Here’s our top picks:
San Diego Zoo
From the super-cute koalas to the rare giant pandas, the 100-acre zoo in Balboa Park is bound to capture the imagination of your young explorers. In total, it’s home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals and more than 700,000 exotic plants - so there’s plenty to see. There is a children’s zoo with activities geared towards younger children. If that’s not enough to satisfy your appetite, travel 30 miles north to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Here the 25-minute kid-friendly tram safari takes visitors on a tour through its grounds, where you can see many animals, including: rhinos, giraffes and buffaloes.
Sticking with the animal theme, SeaWorld is another must for a family-friendly San Diego holiday. Adults and children alike are bound to be wowed by the dolphin, killer whale and sea lion shows as well as the aquariums and walk-through shark tank. Older kids will also enjoy the Shipwreck Rapids while younger children are catered for with rides like Sesame Street Bay.
San Diego actually boasts more than 70 miles of beaches, so there’s plenty of space to enjoy swimming or sunbathing. Families can take surfing lessons together if you’re feeling a little more adventurous and are ready to catch some waves.
Speaking of the beach, it’s here (Mission Beach) that you’ll find Belmont Park. From miniature golf to child-friendly bumper cars, there’s hours of fun to be had in this amusement park. If your family fancies a challenge, then you’ll love Control Freak – a roller coaster that actually allows you to control your own car.
The New Children’s Museum
Tap into your kids’ creative side by taking them along to the superb New Children’s Museum in W Island Ave. This bright modern venue contains climbable structures and creative displays that encourage children to get to grips with art in the most interactive – and fun – way possible. Your kids are bound to be inspired.
Balboa Park – the heart of so much of the family-friendly action in San Diego – is also host to a superb miniature railroad. This three-minute, half-mile trip takes in four acres of the park. The associated museum also includes interactive child-friendly exhibits too.
Air and Space Museum
If you prefer airborne adventures to the railroad, then the nearby San Diego Air & Space Museum – yet another of Balboa Park’s attractions – is perfect. Kids are bound to be blown away by the model of the Montgolfier brothers’ historic hot air balloon of 1783. ‘Be the Astronaut’ offers you the chance to launch a rocket, pilot a spaceship and drive a rover in space in one interactive adventure.
Is yours a family that loves the great outdoors? Venture a short distance north east out to the 7,220-acre Mission Trails Regional Park. There’s approximately 60 miles of trails, boating, camping, hiking and even family art classes to keep you entertained.
Hamilton Children’s Garden
Within the San Diego Botanic Garden is the Hamilton Children’s Garden – a facility geared up to encouraging children to discover nature. There’s a huge tree house at the heart of this which emerges from a banyan tree. The tree is part real, part manufactured and is designed to getting your kids to crawl through the roots to discover worms and snails, climb and admire the bark, birds and butterflies and gaze out from the crow’s nest.
There’s a double dose of maritime fun to be had in two attractions on the seafront. Your kids can discover their inner-pirate while taking a look around the fleet at the floating Maritime Museum, while older kids will appreciate exploring the USS Midway Museum. The Midway was America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, in operation for the entire Cold War - so there’s plenty of history to explore.
Sports-mad families need to head over to Petco Park and catch a ball game. There is arguably no better baseball venue in the country than the home of the San Diego Padres and tours let you experience "writer's row" in the press box, learn about the historic Western Metal Supply Co. Building and explore the Padres dugout.
The popularity of LEGO continues to soar – especially with movies now in the can - so there’s a good chance your kids will want to venture out to LEGOLAND California. This is actually about 30 minutes north of the city, which you might want to bear in mind when it comes to booking your hotel in San Diego. Once there, there’s chance to have a go at the Volvo Driving School, where children can drive mini cars around a streetscape. They can also build and race their own LEGO vehicles and mom and dad get involved too – with the police and fire academy ride getting them to put out blazes and stop the robbers and generally re-discover their childhood enthusiasm.