San Diego with Kids: 50 Best Things To Do Besides the San Diego Zoo

Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo

Everybody knows to visit the San Diego ZooSeaWorldLegoland, and the Safari Park when they visit San Diego, especially with kids. But there are so many other unique and interesting things to do in SoCal's southern-most county. Here are this local's 50 favorite things to do with kids in San Diego, besides the obvious. 

San Diego is rich in California history. The first of 21 missions was founded there. The 32nd Street Naval Station is the Navy’s largest base on the Western Coast of the United States. San Diego also looks to the future with UCSD and the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, researching and creating breakthroughs in science and technology. When you and yours tire of looking and learning; hike, swim or sun on San Diego’s trails and beaches. It will take a while to get through the list below!

1. Skate, hike, scout and more at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
2. Be amazed by Queen Califa's Magical Circle.
3. See where it all began for Junipero Serra at Mission San Diego de Alcala.
4. Set sail on the Star of India.

A young hiker runs through a field of bright yellow Brittlebush. Photo courtesy Kerem Hanci Photography

5. Marvel at the majesty of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
6. Brush up on your Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater
7. Think! Play! Create! at the Children's Museum in downtown S.D.
8. Pan for Gold or ghosts in Julian.
9. Hunt for ghosts in The Whaley House.
10. Bet on a thoroughbred at Del Mar Racetrack.
11. Wade in the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument
12. Save big time on admission prices with a Go San Diego Card
13. Dine at Station Tavern while the kids ride a half-scale trolley and run around in the "back yard"

Photo courtesy of Birch Aquarium

14. Study the sea life at Scripps Institute of Oceanography's Birch Aquarium.
15. Let your kids discover their inner George Washington Carvers at the Children's Ethnobotany Garden 
16. Climb aboard the park tram in Balboa Park.
17. Travel back in time in Historic Old Town.
18. Bird watch at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.
19. Touchdown at the Hall of Champions Sports Museum
20. Swirl on the Seaport Village Historic Carousel.
21. Fly "the plane, the plane" over to the Hotel Del Coronado, or just drive across the bridge.
22. Hike the trails at Torrey Pines.
23.Appreciate Historic Preservation in the Gaslamp Quarter.
24. Applaud fine theater at The La Jolla Playhouse.
25. Thomas the Tank Engine lovers will want to check out the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
26. Enjoy the beauty of drought-resistant plants at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
27. Board The Privateer for Whale Watching.

Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Park, photo by Neil Siilverthorn/CC BY 2.0

28. Investigate sea life in the Point Loma Tide Pools.
29. Take off at the Air and Space Museum.
30. Ferry across the bay to the landing at Coronado.
31. Stroll along the Embarcadero.
32. Launch a nautical adventure at the Maritime Museum.
33. Be a landlubber at Mission Trails Regional Park.
34. Get crafty at the Spanish Village Art Center
35.Learn about San Diego history at the Junipero Serra Museum.
36. Discover the enchanted island at the Coronado Museum of History and Art.

Downtown USS Midway Flight Deck, photo courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

37. Honor our service men and women at the USS Midway Museum.
38. Preserve the past with Leo Carillo at his historic ranch in Carlsbad.
39. Get anthropological at the Museum of Man.
40. Take 'em out to the ballpark. Catch a Padres game at Petco Park.
41. Modernize at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
42. Be amused at Belmont Park in Mission Bay.
43. Deduce and discover at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
44. Look back at the San Diego History Center.

Photo by Teri Moore courtesy of The Flower Fields 

45. Gather up a bouquet at the Carlsbad Flower Fields.
46.Sip tea at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
47. Ride the waves. This is a town for surfing.
48. Work on that suntan at one of the many beaches.
49. Picnic at the Presidio.
50. Find hundreds of things to do at Balboa Park.

Some of our other SoCal city guides include 25 things to do with kids in HollywoodDowntown LABeverly HillsThousand OaksLong BeachPasadena, and Palm Springs.


Originally published 1/17/15

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