Things to do in San Diego, CA

Get Your Bearings in San Diego

By Katie Dillon
San Diego Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

Downtown San Diego offers visitors the most convenience. Walk to the city's best restaurants, shopping, PETCO Park, and more. Hotel options range from budget to trendy, high-end with the Manchester Hyatt and Hilton Bayfront representing some of the larger chains. The airport is about a 10-minute taxi ride away with the trolley connecting guests to other attractions. Guests wishing to spend their holiday with toes in sand may want to choose a hotel on the beach, such as the Hotel Del Coronado or La Jolla Shores Hotel.

Caution:

With beachfront hotels, make sure the beach is walkable and not a cliff.

Avoid:

Downtown hotels with bars, on the weekends.

What to Eat

Despite the ever-present casual beach vibe, the culinary scene in San Diego is hot. Buzz words such as sustainable, local and artisan grace menus of all cuisines and price points. Two high-density spots include the Gaslamp Quarter, home to Brian Malarkey's Searsucker, and downtown La Jolla where favorites like the Steakhouse at Azul and George's at the Cove offer up stunning ocean views and outdoor dining options.

Hot Tips:

The sunset at George's at the Cove is unbeatable.

Be Sure to Sample:

The artisan cheese and meat cutting board at Whisknladle.

Things to See

With year-round sunshine, San Diego's attractions are all about the outdoors. Enjoy rides, shows and characters at both SeaWorld and LEGOLAND theme parks with kids (or without). It's easy to spend an entire day wandering the gorgeous grounds and museums of Balboa Park, so pack a picnic or dine at The Prado. Around the corner, the famous San Diego Zoo entertains all ages between the cuddly pandas, Skyfari aerial tram, polar bears and more.

Caution:

LEGOLAND seems to attract younger kids versus tweens and teens.

Hot Tips:

Arrive at Balboa Park a bit before the museums open in order to secure parking.

Places to Party

San Diego's best nightlife runs the gamut from uber-casual beach bars to swanky downtown clubs. While there aren't too many opportunities to get dressed up and dance until dawn, you'll find them in the Gaslamp Quarter. Try FLUXX, which changes theme every few months, offers bottle service and plenty of eye candy. Alternatively, the younger beach crowd tends to gather in Pacific Beach on Garnet, at the likes of Pacific Beach Bar and Grill.

Caution:

Taxis can be tough to come by outside the Gaslamp. Have a number handy.

Hot Tips:

For a mix of beach casual with an upscale vibe, try JRDN in Pacific Beach.

Where to Shop

San Diego does outdoor malls particularly well. Fashion Valley offers the most high-end designer shopping mixed in with the likes of H&M. Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach offers a nice mix of clothing, home design and jewelry boutiques. Little Italy and the Gaslamp offer small strips of neat stores, but other than that, most boutiques are spread out all over the county.

Caution:

Parking at lunchtime or on weekends at Fashion Valley is tough. Prepare to valet.

Ready for Your Dream Vacation?

Tripology

Plan your vacation worry-free now. Let the travel specialists at Tripology.com plan your next adventure FREE.

Find My Agent

Things to do in San Diego


San Diego is known for...

Five of San Diego's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Near-Perfect Climate:

San Diego is blessed with one of the world’s most temperate climates, making it an excellent vacation choice any season of the year. The average year-round daily temperature is 70.5 degrees Fahrenheit (21.4 degrees Celsius), and humidity is generally very low, even during the summer months when the rest of the nation is sweltering.  The region is kissed by the sun all year round, with just a few exceptions. May and June may bring sporadic overcast skies, a result of the “marine layer” that develops as the ocean warms in early summer. August and September are normally the hottest months, and fall and winter bring crisp temperatures and azure blue skies. San Diego’s rainy season begins in late December and lasts through mid-March, and while there may be a few rainy days during this period, the skies normally return to their sunny selves in a day or two. It is always a good idea to dress in layers when visiting San Diego, as early mornings and evenings can be chilly, even in summer.

2. Glorious Beaches:

Over 70 miles of beaches line San Diego’s coastline, from Imperial Beach on the Mexican border to Oceanside in San Diego’s North County. What makes the San Diego beach scene so remarkable is its diversity. What starts out as wide, sandy stretches of beach in South Bay and Coronado morph into a variety of other beach experiences as you head north up the coast.  Mission Beach and Pacific Beach offer the same wide expanse of sand and surf you find in the southern beach area of San Diego, plus a colorful boardwalk that invites bicycling, roller-blading, jogging, or just a leisurely walk to soak in the quintessential California lifestyle.  As one approaches the beaches of La Jolla and North County, the vista changes yet again.  Golden cragged cliffs line the shore, providing a most dramatic backdrop to the beaches that lie at the foot of the cliffs.  San Diego’s beaches provide the perfect spot to drink in views of glorious sunsets all year round.  Surfers especially enjoy the currents along the stretch of sand from La Jolla to the northern beach communities.

3. Family Fun:

Grandmas play just as hard as toddlers in San Diego, thanks to the availability of a wide variety of attractions that appeal not only to kids-- but to the kid in each of us. The San Diego Zoo, famous around the world for both its animal and plant collections, offers a close hand look at rare pandas, mighty elephants, tiger families, playful hippos, etc., in naturally-designed enclosures. Graceful giraffes, leaping gazelles and hefty rhinos roam through the hills and canyons of San Diego’s backcountry at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, where the activity can be viewed from the comfort of a tram. SeaWorld San Diego offers both an educational, entertaining, and up close and personal view of a wide variety of sea creatures, from dolphins and whales to penguins and sharks. LEGOLAND® California keeps adding to its more than 60 rides, shows and attractions for kids, including the SEA LIFE Carlsbad aquarium and an interactive water park. The New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego boasts eco-friendly architecture and is a fun-filled as well as educational playground for children of all ages.

4. Arts & Culture:

Often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West” for its impressive array of cultural institutions, Balboa Park (just a mile from downtown San Diego) is the largest urban cultural park in the nation. Built during the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916, its many museums and art galleries are constructed in the intricately beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival style and are nestled amid a landscape teeming with semi-tropical plants of all varieties. Beyond the borders of Balboa Park, San Diego is home to a wide variety of museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the USS Midway Museum, with aircraft displays and interactive exhibits honoring the U.S. Military. San Diego’s rich history dates back to 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the region, and the Cabrillo National Monument, perched high above San Diego Bay, celebrates his discovery. Two Spanish missions from the 18th century also reflect San Diego’s past; the Mission San Diego de Alcala is centrally located in Mission Valley, the first in a chain of 21 missions along the California coast. Mission San Luis Rey, California’s largest mission, is located in Oceanside in San Diego’s North County. The region’s performing arts scene is exceptional in its quality and diversity, and San Diego-based productions have made it to the “Great White Way” on Broadway annually to enjoy incredible success.

5. Sweet Spot for Golf:

San Diego is known as the “Sweet Spot for Golf” and no wonder. With more than 93 golf courses in every conceivable setting from ocean to mountains to desert, San Diego offers the golfer a wide range of course options and, thanks to its temperate climate, 12 months a year in which to enjoy them.  Renowned golf course architects such as Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, and Gary Player have left their mark on several of the region’s spectacular courses. San Diego’s golf courses are unparalleled in beauty, boasting sculpted greens, tees and fairways nestled amid rolling hills, canyons, riverbeds and oceanfront cliffs.  The stunning Torrey Pines Golf Course, with its sweeping view of the Pacific, plays host to major golf tournaments each year. Greens fees are astounding low at many of San Diego’s municipal courses, including those in Coronado, Balboa Park, National City and Oceanside.