.

At the southern end of the park, you’ll find the low tide pools. Here, your children can get a glimpse at the aquatic life living below the water. Tide pools are made up of three different zones: splash zone, the middle intertidal zone, and the subtidal zone. With different aquatic species living in each zone, your children will go on an adventure trying to find and identify each species they discover. From crabs to sea urchins, there’s a whole universe to be explored in the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools.

While at the monument, your family can also see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse that has watched over the bay since 1855. Although the lighthouse no longer operates, guests are invited to learn more about the history of the San Diego Bay and the famous lighthouse.

17 museums. Multiple performing arts venues. Tons of gardens and trails. One educational experience.

Balboa Park

Once you step foot in Balboa Park, you’ll see why it is arguably one of the top educational things to do in San Diego. Noted as “where culture, science, and nature collide” the park boasts 17 museums, several performing arts venues, spacious gardens, various trails, and other educational attractions.

Your family can easily spend more than one day exploring all that the park has to offer, from the Japanese Friendship Garden to the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT). For the ultimate experience (and best savings), I recommend purchasing the Go San Diego Card.

Visit San Diego for the Best in Educational Fun

Clearly, there isn’t a shortage of educational things to do in San Diego. From soaring in a flight simulator to coming up close with a giraffe, the learning opportunities are endless. Start planning your educational San Diego adventure by visiting Reserve San Diego today.

 

When you think of San Diego, what comes to mind? The sunny beaches? The culture? The price tag? People often believe that a vacation in San Diego will cost an unimaginable amount. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

You and your family can enjoy a memorable San Diego vacation without going over budget by using these tips.

Vacation in San Diego on a Budget

A vacation in San Diego doesn’t have to break the bank.

Where to Stay in San Diego on a Budget

First and foremost, you need to figure out where you’ll stay during your time in San Diego. Depending on a number of different factors, room rates can range from affordable to astronomical. To save money on lodging in San Diego, consider the following:

Location
Most travelers prefer to stay in hotels with a convenient location, which means finding a hotel in downtown San Diego. However, these hotels can charge premium rates due to their prime real estate downtown. If you don’t have a location preference, consider staying at a hotel just outside of downtown San Diego for lower rates.

Amenities
Do you need a hotel room to sleep in after a long day of exploring, or do you prefer a suite decked out to the nines? As you know, hotels with premium amenities have a larger price tag. If you don’t need luxury amenities, look for value hotels that offer cozy accommodations for a price within your budget.

Make your reservation at one of these low cost, comfortable hotels around San Diego:

Look for Hotel Deals
Remember to check resources such as Reserve San Diego for exclusive hotel and attraction packages as well as other savings. You never know what discounts you’ll find when planning your vacation in San Diego!

Travel Off Season
Hotel rates spike during peak tourist seasons and lower during off-peak seasons. To avoid crowds and surge pricing, visit San Diego from March through May or September through November.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Save money and see the sights by taking the Old Town Trolley.

Getting Around San Diego For Cheap

Even if you plan to drive to your vacation in San Diego, getting around San Diego can be expensive. Save money by using one of these transportation options in San Diego:

The San Diego Trolley
Instead of spending money on gas and a rental car, rely on the San Diego Trolley to get you around the greater San Diego area. The San Diego Trolley covers approximately 50+ miles of the city and stops nearby large attractions and destinations, from Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy.

For even more savings, combine your sightseeing adventures with trolley transportation on the Old Town Trolley Tours. You’ll learn about San Diego’s history, landmarks, and more while heading to your next attraction or destination. Purchase a 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off pass to make the most of your vacation in San Diego.

Consider the Cost of Parking
Parking in San Diego can be tricky to find and expensive, especially downtown. To keep a few more dollars in your wallet, consider taking public transportation or an Uber/Lyft around San Diego instead of a rental car. Should you require your own car, be prepared for high parking prices and limited space.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

A trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is affordable with a Go San Diego Card.

Affordable (and Free) Attractions in San Diego

With several notable attractions located nearby, it is easy to understand why people think a vacation in San Diego costs a fortune. Actually, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) activities throughout the greater San Diego area.

Take advantage of these low-cost activities and attractions while in San Diego.

Purchase a Go San Diego Card

Did you know there’s a way to experience San Diego’s most popular sites such as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND® California and save money?

The Go San Diego Card is a must for every vacation in San Diego. With this exclusive pass, you receive admission to all 44 San Diego area attractions for one discounted price. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to attractions and activities such as:

With 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7-day passes, the Go San Diego Card is the best way to experience San Diego’s greatest attractions at a price you can afford. Simply present your card at any of the 44 attractions during operating hours and enjoy!

The Balboa Park Explorer Pass

Balboa Park is a beautiful park in San Diego that houses 17 captivating museums. Of course, visiting 17 museums with multiple people can deplete a vacation budget in a matter of seconds. To help guests save money and experience all the park has to offer, Balboa Park offers an Explorer Pass.

By purchasing an Explorer Pass, you gain access to all of the museums for one low price. When on a vacation in San Diego with multiple people, this pass is the perfect way to save money and see it all.

However, if strolling through a museum isn’t your style, you can visit the park itself completely free of charge. Balboa Park includes various gardens, 65 miles of hiking trails, and more for guests to discover.

Whether you decide to purchase an Explorer Pass or roam the park, visiting Balboa Park is an affordable way to spend your vacation in San Diego.

Visit San Diego with Kids in October

Will you be traveling to San Diego with your children? If so, visit during the month of October when San Diego offers more than 100 free activities and attractions exclusively for kids. From free theme park admission to free events, your family can save money without skipping out on the best attractions and experiences.

Go on a Sightseeing Tour

When you travel to San Diego, sightseeing needs to be on your list of things to do. From the monuments to the iconic neighborhoods, there is so much to see. Traveling to and from all of these destinations over the course of a vacation can quickly become expensive. Instead, reserve your spot on the San Diego tour of your choice.

From drool worthy food tours (my favorite, naturally) to landmark sightseeing tours, San Diego is bursting with fantastic tours that cater to every type of traveler. You’ll experience all of the top sites, maximize your time in San Diego, and keep a few dollars in your wallet all at the same time.

A trip to one of San Diego's many beaches is nearly free!

A trip to one of San Diego’s many beaches is nearly free!

Lounge on the Beach

You know a day at the beach is practically free, right? Plus, a vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without at least one day by the ocean. Visit these sunny San Diego beaches (for free) during your trip:

  • Bonita Cove
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • La Jolla Cove

Explore a State Park

Travelers who prefer to explore the great outdoors will have a fantastic vacation in San Diego. From Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you can enjoy the San Diego landscape and nature for the low cost of free.

Walk Around Gaslamp Quarter

No matter when you visit, a stroll through Gaslamp Quarter is magical and doesn’t cost a thing. From the architecture to the shops, there’s always something to see and experience in Gaslamp Quarter. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture your memories of the Victorian buildings and vibrant decor for years to come.

See the Sea Lions at Scripps Park

Those who know me know I can’t pass up an opportunity to see sea lions! One of the best places to spot these lovable marine mammals is at Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. Why pay for aquarium admission when you’ve got one sitting right in front of you?

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

See? A vacation in San Diego can be inexpensive and fun!

Start Planning Your Vacation in San Diego

Now that you know how to vacation in San Diego on a budget, it’s time to start planning. Don’t forget to visit Reserve San Diego to take advantage of savings that will help you stay within your vacation budget!

Need to escape the everyday? Break away from the norm by treating your family to a San Diego Spring Break. The temperatures are warm, the ocean is nearby, and there are a variety of things to do that will keep kids young and old entertained. What should you do on your San Diego Spring Break vacation? Read on.

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San Diego Zoo

Go Wild at the San Diego Zoo

If there’s one thing the whole family can agree on, it’s the San Diego Zoo. Famous the world over for its renowned animal care and exhibits. The urban paradise can easily take a whole day to see, as this place is a lot more than your typical zoo. Start your day off with a guided bus tour of the park. Gaining perspective on this nearly 100-acre park is key to making the most of your day. Decide which exhibits you want to visit again during your San Diego Spring Break vacation, then trek through the botanical canopy of the zoo for a closer look. Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.

Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.

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LEGOLAND

Build Memories at LEGOLAND

If you have children under the age of 12, LEGOLAND California is just for them. If you’re a parent, you already know the love for LEGOS. At this theme park, that love explodes with larger-than-life LEGO sculptures, Imagination Centers, LEGO-based rides with mild thrills, silly shows featuring LEGO people, and so much more. This spring visitors have exclusive access to LEGO Movie 4D: The Next Adventure, too.  Right outside LEGOLAND is SEA Life Aquarium and it’s included in your ticket purchase. Total bonus! The aquarium incorporates LEGO statues and designs into the underwater scene, a perfect complement to your day at LEGOLAND.

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Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

Take to the Outdoors

Be sure to spend at least one of your San Diego Spring Break vacation days sightseeing.  Spectacular sea cliffs, rugged desert terrain, and endless ocean combine to create a natural beauty that can be appreciated at any age. The first time I visited San Diego, I discovered Torrey Pines and have been singing its praises ever since. As a natural reserve its home to not only threatened plants and unique geological formations but stunning overlooks of the coastline and surrounding La Jolla.  The Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, with its tide pools, tall cliffs, and lighthouse, is another favorite as is Seaside Cliffs, a stretch of coastline known for its epic sunsets.

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Sun, sand, and surf are sure to bring the smiles!

Hit the Sand & Surf

San Diego has some pretty great beaches so it would be a shame to not spend any time at one. And there are so many to choose from! Coronado Beach, with the iconic Hotel Del Coronado framing its shores, is a classic beach consistently voted one of America’s best by the Travel Channel. Mission Beach is ideal for families as the meandering coastline has calm waters, there is lifeguard service during peak season, beachside eateries make it easy to snack and Belmont Park is nearby. Family-friendly La Jolla Shores has sandy beaches and mild waves so young kids can play in shallow waters and bigger kids can body board and even try to surf. Other family favorites include Del Mar, Moonlight Beach, and Tide Beach Park.

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Balboa Park

Sneak in Some Edutainment

There’s no reason kids can’t learn something new while on a San Diego Spring Break vacation. At the New Children’s Museum families will find a dynamic atmosphere filled with inventive and engaging art experiences. Get hands-on with activities and performances at this one-of-a-kind attraction. Tour the USS Midway for a unique glimpse at U.S. history. There are 60 exhibits, 25 restored aircrafts, aviator simulators and so much more to learn aboard this historic aircraft carrier. Balboa Park, with 15 educational yet entertaining museums, is known as the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast cultural offerings. Kids especially enjoy the San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

Village Pizzeria Facebook

Village Pizzeria Bayside/Facebook

Play with Your Food

Okay, I’m not really advocating playing with your food. However, eating in San Diego can certainly be categorized as fun which equals playtime in my book. Kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but kid-friendly San Diego restaurants cater to not only their taste buds but their creative side. The Village Pizzeria offers a Build-Your-Own-Pizza night every Wednesday, where kids receive their own pre-rolled dough, marina, cheese and 3 toppings of their choice to create their own specialty, custom pie. Bonus: There are 11 craft beers on tap for adults, seriously scenic views and nearby grassy area for the kids to roam. Waypoint Public has a designated kid’s area with books, games and astro turf for kids who thinking sitting still is for the birds. Plus, they have an affordable just-for-kids menu with hots dogs, mac ‘n cheese and burgers, while adults can enjoy a selection of over 30 craft beers and inventive food menu. Another notable mention is the throwback Corvette Diner, which has a massive arcade room, magicians, and live entertainment.

San Diego Spring Break Fun Awaits

Put these San Diego Spring Break vacation ideas for families to use on your escape from the ordinary. Your kids will thank you!

Be sure to book all your attraction tickets and hotel rooms with Reserve San Diego for the best money-saving deals and insider tips.


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.

There’s no doubt that San Diego has something for everyone. From a baseball game for the sports fans to a day at the beach for the outdoorsy folk, San Diego is a great place to vacation. With so much to do and see, it can be difficult to fit everything into one vacation. Instead of trying to pack in every site, make sure these 7 San Diego landmarks are on your itinerary for an unforgettable vacation.

San Diego Landmarks - San Diego Zoo

See all of your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

When you visit San Diego, you have to go to the San Diego Zoo. As one of the top zoos in the world, it’s a rite of passage to visit this legendary attraction. From monkeys swinging from branch to branch, to towering giraffes and trumpeting elephants, the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals and counting. Plus, did you know the zoo is also a botanical garden with over 700,000 types of plants?

For the best San Diego Zoo experience, follow our expert tips:

Arrive as early as possible to get a phenomenal parking spot and see the animals being active. During the afternoon hours, most of the animals tend to rest.

Take advantage of the Bus Tour. The tour departments every half hour and provides one of the most thorough tours of the zoo. It’s a great way to see as many animals as possible during your day.

Check out this quick video guide to a day at the San Diego Zoo for more advice.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another treasure you don’t want to miss. The 1,800-acre park allows visitors to go on a safari adventure unlike any other. Between the behind-the-scenes experiences and seeing animals in their natural habitats, you’re sure to have a wild time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

To make your time at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park a breeze, reserve your tickets ahead of time using Reserve San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

Image by Emilee Rader / Flickr

Cabrillo National Monument

The San Diego landmarks on our list have their own story and the Cabrillo National Monument is no exception. The historic monument commemorates the story of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who arrived at San Diego Bay in September 1542. Upon discovery, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo actually called the area, “San Miguel”. It wasn’t until 60 years later that the area was named “San Diego” by explorer Sebastian Vizcaino.

While at the monument, you can explore the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, learn about his voyage, and gaze out into the ocean from the Old Point Loma lighthouse.

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Climb aboard the USS Midway Museum for an unparalleled San Diego experience.

USS Midway Museum

Climb aboard the USS Midway, an authentic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, for an educational experience you’ll never forget. With 60+ exhibits, self-guided tours, 29 restored aircrafts, and outstanding ocean views, there’s something for everyone at the museum.

Among the most historical of San Diego landmarks, the USS Midway allows visitors to hear stories from Desert Storm pilots and experience life aboard the famous vessel. Plus, daredevils can hop into a flight simulator and “jet off” into the sky!

Book your trip to the USS Midway Museum using Reserve San Diego to skip the ticket lines and spend more time inside the aircraft carrier.

Balboa Park - San Diego Landmarks

Image by richmbythesea / Flickr

Balboa Park

Did you know Balboa Park is known as one of the best parks in the world? The park houses 15 museums, performing arts venues, botanical gardens, cultural and recreational attractions, and the San Diego Zoo.

With over 1,200 acres to explore, you can spend the majority of your San Diego vacation in Balboa Park and never get bored! As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, it’s easy to see why Balboa Park made our list of San Diego landmarks you can’t miss.

Torrey Pines cliffs

Visit the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for unbeatable views and outdoor adventure.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

California is home to hundreds of beautiful national and state parks. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the 16 parks with reserve status. This means that everything in the reserve is exactly as it was before the entire city of San Diego was built. From the calming trails to the incredible beaches, this natural reserve is one of San Diego’s true treasures.

When you visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, follow all of the rules put in place by the California State Park System. The point of the reserve is to keep it safe from waste and harm while tourists visit the park.

Gaslamp Quarter - San Diego Landmarks

Visit Gaslamp Quarter to combine history and fun in one neighborhood.

Gaslamp Quarter

Located in the heart of the historic city, Gaslamp Quarter is known as San Diego’s entertainment district. With 16.5 blocks of Victorian architecture and stories of San Diego’s past, everything for a phenomenal vacation is at your fingertips.

As a result, you’ll find the following throughout the famous neighborhood:

  • Art Galleries
  • Theaters
  • Award-Winning Restaurants
  • Live Music and Bars
  • Museums and Attractions
  • Premier Shopping
  • Luxury Hotels and Lodging

 

We guarantee you’ll love Gaslamp Quarter, especially since it’s one of the top San Diego landmarks!

Old Town San Diego - San Diego Landmarks

Don’t forget to stop by Old Town San Diego too.

Old Town San Diego

Known as the birthplace of California, you need to visit Historic Old Town San Diego. In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation announced the establishment of Old Town, therefore preserving the area’s rich history. Throughout the neighborhood, you can learn about San Diego’s past, visit local shops, or attend a festival.

With so much history and fun packed into one neighborhood, it’s no wonder why it made the list of top San Diego landmarks!

Reserve Your Vacation to See All 7 San Diego Landmarks Today

With so many San Diego landmarks to visit, it’s best to plan your trip ahead of time. Eliminate the hassle of booking a hotel room or purchasing tickets on several different websites by using Reserve San Diego. From hotel reservations to travel tips, Reserve San Diego has everything you need for the San Diego vacation of a lifetime in one place.

 

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.

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.

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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.

Stuff your carry-on luggage, and hop on the plane, because we’ve only got 3 days to enjoy San Diego for an extended weekend. Here’s my guide on “How to Spend 3 Days in San Diego.” Ready? Set! Go!

Day 1

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USS Midway Museum

Assuming that you came in the night before, and you’ve got a full night’s rest, we will start the day at 9am in Downtown, San Diego.

9am: Coffee and Breakfast at Brickyard Coffee. You’re going to have to fuel up before you start Day 1 in San Diego. This neighborhood coffee shop is right by the Seaport Trolley station, and has a nice, large patio and great food and coffee. My favorite breakfast items are the Breakfast Bakes and the Acai Bowl.

9:30am: Now that you’re buzzed from your coffee, it’s time to hit the pavement. It will take you about 15 minutes to walk to our first attraction: The USS Midway: a retired US Navy aircraft carrier museum. It will take you about 3 hours to check this museum out. Make sure to watch my video on tips on visiting this museum.

12:30pm: After the museum, you may be ready for lunch. If you’re starving, the Fish Market is right next door to the museum, and it really good and fresh. They have a patio outside overlooking the San Diego Bay. It’s first come, first served when it comes to seating, and there is a limited menu in this section, but it provides for faster service and a more casual dining experience.

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Hotel Del Coronado

If you’re not too hungry (or after lunch), I suggest you buy a ferry ticket, and head to Coronado Island. Keep in mind that the ferry leaves every hour on the hour at the dock next to the USS Midway. It’s only a 15-minute ride, but you’ll get incredible views of the working Navy ships, million-dollar homes, and the San Diego skyline. Once in Coronado, feel free to walk around The Ferry Landing where you’ll find great restaurants, shops and galleries. I love Candelas restaurant. They have great Mexican-fusion cuisine, cocktails, and a killer view of Downtown, San Diego.

2:30pm: After lunch, you’ll want to head to the Hotel del Coronado – the iconic, Victorian resort in Coronado. You can either take a taxi there, or the free Summer Shuttle (June-September). Once at “The Del”, you can walk around the premises to the various shops, to the beach, or the Sundeck to relax, have a cocktail, and enjoy the Pacific Ocean views. You should also walk on Orange Ave. and Ocean Blvd. to get to know the neighborhood. There is beauty around every corner of Coronado.

5:00pm: Happy Hour! Stake happy hour offers the best views and deals on the island. On Sunday and Wednesday they have a live band on the patio starting at 6pm. You can continue in Coronado to watch the sunset, or head back to your hotel to get ready for the night.

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Gaslamp Quarter

8:00pm: Dinner in the Gaslamp is fun, hip, sexy, and delicious! Some of my favorite spots in the area are: Double Standard, Searsucker, Rustic Root, and Sushi Lounge.

After dinner, have fun walking around the area. You’re bound to run into a bar or restaurant that has live music, dancing, sports, or entertainment – unless you want to visit a secret speakeasy-style bar. My favorite bar in the Gaslamp is Prohibition. They have live music Thursday-Saturday nights.

Day 2

9am: Wake up early, and head straight to Balboa Park for a nice walk amongst the trees and gardens. Here, you will find many museums such as the Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Man, and the San Diego History Center. You can also enjoy the world-famous San Diego Zoo. You can spend 3 hours at this park. If you get hungry, check out The Prado or Panama 66.

1:00pm: Drive to Old Town, and enjoy learning about the birthplace of California as you walk through the historic state park. Visit original adobe homes, one of San Diego’s oldest cemeteries, and America’s most haunted house. You might want to save your appetite, and eat here, because there are about 25 restaurants, and 90% of them are dedicated to Mexican food. You can have some incredible margaritas, and fresh Mexican food.   Check out Café Coyote, Casa Guadalajara, or Fiesta de Reyes.

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Balboa Park

4:00pm:  Mission Bay/Beach. Just 10 minutes away from Old Town, you’ll enjoy some beach culture at Mission Bay. Rent a bike, and cruise around, or learn how to stand up paddleboard. There is even a mini amusement where you can enjoy rides and games. The beach and boardwalk are quintessentially San Diego, and offer the best spot for a picture perfect sunset. Before you know it, the sun will be down, and you’ll be hungry again. There are many small eateries in this area, but I would suggest heading to Amplified Ale Works for good, fresh beer and great Mediterranean/Californian food.

You can stay in this area into the night. The nightlife at the beaches is really casual, so no need to get dressed up. Flip-flops, shorts, and tans are always welcome!

Day 3

Today, we are heading up to North County! Bring your swimsuits, because this day is all about exploring the Pacific Coast Highway.

Self Realization Gardens

View from Self Realization Gardens/Yelp: Katie B.

10:00am: Take the I-5 freeway up to Encinitas, and head straight to the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden. This garden is on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, and is gorgeous. Take in the views, take in some fresh air, and free yourself of all negative emotions and thoughts you may be carrying with you. Set the intention for the day, and see how happy you will feel throughout the day.

After your mini meditation, drive north to the town of Encinitas. I love stopping into Pannikin for coffee or tea. Enjoy your drink with some of the locals here. Next, head to the beach. Moonlight State Beach is really popular. If you walk along the beach, you’re sure to find a nice area to layout in.

2:00pm: You’ve got some sun, and now it’s time to hit the road down the coast on the 101 aka PCH aka Pacific Coast Highway. You’ll pass the surfing town of Cardiff, Solana Beach, and Del Mar before you arrive to Torrey Pines State Reserve. Hike the trails at Torrey Pines, or go to the Torrey Pines Lodge to indulge on a gourmet, farm to table meal. If you don’t want to do Torrey Pines, head into the village areas of the beach communities before arriving to Torrey Pines. Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach is fun for shopping, and the Del Mar Plaza is great for lunch and shopping, as well. You can also drive down to La Jolla Village and walk through the galleries or along the coastline where the seals and sea lions lay out.

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Wind and Sea Beach

6:00pm: As the sun begins to set, be sure to get a spot to watch it. I love Wind and Sea beach. You’ll see many surfers catching the last waves of the day.

7:30pm: By the end of the day, I would suggest going to dinner back in the Village of La Jolla. I absolutely love The Med at the La Valencia Hotel. You’ll find great, seasonal dishes here, a great view, and live music. It’s pretty casual here, so you won’t have to worry about your shorts and sandy feet in the lounge of this restaurant.

In a perfect world, you’d probably live in San Diego, but that’s not always an option. Three days is just a tease, but as you can see, you can get a lot in in that time. I hope this is blog helps you plan your short-lived extended weekend!


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.

Serving as the hub of United States Naval operations, San Diego has earned the nickname Navy Town USA. Throughout the area, you can see ships, naval bases and other command operations in full force. No attraction lets you get up-close to the action the way the USS Midway Museum does, though. This historic naval aircraft carrier museum has a 4-acre flight deck, over 60 exhibits, 27 restored aircraft, optional flight simulators, videos, climb-aboard aircraft, outdoor café and gift shop.

To help plan your experience, follow my expert tips on visiting the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.

Ready to tour this museum for yourself. Purchase discount USS Midway Museum tickets in advance to save $4 per ticket. Admission includes self-guided audio tour.


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.