Located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, San Diego is widely known as “America’s Finest City.” California’s second-largest city and the United States’ eighth-largest, San Diego is often billed as the only city in the US with a perfect climate. This and its 70 miles of pristine beaches and a dazzling array of world-class attractions make San Diego the perfect vacation destination for families with or without kids. The most difficult decision to make regarding a vacation to San Diego is determining what to do and see among the region’s vast and diverse offerings. San Diego County promises a truly remarkable vacation experience for everyone! In this post, I’ve rounded up an extensive list of fun things to do in San Diego with kids!
Fun Things To Do In San Diego With Kids
How to get to San Diego?
San Diego is located on the Pacific coast of California. It is approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico and can be reached by plane, train or car. San Diego International Airport is located 3 miles northwest of Downtown San Diego. The city also has various train stations and two intercity bus stops, San Diego Greyhound Station, which is slightly southeast of the city’s downtown area on National Avenue, and San Ysidro, which is very close to the Mexican border. For those families that enjoy a road trip, getting to San Diego by car is surely a unique experience due to the Pacific Coast Highway 101. No highway better captures the laidback, beachside vibe of San Diego, and its surf heritage than Historic Highway 101. Views of sandy beaches and beautiful cliffs make this iconic highway alone a bucket list adventure.
Fun Stops for Kids Along Highway 101
For a great hike in San Diego with kids, you should check out the easy trails along with one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. Enjoy the wildflowers and the beauty of the Torrey Pines trees.
Location: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA
It’s difficult to match the view from this fun-for-all-ages aquarium atop a bluff overlooking the ocean. If you stop by don’t forget to see the Octopus and “hall of fishes”, and the hands-on exploration area for kids. When you are ready to have your breath taken away, step outside and enjoy the tide pool display all the while taking in the magnificent views.
A gorgeous beach just two blocks in from Highway 101. Here, you can eat at the ocean view restaurant Naked Café, followed by some playtime at the Fletcher Cove Park play structure, then head down to the beach to collect shells.
Location: 111 S Sierra Ave, Solana Beach, CA
Swami’s Tide Pools
North on Pacific Coast Highway from Cardiff State Beach is Swami’s. Once you’re on the beach, walk north to the rocky areas. Hidden in the hard sedimentary rock are old fossils shells. It’s the perfect place for some beachcombing and during low tide, you have a good chance of seeing sea hares, brittle stars, and octopuses.
Location: Coast Highway, Encinitas
San Diego’s Main Attraction | Pristine Beaches
A visit to San Diego isn’t complete without checking out the beautiful beaches! It is the perfect place for kids to take surf lessons while you relax and get some vitamin Sea. From sunbathing on the shore to surfing world-class waves to kayaking along rugged cliffs, there’s a beach for everyone. There are a total of 31 beaches in San Diego, some of the most beautiful ones are Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla Shores, and many others.
The Top Kid-Friendly Beaches In San Diego
La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores is a family-friendly, perfect beach for kids of all ages. This mile-long sandy beach slopes gently and has small, slow waves that make it an ideal place for younger kids to play in the shallow water and older kids to learn surfing, body boarding and other water activities. A wide cement boardwalk separates the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games.
Moonlight Beach, found in Encinitas, CA. In addition to beachfront bliss, the state park offers grassy areas for picnicking and for kids to play in. Additional family-friendly amenities include an onsite bathroom, a snack bar, and a playground. The gradual slope of the beach is also something families love, this allows kids to play safely without a significant drop-off. Plus, even with such a slow slope, there are lifeguards on duty to keep an eye on beachgoers and make sure everyone is safe. Note that this beach gets packed during peak seasons such as summer so, if you would like to avoid the crowd, either visit in the off-season or arrive early to claim your spot by the water.
Location: 400 B St, Encinitas, CA
Cardiff Reef Beach
Cardiff Reef Beach, located in the beautiful neighborhood of Cardiff by the Sea is the best beach to build sandcastles. It is great for families with young kids because of its gentle slopes. Here, you can collect shells, walk in the water, soak up the sun, and build sandcastles. The beach also has restroom facilities and at certain times lifeguards are also on duty.
Location: Highway 101 Cardiff by the Sea, CA
South Point Beach
South Ponto Beach, located over in Carlsbad, South Ponto Beach in the south end of South Carlsbad State Beach. The good thing about this beach is the fact that is gigantic, it is divided up into North Ponto and South Ponto. Due to its size, even though it fills up in the summer, it doesn’t feel overcrowded. And the best part, that for sure kids will love, is that, during the right season, you may also get a glimpse of a whale or two.
Location: Carlsbad Blvd, Encinitas, CA
Silver Strand State Beach
Silver Strand State Beach, with beaches along the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, Silver Strand offers plenty of beachfront fun for all. Families can enjoy a game of beach volleyball, bring a picnic, or go boating, among other kid-friendly beachside activities. The beach also has camping spots and bathrooms.
Location: 5000 CA-75, Coronado, CA
More Fun Things To Do In San Diego With Kids
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park in San Diego, California, centrally located near downtown, it is one of the largest urban parks in the country and a gigantic playground for kids and adults alike. Full of museums, theaters, art galleries, sports activities, and of course the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park could occupy several days of your vacation.
Location: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA
Fun Things To Do With Kids In Balboa Park
Riding the Antique Carousel and Miniature Railroad
Little kids love to ride the historic 1910 Balboa Park Carousel, complete with fanciful animals. Very nearby, the Miniature Railroad gives rides to kids and adults on a track through wooded grounds and a fun tunnel.
Watching a Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater Show
With almost daily performances, the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is a Balboa Park institution. They stage professional performances of old-time favorites and new original works and often bring the puppets out to meet the audience when the show is done.
Visiting San Diego Model Railroad Museum
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the largest in the world, it features several complete setups of model trains, landscapes, towns and other exhibitions.
Visiting the Air & Space Museum
The San Diego Air & Space Museum displays huge aircraft, jets, and space modules, in some of which you can actually stay and imagine you’re flying, and an impressive, very large collection of experiences including flight simulators, interactive displays, and a hilarious group of flight attendant uniforms through the decades. Your kids might be so fascinated and want to spend the rest of the day here so it’s best to add this stop towards the end of your tour!
Visiting the Natural History Museum
Featuring robotic dinosaurs, prehistoric sharks and rows and rows of insects and reptiles, the collections at The Nat are entertaining and fun for kids of all ages.
The San Diego Zoo
The world-famous San Diego Zoo is a non-profit wildlife sanctuary home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies, and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants. It is located just north of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park. An urban paradise for all ages, the San Diego Zoo is definitely a must-see in California. A walk through the botanical garden, resembling a tropical oasis, brings you to various fascinating, beautiful, animals including koalas, Galápagos tortoises, leopards, roaming peacocks, penguins, baboons, the mysterious fossa, weaver birds, and others unique creatures. The festive, lively atmosphere makes the San Diego Zoo a great place for family fun. Another great thing about going to the zoo with your kids is that From October 1 through 31, 2020 every child age 3 to 11 gets free admission when accompanied by a paying adult.
Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA
San Diego | The Perfect Family Vacation Destination
Kids of all ages and with all kinds of interests will surely find some absolutely fun things to do among the several kid friendly attractions San Diego has to offer! So, next time you plan on going on a trip with your youngsters and you’re not sure where to go, consider San Diego for an unforgettable vacation your kids will surely enjoy to the fullest!
Resources provided by Julio Sanchez, the owner at “Cardiff Vacations”, a family-friendly vacation rental homes company in Cardiff by-the-Sea, CA.
If you enjoyed this list of fun things to do in San Diego with kids, you’ll also want to read Kids Free San Diego!