Perhaps it's your first visit to Southern California or you're a resident looking for something different to do. Hop in the car, board a train or set sail in the ocean to see something new, outside of San Diego County.
Drink wine in Temecula Valley: About an hour away from downtown San Diego lies the serene Temecula Valley, home to over 30 wineries and spectacular photo opportunities among the vine-covered rolling hills. Taste wine, ride in a hot air balloon, and shop one-of-a-kind boutiques in the historic town.
Goofy at Disneyland — Photo courtesy of Disneyland
Visit the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland is about 90 minutes north by car and perfectly suited for a long day trip. All ages will love the rides, character encounters, shows and other novelties Disneyland is famous for. Don't forget about newly expanded Disney's California Adventure where the new Cars Land is.
Experience wellness at Rancho La Puerta: Savor a taste of what the world's first destination and fitness spa resort is known for during Saturdays at the Ranch. Guests make the 90-minute journey via luxury motor coach (from a pick-up point in San Diego) across the Tecate border to enjoy a day full of fitness classes, relaxation in the gardens and by the pools, tennis, spa treatments, gourmet lunch, and a hands-on culinary experience.
Shop until you drop at South Coast Plaza: Everything from H&M to Chanel can be found at what is widely regarded as Southern California's best shopping mall. Not only is almost every major retailer represented, the quality of and available selection in each store is incredibly high. The 90-minute drive to Orange County is easy if you plan to arrive when the mall opens at 10:00am and leave after dinner.
Visit Mission San Juan Capistrano: Avoid traffic and take the scenic journey on Amtrak from San Diego to the San Juan Capistrano station. Tour the historic Mission and shop along the way. Despite being in Orange County, there's a decidedly small-town feel here with family-owned and operated shops and restaurants.
Take a sightseeing tour of Tijuana: The trolley ride to the border is about 40 minutes, but the line to get across could be a different story. Have your passport in hand, leave valuables at home and check for any travel warnings prior to going. Shop and dine along Avenida Revolucion or contact the San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau for guided tour recommendations.
Drive up the coast: Spend a leisurely day exploring the beaches and towns of coastal, affluent Orange County. Hop on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point and weave your way through Laguna Beach, up to Newport Beach and end at the shops, galleries and restaurants of Balboa Island. You'll no doubt stop for photo opportunities and must-see shops along the way.
Main Beach in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach — Photo courtesy of Scott Sporleder
Relax in Laguna Beach: Home to seven miles of gorgeous beaches, art galleries, festivals, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, Laguna Beach is a very popular day trip among San Diego residents seeking a slight change of scenery. It's also about a 90-minute drive.
Go whale watching: Grey whales make their annual migration from the warm waters of Baja California between the months of December and April. Half and full-day excursions are available from San Diego via tour companies or even the Birch Aquarium or Maritime Museum.
Explore Los Angeles: Though it's a solid 2.5 hour drive without traffic, it is possible to include Los Angeles as a potential day trip. Sites include Hollywood, J. Paul Getty Museum, Universal Studios, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and more. Be prepared to sit in traffic and to leave Los Angeles at night in order to, usually, avoid it.
Most importantly, have a great time!