Life in San Diego, a.k.a. ‘America’s Finest City’ is full of endless things to do and kid-friendly activities. We’ve compiled this handy list of all the things you have to do with kids in San Diego so you can start checking off items on your hometown bucket list. Visiting San Diego? Simply scroll down for tips on where to have fun from a local’s perspective and for the lowdown on the best things to do with kids while vacationing here. Read on for 100 great kid-friendly activities in San Diego from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between.
1. Make a splash at one of the many glorious beaches that dot San Diego’s gorgeous coastline.
2. Visit the USS Midway Museum–– the largest aircraft carrier in the world that you can tour and where your kids can earn their Junior Pilot Wings!
5. Hop on the antique carousel and shop, eat and enjoy the charm of quaint Seaport Village.
6. The San Diego Zoo is one of only four zoos in America where you can see giant pandas. Go meet these spectacular creatures and other amazing animals with a stroll through the amazing exhibits including Africa Rocks.
7. Visit Cabrillo National Monument to see where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo made history in 1542 by becoming the first European to step foot on the west coast of the United States. Kids can also become a Junior Ranger.
9. Unwind with a day of endless play at The New Children’s Museum, where all of the super-fun, interactive exhibits will entertain and educate kids.
11. Go back in time to the 1850s with a visit to Old Town where kids can sit in a stagecoach, eat homemade tortillas, visit an old schoolhouse and learn some hands-on skills of the trades of yesteryear.
12. Descend into Sunny Jim Sea Cave, the only cave you can access by land on the California coastline.
13. Get up close and personal with a dazzling array of sea creatures from sea horses and jellyfish to sharks and sting rays at Birch Aquarium.
14. Ride the Coaster, the Sprinter or the Trolley on an adventurous day trip through the city that train-loving kids will go loco for.
15. Meet, pet and ride camels at Oasis Camel Dairy and then try some chocolate made using camel’s milk.
16. Visit Queen Califia’s Magical Circle created by artist Niki de Saint Phalle at Kit Carson Park. Her 9 freestanding, whimsical sculptures are sure to delight.
17. Go kayaking at the La Jolla Sea Caves alongside sea lions and leopard sharks.
18. Explore more than 48 vintage aircraft at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
19. Take your water baby to get wet and wild in the huge fountain area at Waterfront Park.
20. Rent a stand up paddle board, Aqua Cycle, canoe and rent more water sports gear for a day of fun at Carlsbad Lagoon.
21. Say hello to the sea lions basking in the wild at the La Jolla Children’s Pool.
22. Fly a kite at Dusty Rhodes Park, home to the oldest children’s kite festival in the United States.
23. Buy them some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and root for the home team at a Padres baseball game.
26. Learn how to surf and catch a wave so you can become a righteous San Diego local.
27. Let the kids explore real jail cells at The Headquarters at Seaport Village, site of the historic police headquarters built in 1939, then enjoy this outdoor mall’s cute shops and eateries.
28. Climb and play in a gigantic treehouse in the Hamilton Children’s Garden at San Diego Botanic Gardens.
29. Take a hike at one of the 12 best hiking trails for kids in San Diego––nature’s paradise from the ocean to the canyons.
30. All aboard to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum where Thomas the Tank Engine lovers can enjoy toy trains and tracks galore.
32. Rent a pedal or row boat at Lake Poway and feel a world away gliding through the water.
33. Spend a lazy afternoon at Summers Past Farms where kids can frolic with French hens, kitties, chickens and dogs and meander through mazes of sunflowers or sweet peas.
34. Ride the Giant Dipper, the iconic wooden roller coaster that’s called Belmont Park home since 1925.
35. Kids of any age can get an exhilarating thrill by going paragliding over the Pacific at Torrey Pines Gliderport!
36. Have some good, old-fashioned fun down on Bates Nut Farm where activities include everything from a pumpkin patch and harvest tours to nut tours, a farm zoo and a huge homemade fudge and candy shop.
37. Sail a model yacht at Mission Bay Park and spend the day swimming or doing water sports in the Bay.
38. Did you know San Diego is called the ‘craft beer capital of the world?’ Raise a pint of beer and give a little cheer at these breweries across the city that welcome kids and families.
39. Budding thespians will enjoy watching their peers in a theatrical performance at San Diego Junior Theater.
40. Chase butterflies and build an epic fairy garden at the fairytale-like Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery.
41. Delight your toddler with an old school puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater.
42. Learn about science, art and world cultures with a visit to San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum where kids can play with engaging indoor and outdoor hands-on exhibits.
43. Go stargazing with an astronomer at the Fleet Science Center or catch a planetarium show at Palomar College.
44. Let kids explore The Backyard at The Nat, a nature-inspired indoor play area that educates and entertains.
46. Camp out on a family trip into the great outdoors at one of the best camping spots in San Diego from the beaches to the mountains.
47. Take a day trip to the quaint mountain town of Julian to pan for gold and enjoy fresh baked apple pie.
49. Climb aboard a real fire engine and explore firefighting equipment at the San Diego Firehouse Museum.
50. Relax with a glass of wine in the countryside at one of these local family-friendly wineries with kid perks.
51. Rock out at the Museum of Making Music where kids can explore interactive instrument playing areas.
photo: Lisa G. via Yelp
52. Listen to the magical tunes from the 32-foot-tall outdoor pipe organs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, a San Diego landmark since 1914.
53. Snooze alongside wild animals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Roar & Snore sleepover, and get an after-hours look at the animals, guided walks and a campfire program––then wake up to breakfast the following morning.
54. Climb aboard and explore the world’s oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India, at the San Diego Maritime Museum.
55. Feed sea turtles and come nose to beak with Bald and Golden eagles at The Living Coast Discovery Center.
56. Dine on great food outdoors with ocean views or in a huge garden setting at our fave spots with patio seating.
57. Take a 3-minute train ride through four acres of Balboa Park on a miniature railroad aboard a model G16 (a rare antique––there are as few as fifty currently remaining)!
photo: Tian Reed Photography
60. Visit old rancho and hidden treasure, Leo Carrillo Ranch, to see beautiful roaming peacocks and learn some history.
61. Watch the giant koi fish swim in ponds at the Japanese Friendship Garden, then enjoy tea in the serene setting.
62. Learn about the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and see how lighthouse keepers lived while enjoying the spectacular views of San Diego.
64. Channel the local vibe and culture at a skatepark where the pros practice their tricks.
65. Cheer on your fave pony and horse around at Del Mar Racetrack.
photo: Carla M. via Yelp
67. Visit a family-friendly farmer’s market for the freshest pick of the season’s best produce.
68. Raise your pinkies at one of these 8 spots to have high tea with your young royals.
69. Sink your teeth into the most scrumptious tacos on Taco Tuesday or any day!
70. Dine out with a side of bowling, arcade games, corn hole and more at these hip restaurants that have epic play areas for kids.
72. Go on a ghost hunt at The Whaley House, or for the more squeamish, tour the House for its history over its hauntings.
73. Escape to the animal kingdom at Children’s Nature Retreat where your kids will get to feed, pet and bond with over 120 domestic, rescued livestock and exotic animals from around the world including zebras, camels and miniature horses.
74. Slide into a delightful story time session every day of the week at these libraries and museums.
75. Make like a hipster and go unearth the hidden gems of the super cool North Park neighborhood.
76. Take Fido to the coolest places for pooches in San Diego, from the Original Dog Beach to patio dining at restaurants that have dog menus.
77. Get snap happy in front of the city’s most Instagrammable walls and murals.
78. Hike, walk or bike the 60 miles of trails at Mission Trails Regional Park. At 7,220 acres, this park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.
79. Go on a nature walk to the waterfall in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
80. Dive into the high life with a day pass to one of San Diego’s most amazing resort pools.
81. Take your little party animal to go wild for the creatures they’ll meet at the best petting farms and zoos in the city.
82. Go whale watching by land or sea at these stellar spots for catching a glimpse of the majestic mammals.
83. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) lived in La Jolla for several decades. We show you where to spy Dr. Seuss delights all over town and see a historical first edition of Dr. Seuss stories.
84. Discover 1,000 species of rare and endangered plants and animals on a stroll through San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.
86. Behold the actual Apollo 9 Command Module at San Diego Air & Space Museum.
photo: The Bywaters via Flickr
88. Ride the Coronado ferry to take in the magnificent views of the San Diego skyline.
89. Pay your respects at Mt. Soledad National Veteran’s Memorial.
90. Meet exotic birds and talk to colorful parrots at the Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary.
91. Get your caffeine-fix at one of our favorite buzz-worthy local coffee shops that are welcoming to kids and families.
92. Make a splash at these mesmerizing, photo-worthy urban fountains, one of which is a whale standing tall at a height of 39 feet and 10 inches––it’s the second largest bronze sculpture ever cast in the U.S.
93. During springtime, get lost in a sea of dreamy, colorful ranunculus at The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch.
94. Catch a wave to the California Surf Museum to discover how surfboards evolved, read Bethany Hamilton’s story and touch Kelly Slater’s surfboard.
95. Hold and interact with reptiles, amphibians and arthropods at the EcoVivarium Living Museum.
96. Satisfy your wanderlust with a day trip to Idyllwild, Joshua Tree, or another nearby destination that’s on your bucket list.
97. Help kids channel their inner calm with expansive ocean views in a magical setting at the Meditation Gardens in Encinitas.
98. Slide through a gigantic bunch of grapes or climb aboard a colossal pirate ship at one of our favorite playgrounds.
99. Camp in a glam trailer hotel near Anza-Borrego State Park during wildflower season.