San Diego
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Katie Sagal

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 a 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:

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

LEGOLAND® California

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Specially 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®.

SeaWorld San Diego

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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 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.

USS Midway Museum

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A 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.

Balboa Park & Museums

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Balboa 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.

There are a ton of things to do in Balboa 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.

Belmont Park

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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 at Belmont Park as a family!

Birch Aquarium

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Another 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.

Bike & Kayak Rentals

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A great way to get out and active with the kids while on vacation is with Bike & Kayak 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.

Whale Watching Cruise by Hornblower Cruises

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Of 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.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Located outside of San Diego, about 35 miles north of the city, San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another popular San Diego destination. Although the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park have some similar animal species, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park emphasizes animals commonly found on African Safaris, including exotic tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, and more.

The exhibits at this park are larger, too, so visitors can see animals roaming in open fields - as if you were on an African safari. San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets with Go San Diego Card include general admission, a ride on the Africa Tram Safari, admission to the daily Cheetah Run, plus all regularly scheduled exhibits and shows including keeper talks.

Top tip: try to get to the park early and head straight to the Africa Tram Safari ride as it tends to get busier throughout the day.

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

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