Spread over 100 acres of mesas and winding canyons, the San Diego Zoo has been a park-goers delight for nearly 100 years. With over 3,500 animals, it's an amazing place to view rare and exotic creatures in enclosures that mimic their natural habitats. Kids can touch the wooly coat of a sheep or gentle pygmy goat in the Petting Zoo and meet the animal stars up close with a Backstage Pass tour. Or spend the night at the Zoo and see what happens after the crowds go home and the sun goes down.
Find yourself in the middle of Africa, where more than 3,500 rare and exotic animals roam several expansive habitats as large as 100 acres at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido. Explore walking trails that bring you face-to-face with animals; view giraffes, rhinos, antelope and more aboard the African Tram Safari; or watch the fastest land mammal as it whooshes by in hot pursuit of a mechanical lure at Cheetah Run. Kids love feeding the birds out of the palm of their hand at Lorikeet Landing; brushing the Boer, pygmy goats and Nubian goats at the Petting Kraal; or hand-feeding a gentle giraffe in the heart of Africa.
- Teens can participate in a Photo Caravan Safari jeep excursion into the park's vast sanctuary for endangered animals. Two- and four-hour safaris serve up tons of unique photo opportunities and the chance to hand-feed giraffes.
- Teens can also take flight on Flightline Safari, the Park's fast-paced zip line experience that provides aerial views of exotic animals;
- Or challenge themselves on the Jungle Ropes Safari with rope bridges to cross, aerial tightropes to navigate, and swinging log steps to negotiate;
- Or take a Ride on the Wild Side with a two-hour behind-the-scenes tour of Lion Camp and the Park's cheetah enclosures.
- At the Savanna Cool Zone, kids can walk through the palm trees where a gentle mist falls from above and the path leads to a turtle, lion and crocodile. Located next to Lion Camp, the Savanna Cool Zone is a wild way to cool off on a hot summer day!
- Head to the Samburu Jungle Gym, where kids can climb and explore in a safari-themed play area located below Benbough Amphitheater. Parents will love the shade-covered picnic area.
- The Conservation Carousel features 60 animals, some rare and endangered, to ride.
SeaWorld San Diego along Mission Bay celebrates the wonders of the sea with spectacular live animal shows starring penguins, sea lions, dolphins and, of course, orca whales. Feed and touch dolphins, and get face-to-snout with polar bears, beluga whales, sharks and penguins. SeaWorld also offers several wet and wild animal interaction programs that bring to life the park's conservation efforts.
- Feel the thrill of adventure on the park's exciting rides: Manta, Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids, Riptide Rescue and the new Electric Eel.
- The Dolphin Encounter gives teenagers 15 minutes of hands-on time to feed and practice training maneuvers with the park's bottlenose dolphins, all without donning a wetsuit. The hour-long Dolphin Interaction Program takes the experience to the next level as teens suit up and hop in the pool with the dolphins.
- Teenagers can also get their feet wet during the 90-minute Wild Arctic Interaction Program when they can meet Arctic animals like barking seals, giant walruses and polar bears before climbing into the water with gentle Beluga whales.
- For the ultimate experience, the Trainer for a Day allows teenagers to work alongside SeaWorld's trainers as they coach and care for dolphins.
- Sesame Street Bay of Play combines rides and play areas all themed around Sesame Street characters.
- Sharing a meal next to a killer whale tank with Dine with Orcas is memorable for any age and provides with multiple benefits. Not only does it eliminate the need to search for a table while balancing multiple meals on trays, the distraction of watching orcas swim and train means younger kids will stay put long enough for the adults to finish their meal too.
Located in San Diego's South Bay, SeaWorld's Aquatica San Diego Waterpark, features 25 water rides, a wave pool and children's play area. Rides range from high-speed, adrenaline-pounding thrills to family-friendly and relaxing. The park also offers some animal encounters and is open spring through fall.
- Feel the thrill of the new Taumata Racer, a 375 foot slide with 180-degree swooping turn and tunnel action.
- The HooRoom Run is the steepest drop at the park, going 80-feet straight down.
- Teenagers can also get their adrenaline pumping at Kiwi Curl, a high-speed tube ride with three slides in complete darkness.
- Loggerhead Lane offers fun for the whole family with a 1,250 foot lazy river floating through waterfalls and past a flock of Caribbean flamingos.
- The Walkabout Waters interactive play area offers 4 stories of climbing, sliding fun.
- Designed for the whole family the Walhalla Wave is a 78-foot slide where large rafts filled with people, twist and turn to the bottom.
Through a self-guided audio tour of the USS Midway Museum, narrated by Midway sailors, the honor and history of this decommissioned aircraft carrier come to life. Explore more than 60 exhibits, which incorporate the voices of many who served on the USS Midway and tell of their experiences. Visit the mess deck, sleeping quarters, hangar deck and flight deck, as well as a collection of 25 restored aircraft. The tour of the bridge, chart room and primary flight control is guided by a volunteer, in many cases a navy pilot or sailor who served aboard the USS Midway.
- Roll, somersault, spin and loop your fighter during a pulse-pounding aerial combat ride aboard Air Combat 360.
- In Flight Avionics, enjoy 5 minutes of simulated flight time as you participate in an F/18 "Screaming Eagles" training exercise. Launch from the carrier, hit your target and land safely to see if you have what it takes to pilot one of these jets.
- Have an adventure at sea without leaving port. Eat on the mess deck and sleep in enlisted crew births during a family sleepover aboard the Midway. Only offered once per year.
Home to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad features a variety of LEGO-themed entertainment designed for children, including “Mini Land,” which showcases some of the nation's most famous cities through life-size replicas built entirely from LEGO bricks. To find age-appropriate rides and activities, when visiting with younger kids, head left as you enter the park and travel clockwise. When visiting with older kids, head right as you enter and travel counterclockwise.
While LEGOLAND is geared towards the preteen and under crowd, there are a few rides and attractions that will keep teenagers happy and entertained.
- Head to the Imagination Zone where teenagers could spend the whole day, between the Xbox Game Space, Lego Robotics activities and Lego building opportunities.
- Good rides for the teen crowd include Lego Technic Coaster, Lost Kingdom Adventure and Knights Tournament.
- The outdoor play areas at Hideaway and Pharaoh's Revenge are also great fun.
- Water Works allows kids to jump on pads to make music play and fountains spray.
- Fairy Tale Brook is an enchanting boat ride through a humorous LEGO version of familiar fairy tales.
- Dig Those Dinos is an interactive area where kids can test their paleontology skills as they dig for dinosaur bones buried in sand pits.
- Swabbies Deck is a play area amid pop-up water jets, playful water fountains and delightful squirt cannons. Bring a change of clothing for this water area.
An extension of the main park with a separate entrance fee, LEGOLAND Water Park features a variety of kid-friendly attractions including a Build-A-Raft river where visitors can custom build their own LEGO® raft, several water slides, a 45-foot-tall tower playground and two sandy beach wading areas.
The adjoining SEA LIFE Aquarium incorporates LEGO® models into a child's voyage to the depths of the ocean, presenting the wonders of the underwater world to them in a way specially designed for their understanding.
Less than two hours north of downtown San Diego you'll find Disneyland Resort. Read Day Trip to Disneyland for a few tips and tricks to make this excursion even more enjoyable.
Follow these links to other San Diego family friendly attractions including the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the budget-friendly Living Coast Discovery Center, Belmont Park and Balboa Park.