One of best vacation spots for families in California is definitely San Diego! If you are planning a family vacation to San Diego, you won’t be disappointed with all the fun attractions that are available year round. There are so many things to do in San Diego with kids that will keep the family busy for weeks!
Fun things to do in san diego
The locals who are lucky enough to live in San Diego, California, have a secret they don’t want you to know. Here it is: there are hundreds of fun things to do in San Diego with kids and awesome attractions in the area that are cheaper, less crowded, and far more unforgettable than the traditional tourist around town. So when you get tired of waiting in long lines with hoards of other entertainment seekers, consider these options that will help you unearth the hidden gems of San Diego. Just don’t tell the locals I tipped you off.
1. Balboa Park in San Diego
The top attraction in San Diego for the family has to be the Balboa Park! Balboa Park is like a laid back version of the Smithsonian, offering excellent museums to suit every interest. Entrance to the Park and parking for Balboa Park is free including the playgrounds, dog parks, fountains, trails, gardens, architecture, history, statues, and artwork. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Balboa Park really takes more than one day to enjoy. The problem is that most people try to crunch this in before or after the zoo or some other attraction. You need to realize that there are museums, an interactive science centre and gardens galore all located in this one spot. Spend at least one full day, if not more, exploring the different sites and museum at the park.
You will find below our top 5 favourite San Diego museums to visit with your kids located within the Balboa Park.
2. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
The Sand Diego Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is a can’t miss activity, especially if you are bringing kids with you to San Diego. Finding out how science works is encouraged by getting into their interactive exhibits like the Illusions or It’s Electric.
3. San Diego Air & Space Museum
The Air & Space Museum is another must see and a perfect family stop with kids. The museum displays space age technology such as the history of flight and rare specimens of aircraft from the air combat in the World War I and II. With crafts and activities, the kids and you are sure to enjoy your time here. If that is not enough to interest you, how about checking out their special exhibits or collections? They run for a limited time.
4. San Diego Museum of Art
The San Diego Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in the area and has carried many famous exhibits throughout its years.
5. Museum of Us
The San Diego Museum of Us is another favourite stop. With so much to look at, the day will fly by; reminding you that Balboa Park has more than enough to fill your day.
6. Japanese Gardens and Botanical Gardens
Be sure to visit the San Diego Japanese Gardens and Botanical Gardens before you head off to the grassy tree filled spots with views of downtown to enjoy a picnic or grab a bite to eat from Lady Carolyn’s Pub located by the Old Globe in Balboa Park.
As tempting as it is, don’t spend your entire day indoors at the museums. There are trails that wrap around the park. If you hit it at the right time, you might find a medieval group jousting and carrying on, or maybe even a play or a wedding.
7. Birch Aquarium
The Birch Aquarium is an excellent place to visit with your kids to learn about the ocean without the danger of getting soaked by a giant whale doing back flips. It also costs a fraction of the price and doesn’t require an all day trip. This facility offers many beautiful displays of fish and sea life, hands on activities for children, spectacular views of the shore, and as an added bonus your admission goes to support the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and their passion for environmental conservatism.
8. San Diego historical places
You shouldn’t go to San Diego with the kids without learning a little bit of the historical places behind this fantastic city. A great place to start is at the Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first Christian church in California. Founded in 1769, the mission offers visitors a chance to learn some fascinating facts about the early state history of California. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. A quaint gift shop offers leisurely browsing. Every Sunday mass is held at the Mission and they welcome visitors of all religious backgrounds.
Another way to get your history fix in San Diego is to visit the Cabrillo National Monument. This neat park honours the first European to step ashore in San Diego, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. There is a visitors centre with a museum full of information and artifacts, tide pools where you can inspect the local sea life, and the Old Point Loma light house where you can explore the world of the ancient mariner. Visit Rancho Guajome Adobe to see what life was like on a Mexican Hacienda during the 1800’s.
The Hotel Del Coronado, Heritage Park, The Star of India, The Whaley House, and Old Town are some other attractions that showcase San Diego’s multifaceted past that are well worth looking into.
9. Natural attractions in San Diego
Most people think beach when they think San Diego, but did you know that you could drive just an hour away and be in the mountains or the desert as well? The drive to Julian, a little mountain town an hour east of San Diego, is relaxing and scenic. Julian has many excellent bakeries, restaurants, exquisite shopping, and historical sites having to do with the California gold rush. There are an assortment of parks that offer choice hiking and horseback riding. Picnicking is popular as is wine tasting at local wineries.
The other option is to go to the desert and visit Anza-Borrego State Park or the Salton Sea. Both places offer visitors centres and are intriguing to explore. Finding out when the desert goes into bloom in the spring is a really good time to visit and see beautiful plant life flourishing. Going camping in the desert is also a once in a lifetime experience. You will never see such vivid stars anywhere else.
10. Beaches in San Diego
If you insist on braving the beach at the peak of tourist season, try visiting the San Diego beaches of Encinitas and Leucadia, which are rumoured to be among the least crowded beaches of the city. La Jolla is an excellent place to snorkel, watch the sunset, observe the seals, or gawk at the rich and famous. Carlsbad is the place where many locals go to surf away from tourists, or “barney’s” as they are called in surfer slang.
As you can see, there are so many things to do in San Diego with kids! San Diego is one of those cities that never gets old or dull. With interesting sites at every turn, beaches, amusement parks, botanical gardens, museums, a zoo, historic districts, a port, nearby islands, and shopping galore, you can easily fill your day, week, or month! For more information, visit San Diego Tourism.