San Diego has always prided itself on being one of the most family-friendly destinations in the U.S. In addition to popular attractions like Legoland, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, and others, the area also offers a rich variety of children’s museums to inspire and excite a child’s curiosity.
There’s so much to choose from that the biggest decision you’ll face is which one to choose first!
Most families start in Balboa Park, where The Fleet Science Center brings science to life with hands-on experiments that will engage your child's inquisitive mind. Programming is focused on keeping kids interested in STEM subjects through exhibits but is also augmented by an IMAX theatre robust youth, school, and teacher programs. Kid City and its Little Learner’s Lab are permanent exhibits just for children five and under, and there’s also a play area where babies can learn more about the world through touch and play.
Kids into creepy crawlies, dinosaurs, fossils, animal habitats, and animals of all shapes and sizes must visit Balboa Park’s San Diego Natural History Museum. With more than eight million specimens in their collection, there’s always something new to see and learn when visiting. The NAT is a favorite among locals and visitors, with adventures designed for children of all ages.
Balboa Park is also home to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, with dozens of train-themed in 27,000 square feet of exhibit space, an interactive Lionel train layout for children, and interesting railroad adventures for kids of all ages.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum isn’t specifically geared for children. Still, it’s another museum in Balboa Park that’s decidedly kid friendly, featuring flight simulators and a lot of interactive displays designed with younger visitors in mind.
Downtown is also a great children’s museum destination. The New Children's Museum downtown is a popular destination for children with its constantly changing exhibits that sharpen critical thinking skills through creative play in a fun and age-appropriate way.
Escondido is home to the Children's Discovery Museum, bringing art and discovery to life with fun interactive activities, craft projects, and inventive play areas. Kids can learn about important issues such as recycling and food sustainability and are encouraged to touch, explore, and experiment to learn more about the natural world, science, math, engineering, art, and history.
Another must-see stop for kids is the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla. Kids can spend the day viewing more than 60 aquarium habitats, hands-on exhibits, an outdoor playground, and a touch-tide pool.
It may not be the first thing you think of for children’s museums, but the USS Midway Museum also has several hands-on programs and field trips geared to children and youth groups. It's an incredible floating history lesson to teach kids about our nation’s military heritage.