San Diego Family Vacation Ideas – Attractions, Activities & Things to Do for Summer Vacation

San Diego is a delightful family destination all year long with its practically perfect weather and plethora of top attractions, but there’s something extra special about San Diego in the summertime.

Whether it’s the wealth of special summer events and exhibits, or simply the beautiful beach weather on the So Cal coast, there’s something to love about San Diego.

If you’re heading to this amazing city for your summer family vacation and are looking for some ideas on how to fill your time outside of swimming and sunbathing, check out our list.

Our favorite San Diego summer family vacation ideas include:

  • San Diego Zoo & Safari Park
  • LEGOLAND California
  • SeaWorld San Diego
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Balboa Park & Museums
  • Belmont Park
  • Birch Aquarium
  • Bike Rentals
  • The New Children’s Museum
  • Whale Watching Cruise

Save on Family Vacation Attraction Ideas

Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Go San Diego Card.

Choose as you go from top visited attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Learn more about our San Diego passes, attractions and prices.

San Diego Zoo & Safari Park

Image Credit San Diego Zoo by Damien Lasater

Image Credit San Diego Zoo by Damien Lasater

Our favorite family attraction in San Diego, without question, is the San Diego Zoo. This expansive animal park is filled with the most wild and wonderful creatures from all across the globe.

Among the most famous of their 3,700 or so inhabitants are the adorable but endangered Giant Pandas. Keep an eye out to see any little ones that may be there!

During the summer months, Nighttime Zoo is a fun thing to enjoy, too, filled with music and live entertainment during extended hours.

If you prefer big cats like lions and other African safari-type animals, then the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a nice option as well.

Getting In: San Diego Zoo tickets and San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets are both included with the Go San Diego Card.

LEGOLAND® California

LAX Legoland California (3)Especially designed for the younger kids, LEGOLAND California is a magical place where your children’s toys are brought to life.

Explore interactive build spaces. Enjoy gentle and exciting rides appropriate for younger and middle-grade kids. Meet life-sized LEGO characters from their favorite franchises throughout the park.

Anything they can imagine, they’ll find in LEGOLAND.

Getting In: LEGOLAND California tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld-San-Diego-3 (1)Another great option for animal lovers is SeaWorld San Diego. Part animal conservation institute, part theme park, this attraction is 100% amazing.

Come here to meet some of the most popular marine animals, from penguins to seals to orcas.

Then, stick around for the exciting thrill rides like coasters, water rides, and much more.

They also often have special programming or events in the summer, so be sure to check their operating calendar before your visit to see what’s going on.

Getting In: SeaWorld San Diego tickets are available as a premium attraction option with the 3-, 5-, and 7-Day Go San Diego Cards.

USS Midway Museum

USS-Midway-Museum-5A historical attraction that’s intriguing for adults and kids alike is the USS Midway Museum.

It’s been consistently voted one of the top 10 museums in the country by TripAdvisor polls, and is a favorite with families because it’s educational and quite fascinating.

The USS Midway was the longest serving aircraft carrier of the twentieth century, and the 60 exhibits scattered throughout highlight many aspects of her history and operation, from the crew quarters to the flight deck.

It’s an especially appealing attraction to fans of military history, too.

Getting In: USS Midway Museum tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

Balboa Park & Museums

balboa-park-san-diegoBalboa Park is the country’s largest urban cultural park, and is filled with a bevy of museums, gardens, theaters, and so much more for your family to enjoy this summer.

Come with a picnic, stroll through the cactus garden, or make a day of it by visiting a few of the inspiring museums located throughout the park.

A few of our favorite museums for families include the Natural History Museum, the Fleet Science Center, the Air & Space Museum, and the San Diego Art Museum.

Getting In: Balboa Park is free to explore. The Go San Diego Card includes admission to many of the museums.

Belmont Park

San Diego Belmont Park 1 (5)This classic amusement park offers that ideal combination of fun for the kids and nostalgia for the adults.

It’s an exciting destination that features all you could ever ask for on a boardwalk style attraction, from roller coasters to bumper cars to arcade gamers.

There’s even laser tag, a rock wall, a mirror maze, and mini golf. You’ll be able to spend an entire afternoon here as a family!

Getting In: Belmont Park tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

Birch Aquarium

Birch-Aquarium-at-Scripps-2Another ideal attraction for animal lovers is the Birch Aquarium.

Thoroughly educational and thoroughly enjoyable, this aquarium is affiliated with the scientists of the famed Scripps Institute of Oceanography (based at UCSD).

You’ll find that the colorful, exotic, and downright fascinating critters at this aquarium are presented in informative and engaging ways.

Plus, there are several exhibits that focus on issues affecting the planet’s marine life, like the search for renewable energy source, and global climate change.

Getting In: Birch Aquarium tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

Bike & Kayak Rentals

La Jolla Kayak

La Jolla Kayak

A great way to get out and active with the kids while on vacation is with a bike rental.

Pedal around the boardwalk or beaches of La Jolla for some peaceful ocean breezes, bright coastal sunshine, and some amazing views.

Or, you could also rent a kayak, a stand-up paddle board, or snorkeling gear, if you’d prefer to actually dive into those gorgeous blue waters.

Getting In: La Jolla Bike & Kayak Rentals are included with the Go San Diego Card.

The New Children’s Museum

new-childrens-museum-san-diego-museumsThis is a standout example of the new trend in children’s museums with its drive to make everything as interactive as possible while stimulating both creativity and critical thinking.

Their particular focus is on the arts, and the different ways in which children experience art, whether it’s through climbing on a sculpture or creating art of their own from raw materials.

Be sure to check out the park across the street, too! 

Getting In: New Children’s Museum tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

Whale Watching Cruise by Hornblower Cruises

Whale-Watching-Winter-Hornblower-Cruises-3Of course, you can’t leave California without a journey out to sea to seek out the magnificent whales that migrate along the coast.

A whale watch cruise is both relaxing and exciting, as you get to enjoy four hours of ocean voyaging accompanied by expert narration from a naturalist affiliated with the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Keep an eye out for sea birds, seals, dolphins, and of course, the iconic whales.

Getting In: Whale Watch Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.

Remember to Save on Family Friendly Admission

There you go. A few suggestions for attractions and activities for your upcoming San Diego family vacation.

Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Go San Diego Card.

We hope you consider adding some of these fun ideas to your family vacation itinerary.

Go San Diego Card

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