|San Diego is a destination that both young and old will enjoy, and everyone in between! The beautiful scenery, unlimited activities, terrific restaurants, and laid-back atmosphere make it especially attractive for people traveling with children.
You can find great magazines at the airports, hotels and visitors information centers.
Everyone will love the San Diego Zoo. Start off with the guided bus tour (not part of the general admission price, but probably part of some packages and most activity cards). The tour gives you a good overview of the park, and the kids will love riding on the bus' upper level. The tour takes about 45 minutes. After the tour, you can start out on foot. The bus pass will allow you to pick up the bus (the express service) at any of 5 stops inside the park. This is handy if you or the kids get tired of the hills or if you want to cross the park quickly. And there are lots of steep hills, so you'll want to wear very comfortable shoes. The Children's Zoo, a small zoo inside the zoo, is a fun place to explore. Don't miss it. Also, don't miss the panda bear exhibit, the pandas (of course!), the koalas, the hippos....try to see everything!
Also, the San Diego Zoo has a sister park in Northern San Diego County called the Wild Animal Park, here the animals are in more realistic settings and multiple species share the area. Be prepared for much warmer weather than along the coast. Also, the Wild Animal Park has a few more shows than the San Diego Zoo does.
If you're traveling between late Dec and Feb, the whale watching excursions are amazing. The best time to see the Pacific Grey Whales is from late Dec through Jan, when the whales are migrating south to Mexico - they stay pretty close to the shore. The younger kids might not stay as entranced as the older kids (most tours are 3 hours long), but this is not to be missed. If at all possible, make sure no one gets seasick, because the boat does not turn around. The first and last ten minutes of the trip also feature a great view of the U.S. Navy carriers docked at Coronado, as well the U.S. Navy submarine base and floating drydock.
Kids love Balboa Park. Check out the Fleet Science Center. The IMAX movies are fun, and the large amounts of hands-on experiments keeps the kids enthralled. Adults may want to go to the Aerospace Museum. They have so much information & exhibits there for the adults, but they also have a section where kids can build a toy space station inside an old airplane fuselage, go on a question-and-answer hunt looking for answers about different space- and aircraft-related topics, and do lots of other activities. You can picnic in the park, wander among the museums, and even play at a large playground. If you get the chance to take a break from the kids, be sure to check out the Timken gallery. It is quiet, calm, and relaxing, as is the botanical garden. Also in the garden the kids can gave a go at some scratch-and-sniff herbs. Also, during the summer there are often free concerts at the outdoor Organ Pavilion. The Museum of Natural History even includes that holiest-of-holies: dinosaurs, to keep the kids entertained. Along the main walkway there are also usually a palm reader, a native performer of some sort, and other interesting personalities.
The Birch Aquarium will entrance everyone. Its shark tank, sea horses, sea dragons, jellyfish, kelp tank, and the most amazing giant octopus will thrill young and old, and they also have an area where kids can kick back and play, with educational activities to teach them, a tidepool area where they can gently feel various sea creatures, and a hands-on activity area where they can conduct experiments.
LEGOLAND is a short drive up the coast, and the younger children in your group will love it. It's probably best suited for kids between 2 and 14, with shows, great rides, and the most amazing Lego structures you have ever seen.
Kids love exploring in the Cabrillo Nat'l Park and the old Point Loma lighthouse, plus the tidepools in Cabrillo. They loved the rocky beaches up near Torrey Pines, and the large sandy beaches of La Jolla and Coronado Island. You may even discover seals at the Children's Pool.
Also not to be missed while visiting San Diego with your family is SeaWorld. Two new shows have opened this summer, the Main one is a new Killer Whale show, called Believe. It is an amazing show, with a new background, 4 large television screens that move and help tell a story, and a lot of new behaviors. The other new show is a new Sea Lion and Otter show called "Risky Rescue". You can find information on shows here.
Beach Parks/ Recreational Parks- San Diego has so many great parks for kids! Around the airport, there's Mission Bay (near Sea World). This area has several parks with picnic tables, bbq grills, restrooms, etc. In La Jolla, check out La Jolla Shores Park (AKA Kellogg Park). In Del Mar, there's a park off 15th Street- right by the beach entrance. In Encinitas, Moonlight Beach Park and Cottonwood. Oceanside has 3 miles of wide, sandy beaches; near the pier there is playground equipment and beach vending and near the harbor there is ulimited water recreation. Follow the links to find a searchable list/map of San Diego's beaches and playground & parks.
If you are by the San Diego Airport take a walk over to San Diego Bay Adventures for boat, jet ski, bike, kayak, and paddle board rentals year around. Any of their water rentals are a great chance to check out sea lions, dolphins, yachts, naval ships, and more up close!