arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

Fun Parks & Gardens to Explore

Science, trains, trails and more!

San Diego's year-round climate brings beauty to the area parks and gardens throughout the year.

By: Chelsea Gladden; Mommy Blogger at Breezy Mama

Best Kid-Friendly Parks & Gardens

With all the world-class attractions located here, it’s no wonder San Diego is consistently rated one of the top family destinations in North America. In between days spent at the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and LEGOLAND, you can also find abundant fun within the parks and gardens found throughout the county. Here are some of the best ones that offer something special for kids of all ages.

Balboa Park

Known as “the Smithsonian of the West,” Balboa Park houses 17 museums, beautiful gardens, and multiple theatres and restaurants. The following is a short list of offerings where learning and fun go hand-in-hand for children of all ages.

  • Featuring more than 100 interactive science exhibits in five galleries, as well as major traveling exhibitions, the Fleet Science Center is an educational, entertaining experience for guests of all ages with seven galleries of hands-on science exhibits. Its IMAX Dome Theater, the first of its kind in the world, presents IMAX films and lively planetarium shows. While most exhibits are suitable for ages seven and up, Kid City is a vibrant exhibition aimed at younger children.
  • The world of model trains comes alive at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum with four enormous scale and model layouts that depict railroads of the Southwest in O, HO, and N scales and an interactive toy train gallery.
  • Boasting memorabilia and athletic accomplishments for more than forty-two sports, the San Diego Hall of Champions is the nation's largest multi-sport museum. Relive the career of Tony Gwynn, known locally as "Mr. Padre," follow the evolution of the surfboard or soar with local skateboard legend Tony Hawk.
  • The San Diego Junior Theatre presents year-round, family-friendly productions at the Casa del Prado Theatre.

Cabrillo National Monument

Commemorating the “birthplace of California” and the arrival of European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, Cabrillo National Monument provides spectacular panoramic views of San Diego's bustling harbor and magnificent downtown skyline, as well as an excellent vantage point for observing California gray whales during their winter migration season. In the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse, now restored into a museum, tiny rooms preserve the furnishings, toys and other possessions of the lighthouse’s former keeper and his family. On the shoreline below the monument, tide pools are filled with flowery anemones, scampering shore crabs and many other creatures of the sea. The best times to visit the tide pools are during winter and spring low tides.

Mission Trails Regional Park

At nearly 5,800 acres, Mission Trails Regional Park is a large urban park with more than 40 miles of hiking and biking trails along the San Diego River. Originally used by the Kumeyaay Indians, the state-of-the-art visitors center shares the history of the Kumeyaay culture, traditions and beliefs. While there, you can also view magnificent wildlife or join a guided hiking tour. Shore fishing and boat rentals are available at Lake Murray within the park.

San Diego Botanic Garden

The 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas has one of the region’s most extensive garden collections with unusual plants from around the world. The Hamilton Children’s Garden is the largest interactive children's garden in the West. Kids can go from the Spell and Smell Garden, where they can take a trip through the alphabet as represented by plants—"C" is for Chocolate Mint, "N" is for Nasturtium, etc—to Toni's Tree House, a 20-foot tall man-made tree dotted with live plants that kids can explore from its root tunnels up through its branches, crossing a rope bridge in the process. At the Garden Rhythms section, kids can use a rainstick to create a rain storm, and play bamboo chimes and a slate xylophone to make sounds that reverberate throughout the garden.

Good for younger kids: The Seeds of Wonder Garden is designed for preschoolers and engages children in various arts and crafts such as building a birdfeeder, potting plants to take home or making a sculpture to be displayed in the Garden.

Belmont Park

The beachfront Belmont Park offers amusement rides for kids of all ages, including the vintage “Giant Dipper” roller coaster, Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars, and Beach Blaster. Laser tag, an arcade and wave machine round out the fun.


Find more San Diego family travel ideas here! 

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Accommodation

Pampered Pooches Welcome

La Valencia Hotel
Valid: Sep 18, 2020 - ongoing

Enhance your pooch's stay by booking our pet package which includes a plush dog bed and dog bowls placed in room during your stay, $25 daily credit for your pooch to enjoy our dog menu, a pink La...

Team Building

10% Off Beer and Wine Tour Gift Certificates!

San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours
Valid: Dec 9, 2020 - Jan 31, 2021

Safety First! - We have Covid-19 Safety Protocols in place for your comfort and safety. Gift Certificates make the Perfect STOCKING STUFFER! You can choose gift certificates for a specific tour...

Accommodation

Elevate Your Stay Offer

Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside
Valid: Oct 20, 2020 - ongoing

Elevate your stay by the bay this winter and save up to 20% off at Holiday Inn Bayside! In addtion receive Breakfast For Two and a late checkout! It doesn't get much better than this in San Diego.

Events to check out

Event

The Flower Fields

The Flower Fields of Carlsbad California
Mar 1 - May 9, 2021

For more than sixty years, Mother Nature has transformed the rolling hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in...

Event

San Diego Bird Festival

Feb 17 - Feb 21, 2021

The San Diego Audubon Society invites you to the San Diego Bird Festival, which celebrates the birds and habitats of San Diego county. We're celebrating the birds and habitats of our county, which...

Event

Building Resilience

Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego
Jan 30, 2021

JFG's Building Resilience pop up museum stems from the Community 1,000 Cranes project that invited everyone to create an origami crane in hopes to reach a total of 1,000 cranes together to promote...

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish