Spring break provides the perfect opportunity to escape from the stresses of daily life. Few places offer a better respite than San Diego. The beaches aren’t as balmy in spring as those in Florida, but that doesn’t stop families and college students alike from hitting up San Diego’s sand and many other attractions.
With so much to do and see, the prospect of cramming all the city attractions into a week can be overwhelming. To help, we’ve outlined several of the best San Diego spring break attractions. Many of these can be enjoyed with help from the Go San Diego sightseeing pass or are otherwise affordable.
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PLEASE NOTE: Go San Diego passes are not qualifying tickets for the annual Kids Free San Diego promotion in October.
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1. Hit the Beaches
Despite the caveats mentioned above, visiting the beach remains one of the best things to do in San Diego for spring break. You’ll want to get your hands on a wetsuit before going in the ocean for long stretches of time. You can rent them, brave the water, or simply stroll along the coast and take in the gorgeous scenery.
Spring break ends long before the cloudy season known as May Gray and June Gloom arrives, so you can expect sunshine during beach-based hiking trips. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid rain from the trip’s beginning to the end.
If you can only spend one or two days near the ocean, stick to the best spring break beaches in San Diego.
A top surf destination among UC San Diego’s athletic types, Black’s Beach in La Jolla takes effort to access — but the payoff includes a serene environment and remarkable views.
Some parents steer clear of this beach due to its reputation as a nudist hangout, but this stereotype is a bit overplayed these days. Visit early in the morning, and, in all likelihood, you’ll hardly see anyone at all.
Moonlight State Beach
Surfers, runners, and yoga enthusiasts all love Encinitas’ Moonlight State Beach. A playground makes this a great spring break destination for families with young kids, while college students may be more interested in beach volleyball.
Boasting a vast expanse of soft sand, this beach can easily absorb the seemingly large crowds that descend on it during spring break.
Stop by to enjoy the sun as you build a sandcastle or hunt for shells. A wetsuit makes it possible to navigate this beach’s calm waters.
Del Mar Main Beach
Another great option for family-style recreation and soaking in the sun, Del Mar’s Main Beach also offers plenty of sand to explore. It’s adjacent to the picturesque Powerhouse and Seagrove Parks, where you can enjoy a peaceful picnic.
College students and young working professionals flock to Pacific Beach for spring break in San Diego to take advantage of the stunning beach and the myriad of beach bars.
The vibe here is uber casual and festive. It’s probably not the greatest for families during spring break unless they know what to expect.
2. Make the Most of a San Diego Zoo Ticket
As one of San Diego’s premier attractions, the San Diego Zoo delivers educational fun for the whole family. It’s a must-visit for parents with toddlers, school-age kids, and even teens.
It would be easy to spend multiple days at this hundred-acre attraction, which is jam-packed with animals and information. If you only want to invest in a San Diego zoo ticket for a single day, however, plan to hit up the following during spring break:
- Elephant Odyssey
- Panda Trek
- Tiger trail
- Hippo trail
- Skyfari aerial tram
- 4D movie theater
College visitors should also consider setting aside any misconceptions about the zoo only being for kids; this particular zoo provides an abundance of learning opportunities that should be particularly intriguing for those interested in science.
3. Explore the Safari Park’s Butterfly Jungle
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is always worth visiting for its arid region animals, but spring provides the unique opportunity to gaze at glorious winged insects during one of the park’s most beloved events. Multiple types of butterflies and flowers provide a colorful display.
Be prepared to snap photos as butterflies flutter around your family or even land right on your head for the ultimate selfie. Beyond the Butterfly Jungle, you’ll find a vast park that can be navigated on foot if you’re feeling ambitious — or by trams, ziplines, and even balloon.
4. Embrace Nostalgia at LEGOLAND California
Small children and nostalgic parents alike can find a lot to love about LEGOLAND California. It’s home to a variety of fun rides (Dragon Coaster is popular), play structures, 4-D movies, and special events.
It’s one of San Diego’s most popular theme parks, but geared toward younger kids ages 12 and under. Teens, and maybe even college students, who loved LEGOs as a child may get a kick out of visiting the park, too.
5. Get Your Thrill on at Belmont Park
It’s impossible to visit Belmont Park San Diego without having a world of fun. For nearly a century, this beloved Mission Beach amusement park has thrilled visitors with its assortment of rides — and its gorgeous views. A pay-as-you-play approach makes casual visits possible but it’s more cost-effective to grab a pass for unlimited rides and play.
Younger children — and ride-averse adults — may prefer the carousel or the Belmont Express train. But don’t miss the Giant Dipper historic roller coaster that hurls on wooden tracks around the park.
If nothing else, it’s worth your while to stroll the boardwalk, which provides easy access to a variety of shops and restaurants. Better yet, grab a scooter or go biking along the boardwalk that runs between Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
6. Visit an Art Museum at Balboa Park
San Diego is home to several excellent art museums, where fascinating historic and contemporary exhibits abound. Keep these options in mind when a rainy day makes a day trip in the great outdoors less appealing:
San Diego Museum of Art
Both art enthusiasts and casual visitors should appreciate this museum, which is located in the heart of the city’s iconic Balboa Park. While a variety of styles can be found here, the museum’s clear strength is Spanish art.
Museum of Photographic Arts
Another fun Balboa Park destination, this museum highlights the awe-inspiring work of the world’s most noteworthy photographers and cinematographers.
Budget-conscious college students are often drawn to this museum, as it replaces conventional admission fees with a pay-what-you-wish approach.
7. Let Your Imagination Run Wild at the New Children’s Museum
While the art museums highlighted above tend to appeal more to older kids and adults, artistic concepts can be introduced to younger vacationers at the New Children’s Museum.
Designed to make contemporary art more accessible, this unique destination gets both kids and adults thinking creatively. Plus, it’s located downtown near many popular hotels.
8. Go Whale Watching
Gray whales abound in the San Diego area, and, if you visit before — or during — their spring migration, you stand an excellent chance of seeing them up close. Whale watching tours provide the most intimate look at these majestic creatures. Whales swim further from shore in the spring on their way back to the Bering Sea with their calves.
Larger boat tours tend to be preferred among parents of young children, but adventurous high school and college students may be more intrigued by the possibility of viewing whales while kayaking.
9. Snap Photos of the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
The iconic ranunculus flowers of Carlsbad Ranch bloom during the months of March and April, making them essential for any spring break itinerary.
Families with kids of all ages should have a blast among these vibrant flowers, which can be viewed in over one dozen dazzling colors. Not to mention there are tractor rides, events, and other things to do throughout the blooming season.
It’s an especially compelling option for college kids, who also flock to the fields to capture colorful Instagram photos.
10. Visit La Jolla Cove
San Diego’s best sunsets provide a visual feast at La Jolla Cove, which is also known as a hot spot for sea lions. The moment you arrive, you’ll realize why this is one of San Diego’s most photographed locations.
La Jolla Cove provides great opportunities for casual sightseeing, including views of sandstone cliffs and clear water. You can walk a few minutes south to the Children’s Pool to catch a view of our famous La Jolla seals.
If you’re looking to add snorkeling or diving on your own to your spring break itinerary, the cove is an entry point to the Ecological Reserve. It’s also one of the best places for ocean swimming thanks to buoy distance markers. During this time of the year though, you’ll want a wetsuit.
11. Enjoy the Vibrant Gaslamp Quarter
San Diego’s nightlife scene typically converges around the Gaslamp Quarter, where all the best bars, lounges, and music venues can be found. The district tends to attract a younger crowd, so college students should feel right at home there.
Despite its youthful vibes, there’s more to this area than signature drinks and dance clubs. During the day, Victorian structures and souvenir shopping make this a great place to stroll before stopping by one of the many acclaimed restaurants for lunch.
12. See the Flowers at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse
The lovely lighthouse at the Cabrillo National Monument comes alive in the spring when it’s surrounded by yellow flowers in full bloom.
The lighthouse was taken out of service long ago due to the heavy fog that often obscures it. These days, parents appreciate that this attraction provides plenty of educational value by providing an intriguing history lesson.
You can also enjoy the seaside trails that run through Cabrillo National Monument and its tide pools
13. Catch a Padres Game
Check the schedule to see if the Padres are playing a home game at PETCO Park. The stadium is conveniently located in downtown San Diego and is home to mini outlets of some of San Diego’s most popular restaurants so you can eat and drink well during the game.
14. Go Tide Pooling
There will still be some opportunities to go tide pooling in San Diego during spring months when low tides occur during the day. You’ll be able to see sea anemones, sea stars, small fish, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs and more. Popular places to go include:
- In front of Hotel del Coronado
- La Jolla Cove
- Cabrillo National Monument
- Swami’s Beach in Encinitas
15. Enjoy Water Sports
Sure, the water isn’t as warm as it is during the summer months, but you definitely should take advantage of the myriad of water sports available on the San Diego Bay and Mission Bay. These include kayaking, sailing, SUP, aqua cycling, boating, and waterskiing.
You can also rent snorkels and kayaks to take out on the water in other popular spots like La Jolla and Coronado.
Spring Break in San Diego: Fun for All Ages
No matter what type of spring break you envision, you’ll make wonderful memories as you explore San Diego’s best beaches, museums, and amusement parks.
After a wonderful trip, you’ll head home feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready for your return trip to our year-round destination.