Family Vacation San Diego: 13 Can’t-Miss Destinations

A kid-friendly oasis chock full of beautiful beaches, theme parks, and riveting military history? Sounds too good to be true! Fortunately, a family vacation to San Diego manages to check every box.

Follow along as we give you the inside scoop on your San Diego family vacation itinerary.

From Mission Bay to SeaWorld San Diego, tykes of all ages will be in heaven as they come face to fin with Flipper or try their hand at hanging ten.

And a family trip to San Diego isn’t just about fun in the sun, broods can also inject their adventure with plenty of edutainment with trips to the world-famous Zoo or stops at the USS Midway Museum.

Whether you are looking to reconnect with nature and peek at the basking La Jolla sea lions or have your heart set on ice cream and hot dogs in Balboa Park, San Diego family vacations offer a little something for everyone.

San Diego Hotels

Already California dreaming? Before you pack those bags and corral the family for your San Diego family vacation you’ll need to lock down your lodgings. No matter if you are mapping out a San Diego 5-Day itinerary family or are planning a simple weekend getaway, we suggest booking your accommodations ahead of time.

Enjoy cozy accommodations less than 30 minutes from top attractions such as LEGOLAND and SeaWorld. Or enjoy the beach culture of Mission Bay at a fully outfitted resort. Make your San Diego vacation with kids extra memorable when you reserve a family-friendly hotel complete with a complimentary breakfast and game room.

No matter your budget and style, we have San Diego Hotels and Resorts for every type of trip.

Aerial view looking down on the entrance to the El Cordova Hotel with palm trees around it on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USA.
photo credit: El Cordova Hotel via Facebook

San Diego Family Vacation Packages

Mouthwatering seafood dinners, tickets to your favorite marine-based theme park, and plenty of souvenirs. A San Diego vacation with family can add up quickly.

Preserve that vacation budget and save those dollars for some more tacos in Old Town, when you invest in any of our San Diego Vacation Packages. Bundling your top San Diego attractions can help you save up to 30%.

Related Post: SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo: Which is Better? San Diego part of a larger SoCal adventure? Reap the benefits of California Vacation packages for families, when you combine your Disneyland tickets with a LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, or Universal Studios experience here.

Family Vacation San Diego California

Slather on some SPF because it’s high time for your San Diego family trip. Thanks to an abundance of kid-approved activities, attractions, and sights, America’s Finest City makes it all too easy to plan a San Diego itinerary with kids.

Fill your days with under-the-sea aquarium visits or dive into dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Reunite with your favorite LEGO characters for thrilling roller coaster rides, or savor a peaceful morning at Mission Beach.

Whatever your desire, visiting San Diego with kids is always a slam dunk.

fountains at balboa park in San Diego, California, USABalboa Park

Known as San Diego’s backyard, this sprawling 1,200-acre verdant park has been offering harried families a respite since 1868. Full of numerous trails, playgrounds, and gardens, kids and adults alike will be transfixed by the offerings of this splendid public space.

In addition to picnicking, lawn bowling, and hiking, families can feel free to take advantage of the numerous museum offerings.

Ideal for little learners, you can carve out an afternoon or two to explore the:

  • San Diego Natural History Museum – Observe flesh-eating beetles, fossils, a Foucault pendulum, and more, at this flagship institution which features four floors of learning.
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum – Choo Choo! Delight your tiny railroad enthusiast with a visit to the largest indoor train exhibit in North America. Uncover the history of railroading across Southern California, as you check out miniature models from the Pacific Desert to Cabrillo. Best of all, kids under 12 can enter for free.
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum – from early aviation models to artifacts touched by Neil Armstrong, this museum covers every inch of air and space. Little intergalactic explorers can see the actual Apollo 9 Command Module “Gumdrop,” or take a selfie in a Mars space suit.

Birch Aquarium

Adorable Blue Penguins, giant kelp forests, and Leopard Sharks oh my! Channel your inner mermaid (or man) when you pay a visit to the exquisite Birch Aquarium. This edifice of aquatic education features over 60 habitats that display the dazzling diversity of creatures everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico.

Related Post: Bucket List San Diego – Epic Activities to Check Off on Your Trip

Savor the oceanfront scenery of La Jolla before you discover immersive hands-on exhibits such as Tidepool Plaza. Here the marine curious can touch sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, and more.

Close up of a family on the new Emperor Rollercoaster at SeaWorld on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USASeaWorld San Diego

Part oceanarium, and part theme park, SeaWorld San Diego delivers hours of splashtastic entertainment. Ideal for ocean enthusiasts of all ages, this epic marine-based park is home to curious Beluga whales, majestic orcas, and colorful macaws.

Not in the mood for an animal encounter? Pint-sized adrenaline junkies can heed their need for speed with rides on the high-speed double-launch Manta coaster, or the icy thrills of the brand-new Arctic Rescue.

Don’t forget to check out the outstanding athleticism and skill of the bottlenose dolphins when you snag a seat at Dolphin Adventures.

Sesame Place San Diego

Guaranteed to put a smile on your toddler’s face, Sesame Place San Diego is a wonderland of learning, exploration, and interactive play. Check out the iconic 123 Stoop, snap a photo with Elmo, or go for a ride on the Super Grover’s Box Car Derby.

Feeling that California heat? Be sure to cool off at their seasonal 500,000-gallon wave pool, or get ready to play in the all-new Count’s Splash Castle. This multi-level water-play attraction features 111 play elements. And includes two giant tipping buckets, water slides, soakers, flow pipes, hose jets, and spray jets.

Entrance to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego CaliforniaUSS Midway Museum

Got a tiny Top Gun on your hands? Hightail it to downtown San Diego to witness the history of the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. The USS Midway Museum contains over 60 exhibits and more than 30 restored aircraft and helicopters.

Discover a day in the life of a Midway soldier, experience the exhilaration of a flight simulator, or see real WWII aircraft, such as the TBM Avenger.

San Diego Zoo

A family vacation in San Diego isn’t complete without a stop at the San Diego Zoo. This world-renowned institution of conservation is a must-visit for any animal lover. For over a century the Zoo has provided families with access to more than 12,00 animals and 650 species.

Travel Down Under and catch up with some cuddly koalas, or cool off in the AC when you settle in for a 4-D theater show. Uncover the mysteries of the fossa and amur leopards at Africa Rocks. Or hop aboard the Balboa Park miniature train for a four-minute locomotive ride.

Koala and Joey sitting in tree together at San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California, USASan Diego Zoo Safari Park

Swear you’ve been whisked away to the savannahs of Africa when you make a date with San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Located in the San Pasqual Valley area, this zoological park contains over 2,600 endangered animals.

Guests of all ages can get wild as they choose to safari by tram, caravan truck, zipline, or even balloon! Keep your eyes peeled as you won’t want to miss a second of Lion King-inspired scenery from lounging lions to foraging African elephants and antelope.

Mission Beach

Craving some classic boardwalk beach vibes? Wrangle up your group of rugrats and make a beeline for Mission Beach. This sandy oceanside enclave has long been a haven for surfers, beachgoers, and volleyball players.

Related Post: San Diego Beaches – The Best Places for Sun, Surf, and Fun

Enjoy nearly two miles of oceanfront boardwalk. Or up the ante with some arcade, bumper car, and rollercoaster fun at Belmont Park.

Kids walking with LEGOLAND characters at a meet-and-greet in San Diego, California, USALEGOLAND California

Ready for some bricktacular fun? Muster up those LEGO skills because it’s time to let loose at Carlsbad’s premier theme park. LEGOLAND California is a dreamy 128-acre theme park that promises to dazzle budding builders of all shapes and sizes. Climb aboard Emmet’s flying couch for a whirlwind ride, or spin, dance, and bounce with Unikitty at the Disco Drop.

Have that camera ready for meet and greets with your beloved LEGO movie characters. Or show off your driving skills when you build, test, and race your own LEGO Ferrari. After hours of fun with the Ninjago cast be sure to refuel with a serving of the park’s signature Granny’s Apple Fries.

La Jolla Shores

Gentle waves, aquamarine tide pools, and stunning sandstone cliffs come together to create beachy perfection at La Jolla Cove. An ideal escape for families of swimmers, this picturesque San Diego spot is best known for both its snorkeling and scuba opportunities.

Related Post: Things to Do in La Jolla California – 9 Must-Try Activities

Tiny toddlers will love searching for tide pool critters, while bigger minnows can try boogie boarding or surfing. Don’t forget to stroll by the Children’s Pool. Which has now become a hangout for herds of barking seal lions and their pups.

sunset at the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier near San Diego, California, USA
resized image

Near-perfect weather and miles of unspoiled Pacific Ocean beaches have been enticing tourists to visit San Diego for decades.

However, this sparkling jewel of Southern California offers way more than unparalleled surf and swimming. A San Diego trip with family will ignite your curiosity, passion, and sense of adventure.

Travel to far-off solar systems when you visit the Air & Space Museum. Or observe massive Komodo Dragons and bare-chested baboons at the Zoo.

See if you have what it takes to train like a Ninjago warrior. Or get prehistoric with a scream-inducing ride on the Coastersaurus at LEGOLAND.

Nevertheless, if you prefer to stick your toes in the sand, search for hermit crabs at La Jolla, or brace for the chill of the Arctic at SeaWorld, a San Diego family vacation will fulfill your fantasies.

Tell us, Did We Miss Any Family Vacation San Diego Hot Spots?

What family vacations San Diego have you been on?

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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