San Diego is one of the largest Cities in the United States. Despite being a large city, San Diego has its kind of peace at its pace. To slow down and have a relaxed holiday to beat the rush of busy life, San Diego is a perfect destination. Spend your days at the calm beaches and have a mindful experience.
San Diego is known for its vast white sand beaches and fantastic weather. Its incredible weather allows for year-round attractions for tourists and is the most family-friendly destination. Several parks and zoos for kids to enjoy making it a fun place for the family to be. For parents who want some learning opportunities for their kids, along with fun, won’t be disappointed either. San Diego has several museums and natural parks to acquire knowledge while having fun.
Food in San Diego is very versatile, thanks to the cultural influences this City has acquired. The Spanish and Mexican touch to cuisine is very prominent in San Diego. Try the best fish tacos, enchiladas, carne asada fries, and ceviche. Being a beach city, San Diego offers fresh seafood of all types.
It also has a flourishing farmer’s market held on Saturday for you to pick your food. Fruits and vegetables grown locally are fresh and have fantastic taste. San Diego also has fishing spots for you to enjoy fishing and to eat your fresh catch.
Without taking much time, let us present to you the top 20 things to do in San Diego.
1. Balboa Park
Balboa is a visual treat with gardens, a plethora of knowledge with all the museums and The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, a fun-filled tour with Zoo, Balboa Park Miniature Railroad and other attractions. Then there are adventures like hiking trails, tennis courts, golf courses, and archery ranges. Balboa Park is so vast and has so many different attractions that it makes it at the number 1 spot on the list of top 20 things to do in San Diego. Balboa Park has many free attractions. Hence, it is excellent for thrift travelers as well.
2. Belmont Park
Belmont Park is free to enter and park so you can go, roam around and decide what you want to do there. Moreover, this is the only beachfront amusement park, and boardwalk in San Diego thus has a unique place to be in this City. Then it has historical value to itself as it was first opened in 1925 and has a landmark Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. It has got shopping, amusement and thrill, and delicious food at the beachfront. I don’t know what else I could have asked for from the best places to visit in San Diego.
3. Coronado Beach
Our number 3 attraction in the best things to do in San Diego is Coronado Beach. This family beach has attractions for swimmers, sunbathers, skimboarding, fishing, and walking. There is Hotel del Coronado with its Victorian architecture that is 130 years old. This beach is a busy one; therefore, try to reach there early to secure a suitable place on the beach.
4. San Diego Old Town
San Diego Old Town is San Diego’s nostalgic side. This first settlement of California was established in 1769. Old Town State Historic Park, Whaley House Museum, Junípero Serra Museum, and Heritage Park are authentic places to revisit the past of San Diego. There is prominent Mexican food domination in San Diego, and tourist shopping havens as well. It has historical adobe buildings dating back to the era of 1820 to 1870.
Another great place to visit in San Diego Old Town is State Historical Park. This park is dotted with restored historic buildings and streets. Old town’s restored adobes and even the detailed replicas are just out of this world, especially Casa de Estudillo, from 1827, which is one of the oldest Spanish architecture in California.
5. San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo is probably the most famous Zoo in the United States. San Diego Zoo is a cage-free and open-air Zoo and is home to thousands of endangered species of animals and plants. This Zoo, for me, is particular because I am someone who would not want animals to be taken out of their natural habitat and thrown in cages for the pleasure of humanity and a great fun and knowledge place for kids.
6. San Diego Harbor Cruise
No. 6 among the fun things to do in San Diego is San Diego Harbor Cruise. Visiting San Diego by boat is a fun-filled adventure. You get to see the City’s attractions with a flavor of maritime experience. San Diego cruises are known for whale and dolphin watch for the nature lovers.
7. USS Midway Museum
USS Midway museum allows you a trip to a historic aircraft carrier. A must-go place in San Diego for aviation and history enthusiasts. You can climb in the aircraft, enjoy self-guided audio tours in multiple languages, visit cockpits, and theatres. Unique attractions for kids are also available. They can have guided tours specially tailored for kids and can explore the aircraft carrier by climbing in and walking around.
8. Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument makes it to the list of 20 best things to do in San Diego for two reasons. One, for its historical value and second for the scenic views you can enjoy from this monument. “Age of Exploration” presents insights into the history along with films and programs guided by rangers. From the top, you can view the Pacific, Point Loma naval base, and the mountains of Tijuana, Mexico.
9. San Diego Whale Watch
San Diego has a precious flourishing marine life. Whale watching is a great opportunity to watch a variety of water mammals in their natural habitat. You can expect to watch Finback whales, Blue whales, Humpback whales, Minke whales, Risso dolphin, Gray whales, Bottlenose dolphin, Minke whales, and common dolphin.
10. San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art deserves its place in the top 20 things to do in San Diego because this is one of the most excellent art museums in the country. A place for art and culture with year-round exhibitions of art treasures as well as pieces of art from all around the world. It also hosts a number of programs encompassing culture, art and education for both adults and kids. This Museum of art is situated in the Balboa Park mentioned above.
11. San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego Natural History Museum is also a part of Balboa Park. This park is a naturalist haven with efforts dedicated not only to exhibits but also on research and education focused around nature and the environment. This Natural History Museum has four floors with displays as well as a giant movie theatre.
12. Pacific Beach
Pacific Beach is a popular beach in San Diego because it’s a wide and flat beach. It has a diverse set of attractions catering to almost every type and age of visitors. You can surf, part, fish, bike and walk at the pacific beach. With different parts of the beach predominating in one activity or the other. While the central beach is mostly taken up by young crowds sunbathing and playing water sports and having parties, the north beach is mostly family-oriented space. Pacific Beach has several restaurants, cafes as well as shops. While the restaurants offer a variety of food, there are many cafes, sports bars, night clubs, and coffee houses around to enjoy.
13. Petco Park
If you are a baseball fan, Petco Park is your place to go. This park is the home of the Padres baseball team. This is a beautiful scenic park mainly known for baseball games, but other attractions include a picnic area and playground for kids. There are several attractions near Petco Park, like Waterfront Park, Convention Center, and Seaport Village.
14. Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado or Del as popularly known is not your traditional 5-star hotel. It is an all in one kind of experience that combines dining and lounging of the hotel with adventures and attractions of a beach. They have a beach playground. You can also surf, tide pool, bike and enjoy a bonfire on the beach. And now, if you still think you have not had your fill, go to a beach walk or for a luxurious spa treatment. Del’s legendary tours give you insights into history with visits to Victorian buildings and gardens.
15. La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is an all in one beach experience. The best thing to do while visiting La Jolla Cove is to hit the beach early to avoid crowds and enjoy calm beaches and fresh air. La Jolla Cove has several activities to keep you occupied for a good time. For kids, there is a kids’ pool too for safe swimming. Other attractions include swimming, scuba diving, biking, and paddleboarding. Birch Aquarium is a must-visit as it features a massive variety of marine life with more than 5000 fish.
16. Mission Beach
Since San Diego is a beach city, our list of top 20 things to do in San Diego includes many beaches. Now we are talking about Mission Beach. Belmont Park is the starting point of Mission Beach, and most of the fun happens here. Though if you are looking for calmer fronts, go fishing South Mission Beach Park or great sightseeing at the jetty. Here you can visit the shipwrecks and can dive in to have an experience underwater.
17. Imperial Beach
Imperial Beach has breathtaking nature views. It is a vast beachfront great for walking, playing with sand, and making castles. But this is not it. Here we also have Imperial beach pier plaza for shopping and eating, a trip back in time with outdoor surfboard museum, Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center for nature lovers. The City Beach also has two parks on the beach, Dunes Park and Portwood Pier Plaza. Imperial Beach is dominated by military presence as well. The main army settlements on the shore are Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach and Silver Strand Training Complex.
18. Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter is the hub of nightlife in San Diego and has bars with happening parties. Other than that, Gaslamp Quarter has several restaurants, shopping experience, and great views of Victorian architecture. Gaslamp Quarter is a treat for architecture lovers. It has 90+ Victorian-era buildings that are still inhabited by tenants; thus, the experience is multi-facet.
19. Little Italy
Little Italy is a famous and exciting neighborhood in San Diego. Main attractions include San Diego Firehouse Museum, Mama Filippi’s House, Convivio Center & Little Italy Heritage Museum. It is a place that has a prominent Italian culture as this was an Italian and Portuguese fishing area historically. You can find the best Italian cuisine, places to shop as well as bars and a farmer’s market on Saturday. This farmer’s market offers fresh and organic food items that you can sample for free, and if you like the stuff, you can buy it. The live music adds a punch to the environment and makes the visit lively and happening.
20. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Last but not least, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is our next destination on the list of top 20 things to do in San Diego. This place is a feast for nature lovers along the Pacific ocean. It is arguably the place to see the best sunset in the state. It has opportunities to dive, swim, hike, walk, and fish. However, some parts are underdeveloped and can be dangerous to jump, swim, or dive, so for the first-time visitor, it is essential to be careful. Erosion by water has left beautiful arches and cliffs that add to the attraction of this place.
San Diego has a multi-facet historical background that is a treat for history lovers. Its maritime history and military history both are well presented in the respected museums we mentioned above. Also, consider taking a guided tour to the City to explore its architecture and local culture to have the feel of it. All in all, San Diego never disappoints anyone. It has something for everyone. Enjoy your trip!!