Looking for tips on the best things to do in San Diego? Read on for my local tips!
In 2005, I met an Aussie in New Zealand. In 2009, we got married, traveled around the world, lived in Melbourne and moved back to New York.
With more ‘round the world travel and adventures along the way, we yearned for a more laid back approach to day-to-day existence. Looking to ditch snow, ice and cold, we headed west to San Diego in 2014 – we’re still here!
We’ve embraced the west coast lifestyle of year ‘round sun, sand and surf of America’s finest city and definitely consider ourselves ‘locals’ (especially since the majority of those we’ve met, have also chosen this city as their own).
Finding the outdoor lifestyle, scenic vistas, gorgeous beaches, delicious food, friendly attitudes and limited use of outerwear we were searching for – San Diego is an absolute pleasure.
Come check out our chosen city, San Diego, California.
10 best things to do in San Diego
1. Spend the day at one of San Diego’s beaches
From Coronado to Pacific, Imperial to Mission, Ocean to Del Mar and everything in between, San Diego surf doesn’t disappoint.
With crashing waves and over 70 miles of shoreline, sand and surf lovers find their home here. Paddle boarders, surfers, kayakers, wave jumpers, sand castle experts, sun bathers and joyful wanderers wiggle their toes through the sand and shake out the salty sea from their hair daily.
My favourite is Coronado. Known for its smoke-free shores, ‘Sand Castle Man’, the famed Hotel del Coronado, two Navy bases and more – the waves, sand and bay side of Coronado Island never disappoint.
2. Get your green on at Balboa Park
The 1200-acre urban park is San Diego’s pinnacle green space and one of the best things to do in San Diego.
With international cottages, museums, theatres, gardens, sporting arenas, an organ pavilion, the zoo and more, Balboa Park invites visitors to take in the view.
Between buskers, picnic-goers, travelers, event attendees and wanderers a plenty, Balboa Park is packed with people learning, experiencing, doing and enjoying on a daily basis. and is a welcoming experience.
Check out the free concert schedule at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in the summer, stroll through the international cottages on any given Sunday or spend time taking in the food mecca of December Nights.
3. Hang with the animals at San Diego Zoo/Safari Park
Animal lovers rejoice! Between Balboa Park’s San Diego Zoo and Escondido’s Safari Park, there are heaps of animal friends with whom to visit.
Check out the koalas, pandas and polar bears at the zoo or hang with the rhinos at the wildlife sanctuary. Each family-friendly property offers its own special programming from a ‘roar and snore’ sleepover to a holiday light spectacular.
4. Go Hiking
Home to nature galore, San Diegans embrace a love of trails. Whether it’s open sky, tree-lined paths, ocean breezes, waterfront action or a backcountry feel – the trails of San Diego provide variety, serenity, active attitudes and more.
Within minutes from downtown hikers can find Cabrillo National Monument, Border Field State Park, Mission Trails Regional Park, Torrey Pines Reserve and Balboa Park to walk, run, bike, Segway or saunter through mind-opening trails.
Afternoon or weekend excursions can take guests to Joshua Tree National Park, Julian’s Idyllwild, Big Bear or the sun-drenched trails of Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
My two local favourite hiking spots are Torrey Pines State Reserve and Cabrillo National Monument. Water and city scenes, sandy pathways and views as far as the eyes can see are constant throughout the trails.
5. Eat tacos and drink beer!
Whether you eat waterside in La Jolla or in historic Old Town’s square, in the center of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter or grab the hipster vibe of Hillcrest – festive food is ever present in San Diego.
Home to over 90 craft breweries; San Diego is a beer drinker’s paradise. Find authentic fish tacos everywhere you turn, delight in the brunch culture enjoying local favourites and check out the gourmet food trucks in their heyday.
And if you’re a fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives®, check out my favourite fish taco spot at San Diego’s own Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill.
6. Attend a Sporting match
From the Padres to the Chargers, sport is here in San Diego. Take in the baseball action at the downtown Petco Park or experience an NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium.
There’s ice hockey (San Diego Gulls), sand sculpting competitions, surfing, paddle boarding, marathons, and more. San Diego is the birthplace of the triathlon and university sports reign supreme.
7. Visit one of San Diego’s many museums
With well over fifty museums in the region, culture abounds in San Diego County.
For cultural things to do in San Diego check out the myriad of museums in Balboa Park (like the San Diego Museum of Art or the San Diego History Center), learn military history at Miramar’s Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum or spend the afternoon with animal friends at Scripps Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.
A day spent at a museum in San Diego takes active learning to new heights.
8. Hang out at the Farmer’s Markets
Juicy, colourful, sweet, organic, fresh vegetables, fruits, foods and crafts are available daily throughout all of San Diego’s farmer’s markets. Food trucks, vendors, artisans, crafters, farmers and creators display their wares, finds and foods in all parts of the county.
Downtown’s largest farmer’s market takes place Saturdays in Little Italy. The aromas waft through the streets while market stalls entice guests towards the epic displays.
9. Experience epic outdoor adventures
Like the idea of leading an active, outdoor lifestyle 52 weeks a year?
San Diego has the climate and the landscape to allow you to enjoy outdoor adventures, like paddle boarding, hiking, surfing. Unlike a lot of places in America, you can enjoy an afternoon hike in the middle of February.
10. Enjoy San Diego living
The laid back approach to life makes enjoying the hours surrounding ‘work’ enjoyable. A visit to the beach or an outdoor hike can be worked into the ‘daily grind’.
Events rarely have ‘rain-dates’; restaurants pop heaters outside if the temperature dips below 68F/20C, and at some point most days there’s access to the essential vitamin D. Quality of life is a focal point while the rest manages to fall into place.
- San Diego travel tips from around the web – Sunday Spotlight
- 8 non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles
Plan your trip to San Diego
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