Big City Family Fun

Warm Weather Ahoy! Top Places to go in San Diego with Kids

Cabrillo National Monument. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Learn about the explorer Cabrillo and when he landed in San Diego. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Top Places to go in San Diego with Kids

With warm weather and sunny skies, San Diego tops the list of  family travel destinations for year-round travel. If you are looking for a fun winter break getaway with your kids, think San Diego. Families will find beaches, amusement parks, museums and along with tide pools and whale migrations during the winter.  Here are the Top Places to go in San Diego with Kids for your next getaway.

  • Balboa Park
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Botanical Building
  • Balboa Park Carousel
  • Balboa Park Miniature Train
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Old Point Loma Lighthouse
  • Whale Overlook
  • Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools
  • Belmont Park
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Mission Beach
  • Coronado Beach
  • Silver Strand State Beach
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Embracing Peace Statue
  • Waterfront Park
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
  • San Diego Santa Fe Depot
Visit Balboa Park. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Enjoy a day at Balboa Park with lots of museums for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Plan a Balboa Park Day

Load up the kids and head to Balboa Park in Central San Diego. With 1,200 acres to explore it’s the home to San Diego’s cultural and recreational family fun.

With 16 different museums, 17 different gardens along with the San Diego Zoo and the Balboa Park carousel and miniature train, you could spend a week exploring. So hit the highlights according to your family’s interests.

Play in Balboa Park. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Take a moment and climb on the play sculptures in Balboa Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Top Museums for Families

  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • San Diego Natural History Museum

Top Gardens to Explore

  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Botanical Building
  • Moreton Bay Fig

Family Fun

  • Balboa Park Carousel
  • Balboa Park Miniature Train
  • San Diego Zoo

Located off Interstate 5 off Park Boulevard about 2 miles from downtown San Diego  Free Parking available though arrive early in the day for the best selection. It is free to enter the park and it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Each attraction has it’s own hours and admission charges.

San Antonio Zoo. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Known as a premier zoo in the U.S. it’s a must for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

San Diego Zoo

Within the boundaries of Balboa Park, tour the zoo that pioneered the open air habitats with a collection of 12,000 rare and endangered specimens of over 650 different species of animals. Start with the 35-minute guided bus tour, then walk around the 100-acre facility.

It’s a compact zoo and easy to explore in one day without long walking distances between each animal exhibit. The Giant Panda, the Koalas and the Tasmanian Devil are all must-see during your visit. Take a ride on the Skyfari Gondola for amazing views above the zoo along with the entire Balboa Park.

Located at 2920 Zoo Dr. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours on weekends and holidays. Adult admission starts at $63 for online value tickets and kids ( 3- 11) start at $53.

More California Fun

Best Beaches in Southern California
Planning Guide for Santa Barbara
Why you have to visit Death Valley 
Cabrillo National Monument. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Earn a Junior Ranger Badge while visiting Cabrillo National Monument. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Cabrillo National Monument

With views overlooking the Pacific Ocean along with Coronado Island, it’s the place to learn discovery of California by Cabrillo, seasonal whale migrations, the Point Loma Lighthouse along with tide pools. Ideally, families could spend half a day in Cabrillow National Monument.

Near the visitor center, visits can learn about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to land on the West Coast in 1542. The Age of Exploration display explains his voyage up the California coast. Don’t miss the statue of Juan Cabrillo outside.

For kids, Cabrillo National Monument Junior Ranger badge is a great activity to do. Kids who complete the booklet will receive a good badge for the Park Rangers.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Where to go in San Diego with Kids.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse teaches families about the importance of West Coast Lights. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

While at Cabrillo, visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, restored to its 1880s appearance. Visitors can learn how the lighthouses along the West Coast kept sailors and ships safe. Walk through the house to understand the life of the lighthouse keepers and their families.

Next head to the Whale Overlook to savor the view of the Pacific Ocean. During the winter, whales are visible during their migration.

Tide Pools. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Walk around the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument with the kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools

Cabrillo is one of the top places to tide pool in San Diego so bring the water shoes and look up the low tide time during your visit. Though remember to be respectful of the marine animals during your visit and observe them in the natural habitat.

The tide pool area closes at 4:30 p.m. Limited parking at the tide pool and it closes periodically during weekends when the lot is full.

Located at 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $20 per vehicle or use an annual pass. Since Cabrillo National Monument doesn’t sell food, pack a picnic to enjoy overlooking to the water.

More Fun in National Parks

National Parks a Road Trip away from LA
Planning Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
Where to See Whales on the West Coast

San Diego Beaches

I love the San Diego beaches for family fun. Find several wide beaches perfect for families to park a beach chair and umbrella for the day. Or experience a California classic and enjoy an amusement park steps from the sand.

Belmont Park. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
An amusement park next to the beach is where your kids want to go in San Diego. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Belmont Park

Hard to believe but Belmont Park opened in 1925 though it still pulls in the kids today. With free parking and free admission,  it’s got all the standards, pulled salt water taffy, a roller coaster, shooting arcade along with carnival eats. Spend at least an hour walking through the retro amusement park and arcade.

Located at 3126 Mission Blvd. Open daily and hours vary by attraction. Rides are additional.

Mission Beach

The quintessential SoCal beach experience. Rent an umbrella, a beach chair or a cruiser and watch the sun crawl to the horizon. This is a good beach for most beach goers.

Located at Mission Blvd. and Venture Place

How to enjoy the hotel del Coronado for kids, S'mores for Luxe Moms, Things to do in Coronado with kids,
The legendary Hotel del Coronado offers exceptional service. credit: Catherine Parker

Coronado Beach

In the shadow of the Hotel del Coronado, the wide beach is open to all, not just hotel guests. Let the kids chase waves, fly a kite and make a sand castle.

Located at 919 Ocean Blvd.

Silver Strand State Beach. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Explore Silver Strand State Beach on Coronado Island. Credit: Catherine Parker

Silver Strand State Beach

With access to the Pacific Ocean along with the San Diego Bay via pedestrian tunnels, get the best of both. Along with tradition beach fun, Silver Strand State Beach offers a seasonal café and ranger programs.

In collaboration with the Coronado Surfing Academy, arrange a surfing lesson for the kids or even yourself.

Located at 5000 Highway 75

Downtown San Diego with Kids

If you staying on Coronado Island, take the Coronado Ferry to Broadway Pier and explore Downtown San Diego on foot.

USS Midway Museum

Tour the longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Explore the decks and see several different types of aircraft, many that were manufactured in California. The USS Midway Museum includes a theater and flight simulators.

Located at 910 N. Harbor Dr. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $26 and kids ( 6- 12) enter for $18.

Embracing Peace. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Walk by the Embracing Peace statue next to the USS Midway. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Embracing Peace Statue

Next to the USS Midway, find the Embracing Peace statue.

Located at 55 Tuna Lane.

Waterfront Park

As you explore the waterfront give the kids a few minutes to run off some energy. At the Waterfront Park find a complex that blends playgrounds, splash pads and grassy areas.

Located at 1600 Pacific Highway.

Old Town San Diego. where to go in San Diego with kids.
Old Town San Diego blends history and fun in the busiest state park in California. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Walk through San Diego’s history from the 1820s to the 1870s with original abodes and living history demonstrations. After learing some history, find a place to eat as restaurants flank this popular area.

The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is the most visited state park in California.

Located at 4002 Walllace St. Free to enter. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

San Diego Santa Fe Depot. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Walk through downtown San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

San Diego Santa Fe Depot

Walk through the San Diego Santa Fe Depot regardless of how you arrived. Built in 1887 the Spanish Colonial Revival style depot features rich details, including the tile work. The Amtrak departs from this station with service up the Pacific Coast.

The building also houses the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Located at 1050 Kettner Blvd.

Old Trolley Tour. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Kids will love the Old Trolleys to get around with hop-on and hop-off convenience for adults. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

How to Get Around SoCal and San Diego

Old Town Trolley

Use this hop-on, hop-off trolley to get around for a day packed with attractions. With stops like Old Town Market and the Gaslamp Quarter, leave the car at home or your hotel and use the trolley to navigate San Diego. Tickets required.

Coronado Ferry. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
The Coronado Ferry doubles as a scenic cruise. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Coronado Ferry

Take the 15-minute ride across the San Diego Bay from Coronado to the Broadway Pier. At $7 each way, it’s a relaxing alternative to crossing the Coronado Bridge.

Amtrak Train

If you’re traveling from Los Angeles or further north, consider Amtrak. I’ve traveled on the Pacific Surfliner that serves San Diego.

Where to Eat around San Diego

Casa Guadalajara. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
With an outdoor patio and festive plates of Mexican food, Casa Guadalajara is family friendly. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Casa Guadalajara—In Old Town

After exploring Old Town, step into a brightly decorated patio for a combo plate of Mexican standards. Great option for families with kid-pleasing tacos and margaritas for Mom and Dad.

Located at 4105 Taylor St. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Carnitas Snack Shack. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Grab a pork carnita taco and sit overlooking the San Diego Bay for a perfect evening. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Carnitas Snack Shack—next to the Broadway Pier

Steps from the Coronado Ferry, take a minute and chomp on some pork. Grab a table and let the kids run around while Mom and Dad grab drink from the bar.

Located at 1004 N. Harbor Dr. Open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Have crepes. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Sample savory and sweet crepes at Chocolat Creamerie in the Gaslight Quarter. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Chocolat Creamerie—in the Gaslamp Quarter

509 Fifth Ave.

A one stop for European indulgences, like gelato, espresso and crepes, both savory and sweet. It offers a few tables outside and more inside, tops for people watching at night.

Located at 509 Fifth Ave. Open most days from 9 a.m. to midnight.

Beach House Grill—next to Belmont Park

For solid beach eats with an extensive bar list with local craft beers and tropical cocktails dine at the Beach House Grill. The outdoor seating is worth the wait.

Located at 3125 Ocean Front Walk. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Goerge's at the Cove. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Ditch the kids and have a date night at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Georges at the Cove—in La Jolla

1250 Prospect St. La Jolla

Where the entrees compete against the sunset for attention. Featuring inventive Californian Modern cuisine with deconstructed fish tacos, featuring yellow fin tuna and local avocado. Grab a sitter, Georges is a date night must.

Located at 1250 Prospect St. in La Jolla. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Places to Stay with Kids

How to enjoy the hotel del Coronado for kids, S'mores for Luxe Moms, Things to do in Coronado with kids,
The legendary Hotel del Coronado offers exceptional service to its overnight guests. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hotel del Coronado

As the beloved icon of Coronado Island, this Victorian red-roofed resort boasts century-old charm that meshes modern day luxury. Enjoy the best beach on Coronado with a book in a lounger or a bucket and a kite.

Located at 1500 Orange Ave.

Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Kids will enjoy the resort style pool and easy access to Silver Strand Beach. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Loews Coronado Bay Resort

About 15 miles from the San Diego International Airport on Coronado Island, the Loews Coronado Bay Resort sits on a 15-acre peninsula. The resort is surrounded by the San Diego Bay and the Silver Strand State Beach is across the street.

Located at 4000 Loews Coronado Bay Road.

With a resort style pool and a kids club, families love this resort. Shuttle service to the beach or downtown Coronado available.

Kona Kai Resort. where to go in San Diego with kids.
Kona Kai Resort offers another family friendly resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kona Kai Resort

Enjoy the secluded location at the tip of Shelter Island though 15 minutes from the Downtown or the airport. With a private beach and resort style pool, kids can enjoy the best of both. Since the beach overlooks the marina, no water play at the beach.

Located at 1551 Shelter Island Dr.

Read More

What to do on Shelter Island 

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Explore San Diego with over 30 places to discover all the best food, parks, museums and more. With great weather year-round, plan your next getaway to Southern California. What to do in San Diego | Top Places to visit in San Diego | Where to go in San Diego #SanDiego #California

Explore San Diego with over 30 places to discover all the best food, parks, museums and more. With great weather year-round, plan your next getaway to Southern California. What to do in San Diego | Top Places to visit in San Diego | Where to go in San Diego #SanDiego #California

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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