San Diego is packed with attractions and activities that can be enjoyed with your family. Among the many ways you can stay active with your little ones, there’s going on a scenic hike, visiting aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries, as well as swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

    The city is relatively walkable, especially in the downtown areas. The Old Town neighbourhood is where you can experience a vibrant Spanish setting, while the Gaslamp Quarter features Victorian-style buildings with a rather morbid past. Check out our guide to San Diego’s family-friendly places for some ideas and inspiration.


    San Diego Zoo

    Join the 2-hour “Early Morning with Pandas” tour

    San Diego Zoo is a world-renowned sanctuary for 3,700 endangered creatures from 650 species and 700,000 exotic plants from all over the world. The zoo offers a 35-minute guided bus tour of its 100-acre landscape, which you can hop off to visit the many enclosures. Popular stops include the Panda Canyon, Australian Outback, and Elephant Odyssey. Visitor experiences are available all year round, including keeper talks, sunrise walks, and becoming a zookeeper for a day.

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    Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 619-231-1515


    Belmont Park

    Ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster

    Belmont Park is old-fashioned amusement park that has been entertaining visitors since 1925. Located in Mission Bay, this San Diego landmark features a wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper, as well as thrilling bumper cars, a zip-line, a vertical plunge ride, and a rock-climbing gym. You also get to play laser tag, surf on an artificial wave machine, and navigate through a mirror maze at Belmont Park. Ticket prices start from $3 per ride, while unlimited one-day ride passes cost around $32 for adults and $22 for those below the height of 48 inches.

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    Location: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, USA

    Open: Sunday – Thursday from 11 am to 11 pm, Friday – Saturday from 11 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 858-488-1549


    photo by Roman Eugeniusz (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    San Diego Botanical Garden

    Climb a treehouse at Hamilton Children's Garden

    The San Diego Botanical Garden features 30 beautiful landscapes inspired by many regions across the world. One of its most kid-friendly gardens is the Hamilton Children's Garden, where young visitors can find a treehouse, a sandbox, a hedge maze, and an alphabet garden. Throughout the year, the San Diego Botanical Garden hosts events such as art exhibitions, summer concerts, holiday parades, and photography lessons. Admission costs around $18 for adults and $10 for children between 3 and 18 years old.

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    Location: 230 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 760-436-3036


    photo by Bovlb (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Explore Old Town San Diego

    Check out 19th-century homes at the Old Town State Historical Park

    Old Town San Diego has a vibrant Spanish community and historical buildings dating back to the 1800s. A must-visit is the Old Town State Historical Park, where you can learn about San Diego’s colonial lifestyle at Junípero Serra Museum and possibly spot a ghost at Whaley House. The Bazaar del Mundo marketplace is teeming with Mexican restaurants and bars, as well as shops selling clothes, souvenirs, and accessories. There are also live mariachi performances throughout the day, especially at Fiesta de Reyes.

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    Location: Old Town San Diego, San Diego, CA 92110, USA


    Shop at Ocean Beach Farmers Market

    Snack on torpasta at this hippie market

    The Ocean Beach Farmers Market features over 100 local vendors selling a variety of handmade souvenirs and clothes, as well as fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals. Locals frequent this marketplace for its extensive food options, including fresh seafood, ceviche, tamales, and crepes. A must-try here is the torpasta, which is a carb-heavy combination of baguette with fresh pasta stuffing. Live music, yoga sessions, and fire dances are among the many activities you can enjoy at Ocean Beach Farmers Market.

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    Location: 4900 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107, USA

    Open: Wednesday from 4 pm to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 619-279-0032


    Swim with sharks on La Jolla Shores

    Get up close with these friendly creatures

    Snorkelling is a popular activity at La Jolla Shores as the shallow waters are home to leopard sharks. They often congregate in front of The Marine Room Restaurant, attracting animal lovers looking to get up close with these rather friendly creatures. You can easily rent snorkelling gear from the many dive shops at La Jolla Shores. Diving enthusiasts can visit the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, which has 2 artificial reefs teeming with colourful marine life.

    Location: La Jolla Shores, San Diego, CA 92037, USA


    photo by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Maritime Museum of San Diego

    Join a 3-hour sailing trip on a tall ship

    The Maritime Museum of San Diego has an extensive collection of sea vessels, many of which date back to the 19th century. Founded in 1948, this floating museum is where you can explore historical ships such as an actual Soviet-era submarine, an 1898 steam ferryboat, and the world’s oldest sailing ship. On-the-water excursions are also available at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, where you get to sail on a replica of the 16th-century exploration ship San Salvador or enjoy a day of whale watching in San Diego.

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    Location: 1492 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 619-234-9153


    Go hiking at Balboa Park

    Hike the Marston Point Trails for views of Cabrillo Bridge, Alcazar Garden, and Palm Canyon

    Balboa Park is an expansive landscape with dozens of museums, themed gardens, and historical landmarks. Hiking is a popular activity as there are 6 trail routes through the park’s most beautiful gardens and vantage points overlooking the West Mesa canyons. Families with young children can ride a miniature train through 4 acres of the park. Art lovers can spend hours at the Spanish Village Art Center, which features daily demonstrations by local photographers, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewellery designers, and clay artists.

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    Location: San Diego, CA, USA

    Phone: +1 619-239-0512


    Join a ghost tour of the Gaslamp Quarter

    Hear creepy stories during this evening walking tour

    San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter features a vibrant mix of Victorian architecture, museums, art galleries, and theatres, as well as trendy dining and nightlife spots. It covers over 16 blocks in the city’s downtown area, and is a short walk from Petco Park, Horton Plaza and San Diego Convention Center. Daily tours are available for those who want to learn about Gaslamp Quarter’s centuries-old history, including a Friday evening walking tour with a guide sharing creepy facts and ghostly encounters.

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    Location: Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA 92101, USA


    photo by Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    New Children’s Museum

    Paint a picture on a vintage car at this interactive museum

    San Diego’s New Children’s Museum is an interactive space for children to create artwork in a fun way. The 3-storey building features plenty of hands-on art installations, playgrounds, climbing gyms, and learning studios. Popular activities include creating clay art, painting on vintage cars, and dressing up in colourful costumes. The littles ones can also get in touch with nature by spending time at the museum’s garden, which features a car made with repurposed materials.

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    Location: 200 W Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

    Open: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday from 9.30 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +1 619-233-8792


    photo by Omar Bárcena (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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    COVID-19 Travel Alert

    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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