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Kid-friendly activities in San Diego

We’re highlighting the best kid-friendly activities that San Diego, has to offer — complete with art exploration, animal encounters, and outdoor fun.

SD New Children's Museum

“Wobbleland” is one of many interactive art exhibits at The New Children’s Museum.

Photo via Philipp Schulz Rittermann

Table of Contents

We’re not kiddin’ around. From major attractions like Belmont Park to museums and waterfront fun, there’s something in America’s Finest City for children of all ages. You’ll have no trouble entertaining the youngsters with this list of 31 kid-friendly activities around San Diego.

SD Comic Con Museum 2023

The Comic-Con Museum is a great place for kids who love arts and pop culture.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

🎨 All about the arts

San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado | 🎟️ Free for kids age 17 and under
Young art enthusiasts can enjoy the museum’s permanent collection — with works spanning the Renaissance, Impressionism, modern art, and more — plus special exhibitions throughout the year. Kids ages 6-12 will remember Family Drop-In Days with themed activities on select Sundays.

Comic-Con Museum, 2131 Pan American Plaza | 🎟️ Family memberships available
This is a great spot for big imaginations keen on superheroes, comic books, and beloved pop culture characters. Kids will remember the interactive elements throughout the museum.

Spanish Village Balboa Park San Diego

You’ll find all kinds of classes to join at the Spanish Village.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Spanish Village Art Center, 1770 Village Place
This colorful landmark in Balboa Park features studios filled with working, local artists. Kids will remember the free drop-in art classes on most Saturdays.

Monart School of Art, 2590 Truxtun Rd., Ste. 204 | 🎟️ Monthly memberships available
Owner Mona Brookes specializes in teaching children how to draw realistically as they develop foundational skills. Kids will remember the studio classes geared toward different age groups.

Art With Larisse, La Mesa, Santee, and Bonita | 🎟️ Monthly memberships available
Kids ages 5+ can learn the basics of drawing, painting, and fine arts across mediums like pastel, charcoal, watercolor, and oil — and there are classes for adults, too. Kids will remember the feeling of finally finishing their masterpiece after weeks of shading and blending.

🌳 Great outdoors

Japanese Friendship Garden, 2215 Pan American Rd. E. | 🎟️ Family memberships available
Get the wiggles out with a walk along the pretty trail, check out the bonsai display, and treat the kiddos to tea on the pavilion. Kids will remember looking for colorful koi in the pond.

SD Japanese Friendship Garden March 2023

Nature walks, tea, and koi ponds are just a few of the fun finds at the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Mission Trails Regional Park, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail
Take your little explorers out on the trails. The paved Father Junipero Serra Trail is great for riding scooters or bikes, the Fortuna Region offers easy hikes for families, and the Oak Canyon Trail is great for a longer excursion. Kids will remember trekking down to the water at the Old Mission Dam.

SD Mission Trails kids guide

Mission Trails Regional Park has many trails perfect for little hikers.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Ocean Front Boardwalk, Mission + Pacific beachesGrab the bikes and scooters and get active on the flat beachfront path. Pack lunch and eat on the seawall or take a break to search for seashells and gaze at the Pacific Ocean.

SD Kids at Sunset Garske

San Diego kids love local beaches.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

San Diego Botanic Garden, 300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
The garden offers nature-themed children’s activities every Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Kids will remember the 8,000-sqft, glass-enclosed Dickinson Family Education Conservatory featuring rare tropical plants from around the world.

SD Poway Midland Railroad

A ride on the steam locomotive at Poway-Midland Railroad only costs $1 for kids.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Poway-Midland Railroad, 14154 Midland Rd., Poway
Find this full-size, narrow-gauge railroad at Old Poway Park, with rides on most weekends on either its Steam Locomotive, Cable Car, or Speeder. Check the schedule before you go; tickets cost only $1 for children. Kids will remember the 1907 Baldwin steam engine — and the fun crew.

SD Balboa Park Mini Train

All aboard: This 4-minute ride is so much fun.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Balboa Park Miniature Train, 1800 Zoo Place
This cute, mini train — one of only ~50 remaining G6 models — takes passengers on a 3-minute, half-mile loop through a small part of Balboa Park. Kids will remember spotting animal sculptures along the route.

SD Bill Brown Balboa Park Carousel 2023

Bill Brown says this horse covered in roses is often requested by kids who love fairy tales.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Balboa Park Carousel, 1889 Zoo Place
The historic ride was recently restored and if you’re lucky, you might run into Bill Brown — the carousel manager and proud San Diegan who’s worked at the ride for the past 51 years. The carousel follows the San Diego Unified School District’s academic calendar, so it’s open on weekends and school holidays year-round — and daily during the summer.

Wildlife Explorers Basecamp at the San Diego Zoo

Wildlife Basecamp at the San Diego Zoo offers many activities to keep kids busy.

Photo via San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

🦁 Animal encounters

San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Dr. | 🎟️ Memberships available
A bonafide San Diego staple, kids will go wild checking out the animals, riding the guided bus tour, and discovering the play areas. Kids will remember the fun activities inside the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp and soaring over the zoo on the Skyfari aerial tram.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla | 🎟️ Family memberships available
With a variety of marine life in 60+ habitats and interactive exhibits, there’s so much to discover at the aquarium overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla. Kids will remember the Little Blue Penguins (don’t miss the daily feeding presentation at 10 a.m.) and the 70,000-gallon Giant Kelp Forest.

SD Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a must-do for kids who love marine life.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido | 🎟️ Memberships available
The San Diego Zoo’s sister park in North County is known for its up-close animal activities (don’t miss the petting zoo) and play areas. Kids will remember the Africa Tram expedition and the animals roaming in the savanna habitats.

Living Coast Discovery Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Dr., Chula Vista | 🎟️ Family memberships available
Through animal experiences, exhibits, and nature walks, kids will connect with the local coastal environment at the National Wildlife Refuge on San Diego Bay while learning about conservation. Kids will remember Emerald, the facility’s wild sea turtle ambassador who lives at Turtle Lagoon.

Lions Tigers & Bears, 24402 Martin Way, Alpine | 🎟️ Memberships available
This 93-acre, accredited big cat and bear sanctuary run by Bobbi Brink is a safe forever home to 60+ furry residents rescued from the exotic animal trade. Kids will remember the peaceful environment and animals like Louie the Lion and Sugar Bear.

Lions Tigers & Bears

Lions Tigers & Bears is located at 24402 Martin Way in Alpine, in San Diego’s East County.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

🩱 Splash around

Sesame Place San Diego, 2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista | 🎟️ Memberships available
Enjoy “Sunny Days” at our county’s newest theme park dedicated to all things “Sesame Street.” The attraction features all kinds of water slides and rides during the warm SD summer months, plus dry rides year-round. Kids will remember The Count’s Splash Castle and the countdowns to the big waves at Big Bird’s Beach.

SD Sesame Place San Diego Garske

Splashy activities await at Sesame Place San Diego.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

The Plunge San Diego, 3115 Ocean Front Walk | 🎟️ Family memberships available
Swim, splash, and play at this historic indoor pool in Mission Beach built in 1925. Kids will remember the inflatable obstacle courses.

Santee Lakes Sprayground, 9310 Fanita Parkway, Santee
When that East County heat just won’t quit, head to the Sprayground. The attraction located within Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is typically open daily April-September, and weekends in October. All-day wristbands cost $3-$5, depending on the day. Kids will remember standing under the big bucket, waiting for the water to drop on their heads.

🌊 Waterfront playgrounds

Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway
This 12-acre park with views of the Embarcadero is a perfect place to cool off and picnic with the little ones on a hot day. Kids will remember the interactive splash fountains.

SD Maruta Gardner Playground

The Maruta Gardner Playground at Bonita Cove is a little climber’s paradise.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Maruta Gardner Playground at Bonita Cove Park, 1100 W. Mission Bay Dr.
There’s so much to do at this bayfront playground — from climbing and swinging, to sliding and spinning. Kids will remember finally reaching the top of the ropes and going down the big slide.

Fanuel Street Park, 4000 Fanuel St.
With a beautiful view of Sail Bay, this park is great for both playing and relaxing. Kids will remember taking turns building sand castles and climbing on the playground.

SD Fanuel Street Park Garske

The perfect park does exist: Fanuel Street Park.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

🧠 Educational activities

New Children’s Museum, 200 W. Island Ave. | 🎟️ Family memberships available
This interactive museum is known for its hands-on art installations that truly allow kiddos of all ages to discover something new. Kids under the age of 4 will remember “Wobbleland,” an area that resembles a giant kitchen sink filled with oversized, soft sculptures shaped like foods.

SD The New Children's Museum

The New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego.

Fleet Science Center, 1875 El Prado | 🎟️ Family memberships available
Growing minds will appreciate 100+ interactive exhibits exploring topics like memories, illusions, electricity, and outer space. Kids will remember watching an IMAX movie in the center’s immersive Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theater featuring a 76-ft wraparound screen.

Maritime Museum of San Diego, 1492 N. Harbor Dr. | 🎟️ Family memberships available
Ahoy, matey. Little fans of tall ships will get a kick out of this floating museum featuring historic vessels like Star of India, Steam Ferry Berkeley, and San Salvador. Kids will remember embarking on sailing adventures on the water.

SD Maritime Museum

Ahoy — the Maritime Museum of San Diego features tall ships galore.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

USS Midway Museum, 910 N. Harbor Dr. | 🎟️ Memberships available
There’s so much to explore at the historic US Navy aircraft carrier-turned-museum — from exhibits to flight simulators. Kids will remember the Junior Pilot Program’s entertaining audio tour and earning their Junior Pilot Wings.

San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plaza | 🎟️ Family memberships available
This museum debuted in February 1963 and today, its incredible collection includes the Apollo Command Module, a replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis plane, and many other historic aircraft. Kids will love the Little Engineers events every Wednesday at 9 a.m.

SD San Diego Air and Space Museum

The hands-on activities at the San Diego Air & Space Museum are great for little explorers.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

🎢 Thrill-seeking fun

SeaWorld San Diego, 500 Sea World Dr. | 🎟️ Memberships available
Thrill-seekers who are a minimum of 52 inches tall can ride the record-breaking Emperor, the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in California. Another coaster — Arctic Rescue — is set to open this year. Kids will also remember the animal encounters, from sharks to dolphins.

Emperor dive coaster at SeaWorld San Diego

The “Emperor” at SeaWorld San Diego.

Photo via SeaWorld San Diego + Javier Laos

Belmont Park, 3146 Mission Blvd. | 🎟️ Memberships available
This Mission Beach landmark is beloved for its arcade, games, food, rides, and seasonal themed events. Kids who are 50 inches or taller will remember riding the historic Giant Dipper, the big-thrill, classic wooden roller coaster offering twists, turns, and views of the ocean.

SD Belmont Park

A view of Mission Beach from atop the Giant Dipper at Belmont Park.

Photo via Belmont Park

LEGOLAND California Resort, One Legoland Dr., Carlsbad | 🎟️ Memberships available
Theme park enthusiasts will enjoy the rides, while LEGO fans will love hands-on activities like building a boat or digging for dinosaur fossils. Kids ages 6-13 will remember getting behind the wheel of a LEGO car and earning their LEGOLAND driver’s license.

SD LEGOLAND California Resort

Everything is awesome at LEGOLAND California Resort.

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