With its pleasant temperatures, mostly sunny skies and kid-friendly beaches, San Diego is a popular year-round destination. Because of this, deciding when to visit San Diego largely comes down to personal schedules. We parents love that there are plenty of things to do that appeal to the whole family, and it doesn't hurt that the laid-back beach town's top four attractions, SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California, Sesame Place San Diego and the San Diego Zoo, are geared toward families.
When to Visit San Diego
Thanks to its location along the coast, the temperature is just about always perfect, with a yearly average high of 72 degrees. The very warmest months are July, August and September, which see highs in the mid- to upper 70s and the most sunshine. It does get warmer inland as you get farther from the beach. Even summer visitors need to pack sweatshirts or sweaters for cool nights, as the average lows can dip into the upper 60s.
Peak season is May through August (though in recent years, October can remain just as hot). Guests who think they may be escaping the biggest crowds by arriving earlier in May will still find plenty of kids in the major San Diego attractions on field trips. Visitors who arrive in late spring and early summer may be disappointed to find the "May Gray" and "June Gloom." The foggy low-lying marine layer blocks the sun along the coast.
The ocean fog may keep it just cool enough not to swim on the beach. We have found that it can make for a refreshing escape from the hot sun that is blaring just one block away. The later summer months are sunnier and warmer at the beach.
The summer months bring some of San Diego's biggest events, including the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon & Half Marathon, the San Diego County Fair, 4th of July's Big Bay Boom and Comic-Con, the latter of which brings in some 130,000 fans of comics, pop culture, anime and other art forms. If you want to hit the LEGOLAND water park, it's open daily in June, July and August (and open on select days in March, April, May, September and October). Sesame Place is a great place to cool off with a wave pool, water slides and a lazy river.
September is arguably the best time to visit San Diego. It is perfect for a long weekend with the kids or maybe even just a romantic getaway for Mom and Dad. It's still warm and sunny with little rain, and the summer crowds have gone away. Water parks are still open on the weekends.
The warm temperatures usually extend well into October. During October weekends, kids enjoy Halloween events such as the SeaWorld Spooktacular, Sesame Place Spooktacular and Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat party nights. The San Diego Zoo celebrates HalGLOWeen on select weekend nights as well with special entertainment and extended evening hours. Visit the large pumpkin patch near LEGOLAND in Carlsbad for more fall fun.
Kids have a lot to celebrate in October using Kids Free San Diego, with 100 attractions and restaurants offering free or discounted admission, free meals and other perks all month long. At the San Diego Zoo, one adult with valid admission can bring up to five kids for free. October is generally a quiet month, except early October through the week of Columbus Day can bring a surge of vacationing families from areas that get the week off school for fall breaks.
November and December see plenty of activities, including the Dixieland Jazz Festival, the world-renowned San Diego Bay Food & Wine Festival and the Balboa Park December nights, a holiday arts and culture festival. SeaWorld San Diego, Sesame Place San Diego, LEGOLAND and the San Diego Zoo decorate for the holidays and offer special holiday entertainment.
These months attract vacationers looking for beach escapes during the holidays. Pack your umbrellas (just in case). You can expect cooler temps, with average highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low 50s and upper 40s. You may find that that the sun keeps you warm but you'll feel chillier in the shade. Even when the beaches are sunny and warm, the ocean temperatures drop into the lower 60s and even 50s in the winter. Wetsuits are a good idea for ocean swimming. Even if the water is a bit chilly, those late fall beach sunsets are breathtaking with pink and orange skies.
The rainy season lasts through February, although there are usually many more sunny days than rainy days even in the wetter months. While visitors should plan to get wet, the lower crowds at area attractions and savings on hotels might be worth it. The winter months make great times to visit the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. We love the comfortable temperatures and smaller crowds. December through March also marks the official whale-watching season. That's when 20,000 gray whales make the 10,000-mile journey from the waters off of Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California.
While San Diego is not a major spring break party destination for college students, it is a popular destination for parents and younger children who have the week off, including the locals. The top attractions do get crowded in March and April, especially on weekends. When visiting LEGOLAND during the spring, it's toadally worth hopping by the nearby fields. You can pick your own sweet strawberries or go visit the colorful rainbow of flowers at Carlsbad Ranch. Bring your camera!
We hope you've found this overview of when to visit San Diego helpful in planning a visit to San Diego. You'll find more resources and tips in our San Diego Planning Guide.
Related: What to See and Do in San Diego