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Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens

Traveling with a teenager can seem intimating. You want to keep them engaged and cater to their interest, while making an experience enjoyable for the entire family. Here you’ll find a list of great activities to do in San Diego with teens!

The Best Things to do in San Diego with Teens

Balboa Park

Things to do in San Diego with teens include visiting Balboa Park

This one-hundred-year-old park was created for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915. It’s cultural impact was so profound what once was considered a temporary space, it is now a flourishing center of arts and science.

Families looking to take in cultural experiences will want to add Balboa Park to their list of things to do in San Diego with teens. There are a multitiude of thigns to do in this park and we will highlight a few below.

Comic-Con Museum

Comic-con Museumin San Diego
Photo via Balboa Park

This one-of-a-kind museum is great for pop culture lovers! The Comic-Con Museum has a rotating exhibit and permanent exhibits that look back at the history of Comic-Con and the evolution of this pop culture phenomenon. This is great for teens who have been to Comic-Con or have not had the opportunity yet but have interest in the genre.

Fleet Science Center

Fleets Science, San Diego with Teens


The Fleet Science Center is a great hands-on museum in Balboa Park. This location offers some mind boggling exhibits. The Fleet offers your teen a fun and interesting way to experience science firsthand. For example, they demonstrate taking apart cars to troubleshoot and they even show skills like changing tires!

You will also want to stop by the IMAX theater and watch one of the immersive films. These films offer a beautiful view into interesting topics like space, ocean conservation, and wild life. You can purchase your ticket in advance or see what’s on the dome when you arrive.

Museum of Us

Museum of Us, San Diego with Teens

Formally known as the Museum of Man, the Museum of Us offers a full picture of the human experience through time. Also providing rotating exhibits that offering a look at ancient cultures and the evolution of society. Your teen will enjoy the opportunity to learn about past cultures and it’s a great way to start meaningful conversation.

While visiting the Museum of Us consider adding a walk up the California Tower. This beautiful and highly recognizable tower offers great views and a bit of cardio. This 40-minute experience is offered to just six people at a time so be sure to book your tour in advance.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego with Teens

This beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park provides a relaxing and insightful walk. Start at the top of the hill and work your way down to the cherry blossom garden and tea pavilion. Here you and your teen can learn more the traditional tea service and Japanese customs. You will also want to stop by the small koi pond and take advantage of this lovely photo opportunity.

If you are here in the spring this area is covered with beautiful cherry blossoms. Typically in March the garden is host to the Cherry Blossom Festival that celebrates the Japanese Culture and it is a fantastic time to see the garden in full bloom. They also post updates on their website to let you know what percentage of the cherry trees are blooming throughout the month.

Panama 66

Panama66
Photo via Panama66

While visiting Balboa Park a great dining option for your teen is Panama 66. This location offers A Modern twist on traditional meals. Your teen will love the grilled cheese and the truffle fries. Their banh mi sandwiches are great as well.

This outdoor space offers lots of dining areas, including the sculpture lawn, just outside of the Museum of Us. You can grab a bistro table or consider bringing a picnic blanket to enjoy some relaxation between exploring museums.

San Diego Zoo

Feeding a rhino at the San Diego Zoo
Feeding a Rhino at a San Diego Zoo Behind-the-Scenes Tour

The world famous San Diego Zoo, offers a great experience for animal lovers. This impressive and beautiful space offers a great experience for the entire family.

Whether you walk through time at Elephant Odyssey, spot a playful troop of baboons in Africa Rocks, or join the crowd in letting out a collective “aww” while watching the animals at Polar Bear Plunge, your family is sure to have a memorable time.

Teens love the aerial pergola that travels across of the zoo providing a birds eye view of the enclosures. Take your teen to Albert’s in the treetops restaurant. This is a dining experience surrounded by a tropical garden and a nice way to take a break during the long day at the zoo.

Splurge on the Animals in Action tour which takes families behind the scenes and give tourgoers the chance to interact with a variety of animals.

Have younger kids in your group? Here are our favorite things to do in San Diego with kids.

San Diego Natural History Museum

san Diego Natural History museum is a great place to visit in San Diego with teens

You never grow out of looking at fossils and looking at fantastic exhibits about the various habitats and animals in Southern California.

If you have a brugeoning scientist in your family you will want to check out the San Diego Natural History Museum‘s Unshelved, Cool Stuff from Storage exhibit which has rotating displays of some of the eight million specimens in their possession as well as their Living Lab which has a cool variety of reptile, amphibians, and arachnids.

San Diego is filled with rich mineral deposists producing all sorts of crystals like tourmaline, aquamarine, garnet, and topaz and the San Diego Natural History Museum has a great display of crystals and minerals to enjoy as well.

Spend the Day at La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores San Diego with Teens

San Diego and water go hand-in-hand. San Diego has a different beach to fit your vacation mode. Are you a float on a raft type of family or do you have a need for speed? With a variety of ways to experience fun in the water let’s take a look at things to do in San Diego with teens.

La Jolla Shores offers a great location for multiple water activities. If your teen is looking to try out surfing, this sheltered space is a great place to start. The shore is also a wonderful place for snorkeling and kayaking.

Why not visit Every Day California to a pick up rental or book a lesson while you’re visiting La Jolla Shores? This location has a free parking and newer bathroom facilities. They also have really cool hats and clothes that make for perfect souvenirs.

Coronado Beach

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

Coronado Beach is one of our favorite places to spend the day with teens because it is drop dead gorgeous. The beautiful tufts of sand grass and white sands are always amazing to photograph. The Hotel Del Coronado and it’s iconic silhouette is picture perfect in the background of family photos and great shots for Instagram and Tiktok.

If you visit during the holidays, you can even ice skate outdoors in front of the Hotel Del with the sand and sea just steps away!

Carlsbad Lagoon

Carlsbad Lagoon

The Carlsbad Lagoon is in north San Diego County. This lagoon offers a great selection of water sports. Here you can rent jet skis, pedal boats, and standup paddle boards.

This protected lagoon is a perfect place for beginners and a relaxing spot for those with experience. There is limited beach area, so this is more of an activity center to space not a lot of area to hang around during the day

Check out our list of other Fun things to do in Carlsbad.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is a good location to set up camp for the day. This location has a great lifeguard tower, showers, and public facilities. There are grocery stores and restaurants nearby. It’s a great place to spend an entire day at the beach. With ample sandy beaches this location could serve as an all day base camp for beach activities and there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby.

Here is our full list of the best beaches in San Diego for families.

Oceanside Harbor

Oceanside Beach

The Oceanside Harbor is a great location for the entire family. The Oceanside Harbor Village offers a small selection of shops, restaurants, and public facilities. The harbor also has a small picnic area as well as a nearby playground. The teens will love the expansive beach and space to do sand and surf activities. This is also a good location for boogie boarding and body surfing.

Explore Downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp

Downtown San Diego with teens

Downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp area offers a lot for families visiting San Diego with Teens. This area is full of restaurants and unique experiences. With a variety of options families can explore shopping, museums, and roof top adventures.

Trekaroo Tip: Book a hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter to experience all that the area has to offer.

WDNT Museum

WNDR Museum
Photo via WNDR Museum

This interactive and immersive museum is an excellent place to let your teen have fun. The WNDR Museum offers a lot of great photo opportunities as well as some mind-bending optical illusions. The museum offers a full sensory experience in each exhibit. Teens will love the photo opportunities and the fun way to explore the spaces together.

Seaport Village

Seaport Village

Seaport Village is a shopping and dining destination on the harbor. This location offers a lot of great bites to eat, interesting shops, and lovely space to walk along the harbor. I recommend checking out some of the boutiques like the American Nostalgia store and the Influencer Boutique . Parking is available for a discounted rate with validation so hold on to that ticket.

USS Midway

Uss Midway in San Diego

The USS Midway is a retired battleship in San Diego, located at the Navy pier in Downtown. Having operated as a battleship for 47 years, the USS Midway has many stories to tell.

Your teen would enjoy the self-guided audio tour of the ship and if they are Top Gun fans, there’s a lot of fun photo opportunities for them. During the holidays, a light display is also available and a festive experience.

Top of the Hyatt

https://www.flickr.com/photos/131880272@N06/49475425901
Photo via Flickr

The Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego offers a Birdseye view of San Diego Bay. Top of the Hyatt, a penthouse-style restaurant, offers a seasonally decorated space with expansive views. You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to experience this treat for the eyes.

Take the west tower elevator to the Top of the Hyatt and check in with the hostess. Visit their site to see what special experience are available and to make a reservation. Their dulce de leche churros and flourless chocolate lava cakes are both divine, making this an especially great evening stop.

Rooftop Cinema

Rooftop Cinema Club, San Diego with Teens

Also, located at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, The Rooftop Cinema Club is a great way to spend an evening in downtown San Diego. With a wide collection of films playing this silence cinema offers great views of downtown, concessions, yard, games, and fun rooftop movies.

They have a new collection of films specifically catered tort teens. Be sure to check out their upcoming offerings so you don’t miss the opportunity for a great film.

Trekaroo Tip: Rooftop cinema goers, receive discounted parking and discounts the Top of the Hyatt.

Tea at the Westgate Hotel

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 1

The Westgate Hotel offers a regal tea experience. This ornate hotel location is picture perfect for afternoon tea. If you have a Jane Austen fan or Downton Abbey watcher in your group, this is definitely an experience you should add to your list in San Diego with teens. Book your tea time through their website.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

San Diego County is a great location for hiking and nature walks. If your family is the outdoorsy type, then we have several trails to suggest visiting while visiting San Diego with Teens. Each location offers a different experience but they all offer beautiful views and fresh air!

Road-Trip-San-Diego-Torrey-Pines-Ocean-Shutterstockjpg

San Diego County is a great location for hiking and nature walks. If your family is the outdoorsy type, then we have several trails to suggest visiting while visiting San Diego with Teens. Each location offers a different experience but they all offer beautiful views and fresh air!

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve provide a couple trails that offer great views, moonscape like passages, and different levels of intensity. You can start at the bottom and work your way up or you can park at the top of the hill and explore the upper coastal trails which have amazing views of the coastline from the blufftops.

If you start from the top, you can stop in at the museum and talk to a docent about some of the animals and fauna you will find along your hike. Be sure to bring lots of water and don’t leave your trash behind!

Mission Trails Regional Park

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 2

Some of San Diego’s most notable and frequented hiking routes are at Mission Trails Regional Park. In addition to hiking trails the park is used for mountain biking and rock climbing. This 8,000 acre park includes year round flowing water, a lake, and expansive views from the top of the trail.

Stop by the visitor’s center before starting on a trail to learn a little about the area and the rules of the park. You’ll also find a library, art exhibits, and a gift shop at this visitor’s center.

The park is home to Cowles Mountain, the highest point in the city of San Diego. The trail is only three miles round trip, but it does gain 912 feet in elevation, so be prepared for some huffing and puffing. If you prefer to go at a more leaisurely place, take a walk around a portion of Lake Murray.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

The Spruce Street suspension bridge is a great photo opportunity and fun experience. Consider parking in Hillcrest and taking the stroll through the surrounding area to Spruce Street. The view from the suspension bridge is great and if your teen is up for a hike, Maple Canyon below the bridge is an excellent choice.

Potato Chip Rock

https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/30962846693/in/photostream/
San Diego with Teens, Potato Chip Rock
Photo via flickr

The Potato Chip Rock is a very popular destination for a hike. Your teen will enjoy the fun photos that can be staged here. The angle of the rock and crop of photograph will make it look like you are floating off the edge of a boulder.

Potato Chip Rock is located near Lake Poway off the Mount Woodson Trail. The entire route is about 7.5 miles and the parking lot does fill up early, so arrive in the AM and then celebrate your hike with some pool time at your hotel.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Safari Park is one ofBest Zoo in the US
Cheetah Run at San Diego Zoo Safari Park by Flickr/EricNeitzel

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the sister property to the San Diego Zoo. It is s known for its open air tram which allows visitors to see animals roaming free on their version of an African savannah.

Watch cheetahs run at full sprint, walk amongst kangaroos and wallabies, come face to face bengal tigers, zip line over animal enclosures, and take intimate caravan tours into enclosures where they can get close to rhinos and giraffes.

Tip: If one day just isn’t enough for all of your requested activities then consider booking in overnight safari called a Roar and Snore. This is a great way to experience the park after dark.

Belmont Park

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 3

Belmont Park is the first and original amusement park in San Diego set on seven acres on the boardwalk in Mission Beach. This park offers classic amusement rides as well as games and dining opportunities.

Your teen will not want to miss the chance to ride the wooden roller coaster – The Giant Dipper. You can book your tickets online in advance to save time and money.

SeaWorld

Seaworld san diego

SeaWorld San Diego has a large collection of roller coasters that your teen will want to enjoy. Manta is one of the more smooth and enjoyable rides on property. If you’re looking for something more intense try the Electric Eel or the Emperor Penguin.

If water rides are more your speed, try Atlantis or Rapids. Be sure to check out the schedule for SeaWorld as they have many rotating opportunities, such as summer nights, food and wine festivals, and Howl-O-Scream!

The other main draw of SeaWorld is the sea life. They have dolphins, beluga whales, manta rays, sharks, orcas, sea turtles, penguins, and much more. We love attending the animal shows and booking behind-the-scenes animal experiences with our animals loving teenagers.

Treakroo Tip: If you are local, take advantage of the fun card that allows you to return throughout the entire year at the price of a one day ticket.

Escapology

Escapology

If your teen is into puzzles and mystery, Escapology will be a fun activity for them. The themed escape rooms offer a series of escapes rooms that can fit anyone’s interest. With different levels of difficulty I’m sure there is an escape room to fit your teens interest. This space is located at the Belmont Park area and reservations can be made online in advance.

Eco Boats

Eco Boats
Photo via Eco Boats

Located in Point Loma, the Eco Boats offer a great option for both day and night boat rentals. Their Eco pedal boats are equipped with canopies and also fun neon lights for night peddling. It’s location in Point Loma is perfect for a fun afternoon trip with lots of food options nearby.

Kayak to Sea Caves

La Jolla Sea Caves

 La Jolla Shores Beach is the launching spot for guided kayak tours which paddle out to nearby sea caves. In this same area, teens can snorkel alongside harmless leopard sharks which use the La Jolla Cove as their nursery. Some kayaking tours allow you to snorkel and paddle into the sea caves on the same trip!

Carlsbad Flower Fields

Carlsbad Flower Fields

The Carlsbad Flower Fields are a seasonal experience, but if you are in San Diego during the spring, you will not want to miss this.

The acres of fresh blooms make for a great photo opportunity and it is such a beautiful space that your group will find it hard to not crack a smile. It’s a great place for family photos and with the mall nearby and lots of great food options try adding this to your list.

Carlsbad U-Pick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35297772@N00/17610974790 Credit: Rob Bertholf
Photo By: Rob Bertholf

You can pick your own strawberries right nexgt to the flower fields. You haven’t had a strawberry until you’ve picked a ripe one fresh from the vine!

A the U-Pick station run by the Carlsbad Strawberry Company you’ll find a rotation of crops that is available for picking and cutting. In spring to early summer, strawberries are available and in the fall a large pumpkin patch takes shape here. The fall harvest also includes a variety of gourds and sunflowers. The pumpkin patch also includes a huge maze, apple shooting, and beautiful photo spots.

Lions, Tigers, & Bears

Lions tigers and bears

Lions, Tigers, and Bears is a non-profit animal sanctuary. This offers a safe space for animals to live out their entire lives. Many of the animals in the space have moved here from zoos, circuses, and even cruise ships!

These animals receive wonderful lifetime care through this organization. Your visit helps them provide a comfortable lifetime of care. They currently house two lions from the Netflix’s documentary Tiger King.

Special experiences include the opportunity to feed the lions. When the lions are in the mood, they can come over and get a quick snack from you on site. You will also see jaguars, bears, servals, and a whole variety of animals safely in their forever home.

See San Diego from Above on a Hot Air Balloon

hot air balloon

With hot air balloons launching from the Del Mar area, hot air balloons in San Diego taking off for both sunrise and sunset flights. This is a fantastic experience if your teen is comfortable with heights. The views expand from the ocean to the mountains.

Old Town San Diego

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 4

Old Town San Diego is full of cultural experiences, delicious food options, and local shops. Here you can explore interesting landmarks like the first school, the first jail, and the oldest cemetery in San Diego.

Old Town San Diego is host to the most haunted house in America: The Whaley House. Consider taking one the tours to learn more about the spooky encounters and maybe meet a ghost yourself. You will definitely want to enjoy some Mexican food while you are visiting the area. We recommend Cafe Coyote.

University Towne Center Mall

Shopping is definitely a popular past time for teens. When in a new city, it’s always fun to explore the different shops and look for items no one else might have back home. Teens will enjoy the following list of shops thanks to the variety, location, and interesting additions to the shopping centers.

University Towen Center

Shopping is definitely a popular past time for teens. When in a new city, it’s always fun to explore the different shops and look for items no one else might have back home.

The University Towne Center (UTC) in La Jolla (home of UC San Diego) features a variety of clothing stores, flag ship department stores, a movie theater, and various dining options. UTC also includes a large food court that flanks an indoor ice skating rink. The rink is open for general skate and it’s a fun way to break up shopping. This shopping center is so large it could take an entire day to explore this space.

Carlsbad Premium Outlets

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Photo via Visit Carlsbad

Carlsbad Premium Outlets is located in North County San Diego. The shopping center features high end designers and company stores of some of the most popular brands on the market.

This is a great location for teens due to the variety of shops and dining options. The ever popular Ruby’s Diner is a great place to take a break from a day of shopping. Their shakes and malts are the best!

Viejas Outlet Center

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 6
Photo by: Allan Ferguson

Viejas Outlet Center is on property of the Viejas Casino. This property is just past Alpine and could be paired with Lions, Tigers, and Bears or a trip to exploring the mountains.

This outlet has a great variety and they share a lot of information about the culture of the Viejas Tribe. During the winter you can find an outdoor ice skating rink in the center of the mall.

Petco Park

Over 40 Things to do in San Diego with Teens 7

San Diego has a variety of sports teams and a diverse selection of sporting events. These stadiums and arenas are also hubs for local entertainment and pop-up events! Take a look at these sports centers while you are in San Diego with teens, you never know what team or concert will be in town!

Petco Park is not only the home to the San Diego Padres but a location for many of the city’s large scale events. You can sign up for a tour anytime of the year but the best time to visit is when the Padres have a home game.

Throughout the year, the surrounding area of Petco Park offers different experiences and this is particularly a busy area during San Diego Comic-con.

Snapdragon Stadium

Snapdragon stadium

Snapdragon is one of the newest stadiums in San Diego. This is currently the home to San Diego Wave Football Club, SD Legion- a champion rugby team, and the host of many outdoor music experiences. Visit the Snapdragon website to see what events will be live when you are in the area.

Pechanga Arena/San Diego Sports Arena

San Diego with Kids, Sports arena https://openverse.org/image/33f3d880-4fb5-4bb2-b5cd-8f5a2e2371c4?q=san%20diego%20sports%20arena

Formally called the San Diego Sports Area and now known as the Pechanga Arena, this spot is home to several local sports teams. The San Diego Seals la crosse team and the San Diego Gulls hockey team both play out of the arena. These fun and lively sporting events are an excellent opportunity to cheer together as a family!

Del Mar Fairgrounds

Del Mar Fairgrounds
Photo by Nathan Rupert

The Del Mar Fairgrounds are home to two great experiences for families- the San Diego County Fair and horse races. Best of all, it is basically across the street from the beach so you can easily combine time here with a beach day.

Heading to the horse races is always fun day out. While teend may not be able to place actual bets, they can definitely pick their favorite horses and root for them as the race around the track!

Where to stay in San Diego

There are many great family-friendly accommodations all over San Diego and Trekaroo has put together an entire post dedicated to our picks for top kid-friendly hotels in San Diego. We highlight the best values  and best splurge as well as the best hotels in specific neighborhoods of the city.