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Must-See California Theme Parks & Attractions

Not to be missed!

San Diego is packed with great things to see and do, including these top theme parks and attractions.

The theme parks and attractions listed below are each day-long experiences with the exception of the Midway Museum, which can be explored in half a day. Bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and smiles for a complete day of fun in the sun!

LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California is a 128-acre theme park featuring more than 60 interactive attractions, shows and rides. Some are even "kid powered," all geared toward families with children 2 to 12 years old.

The adjacent LEGOLAND Water Park has seven slides and a lazy river where you can build your own LEGO-themed raft. While at SEA LIFE™ Aquarium, guests can view undersea creatures like sea stars, sharks and stingrays!

Legoland California is also now a Certified Autism Center; all the park's employees have been trained and certified in sensory, environmental and emotional awareness in order to support visitors on the autism spectrum.

To get the full LEGO experience, as well as an early start for your day of park fun, spend the night at the nation's first LEGOLAND Hotel, featuring 250 LEGO-themed rooms.

San Diego Zoo

At our world-famous Zoo, you'll discover more than 3,500 animals of more than 650 rare and exotic species in a beautiful 100-acre tropical garden. Spectacular bioclimatic exhibits like Monkey Trails, Lost Forest, Elephant Odyssey, Gorilla Tropics, Sun Bear Forest and Tiger River house endangered species in enclosures that mimic their natural habitats. The new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp (which replaces the former Children's Zoo) also lets young visitors get up-close with zoo critters and enjoy expansive, interactive play areas.

Beyond viewing the vast range of animals, you can take a three-mile guided bus tour, ride the sky tram, or interact with the adorable creatures at the children's petting zoo and baby animal nursery.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Formerly known as the Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an extraordinary experience—an up-close chance to experience wild nature at its best. Throughout the 1,800 acre preserve, animals from Africa and Asia roam freely over vast expanses of land as they would in their native habitats. Take the Africa Tram Safari for an exciting expedition and guided tour of rhinos, giraffes, antelope, gazelles and more that inhabit this unique field exhibit.

Located just 30 miles northeast of downtown in San Diego's north inland region, it's an easy drive to the sprawling park in pretty San Pasqual Valley. Wear comfortable walking shoes and plan on a full day of exploration, so you can watch a cheetah run at full speed, come face to face with an African lion or gaze up at majestic eagles, noble owls and rare Andean condors.

SeaWorld San Diego

There's more magic to be found at SeaWorld San Diego, located along glistening Mission Bay. At this expansive park, you'll discover spectacular animal shows and presentations along with dozens of exhibits containing marine life from around the globe. Lifetime memories are created during exclusive encounters with bottlenose dolphins and sloths. Six species of penguins – including the emperor, the largest species of all – can be seen waddling and swimming in their 25-degree habitat at the park's world-famous Penguin Encounter. Embark on a trip to the frozen north at Wild Arctic and come face to face with beluga whales, northern sea otters and walruses at Wild Arctic. Or take a deep "dive" into the world of sea turtles at Turtle Reef. This 280,000-gallon aquarium is home to more than a dozen threatened sea turtles, an interactive game that teaches kids about the threats turtles face in the wild and a map that tracks rehabilitated turtles.

Sesame Place San Diego

San Diego's newest theme park welcomes families to a "Sesame Street"-themed wonderland with 18 rides, 11 of them aquatic. The 17-acre Sesame Place – the only park of its kind on the West Coast — boasts a kid-friendly roller coaster as well as a 500,000-gallon wave pool surrounded by a sandy beach. The park, operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and now open year-round in San Diego's South Bay area, is also a Certified Autism Center.

Belmont Park

Perched on the surf and sand of Mission Beach, and accessible by a beautiful boardwalk, Belmont Park is San Diego's sole beachfront amusement and entertainment center. From the 1925-vintage Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster (plus a dozen other classic rides) to great souvenir shopping to a collection of inviting oceanfront eateries, Belmont Park makes for the quintessential Southern California beach experience. And don't miss such added attractions as the old-fashioned game arcade, the Tiki Town Mini Golf course and the adjacent, historic Plunge San Diego pool. Belmont Park is the perfect place to spend memorable summer days in San Diego with the whole family.

Petco Park

Home of the San Diego Padres, beautiful Petco Park in Downtown San Diego has been named America's best MLB ballpark by USA Today. And it's easy to see why: The park boasts a stunning location by San Diego Bay, close proximity to the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, great San Diego-centric food and beverage options and excellent amenities and seating. And, of course, it has the Padres — San Diego's beloved major-league team since 1969. Families will love checking out the grassy expanses of the park's Gallagher Square, and every Sunday home game brings KidsFest, which includes bounce houses, interactive games and much more. And the fun continues all year long at the ballpark, with big-name concert attractions and such special events as college football's Holiday Bowl.

USS Midway Museum

Docked along the Embarcadero, the USS Midway Museum is San Diego's maritime treasure. It is the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Relive nearly 59 years of world history as you explore the massive engine room, sleep quarters, galley, brig and more with a guided audio tour. The 4-acre flight deck has more than 20 aircraft, and kids big and small enjoy the climb-aboard cockpits and flight simulators. Families should request the child's audio guide tour with content geared specifically for 7- to 12-year-olds.

Day Trip to Disneyland

San Diego is an excellent home base to enjoy not only the city's attractions, but also a day trip to Disneyland. Just 90 minutes from downtown San Diego, the Magic Kingdom is accessible by car or train. After a dazzling day of rides and recreation, return to San Diego's laid-back lifestyle and spend the next day relaxing on a beautiful beach.


Not just for kids, San Diego's theme parks are for anyone looking to smile all day long. Discover more sights to see and things to do in California's coastal paradise!

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