San Diego has the best of all worlds: perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, and activities to keep your family entertained for weeks. It’s one of the best cities in the United States for family travel because you can enjoy world-class attractions and relax at the beach on the same day. There are so many things to do in San Diego with kids that it can be hard to figure out how to maximize your time. Below is The Best San Deigo Itinerary with Kids so that your family can experience a mix of all that San Diego has to offer. Our itinerary includes seven days of fun, but families staying fewer days can mix and match what they like best. Get ready to have an incredible vacation and some fabulous fun in the sun!
Day 1 – A Day at the Beach & Sunset Cruise
After a day of travel grab some chairs and enjoy San Diego’s number one attraction, the beach. Families will appreciate the wide-open sandy beaches, perfect for a game of smash ball. You’ll find that the waves are great for boogie boarding, even for beginners. And, if it’s the right time of year, kids will have fun digging for sand crabs. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are great spots for families in San Diego as there are plenty of amenities and restaurants nearby. As the day draws to a close hop on a sunset boat cruise around the harbor with Hornblower. The sun on your face and wind in your hair will be the perfect start to an unforgettable San Diego vacation with kids!
There are so many amazing San Diego parks for kids but the most famous one is the San Diego Zoo. Located in Balboa Park, the internationally recognized zoo is the best place in San Diego to see over 12,000 animals. For added fun, watch the tigers, pandas, and monkeys on live cams online before you visit. Then, it will be more magical for kids to see them up close! The animals have large enclosures so prepare to do a lot of walking. There’s an aerial tram and bus tour available for an additional fee. For an upgraded experience, reserve one of the animal programs or feedings. Kids in San Diego will love these intimate encounters! The zoo is a full-day family-friendly San Diego adventure that should be at the top of any itinerary with kids.
If you’re looking for a more “wild” adventure then add San Diego Zoo Safari Park to your list. This San Diego park for kids is a sister property to the San Diego Zoo. However, instead of walking, visitors can view herds of wildlife from a covered tram. For a unique tour, reserve a jeep, hot air balloon, or overnight safari. The park also provides plenty of traditional zoo-like experiences with a petting zoo and terrific play areas. Located just a half-hour away in Escondido, Safari Park is an easy addition to your family’s San Diego vacation with kids.
Day 3 – USS Midway, Maritime Museum & Old Town San Diego
As the site of a naval base, San Diego has a unique maritime history. Fortunately, the public can experience the might of our military by touring some incredible ships docked in the harbor. First on your list should be the USS Midway Museum. As the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century, the ship has lots of stories to tell. And, so do the many docents that graciously volunteer as guides. They are a wealth of information for kids in San Diego who want to know about life on an aircraft carrier. Included in admission is an audio guide that will direct your steps. However, be sure not to miss the impressive display of planes and helicopters, as well as a view of downtown San Diego, from the top deck. If you want to explore more ships, you can also visit the fleet at the Maritime Museum San Diego.
After your adventure on the high seas head to Old Town San Diego, just down the street. This charming old town has several museums that highlight San Diego’s history and bring to life its early days. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride or just enjoy meandering along the streets lined with restaurants and shops. Candle making is a favorite kids activity in Old Town San Diego and a great souvenir to take home. There are often festivals and live music so check the calendar online to see what events are scheduled. Located nearby is the Gaslamp Quarter, a popular neighborhood and a great place to eat in San Diego with kids.
You can spend an entire week just visiting San Diego’s parks so you may have to pick and choose. If you have animal lovers in your family then SeaWorld would be a great fit. It’s a treat to observe magnificent creatures such as dolphins, orcas, walruses, belugas, and more. Not only does SeaWorld have amazing shows, sea life, and rides, but guests can also visit the adjacent waterpark, Aquatica for a full day (or two!) experience. Similar to SeaWorld, LEGOLAND California Resort has a variety of offerings that will easily fill your day. For the LEGO fans in your family, this is the place! The LEGOLAND® theme park has rides and impressive displays of LEGO creations scattered all around. There is also the SEA LIFE® aquarium and LEGOLAND Water Park if you want to add an additional day to your visit.
LaJolla is a beautiful enclave in San Deigo and worth exploring. Begin the day at Torrey Pines Gliderport where you can stand on a picturesque cliff and watch gliders ride the wind. Brave adults can try tandem paragliding and a small cafe and deck are available for spectators. It’s impressive to watch the paragliders soar with the birds over the ocean! Next, visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for a hike along the jagged hills. The Guy Fleming Trail is a relatively flat and easy 2/3-mile loop with amazing views and two overlooks.
Down by the water you can book a tour to kayak through sea caves with La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks. While on the oceans, see if you can spot Dr. Seuss’ house! Then, make your way to LaJolla’s Children’s Pool. Kids in San Diego will love swimming in this small protected area and parents will appreciate the lifeguard on duty. However, the best part is watching all the sea lions sleep and play on the surrounding rocks. If visiting on a weekend, make a stop at the nearby farmer’s market for some fresh goodies. Finally, end the day with dinner at Duke’s LaJolla, a surf-inspired restaurant with spectacular ocean views. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset while listening to the sea lions bark goodbye to the day.
After several days of adventure, it’s good to plan for some relaxing beach time. Pack the toys and picnic blanket and head for the sand! If you’re looking for a little exercise in San Diego with kids then rent bicycles from one of the many shops along Mission Beach and cruise the oceanfront bike path down to Belmont Park. This beachside amusement park has a little bit of everything, including an old-fashioned Giant Dipper Rollercoaster. You’ll know you’re getting close when you start smelling the waffle cones. Belmont Park is a great spot for a few rides and afternoon treats before biking back to your spot on the beach!
While in Southern California families may choose to visit the Disneyland Resort. This is a great addition to your San Diego itinerary with kids but requires some extra planning. Keep in mind that the Disneyland Resort is not an ideal day trip from San Diego because the drive can take several hours, depending on traffic. The best way to experience the Magic Kingdom is to arrange your itinerary so that you spend the night close to the park the evening before your visit. That way, you can rise and shine without worrying about traffic, parking, and travel time. Another option is to fly into Los Angeles, visit the parks and then fly out of San Diego, or vice versa.The Disneyland Resort is truly magical and, with planning, it’s the perfect way to start or end a trip to San Diego with kids.
Whether you like relaxing at the beach, exploring museums, outdoor adventures, or amusement parks, your family is sure to love San Diego with kids! This San Deigo Itinerary with Kids includes a mix of popular attractions and off-the-beaten-path experiences so that your family can return home with a heart (and camera roll) full of memories! Have a blast and I hope you enjoy every minute!
*Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy of and belong to Emily Kapic.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
Emily's globe-trotting adventures began in 2003 when she left her job with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and bought an around-the-world plane ticket. 40 countries and 18 years later, she’s still planning trips! Emily, her husband and 13-year-old triplets are based in Sacramento, California. When they aren't out of town on an adventure, she's researching trips and sharing tips. Emily loves making it easy for families to explore the world, get off the beaten path and make memories. Some of her favorite family activities include snowboarding in the mountains, relaxing on a beach, floating down the river and, ideally, boarding a plane headed to a place where you can zip line and drink something fruity.