San Diego with Kids: 8 Top Things to Do
Sunshine, balmy weather, and beautiful beaches are fantastic reasons to visit San Diego. The city is packed with enough kids' attractions to keep families busy, yet the laid-back Southern California vibe ensures a relaxing visit. Tourists usually head straight to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld to see amazing animals and sea life. The scientific discoveries continue at Balboa Park and the Birch Aquarium, while the New Children's Museum gives kids a chance to explore the world of creativity and imagination. For an entertaining day at an amusement park, both Legoland and Belmont Park are popular spots. Whatever sights are on the itinerary, a family vacation in San Diego will make everyone happy with plenty of fun in the sun.
1 Discover Amazing Animals at San Diego Zoo
A top destination for families with kids of all ages, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most impressive anywhere. The zoo is home to an incredible diversity of animals and works with the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy to support the protection of endangered species. What distinguishes the San Diego Zoo from others is the cage-free enclosures that replicate the wilderness. Within these surroundings, animals can roam about almost as they would in nature. Visitors will be awed by the wide range of species - from tigers, flamingos, and grizzly bears to porcupines, camels, and koalas. Among the most famous residents are the giant pandas. For a truly amazing experience, take part in the Early Morning with Pandas. This two-hour, small-group tour allows access to the giant pandas viewing area before it opens to other visitors for the day. Families with kids will also appreciate the convenient General Store, the KidStore, and guided bus tours. Aerial Tram rides offer a fun way to view the landscape and animals from a bird's-eye view.
Address: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, California
2 Watch Dolphins at SeaWorld
This 200-acre amusement park is famous for its aquatic shows and amusement rides. SeaWorld also has an aquarium and is home to adorable marine mammals, including sea lions and sea otters. One of the resident sea lions even performs in a live-action musical TV show. Kids can also touch and feed dolphins at the Dolphin Interaction Program and get a close-up look at the famous killer whale, Shamu, in an underwater viewing area. For more excitement, hop on one of the water rides. The Shipwreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis are exciting rides for kids who meet the height requirement of 48" tall. The Wild Arctic Ride is a jet-helicopter flight simulator ride for kids who are at least 42" tall. Or take in the scenery from above, on the Bayside Skyride or from the top of the Skytower.
Address: 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, California
3 Swing, Slide, and Swim at Balboa Park
Families can enjoy the beauty of Balboa Park, a gorgeous and expansive outdoor space with 17 museums, playgrounds, a swimming pool, 19 different gardens and more. The Children's Ethnobotany Garden is an organic herb, fruit, and vegetable garden dedicated to the memory of George Washington Carver. Created to teach youth about the importance of plants and the environment, the garden offers gardening classes on Sundays or by appointment. Balboa Park also has five playgrounds that parents can choose from, depending on their children's age and interests. For kids of all ages, the Pepper Grove Playground is a great choice. The Bird Park at Upas is designed just for toddlers with its cushioned rubber floor. The Morley Field Playground has slides, monkey bars, and swings that are great for kids from age five to 12 years old. Near the Morley Field Playground are other fun attractions including a swimming pool, cupcake shop, tennis courts, and cafe. To discover the most whimsical play area, head to the area outside the Mingei International Museum to find the Dragon Playground Sculpture.
Also at Balboa Park is the Reuben H. Park Fleet Science Center, a fantastic place to get children interested in learning about science. This science center offers hands-on activities and eight interactive galleries along with interesting temporary exhibitions. The center's Kid City and Tinkering Studio are great for children under five years old. Families can also enjoy entertainment at the center's giant Dome Theater and get snacks at Galileo's Café.
Address: 1875 El Prado, Balboa Park, California
4 Admire the Colorful Sea Life at Birch Aquarium
In La Jolla, about 13 miles away from San Diego, the Birch Aquarium is part of the world-renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego. The aquarium has a marvelous variety of marine animals that are native to the Pacific Ocean. Discover an array of fish, invertebrates, sharks, seahorses, and a coral reef filled with inhabitants. Interactive multimedia exhibits showcase the findings of oceanography explorers. The Birch Aquarium also has daily animal feedings that allow visitors to watch sharks grab their prey and lobsters emerge from rocks to snatch their food. For more interactions with the sea animals and for stunning ocean views, head to the outdoor Tide-Pool Plaza.
Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, California
5 Spark the Imagination at the New Children's Museum
This unique museum collaborates with contemporary artists to create one-of-a-kind art installations. The exhibits include playhouses, clubhouses, and climbable towers. Kids can interact with the exhibits and engage in active play as they would at home. The museum also displays thematic exhibitions and original works of art, all designed to arouse children's curiosity.
Address: 200 West Island Avenue, San Diego, California
6 Feed Giraffes at the Safari Park
At the Safari Park, kids can see magnificent safari animals roaming in wide, open spaces as they would in the wild. The Safari Park keeps the animals in special enclosures and offers tours in open-air trucks that feel like an authentic safari experience. The safari tours offer an up-close view of Asian and African safari animals, such as tigers, lions, and rhinoceros. A special Kids' Caravan Safari offers a chance for children to feed giraffes.
Address: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California
7 Walk with Life-Like Animals at Legoland
A 35-minute drive from San Diego, the Legoland amusement park is packed with attractions including dozens of rides, giant Lego installations, and entertaining shows. The Lego creations are made entirely of Lego brick, such as the 32-foot-long Lego dinosaurs and the Enchanted Walk with lifelike Lego animals that are native to the area. Legoland also has many popular rides. Little kids love the Fairy-Tale Brook boat ride down a stream, with fairy-tale scenes along the way. Older kids enjoy the Pirates Shore water rides and the Lost Kingdom Adventure expedition in the Land of Adventures.
Address: One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, California
8 Ride Roller Coasters at Belmont Park
Belmont Park is a fun-filled seaside amusement park, complete with roller coaster rides, arcade games, and fairground foods. Belmont Park offers something for everyone, with a range of attractions, from old-fashioned rides to adventurous rock climbing activities. The Giant Dipper roller coaster ride is for thrill-seeking older kids who meet the height requirement of 50 inches tall. The Beach Blaster and Control Freak rides are for kids at least 48 inches tall who love fast-paced motion rides. Other attractions include mini golf, bumper cars, the FlowRider surfing simulator, and the Sky Ropes adventure course. Belmont Park also has a boardwalk area that is a great place to soak up San Diego's balmy weather. The 30,000 square foot boardwalk has several beachfront restaurants with amazing ocean views.
Address: 3146 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, California