You’ve booked your dream San Diego trip and expect picture-perfect weather. But beware, if you’re visiting in the winter or early spring, it can actually rain. So adding at least one rainy-day activity to your itinerary makes sense in case precipitation takes over.
Even when wet weather isn’t a risk, dreary skies are possible — especially during the appropriately named months of May Gray and June Gloom. All this can make planning tricky, particularly if you’ve always envisioned a beach vacation.
The good news? There are plenty of things to do in San Diego when it’s raining. From art museums to movie theaters, there really is something for everyone to experience under some cover.
Not sure what to do in San Diego in the rain? Add these destinations to your inclement weather itinerary.
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1. Luxury Movie Theaters
Movie theaters abound in San Diego — but when you’re on vacation, the standard strip mall theater won’t cut it. Thankfully, you can up the ante by one of the area’s upscale movie theaters. Options include:
- The Lot: Offering locations in La Jolla and Liberty Station. The Lot is known for serving craft coffee, adult beverages, and delicious cuisine to your seat before and during the films. Reclining seats keep moviegoers comfy, while huge screens make getting engrossed in the movie easy.
- Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas Del Mar: You can also order food and drinks without leaving your seat at this exceptional theater. Fully adjustable chairs let you sink into your seat and enjoy the movie, with servers quick to act on anything you may need. There are also Cinépolis theaters in north county San Diego, including La Costa and Vista.
- UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley: A cozy, intimate theater that still shows all the blockbusters, this local favorite also offers the comfy seats and cheaper drinks patrons demand. Special showings catered to babies make this theater a family favorite.
2. Luxury Bowling Alleys
When you want to move your body — but rain makes hiking or swimming less than enticing — bowling provides an excellent alternative. As with the local movie theater experience, you can level up your bowling game by visiting one of the area’s high-end alleys.
If you’re willing to drive a bit out of the city center, Bowlero San Marcos promises a fun experience, complete with well-kept lanes and delicious drinks. Also in San Marcos is the huge Draft Republic brewery and restaurant with a great bowling alley inside. Plus, it has an arcade right next to it for the kids and lots of games out on the large grassy area at the back of the restaurant.
Punch Bowl Social in East Village is a trendy option that offers creative beverages and a variety of activities beyond bowling.
High-end spirits and made-from-scratch dishes make Tavern+Bowl East Village a favorite among locals and vacationers alike. Break Point serves drinks and food to bowlers in the Pacific Beach neighborhood.
3. Indoor Ice Skating
Bringing one of the greatest winter thrills to the warm environment of San Diego, indoor ice rinks can be enjoyed year-round. The following are worth a visit:
4. Indoor Rock Climbing
Try rock climbing for the ultimate workout that also provides a mental challenge. While it’s a bummer to miss out on the real deal when the weather fails to cooperate, you can still get a feel for the experience at one of the region’s indoor rock climbing centers. While many are frequented by members, day passes are often available. Favorites include:
5. Fleet Science Center
This Balboa Park gem appeals to science lovers and those struggling to get interested in STEM topics. Visitors of all ages love the center’s interactive exhibits specifically designed to educate and pique curiosity.
Parents and their young children will want to head straight for Kid City, which should easily keep the under age 5 set entertained. Other visitors are encouraged to explore the Space Gallery and the VR Transporter.
In addition to many hands-on exhibits for all ages, the IMAX theater provides a wonderful escape on a rainy day in San Diego.
6. San Diego Model Railroad Museum
As one of North America’s largest and most impressive model railroad museums, this awe-inspiring attraction encourages you to unleash your inner child. Although some of its finest exhibits are situated outside, there are plenty of indoor opportunities to keep you occupied.
Themed line and location categories beckon you to explore. The attention to detail in each of these spaces is astounding; there is never any doubt as to whether the geniuses behind this attraction are passionate about railroad history.
7. San Diego Natural History Museum
Founded in 1874, the San Diego Natural History Museum has enlightened the Southern California community for generations. It boasts the distinction of being the second oldest natural history museum located west of the Mississippi.
Locally known as theNAT, this vast museum’s several floors are jam-packed with exhibits on mineralogy, citizen scientists, and the evolution of whales.
Several fossils are on display, so, as theNAT claims, you can pack 70 million years into a rainy afternoon. I’ve been behind the scenes to see their museum collection which is nothing short of impressive.
8. Museum of Photographic Arts
Rugged cliffs, dramatic beaches, and historic architecture make San Diego a photographer’s dream come true. When you want to gaze at the art these photographers produce, however, you’ll head for the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA).
Designed to engage a broad audience, this Balboa Park location exposes visitors to the most thought-provoking works from the world’s best photographers and cinematographers.
Arguably most astounding? The displays created by children, which provide a glimpse into the promising future of photography. I also quite like their gift shop.
9. San Diego Automotive Museum
Another great option for transportation enthusiasts, the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park provides a close-up examination of the history and future of motor vehicles. Its exhibits highlight many types of cars and motorcycles, with a rotating collection that ensures visitors have something new to see every time they stop by.
10. San Diego Air & Space Museum
If you’re somehow unable to get your aircraft fix at the USS Midway Museum, you’ll be thrilled to find even more at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Most notable as the home of the Apollo 9 Command Module, the museum also boasts an exceptional Spirit of St. Louis replica. Interactive options include a MaxFlight® simulator and an action hangar that should easily keep young visitors entertained.
The gift shop is one of the best among the many Balboa Park museums, so you’ll have an excellent opportunity to stock up on souvenirs — including books and toys to keep the kids happy during future rainy days at home.
11. Comic-Con Museum
Thanks to the massive popularity of San Diego’s annual Comic-Con comic book convention, a museum opened in its name in 2021. This latest addition to Balboa Park’s array of museums celebrates and showcases what makes the convention great comics, sci-fi, fantasy, and art.
Diehard fans can enjoy revolving immersive exhibits, and the museum is also a great place for comic-world newbies to discover this unique form of creativity. There’s so much to do and discover at the museum, including special film screenings and STEAM-focused art activities. This is definitely a great unique-to-San Diego option for the whole family – rain or shine!
12. Mormon Battalion Historic Site
Regardless of your religious affiliation, you will find plenty to appreciate about the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego’s Old Town district. Missionaries use interactive video tours at this memorable attraction to provide insights into the structure’s historical significance.
Gold panning demos and free photo opportunities can follow the 45-minute tour. Although this activity isn’t likely to occupy more than an hour of your day, it’s worth adding to an already-planned visit to Old Town San Diego.
13. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla exposes you to all things water without actually forcing you to get wet. Every aquarium exhibit promises to fascinate, but the seadragons, seahorses, sharks, and kelp forests are especially worth examining.
On the opposite side, the whole family will love Oddities, which explores sea creatures that are both weird and wonderful, in addition to learning how oceanographers research in the field. All ages will love the Little Blue penguins, seahorses, and (if there’s a break in the rain) the outdoor tide pools.
14. Liberty Station Public Market
This unique food hall boasts some of the city’s finest cuisine — and often at wallet-friendly prices. If you’re willing to brave the rain, a short stroll will take you to several excellent gift shops and galleries nearby. Many are accessible via covered walkways.
15. Check Out Local Breweries
Bar hopping is always an option in the Gaslamp District, but brewery visits are even more enjoyable. San Diego is known as the ‘Capital of Craft,’ thanks to our whopping 150+ independent breweries. Some of the best known ones include North Park Beer Co., Pour House Brewery, and Ballast Point.
Sample a few brews and small plates or appetizers, and you might find that you’re too relaxed to worry about the bad weather. Quite a few breweries are family-friendly, too, and feature ping pong or other games.
16. USS Midway Museum
Even if you don’t actually enter the USS Midway Museum, it’s worth strolling past for the unique chance to see a naval aircraft carrier before the impressive backdrop of downtown San Diego.
The real fun begins inside, however, as you learn what it was like to live aboard this historic ship. You’ll walk through the galley, sleeping quarters, engine room, and more while listening to a guided tour. Come with questions because some of the docents actually lived on the ship.
Regardless of the weather outside, you’ll want to come prepared with layers, as temperatures vary throughout various portions of the ship.
Set aside plenty of time for the flight simulator and the holographic theater, both of which bring the USS Midway to life. One of the highlights, though, is the outdoor flight deck. Head up there anyway if it’s a light drizzle or come back to see it in the sunshine.
17. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Expand your horizons with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where you’ll be exposed to a wide array of thought-provoking works of art.
The museum is fairly small, so don’t expect it to keep you occupied for long hours when you want to stay out of the rain.
During a brief visit, however, you can pack in several 3D, photographic, or interactive experiences that you won’t quickly forget. Exhibits change regularly, so stop in again when you return to San Diego.
18. Book a Spa Appointment
Where better to wait out the rain in San Diego than at one of our fantastic day spas? Most are located inside our top hotels and resorts. A few of my favorites include:
- The Fairmont Spa (inside Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
- The Spa at Torrey Pines (inside The Lodge at Torrey Pines)
- The Spa at Estancia (inside Estancia La Jolla Hotel)
Plus, that way, you can use the lounging facilities and dine in one of the restaurants while you’re there.
19. San Diego Zoo
Don’t let a little rain stop you from experiencing the joy of a day at the San Diego Zoo. Some people actually prefer rainy day visits, as precipitation tends to thin out the crowds.
What’s more, many animals can be more active when the weather is cool and rainy. In the event of a downpour, you can always take shelter and watch a movie at the 4D theater.
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20. New Children’s Museum
A variety of interactive art installations will keep your kids entertained for hours while also stimulating their senses. Don’t forget to try the indoor activities available in the Innovators LAB.
21. Trampoline Parks
A great way to give your kids some fun indoor exercise until the rain subsides is to take them to one of San Diego’s many trampoline parks. As well as what seems like hundreds of trampolines, many of the parks have basketball slam dunk zones, foam pits, a video game section, and dodgeball areas.
Kids can bounce to their heart’s content while you enjoy a drink or snack in the seating areas (just don’t expect gourmet coffee). If you have little ones you may be following them around to keep them safe from bouncing teens but most parks have special areas set aside just for under 5s. And if you’re feeling energetic yourself, I promise you won’t be the only adult seen getting your bounce on!
The most popular trampoline parks in San Diego are:
- Skyzone Carlsbad (which features the thrilling ‘SkyJump’ for the daredevils)
- Skyzone Chula Vista
- Get Air in Poway
- Rockin’ Jump near Miramar
- Jump Around Now Chula Vista
Discover a New Side of San Diego in the Rain
Rain or shine, the multitude of activities in San Diego, appeals to every type of vacationer. Go beyond the typical beach experience, and you just might discover your favorite San Diego attractions hiding in plain sight.