Big City Family Fun

20+ Places to Discover 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

Where to go in San Diego with Kids

San Diego offers families lots of family fun with beaches, parks and museums to discover in Southern California. I’ve pulled together a list 20+ places of where to go in San Diego with kids.

Cabrillo National Monument
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Whale Overlook
Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools
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
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
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

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.

Learn about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to land on the West Coast in 1542. Walk through the Age of Exploration display to learn about the journey. Don’t miss the statue of Juan Cabrillo outside and earn a Junior Ranger badge.

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 stop by the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, restored to its 1880s appearance. Learn the role of lighthouses along the West Coast. Walk through the house too see the life of the Light Keepers and their families.

Next head to the Whale Overlook to savor the view. Or scan the Pacific for whales during their winter 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

Bring the water shoes and look up the low tide time. Cabrillo is one of the top places to tide pool in San Diego.

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.

Since Cabrillo National Monument doesn’t sell food, pack a picnic to enjoy overlooking to the water.

Cabrillo National Monument is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 per vehicle or use an annual pass.

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

Free Parking available though arrive early in the day for the best selection.

Don’t forget the San Diego Zoo.

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

2920 Zoo Dr.

Tour the zoo that pioneered the open air habitats with a collection of 3,700 rare and endangered specimens of over 600 different species of animals. Start with the 35-minute guided bus tour, then walk around the 100-acre facility.

See the Giant Panda, the Koalas and the Tasmanian Devil during your visit. Take a ride on the Skyfari Gondola for amazing views above the zoo.

 

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

3146 Mission Blvd.

With free parking and free admission, spend at least an hour walking through the retro amusement park and arcade. It’s got all the standards, pulled salt water taffy, a roller coaster, shooting arcade along with carnival eats.

Mission Beach

Mission Blvd and Venture Place

The quintessential SoCal beach experience. Rent an umbrella, a beach chair or a cruiser and watch the sun crawl to the horizon.

S'mores on the beach. Where to go in San Diego with kids.
Visit Coronado Beach and arrange for Hotel del Coronado to make s’mores on the beach. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Coronado Beach

919 Ocean Blvd.

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 or arrange a special treat. Hotel del Coronado will arrange s’mores at the beach for your family.

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

Silver Strand State Beach

5000 Highway 75

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.

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

910 N. Harbor Dr.

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.

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

55 Tuna Lane

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

Waterfront Park

1600 Pacific Highway

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.

Gaslamp Quarter

Though known for its nightlife, the Gaslamp offers families a solid choice for restaurants. Walk though the district and peruse the menus posted outside each restaurant to find a perfect place for the family.

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

4002 Wallace St.

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.

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

1050 Kettner Blvd.

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 building also houses the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

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 $4.75 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

Loma Bonita. Where to go in San Diego with Kids.
Share a plate of tacos at Loma Bonita. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Loma Bonita—near Cabrillo National Monument

1155 Scott St.

A funky place for tacos with outdoor seating. Authentic SoCal Mexican food that attracts a local crowd.

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

4105 Taylor St.

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.

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

Carnita’s Snack Shack—next to the Broadway Pier

1004 N. Harbor Dr.

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.

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.

Beach House Grill—next to Belmont Park

3125 Ocean Front Walk.

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.

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.

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

1500 Orange Ave.

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.

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

4000 Loews Coronado Bay Road

Located 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.

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

1551 Shelter Island Dr.

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.

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What to do on Shelter Island 

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Explore San Diego with 20+ places to discover all the best food, parks, museums and more. Use this guide to plan your next getaway to Southern California. #SanDiego #SoCal #California What to do in San Diego | Top Places to visit in San Diego | Where to go in San Diego

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