In search of… family fun in San Diego without beaches
When a little sun, surf, and sand can’t fulfill your craving for fun, turn to San Diego’s famous and family-friendly attractions. Locals know America’s Finest City is just that because of its variety of entertainment and the near-perfect weather that allows you to be outside, enjoying it all nearly every day of the year. Here’s a curated list of must-see attractions throughout San Diego.
SeaWorld San Diego
At the original of the SeaWorld franchises, enjoy the Shamu Show with the famous SeaWorld orca whales. Additional shows with dolphins, sea lions, otters, and exotic birds play throughout the day. There are rides from easy-going gondolas to high-intensity roller coasters. Pet the dolphins and bat rays, and view hundreds of fish, mammals, and birds up close.
Aquatica is the newly branded waterpark inspired by the animals of SeaWorld. Located in Chula Vista, just a half hour from downtown San Diego, Aquatica provides slides for kids and adults, a massive wave pool, and a chance to meet some very friendly flamingos and turtles. San Diego’s beautiful weather makes this a perfect year-round attraction.
Filled with more than 17 museums with everything from natural history to space exploration, Balboa Park is a must-see destination in San Diego. With its beautiful fountains, building and playgrounds, the Park was named a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is minutes away from downtown San Diego and offers several family play and picnic areas, three dog parks, hiking trails, and a golf course.
San Diego Zoo
Located in Balboa Park: 2920 Zoo Drive
The world-famous San Diego Zoo houses more than 3,700 animals in the largest zoological organization in the world. This enormous zoo is an all-day adventure with some of the most unique collections of various species in the country. You can see almost any species of animal you can think of. Most famous are the giant pandas, Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and the newest addition, Xiao Liwu. The San Diego Zoo also has the largest collection of koalas outside of Australia and a truly behemoth anaconda (securely kept behind plenty of glass).
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Also located inside Balboa Park is the world’s largest operating model railroad museum with more than 27,000 square feet of model railroad layouts. With interactive exhibits for kids and teens alike, the museum has four scale and model layouts, which depict railroads of the Southwest. There’s even a Toy Train Gallery with an interactive Lionel layout for children.
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove (pronounced Hoya) is one of San Diego’s hidden gems for pure California sun. Tucked between cliffs and sea caves, the cove is a picturesque deep water bay where visitors kayak and snorkel to see the beautiful marine life. Parking is available although it’s paid lots, unless you get lucky with free street parking. Just down the street is The Children’s Pool, where you can view seals and sea lions sunbathing in a pool originally built for children.
The first LEGOLAND outside of Europe, the LEGOLAND California Resort opened in 1999. With several areas of the park themed after classic LEGO build sets and the first LEGO-themed waterpark in the world, LEGOLAND is a geared toward kids of all ages who want to be a part of the hands-on building block fun. Experience the more than 60 rides, shows and attractions offered by the park, and get ready to start building your adventure from the moment you step into LEGOLAND.
New Children’s Museum
Hands down one of the most fun places in San Diego, the New Children’s Museum is unlike any museum you’ve visited. With three levels and 50,000-square-foot (that’s not a typo), the museum caters to small children and pre-teens with its unique exhibitions (climbing, crawling, building, oh my!), hands-on art experiences and even performances. Across the street, the Museum has built a fun park for outdoor exploration too.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Situated above Torrey Pines State Beach, this 1,500 acres of pristine land showcases lagoons, canyons and a coastal forest with 3,000 of America’s rarest pine trees. The Reserve also has eight miles of beautifully-kept hiking trails that offer magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean – perfect for that family selfie. The trails include family-friendly ones and also more advanced paths, so consult a park ranger for the best options. And lastly, dogs are not allowed on the trails or anywhere in the Reserve.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Are exotic animals in enclosures not quite your thing? Are you looking for a more personal experience? Then the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is just for you! Hop on a tram or take a walk around the park, and you’ll forget you’re in California. The safari introduces you to lions, cheetahs, rhinos, gorillas, elephants and many, many more animals. This is a truly unique experience, getting you up close with a giraffe without even leaving the country.
San Diego truly is an amazing vacation destination for family fun. With its perfect year-round weather, numerous San Diego hotels and a plethora of activities to add to your vacation, Southern California’s coastal city is all about outdoor fun.