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Explore 13 Kid-Pleasing Neighborhoods

Where adventures abound and recess never ends

In San Diego, it’s easy to find surefire 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.

2 young girls with surfboard at La Jolla Shores in San Diego

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 festive bonfires. Don't forget the s'mores!

Aerial of Belmont Park at Mission Beach with Mission Bay in the background

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

It’s almost impossible not to smile when you're on the beach. From bay to ocean, 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, jet skiing, tubing, sailing and more.

Belmont Park

This quintessential Southern California beachside amusement park features games, snacks, shops and rides — including a historic wooden roller coaster, the Giant Dipper.

SeaWorld San Diego

Entertainment meets education at SeaWorld, where kids can get up close and personal with the wonders of the deep, and chase thrills on some fun rides besides.

Grandma and Grand Daughter exploring the tidepools of Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma San Diego

Point Loma Peninsula: Playtime of Historic Proportions

Point Loma mixes fascinating history with exciting new experiences. No matter what family adventure you take on in this diverse part of town, 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 periwinkles, sea stars, crabs and even octopi.

Liberty Public Market

Located in the urban village of Liberty Station, a repurposed naval base, this 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 '50s-style restaurant, as well as museums, galleries, shops and more.

Shelter Island

Tucked away at the northwest corner of San Diego Harbor is this charming haven for boating, sunbathing and fun explorations. Shelter Island boasts a stretch of beach complete with bonfire pits and beautiful views of Downtown San Diego, and its pier is perfect for casting out a line and or just casting your gaze toward the fascinating parade of boats traversing the bay. Kids also will love the waterfront playground at the island's Shoreline Park.

Family with LEGO characters at LEGO Movie World at LEGOLAND California Resort in San Diego

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 inviting seaside trails and gardens meet a world-renowned theme park.

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 tykes can have some big discoveries.

Coronado Beach

Coronado: Secret Island Hideout

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

Coronado Beach

This sprawling stretch of sand is consistently voted among the best family-friendly beaches in America. On the beach is the Hotel del Coronado, an architectural beauty built in 1888 and designated a national historic landmark. It's a must-visit on any trip to Coronado.

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. Or load your family onto a surrey bike for a memorable ride through this classic neighborhood.

Coronado Ferry Landing

Just a short hop across the bay from San Diego's Embarcadero is this beautiful and bustling spot, which boasts quaint shops and a variety of dining options — from ice cream to burritos to fine Italian cuisine. The Ferry Landing (which is, true to its name, the hub for scheduled boat rides from Downtown San Diego) is also a great spot to rent a bike or paddleboard and explore the island's paths and protected waters. There's even a little beach next to the ferry pier, with stunning views of the San Diego skyline.

Counts Splash Castle at Sesame Place in South San Diego

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.

Sesame Place San Diego

The San Diego region's newest theme park, this 17-acre fun zone boasts seven "Sesame Street"-themed dry rides and 11 water attractions, including a 500,000-gallon wave pool. Sesame Place is not only the first "Sesame Street"-themed park on the West Coast, but it's also a Certified Autism Center.

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.

San Diego County Waterfront Park

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 the city'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, as well as 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.

Mother and son at the Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park San Diego

Balboa Park: Imagination Takes Flight

This vibrant oasis, set amid the cosmopolitan appeal of San Diego’s Hillcrest and Uptown neighborhoods, is the largest urban cultural park in the United States, and home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo.


From fine art to natural history to model trains to hands-on science to the cultural impact of comics, the park's 18 great museums have something for every curious kid to discover.

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.


Besides being a thriving cultural hub, Balboa Park is itself a collection of parks, and kids will love checking out its numerous playgrounds, green spaces and gardens, offering an inviting blend of recreation and relaxation.

Piazza della Famiglia in Little Italy San Diego

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.

Piazza della Famiglia

True to its name, which translates as "Family Plaza," this inviting town square in the heart of Little Italy is an ideal place for kids and their families to enjoy a casual lunch or an ice cream cone or just a little relaxation by the beautiful and soothing fountain. It's also located right next to the sprawling Little Italy Food Hall.

Group of Dancers performing on the sidewalks of South Park San Diego

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 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. Much of the neighborhood's creative energy can be witnessed on a stroll past the plentiful streetside murals.

Morley Field Sports Complex

For a welcome dose of outdoor recreation, drop into this sprawling zone of activity near Balboa Park's eastern border. Morley Field offers 25 tennis courts, a swimming pool, a kids' play area, an archery range, a velodrome, bocce courts, a disc golf course and much more.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Mission Valley & Old Town: History Class is in Session

Mission Valley is connected to it all, and not just with its convenient location. The community features many cultural gems and windows into the area's storied history.

Old Town San Diego State Historic 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 1800s 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, amid colorful flowers and archaeological artifacts of the area's indigenous people, the Kumeyaay. 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 with California's roots.

Rhino Caravan at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

North County Inland: Brave Adventurers Wanted

This region proves that there is plenty of natural beauty away from the beach in San Diego. It's an outdoor adventureland with 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.

Mount 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 Zip line

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

Dragon statue in Anza Borrego Desert Park

East County: San Diego’s Wild Backyard

San Diego's East County is one of the region's most diverse family-friendly destinations, with natural settings ranging from rolling hills to rocky canyons, and towering mountains to crystal lakes.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The largest state park in California, Anza-Borrego lets families experience the awesomeness of the California desert. A whole different world of plants, animals and dramatic landscapes awaits those who explore here.


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 gem of Julian, however, is definitely its apple pie.

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

Take in San Diego's high-desert back country by rail on a fun and fascinating 45-minute train ride, courtesy of this all-volunteer museum, which has been treating passengers to tours of the area's amazing scenery for more than 35 years.

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