woman on board at beach during daytime
San Diego is home to some of the most iconic surf spots in California, including Swami's in Encinitas.

21 Exciting Things to Do in San Diego With Teens [2024]


If you’re planning a trip to San Diego with your teens and wondering what to do, you’ve hit the jackpot with this blog.

I’ve been writing about San Diego for a couple of years now, diving deep into the city’s vibrant scene to uncover the best activities that teens will absolutely love.

San Diego isn’t just another sunny California city; it’s a treasure trove of adventures, culture, and chill beach vibes.

Whether your family is into outdoor escapades, soaking up history and culture, or just enjoying some laid-back beach time, this city has it all. From the world-famous San Diego Zoo to the hidden gems in Balboa Park, I’ve researched the top spots that are sure to make your family trip memorable.

So, let’s dive in and explore what this fantastic city has to offer for those fun-filled teen years!

Things to Do in San Diego With Teens

1. Visit the San Diego Zoo

flock of flamingos on water
The San Diego Zoo, nestled in Balboa Park, is a world-renowned wildlife sanctuary and conservation organization. The Zoo is home to over 4000 animals across 650 species.

Visiting the San Diego Zoo is like stepping into a world of wildlife adventure that’s perfect for teens. This isn’t just any zoo – it’s one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world! Imagine wandering through lush, naturalistic habitats and coming face-to-face with creatures from every corner of the globe.

What makes it cool for teens? Well, it’s not just about seeing animals. The zoo offers up-close encounters and interactive experiences that are both fun and educational.

Plus, the Skyfari Aerial Tram gives you an awesome bird’s-eye view of the entire park – a total hit for Instagram stories.

Travel tip: The zoo is massive, so wear comfy shoes. You’ll be walking a lot, but it’s worth every step.

2. Explore Balboa Park

palm trees near white concrete building under blue sky during daytime
In January, you can enjoy the various activities in Balboa Park without the crowds.

Exploring Balboa Park is like hitting the jackpot for fun with teens in San Diego. Think of it as a one-stop spot with a bit of everything. This isn’t just a park; it’s a massive cultural playground.

First off, the place is huge and stunning. You’ve got over 1,200 acres of gardens, trails, and cool Spanish-style architecture. It’s perfect for a chill day of wandering, snapping pics, or just lounging on the grass.

But here’s the real kicker: Balboa Park is packed with museums. Whether your teens are into art, science, or history, there’s something here to catch their interest. The San Diego Natural History Museum and the Air & Space Museum are big hits.

3. Spend a Day at SeaWorld

people in white and black whale tail in blue sea during daytime
Focused on marine life education and conservation, SeaWorld San Diego offers interactive experiences with sea creatures like dolphins and sea lions.

Spending a day at SeaWorld with your teens can be a blast in San Diego. It’s not just about seeing marine animals; it’s a whole experience. Picture thrilling roller coasters, up-close animal encounters, and live shows that are both entertaining and educational.

One of the coolest things about SeaWorld is the mix of rides and animal exhibits. Teens love the adrenaline rush from rides like the Manta roller coaster or the Electric Eel.

But it’s not all screams and thrills. They can also chill out watching dolphins, or learn something new at the shark exhibit.

The live shows are a big hit too. They’re not just entertaining; they give a glimpse into the world of these amazing sea creatures.

And if your teens are into conservation, SeaWorld’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts are pretty inspiring to hear about.

So, whether your teens are thrill-seekers or animal lovers, SeaWorld offers a day of fun and discovery.

4. Take Surfing Lessons

man surfing on sea waves during daytime
San Diego is the perfect place to learn surfing. There are numerous surfing schools, and the water is warm enough to surf in a wetsuit all year long.

Taking surfing lessons in San Diego is a must-do for teens. It’s like a rite of passage in this beach-lovers paradise. Whether your kids have never touched a surfboard or they’re looking to sharpen their skills, San Diego’s beaches are the perfect playground.

The cool part? There are tons of surf schools along the coast, especially around spots like La Jolla and Mission Beach. These schools cater to all levels, so no worries if your teens are total newbies. The instructors are usually super chill and friendly, making the whole experience fun and laid-back.

Imagine the thrill your teens will get from catching their first wave. It’s a great workout and a chance to soak up that classic California sun.

So, grab a board and hit the waves – it’s an unforgettable way to experience San Diego’s surf culture.

5. Enjoy Belmont Park

people riding on roller coaster during daytime
Belmont Park in San Diego is renowned for its historic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, which has been thrilling visitors since 1925.

Enjoying Belmont Park is like stepping into a beachside wonderland that’s perfect for teens. Nestled in Mission Beach, this classic amusement park blends old-school charm with modern thrills. It’s a spot where your teens can let loose and have some fun.

The star attraction? The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. This historic wooden coaster has been around since 1925, offering a mix of nostalgia and excitement. But that’s not all. There are loads of other rides, from chill to thrill, catering to all kinds of adventure seekers.

Beyond the rides, Belmont Park is packed with arcade games, mini-golf, and laser tag. It’s a great place for teens to challenge each other and have a blast. And when it’s time to chill, the beach is just steps away.

Travel tip: Hit up one of the beachfront eateries for a bite.

6. Kayak at La Jolla Cove

a group of sea lions resting on the rocks by the water
May is the perfect month for kayaking in La Jolla Cove. You may even get to see some sea lions basking in the sun!

Kayaking at La Jolla Cove is an adventure your teens won’t forget. This isn’t just paddling around; it’s an exploration of one of San Diego’s most stunning natural areas. The cove’s crystal-clear waters and hidden sea caves offer a whole new perspective on the coastline.

What’s awesome about kayaking here is the chance to see marine life up close. We’re talking sea lions, colorful fish, and if you’re lucky, even dolphins!

The guided tours are great for beginners and provide interesting tidbits about the local ecosystem and history.

The sea caves are a major highlight. Paddling into these natural wonders feels like entering a secret world. It’s a bit of adventure mixed with nature’s beauty – perfect for curious teens.

Don’t worry about the experience; the guides are super helpful, making it safe and enjoyable for everyone. Just bring a sense of adventure and get ready to make some amazing memories on the water.

7. Bike on Coronado Island

woman standing beside black cruiser bike on seashore during daytime
In San Diego, you must try the Bayshore Bikeway, which offers a scenic 24-mile ride along Downtown, Coronado, and South Bay.

Biking on Coronado Island is like a mini-adventure that’s perfect for teens. It’s a chance to explore this picturesque island at a pace that’s just right. The best part? The island is super bike-friendly, with plenty of paths and trails that make for an easy, enjoyable ride.

Start by renting bikes – you’ll find several rental spots around, offering everything from cruisers to tandems. Then, just pedal away!

You should consider following along the Bayshore Bikeway which offers stunning views of the San Diego skyline and leads you past iconic spots like the Hotel del Coronado.

The ride is more than just exercise; it’s a way to soak in the island’s charm. You’ll pass by beautiful beaches, and quaint shops, and maybe even stop for a picnic or ice cream. It’s laid-back, fun, and a great way for teens to explore at their own pace.

8. Visit the USS Midway Museum

US flag on top of gray building
USS Midway is a must-see museum in San Diego. Don’t forget to visit its gift shop!

Visiting the USS Midway Museum is a unique experience that’s both cool and educational for teens. This isn’t your typical museum; it’s a massive aircraft carrier turned into an interactive history lesson. Docked at San Diego’s waterfront, the Midway is a symbol of naval power and history.

Once you’re on board, it’s like stepping into a different world. You can explore the flight deck with its array of retired aircraft, which is pretty awesome. Teens often get a kick out of the flight simulators and the chance to sit in a real fighter jet cockpit.

The self-guided audio tour, narrated by Midway sailors, brings the ship’s history to life. It’s fascinating to hear stories from those who lived and worked on the carrier. Plus, the views of the harbor from the flight deck are unbeatable.

For teens interested in history, technology, or the military, the USS Midway Museum is a must-visit. It’s a hands-on way to appreciate a piece of American naval history.

9. Hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

a bird's eye view of the water and cliffs
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego is a stunning coastal park known for its rugged cliffs, unspoiled beaches, and the rare Torrey Pine tree.

Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a fantastic way to get your teens outdoors and immersed in nature. This isn’t just any hiking spot; it’s a stunning coastal reserve known for its rare Torrey pine trees and breathtaking ocean views.

The trails here are perfect for all levels, so even if your teens aren’t seasoned hikers, they’ll enjoy it. The Guy Fleming Trail is a popular choice, offering easy paths with some of the most scenic viewpoints. Imagine walking through picturesque landscapes with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop – it’s Insta-worthy for sure!

What’s cool about Torrey Pines is the mix of nature and education. Along the trails, you’ll find signs explaining the local flora and fauna. It’s a hike that feeds both the body and mind.

This hike is a great way to spend quality time together, soaking in the beauty of San Diego’s natural landscapes.

Travel tip: Remember to bring water and wear sunscreen, as it can get pretty sunny.

10. Snorkel in La Jolla Underwater Park

woman wearing water goggles underwater
The La Jolla Underwater Park serves as a unique snorkeling spot, offering a chance to explore an ecological reserve rich in marine life.

Snorkeling in San Diego is an underwater adventure that’s perfect for teens looking for something a bit different. The waters here are a playground for marine life, offering a glimpse into a world that’s usually hidden beneath the waves.

La Jolla Cove is the go-to spot for snorkeling. The water is clear, and you’re likely to see a bunch of cool sea creatures, from colorful fish to curious sea lions. It’s like swimming in a giant, natural aquarium. If your teen can scuba dive, the La Jolla Underwater Park offers even more, with kelp beds and deeper waters where the marine life gets even more interesting.

Most places offer gear rental and beginner lessons, so don’t sweat it if your teens are new to this. The instructors are usually super patient and knowledgeable, making sure everyone has a safe and fun experience.

Whether snorkeling or diving, it’s an awesome way to connect with nature and see a side of San Diego that many miss.

11. Attend a Padres Game

aerial photography of ballpark stadium surrounded by crowd of people
Known for their passionate fan base and rich history, the Padres are a cornerstone of San Diego’s sports culture, offering exciting baseball action and community spirit in America’s Finest City.

Attending a Padres game at Petco Park is a home run for a fun time with teens in San Diego. Even if your teens aren’t huge baseball fans, the atmosphere is infectious.

Petco Park is known for its awesome downtown location and great views, both of the field and the city. Grabbing some classic ballpark food – think hot dogs, nachos, and pretzels – adds to the whole vibe. It’s about sharing laughs, rooting for the home team, and maybe catching a fly ball!

What’s cool is the energy in the stadium. There’s something about being part of the cheering crowd that’s super exciting. Plus, there are often special events or giveaways, making the game even more memorable.

12. Explore the Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter is renowned for its rich Victorian architecture and lively nightlife

Exploring the Gaslamp Quarter is like taking a walk through the vibrant heart of San Diego, and it’s a blast for teens. This historic district is a buzzing hub of activity, where old Victorian-era buildings meet modern nightlife and shopping.

Strolling through the Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll find a mix of cool shops, art galleries, and all sorts of restaurants. It’s a great place for teens to experience the city’s urban vibe. Whether they’re into fashion, art, or just people-watching, there’s something here for everyone.

The area really comes alive in the evening, with neon lights and the buzz of people enjoying the scene. While some spots are 21+, there are plenty of teen-friendly places, like unique cafes and dessert spots. Plus, the architecture and historic landmarks make for some great photo ops.

It’s not just a shopping and dining destination; it’s a slice of San Diego culture, perfect for a family outing.

13. Visit the Birch Aquarium

a woman taking a picture of a fish tank
Birch Aquarium is part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Visiting the Birch Aquarium is like diving into a world of ocean wonders, and it’s a hit with teens. Located in La Jolla, this aquarium is part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, making it more than just a place to see fish.

The aquarium is home to a dazzling array of marine life, from colorful tropical fish to sharks.

What’s really cool is their interactive exhibits. Teens can get hands-on, like touching starfish in the tide pools or learning about oceanography through engaging displays.

One of the highlights is the giant kelp forest tank – it’s like peeking into an underwater forest. And don’t miss the seahorse exhibit; it’s fascinating to see these quirky creatures up close.

Birch Aquarium is educational, but in a fun, immersive way. Perfect for a day of discovery and awe with your teens.

14. Go to the Beach

Pacific beach and the surrounding Mission bay in San Diego
Pacific Beach and the surrounding Mission Bay in San Diego.

Going to the beach in San Diego is a no-brainer, especially with teens. With miles of stunning coastline, each beach has its own vibe and set of activities. Whether your teens are into surfing, volleyball, or just chilling on the sand, there’s a perfect spot for everyone.

Places like Mission Beach offer a lively scene with plenty of people-watching, beachfront eateries, and even a roller coaster nearby at Belmont Park. For a more laid-back vibe, La Jolla Shores is great for a family picnic or a bit of snorkeling.

Don’t forget about the classic beach bonfires at spots like Ocean Beach. It’s a fun way to end the day, roasting marshmallows and hanging out as the sun sets over the Pacific.

The best part? It’s all free. Just pack some sunscreen, towels, and maybe a frisbee, and you’re set for a day of sun and fun. It’s the quintessential San Diego experience.

15. Take a Harbor Cruise

white and black boat on body of water near city buildings during daytime
San Diego harbor

Taking a Harbor Cruise in San Diego is a fantastic way to see the city from a different angle, and it’s super cool for teens. Imagine gliding along the water with the San Diego skyline as your backdrop – it’s both relaxing and Instagram-worthy.

These cruises offer a unique view of landmarks like the USS Midway, the Star of India, and the Coronado Bridge. Plus, there’s always a chance of spotting some marine life, like sea lions basking in the sun.

What’s great about these cruises is they’re not too long – usually around an hour or two – perfect for teens who don’t want to spend all day on a boat. The guides share fun facts and stories about the city, making it an informative as well as a scenic trip.

Whether you opt for a daytime excursion or a sunset cruise, it’s a chill way to take in the sights and enjoy some time on the water.

16. Ride a Segway in Downtown

Segway tours in San Diego
A Segway tour is definitely worth it if you’re looking for a fun, efficient way to explore a new area, and you’re comfortable with riding a Segway.

Riding a Segway in Downtown San Diego is a fun and quirky way to explore the city, and it’s a hit with teens. It’s not every day you get to whizz around on these two-wheeled gadgets! The experience is a cool blend of sightseeing and adventure, perfect for keeping teens engaged and entertained.

Downtown San Diego is ideal for Segway tours, with its wide sidewalks and scenic routes. You’ll cover more ground than walking, and it’s way more interactive than a bus tour.

Glide past popular spots like the Gaslamp Quarter, the Embarcadero, and Seaport Village. These tours often include brief stops, giving you a chance to snap some photos and learn about the city’s history and culture.

Most tour operators offer a quick training session, so even if your teens have never been on a Segway before, they’ll be cruising confidently in no time. It’s a unique, fun-filled way to experience the heart of San Diego.

17. Try Indoor Skydiving

vertical wind tunnel
iFLY San Diego offers a state-of-the-art indoor skydiving experience using a vertical wind tunnel, where participants can experience the thrill of freefall without the need to jump from an airplane.

Trying Indoor Skydiving in San Diego is an adrenaline-pumping activity that’s perfect for thrill-seeking teens. Imagine the excitement of skydiving, but in a safe and controlled indoor environment – it’s a total blast!

Located at iFLY San Diego, this experience simulates the free-fall aspect of skydiving without the need to jump out of an airplane.

Teens get to experience what it’s like to fly, and the best part? It’s super safe and instructors are there to guide them every step of the way.

The whole experience starts with a brief training session, teaching the basics of body control and safety. Then, geared up in a flight suit, helmet, and goggles, they’re ready to step into the wind tunnel. The feeling of floating and flying is exhilarating and totally unique.

Indoor skydiving is an unforgettable experience that teens (and probably you too!) will be talking about long after they’ve landed back on their feet.

18. Race Go Karts

a person riding a go kart on a track
K1 Speed features high-performance, all-electric go-karts. These karts provide an eco-friendly racing experience without sacrificing speed or performance.

Racing Go Kart in San Diego is an exhilarating activity that’s sure to get your teens’ adrenaline pumping. It’s fast, fun, and a great way for them to experience a bit of friendly competition.

Places like K1 Speed offer a top-notch indoor karting experience. The karts are electric, which means they’re not only environmentally friendly but also surprisingly zippy. Teens love the speed and agility of these karts, making every race feel like a real-life video game.

The tracks are well-designed, adding an element of challenge and excitement. It’s all about sharp turns and strategic overtaking, which keeps the racers engaged and on their toes.

Safety is a priority, so all drivers are equipped with helmets and briefed on rules and techniques.

Whether your teens are first-time racers or seasoned pros, go-kart racing is a thrilling way to spend an afternoon.

19. Visit the San Diego Natural History Museum

a close up of a dinosaur skeleton in a museum
Founded in 1874, the San Diego Natural History Museum has a rich history of researching and preserving the natural wonders of Southern California and the Baja California Peninsula.

Visiting the San Diego Natural History Museum, affectionately known as The Nat, is a fantastic way to engage teens with the wonders of the natural world. Located in Balboa Park, this museum is a treasure trove of fascinating exhibits and interactive experiences.

What makes The Nat cool for teens? It’s all about bringing nature’s mysteries to life. From dinosaur fossils to detailed displays of local wildlife, there’s something to pique the curiosity of any young mind. The museum does a great job of blending education with entertainment, making learning fun and accessible.

One of the highlights is the Fossil Mysteries exhibit, where teens can explore prehistoric life and even see paleontologists at work.

The museum also features stunning photography exhibits, showcasing the beauty of nature and wildlife.

20. Explore Old Town San Diego

green plant near white and brown house
Old Town San Diego is known as the “Birthplace of California”.

Exploring Old Town San Diego is like taking a step back in time, and it’s a surprisingly fun experience for teens. This historic area is known as the birthplace of California, where the blend of rich history, lively culture, and cool shops creates a unique vibe.

Walking through Old Town, you’ll feel the old-world charm mixed with a festive atmosphere. The area is dotted with historic buildings, some turned into museums that offer a glimpse into life in the 19th century. It’s history, but not in a boring textbook way.

What teens usually love are the Mexican markets and eclectic shops, where they can find anything from handmade crafts to funky souvenirs. And let’s not forget the food – Old Town is famous for its Mexican cuisine. Grabbing a taco or churro here is a must.

Old Town also hosts various events and festivals, so there’s often something extra going on. It’s a cool place for teens to explore, grab a bite, and maybe even learn a thing or two.

21. Attend a Concert or Show

man standing on stage with lights

Attending a concert or show in San Diego is a fantastic way to dive into the city’s vibrant cultural scene, especially with teens. The city is known for its diverse music and arts, offering everything from rock concerts to live theater performances.

San Diego’s music venues range from the intimate settings of bars and clubs to the grandeur of places like the Humphreys Concerts by the Bay. Whether your teens are into the latest pop hits, indie bands, or classic rock, there’s always a concert happening somewhere in the city.

For those who lean more towards theater, the Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse often feature plays and musicals that appeal to a younger audience. These shows can be a great introduction to the world of live theater.

What’s great about these experiences is they’re not just entertaining; they’re a way for teens to connect with art, music, and stories in a live setting. It’s about the thrill of the performance and being part of an audience, sharing the moment.

Frequently Asked Questions: Things to Do in San Diego With Teens

Spreckels Organ
For a special experience at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, attend the free Sunday concerts at 2:00 PM, a tradition since 1917. Arrive early to enjoy a leisurely picnic and secure the best seating.

Is San Diego kid-friendly?

Absolutely, San Diego is super kid-friendly! It’s a city that practically caters to families, especially those with teens.

You’ve got world-class attractions like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, where teens can get up close with wildlife and enjoy thrilling rides. The beaches are a no-brainer for some laid-back fun, and places like Mission Beach even offer amusement park thrills.

For a bit of culture and history, Balboa Park and Old Town are great spots to explore.

Plus, activities like kayaking in La Jolla Cove or taking surfing lessons offer unique experiences that are both fun and memorable.

Is Disneyland close to San Diego?

Yes, Disneyland is relatively close to San Diego. It’s about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive north, depending on traffic. Located in Anaheim, Disneyland is totally doable as a day trip if you’re staying in San Diego. It’s a straight shot up the I-5 freeway, making it an easy drive for a magical day out.

How safe is San Diego for tourists?

San Diego is generally considered quite safe for tourists. Like any big city, it has its busier and quieter areas, but overall, it’s known for being a tourist-friendly destination.

Popular areas like Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, and the beaches are well-patrolled and maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.

Of course, it’s always smart to practice basic safety measures like keeping an eye on your belongings and being aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places.

Most visitors find San Diego to be welcoming and secure, making it a great spot for families with teens to explore and enjoy.

What is the best time to visit San Diego?

The best time to visit San Diego is typically during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these months, you’ll enjoy mild weather and fewer crowds, making it ideal for exploring the city with teens.

The summer months are also popular, especially for beach activities, but expect more tourists and higher prices.

Winter can be cooler, but it’s still pleasant compared to many other places, and you might find some great off-season deals.

Basically, San Diego’s climate is pretty friendly year-round, so it’s more about your preference for crowd sizes and activities!

Final Thoughts: Things to Do in San Diego With Teens

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs

As we wrap up this journey through San Diego’s best spots for teens, remember that this city is a playground of diverse experiences.

Each activity we’ve explored, from kayaking in La Jolla Cove to experiencing the thrill of indoor skydiving, is a chance to create lasting memories with your teens. San Diego’s laid-back yet vibrant atmosphere makes it an ideal destination for families looking to enjoy quality time together.

So, pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for an adventure-filled trip. San Diego awaits with open arms and endless possibilities. Here’s to a trip that you and your teens will reminisce about for years to come!

Additional San Diego Travel Blogs

San Diego California Map: Where is San Diego Located?

6 Best Segway Tours in San Diego for Families

What to Do in Balboa Park for Free?

12 Best Beach Hotels in San Diego for Families