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Are you planning a trip to San Diego with kids? San Diego is an amazing place to travel with kids. There’s plenty to do for the whole family. As former locals, my family has spent a lot of time exploring all over San Diego and we have some tips for the best things to do in San Diego with Kids. If you are looking for a family vacation spot that everyone will love, San Diego is definitely the place to go.
We have a lot of fun when we go back to visit San Diego. A lot of times we’ll just spend some time at the beaches, and there are some great San Diego beaches for kids.
If you plan to visit more than one attraction, we highly recommend the San Diego Go Card. You’ll get a lot more value for your money and you’ll be able to see way more than you would if you were buying individual tickets.
If you live close enough to visit often, we typically recommend picking one place and buying season passes. We rotated through season passes to the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, and SeaWorld while we lived in the area and we got to get a lot more out of our visits.
These are some of our favorite places to visit when we are in San Diego with kids:
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum is by far my favorite museum in San Diego. This is unlike any museum you’ve ever been to because the entire museum is located on a retired aircraft carrier. There’s so much to see here that you could easily spend more than one day here.
The museum has an audio tour that is included in the price of admission. Using headphones and a portable audio device, you can hear detailed information about anything you want. All over the museum there are codes that you punch into your audio device to hear an informative recorded message. I found these really interesting and could have spent all day listening. We’ve been several times and I still haven’t finished the full audio tour because there’s just so much there, and my younger kids didn’t always want to spend as much time in each area as I did. They were more interested in moving through the aircraft carrier or climbing on things (and there’s plenty of opportunities for that).
The top deck of the aircraft carrier is filled with historic aircraft that you can sit in and explore. My kids absolutely loved this part of the tour. This, plus the main deck where you entered, are set up more like a traditional museum. The part I loved the most is that the rest of the aircraft carrier has been restored so, as you go through, you really get a feel for what life was like being stationed there..
Just a heads up: this museum is not stroller-friendly. You can take a stroller on the main deck and top deck, if you want, however, access to the rest of the museum is through the main body of the aircraft carrier. In most of those areas, you are climbing fairly steep stairs, stepping over dividers between sections in the aircraft carrier and walking through some tight spaces. I’ve done the museum with a 6 month old and then with 1 year old twins. We put babies in a baby carrier and had no problem.
I recommend leaving the stroller behind and bringing a good baby carrier like this one so you can shift positions.
If you have kids, you can’t plan a trip to San Diego without stopping by Legoland. For kids under about the age of 12, this is probably going to be the highlight of their trip. We lived just minutes away from Legoland for years, so we know the park well. My kids actually preferred Legoland over Disneyland from about ages 5-10.
Legoland is great for even younger kids (check out our tips for visiting Legoland with a baby). While many rides don’t allow riders under 34-36 inches, there are still quite a few options for younger visitors. There are plenty of play spots throughout the park (including in the middle of lines, which is fantastic). My younger kids have always loved playing at these spots and walking around Miniland to look at all the Lego creations. If traveling with a child under 2, we highly recommend downloading Legoland’s “What to Do When you are 2” guide.
Legoland has some great rides, but my favorite is all the hands-on activities they have. Our favorite activity was always building cars to race in the Build & Test Room.
With several splash pads throughout the park, we recommend bringing bathing suits and at least one towel to share (more than that is a pain to carry around).
San Diego Zoo and Safai Park
The San Diego Zoo and The Safari Park are two of my favorite places in San Diego and both are a must-visit anytime you are in town. We were season pass holders for years, and went several times a month while we lived in the area. We still saw something new every single time.
Check the feeding and show schedule before you go to make sure you don’t miss any of your favorites. We find the animals are most active just before closing time as the weather cools down, so it’s worth staying until the end of the day.
Both the San Diego Zoo and The Safari Park have plenty of hands-on exhibits and there are usually several zookeepers wandering around who are always more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Fleet Science Center
We love a good science museum and The Fleet Science Center is a fabulous one to visit with kids. They have a children’s section that even the youngest kids can enjoy and plenty of higher level science that appeals to kids and adults of all ages. They have several temporary exhibit spaces that rotate on a regular basis and every one we’ve been too has been amazing.
The Fleet Science Center is closed to the San Diego Zoo, so you could, in theory, hit both in one day, but you could easily spend a full day at each.
I know there are a lot of mixed opinions out there about SeaWorld. Personally, having lived in the area, I saw a lot of good that they did. We lived within a few miles of the beach and they were always coming in and rescuing injured sea animals.
SeaWorld has some fantastic exhibits. My kids’ favorite is the Polar Bear Expedition. There’s so much to see and we always got a great view of the animals.
There are some great rides for all ages. The preschool play area is fantastic and my big kids love the roller coaster. Check the show schedule before you visit to plan your day. Our favorite was the dolphin show, but there are some great options.
La Jolla Children’s Pool
The La Jolla Children’s Pool at La Jolla Cove is a gorgeous, protected beach that is a great spot to go animal watching. The beach is typically filled with sea lions and, while I don’t recommend swimming there, is a great spot for photos. There’s a narrow path you can walk out to the end of the jetty that gives you great views of the sea lions and the ocean. Be prepared to get wet though and be cautious with younger children because some of the waves can reach the top of the jetty.
This is always one of our favorites spots to visit. We typically spend an hour or two here then head a bit further south to La Jolla Shores to spend the day at the beach. If you’d rather hike, Torrey Pines is a beautiful hike, and we typically see plenty of wildlife along the trail.
Old Town San Diego
If you want to introduce your kids to some of the history of San Diego, you can’t beat Old Town. The Wells Fargo Museum is small but super interesting. The Mormon Battalion Museum has some really great hands-on activities and, if you are lucky enough to attend when this is going on, once a year they take over the center of Old Town for hundreds of free pioneer hands-on activities.
There’s a really fantastic old fashioned candy shop just off the square. My kids loved watching them stretch taffy in the window. We’d usually have a picnic in the park area and then go for candy afterwards. If you don’t want to have a picnic, there’s some amazing Mexican restaurants right in the area.
If you want a great place to spend the day, you can’t beat Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo and Fleet Science Center are right there, along with so many other amazing museums.
If you just want to see the sights, there are some amazing garden areas to walk through and photo spots that are absolutely amazing.
The Oceanside Pier is a fantastic spot to go if you just want to walk around and take in the sights. My family always loved walking down the pier. You have a great view of the surfers from the pier and you can often see wildlife. There’s always pelicans and we’ve seen seals quite a few times too.
At the end of the pier is a Ruby’s, so we’d often take a slow walk to the end and enjoy a dinner or a milkshake. We loved walking here at dusk because it was such a great spot to see sunsets.
If you want to make a day of it, there are some great beaches and a playground right at the pier entrance. With kids, we preferred going just north to the Oceanside Harbor. The water wasn’t as rough and there was a great playground with cleaner bathrooms right there.
If you are planning a trip to San Diego, we hope these ideas helped. If you need any more ideas, feel free to send me a message on Instagram.