Sunny San Diego is a family-friendly vacation destination where kids and their parents can enjoy year-round activities and attractions. The city’s world-class museums educate and entertain with hands-on exhibits, special events, and opportunities for family fun. Here are a few of the most kid-friendly museums in San Diego. Most can be visited at a discount.
Living Coast Discovery Center
This not-for-profit aquarium and zoo connects kids with the animals and plants of the California coast. Located on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Chula Vista, the Living Coast Discovery Center offers family-friendly activities and events such as shark, ray, turtle, and eagle feedings; guided trail hikes; Overnight Adventures; and VIP Animal Encounters. Seasonal exhibits promote wildlife conservation and educate young visitors about their impact on the environment.
Guests can board the complimentary shuttle in the parking lot at the corner of Bay Boulevard and E Street. The center is open daily (except on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Model Railroad Museum
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park will delight children of all ages with its toy train layouts and scale model replicas of California’s historic railways. Mac’s Kids Corner in the Discovery Depot has a collection of railroad-related storybooks for the museum’s youngest visitors to read with their parents. Special events and programs are held in the Discovery Depot and are included with admission. The museum is located in the Casa de Balboa Building at 1649 El Prado.
Reuben H Fleet Science Center
The Fleet Science Center has over one hundred hands-on exhibits for curious kids and their parents. Kid City was designed for children up to five years of age and features a block corner for budding architects, the Little Learner’s Lab and its Young Explorer computer stations, a Fire Truck exhibit that teaches street safety, and the colorful and exciting Ball Wall that demonstrates the properties of physics.
Older kids will gravitate to the Studio X maker space where they can participate in regularly scheduled workshops or create something on their own using the studio’s tools and materials. The whole family will enjoy viewing IMAX films on the 76-foot wraparound movie screen in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. The Fleet Science Center is in Balboa Park at 1875 El Prado.
Air & Space Museum
Imagination takes flight at the San Diego Air & Space Museum at Pan American Plaza in Balboa Park. Aspiring aviators and astronauts can see the museum’s collections of historical aircraft and spacecraft up close. The story of flight unfolds before your eyes as you enter the Early Flight exhibition with reproductions of the Wright Brothers’ gliders, and continue through the museum, ending in the Modern Age gallery where a Boeing GPS-12 satellite is suspended from the ceiling.
The museum’s newest exhibit, SPACE: Our Greatest Adventure, offers a unique look into space exploration. With full-motion simulators and spots for selfies in “space,” the museum is sure to be a family favorite.
USS Midway Museum
This maritime museum on the USS Midway celebrates the history of America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier. Docked at Navy Pier on San Diego Bay, the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Kids will enjoy taking part in the Junior Pilot Program where they can earn their pilot’s wings by completing activities as they take an audio tour through the aircraft carrier.
Full-motion and virtual reality flight simulators will thrill older children who meet the height requirements. In addition to over sixty onboard exhibits, the museum’s staff and volunteers host a full calendar of exciting programs and activities including family movie nights and sleepovers.
New Children’s Museum
This award-winning children’s museum encourages children to think, play, and create with over 50,000 square feet of child-centered art installations, studios, and interactive spaces. From free play to guided workshops, this modern museum has a wide range of activities and events for creative kids. Young visitors are free to interact with working artists, design something in the Innovators LAB under the guidance local professionals, or explore the museum’s indoor and outdoor spaces with their families.
The museum is fully accessible with sensory-friendly areas, accommodations for guests with limited mobility, and full access for guests with service dogs.
Families with the Go San Diego Card can save up to 55% off the ticket price for more than 35 of San Diego’s most popular attractions and unlimited admission to select attractions including the following kid-friendly museums:
- Living Coast Discovery Center
- Model Railroad Museum
- Reuben H Fleet Center
- Air & Space Museum
- USS Midway Museum (includes skip-the-line privileges)
- New Children’s Museum
The Go San Diego Card is more than a discount pass. Its true value is in the flexibility it offers your family. You can customize your itinerary based on the number of days you’ll be staying in San Diego and the places you plan to visit, plus save time with skip-the-line privileges at select attractions. The Go San Diego Card also includes additional shopping, dining, and entertainment discounts and can be accessed on your smartphone with the app.