5 Activities for Critter-Loving Kids in San Diego

Whether you recently PCS’d to San Diego or you’ve lived here for years, here are five great activities for critter-loving kids:

San Diego Zoo

The world-famous San Diego Zoo is a must for visitors and residents of San Diego. I highly recommend a membership if you’re stationed here as the zoo never gets old for kids and adults alike. Active duty visit free, and family members can get discounted memberships through the local ITT office. You will have a hard time seeing the entire thing in one visit, so pick a favorite spot and come back another time! They recently added new exhibits featuring hummingbirds and Komodo dragons in June of 2021, and in March of 2022 they unveiled the Wildlife Explorers Base Camp, complete with a splash pad, climbing structures, and exhibits featuring the fennec fox, axolotl and more!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

While the San Diego Zoo seems huge at 100 acres, the Safari Park is absolutely massive, with 1800 acres of land dedicated to conservation of a variety of wild animals. Located in Escondido, it is a further trek from central San Diego, but worth while!  You will have to pay for parking at this location, something that isn’t required at the Zoo, and isn’t included with memberships. Here you can feed the birds at Lorikeet landing, and have a tour around the whole park on the Africa Tram, which is included with admission. The world is your oyster with additional safaris and experiences available to purchase.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Photo courtesy of lajolla.com

Nestled in the hills of La Jolla, the Birch Aquarium is home to a giant kelp forest exhibit, seahorses, seadragons, octopus, sharks and more! They have a large outdoor tidepool touch area, where you can simultaneously take-in a breathtaking view while getting to feel a squishy sea cucumber, and sticky sea anemones. Coming in Summer 2022 is a new Penguin exhibit! Check the website for the most up to date information as reservations may be required to visit.

The Living Coast

Photo courtesy of Living Coast Discovery Center Facebook page

This gem is well hidden, as we hadn’t even heard of it until we had been living here for almost three years! Located in Chula Vista near the coast, the Living Coast Discovery Center features some amazing animals like sea turtles and bald eagles. This is definitely the closest I have been able to get to a Sea Turtle! They have a large touch pool area where kids can get up close with fish, sting rays and even small sharks! If you plan to visit more than once in a year, the annual membership will be worthwhile. In addition to unlimited membership, members get exclusive access to special events.

Tide Pools

Why pay to see critters at all the locations above when you can find them outside for free!? There are several spots to check out tide pools in San Diego and it has quickly become one of our favorite activities. I find myself checking the tide charts every week to see when we should go! Keep an eye out for “King Tides” when the tides will be extra low and reveal even more of the hidden sea life. Some of our favorite spots are Cabrillo, Tide Beach Park and La Jolla; but you can find tide pools at almost any of San Diego’s beaches when the tide goes out! This past weekend we discovered the rocky area in front of the Hotel Del was home to giant snails, rainbow-colored crabs and more. Check out more details on tide pools here.

Do you have any other San Diego spots to add to our list? Comment below!

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