Top 5 Things to Do in San Diego with Your Family

With fun family attractions and great weather year-round, San Diego is a top family destination. Check out our favorite things to do in San Diego at!

With San Diego’s mild year-round temperatures and mostly sunny skies, this Southern California city is a can’t-miss, family-friendly destination filled with memorable places to explore. After you arrive at San Diego International Airport, hop in your rental car and drive toward these top five attractions that travelers of any age will enjoy exploring.

Explore Naval History Onboard the USS Midway


USS Midway Museum USS Midway Museum.

Step aboard the USS Midway, the United States’ longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century. The naval warship served as home to more than 200,000 crew from 1945 to 1992. Now moored in the picturesque San Diego Bay, off of North Harbor Drive, the USS Midway functions as a museum. Travelers can take in more than 60 onboard exhibits on a self-guided audio tour narrated by former Midway sailors. Tour the ship’s living quarters and engine room, or check out the docent-led Island tour that takes visitors around the control tower located above the flight deck.

Thrill seekers can experience virtual flight firsthand in two exciting aerial simulators, and history buffs will love the Voices of Midway film. The museum opens at 10 a.m. daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Arrive early, as lines grow longer throughout the day. Before you leave, snap a photo from inside the cockpit of one of the ship’s meticulously restored aircraft, ranging from World War II to Operation Desert Storm.

Experience Point Loma at Cabrillo National Monument


Cabrillo National Monument Cabrillo National Monument.

In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on the West Coast. In addition to the monument erected in his likeness, the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor’s Center also pays homage to Cabrillo and his voyage, as well as the park’s ecology. To get there, drive on Interstate Highway 5 north via Catalina Boulevard and Cabrillo Memorial Drive. When you arrive, climb the spiral staircase to the top floor of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and learn about life in the mid-1880s in San Diego’s first lonesome outpost.

Take a self-guided hike through a coastal sage scrub forest near the lighthouse, which offers spectacular views of the harbor and city of San Diego. On the west side of the park, travelers will also find popular spots for bird watching, as well as exploration of the intertidal zone. Tidal pools form along the rocky shore during low tide, revealing sea creatures from starfish and sea urchins to octopus and crabs.

Discover the San Diego Zoo in Majestic Balboa Park


Flamingos at the San Diego Zoo Flamingos at the San Diego Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo is world renowned for its authentic enclosures, humane animal keeping and conservation research, making it a vacation must-see. Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo features more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, as well as live shows and interactive entertainment.

Head out early in the morning when the animals are most active and the free parking in front of the zoo is plentiful. Once in the zoo, take the Skyfari aerial tram to the back of the park, where you can work your way forward on the mostly downhill terrain. Grab lunch at one of the many cafes around the park or pack a sack lunch; just remember, large coolers are not allowed. End your day near the front of the park at the petting zoo, where kids can get up close and personal with a pygmy goat, and roam free at the nearby Discovery Playground.

Numerous ticket discounts are available online, so do your research before hopping in the car.

Kayak in La Jolla Cove and Its Sea Caves


La Jolla Cove La Jolla Cove.

Ready for a little adventure? Take I-5 northwest to La Jolla Cove and park for free on the streets or near the beach. Rent a kayak and discover the hidden sea caves and colorful ecological environment around La Jolla Cove. These protected waters offer calm surroundings for kayakers of all skill levels. The abundant marine life, which include sea lions, garibaldi fish, cormorants, pelicans and more, coexist in several different environments surrounding the shores.

For even more action, sign up for one of many kayaking and snorkeling packages – like a one-on-one, 50-minute snorkeling lesson where you can swim with docile leopard sharks. After you’ve had your fill of the water, take a stroll to the children’s pool or enjoy shopping and dining in downtown La Jolla. End your evening sampling a San Diego staple — a mouthwatering fish taco — at El Pescador Fish Market, a no-frills seafood eatery popular with locals. Or, take the plunge at the renowned George’s at the Cove, where you can take in the incredible sunset views of La Jolla while experiencing the flavors of California modern cuisine along with unique craft cocktails.

Discover the Birthplace of California in Old Town


Old Town, San Diego Old Town, San Diego.

There’s something for everyone in Old Town, the spot where San Diego’s roots were first planted in the late 1700s. Father Junipero Serra established the first religious mission at the Mission San Diego de Alacalá, located just above the bluff in adjacent Presidio Park. Old Town borders the airport and is easily accessible off of I-5. For a local experience, hop on the San Diego Trolley downtown and take the short ride right to the heart of Old Town.

Today, the historic settlement offers a bounty of attractions, food and shops for visitors and locals alike, but history reigns supreme here. Among the key sites are: Mason Street Schoolhouse, Colorado House, El Campo Santo Cemetery, and neighboring Mormon Battalion Historic Site and Heritage Park Victorian Village. For a spooky, one-of-a-kind experience, take the kids on a nighttime tour of the Whaley House — once reported by Life magazine to be “the most haunted house in America.”

On weekends, visit San Diego’s largest street market — the Harney Street Market — featuring handcrafted goods and wares from local artisans.

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About the Author

Cynthia Beisiegel is a Dallas writer and editor. A New York native, she lived half her life in what she considers America’s finest city: San Diego. Her love for travel has led her through five of the world’s seven continents, yet Southern California remains one of her favorite places to explore, time and time again.