A Local’s Guide to The Best Things to Do in San Diego


As a neighborhood who has raised a household in coastal San Diego for the previous 25 years, I nonetheless marvel each day on the metropolis’s technicolor sunsets, impressed outside way of life, and glowing shoreline. If you’d prefer to get in on the motion, do this record of the most effective issues to do in San Diego that I like to recommend to buddies once they go to! So, are you prepared for some California dreamin’?

Get prepared for an unforgettable journey to the guts of Southern California with our information to the most effective issues to do in San Diego. Known for its idyllic local weather, sandy seashores, and vibrant cultural scene, San Diego gives varied points of interest that cater to each sort of traveler. From the historic attraction of the Gaslamp Quarter to the pure great thing about Balboa Park and the cutting-edge displays on the USS Midway Museum, this coastal metropolis on the Pacific Ocean guarantees to make your go to actually memorable.

Best Things to Do in San Diego

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San Diego has all the things, whether or not you need to create a household trip or take pleasure in its many outside actions. Catch a wave at La Jolla Cove, discover the San Diego Zoo, or just absorb the solar on Coronado Beach.

Are you able to dive into the most effective issues to do in San Diego, sharing insider suggestions that can assist you profit from your go to to “America’s Finest City.” Christina Roman initially wrote this text about the most effective issues to do in San Diego. We have up to date it for 2024 with extra points of interest and excursions to provide the most in-depth journey information to San Diego.

Old Town San Diego

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Considered the birthplace of California, Old Town San Diego traces the historical past of the primary European settlement courting again to 1820. It was designated a State Historical Park and homes many historic buildings, together with the Whaley House. The former website of the gallows has been formally designated a haunted home. Stroll by means of its historic websites, such because the Whaley House Museum, the old-fashioned home, and the grave yard.

A enjoyable option to discover the historic village is to take this Tales, Tacos, and Tequila Tour. Meet at Adobe Chapel to study of the historical past and marvel at its Victorian structure whereas having fun with a fish taco and genuine Mexican meals. The tour ends at a neighborhood distillery for a tequila tasting.

Gaslamp Quarter

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Located in downtown San Diago on San Diego Bay, Gaslamp Quarter has a wild western historical past of shootouts and barroom brawls. It was as soon as the red-light district and, within the 1860s, San Diego’s Chinatown. Gaslamp Quarter has 100 historic buildings, together with museums and artwork galleries. It additionally has a wide range of bars and eating places.

The Gaslamp Quarter is a good place to take pleasure in dinner and to take a look at the nightlife scene. This strolling tour is a enjoyable Brothels, Bites, and Booze Tour that takes you thru the historic and cultural coronary heart of San Diego from the notorious Stingaree District whereas having fun with genuine Mexican meals at 4 totally different eating places with some alcohol included. Make positive to pattern the craft beer scene.

If you need extra nightlife whenever you go to San Diego, go to Solana Beach to take pleasure in stay music at The Belly Up Tavern. It’s one in all San Diego’s premier stay music venues. Before catching a present, you possibly can seize dinner on the Tavern subsequent door.

The Strand on Coronado Island

Places to visit in San Diego Coronado island

Coronado Island is positioned throughout San Diego Bay and accessible through the enduring Coronado Bridge or a brief ferry journey throughout San Diego Bay from downtown.

At the guts of Coronado lies the legendary Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian beachfront masterpiece that has captivated guests because the nineteenth century. The American film traditional “Some Like It Hot,” starring Marilyn Monroe, was filmed right here. As you method the resort’s entrance, make sure to word the Hollywood stars commemorating the movie imprinted within the cement. When Hotel Del Coronado opened in 1888, it was the biggest resort resort on the planet.

Even for those who’re not staying at this lovely luxurious resort, you’ll take pleasure in a stroll on the Silver Strand. It’s seven miles of glowing sandy seashore alongside the Pacific Ocean simply behind the resort. Swing by Del’s beachside café for fish tacos or head as much as the swanky outside bar for sundown cocktails with a view. Outdoor lovers can take a motorbike journey alongside its bike paths, and water lovers will take pleasure in its many water sports activities.

Explore Balboa Park

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Balboa Park – San Diego CA

As San Diego’s cultural coronary heart, historic Balboa Park is a spot of pure magnificence. It is most beloved for the San Diego Zoo, the town’s most well-known attraction, which is likely one of the higher zoos for conservation. But there’s a lot extra to see and do on this 1,200-acre city park studded with colonial structure, outside actions and hidden gems.

You can spend a whole day right here. Built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 to rejoice the opening of the Panama Canal, Balboa Park homes world-class museums, a theatre, and a science heart.

Be positive to go to the glassblowers on the Spanish Village Art Center, and with children in tow, don’t miss a journey on the attractive carousel. If you’re trying to find a meal with an ambiance to spare, make a reservation at The Prado, an award-winning indoor-outdoor restaurant within the park with equipment impressed by park collections.

You can see pandas and flamingos on the San Diego Zoo, however don’t cease there. You can even discover the Japanese Friendship Garden and a Show on the Globe Theater. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket consists of the Africa Tram and all usually scheduled experiences. More Details right here.

Whale Watching

However as an alternative of visiting Seaworld San Diego or within the San Diego Zoo, why not see animals of their pure habitat? From December to April, 20,000 grey whales migrate alongside the coast, and you may view them from a two-story yacht with 360-degree views. Book this extremely rated tour now. (straightforward cancelation inside 24 hours of tour for a full refund)


things to do in san diego

Embarcadero is likely one of the metropolis’s prime waterfront locations, with loads of waterfront bars and eating places. Located on San Diego Bay, Embardacero pays homage to the maritime historical past of San Diego with historic ships and museums.

You will even board many scenic cruises and whale watching excursions right here. You’ll additionally see cruise ships in port right here, and there are many eating places and outlets. This is a good place to go for a stroll to soak up the views, and do some buying, plus it’s nonetheless a working fishing harbor.

It is right here which you could go to the Maritime Museum of San Diego and the San Diego Museum of Art and Design, however what attracts most individuals to the world (moreover the lodges and nightlife) is the USS Midway Museum.

USS Midway Museum

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One of the highest points of interest in San Diego is the USS Midway, positioned in downtown San Diego. It is an plane service that was lively from 1945 to 1992, making it the world’s longest-serving service from World War II to Desert Storm.

The USS Midway Museum is the world’s largest museum devoted to plane Carriers. It is moored at Embarcadero in downtown San Diego, and guests can tour its 60 displays and 29 plane on board. Onboard, you’ll relive the Midway’s exploits and listen to about occasions that modified the world. Another good museum for nautical lovers is the Maritime Museum.

Get your skip-the-line tickets to beat the crowds on a self-guided audio tour of the longest-serving plane service within the American fleet. Spend 2-3 hours exploring its 60 displays, together with the galley, jail, and engine room. You can even take part within the simulators and watch the movies.

Seaport Village

Seaport Village is positioned subsequent to Embarcadero and is a serious 14-acre open-air buying complicated in shut proximity to the cruise ship terminal. There are loads of eating places, and it’s linked to the Marriott resort 0 Where we stayed in San Diego en path to Rancho La Puerta in Mexico).

There are galleries, espresso outlets, and boutiques, making for a stunning stroll by means of this touristy space. When visiting a brand new metropolis, it’s enjoyable to go to a vacationer attraction. There’s a purpose they’re widespread. Grab some ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and take a stroll by means of the 50+ outlets. There is a historic carousel, and you may catch the Old Town Trolley right here. Location: West Harbor Drive, San Diego CA, 92101

San Diego Harbor Cruise

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San Diego Harbour

There’s no higher option to admire San Diego’s spectacular shoreline and skyline than from the water! So do your self a favor and guide a harbor cruise whilst you’re on the town. Book this extremely rated cruise of the San Diego Harbor to view the San Diego skyline and well-known landmarks equivalent to Coronado Bridge, Downtown San Diego, and extra.

Cruise the north harbor for views of landmarks like Harbor Island and Shelter Island and frequent colonies of sea lions clustered on the base of the Point Loma peninsula. Or go south to loop beneath the Coronado Bay Bridge and previous the plane service. Hornblower Cruises gives whale watching, dolphin-watching excursions and sundown cocktail and dinner cruises.

Explore San Diego’s Tide Pools

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San Diegans love tide pooling, and if you wish to discover the shores of California’s West Coast, this can be a nice exercise to strive. When the tide rolls out alongside San Diego’s 70 miles of shoreline alongside the Pacific Ocean, tide swimming pools are stuffed with considerable hidden treasures if you realize the place to look.

Spot sea stars, hermit crabs, limpets, mussels, anemones…possibly even a shy octopus tucked right into a crevice. Just bear in mind to tread fastidiously in these protected marine sanctuaries and go away no hint of your go to.

Top suggestions for a profitable tide pooling journey:  Check an ocean’s tide chart earlier than you head to any of the San Diego seashores. Time your go to for a destructive tide if doable. In truth, low tides in November to February make winter tide pooling particularly rewarding.

Belmont Park

One of San Diego’s most enduring vacationer points of interest is Belmont Park, an previous amusement park courting again to 1925. Amusement parks are at all times enjoyable for the entire household, and this one has bumper vehicles, mini golf, and arcade video games. But don’t miss the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a wood curler coaster that was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

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Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, in coastal La Jolla, is likely one of the wildest stretches of the Southern California coast. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker searching for a problem or a household with younger kids or mobility-impaired adults, you’ll discover loads of mountaineering trails large on sweeping coastal views and sage-covered chaparral on Torrey Pines State Beach.

Breathe within the aromatic Torrey Pines on a brief loop mountaineering path or take a country footpath that descends from the bluffs by means of the higher reserve 300 toes to the seashore. Hiking trails within the close by Reserve Extension alongside the creek mattress might be particularly scenic throughout spring wildflower season. Read extra about mountaineering in California: 15 Best Hikes in California – Inspiration to Get Outdoors

Paraglide at Torrey Pines Gliderport

If you’re searching for some extra pleasure, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has probably the greatest views of San Diego and is a launchpad for paragliders. If you ever needed a little bit of adrenaline, paragliding is a good introduction to skydiving. It offers a birds eye view of the coast with out having to leap out of a aircraft.

If you need to spend the day at Coronado Island, , guide this strolling tour t to see the highlights. It features a stroll to Star Park, the place the “Wizard of Oz” home is positioned, a go to to Coronado Beach, and a stroll by multi-million greenback properties that line Ocean Boulevard. You can even take a tour of Hotel del Coronado and revel in a deal with at a neighborhood eatery.

On your option to Coronado Island, cease at Chicano Park beneath the Coronado Bridge, the place you’ll discover the biggest assortment of out of doors murals in America. It’s positioned in Logan Heights. Address: 2043-2085 Logan Ave. San Diego, CA 92113

La Jolla Cove

la jolla beach

If you’re keen on the seashore, you’ll love La Jolla. La Jolla Cove boasts a large seashore that’s good for spending sunny days lounging on the sand whereas sea lions bask on the Beach.

There’s recent Mexican delicacies and plenty of boutique outlets within the space to buy groceries. If you need to go snorkeling, that is the place to do it, with calm waters and loads of marine life. It additionally hosts Mount Soledad, the Birch Aquarium, a handful of museums, and sufficient journey tour corporations to maintain you lively for days.

Head to La Jolla to take a dip at swank La Jolla Shores, or take a look at Windansea for excellent surf breaks and surroundings. Del Mar is a family-friendly, dog-friendly seashore widespread for picnics and weddings. Or head north to regionally beloved Moonlight Beach or Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas to skip the vacationer crowds.

You can rent an teacher at one in all San Diego’s widespread seashores – Mission Beach, Ocean Beach or Pacific Beach or La Jolla Shores.

Mission Beach

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Mission Beach is a 2 mile lengthy boardwalk crammed with eating places, nightlife and seashore actions. alongside an extended sandy seashore Take a stroll alongside the boardwalk for beautiful views of the coast. It begins at Belmont Park the place all of the motion occurs, however you may make your method south to this quieter part of the seashore.

There are loads of water sports activities from browsing and boogie boarding to kiteboarding and fishing. If you need to go for a journey, that is undoubtedly the place to hire a bicycle.

Pacific Beach

Another nice seashore group in San Diego is Pacific Beach. This 3-mile-long seashore and boardwalk has a celebration environment and has loads of fashionable eating places and bars to point out you an excellent time all day and night time. North Pacific Beach has calm waters with lifeguards on obligation, making it widespread with households, and Tourmaline Surfing Park is widespread for browsing. You can hire bicycles to discover Pacific Beach Drive and ensure to take a stroll out to Crystal Pier.

Ocean Beach

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Ocean Beach is an informal neighborhood the place different life should not simply welcomed however embraced. Walk alongside the primary road previous all forms of eating places, boutiques promoting tie-dye all the things, therapeutic crystal outlets, and taco stands.

Street artwork covers previously naked partitions, and the solar is often shining afternoon—as soon as the marine layer of fog burns off. Make positive to stroll alongside Ocean Beach Pier and take a look at the Ocean Beach Farmers Market. It is filled with natural meals stalls, they usually even placed on stay music!

Children’s Pool Beach

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Contrary to its title, Children’s Pool Beach will not be a seashore for youngsters to swim as a result of sea lion inhabitants that has overtaken its engaging, calm waters. The seashore was designated in 1931 as a seashore for teenagers to securely swim after constructing a sea wall to create calm waters and pool-like circumstances. But the native marine life discovered this engaging as properly and now moms come to the seashore from December to May to have their pups. If you need to stand up shut and private with sea life, this can be a excellent place to view them.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

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As its title suggests, Sunset Cliffs is likely one of the finest locations for sundown in San Diego. The 68-acre pure park has tidal swimming pools, sea caves, and sea arches.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park stands out as a pure surprise in Diego, providing a number of the most awe-inspiring views and tranquil moments that nature can present. Perched alongside the western fringe of Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park spans 68 acres of rugged cliffs, expansive ocean vistas, and complicated cave formations, making it a photographer’s paradise and a nature lover’s haven.

The journey to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is well accessible by automobile or public transport, with parking obtainable alongside the road. As the golden hour approaches, folks collect to witness the solar dipping beneath the horizon, portray the sky with vibrant hues—an expertise that encapsulates the essence of San Diego’s pure magnificence.

Beyond the sundown, the park’s strolling trails and hidden seashores supply a peaceable escape from the town’s hustle and bustle. Whether you’re in downtown San Diego or exploring the broader space, a go to to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is an unforgettable addition to any itinerary, embodying the serene and picturesque facet of California’s coastal wonders.

Point Loma

things to do in san diego old point loma lighthouse

Another San Diego Museum to go to is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Located on the southern tip of Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma is an efficient cease earlier than nightfall to study concerning the historical past of this historic lighthouse that dates again to 1855. Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

Cabrillo National Monument

This monument is devoted to the primary European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who explored the coast of California in 1542. It is positioned on the south finish of Point Loma and whereas it’s an attention-grabbing level in historical past, it’s an excellent place to go to for the views of the Coronado, metropolis skyline and on a transparent day, you possibly can see Tijuana. It has typically been touted as the most effective view in San Diego. You can even take a stroll alongside the  2.5-mile Bayside Trail and you may make your method right down to discover the tide swimming pools right here as properly. A visit right here is usually mixed with the lighthouse.

Little Italy

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San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood has been channeling the mom nation since 1920 on this pedestrian-friendly enclave of lovable Italian boutiques, quaint patios, and drool-worthy fare.

Be positive to swing by the exceptional farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. More than 200 tents of native entrepreneurs, household farms, and artisan grocers supply all the things from native artwork and olive oil to handmade crafts and one-of-a-kind keepsakes and presents.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance for a meal right here. (The expertise takes me instantly again to a few of my fondest days in Italy) It’s onerous to go fallacious with a meal right here so think about looking the menus on chalkboards on the primary drag to see what strikes your fancy.

Then cease for gelato across the nook at Pappalecco. Looking for grab-and-go sandwiches for the seashore? Swing by Mona Lisa, a world-class Italian grocer and deli.

Botanical Gardens

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When I’m touring, I like to immerse myself in a neighborhood backyard to see what’s rising and revel in a candy reprieve from all of the city exercise. I like to recommend the beautiful San Diego Botanic Garden in coastal Encinitas, North County San Diego. (This is a surfer city so keep for fish tacos, window buying and the laid again nightlife vibe on the 101.)

The Botanic Garden is a treasure. In simply an hour or two, you’ll meander by means of a desert backyard, a tropical rain forest, a swath of spectacular succulents, and marvel on the lovingly tended California native crops. Take a breather beneath the uncommon bamboos or subsequent to the 60-foot waterfall. A go to here’s a memorable addition to any San Diego itinerary.

Catch a Sam Diego Padres Game a Petco Park

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Baseball is America’s favourite pastime and when visiting San Diego, you possibly can watch the San Diego Padres play at what’s the finest baseball stadium within the main league, Petco Park.

It’s positioned proper downtown San Diego with nice views of the skyline from this state-of-the-art attraction. If you possibly can’t make a recreation, you possibly can at all times guide a stadium tour the place you’ll go behind the scenes to go to the Padres Hall of Fame, go to the Clubhouse, the Major League dugout, press field and extra!

Getting Around San Diego

Our #1 Money Saving Tip to discover San Diego – Purchase a San Diego Pass They are legitimate for 12 months and you will get them for 1-7 days

  • San Diego is California’s second-largest metropolis.
  • If you propose on seeing a whole lot of the town and surrounding space, its finest to hire a automobile to your journey.
  • Downtown San Diego is well walkable and has trolley system with over 50 stops.
  • Tickets for the Red Trolley are between $0.50 – $3.00.
  • The Old Town San Diego Trolley stops at 11 locations and even comes with a narrated tour. For extra info on instances take a look at their web site.
  • The seashore and inland neighborhoods of San Diego are much less accessible with public transport, so that you’ll need to rent a automobile.

San Diego is only a quick distance from the San Diego International Airport. You can simply get downtown by bus line 30 or tram line 140. You can even seize a taxi however we prefer to guide a non-public switch from the San Diego airport. We use this airport switch service each time we journey. It’s hassle-free and your driver meets you at arrivals along with your title. Easy cancellation and last-minute bookings.

Planning a Trip to San Diego

If you’re planning to go to San Diego, learn our full information to the place to remain in San Diego. It breaks down the most effective neighborhoods for every sort of traveler. From seashore lovers to households, the most effective nightlife and first timers, we’ve obtained you lined. Read about it right here: Where To Stay In San Diego – The Best Neighborhoods & Areas

Suggested lodges

  •  Kimpton Solamar Hotel – Located within the coronary heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and that includes Free WIFI, Rooftop Pool & free wine tasting! This is the standard Kimpton Luxury expertise.
  • Staypineapple at Hotel Z – A romantic resort with quirky decor. It is pet pleasant and gives free Wifi and is strolling distance to virtually all the things.
  • USA Hostels San Diego Downtown – Built again in 1880 this hostel gives combined dorms, free WIFI, Free Breakfast, and a vibrant new age decor.
  • The Heart of the City – Located within the coronary heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. This is a 2nd Floor Expansive unit with plenty of area. with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathtub, it’s good for households or {couples}. It additionally comes with entry to a parking area and is near all the things.

San Diego CityPass

Grab your self a San Diego City Pass to essentially make the most of all the things the town has to supply. Some of San Diego’s prime points of interest are included within the cross with admission to:
• San Diego Zoo Safari Park
• Belmont Park all entry combo cross
• One hour San Diego Harbor cruise
• Museums together with San Diego Natural History Museum
• Knott’s Berry Farm and extra!

When to go to San Diego

Where to stay in san diego accommodation neighbourhoods
  • There is actually no unhealthy time to go to San Diego. It has nice climate year-round.
  • But the most effective offers might be present in shoulder season from March to May and September to November.
  • San Diego sees probably the most rain in the course of the winter months.
  • January and February are the coldest months hovering round 65 levels farenheit.
  • But May and June might be overcast and grey.

So there you will have it, all the should see points of interest in America’s Finest City. There isn’t any scarcity of issues to see and do at this yr spherical vacation spot. From catching some rays on the seashores of La Jolla, taking in Balboa Park’s 17 museums, or strolling the boardwalk at Mission Beach, you’ll discover one thing that pursuits every member of the household. So what are you ready for? Start planning your journey to Southern California right now.

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