Whether you're feeling beach-ready or not, vacation season is coming, but don't stress. We'll break down the best things to do in San Diego with kids. All you'll need is your sunscreen, your sense of humor, and your enthusiasm for a good time. San Diego is bursting with family-friendly activities, so I've rounded up the top 10 fun things to do in America's Finest City with your little ones. From exploring the depths of the ocean to soaring high above the city, testing your playtime endurance to relaxing, there's something here for every family. It's time to make some unforgettable memories and, of course, take lots of selfies for the 'gram.
1. LEGOLAND California Resort
Ah,LEGOLAND California Resort, where all your childhood dreams come to life... in miniature form. This theme park is the ultimate destination for LEGO lovers of all ages and is located just a few blocks from the beach in sunny Carlsbad, CA. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a rather large LEGO dragon who guards the entrance and occasionally breathes fire (probably to keep up appearances). Inside, you'll find a whole world made out of the iconic building blocks, including a miniature replica of New York City, Las Vegas, and even a LEGO-made Mount Rushmore (with four smiley faces, of course).
For the adrenaline junkies, there are plenty of thrilling rides, including the LEGO Technic Coaster, which is sure to leave your heart racing (and your hair standing up, thanks to all the static electricity). If you prefer a more laid-back vibe, check out the Wave Racer or take a leisurely stroll through Miniland USA, where you'll see iconic American landmarks and scenes made entirely out of LEGO bricks. And let's not forget about the food. LEGOLAND California Resort has some truly unique dining options, including a LEGO-shaped pizza (extra cheese, please) and churros that are shaped like... you guessed it, LEGO bricks.
It's not hard to see why this is number one on visitors list for kids, architects, and anyone who knows how to have a great time. If you can't wait to go, be sure to read our pro tip. This one is truly special.
Pro Tip for Parents
If you're planning a trip to LEGOLAND with kids, consider bringing some minifigures from home or purchasing them at the park. The park is filled with LEGO sculptures and interactive exhibits, and having a few minifigures on hand can make exploring the park even more fun for kids. They can pose the figures for photos, add them to the LEGO displays, and even trade them with other visitors. Plus, having a few familiar toys from home can provide comfort and familiarity for younger children who may be overwhelmed by the new environment. So, don't forget to pack a few minifigures for your LEGOLAND adventure!
2. San Diego Zoo Safari
San Diego Zoo Safari is an excellent destination for families with kids who love animals and enjoy outdoor adventures. The Safari offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide variety of exotic animals in their natural habitats. The Safari is located in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which spans over 1,800 acres and is home to more than 3,000 animals representing over 300 species. Visitors can explore the park on foot or take a guided tour in an open-air safari vehicle.
One of the most popular attractions at San Diego Zoo Safari is the African Plains exhibit, which features a large herd of elephants, giraffes, zebras, and other African animals. Visitors can watch the animals roam and interact with each other in a spacious and naturalistic setting. Another highlight of the Safari is the Tiger Trail exhibit, which features several different species of tigers in a lush and immersive environment. Visitors can watch the tigers play, swim, and interact with their handlers. In addition to these exhibits, San Diego Zoo Safari offers numerous other attractions and activities for families, such as a butterfly garden, a petting zoo, and a ropes course.
Pro Tip for Parents
Pack some binoculars and a camera with a good zoom lens to get a closer look at the animals. Some animals may be far away from the safari vehicle, but with binoculars and a good zoom lens, you can still get an up-close view and capture some great shots.
Consider booking a sunrise or sunset safari tour to witness the animals at their most active and capture some stunning photos. During these times, many animals are waking up or settling in for the night, which can provide an excellent opportunity to see them in action. Plus, the lighting during these times can be especially beautiful for photography.
3. Belmont Park
Belmont Park is the place where waves meet amusement rides! This iconic San Diego boardwalk is the ultimate combination of sun, fun, and cotton candy. Once you enter the park, you'll be greeted by the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the screams of thrill-seekers on the Giant Dipper coaster, a true classic that's been around since the 1920s.
But Belmont Park isn't just about the rides. Take a stroll down the boardwalk, and you'll find all kinds of attractions, including arcades, beach shops, and even a chocolate factory where you can watch sweet treats being made right before your eyes. There's no shortage of delicious eats in this park. Belmont Park is the perfect place to spend a day soaking up the sun and making memories that'll last a lifetime.
Pro Tip for Parents
If you're headed to Belmont Park, consider arriving early in the day to avoid crowds and long lines for the popular rides and attractions. Most days, the park opens at 11 am, so consider arriving at least 30 minutes before opening to secure a good parking spot and get ahead of the crowds. Another option is to visit the park during off-peak times, such as weekdays or during non-summer months when the crowds tend to be smaller. This can give you and your family more time to enjoy the rides and attractions without feeling rushed or crowded. Finally, consider purchasing an all-day ride pass to save money on multiple rides, or look for discounted tickets online or through promotions offered by local hotels or attractions. This can help stretch your budget and make the most of your time at Belmont Park.
4. New Children's Museum (Younger Kids)
The New Children's Museum San Diego is a dynamic art museum designed for children and families to engage with contemporary art in a playful and interactive way. The museum is located in the heart of downtown San Diego and features a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits, installations, and educational programs. The museum has a mission to stimulate imagination, creativity, and critical thinking in children through engaging art experiences. Exhibits and installations change frequently and are designed to be interactive and participatory, inviting children and families to create, build, and explore.
The museum offers a range of programs for children of all ages, including daily drop-in art-making workshops, summer camps, and after-school programs. There are also programs for families, including family art nights and family workshops. Some of the permanent exhibits include "Sketch Aquarium," where children can draw sea creatures and see them come to life in a digital aquarium, "Tikitiko," an interactive installation that encourages children to build and create with colorful foam blocks, and "Wobbleland," a multi-level play structure that promotes physical activity and imaginative play.
The New Children's Museum San Diego is open daily, with free admission for children under the age of one and discounted admission for military families. The museum is a popular destination for families and school groups, and visitors of all ages are sure to enjoy the creative and playful atmosphere of this unique museum.
Pro Tip for Parents
Accessibility Mornings (every second Saturday), are designed to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for children with disabilities and their families. During Accessibility Days, the museum offers a variety of sensory-friendly experiences, including quiet areas, tactile activities, and modified exhibits designed to accommodate children with different abilities. The museum also provides additional staff support and resources to help families have a positive and enjoyable experience.
In addition, the New Children's Museum San Diego is committed to accessibility throughout the year and offers a range of resources and accommodations for families with children with disabilities. These include sensory backpacks, noise-canceling headphones, visual schedules, and wheelchair accessibility throughout the museum.
5. The San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is a must-see destination that's home to over 3,700 animals! From pandas to elephants, this zoo has it all. If you're a fan of feathered friends, be sure to check out the world-famous flamingos. The zoo isn't just about admiring the animals. You can also take a guided bus tour or even ride the Skyfari aerial tram for a bird's-eye view of the park. For little ones, the Children's Zoo offers hands-on experiences and interactive exhibits.If you're still hungry after your zoo adventure, there are plenty of dining options on-site, including a food court, a coffee shop, and even a beer garden for the adults.
Pro Tip for Parents
Public transportation to the San Diego Zoo is a good idea. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) offers a bus route (Bus Route 7) that stops directly in front of the zoo's entrance. Doing this help save on parking fees and also reduce the stress of driving and finding parking.
6. SeaWorld San Diego
Are you ready for a splashing good time? Look no further than SeaWorld San Diego, the ultimate destination for aquatic adventure. From the moment you enter the park, you'll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the sea. Get up close and personal with some of the ocean's most fascinating creatures, from the friendly dolphins and sea lions to the magnificent killer whales and sharks. SeaWorld isn't just an epic aquarium. It's a world-class theme park with rides and attractions that will leave you breathless. Take a spin on the Electric Eel roller coaster, which launches you over 60 miles per hour and sends you spiraling through twists and turns, all with a stunning view of Mission Bay. Or, if you're feeling brave, climb aboard Shipwreck Rapids, where you'll face white-water rapids and waterfalls on a rafting adventure.
SeaWorld's famous killer whales put on a spectacle that will leave you speechless. Watch as they breach and splash, performing acrobatics that are truly breathtaking. And the new Cirque Electrique show is a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics, music, and LED lights that will leave you in awe. This is where you can escape into a world of aquatic wonder and excitement. With rides, shows, and animal encounters that are second to none, Sea World is on every list of top things to do in San Diego with your kids because it's the ultimate destination for anyone who loves the sea.
Pro Tip for Parents
Consider attending one of the park's educational programs or animal encounters to enhance your family's experience and learn more about the animals at SeaWorld. The park offers a variety of programs, such as animal feedings, behind-the-scenes tours, and animal interactions, that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the park's marine life. These experiences can be educational and entertaining for both kids and adults, and can provide a deeper understanding and appreciation for the animals at the park.
7. Sandbox VR (Older Kids)
SandboxVR SanDiego is a cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) experience center located in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. The center offers a variety of immersive VR experiences that allow participants to explore a new world and engage in thrilling adventures. Participants wear state-of-the-art VR gear that includes a headset, haptic feedback vest, and hand-held controllers. These devices allow participants to interact with the virtual world and experience sensations such as touch, sound, and sight.
The center offers a range of VR experiences, including multiplayer games, adventure quests, and escape room-style challenges. Some popular experiences include "Deadwood Mansion," "Amber Sky 2088," and "Star Trek: Discovery - Away Mission." Each experience is designed to fully immerse participants in the virtual world and provide a thrilling and unforgettable experience. SandboxVR San Diego is suitable for both kids and adults, although some experiences may have age restrictions or height requirements. The center is open seven days a week, and reservations are recommended to ensure availability. The staff at SandboxVR are friendly and knowledgeable and are always on hand to help participants with any questions or concerns they may have.
Pro Tip for Parents
Encourage your kids to fully immerse themselves in the virtual reality experience and explore the world around them. This means not only looking straight ahead but also taking the time to look up, down, and all around to fully appreciate the virtual environment. Encourage your kids to work together and communicate effectively during the virtual reality experience. They can strategize and work together to complete challenges and solve puzzles within the game. Lastly, make sure your kids take breaks as needed to avoid motion sickness or discomfort from prolonged use of the virtual reality equipment. The staff at SandboxVR can provide guidance on when and how often to take breaks, and it's important to remind your kids to speak up if they feel uncomfortable at any point during the experience.
8. Great Room Escape (Older Kids)
Great Room Escape San Diego is an interactive experience that is perfect for older kids and teenagers who enjoy solving puzzles and participating in adventure games. The concept of the Great Room Escape is based on the popular escape room game, where players are locked in a room and must solve a series of puzzles and clues to escape within a limited time frame.
The Great Room Escape in San Diego features several different themed rooms, each with its own storyline and set of puzzles. Some of the themes include a haunted hotel, a bank heist, and a zombie apocalypse. The rooms are designed to be challenging, but not too difficult, so families can work together to solve the puzzles and escape within the allotted time.
The experience typically lasts around an hour, and groups can consist of up to 12 people. It's an excellent way for families to bond over a shared experience and work together to solve problems. Additionally, it can help improve critical thinking skills and encourage teamwork among kids.
It's important to note that Great Room Escape San Diego is not recommended for young children, as some of the themes may be too scary or intense for them. However, for older kids and teenagers, it can be a thrilling and exciting adventure that they won't soon forget.
Pro Tip for Parents
Before entering the room, make sure your kids understand the rules and guidelines for the game. Explain to them that they will need to be observant and look for clues hidden throughout the room, and that they will need to work together to solve the puzzles. Another good tip is to arrive at the escape room early and take some time to get to know the staff and ask any questions you may have. The staff can provide helpful hints and tips to make the experience more enjoyable and less frustrating for your kids. The Great Room Escape is meant to be a fun and challenging adventure, and win or lose, your kids will have a great time
9. The Fleet Science Center
For a more cerebral and mentally stimulating visit, explore the wonders of science and technology at the Fleet Science Center in San Diego, the ultimate destination for hands-on learning and discovery. With over 100 interactive exhibits, there's no shortage of ways to engage your mind and unleash your curiosity. You can experience the thrill of the impossible made possible at the Impossible Science exhibit, where you'll witness incredible feats of science that will leave you scratching your head in amazement. Or, get hands-on with engineering and design at the TinkeringStudio, where you can build and create using various materials and tools.
For astronomy enthusiasts, the center's planetarium is a must-see. Immerse yourself in stunningly realistic simulations of the night sky and learn about the mysteries of the universe. And the museum's many other exhibits, ranging from the human body to energy and sustainability, will inspire you to think about the world around you in a whole new way. The Fleet Science Center isn't just for kids. The center offers a variety of workshops and classes for adults, as well as a bar and restaurant, making it the perfect destination for a fun and educational night out. With exhibits and experiences that are both educational and entertaining, it's the ideal way to unleash your inner scientist.
Pro Tip for Parents
Check out the center's outdoor exhibits and activities, such as the Tinkering Studio and Kid City. These outdoor areas provide a fun and interactive space for kids to explore and learn about science through hands-on activities and exhibits. You can also hit up one of the center's special events or exhibitions to enhance your family's experience and learn more about science in a fun and interactive way. The center regularly hosts special events and exhibitions on a variety of topics, such as space exploration, robotics, and the human body.
10. Oasis Camel Dairy
Adventurous families can have an unforgettable experience at the Oasis Camel Dairy in San Diego, the perfect stop for animal lovers and adventure seekers alike. With its stunning desert landscape and friendly, fascinating camels, the camel dairy is unlike any other destination in the city. You and your kids will get up close and personal with these majestic creatures and learn all about their fascinating habits and behaviors. You can take a guided tour of the dairy and learn about the milk and products that come from these incredible animals. Make sure to try out the popular Camel Rides, where you can hop on the back of one of these gentle giants and experience the thrill of a lifetime.
The Oasis Camel Dairy also offers a variety of other activities and experiences, from watching the camels perform in shows and competitions to attending workshops on topics like soap-making and spinning. For those looking for a truly unique gift or souvenir, the dairy's gift shop is a must-see. Stocked with a variety of camel-related products, including soap, lotions, and even camel milk chocolate, it's the perfect place to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir of your visit. The Oasis Camel Dairy is a truly unusual and intriguing destination perfect for kids who love to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom.
Pro Tip for Parents
Sign up for a camel encounter or tour to get up close and personal with the camels and learn more about their unique characteristics and behaviors. The dairy offers a variety of experiences, such as feeding and petting the camels, taking a camel ride, and learning how to milk a camel. These experiences can be educational and entertaining for both kids and adults and provide a unique opportunity to interact with these fascinating animals. Don't forget to wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing and shoes, as the dairy is an outdoor venue, and temperatures can vary throughout the day. Additionally, consider bringing sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun, as there is limited shade in some areas of the dairy.
Bonus: More Options Around Town
If you're looking for a free option, you can always hit the beach or go to one of the many public parks with your kids. After all, you don't need to spend a fortune to have a good time. You can hit the Natural History Museum or the Model Railroad Museum for more classic, educational adventures. Meanwhile, families looking for a water adventure may recognize Sesame Place, which took over the location of the old Knott's Soak City. There's a ton of fun places to eat with kids, like The Sugar Factory, for those who prefer a culinary adventure. Whatever you decide to do, take the time to choose a few custom options. The best things to do in san diego with kids will always be those events, activities, and places that fit your family dynamic.