You’ve booked your dream San Diego trip — and you expect picture-perfect weather. If you’re visiting in the winter or early spring, it can actually rain. It helps to add at least one rainy-day activity to your itinerary, however, if precipitation takes over. Luckily, things to do in San Diego in the rain might be on your itinerary anyway.
Even when precipitation isn’t a problem, 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.
Not sure what to do in San Diego in the rain? Add these destinations to your inclement weather itinerary.
1. Luxury Movie Theaters
Movie theaters abound in San Diego — but when you’re on vacation, the standard strip mall affair 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, Liberty Station, and Downtown San Diego, 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 it easy to become engrossed in each film.
- 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.
- 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 a hike or swim less than enticing — bowling provides an excellent alternative. As with the local movie theater experience, it’s possible to 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. 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
For the ultimate workout that also provides a mental challenge, try rock climbing. 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:
Balboa Park Museums in Numbers 5–10 Below
Personally, I think one of the best places to go in San Diego when it’s raining is Balboa Park. Sure, you’ll have to step into the rain at times to get between the museums but you can very easily entertain the family for an entire day here rain or shine.
5. Fleet Science Center
This Balboa Park gem appeals to both science lovers and those who struggle to get interested in STEM topics. Visitors of all ages adore the center’s interactive exhibits, which are 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 with its ball wall and fire truck. Other visitors are encouraged to explore the Space Gallery and the VR transporter.
In addition to a myriad of 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.
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.
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. Mormon Battalion Historic Site
Regardless of your religious affiliation, you will find plenty to appreciate about the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. At this memorable attraction, missionaries use interactive video tours to provide insights into the structure’s historical significance.
The 45-minute tour can be followed by gold panning demos and free photo opportunities. 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.
12. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps 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.
13. Liberty Station Public Market
After a busy day checking out San Diego museums, you might crave a special treat. You’ll find plenty of enticing options at the 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 for a bit, a short stroll will take you to several excellent gift shops and galleries located nearby.
14. Check Out Local Breweries
Bar hopping is always an option in the Gaslamp District, but brewery visits are even more enjoyable. San Diego is home to several excellent locations, such as North Park Beer Co., Pour House Brewery, and Ballast Point.
Sample a few brews and small plates or appetizers; you might find that you’re too relaxed to worry about the bad weather.
15. 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.
16. Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla
Free to visit, the Map & Atlas Museum provides a compelling introduction to the world of cartography. The museum’s private collection of over 200 items spans several centuries.
You’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the many ways in which maps and atlases inform us about our neighborhoods, nations, and world. Check hours before you go as it’s not open every day. And, it’s a free thing to do in La Jolla.
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 of our top hotels and resorts. A few of my favorites include:
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
If you’re visiting with kids and you’re still not convinced that it’s worth your while to check out the zoo in the rain, consider stopping by the New Children’s Museum instead.
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.
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.