san diego activities

“I’m bored!”

These two words are vocabulary you never want to hear come out of your child’s mouth on vacation. Fortunately, if you are traveling to San Diego, it’s pretty impossible to be bored. San Diego is the ultimate city for family fun!

Here is our list of 10 family activities in San Diego that will keep your children engaged on vacation. No video games necessary.

San Diego Zoo – Nighttime Zoo

During the summer season, the world famous San Diego Zoo in beautiful Balboa Park comes alive at night. The zoo remains open until 9pm, and many of the resident animals become very active in the cooler evening hours. While you’re there, enjoy:

    • Animal Encounters – during specific times throughout the day, you can witness animals being fed and interacting with their caretakers.
    • Parades and shows throughout the park
    • A carousel and train – just outside the entrance to the zoo!

We also highly recommend the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in North San Diego. You can enjoy more ‘safari’ style, riding in an open air vehicle admiring the animals roaming the vast savanna landscape.

Balboa Park

The Zoo sits inside one of the most beautiful parks in California. Balboa Park is where science, culture, and nature collide, consisting of 16 museums, gardens, hiking trails, and more. A walk down pedestrian-only Prado Drive is a treat for both adults and kids. There is fun around every corner, including:

    • Museum of Man – find monsters, mummies, and Adventure Kids in Egypt
    • Japanese Friendship Garden – download the Haiku Hunt app to play games as you explore
    • Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
    • San Diego Air & Space Museum
    • EthnoBotany Children’s Peace Garden – get your hands dirty as you learn ‘garden to table’
    • Fleet Science Center – check out the Panda IMAX film!
    • San Diego Natural History Museum – be a paleontologist on an expedition at Camp-O-Saurus.

san diego activities

Moonlight Beach

Encinitas, CA in North County, San Diego is a fabulous beach town filled with great restaurants, breweries, fish markets, and surf shops. No trip to San Diego is complete without a visit to the beach. Moonlight Beach is a special spot that locals treasure. Moonlight is a perfect cove complete with soft sand and rolling waves. There is also a really nice playground at the beach that kids will love. Clean bathrooms and outdoor showers are available before walking back into town for a fish taco or two.

Snorkel or Swim with Leopard Sharks

La Jolla Beach is home to the largest group of leopard sharks in the world. They come starting in June, but numbers peak around August and September. You’ll see them in even, knee-deep water, but mostly while snorkeling and swimming. Don’t worry, they don’t bite!

Kayak the Sea Caves

Rent a double kayak at La Jolla Shores Beach to explore this underwater playground. From the surface, you can see orange garibaldi fish and friendly sea lions. Then pass through sea caves including a breathtaking view from inside The Clam cave. Book an Everyday California cave tour for a vacation memory your kids will never forget!

san diego activities

USS Midway Museum (Even a Family Overnight on board!)

Live the adventure. Honor the past. Welcome aboard. A tour of the aircraft carrier, USS Midway is a must do for kids that love boats, planes, and military history. Even if they don’t, this museum will open their eyes to life at sea. You can even sign up to spend the night on this mega ship. The sleepover experience includes a movie under the stars, authentic bunks to sleep in, and breakfast in the galley like the sailors would have done.

The New Children’s Museum

If you need a break from the sun, a trip to the New Children’s Museum in downtown is a San Diego activities must-do. Get hands-on and stimulate imagination, creativity, and critical thinking in children, teens, and the whole family through inventive and engaging experiences with contemporary art. Don’t forget to take a trip outside to their organic garden and to the Children’s Park across the street. It has an incredible splash pad to cool down on hot summer days.

Park at the Park at San Diego Padres Petco Park

Kids love baseball, but sitting down for nine innings? Not so much. Instead, pack a picnic blanket and enjoy the game at Park at the Park, one of the creative quirks that makes visiting Petco Park a unique experience. Located outside the outfield wall but inside the park gates (ticket required), the Park at the Park is a 2.7 acre park designed for people to to enjoy the game, but with the flexibility of kids in mind. It contains a mini infield diamond, so little ones can run the bases, and plenty of space to play.

san diego activities

Image courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune


Legoland is a fantastic amusement park. Not only is it filled with fun rides for all ages, our favorite part is you can play with all the Legos. This is perfect for toddlers to sit and build and create while parents sit back and relax. Don’t forget to take a walk through the aquarium inside LEGOLAND. It’s filled with many local resident fish of San Diego waters.

Tip: Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa is adjacent to Legoland and even has their own private entrance to the park!

Surfing Lessons

If you want your kids to sleep hard at night on vacation, sign them up for surfing lessons. The waves in San Diego can be pretty perfect, and the water temperatures can feel refreshing in the summer. Check out San Diego Surf School, or if you are staying in San Diego for a week or longer, La Jolla Surf Camp offers half and full day camps for kids ages 5-8 years old.

san diego activities

We hope your kids (and you!) have a blast on vacation with family activities in San Diego. Don’t forget to get your HGV Go City Card and Explorer Pass with Partner Perks!

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