There are so many fun things to do on a San Diego Family Vacation. Due to the fabulous year-round weather outdoor activities such as hiking,golfing,playing on a beach, and water sports are popular. San Diego is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo as well as the Safari Park, Sea World, and Legoland.
California’s oldest city, San Diego has many historical sites to visit. This gorgeous city is perfect for a couple’s getaway or a family vacation!
#1 – Head to the Beach
With 70 miles of coastline San Diego has lots of beaches. Some beaches are known for surfing while others are ideal for families. Some beaches are full of activities, nearby restaurants, shopping, and bars. Other beaches are less crowded and more intimate. Find the beach that is perfect for your San Diego family vacation:
Guide to San Diego Beaches
#2 – Have a Bonfire on the Beach
Enjoy a San Diego tradition. Sit around the fire with your family or friends. Enjoy an evening under the stars. Roast marshmallows or even make s’mores. Most San Diego beaches provide fire pits and allow bonfires during the hours of 6 AM and midnight. Beaches without fire pits do not allow bonfires. Best beaches for bonfires include La Jolla Shores, Mission Bay, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and Silver Strand Beach. Fire pits are first come, first serve.
Tip: If you drive to the public area behind the Bahia Resort in Mission Bay, you may be able to have a bonfire and time it so you also view the fireworks from Sea World. The perfect combination for a San Diego family vacation.
#3 – Watch a Spectacular Sunset
San Diego is known for its fabulous sunsets. It’s hard to beat the experience of watching the sun slowly sink in the Pacific Ocean. Best beaches for watching the sunset are La Jolla Cove, Sunset Cliffs, and Windansea. The cliffs along the shore at these beaches begin to glow as the sky changes colors
Tip: Make reservations to dine near the water at George’s Outdoor Terrace Bistro in La Jolla. If you tell them you’re interested in watching the sunset, they will know the best time to reserve. This photo was taken while dining at George’s. Diners actually clapped as the sunset ended. It’s quite an experience!
#4 – Bike Along the Coast
There are numerous places to bike in San Diego and enjoy gorgeous ocean views at the same time. Bring your own bike or rent bikes at one of the many rental companies.
Some of the most popular places for biking are along the coast, on Coronado Island, and around Mission Bay. You can join an organized biking tour or rent a bike and venture out on your own.
#5 – Relive History By Taking a Flight in a Biplane
Relive history by riding in a biplane driven by an experienced pilot who can make the ride nice and gentle or fast and thrilling depending on what you want. Most successful early airplanes were biplanes. This includes the Wright Flyer invented by the famous Wright Brothers.
Air Tours of San Diego
#6 – Kayak Through the La Jolla Caves
Kayak through caves and get up close to fascinating marine life. Join a guided tour in downtown La Jolla. It’s an exciting way to spend a few hours in the beautiful La Jolla Cove.
La Jolla, Mission Bay, and Coronado Island are the most popular places for kayaking. There are a variety of businesses that rent kayaks. They have all the equipment you need. Both single and tandem kayaks are available. Tandem kayaks have room for two people making them convenient for families with young children.
#7 – Take a Cruise
Get out on the water to truly appreciate San Diego. Enjoy the coastal scenery, San Diego’s skyline, and unbeatable ocean sunsets. Experience a short excursion, a dinner or brunch cruise, Tour the San Diego Bay or venture across Mission Bay. Rent a speed boat or even a jet ski. There are a variety of cruises and rentals available.
#8 – Picnic at Presidio Park
Presidio Park is a gorgeous park with expansive green lawns and lush landscaping including tall trees, grassy hillsides, palm covered canyons, and flowering plants. You can enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Mission Bay, and Mission Valley from this hillside park.
9 – Spend the Day at Sea World
Sea World is a fun place to spend the day and learn about marine life at the same time. You will love the entertaining shows and interesting exhibits. Plan to spend the entire day at Sea World San Diego. There’s even a colorful fireworks display during the summer months.
Tickets are available online or at the gate. AAA members and the military usually get discounted tickets. Local Costco stores often have great deals on Sea World tickets as well.
Sea World Website
#10 – Hang Out With the Wild Animals at Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an 1800 acre zoo located near Escondido in northern San Diego County.
It is home to more than 2,600 wild and endangered animals including species from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia.
The largest exhibits are the open-range enclosures that let some of the larger African and Asian animals roam in a more natural environment. It’s here that you will find rhinoceros, giraffe, gazelle, zebras, and buffalo.
Visitors ride a tram out to the area to view the animals. For an additional fee you can experience a tethered balloon ride that allows visitors to see the plains exhibits from 400 feet up in the air.
Safari Park Website
#11 – Explore Balboa Park
Don’t miss this San Diego tourist attraction. Many of the structures in Balboa Park were built for the First World’s Fair, The 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. There are 15 museums, lush gardens, an outdoor organ pavilion, the Old Globe Theater, the San Diego Zoo, a planetarium, restaurants, and numerous other recreational activities. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day exploring.
More Information on Balboa Park
#12 – Step Back in History at Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego is a vibrant neighborhood frequented by locals and visitors alike. You’ll be delighted by the variety of great restaurants, unique shops, hotels, a state historic park, gorgeous park, museum, and various other attractions.
Old Town State Historic Park
#13 – Take A Child to Lego Land
This is a park that is enjoyed by families with young children. Legoland California offers 50 thrilling rides, shows, and attractions. If you have young children, Lego Land is sure to be a treat. One of the most popular stops on a San Diego family vacation!
#14 – Enjoy the Panoramic View From the Top of Mount Soledad
The view is breathtaking in every direction. To the south you can see past San Diego and Coronado all the way to Mexico. Look east and view the mountains; south you see the Pacific Ocean; and north you gaze past the University of California at San Diego, and Torrey Pines. More Information
#15 – Go Wine Tasting at San Diego Wineries
Discover San Diego wineries located throughout the county. Scroll down to learn about the more than 60 wineries in San Diego, Ramona, Escondido, Fallbrook, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Julian.
As you explore San Diego, stop and sample wine at a winery in the area. Or plan a day full of wine tasting as you tour the best wineries in the area. Learn more about the best wineries by clicking on the link here:
Facts About San Diego Wineries
#16 – Fish From a Municipal Pier
An inexpensive and fun way to experience fishing while on a San Diego family vacation is by grabbing a pole and heading for a municipal pier. A license is not required for fishing one of these popular piers. If you don’t have a pole, you will find rental poles available in the areas around most of the piers.
Bring a couple of chairs so you can relax and enjoy the ocean views. Pack a picnic lunch as well or stop at of the nearby restaurants for a meal. You’ll find dining options close to most of San Diego’s piers.
#17 – Mount Helix
Visit Mount Helix to enjoy spectacular views, picnics, family outings, hiking, Easter sunrise services, weddings and other special celebrations. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors.
The 360 degree views this park are breathtaking. On a clear day you will find sweeping views all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Learn More About Mount Helix
#18 – Brewery
San Diego is one of the premier beer destinations in the United States.Beer lovers from all over visit the area to sample the special brews being produced. It’s easy to make a day or two of touring the best breweries. Some breweries focus strictly on the beer. Others have both beer and food.
#19 – – Go Parasailing on Mission Bay
Experience the thrill and excitement of sailing through the air while enjoying the beautiful scenery of San Diego. Gliding through the air over the water is an unforgettable experience, both fun and exciting!
Check out San Diego Parasail Adventures
#20 – Hike Along the Coast at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Torrey Pines State Reserve is a wilderness paradise located in the La Jolla area of San Diego. Hikers can enjoy 8 miles of beautiful trails as they explore the 2000 acres of coastal scenery. Highlights include rare Torrey Pine trees, miles of gorgeous beaches, and a lagoon that is a habitat for migrating seabirds. Great fun for a San Diego family vacation!
Learn More About Torrey Pines State Reserve
# 21 – Discover Cabrillo National Monument
Learn a little history on your San Diego family vacation. Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego honors the location where Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo became the first European to step foot on the western United States. This is the most southwestern point in the continental United States.
Cabrillo National Monument is one of the most scenic locations in the entire city. Explore tide pools, visit the lighthouse, enjoy the gorgeous coastal views on the two mile scenic hike.
#22 – Go Hanggliding/Paragliding for the Thrill of a Lifetime
If you are look for a true adventure for you San Diego family vacation consider hanggliding. Enjoy the excitement of soaring high above the ground along. Tandem flights are available for people who have not done this before. Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla is the place to go for hangggliding. Your flight will take you over the beautiful Torrey Pines coastal area. If you want to check it out before trying, drop by and watch as others experience their own flights. It’s fun just to watch!
#23 – Experience a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Soar peacefully over beautiful scenery. Relax as you gently glide along 500 to 1500 feet above the ground. Flights are typically 60 to 90 minutes long.
The flight is typically 60 minutes in length. The entire experience usually takes from 3 to 5 hours and will be a memorable adventure. There are a variety of companies that offer hot air balloon rides in San Diego.
#24 – Go Skydiving
Jumping off of an aircraft with a parachute on your back can be an unforgettable experience. Most skydivers make their first jump under the guidance of a trained instructor who jumps with you. This is called tandem skydiving. San Diego offers the perfect scenery for a fabulous dive.
Skydive San Diego
#25 – Take the Water Taxi Over to Coronado Island
Take the ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island. It’s a 5 minute ride across the bay. A great way to view the San Diego skyline. There are interesting specialty shops and restaurants as well as bike rentals at the Coronado Ferry Building. Call (619) 235-8294 for more information or reservations. It’s reasonably priced excursion on your San Diego Family Vacation – $7 each way on my recent ride.
If you know of other things to do while on a San Diego Family Vacation, please share with us below.