Are you planning to visit San Diego with teens? San Diego is an amazing place to spend time with your teenagers before they fly the nest. I love that you can visit this Southern California city year-round. Here are some of my favorite things to do in San Diego with teenagers for a great family vacation!
What to Do in San Diego with Teenagers
1. Head to the Beach
San Diego has many beautiful beaches to enjoy. Teens will love playing beach volleyball or simply relaxing in the sun. There are many family-friendly beaches in San Diego, but these are a few of the best beaches for teens:
Coronado Central Beach
Coranado Beach is over a mile long and has some of the softest sand in San Diego County. Parking can be difficult, so have patience as you will likely have to walk a bit to the beach.
Consider walking through the world famous Hotel del Coronado, one of our favorite historic sites on the island. The beach in Coronado has mild waves, which are great for body surfing!
Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines is actually a state natural reserve with some great hiking trails and beach access. Your teens can enjoy a nice hike and then cool off in the ocean. This nature reserve has over 2000 acres to explore, so plan to come for the day.
Oceanside is another family-friendly beach to enjoy with your teenagers as well. There is a fun fishing pier to enjoy along with large beaches to relax in as well.
Other San Diego beaches to explore include: La Jolla Shores, Mission Bay, and Mission Beach.
2. San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is another great thing to do with teens in San Diego. It is consistently ranked one of the best zoos in the world, and is known for its wildlife conservation efforts.
You will see exotic animals from all over the world, including the Pacific Islands, Asia, and more. The zoo has over 12,000 endangered species, including the Amur leopard and the Northern White Rhino.
3. USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum is another great place to learn about history while having fun. This retired WWII aircraft carrier has over 60 exhibits, and the whole family can find something that appeals to them.
Visitors walk through the different levels of the ship and are able to physically experience what life would have been like on board. Admission comes with self-guided audio tours to ensure guests learn about the vessel’s history.
You can visit the engine room as well as the mess halls, hangar decks, and more. Along with the exhibits, the USS Midway Museum also has a variety of fun activities. Some of them include a flight simulator, an island tour, and a pilot program.
4. Take a hike in San Diego
Being in nature is so peaceful, especially when you have new places to explore. There are many stunning hiking trails in San Diego. Have your teenager choose one to hike during your trip.
Here are a few of my favorite hikes in San Diego to do with teenagers:
Mission Trails Regional Park
At Mission Trails Regional Park, you will find over 65 miles of trails made for hiking and exploring in San Diego. It is very easy to reach and there are trails for all levels of hiking. Choose a shorter, easier trail, or spend hours in nature with a difficult hike; the choice is yours!
Cabrillo National Monument and Mount Soledad
Cabrillo is at the southern tip of Point Loma and it offers stunning views of downtown San Diego, the Coronado Bridge, and San Diego bay. On the property you will find a statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who led the first European expedition along the western coast of the United States.
There’s also the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, a whale overlook (whales can sometimes be seen from December to February), and tidepools.
Mount Soledad offers ocean views and city views of inland San Diego county. Most people drive up both of these mountains, but it is possible to hike them as well.
Eagle Rock is one of the coolest hikes for teenagers in San Diego. Located in Warner Springs in the northern part of San Diego county, this is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a 6.5 mile hike, but at the end you’ll find a rock shaped exactly like an Eagle!
Don’t miss our other favorite hikes in San Diego suitable for kids.
5. Visit La Jolla
La Jolla is definitely a place you should put on your San Diego itinerary. Take your teens to see the seals and sea lions in the La Jolla Cove children’s pool (one of the most popular attractions in San Diego) or take a kayaking tour of the La Jolla sea caves.
There’s also a ton of cute boutique shops and some delicious restaurants with ocean views. With so many fun things to do in La Jolla, you can easily make it a day trip or book a stay at one of the local hotels (we like La Valencia Hotel and The Lodge at Torrey Pines) and stay longer.
6. Belmont Park
Belmont Park is a fun amusement park your teens will love to go visit during your vacation. It’s known for the Giant Dipper, a historic roller coaster made of wood in 1925. Admission is free; you simply pay for the rides as you go.
If you want unlimited rides, consider investing in a Go San Diego Pass that will also get you admission discounts at other San Diego attractions.
After a long day at this theme park, you can enjoy walking along the boardwalk in Mission Beach with your teenagers. From roller coasters to bumper cars, this is definitely one of the favorite spots for teens in San Diego!
7. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The Safari Park is a branch of the San Diego Zoo that is roughly 45 minutes to an hour away from the zoo. Here you can get up close to the animals as you go in an open safari truck on a tour throughout the habitats.
The park also offers unique animal encounters such as petting kraal (goats) and a lorikeet safari where the birds will land on your arms.
There is even a zip line ropes course (Jungle Ropes Safari) so teens can soar through the air as they see the animals below.
8. Balboa Park
If you want Instagram-worthy pictures, Balboa Park is the place to be. There are seventeen museums, each focusing on something unique like nature, science, or culture.
Some of our favorite museums for a family trip include the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts. The Comic-Con museum is sure to be a hit with teens.
You’ll find many Instagrammable spots throughout the park. Our favorites are the Lily Pond, the Balboa Park carousel, and the Moreton Bay Fig Tree.
9. Padres Baseball Game
If your teens love baseball, don’t miss a Padres baseball game at Petco Park. It’s located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, so there are plenty of restaurant options nearby.
If you have time before (or after) the game, consider stopping in Old Town San Diego for delicious Mexican food in a historical setting. Teens will love the kitschy Old Town vibe and if you’re lucky there will be mariachi music to accompany your meal!
Not all teens love to go shopping, but in case yours want to explore the local scene, here are a few of our favorite spots:
- Carlsbad Outlet mall
- Fashion Valley
- Gaslamp Quarter
If you’re looking for some local spots, head to Little Italy or the Cedros Design District in Solana Beach.
11. Bike Rides on the Boardwalk
You have to experience the boardwalk at least once during your trip to San Diego. Our favorite spots for family fun are the Mission Beach boardwalk and The Strand in Oceanside. While you can simply walk or people watch, we love to take bike rides on the boardwalk!
There are many places where you can rent bikes, or you can bring your own. If biking is not your thing, you can rent skateboards, rollerblades, or electric bikes instead.
12. Paragliding from the Torrey Pines Gliderport
Paragliding will be such a fun family adventure during your trip to San Diego with teens. At Torrey Pines Gliderport, you can go to flight school to learn how to paraglide or go for a fun tandem ride.
There are no age restrictions, so everyone can join in the fun. Torrey Pines Gliderport is a historic aviation company, so you’ll be in good hands as you soar through the sky!
SeaWorld San Diego is a fun place to go with families of all ages; even teenagers will enjoy SeaWorld on your San Diego vacation. At SeaWorld, you can visit the animals and explore their exhibits. There are behind-the-scenes animal encounters with beluga whales and dolphin shows too.
But, you can also go on some thrill rides too! There are plenty of wet and dry roller coasters and rides for everyone in your family to have a good time. In March 2022, a new thrilling roller coaster and Sesame Place will be the latest additions to the park!
14. Segway Tour
Enjoy a fun segway tour during your San Diego trip with your family. There are a few different segway tours you can do throughout San Diego.
Take an evening ride as you watch the sunset and see the sparkling lights turn on all throughout the city. If you prefer morning trips, you can take a tour at 9:00 am or noon as well! Segway tours are usually around two hours of fun-filled riding as you explore all San Diego has to offer.
15. Surfing Lessons
What teenager wouldn’t want to learn how to surf? In San Diego, take some surfing lessons as a family at the Surf School. There are many great instructors to teach you while the waves are nice and easy.
By the end of your lesson, you’ll be riding through the waves side by side with your teen!
16. Patriot Jet Boat Ride
If your teenagers love a good thrill, take them on the Jet Boat Thrill Ride! You will fly through the ocean on this adventure as you see many military ships and scenic waterfront spots.
This boat will take 360 degree turns and splash water all over you as you race through the ocean. Your teens will love this tour!
17. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is another great family experience to enjoy during your stay in San Diego. The Birch Aquarium always has fun events all throughout the year.
With over 60 habitats, you can easily spend a few hours here. They have blue penguins, sharks, sea dragons, octopuses, kelp, and so much more!
There are so many things to do in San Diego with teenagers; it is a vacation spot you want to visit for sure. There are endless outdoor activities, historical attractions, and unique adventures. We think it’s the perfect place for family travel. Plan your trip to San Diego with teens and prepare to have the time of your lives. No matter what you end up doing, this will be one family vacation you won’t forget!
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Hotels.com and Expedia.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Tiqets is another place to purchase tickets for attractions.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.