A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp. – Raymond Duncan.
Though Duncan’s quote is tongue-in-cheek, it does remind us that the little ones are about to have a summer full of free time that we parents are expected to fill. As our children’s first teachers, we want to pique their curiosity while simultaneously entertaining them. Fortunately, there are tons of San Diego kid-friendly experiences that can help do both.
Here are 15 things to do with your children this summer that you can both enjoy. Some are paid, some are free, and all present fun learning opportunities for the kids.
7 Best Paid Summer Adventures for Kids in San Diego
San Diego is famous for its many family-friendly attractions that draw visitors from around the world. You can get the most bang for your buck at these and other attractions when you take advantage of GoSanDiego discount cards. Not sure if they’re worth it for your particular summer plans? Find out here.
San Diego Zoo
The world-famous 100-acre San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 endangered and rare animals, and more than 700,000 exotic plants. It’s both an entertaining and educational attraction where kids can enjoy animal exhibits like the Giant Panda and Polar Bear Plunge. Move around the zoo with ease on Skyfari Tram, and don’t miss the Children’s Zoo where kids can pet and feed animals.
Location: Balboa Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
With more than 2,600 animals, including elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, and lions roaming free-range enclosures, the Safari Park is a wild time for kids. You can tour the park via the Africa Tram, or via the Skyline Safari – a zip line that zooms over a few of the enclosures.
SeaWorld San Diego
A marine mammal park, animal themed amusement park, outdoor aquarium, and oceanarium, all rolled into a watery summer adventure, SeaWorld is one of the most visited attractions in San Diego. Parents and children alike appreciate the merging of educational experiences with flat out fun. SeaWorld offers behind-the-scenes tours for a deeper understanding of marine life.
Location: Mission Bay
A San Diego staple in North County, LEGOLAND California is a kids’ paradise. This resort and theme park located in the coastal village of Carlsbad boasts a one-of-a-kind LEGO-themed hotel, and a children’s amusement park with over 60 rides, shows and attractions. LEGOLAND also features an amazing water park, and Sea Life Aquarium that can’t be missed.
Aquatica San Diego Water Park
As the only water park in San Diego, Aquatica is an excellent place for children to be wild and free in a contained environment. Park features include a lazy river, wave pools, interactive water play areas, and various water slides of heights up to seventy-eight feet. Private cabanas are also available to rent.
Location: Chula Vista
A quaint seaside amusement park, Belmont Park is a great place for a half-day excursion with the little ones. Nestled amongst a few excellent restaurants, including the popular Wave House, you’ll find an arcade, a zip line, numerous rides, and laser tag. The park highlight is most certainly the historic Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Location: Mission Beach
Birch Aquarium is a public exploration center focused on the fascinating underwater world. It’s home to 60 habitat displays of invertebrates and fishes from the tropical waters of Mexico to the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest. Interactive educational exhibits teaching the importance of conservation as well as docent-led explorations of tide pools and the sea creatures that inhabit them are also featured at the aquarium.
Location: La Jolla
Free Things to Do with Kids in San Diego
Let’s face it, whenever we can find free ways to spend quality time with the kids, we take them. These five kid-friendly attractions provide hours of fun and are completely free.
As the largest urban park in the nation, Balboa Park offers a wide variety of activities and places to explore. With an array of beautiful gardens, performance art venues, delightful restaurants, and intriguing museums, it would take weeks to explore it in its entirety. A good place to end your visit is at Panama 66, a laid-back eatery with an outdoor patio and children’s grassy play area.
The birthplace of San Diego, historic Old Town is an excellent place to take the kids to learn about San Diego history. You can dine at one of their over thirty eateries, meander through 100 specialty stores, twenty-five historic sites, and twelve art galleries in Old Town. The old-timey guided tour through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is free and a must-do. Be sure to check out Old Town Trolley Tours as well.
Location: Old Town
This seaside tourist hot spot is a lively entertainment hub known for its one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants. Seaport Village has it all – an amazing kite store, a delicious fudge store, a crazy shirts store, and even a magic shop. There is also a waterfront grassy park on the bayside of the village. End a day with the kids at the historic carousel, and don’t forget to snap a photo or two, as plans are in the works to replace the iconic village.
Location: Downtown, San Diego
Waterfront Park is one of San Diego’s newer parks. It’s a beautifully designed, family-oriented place where kids can enjoy interactive water fountains (playing in them is encouraged), as well as a fun children’s playground. It offers incredible views of the harbor and has several grassy areas for picnics, games, and outdoor movies during the summer.
Location: Downtown, San Diego
San Diego Botanic Gardens
A 37-acre botanical garden with over 24 themed gardens located along four miles of trails, the San Diego Botanic Gardens provides a wealth of entertainment. For the littlest of your brood The Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden is great with its soapy water tubs and bubble making wands, child-sized playhouse, buried plastic dinosaurs, and model railroad chugging through the garden.
Top Museums for Kids in San Diego
Get the kids interested in visiting museums while they’re young, so they develop an appreciation for all kinds of museums later in life. These fun kid-friendly examples are a great place to start.
New Children’s Museum
With the motto “think, play, create,” the New Children’s Museum was designed for children of all ages – from toddlers to teenagers. Their aim is to help children experience art in a meaningful way. The museum accomplishes this with hands-on interactive exhibits, performing arts, and arts and crafts.
Location: Downtown, San Diego
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
This 6,000-square-foot indoor facility and expansive outdoor property educates and entertains children about energy and water conservation through interactive and playful exhibitions. Investigative stations, worm farms, and chicken coops are just a few of the ways children get to enjoy hands-on experiences at San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
Let your kids play make-believe while touring the intriguing sailing ships at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This floating cultural center features an array of steam-powered boats, submarines, and sailing ships. One of these fascinating vessels is the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world, where you can actually stay aboard overnight with the kiddos.
There is Always Something More to do in San Diego
While these 15 kid-friendly attractions and activities are among San Diegan’s favorites, there is so much more you can do with your kids this summer. The beach is by far the most versatile place to take your children in San Diego. The city offers more than seventy miles of coastline with some truly world-class, family-oriented beaches. Watching sea lions at the Children’s Pool, kayaking and snorkeling La Jolla Cove, tide-pooling at Cabrillo National Monument, and learning to surf at Tourmaline in Pacific Beach are just a few extra activities to enjoy with your children this summer.
School’s out for summer! Enjoy!