San Diego is definitely one of my ultimate favorite places for family fun! There are so many adventures and experiences to be had, not to mention the amazing weather year round. With unlimited places to eat and a culture of their own it’s a city worth being on any family travel bucket list. Today, I’m going to give you our family’s top 5 things to do while in San Diego. I’ll list some honorable mentions at the end of this entry that you and your family may also enjoy but didn’t quite make our list. Lets go!
1) THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM
If you’re a history buff, interested in American military or wanting a family educational experience that offers up great memories and a great time this is a must go for you! You and the kids will have a wonderful time learning about American Naval history while walking through the different levels of the ship and interacting with some of the on board displays this museum has to offer. The USS Midway was an aircraft carrier for the US Navy that was officially launched in 1945. It was the largest ship in the world until 1955 and has seen numerous battles including some action in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. The Midway was decommissioned in 1992 and officially opened as a museum in San Diego in June of 2004.
Museum Info: The Midway offers a self guided audio tour that is included in the price of your ticket, should you stop at each location the tour could take about 3 hours. There are 60 exhibits to see and 29 restored aircrafts (for a list of displayed aircraft click here) on board….and my favorite part: THERE IS A FLIGHT SIMULATOR AVAILABLE ($6-$8 per person – click here for pricing).
Hours and Pricing: Click here for hours and pricing. TIP: if you pre-order your tickets online there is a discount. Also, kids 5 and under as well as active military are FREE.
**FYI INFO: Parking is $10 per car and is good for up to 12 hours.
The ship is excellent with catering to people who have disabilities, for more info click here.
They will often have fun events & activities scheduled (such as movie nights during the summer) for a calendar of events click here.
2) SAN DIEGO ZOO & SAFARI PARK
If spending the day with a bunch of wild animals (other than your family members) is your idea of a good time then take a day or two and hang out at the San Diego Zoo! This zoo is so large it’s hard to fit it all in one day, but possible if you must. They offer single day passes and multi-day passes (TIP the zoo is included in the GO San Diego Card). The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park and is home to 3,700 animals! It opened in 1916 and is known for pioneering the open-aired cage-less exhibits that you see today. They are one of the few zoos in the world to have a giant panda – right now there are only 4 zoos in the U.S. who house giant pandas, talk about once in a lifetime chance.
Zoo Info: Other than the chance to get close and see countless animals the zoo goes above and beyond to offer you a wonderful experience while there. For a list of all the experiences click here; you will find everything from backstage passes to get up close and personal with the animals and trainers to activities and special experiences. Our favorite at the zoo being the Skyfari which offers an aerial view of the park.
Hours & Pricing: Click here for hours and pricing. There are no discounts I’m aware of, but if you happen to find any please use the comment box below to share!
Location: 2920 Zoo Drive San Diego, CA 92101
**FYI INFO: Parking for the zoo is FREE
There are plenty of dining options within the zoo but I would pack some snacks and drinks anyway, it’s a lot of walking in between. For dining options click here. For guests with disabilities info click here. Want to get your kids excited for the zoo?! Check out videos and live cameras here!
3) SEAFORTH BOAT RENTALS
For a great time out on the water check out Seaforth! They have multiple locations, each location offers different equipment for rent so be sure to check the website to make sure you go to the right one. They offer everything from boats to jetskis to paddle boards to sail boats! They have some very interesting boats…such as the BBQ Donut all listed on their website. You can even take a tour on a sailboat or yacht with a Skipper around the San Diego area so you can sit back, sightsee and enjoy! For most rentals, you do not need a sailing license.
We went to the Mission Bay location to rent a Bayliner for an hour (I would recommend a 2 hour rental as that hour goes by fast). It was a little over $100 but was totally worth it. We were able to putt around in the water and really let loose with the boat in the designated areas. My only advice (other than to have a good time!) would be to bring a jacket because even in the middle of the summer it can get cold out on the water and you risk the spontaneous overcast moments throughout the day. Life jackets are also available for no extra charge on the dock.
4) BELMONT PARK @ MISSION BEACH
Belmont is one of my favorite budget friendly family things to do in San Diego! Originally opened in 1925 and located right on the beach this amusement park still offers some of the original rides. There is an old wooden roller coaster (talk about a thrill!), rides, carnival games, laser tag, a wave machine, food and shopping! The parking & admission are FREE (always a nice perk in big cities!). It’s a great way to take the kids and spend a few hours having fun in the park, grabbing some dinner and walking to the beach a few feet away to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Hours & Pricing: For hours click here. Pricing: You can pay per ride or game but the best deal is an unlimited wristband that costs $18 for people under 48″ and $29 for people above 48″. TIP: Sign up here ahead of time for coupons and special offers!
5) SAN DIEGO AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
We love the Air & Space Museum so much that I had to put it on my Top 5 list. Located in Balboa Park (just a few minutes away from the zoo) it houses some of the most amazing aircraft, space craft and interactive features all under one roof. Their exhibits change regularly (for a current list click here) and offer not only fun but a great educational experience. There is an entire room dedicated to younger children with games and interactive stations to teach them about flight. This museum covers everything from the beginning of flight, to the first women of flight to the Thunderbirds. It’ll take you a few hours to walk the museum so be sure to eat before hand as there is no food or drinks allowed.
Hours & Pricing: The museum is open everyday (with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Prices are as follows: $18 – 12 & up, $15 – seniors, $9 – ages 3-11, FREE – SDASM members, Active duty military and children 2 & under
Location: 2001 Pan American Plz. San Diego, CA 92101
As you can see San Diego has so much to offer for the families! Some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make my list are Sea World (I didn’t put it on our top 5 for San Diego as there are other locations across the U.S.), Legoland, Seaport Village and Old Town San Diego (This one barely missed my top 5, I will do an entry about it on the blog sometime as I do feel it is a must go ESPECIALLY if you like history). A HUGE TIP I have for you before planning your San Diego adventure is to check Groupon or Living Social before you go because you can find amazing family attractions at discounted rates.
If you have any questions or comments leave them below! Good luck planning your San Diego vacation!