One of the most kid-friendly destinations we have ever visited is San Diego, California. Not only is it home to 31 beaches but it also offers multiple theme parks, sporting venues and outdoor activities.
Top Things to do in San Diego with Kids
How To Get There: Most travelers fly in to San Diego International Airport (SAN) located in downtown San Diego. The eighth largest city in the U.S., San Diego has a ton to offer and it is easiest to get from one attraction to the next if you have a vehicle. In fact, depending on where you are staying it could be a 5-60+ minute car ride from the airport, which is why I highly recommend renting a vehicle for your trip. Alamo Rent A Car, conveniently located at the San Diego International Airport, it is our go-to choice because the online check in allows us to save a ton of time. Plus, sign up to become an Alamo Insider for additional savings.
Where to Stay
San Diego offers a wide variety of accommodations but finding your home away from home can be a daunting task which is why I am sharing a few of our favorite options for families.
This beautiful resort is a hidden gem. Located on Shelter Island, it offers sweeping views of Point Loma and San Diego Bay at a moderate price point. Plus, not too long ago they completed a $30 million dollar renovation including adding 41 suites featuring spa-inspired bathrooms with deep-soaking tubs and rainfall showers. Some of the suites can be booked as adjoining rooms offering plenty of space for families.
The resort has several delicious eateries onsite, a great pool for the kids to enjoy and bike rentals are included .
If you want to stay on Coronado Island, Loews Coronado Bay Resort is an excellent choice. They have an amazing pool area complete with ping pong, billiards and fun contests like hula hoop. They also offer a free trolley to Silver Strand Beach and downtown Coronado Village.
Plus, they have some delicious food and amazing cocktails for the adults. We spent our entire day there and had an amazing time.
Another resort I feel is often overlooked is Rancho Bernardo Inn. The property is expansive and full of eucalyptus trees and rolling hills. I find it super relaxing!
Rancho Bernardo Inn offers several different pools, walking trails and they often run promotions tied in with San Diego’s popular attractions. Plus, kids will love their weekly dive-in movies at the pool and touring the chef’s garden. If you are lucky, you may even find a few fairies’ homes hidden amongst the growing produce!
AirBnB & VRBO
Of course, staying at a vacation rental is another great option. Booking a vacation rental not only saves money on accommodations, but it also helps save on dining since you have the ability to stay in and cook some (or all) of your meals. You can find plenty of options on Airbnb and VRBO. I always make sure to find one that has been reviewed a lot and received positive markings from its guests.
Top Things to do in San Diego with Kids
Visit a Beach
Located on a small island connected by a bridge to the heart of downtown San Diego, Coronado Beach is a fantastic option for families. The beach is calm and quiet making it perfect for little ones, and there are tide pools nearby for exploring. It is also connected to a quaint little town which is great for strolling and has delicious options for dining. We love the food and vibes at Leroy’s Kitchen and Village Pizzeria has some of the biggest, tastiest pies we’ve ever eaten. If you have a sweet tooth you won’t want to miss the handcrafted ice cream from Mootime Creamery for dessert, it’s the best!
San Diego is known for their family-friendly attractions. Some of our personal favorites are the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Both parks offer up-close experiences with wildlife and their spacious grounds are a lovely space for a stroll. COVID-19 Update – Both parks are open with attendance capacity limits and mandated mask wearing. Check their websites for the most up-to-date information on shows, shopping, dining and experiences.
Balboa Park is a must if you enjoy history and the arts. Balboa offers over 17 museums, nine centers dedicated to the performing arts, a carousel, a miniature railroad and the San Diego Zoo.
One of our favorite venues to visit in Balboa Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden. It is an expression of the friendship between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama. The lush garden sits on 12 acres of land and features beautiful flora, koi ponds, stone arrangements, water features and sukiya-style buildings.
Families can also get up close and personal with the USS Midway, a retired naval ship which happens to be the most visited historic naval ship museum in the world. Kids will enjoy seeing firsthand what life is like onboard a real US Navy ship. COVID-19 Update – You must pre-purchase online a timed ticket and masks are required.
*TIP Every October, San Diego’s Tourism Board runs a huge promotion called Kids FREE San Diego where kids get to eat, play and stay free at some of the most popular places in San Diego. It’s a great time of year to visit!
Other Outdoor Activities
There are so many options when it comes to outdoor activities in San Diego. Below are a few we highly recommend:
- Rent a jet ski and/ or stand-up paddleboard from the Carlsbad Lagoon
- Kayak the La Jolla Caves
- Hike Potato Chip Rock
- Explore Seaport Village
- Check out the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve (Razor Point and Yucca Point trails are both great for little legs)
- Visit Waterfront Park and play in the fountains
- Get nostalgic by visiting a drive-in movie theatre
- Rent bikes at Ferry Landing and bike the Silver Strand
- Swim with leopard sharks at La Jolla Shores Beach. *Leopard sharks tend to be very docile creatures and fun to be around.
There are tons of amazing shopping locations throughout San Diego. One of my favorites is the Gaslamp Quarter, located in the heart of San Diego. It is home to some of the best shopping and dining the city has to offer, including the popular Donut Bar and an incredible Ghiradelli’s Ice Cream Parlour. The Gaslamp Quarter is also known for some of the most popular bars in San Diego so it is best to head out before the nighttime crowd arrives if you are traveling with little ones.
Another excellent shopping area is Westfield UTC. They have all the major stores stretched across a gorgeous outdoor shopping area complete with fountains, play structures, dog park, movie theater and ice skating rink.
If you are looking for boutique shops, it is best to head to La Jolla. Here, there are several streets adorned with unique shops and eateries. Grab a taco and enjoy the ocean views at George’s at the Cove or for a one-of-a-kind experience book a dinner at The Marine Room during high tide. The floor-to-ceiling ocean facing windows paired with a mirror on the back wall give an effect that makes you feel like you are dining underwater. Everything on their menu is delicious, but the Macadamia Yuzu-Crusted Maine Diver Scallops are my personal favorite.
Regardless of what fun things you decide to do, San Diego is sure to offer something fun for every member of your family. Are you ready to plan your trip to San Diego yet?