Rain or Shine! 45+ INSIDE Places for Kids to Play in San Diego
(Feb 2022: This is in the middle of an update. Original info posted is from 2018, but you can still use this as a general guide since most places are still around. Check hours, prices, etc. before you go.)
Things are always looking up in San Diego, RAIN or SHINE!
45+ INSIDE Places for Kids to Play in San Diego
Sure we've got perfect weather year round to run and play outside...but sometimes we want a break from the SUMMER HEAT or when it RAINS once or twice a year. Here are some of San Diego's finest INSIDE play areas for kids!
🏛 BALBOA PARK INDOOR MUSEUMS
*(Info may be incorrect. It's from my original post in 2018. I'll update soon for 2022).
There are SO many museums at Balboa Park that my kids love. But beware on extra hot summer days or rainy days, everyone else thinks of going there too...especially on the FREE Resident Tuesdays. That's a double whammy! So we actually avoid Balboa Park on a hot or rainy Tuesday.
PARKING TIP: Get there by 9:30am to grab a parking spot. Check out the museum you want to see and look at the map online to find the nearest parking lot. You don't want to be trekking across Balboa Park in the scorching heat with toddlers or in the rain because you parked at the opposite end. ;)
Our favorite Kid-Friendly INDOOR Museums at Balboa Park:
(Remember, these are FREE on Resident Tuesdays!)
🦕 NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Features: This museum was made for toddlers! It's amazing. They can touch and open everything without having to worry if it's ok. It is! Let them touch everything. This is one of our favorites!!
Food: There's an onsite cafe, The Flying Squirrel, inside the museum. There are tables & chairs inside as well. They have coffee and kid-friendly food.
Parking: Uncovered parking lot is right outside just to the East of the building, so it's a short run in the rain if you get there early. If not, there's more parking a little bit north next to the carousel and it's not too far of a walk either, but maybe bring an umbrella if it's pouring.
🔭 FLEET SCIENCE CENTER
Features: KidCity is an awesome playroom upstairs for kids 5 & under. The rest of the exhibits usually hold interest for my toddlers too. We also love the little playroom tucked behind the elevator and conveniently next to the lesser known bathrooms. Their IMAX shows are usually 25-40 minutes long and are just long enough for my kids to sit still through them. Currently we love their rotating exhibits upstairs (sometimes they're an extra fee).
Food: There is an onsite cafe, Craveology, that serves up some pretty good & kid-friendly foods, coffee too. The only seating is outside though, so find one in the shade or take your food to-go and find a covered shady spots nearby. If it's raining you may need to run over to the nearest covered hallway and grab a bench or sit on the ground to eat.
Parking: Uncovered parking is just south of the building. If you get there early you could snag an upper lot parking spot or else you can find some in the lower lots. Bring an umbrella if it's raining out.
🚂 SAN DIEGO MODEL RAILROAD MUSEUM
Features: Mac's Kids Corner is now downstairs (it used to be upstairs). Once you enter the museum, turn right and it's down at the end of the hallway. It has a train table with lots of tracks, trains and books about trains! My kids can play here for a solid hour without even realizing I'm still there.
Food: There is a cafe nearby called Cafe in the Park and is one of our favorite places to eat at Balboa Park. It's in the same building so you don't have to go outside to get there. Once you exit the museum, walk up the stairs or take the elevator down the hallway if you have a stroller. You'll find it at the top of the stairs. The food is great and they have coffee, smoothies & kid-friendly options too. There are tables & chairs inside there too.