10 Things to Do in San Diego With Kids

Surfing, golfing and bird watching are just a few of the family-friendly activities we love in this coastal California city.

Aug 9, 2013
  • Child playing guitar at the Museum of Making Music in San Diego, California
  • Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, California
  • Wagon ride at The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlsbad, California
  • Legoland Water Park in Carlsbad, California
  • Zip line ride in San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, Caifornia
  • Kids at an aquarium at SeaWorld San Diego in San Diego, California
  • Kids golf clinic at Aviara Golf Academy in San Diego, California
  • Bird in Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad, California
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Kids get creative at the Museum of Making Music, where they can spend the afternoon playing real instruments.
Photography courtesy Museum of Making Music
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Travel to the California coast for a family day at Moonlight Beach, where swimming and surfing are just two of the highlights.
Photography courtesy Brett Shoaf
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Whether on foot or in a wagon, kids will love exploring the array of colourful blooms at The Flower Fields.
Photography courtesy The Flower Fields/Keane Studios
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After enjoying the rides at Legoland California, cool off in the resort area’s water park.
Photography courtesy LEGOLAND California
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Take your safari experience to new heights with a trip down the zip line at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
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Kids get an underwater view of an abundance of marine life at the aquariums at SeaWorld San Diego.
Photography Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego
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Aviara Golf Academy, the longest-running golf school in the Western United States, teaches kids the art of the game in its junior clinics.
Photography Thinkstock
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Get in touch with nature at Batiquitos Lagoon, one of the state’s few remaining tidal wetlands and home to 185 species of birds.
Photography courtesy Sharon Anthony

In San Diego, with its cheerful weather, miles of gorgeous beaches and world-renowned attractions, relaxation and family vacation go hand in hand. We’ve narrowed down the many options to a list of 10 things to do in San Diego with kids. But believe it or not, most of these recommendations would still make the cut for an adults-only getaway: This laid-back city specializes in merging the interests of all ages.

Make music     
No talent is required to let loose at the Museum of Making Music, where audio clips, interactive exhibits and hundreds of instruments teach the history of music from the 1890s to today. For adults and kids, playing real instruments—including drums and ukuleles—is the best part.

Relax on a beach
Soak up the famous California sunshine with a day of swimming, surfing or fishing at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. A playground, a snack bar, volleyball and tennis courts, picnic areas, lifeguards and other conveniences help to facilitate the perfect family beach day.

Walk through fields of colour
Home to 50 acres (about 20 hectares) overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is the only working ranunculus farm that allows visitors to tour its fields. For about eight weeks each spring, you can explore endless rows of these delicate blooms (relatives of the buttercup). After a picnic on the grounds, run through a maze of sweet peas and take a wagon ride.

Go Lego
It took 57 million colourful Lego bricks to create the models inside Legoland California, home to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions. Most appropriate for families with kids between 2 and 12 years old, the resort area now includes Legoland Water Park and Sea Life Aquarium, giving you plenty of options for multiple days of fun.

Step into the wild
More than 3,500 rare and exotic animals roam the expansive San Diego Zoo Safari Park in carefully designed replicas of their natural habitats. A variety of safari tours allow access to keeper-only areas, a bird’s-eye view via zip line and animal-feeding opportunities.

Go under the sea
In addition to its state-of-the-art sea life exhibits and shows, SeaWorld San Diego offers exclusive park tours that give you the chance to dive into a pool with a beluga whale, get up close and personal with dolphins or venture inside the penguin enclosure.

Practice your swing
The Aviara Golf Academy, at the award-winning and Arnold Palmer-designed Aviara Resort Course, hosts junior clinics (kids ages 10 and up) that improve golf techniques while teaching the basic principles of the sport.

Become a naturalist
Spot up to 185 species of birds at Batiquitos Lagoon, one of California’s rare tidal wetlands. This 610-acre (247-hectare) ecological preserve offers walking trails (some are stroller-friendly) and is located steps away from Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara.

Learn to surf
With a vintage Woodie as your ride, take a docent-guided tour of the California Surf Museum. Finish with lunch and a private surf lesson at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad.

Day trip south
Save a day for exploring the nation’s largest urban cultural park. Balboa Park is home to 15 major museums, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, numerous gardens, five kid-friendly play areas and a variety of restaurants. If it’s your first time visiting the park, start with the 35-minute narrated bus tour.

Get more family-friendly travel ideas and things to do in San Diego on Have Family Will Travel.


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7 Comments about 10 Things to Do in San Diego With Kids

  1. franchesca says:

    We just moved here this past summer, and we’re always looking for new and fun things to do as a family. CAN’T wait to see the Flower Fields in the spring! Thanks!

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Hi Franchesca,

      Thanks for your comment! Great! You’ll have to tell us how the Flower Fields are.

      Thanks for reading,
      Kelly

  2. laura says:

    This is such a fabulous list!! We are a military family and know that we will be moving soon. Many of these will be added to our ‘before we pcs’ bucket list.

  3. Louise Edu says:

    I’ve lived in San Diego for almost 30 years and I didn’t realize we had surf + music museum! Thanks for this list, I’m def gonna take my girls to a few of these spots before school starts!

    • Katie says:

      The Museum of Making Music isn’t the largest museum we have, but the other thing that makes it neat is the enthusiasm of the docents who are eager to tell you anything you’d like to know about an instrument or specific period of music history!

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Hi Louise,

      We’re so glad to hear it! We hope you and your girls have fun!

      Thanks for reading,
      Kelly

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