Activities in San Diego

Balboa Park

Address Balboa Park, San Diego Map, Website

Balboa Park is the country's largest urban cultural park. It houses 15 major museums, performing art venues, and the San Diego Zoo. Of course there are also beautiful gardens and playgrounds. The Balboa Park website lists a changing calendar of events. more

Balboa Park Miniature Train

Address Florida Dr and Morley Field Drive Map, Tel +1 619 239 4748 Call, Hours 11a-4:30p Sa-Su in winter; extended hours during summer, Cost $2 for ages 1 and up Website

The miniature railroad, just outside the zoo entrance, is a fun three minute ride for little kids. more

California Dreamin Balloon & Biplane Rides

Tel 951-699-0601 Call, Website

California Dreamin' offers sunset balloon flights over the Pacific Ocean and Coastal bluffs surrounding Del Mar. Champagne and sparkling cider are served in the air or once you have landed. They'll also take a photo in flight. more

Java Mama

Address 9880 Hibert Street, Suite E3, San Diego CA 92131 Map, Tel 619-337-0012 Call, Directions In the Trader Joes shopping center Website

This coffeshop is the ideal place to hang out and relax for a little while. There's a kids play area, great snacks and food (including an extensive kids menu), and organized kids activities (see website for schedule. At this writing, upcoming events included: kids dance party, pajama story time, chair massage and Spanish storytime. more

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre

Address 2130 Pan American Place, San Diego, CA 92101 Map, Tel (619) 544-9203 Call, Hours Performances Wed-Sun, check website for hours, Cost $3 for adults; $2 for ages 2+ Website

This puppet theatre has performances for all ages featuring hand puppets, marionettes, finger puppets, and other types of puppets. Performances are year round. The theatre has 200 seats, so arrive early for a seat near the front. Weekday morning performances are lightly attended. more

Mission Bay

Address Mission Bay, San Diego, CA Map,

Mission Bay Public Park, is a 4,600-acre water park, the largest park of its kind in the world. It has 27 miles of shoreline and 15 miles of bayfront beaches. There are a wide variety of water and land based family activities, including swimming, powerboating, fishing, sailing, waterskiing and kayaking. The sheltered bay keeps the water calm, and designated areas for each activity mean that, for example, swimmers aren't competing with jet-skiers or boaters for space. more

Pacific Beach Surf School

Address 4150 Mission Blvd. Suite #161, San Diego, CA 92109 Map, Tel 858.373.1138 Call, Website

If you've always wanted to learn to surf, Pacific Beach Surf School is a good place to start. They've been in business since 1998 and offer a wide variety of private lessons, semi-private lessons, and weekend clinics. Equipment rental is included in the price of the lesson. more

Ruben H. Fleet Science Center

Address 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 Map, Tel (619) 238-1233 Call, Website

The science museum has hands on activities for kids beginning at age 2, an IMAX theatre, and changing special exhibits. There is an indoor play area upstairs that's great on a rainy day. more

San Diego Harbor Excursions (Whale Watching)

Address 1050 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 Map, Tel 619-234-4111 Call, Website

From Mid-December to mid-March, thousands of California gray whales pass by San Diego on their annual southern migration. Trained naturalists from the Birch Aquarium lead three-and-a-half hour cruises, and you're very likely to see whales, dolphins, harbor seals and sea lions). If you don't see a whale, you can ride again for free. more

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Address 1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 Map, Tel (619) 696-0199 Call, Hours Tue-Fri 11:00 - 4:00; Sat & Sun 11:00 - 5:00, Cost 15+ $6.00; under 15 free Website

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the world's largest model railroad museum. It contains four different model railroad layouts, all of which are works in progress for the model railroad clubs that meet here. Everything is at grownup height, so kids will need to stand on platforms or be held. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the museum hosts kids days with crafts, stories and other activities for kids, and there is also a kids area with three Thomas Train setups for kids to play with. Every winter there is a Lego train exhibit from late Nov to mid Jan. more

San Diego Wild Animal Park

Address 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, CA Map, Tel 760-747-8702 Call, Hours Change seasonally, check the website for details Website

The Wild Animal Park, built on 1,800 acres and situated about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego is more like an African safari than a zoo. There are activities for all ages, but the hilight is seeing the animals in a "natural" and "free roaming" setting on a photo caravan safari tour. more

San Diego Zoo

Address 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA Map, Tel 619-231-1515 Call, Bus Take the #7 bus from downtown Website

Considered one of the best Zoos in the country, the San Diego Zoo is spread across 100 acres and animals live in lush "natural" habitats rather than tiny cages. There's also a gondola to take you across the park and a miniature steam train! If you arrive early in the day, a good way to beat the crowds is to take the gondola one way to the far end of the park and work your way back on foot. more

The New Children's Museum

Address 200 West Island Avenue, San Diego, California 92101 Map, Tel 619 233 8792 Call, Hours Closed Wed, Cost Ages 1 and up $10, Transit Bus Routes 3, 11, 120 & 992; Trolley Orange Line (Convention Center stop); Train (Santa Fe Depot) Website

The Children's Museum of San Diego has reopened in the summer of 2008 with a new name and in a new location. The center's focus is on art education, and art studios allow kids to get seriously messy with activities like "action painting" and clay. There's even a VW Bug to use as a canvas. The museum is designed for all ages and hosts both free-play areas and scheduled classes. There is also an outdoor play area. more

Torrey Pines Gliderport

Address 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla CA 92037 Map, Website

Pack a picnic and take the kids out to watch hang gliders, paragliders and sailplanes at the famous Torrey Pines Gliderport. For the adventurous, lessons and tandem flights are also available. more

Wave House

Address 3115 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego Map, Cost $20 per hour plus a one-time $10 registration fee Website

This unique gym has simulated surf platforms perfect for learning to surf even when the waves outside aren't cooperating. more

Reader Favorites

Balboa Park Carousel

Address Balboa Park, San Diego, CA Map, Tel (619) 239-0512 Call, Website

This is off of the Zoo Entrance, so if you are going to the Zoo already, you might as well take a ride on the carousel. It is beautiful and nearly a hundred years old. It only runs weekends and holidays. more

Belmont Park, Mission Beach

Address 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Map, Website

Permanent beachfront amusement park. Reminds me of the seasonal travelnig carnivals that would come to town - only the rides are installed firmly and operate all year. Not super slick, but good basic fun without the huge hit to the pocket of some other area attractions. Can't beat the location! more

Birch Aquarium

Address 2300 Expedition Way, la jolla CA Map, Tel (858) 534-FISH (3474) Call, Website

Unlike sea world, legoland and the zoo, the aquarium is intimate, always pretty empty and laid back, but beautiful and very educational. kids love it, they feel up close and personal with the fish. and entry is very reasonable compared to the big theme parks! more

Birch Aquarium

Address 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037 Map, Website

There is a tide pool where they can touch starfish and other sea creatures, a fabulous sea horse exhibit and lots of educational exhibits. more

Cabrillo National Monument

Address Cabrillo National Monument, Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106 Map, Tel (619) 557-5450 Call, Website

You can drive up to the visitor center and learn about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and watch the boats in the harbor, which can be everything from sailboats to Navy cruisers. more

Hillcrest Farmers Market

Address 3960 Normal St, San Diego, CA 92103 Map,

Every Sunday from 9am-1pm (2 in the summer) at Normal in the DMV parking lot, Hillcrest has one of the best farmers markets in San Diego: lots of fresh produce, foods, flowers, craft and merchandise stuff. more

Historic Carousel at Seaport Village

Address 849 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 Map, Tel 619-235-4014 Call, Website

Rides on the Seaport Village antique carousel with your children (or even just for adults) are not to be missed! The carousel has 54 animals and was designed by Charles Looff (worth wiki-ing, he's the king of carousels). Rides are $2/person. Parking is for-fee. Full disclosure: A Ben & Jerry's is right nearby. While you're there: Shopping at Seaport Village is somewhat eclectic (not chains), but it's a pleasant outdoor stroll, and you might find an unusual gift or odd souvenir; we usually pop in the Upstart Crow bookstore-with-cafe ( more


Address 5066 Santa Fe Street, San Diego, CA 92109 Map, Tel (858) 272-2266 Call, Website

Located in Pacific Beach, KidVentures is a drop in coffeehouse and indoor playground. There's plenty for kids up to age 8 to do here while you relax with a cup of coffee or even lunch. more