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100+ Fun Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

100+ Fun Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

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Fun, Food and Sun, San Diego has so many things to do for families! From theme parks to beaches, museums and historic sites, there are a variety of activities for any age. San Diego is a great tourist destination, but also a great place to explore if you’re a local! Many attractions have programs and classes for residents.

[Be sure to use our filters above if you’re looking for a specific location, age group or type of activity]

If you’re looking for even more ideas, check out this post: 100+ Things To Do in San Diego

For out of towners visiting multiple attractions its worth considering a San Diego Go Card

The New Children’s Museum

The New Children’s Museum downtown has three levels dedicated to playing and art. The museum uses hands-on and interactive exhibits to engage children and encourage creativity, confidence, socialization, and collaboration. All art installations are inspired by children and have been constructed with them in mind. From playhouses to giant food sculptures, there is always something to run and jump on. The museum is also very interactive, around every corner you can find art areas for creating, blocks for engineering and objects for making. Outside, sculpt with clay or paint a giant metal object, sinks are nearby in case things get messy! The New Children’s Museum also has community events, workshops, classes, school groups, birthday parties and camps.

Friday Toddler Time

Included with Admission
Friday, 10am
Friday Toddler Time is a special time for the littles that supports healthy bodies and minds with music, language, and social play. Friday themes alternate between Storytime, Make Friends, and Finger Painting. Storytimes are fun and engaging and typically include props, puppets or anything that helps bring the story to life. Make Friends encourages social play through music, song, and dance. Finger Painting is just as it sounds, a fun time to make art with your hands (and parents don’t have to clean up!).

Little Learners Club

18 months – 3 years
Little Learners Club is a 4-week enrichment class that nurtures children’s bodies, minds, and spirits. Sensory play helps build young kids minds, which leads to better learning throughout their lives. Little Learners Club explores music, fitness, and art.

San Diego Zoo

Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is home to over 3,700 animals and has more than 700,000 exotic plants. The zoo is known around the world and is often the number one destination for visitors. The zoo is massive, on 100-Acres it takes a whole day to see everything. Luckily there are buses, tours, and a Skyride to help navigate through Rainforests, African savannahs, and the Arctic.  There are many play areas in the Zoo and kids will love finding something new around every corner. For residents, the zoo also offers several programs for children of all ages, which also includes camps, internships, and special birthday parties.

Kinder Nights

Ages 3-6 years old
6pm-7:30pm
Young kids can enjoy learning about animals during Kinder Nights. The evening program takes kids on an animal adventure and includes animal interactions. The featured animal changes based on date. All sessions also include a snack.

Kinder Tots

Ages 18 months-3 years old
8:30am-9:30am
Kinder Tots teaches little kids animal facts and green practices in a fun environment. The Zoo’s early childhood education specialists used themed sessions to connect with the children. Children will use music, colors, the alphabet and more while learning about different species.

Kids Wild Night Out

Grades K-5 Select
Saturdays: 6pm-10pm
$37/person
The ultimate parents night out! Drop off your kids for an evening with Dr. Zoolittle and friends. Kids will have a blast while they meet animals, play games and make crafts. A snack and souvenir is included, but kids should eat dinner before they go. Themes for Wild Night Out change monthly, to make the event fun each time.

Zoo Corps

Ages 13-17 years old
Zoo Corps is a great program for teens that are interested in animals, conservation, and education. Throughout the zoo, there are Discovery Stations that have facts, literature, games, and props to teach guests about the animals. Zoo Corps gives teens the opportunity to work with members at these Discovery Zones while practicing public speaking and guest interaction. Interested teens will have to attend an informational meeting, submit an application, and interview for the position. With only two sessions offered per year, Zoo Corps is a popular program.

Zoo InternQuest

High School Junior and Seniors
For over 50 years the San Diego Zoo has been offering internships to high school juniors and seniors. This highly coveted program is 7 weeks long and takes the teens behind the scenes at the zoo, the Safari Park or the International Institute for Conservation Research. This internship is a great way to explore fields of veterinary medicine, zoology, botany and wildlife conservation. Interns share their journey on the Zoo Blog through essays and photos.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

fun things to do in san diego with kids san diego zoo safari park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an unexpected wonder in North County San Diego. Acres of habitats and savannahs are hidden amongst the hills. The Safari Park is massive, which means that even on busy days you don’t feel crowded. The Park takes you on a journey through Bamboo Forests, Jungles, and the Savannah. In each area, kids will find Play Structures, on hot days kids can even cool off on Splash Pads. The Safari Park offers various extras that you can add to your day. Be sure to research the age requirements before you get there. The Park also has an overnight experience, offers camps and school programs.

Roar and Snore

For the family that wants a little something extra, you can actually stay at the Safari Park overnight. That’s right, Roar and Snore allows you an after hour look at all the animals. Sleepovers include camp activities, guided walks, campfires, dinner, snacks, and breakfast. The price is a bit extravagant, but the experience will provide memories for a lifetime!

Summer Camps

The Safari Park has half day and full day camps available for kids ages 2 years up to Seniors in High School. The camps are educational, interactive and help in the unique setting of the park.

Conservation Corps

For High School students the Safari Park offers a program that involves the students in guest education. This 5-week program only runs two times a year and must be applied for. The program teaches public speaking, conservation methods, and science.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld is an aquarium, a theme park, a marine mammal park and more. In recent years SeaWorld has become a polarizing topic. To combat that, they have switched their theme to conservation. They have also added rides and attractions without animals to cater to families. SeaWorld offers several deals on Admission Prices, check them out here.

Marine Life

SeaWorld is exactly that, a portal into the fascinating world inside the sea. Seaworld has informative and interactive animal encounters. There are touch pool and tide pools, aquariums with octopus and spider crabs, and encounters with sharks, penguins, and turtles. Larger animals include walrus, beluga whales, dolphins and of course, orcas. The Orca Encounter is no longer a “show”, but highlights natural behaviors and teaches about orcas in the wild.

Rides and Attractions

SeaWorld has thrill rides for all ages. Large roller coasters include the Manta, Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids. Smaller kids can enjoy rides at the Sesame Street Bay of Play. Children of any age can enjoy the Skyride and the Skytower. For busy days a Quick Queue Pass is available to skip long lines. Please check height requirements prior to your visit.

Shows

SeaWorld has a variety of shows during the day. There are animal-based shows, such as the Sea Lion, Dolphin, and Orca Shows.  There is also a show filled with trained rescue animals, called Pets Rule. SeaWorld revolves themed shows based on holidays throughout the year. On certain holidays, SeaWorld also features fireworks.

Education

SeaWorld offers a variety of educational camps, sleepovers and school programs during the year.

Legoland California Resort

Anyone who has kids knows that Legos are essential. The little plastic bricks open up a world of imagination. Lucky for us, North County is home to Legoland California Resort. North County’s only theme park, Legoland is not only great for Lego enthusiasts, but for anyone with kids, or who are kids at heart!

Aimed at children 2-12, locals can enjoy a membership to visit the aquarium, theme park all year round. The water park opens in March. Legoland also several special events during the year including Star Wars Days, and New Year’s Eve for kids. Check out Your North County’s Complete Legoland Guide for everything you need to know about the park.

Balboa Park

things to do in san diego with kids

Balboa Park is a National Historic Landmark. The park was established in 1868 and has evolved over the last 150 years, into what it is today. Balboa is home to great gardens, museums, cultural centers, live performances, and the San Diego Zoo.

The park has become a cultural hub and hosts many community events and cultural festivals annually. With many activities geared for children, the park is an ideal place to spend the day. Make sure to explore beyond the main courtyard of museums to find playgrounds, a train, and carousel.

There are several ways to enjoy Balboa at discounted prices. Resident discounts, Explorer Passes, and Kids Free October are only some of the ways to save.

Residents Free Days

On Tuesdays Balboa Park offers San Diego County residents free admission to the Museums (please see calendar for dates, certain exhibits may not be included).

Balboa Park Explorer Pass

The Explorer Pass allows visitors to explore Balboa museums in an affordable way.  With an Explorer Pass visitors can customize their savings and choose between Annual, Multi-Day and Single Day options.

Macy’s Museum Month

Historically, February is the slowest month for local museums. To change that, Macy’s Department Stores and San Diego County Museums have joined together and created Macy’s Museum Month. During the month visitors can explore local museums and gardens at a fraction of the cost. 

Kids Free in October 

A gift to residents, Kids Free in October offers Free admissions throughout the county to encourage locals to explore what makes the city great. 


A cultural hub, Balboa is also home to many Youth Performance Groups. The Park supports dance, theater, and music for the next generation.

San Diego Civic Youth Ballet

Ages 4 and Up
Balboa has supported the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet for over 70 years. The SDCYB teaches classes for children at the Casa del Prado and also has an outreach program that brings ballet to over 600 students in public schools. SDCYB instills a love of dance and performance. The school has three full-length stage productions throughout the year and also performs during special events. The SDCYB also has camps, intensives, and offers discounted performances for school groups and scout groups.

San Diego Junior Theater

Ages 3-18
The San Diego Youth Theater is the longest running youth theater company in the United States. Established in 1948, the theater offers a variety of community and educational programs. Classes include drama, voice, dance, and theater for kids ages 3-18. The theater also hosts a variety of youth productions throughout the year. The San Diego Junior Theater also offers camps.  

San Diego Youth Symphony

Ages 8-25
Serving over 600 students annually, the San Diego Youth Symphony is one of the oldest youth symphonies in the United States. The symphony offers a variety of programs that inspire, educate, and showcase talent. Great for any level of musician, the Symphony instills a love of music at an early age.

Birch Aquarium

The Birch Aquarium in La Jolla is home to more than 5,000 types of sea life and highlights research done at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. The Birch Aquarium has something for every age. The habitats are beautiful to look at, there is a giant kelp forest and a bioluminescent Infinity Cube.

Younger visitors will not only enjoy the colorful marine life but get to touch starfish in the Tide Pools and explore the concept of energy in an outdoor interactive play area. Throughout the year the Aquarium offers several special events for children. Birch is also available for school groups, camps, scout groups and birthday parties.

SEA Days

Third Saturday of each month.
11am-3pm
Included in the price of admission.
SEA stands for Science, Exploration, and Adventure. Once a month, Birch invites guests to meet researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Every month the scientists will share information on different topics and is a great way for older kids to meet science professionals.

Spring Eggstravaganza

Included in the price of admission.
The Birch Aquarium celebrates spring with fun and interactive activities. Kids get to explore animal eggs, create crafts and participate in an underwater egg hunt. The event also features a scavenger hunt, free face painting, and a Scuba Bunny Dive Show.

Haunted Aquarium

October 20-216pm-9pm
Tickets: $20 (discounted pre-purchase tickets available online)
At the end of October Birch becomes a spooky haunted aquarium. Families will have a blast learning about the ocean with a creepy theme. Kids will get to make slime, build crafts, enjoy storytime, and dance to live music. The Haunted Aquarium encourages family-friendly costumes and awards prizes! The event also includes community organizations that set up their own games.

SEAs N’ Greetings

Included in the price of admission.
During the month of December, the aquarium celebrates the holidays with lots of themed fun. The aquarium is transformed into a winter wonderland, and Santa even makes an appearance in Scuba gear. The month features themed activities, crafts, a scavenger hunt and more. On the weekends SEAs N’ Greetings also features live music.

  • The Birch Aquarium
  • Hours: Daily: 9am-5pm (Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)
  • Tickets: $18.50/Adult; $14/Child (3-17 years); $15.50/Senior (60+)
  • 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

The San Diego Botanic Garden

The only way to describe the Botanic Garden in Encinitas is MAGICAL. You can explore the grounds time and time again and still find new surprises and hidden nooks.  With picnic tables and benches throughout the grounds, the garden is a great place to spend the day. The Garden also hosts many family-friendly events throughout the year. Not just for exploring, The Botanic Gardens has two children’s areas: The Seeds of Wonder and The Hamilton Children’s Garden.

The Seeds of Wonder is located to the south of the main parking lot and is geared towards younger children. The area has small trails to explore with sculptures and hands-on activities. There is also a small playhouse with books and a play kitchen, a train set that moves with buttons and a water play area. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 10am, the Seeds of Wonder hosts various activities for kids under 6 years old. These activities include storytimes, songs, arts and crafts, plant potting and train lessons! The Seeds of Wonder Area is also available for birthday parties.

The Hamilton Children’s Garden is located at the Northeast corner of the Garden. It is a bit of a walk from the main parking area (with one big hill), so if you have smaller children, a stroller or wagon is recommended. The Children’s Garden is a maze with a new activity around every corner, and in the center is a giant tree house! You will also find a musical garden, a vegetable garden (where you can plant and take home a succulent), a water play stream, an art area and more.

  • San Diego Botanic Garden
  • Daily: 9am-5pm
  • Admission: $14 /Adult; $10 Senior/Student/Active Military; $8 Children Ages 3-12

San Diego Children’s Museum

The San Diego Children’s Museum is a North County must for kids under 10. The exhibits focus on science, culture, and art, and inspire children to learn through hands-on exploration, imagination, and experimentation. The museum’s colorful and inviting space is split into several different areas.

An Experimentation section has interactive activities based on science, math, and engineering. The Exploration area uses a local market, dress up area and books to feature various cultures (rotating). Imagination is encouraged on the stage which has musical instruments, puppet shows, and dress-up areas. Outside, the Discovery Zone has gardens, Lego fountains, chickens, sandboxes and bubbles!

Not only does the Discovery Museum have full-time exhibits. There are many special daily activities to enjoy as well. Weekly self-guided classroom activities are provided based on the featured culture. At 11am and 2pm daily, staff members ring the bell and gather kids into the Book Nook (complete with bean bags), for Storytime. At 10am and 3pm, the Outdoor Art Studio Workshop hosts 30-minute art projects (theme changes monthly). The Children’s Discovery Garden has exploration times at 10:30am and 3:30pm, where activities include watering plants, looking for bugs and learning about compost. AT 11:30am and 2:30pm kids can meet the chickens, they can also feed, pet and learn how to care for the chickens.

Besides the daily activities, the Museum hosts a bevy of Special Events and Programs. These include a KPBS day, Farm Animal Days, and even a Sensory Friendly Day. The museum is also available for camps, scout programs, and birthday parties.

Queen Califa’s Magical Circle

Queen Califa’s Magical Circle is a special and enchanted garden, filled with brightly colored mosaic sculptures, inspired by California’s mythical and historical past. Hidden within Kit Carson Park, finding the garden is part of the fun. Designed by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, the mosaic garden features nine large-scale sculptures, a maze entryway and is encircled by a circular snake wall. Weather permitting, Queen Califa’s Magical Circle is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to Noon. If you can’t make it on a weekday, the Circle is also open on the second Saturday of each month from 9am to 2pm.

The Cave Store

La Jolla has seven naturally-carved sea caves. Popular with kayakers, most of the caves can only be accessed by water. The Sunny Jim Cave is the exception. The Cave Store is a short walk from La Jolla Cove. An eclectic shop, the store has clothing, jewelry and more. The store also has a man-made cave entrance.

A stairway in the ground may seem to lead to a lower level, but in fact, it’s a  tunnel to the Sunny Jim Cave. The stairs are steep and plentiful, which may be difficult for younger children. I suggest 5 and older. Also beware, the stairs get slippery towards the bottom. The Sunny Jim Cave is a fun and unique family activity. Afterwards, families can follow the trail west of the parking lot to enjoy the scenic sandstone cliffs.

Ellen Browning Scripps Park

fun free things to do in san diego with kids

Ellen Browning Scripps Park is one of the most popular parks in Southern California. Right on the water, the park is always buzzing with people. It’s beautiful location also makes it very popular for weddings and photographers. For kids, the park is a great place to have a picnic when exploring nearby La Jolla sights. The park even has a special tree that inspired Dr. Seuss’s Lorax Trees. Just north of the park is La Jolla Cove. Just south is the Children’s Pool, which is filled with wildlife.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a small beach just north of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. The Cove is part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve which preserves the area and its inhabitants. On calm days the water visibility can exceed 30 feet, which makes the area popular for scuba divers and snorkelers. There is always a lifeguard on duty for swimmers and surfers. Picturesque, this beach is a local favorite.

free things to do in san diego with kids

The Children’s Pool

From the park, you can follow the sidewalk south to the Children’s Pool. Originally the Children’s Pool was meant to be a protected swimming area, but it has since become a favorite resting spot for harbor seals. Seals can be found at the Pool year round. Beach access is restricted during Harbor Seal Pupping Season, December 15-May 15. At this time you can still watch the seals from above.

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the largest operating railroad museum in the world. The 28,000 square foot space is home to four large scale model layouts built by different clubs. The layouts celebrate the history of railroads in the Southwest and display many California railroad models. The museum also celebrates the history of model railroading, and has part of the original model railroad that was built for the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935.

For kids the Museum has a toy train gallery on display. The interactive Lionel Layout is colorful and has state-of-the-art theater lighting. Kids will love to look at the details of the display as the trains circle the track. The Model Railroad Museum also has a kids corner that features many train-themed books. On Fridays from 10am-11am Mac’s Kids Corner hosts a storytime.

The San Diego Railroad Museum is also offers Summer Camps and is available for school groups and birthday parties.

  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum

  • Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 10am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday: 11am-5pm; Closed Mondays

    (open on Holiday Mondays 11am-4pm), Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

  • Admission: $11/Adult, $9/Senior (65+), $8 (Military with ID), $6/Students (with ID),

    $5/Children (6-14 years old); Children Under 5 years old are free.

  • Residents Free: First Tuesday of the month (with ID)

  • 1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

The San Diego Museum of Man

The San Diego Museum of Man has exhibits that are focused on human history and culture. The museum is filled with unique hands-on displays that are educational and fun. The Museum of Man also has guided tours of the iconic California Tower. Learn the history of Balboa while on the 8-story climb and be rewarded with 360º views of San Diego.

The Museum of Man also has a kid-specific exhibit called Adventure Kids in Egypt. The interactive area transforms children into archaeologists, scientists, and historians, as they explore through puzzles, crafts, and games. The Museum of man is also available for school groups and offers camps.

The Mingei International Museum

The Mingei International Museum explores the art of the world through folk art, crafts and design from all eras and cultures. The exhibits are vibrant and colorful. Kids will especially love the Play! Collection which features toys from differents regions and time periods.

Once a month the Mingei Museum hosts Family Sunday. On these days kids can explore the museum with an interactive treasure map. The day also offers docent tours, hand-on crafts and take home prizes! Family Sundays are $5 per family.

  • Mingei International Museum

  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm (Closed Thanksgiving,Christmas and New Year’s

    Day)

  • Admission: $10/Adult, $7/Senior (62+), $7/Military & Students (with ID), $7/Youth (6-17

    years old); Children Under 5 years old are free.

  • Residents Free: Third Tuesday of the month (with ID).

  • 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater has been part of Balboa since the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935. The physical Theater was founded in 1948 and is the longest running puppet theater in the United States. Part of Balboa’s history, the Theater still performs for thousands of guests each year.

The Puppet Theater is also available for birthday parties.The theater has 200 seats and performs multiple shows throughout the week. The performances are rotated often, and typically feature large format puppets. Check the schedule for more information.

  • The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • Winter Showtimes (Labor Day-Memorial Day): Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 10am and 11:30am; Saturday and Sunday: 11am, 1pm and 2:30pm
  • Summer Showtimes (Memorial Day-Labor Day): Wednesday-Sunday: 11am, 1pm, 2:30pm
  • Admission: $5/General, $4 Seniors and Military, Children 2 and Under are free.
  • Residents Free: Third Tuesday of the month (with ID).
  • 2130 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101

The San Diego Air and Space Museum

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, the San Diego Air and Space Museum houses a collection of aircraft and spacecraft from all over the world. The collection includes a working replica of Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis, the actual Apollo 9 Command Module and the only GPS satellite on display in the world.

The museum celebrates the history of flight from the first hot air balloon through space exploration. The San Diego Air and Space Museum inspires the next generation through a variety of programs, competitions, and workshops held throughout the year. The museum is also available for summer camps, school groups, and birthday parties.

The Kid’s Aviation Action Hanger

The museum has a special play area just for kids. The Kid’s Aviation Action Hanger features interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. Younger kids can enjoy magnetic toys and pedal planes. Older children can explore a simulated moon surface or try flying in a real wind tunnel. The area actually has two flight simulators and a large F-104 Starfighter cockpit, that’s perfect for pictures! The Kids Hanger is closed for maintenance on Resident Free Tuesdays.

Little Engineers Program

3-5 years old
Wednesday: 9am-10am
$75/4-week session
For preschoolers, the museum offers a Little Engineers Program. The hands-on program prepares kids for school by encouraging observation, communication, and problem-solving. Project-based, Little Engineers is a fun and creative way to introduce kids to science and engineering.

  • San Diego Air and Space Museum
  • Hours: Daily: 10am-4:30pm (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
  • Admission: $19.75/Adults (12 years and over), $16.95/Senior, Student & Retired Military, $10.75/Youth (3-11 years old), Free/Children 2 and Under, Active Duty Military
  • Residents Free: The 4th Tuesday of the month (except December). Must Show ID, certain exhibits not included.
  • 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101

The WorldBeat Cultural Center

The WorldBeat Cultural Center is a multicultural arts organization that celebrates cultures and traditions from all around the world. The center offers many classes for the community and holds events throughout the year. For kids, the center has a West African Drumming Workshop and a Children’s Peace Garden.

West African Drumming

Toddler Class: 2pm-2:30pm; $8
6 months – 6 years: 3pm-3:30pm; $9
7 years and older: 2pm-4:15pm; $9
Master of Drums, Nana Yaw Asiedu, has played all over the world with musicians that include Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, and Taj Mahal. Asiedu has been teaching the art of drumming to children at the WorldBeat Cultural Center for over 14 years. Children are never too young to start learning the rhythm of the world!

EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden

A part of the WorldBeat Cultural Center, the EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden is dedicated to teaching urban kids the benefits of plants, nutrition, and urban farming. The garden was built in the memory of George Washington Carver and honors his groundbreaking contributions in Botany. The garden is earth-friendly, a certified wildlife habitat, and a certified Monarch Waystation. The majority of the plants are edible while others are used to attract pollinators. With the help of local Kumeyaay tribal members, a portion of the garden is terraced and grows indigenous plants and vegetables following Kumeyaay agricultural traditions.  On Sundays, the Children’s Peace Garden offers classes to educate the public about sustainable urban gardening and about the role plants play in society.  The garden is also available to schools, groups, and families by appointment.

The Fleet Science Center

The Fleet Science Center is a great place to spend with children of all ages. The center has over 100 science exhibits and an IMAX theater. Visiting exhibitions rotate throughout the year and are always interactive and immersive. For kids 5 and under, the center has a special exhibit called Kid City. Kid City is colorful and is filled with hands-on activities. There is even an area just for crawlers. Fleet Science Center offers various programs for the community that instill a love of science at an early age. Fleet also hosts camps, scout badge programs, school groups and is available for birthday parties.

Young Scientists

Ages 3-5 years
Thursday, Saturday: 9am, Sunday: 9am and 11am $8
5/Four class session

Young Scientists encourages kids 3-5 to explore in an informal and fun environment. 4-class sessions focus on different aspects of science. Kids will love to learn about the ocean, music, machines and more with hands-on activities.

Weekend Science Clubs

Students in grades 5-8
The second weekend of the month
$15/class
The second weekend of each month Fleet hosts clubs for middle school kids. Saturdays are for girls only and meet from 12pm-2pm. Sundays are co-ed and meet from 1pm-3pm. Both clubs allow the kids to explore various scientific fields through fun hands-on activities.

Junior Science Club

Students in grades 1-4
Last Saturday of the month: 11am-12:30pm
$15/class
The Junior Science Club is for kids in elementary school. The club meets once a month and explores science through hands-on activities. Each month kids will meet local scientists and explore an array of fields including chemistry, robotics, physics, biology and more!

Scout Sleepovers

Girl and Boy Scout Groups
The Fleet Science Center has a unique program for Girl Scout Groups and Boy Scout Groups of all ages. Throughout the year the Science Center invites scout groups for sleepovers. The Scouts get to explore the museum, watch an IMAX movie, participate in educational workshops, and even get to do a scavenger hunt in the center. Sleepovers also include music, dancing, and a light continental breakfast. The Fleet Science Center also has Badge Workshops for scouts of all ages.

The San Diego Natural History Museum

The San Diego Natural History Museum has 5 stories of interactive exhibitions that the whole family will enjoy. The museum focuses on the evolution of the natural world with an emphasis on the southern California and Baja California regions. Kids will love the dinosaur fossils, the skull exhibit, and a giant screen theater. The museum also hosts special days for families, has school programs and camps.

Nature and Me Storytime

Ages 1-5 years old
Second Thursday of every month
Included with Price of Admission
Younger attendees can enjoy storytime and explore an exhibit during Nature and Me Storytime.

ASD Mornings

Second Sunday of every month
9am
The second Saturday of every month the Natural History Museum opens its doors early for the Autism Community. The quieter and less crowded hour allows adults and children on the spectrum time to explore the museum at their own pace. The theater also shows a private screening of Ocean Oasis on the giant screen in a lit theater with lower volume. The museum also offers a “quiet room” during ASD mornings if visitors need a place to decompress and desensitize.  

Family Days

Once a month
11am-3pm
Included with Price of Admission
September through May theNat hosts Family Days once a month. From 11am-3pm, the museum encourages visitors to explore nature’s wonders through hands-on activities and take home crafts.

The Japanese Friendship Garden

things to do in san diego with kids balboa park

The Japanese Friendship Garden celebrates the bond between San Diego and its first sister city, Yokohama. Visited by over 100,000 people annually, the gardens are immersive and beautiful. They feature Japanese culture through landscaping, koi ponds, water features, and Sukiya-style architecture. A great community resource, the gardens have a variety of educational programs, artists, exhibits, and festivals.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Tickets: $12 Presale
Every Spring the garden celebrates the Japanese custom of Hanami, which is the appreciation of Cherry Blossom flowers. The garden bursts into a beautiful pink wonderland when the Cherry Trees bloom. The festival celebrates this glorious occasion with live performances, Japanese street food, vendors and a Children’s Corner.

Youth Taiko

Thursday: 4pm-5pm
$25/class, $200/10 weeks
The Japanese Friendship Garden has a unique music program just for kids. Serious students of any skill level can learn the beautiful art of Taiko. The garden is forming middle school and high school Taiko ensembles to perform at festivals and private events. Children will not only learn the art of Taiko, but will also learn Japanese etiquette, vocabulary, focus, and camaraderie. The team meets Thursdays from 4pm-5pm.

  • The Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10am-7pm; Special Exhibit Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:45am-4:45pm,
  • Admission (Garden-Only): $10/Adults; $8/Students,Seniors (65+), Active Military (must show ID), Children 6 and Under: Free
  • Admission (Garden & Special Exhibit): $15/Adults; $12.50/Students,Seniors (65+), Active Military (must show ID); Children 6 and Under: Free
  • Residents Free: Third Tuesday of the month (with ID).
  • 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101

Del Mar Fairgrounds

One of the most popular locations in North County is the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Well known for the County Fair and Horse Racing, the Fairgrounds go beyond that and provide family entertainment year round. Featured below are some of the most popular annual events, but make sure to see the calendar for other unique experiences.

San Diego Kids Expo

Every year in October and April, the Fairgrounds host the San Diego Kids Expo and Fair. The indoor Expo features 150 local and national vendors that have kid-specific products. Meet representatives from local sports teams, dance and art studios. Stages feature local talent all day. Outdoors, the Fair is set up with inflatables, a zip line, human hamster balls and much more! The Kids Expo is a great way to find local classes, clubs and kids services.

San Dieguito Cotillion

Since 1955, the San Dieguito Cotillion has been teaching children self-confidence and poise. With programs throughout the year, kids in 5th-12th grade learn ballroom dancing, manners, and social etiquette. All classes are held at the fairgrounds and themed dances are hosted throughout the year.

San Diego County Fair

Every June the Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts one of the largest County Fairs in America. The San Diego County Fair is so much more than fried foods, carnival rides, and livestock. Each year the fair showcases children in many ways. From performances to art contests, 4-H groups, and cooking, the fair has always included local youth. The rides and musical groups are a big draw, but make sure to spend some time looking through the exhibits and see how amazingly talented our kids are.

Family Fun At the Racetrack

The Del Mar Horse Races have been a San Diego tradition since the 1930’s. Every summer people flock to the races for the fun, thrill, and excitement. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has made the experience family-friendly.

Camp Del Mar

Every race day the Thoroughbred Club offers Camp Del Mar. Kids aged 5-12 can enjoy mini golf, crafts, activities, lunch, and snacks while their parents are at the races. For only $24/day, kids can have as much fun as mom and dad.

Family Weekends

On the weekends, kids get in free! While parents enjoy the races, the kids own the infield. Free activities include pony rides, bounce houses, face painters, caricature artists, entertainers and more.

The Scream Zone

Some people love to be scared. If you have older kids that love horror, the Scream Zone is the place to be in October. The Scream Zone is San Diego County’s largest, goriest and scariest haunted experience. The Zone features three main haunting areas: the House of Horror, the KarnEvil, and the Haunted Hayride. In the House of Horror, there is room after room of visual and visceral experiences, clowns will scare you until you don’t know which way to go in the darkness! The Haunted Hayride takes you on a journey filled with zombies, clowns, and other wicked characters. KarnEvil incorporates everything scary from freak shows and carnivals and amplifies them until visitors are terrified. Parents are welcome onto the grounds free of charge if they don’t want to participate in any of the horrors.

Cabrillo National Monument

fun things to do in san diego with kids cabrillo national monument

The Cabrillo National monument is located on the southern tip of Point Loma. Established in 1913, the historical grounds commemorates Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo was a Spanish explorer and was the first European to set foot on what is now the west coast of the United States. The Cabrillo National Monument has a variety of activities including hiking, tide pooling, a lighthouse, and whale watching. The park also has a Scout Badge Program available for Boys and Girls Scout Groups.

Become a Junior Ranger

The Junior Program is a fun way for kids to learn about the park. Children can pick up the free Just For Kids newspaper to use as an informative guide during their visit. After they have finished, they return to the Visitor Center and talk about what they learned. Park Rangers will issue an official badge and have them recite an oath.

Cabrillo Festival

Annually at the end of September.
The Cabrillo Festival is a fun family event that celebrates history and culture. The festival begins with the reenactment of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s first step on the sand. The festival includes live performance, educational activities, cultural demonstrations, food, and artisans. Musical and dance performances highlight our diverse history and highlight traditional Native American, Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican cultures. During the festival, the Kumeyaay tribe also demonstrates traditions such as basket weaving.

The USS Midway Museum

Approximately 200,000 sailors served aboard the USS Midway during its service almost 50-year service. Now a museum, a visit to the USS Midway is educational and awe-inspiring. The self-guided tour traverses the whole ship, including sleeping quarters, the bridge, the engine room, the galley and the brig. Above deck, there are many different types of aircraft, open cockpits to explore and flight simulators.

The Midway offers many educational programs, including overnight adventures. Little Skippers (Ages 4-7), Live It and Learn It (Ages 8-18), and Specialty Overnights are offered a few times a year. During these overnights, participants get to explore the flight deck under the stars, sleep where enlisted crew members slept, eat in the galley, and learn about the ship through games and activities.
The Midway also has programs specifically for scout groups. Including a Merit Badge Program for Boy Scouts and a program in which Girl Scouts can earn their wings.

  • The USS Midway Museum
  • Daily 10am-5pm (last admission at 4pm), Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Online Prices: $21/Adult, $18/Senior; $15/Student; $8/Youth, Retired Military (with ID), Free/Children (5 years and under), Active Duty Military, Reservists, Law Enforcement and Firefighters (all with valid ID); Walk-Up Prices: Add $2 per ticket
  • 910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

Living Coast Discovery Center

The Living Coast Discovery Center educates children about local wildlife, environmental protection, and coastal conservation. The center is quaint and easy for younger children to navigate. The feeding demonstrations are informative and the view is spectacular. Children can see sea turtles, rays, and spiny lobsters. There are also feathered friends such as owls and falcons. Living Coast is great for an afternoon picnic and also has hiking trails that lead to the beach. Living Coast offers several programs and is available for scout groups, camps, and birthday parties.

Keeper 101

Teens
For teens interested in animals, Keeper 101 is a great weekend experience. The two-day behind the scenes look gives teens a rare opportunity to see what it takes to care for animals. They will shadow Animal Care Staff and learn how to feed the birds, clean enclosures, and get to handle some of the animal ambassadors. Offered various times of the year, Living Coast keeps the classes small for a personalized experience.

Overnight Adventures

Families (Kids 5+)
5:45pm-9:30am $45/person
For families, Living Coast offers a spooky overnight adventure in October. The night includes spooky animal encounters, a treasure hunt, night hiking through the marsh and creepy snacks. After a night of fun activities, families relax with a movie for their indoor campout. Continental breakfast is served in the morning.

Overnight Adventures for Scout Groups

5:15pm-9:30am
$48/child (15-19 children, includes 4 adult admissions, additional adults are $25 each)
Scout Groups are welcome for Overnight Adventures year round. There are three themed adventures to choose from and all include activities, education, crafts and animal encounters. The evening includes pizza, salad, snacks, and fruit. After the activities have ended, campers will watch a movie and sleep indoors. The following morning will feature continental breakfast.

Coronado Beach

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Coronado Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in San Diego County. The beach is 1.5 miles long and is popular with families, surfers, and sunbathers. The sand and water of Coronado beach glimmer with little specs of Mica. This shine adds to the magic.

The beach offers a lot, a dog park, fire rings, restrooms, tidepools, restrooms, fishing and lifeguards on duty. The beach also backs against the famous Hotel del Coronado, which is an amazing place to stay if you want to enjoy the beach for multiple days.

Aquatica by SeaWorld

Open May-October, Aquatica by Seaworld is a family-fun waterpark. Great for the whole family Aquatica has slides, rides, a wave pool and more. Families can lounge in many of the chairs surrounding the attractions or upgrade to a Cabana for the day. On popular days, long lines can be avoided by buying a Quick Queue Pass. Proper swimwear is required on slides (no cotton or vinyl shorts allowed). Be sure to check height requirements, dress codes and any extra features out before you go.

Aquatica has things to do for all ages. Older kids will love slides like the HooRoo Run that plunges 80’ into the water. Tassie’s Twister takes a raft of multiple people down a 75’ drop before spinning into a six-story funnel. Younger kids will have fun at Walkabout Waters, a four-story water-filled play structure. Or on Loggerhead Lane, the park’s lazy river. The littlest guests have their own protected area called the Slippity Dippity. There they will find shallow waters and small slides. Aquatica also has Flamingos and Freshwater turtles onsite which are fun for the little ones to watch.

Aquatica also has a variety of dining and shopping options. To make things simpler, Aquatica offers a cashless wristband feature. The bands are linked to your credit card so you don’t have to carry any valuable around all day.

Seaport Village

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Seaport Village is a collection of shops and restaurants all along the bay. A nice place to enjoy an afternoon stroll, Seaport Village has some fun stuff to do for kids.  On the top of the list is the historic indoor carousel built in 1895. $3 to ride, the carousel is faster than some and has some beautifully painted horses and animals. Near the carousel, you’ll find henna artists, balloon artists, caricature artists and ice cream shops.

Seaport Village also has many family-friendly shops. There are souvenir and clothing shops, as well as specialized shops. Families will enjoy The Magic Shop, which holds all things magic for the beginner to the experienced magician. Apple Box is a different kind of toy store that specializes in toys made of wood and can personalize almost anything in the store. Kite Flite, sells many levels of colorful kites and fun outdoor play toys. After visiting Seaport, make sure to stroll around the Embarcadero Marina Park North. The park is located on a peninsula that juts into the bay and is filled with grassy areas and beautiful Coral trees.

Seaport also hosts several Special Events during the year. Events include a Busker Festival, a pirate-themed Landlubber Day and Holiday Events.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego

The Maritime Museum is a collection of ships that educate the public about the history and science of the sea. The historic vessels include sailing ships, steam-powered boats, and submarines. The Maritime Museum also has several nautical exhibits, including the history of chart navigation, the age of exploration, and the steam age. Included with admission is the Star of India.

Constructed in 1863, the Star of India is the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Built out of iron, the Star of India has circumnavigated the world 21 times. Another unique vessel is the B-39 Submarine. The B-39 is an authentic diesel-electric submarine from the Soviet Navy. Commissioned in 1967, the sub served active duty for more than 20 years, through the height of the Cold War. The Maritime Museum also hosts several special events throughout the year.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park is located just across from the Maritime Museum and has a view of the Star of India. The large public space has gardens, a children’s play area, and an interactive water feature. On hot days families congregate in the downtown oasis. Kids play on the modern play structures and splash in the public fountains. The park also has several picnic areas and restrooms available.

 

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

things to do in san diego with kids torrey pines

Located just south of Del Mar, the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the most picturesque locations in all San Diego. The 1,750-acre reserve has sandstone canyons, pine forests, and trails that overlook the ocean. Open during daytime hours, the trails are highly maintained and have various levels of difficulty.

The Visitor Center/Museum has free guided nature walks for the general public on weekends and holidays at 10am and 2pm. The natural reserve is a great place to hike, but to preserve the ecosystem, only water is allowed in. Please keep pets at home and save picnics for the beach below. Torrey Pines is also available for School Groups and Scout Programs.

California State Parks Junior Ranger Program

Ages 7-12
Not just for hiking, children ages 7-12 can also participate in the California State Parks Junior Ranger Program. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve hosts sessions throughout the year. Lessons may include crafts, hikes, and education about local plants and wildlife. The free program is supported by the Torrey Pines Docent Society and California State Parks.

Old Town San Diego

Founded in 1769, San Diego was the first European Settlement in California. On 230 acres, Old Town is rich with history and culture. Old Town is a great place for kids to learn about San Diego history and has lots of shops and restaurants throughout. Old Town also hosts a series of events during the year for the whole family.

Fiesta Old Town

May 4-6 Old
Town celebrates Mexican Heritage with a weekend packed with fun. The event includes live performances, mariachi groups, lowrider clubs, Lucha Libre matches, stagecoach rides and more. The Fiesta also has activities just for kids, such as a petting zoo, pony rides, and activities.
 

Stagecoach Days

Saturdays, July-August
Beginning with a parade to celebrate Independence Day, Stagecoach Days delve into the past and explore our heritage and traditions. On Saturdays in July and August, Old Town explores different themes with special demonstrations and historical artifacts. Learn how Blacksmiths forged, or watch Vaqueros ride and rope, Stagecoach Days transport you through time.

Dia De Los Muertos

End of October and Early November
Old Town celebrates Mexican culture with a Dia de Los Muertos celebration to remember those who are no longer with us. The festive weekend includes face painting, altars, public memorials, arts and crafts, piñatas and traditional dancers.

San Diego Derby Dolls

Roller Derby teaches players how to stay focused and be calm while under pressure. The San Diego Derby Dolls were established in 2005 and represent the San Diego Community with integrity. Roller Derby promotes athleticism and community. For young girls, the Derby Dolls offer two Junior teams, the Juvenile Dollinquents and the Baby Dolls. Recruitment and orientation for junior skaters is year round.

Juvenile Dollinquents

Ages 7-17
The San Diego Derby Dolls all-star junior travel team. This team plays flat-track and banked track derby. Team members are encouraged to play with athleticism and professionalism.

Baby Dolls

Ages 7-12
The junior B-team is for younger skaters who are just learning flat-track and banked derby.

Open Skate

All ages (skaters under 18 must have a legal guardian present)
Friday: 6pm-8pm; Sunday: 3pm-5pm
$5 Drop-In Fee
Open skate is co-ed and open to all ages. Open skate includes both banked and flat tracks, as well as the ramp. Skaters must skate on quads and some loaner gear is available (but limited)

Belmont Park

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Belmont Park is a historic amusement park on the beach in Mission Bay. The park’s main attraction is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Originally built in 1925, the wood coaster has views of the ocean at its peak. The park has many other carnival rides for all ages, including a carousel and train for little ones.

The park also features a climbing wall, zip line, miniature golf, and laser tag. Parking and admission are free, and the rides and attractions are individually priced. Belmont Park also has several dining options.

During the winter months, the park closes several attractions for maintenance. Call ahead of time to plan your visit. Belmont Park is also available for birthday parties.

 

In La Jolla, the Legends Gallery features the art of Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss has become an intricate part of many children’s lives opening the door to imagination and whimsy. The gallery is a great peek into Dr. Seuss’s art.

Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

The Flying Leatherneck Museum is located at MCAS Miramar San Diego and is a one-of-a-kind US Marines Aviation Museum. Dedicated to preserving the history and incredible contributions by Marine Corps aviators and their ground support, the museum is a unique and interesting place to explore. On the smaller side, the museum is great for kids that are interested in planes and aviation and has many aircraft on display. Volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Located on base, the museum has its own entrance for the public.

Open Cockpit Days

In the summer months, the Aviation Museum hosts several Open Cockpit Days. During Open Cockpit Days, selected aircraft will be open for guests to sit in and imagine what it’s like to be an aviator. On select dates, former pilots discuss the planes they once flew.

MCAS Miramar Air Show

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The MCAS Miramar Air Show is the largest air show in the United States. Approximately 700,000 people flock to this annual event. Not just an airshow, the 3-day festivities include musical performances, ground performances, and many displays of aeronautical acrobatics. The highlight of the show is the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, otherwise known as the Blue Angels. Flying at the show since the 1940’s, the Blue Angels amaze crowds with their precision and skill. On the ground, the air show will feature a myriad of military and civilian planes.For those new to air shows, they are loud, noise-canceling headphones are very helpful for younger children. The MCAS Miramar Air Show also hosts a Student Day for grades K-12. 

San Diego Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International is a huge event in downtown San Diego. Drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, the entertainment and comic convention usually sells out before most people know it’s scheduled. Fortunately, the Con has become so massive that you don’t need a badge to enjoy the festivities.

San Diego Comic-Con attracts celebrities, networks, and fans from all over. The event completely takes over downtown San Diego for the time it’s here. Hotels, parks, museums are parking lots are transformed into pop-culture experiences. Families can spend the day at Comic-Con, for free, without even stepping into the convention center.

Padres Kids Fest at Petco Park

Taking your kids to a ball game is an American tradition. In San Diego, Padres fans flock to Petco Park on game days. Every time the Padres have a Sunday home game, Petco opens two and a half hours early for Kids Fest. Kids Fest has inflatables, games, face painting, balloon artists and more. The early fun is a great way to get out energy before cheering on your hometown team. If you have younger kids make sure to head to guest services early to get a wristband with seat locator information (just in case they get lost).

San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering

Presented by the Illumina Foundation, the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering is a 10-day educational and interactive experience that encourages science, technology, engineering, and math.

Expo Day

Expo Day kicks off the week and has events for every age, from a Pre-K area all the way to TEDx talks from the leaders of tomorrow. The event has many sponsors who provide hands-on science experiences.

Festival Week  

The week after Expo Day is filled with STEM activities throughout the County. Held at libraries, colleges, and museums, STEM week resonates across the community.

Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary

Just south of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary is a local gem. The cozy outdoor space is covered in trees, has a handful of picnic tables, and a koi pond. Free Flight is home to a variety of birds, many of which are being transitioned between owners. Sometimes people who adopt birds do not realize their lifespan can be from 30 to 80 years. When owners can no longer care for their companions, Free Flight shelter, feed and rehabilitate the birds until they can be adopted into a new home.

Free Flight is a great place to visit with families. The birds thrive on human interaction, and kids get a chance to see these magnificent creatures up close. Volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the birds. Birdseed and fruit are also available for purchase. While the sanctuary is kid-friendly and wheelchair accessible, there are no public restrooms (good to keep in mind with younger children).


Drea Colores Drea Colores grew up in Tucson, AZ and now lives in Carlsbad. Writer + Maker + Photographer. IG: dreacolores