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Explore 13 Kid-Pleasing Neighborhoods

Where adventures abound and recess never ends

In San Diego, it’s easy to find sure-fire kid-favorite neighborhoods, each with its own unique spirit, where families can learn and explore together. From tots to tweens to teens, discover the top family experiences in each of them.

La Jolla: Treasures in Plain Sight

La Jolla may be known for its upscale restaurants, shops and galleries, but San Diego’s “Jewel by the Sea” is also a hotspot for family fun.

Birch Aquarium: Meet jellyfish, sharks and other marine friends at this iconic aquarium, situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.

La Jolla Cove: This popular swimming and snorkeling spot is a protected marine park full of ocean life. Share the water with sea lions and bright orange Garibaldi fish.

La Jolla Shores: This mile-long stretch of perfect sand is a family-favorite. Beachgoers can swim, surf, boogie board or snorkel (look for an array of marine life!) during the day. At night, the beach glows with beach bonfires. Don’t forget the s’mores!

Mission Bay & Beaches: Sand + Water = Hours of Fun

It’s almost impossible not to smile when you’re on the beach. From the bay to the coast, San Diego offers some of the best sandy, sun-soaked, splash-worthy adventures out there.

Mission Bay Park: The largest manmade aquatic park of its kind, Mission Bay offers smooth waters for stand-up paddleboarding, jetskiing, tubing, sailing and more.

Belmont Park: This quintessential Southern Californian beachside amusement park features games, snacks, shops and rides—including a historic wooden roller coaster and a wave simulator.

SeaWorld San Diego: Entertainment meets education at SeaWorld, where kids can get up close and personal with the wonders of the deep.

Point Loma Peninsula: Playtime of Historic Proportions

Point Loma is a mix of celebrating the past and creative new experiences. No matter what family adventure you take in Point Loma, it will be uniquely San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument & Tide Pools: The Monument, with its stunning views of downtown, commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who sailed into San Diego in 1542 and became the first European to set foot in California. Take a walk to the tide pools below and discover a world of marine life, including periwinkle snails, sea stars, crabs and even octopi.

Liberty Public Market: Located in the urban village of Liberty Station, a repurposed Naval Training Center, this new market is a smorgasbord for the senses. The halls are filled with awesome eats, handmade crafts and imaginative artwork. Liberty Station is also home to Corvette Diner, a kid-favorite 50’s style restaurant, as well as museums, galleries, shops and more.

North County Coastal: The Talk of the Playground

Head up the coast and find yourself in some of the coolest surf communities in Southern California where the adventures continue off the coast as well.

LEGOLAND® California Resort: This theme park is the dream of any kid who has ever put two plastic bricks together. You’ll find LEGOLAND® California Resort, LEGOLAND® Water Park and their SEA LIFE® Aquarium all in one location.

San Diego Botanic Garden: Wander through a rare bamboo grove, a rainforest, a tropical fruit garden and the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast—all in one place.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: Cliff-top trails offer awesome hiking and breathtaking views. Hikes range in difficulty, so even little tikes can have some big discoveries.

Coronado: Secret Island Hideout

Across the Coronado Bridge lies the charming and timeless island community of Coronado, a completely different kind of beachside escape.

Orange Avenue: Coronado’s main street is lined with shops, restaurants, galleries and theaters. Grab an ice cream cone and soak in the nostalgia of an experience seemingly frozen in time. Load your family onto a surrey bike for a memorable ride through this classic neighborhood.

Coronado Beach: This sprawling stretch of sand is consistently voted among the best family-friendly beaches in the U.S. On the beach is the Hotel del Coronado, an architectural beauty built in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark. It’s a must-visit on any trip to Coronado.

South Bay: Recess Lasts All Day

South Bay acts as San Diego’s gateway to Mexico’s Baja California and has some amazing opportunities to discover San Diego’s unique wildlife.

Bayshore Bikeway: A 10-mile segment of San Diego’s 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway goes through South Bay and offers spectacular views of San Diego Bay and Silver Strand State Beach. Look for endangered birds in the wetland sanctuary you’ll pass.

Living Coast Discovery Center: Located in the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge in Chula Vista, Living Coast is a hidden gem with various immersive exhibits, featuring everything from turkey vultures to a shark-filled touch tank.

Downtown & Gaslamp: Home Base for Fun

The buzzing downtown shows why San Diego is California’s ultimate beach city—and not just for grown-ups.

Waterfront Park: One of San Diego’s newer parks, this sprawling playground is quintessential San Diego. It sits on the edge of San Diego Bay and features shallow fountains that encourage kids to splash around in, open grass areas and multiple play structures. The entire park sits in the shadow of the beautiful Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship.

USS Midway Museum: Just up the Embarcadero from Seaport Village is the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, now a one-of-a-kind floating museum. Kids can ride flight simulators, explore the living quarters and learn what life was like aboard this majestic vessel.

The New Children's Museum: This incredible experience starts as soon as your little ones walk through the door. Let their creativity go wild as they touch, feel, explore and play with art in all forms.

Hillcrest: Imagination Takes Flight

This vibrant uptown neighborhood, full of trendy boutiques and hip new restaurants, is your connection to Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S. and home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo.   

Balboa Park: Whether you come for the architecture, the museums, the gardens or the live theater, you’re sure to discover something wonderful and unexpected in this giant cultural hotspot.  

San Diego Zoo: This world-renowned wild oasis lets your little ones meet some of the most impressive, exotic and awe-inspiring animals in the world. A San Diego staple for more than 100 years, the Zoo is a family must-see when visiting Southern California.

Little Italy: Let the Festival Begin

On the north end of downtown is Little Italy, one of San Diego’s buzziest neighborhoods that mixes classic Italian heritage with modern style.

Little Italy Mercato: Every Sunday, several blocks are shut down for the renowned Mercato, a farmers market known for its amazing local food. Adventurous kids (and parents) can try a freshly caught sea urchin, called “uni.”

Neighborhood Festivals: If you’re coming to San Diego, see what events are happening in Little Italy. Whether it’s the Stickball Tournament—that takes over the streets of Little Italy—or the eclectic creativity of the Mission Federal ArtWalk, there’s always something exciting going on.

North Park & South Park: Champions of their Craft

These uptown neighborhoods are known as some of the trendiest and most craft-centric communities in San Diego, something that parents and kids can both appreciate.

Family-Friendly Dining: Parents will love the dining options in these neighborhoods, specifically on 30th Street. Although it’s known as the best beer street in America, the restaurants (like Waypoint Public and Station Tavern) are surprisingly family-friendly. Even most of the breweries allow little ones until later in the night. 

Local Galleries & Outdoor Art: Let your kids’ inspiration wander in North Park’s art scene. Ray Street has some creative local galleries, but much of the art can be seen as you walk the streets and admire the awesome murals.

Mission Valley & Old Town: History Class is in Session

Mission Valley is connected to it all, and not just with its convenient proximity. It features many cultural gems and windows into the area’s storied history.

Old Town State Park: Old Town San Diego is considered the birthplace of California and a visit truly feels like a step back in time. Immerse yourself in 1800’s life, as well as authentic Mexican culture, for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Mission Trails Regional Park: More than 60 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails weave through canyons and hills, amidst colorful flowers and archaeological artifacts of the area's indigenous people, the Kumeyaay Indians. Hike to the top of Cowles Mountain for the best view.

Mission San Diego de Alcala: This portal to the past was the first of the great California Missions. Founded in 1769, it’s still an active parish church but is also a vibrant cultural center where anyone can have a tangible encounter of California’s roots.

North County Inland: Brave Adventurers Wanted

This region proves that there is plenty of natural beauty off the beach in San Diego. This outdoor adventureland has big fun for kids and kids at heart.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park: If you want up-close-and-personal animal encounters, the Safari Park is it. Take a safari expedition and discover giraffes, rhinos and more, all roaming natural habitats.

Mt. Woodson: This hike is no walk in the park, but it is rewarding. A 6.4-mile round-trip trek earns you jaw-dropping views of San Diego, including downtown and the Pacific Ocean. Make sure to take a picture on the Instagram-worthy Potato Chip Rock. You’ll know it when you see it.

La Jolla Zip Zoom Zipline: Soar high above the La Jolla Indian Campground on a zipline…at speeds up to 55 mph. This zipline tour features the longest zip line in California and treats brave families with amazing views of Palomar Mountain.

East County: San Diego’s Wild Backyard

San Diego’s East County is one of its most diverse family-friendly playgrounds, with settings ranging from rolling hills to rocky canyons, towering mountains to crystal lakes.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: The largest state park in California, Anza-Borrego lets families truly experience the awesomeness of the California Desert. A whole different world of plants and animals await those who come exploring.

Julian: This historic mining town, tucked into the Cuyamaca Mountains, is a completely unexpected experience. Take a tour of an old gold mine, where kids can even pan for gold themselves. The current gem of Julian, however, is definitely their apple pie.

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