San Diego is a coastal city located at the southernmost tip of the California, at the Mexican border. With a population of more than 1,300,000 people, it is one of the largest cities in the state. Known for its year-round mild weather, beautiful beaches, and rich Spanish heritage, there are plenty of fun things to do in San Diego.
10. Whale Watching
Grey whales and blue whales make their annual migrations through the Pacific Ocean and come very close to the San Diego coastline. Grey whales can be seen from land at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Cabrillo National Monument, or Torrey Pines State Reserve. Blue whales, which are endangered, swim farther out, but can be observed by taking one of several boat tours for the purpose. The annual migrations start in November and last into early summer. Whale watching is a fun and educational experience for the whole family. Some tour companies take kids for free.
The perpetually mild weather and miles of coastline make the city a popular spot for surfing, paddle boarding, boogie boarding, and other water sports. There are plenty of places to surf or just watch for people of all skill levels. Trestles, at the river mouth bordering Orange County, offers challenging waves. La Jolla Shores is a great location for beginners, with lifeguards and some surfing schools located there. Other locations include Del Mar, Oceanside, Windansea, the South Bay, Cardiff, and Swami’s. Lots of stores in the area carry all of the equipment you might need.
8. Craft Beer Tasting
The Southern California city is a premier location for craft beer breweries. With more than 95 breweries, many of which have won awards, there are lots of beers, ales, and lagers to try. Many breweries offer beer samples, and some offer tours of the facilities, where you can see how beer is made and talk to the brewers. Maps showing the locations of the breweries are available, making it easy to create your own walking tour in nearly any neighborhood. There are lots of bars and restaurants serving locally brewed beers in the city, as well.
7. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, located in Balboa Park, has an IMAX dome theater, digital planetarium shows, a hurricane simulator, and twelve permanent exhibitions. The center features many temporary exhibitions as well. Eight of the galleries feature over 100 interactive exhibitions, with plenty of activities for kids and adults. One regularly scheduled event is The Sky Tonight, a tour of the solar system, which takes place the first Wednesday evening of each month. The center is open 365 days a year. Tickets can be purchased on site, and children fewer than three get in free.
6. Seaport Village
If shopping and dining are your interests, you can head over to Seaport Village. Enjoy browsing more than 50 shops. Attend a book signing, or catch a live music show. Seaport Village, located on West Harbor Drive at Pacific Highway, is an ideal spot for a romantic weekend or an afternoon with friends. In addition to the shops, the site has more than a dozen casual and fine dining restaurants, and an entertainment complex, all right at the waterfront. The area is open year round, and hosts events, such as photos with Santa or the Easter Bunny. Another event, Landlubber’s Day, celebrates Talk like a Pirate Day.
5. USS Midway Museum
A trip to San Diego would not be complete without a nod to the United States Navy. The USS Midway is a formerly active aircraft carrier that has been docked and opened to the public as a museum. The ship was the longest serving aircraft carrier in the navy, and was home to 4,500 people at sea. The museum features audio recordings that allow visitors to guide themselves to 60 exhibits. Groups can take advantage of an hour long, docent led tour, but reservations must be made two weeks in advance. The museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there is a discount for purchasing tickets online. Expect to spend three to four hours at this cool museum.
4. Mission Bay
Mission Bay Park is a popular destination for sailing, surfing, camping, bonfires and barbeques, and water sports of all types. Mission Bay Park covers 27 miles of shoreline and 4,600 acres. It is home to Sea World, Mission Bay Aquatic Center, Mission Bay Golf Course, Belmont Park, which is an amusement park, and Fiesta Island. The park itself is free, and open year round. Some of the attractions, like Sea World, have admission fees. Several boating companies offer fishing tours and whale watching tours, which change throughout the year. Mission Bay is especially popular with twenty-something, and is lined with shops, restaurants, and nightspots.
3. Old Town
If history is your interest, Old Town is one of the best places to visit in San Diego. It is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the West Coast of the US. Today, the area has lots of shops, Mexican restaurants, art galleries, and historical buildings in beautiful Spanish architecture. Museums in the 12-acre area include Serra Museum in Presidio Park, Las Casa de Estudillo Museum, and McCoy House Museum. Another, Whaley House Museum, was built on the site of an old gallows and is purported to be haunted. Old Town has a number of events throughout the year, among them Fiesta Navidad, Cinco de Mayo, and Dia de los Muertos.
2. San Diego Zoo
Widely considered the best zoo in the world, the San Diego Zoo is not to be missed. The zoo houses 4000 animals from 800 species on 100 acres. Visitors can travel the grounds on foot or take advantage of a guided bus tour or the Skyfari to get around. There are plenty of activities, including shows, theaters, and animal encounters. Plan on spending all day. The zoo is open 365 days per year, and tickets can be purchased online. Combination tickets can be purchased which will allow visitors entrance to the zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Sea World. The three parks are located separately.
1. Balboa Park
Balboa Park stretches across 1,200 acres. It is home to performing arts venues, numerous gardens, 15 museums, and many attractions. Some of the attractions include the zoo, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Balboa Park Carousel, the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad, the Botanical Building, and much more. There are also sports facilities, a golf complex, and plenty of hiking and biking trails on the grounds. The park is open 365 days a year. Admission and parking are free to explore the grounds and visit the shops and restaurants. Tickets can be purchased at the park’s Visitor Center for the museums and specific attractions.
With so many fun and interesting tourist attractions in San Diego, choosing just a few can be challenging. Be sure to check whether or not you’ll need admission fees or parking fees for things you’d like to do. Whether you enjoy shopping, dining, sports, poking around in museums, or hiking nature trails, you’ll find plenty to do during your stay.