Things to do with Kids in San Diego

As part of our recent trip to California we spent 5 days in one of my favourite cities, San Diego. There is no shortage of family friendly activities in San Diego from the beautiful beaches and whale watching to parks and museums, you can really find it all within a short drive. Here are a few of the fun things to do with kids in San Diego.

1. Children’s Pool Beach

Located in the beautiful suburb of La Jolla, the Children’s Pool Beach has become something of a novelty due to the influx of seals in the area. Closed for swimming from mid-December to mid-May, it’s the perfect spot to watch pregnant seals come on shore to birth their new pups. There’s just something magical about watching animals in their natural habitat and the beach offers a perfect opportunity for a “see, but don’t touch experience”.


You can certainly spend the day in La Jolla wandering their downtown area with posh botiques and waterfront restaurants, taking a walk along the beach front, a visit to Birch Aquarium and a beautiful nature walk at Torrey Pines State Park. The beach is free to visit, metered parking can be found along the waterfront or you can park in the downtown area and take a walk to the beach. Please do remember that the seals are wild animals and not to be disturbed. You will find a viewing bridge which allows you to walk across the beach while viewing the seals.

2. The New Children’s Museum

The New Children’s Museum can be found in downtown San Diego just near the Gaslamp District. Dedicated to inspiring children through art and creativity, this museum is suitable for the whole family. We were very kindly gifted entry tickets in exchange for review, but I would have no hesitation to recommend or visit again. It has be to one of the most visually pleasing museums I have ever visited. If you didn’t know better you would think it’s a contemporary art museum for adults, but everything is designed for children to touch and play. The highlight of our visit was definitely ‘No Rules.. Except’ which is an immersive, interactive room filled with 40+ mattresses and over 160 pillow tires for children (and grown ups) to play, crawl, jump and bounce around. My son loved this area so much he cried when we left and museum staff thought he had hurt himself. One employee came over to check on him and when I explained he was just upset to leave, he responded ‘yeah, that happens quite often here!’

New Children's Museum

Other favourite installations included whammock! (a giant, multi-level, crocheted hammock designed for climbing), ‘The Rain House’ which re-creates a rainy day at home where children may play, and ‘Reconnecting to Home’ a 4 story house reflecting different architectural periods in California over time. The only thing I would warn against is that some installations are designed for very young children or those older than 6 years, which could limit some of the activities your child can or will participate in.

SD Museum 2

Don’t forget to visit their award winning cafe where everything is organic, healthy and delicious! It’s some of the cutest cafe food I’ve ever seen and very tasty too. The New Children’s Museum has extended hours for 2020 and will be open Monday – Saturday 9am -5pm and Sunday 11am – 5pm. Entry tickets are $15.50 for ages 1-64. Those over 65 and military with ID are $10. February is Museum Month and you will receive 50% off admission during this time when showing a Museum Month pass! For more information, please click here to find out about Museum Month. Also be sure to check the calendar before you go as there are regular family friendly workshops and activities.

3. Whale Watching

Whale watching season runs from mid-December to April in San Diego where you can catch a view of the grey whale as they make their way from Russia to Mexico! We booked a 3.5 hour cruise with Hornblower Cruises where we saw dolphins, seals and other wildlife. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any whales as we were early in the season, but we were given a return ticket to come back any time in the next year!


Many of the whale watching cruises can be very expensive, but we found Hornblower to be quite reasonable with a price of $30 per adult. Children aged 3 and under are free, 4+ are $14 per ticket. There’s so many options from 1 hour to all day, so I’d definitely get out and enjoy the sea and fantastic views of the city. Hopefully you’ll catch a glimpse of the whales too!

4. Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a true work of art featuring 1200 acres to explore with everything from restaurants and museums to playgrounds, gardens and even a zoo. If you need some ideas of things to see with kids, check out the Kid’s Itinerary on the park’s website.


Be sure to check out Panama 66 restaurant! There’s loads of kid friendly options on the menu including nutella & banana sandwiches, plus hand crafted food and drink all locally sourced for parents. The museums inside Balboa Park are individually owned and most charge an admission fee. Depending on what your kids are interested in, a few that may be worth your time and money include: the Fleet Science Centre which currently has a a great exhibition called Pause/Play with adult friendly playground fun that allows kids and adults to play together, the San Diego Natural History Museum with dinosaurs, wildlife, and an area called the Backyard designed for toddlers, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum has various model trains and is supposedly one of the world’s largest model railroad museums, lastly; the San Diego Air & Space Museum has an actual Apollo capsule, full scale mars rover, and tons of airplanes. On a logistical note, entry to the park grounds are free and parking is also free if you choose to drive.

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