San Diego, California Fun Activities.
Are you interested in finding activities to participate in while in San Diego? You may discover a variety of interesting things to do and some of the top locations to see in San Diego if you scroll down this page.
San Diego is a city in the state of California that is famous for its beaches, parks, and year-round sunny weather. Since I moved here some years ago, I’ve made it a habit to stay in San Diego for extended periods of time. Why? Because San Diego is wonderful!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re into surfing and other water activities, hiking, or more into history, arts, and museums; San Diego will keep you amused no matter what your interests are.
It’s possible that if this is your first vacation to California, you won’t want to skip out on seeing San Francisco and Los Angeles, but you should definitely make time to stop in San Diego for at least a day. It is possible to gain a decent feel for this city in a short amount of time, perhaps only a few days.
Activities Available in San Diego
Take a Walk Along the Boardwalk at Mission Beach, which is on the list of things to do in San Diego
The boulevard and beach of Mission Bay
Mission Bay Boulevard and the beach are both great San Diego attractions.
There are some extremely beautiful beaches in San Diego, and no vacation to the city would be complete without making use of them.
This is the place to go if you want to have a traditional Californian experience, which consists of strolling down the boardwalk while locals on skateboards, roller skates, and beach cruisers pass you by!
The first place I go when I get to San Diego is Belmont Park, which is an oceanfront amusement park that is both tiny and old. If you are traveling to San Diego with children, it is highly recommended that you pay the park a visit.
From there, I go all the way to Pacific Beach by means of the boardwalk in the northern direction. If you want to stop for a drink or a bite to eat along the boardwalk, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants for you to choose from, so don’t worry about running out of alternatives!
One of my favorite things to do in San Diego that doesn’t cost me any money is to take a stroll down the boardwalk.
A helpful hint is that if you have the time, you should also go check out Mission Bay, which is only a few streets behind the boardwalk. If you want to have a drink in a resort atmosphere that seems nearly like you’re on an island, you can get there by walking up to the Catamaran.
Consume a Meal and Have a Good Time at the Gaslamp Quarter
You can’t travel to San Diego without paying a visit to the historic Gaslamp district.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in San Diego is the Gaslamp Quarter.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a bustling downtown district that is well-known for the variety of eateries it offers as well as its exciting nightlife.
Younger people are drawn to 5th Avenue because to a large number of nightclubs and bars that can be found on this street, which serves as the core of the Gaslamp neighborhood. The presence of Victorian buildings in this region lends it an air of greater historical significance and helps to make it a particularly lovely neighborhood.
Additionally, have a look at this list of the 10 best rooftop bars in San Diego.
Even while the nights are when the Gaslamp Quarter really comes to life, there is still much to do and see during the daytime hours.
I really like coming here during the day since it has a lot of different businesses, the enormous Horton Plaza shopping mall, and a lot of different places to have breakfast, lunch, or coffee.
In addition, this region is home to a number of theaters that host excellent music performances and other types of entertainment.
I really like the lively atmosphere that can be found in the Gaslamp Quarter, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. And despite the fact that the reason I like San Diego so much is largely due to the fact that it has the vibe of a laid-back coastal town, the Gaslamp Quarter unquestionably contributes something to the experience for me.
It is the one area of town that brings home to me the reality that I am living in a major metropolitan area, complete with the commotion and activity that is characteristic of city life.
If you are interested in learning more about the Gaslamp Quarter, there is a fun walking tour called the “Brothels, Bites and Booze walking tour.” Alternatively, you may go on a self-guided scooter trip to see downtown San Diego!
It is recommended that you come prepared to either spend a significant amount to park in a garage or to drive about for a long in order to locate cheaper metered street parking since parking here may be tough.
It is recommended that you use an Uber or Lyft instead of driving yourself, especially on Friday or Saturday night.
Explore Beautiful Balboa Park
When you travel to San Diego, you just must make time to visit Balboa Park.
When I went to Balboa Park for the first time, I thought it would simply be a vast park with plenty of green spaces, trees, walking routes, and perhaps one or two fountains. I can’t believe how incorrect I was!
This experience was perhaps one of the first instances that the European in me was faced with the idea that practically everything actually is larger in America…
They call parks like Balboa Park “urban cultural parks,” and one such park is in San Diego.
It is home to seventeen museums and cultural institutions, several performing arts venues, restaurants, magnificent gardens, and a large number of other creative and recreational activities, including the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
Yes, you may need to consider extending your stay in San Diego if you want to make the most of your time there and see all there is to see.
However, even if you only have a few hours to spare, you will most certainly take pleasure in touring Balboa Park, and it is highly recommended that you include it on your list of things to do in San Diego.
Consider Visiting San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Despite the fact that I am not the greatest supporter of zoos or keeping animals in captivity, I am making an exception in this case since the San Diego Zoo performs so much important work in the fields of conservation and research.
The Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo are both managed by San Diego Zoo Global, an organization whose research center is committed to the preservation and protection of rare and endangered species of animals and their natural habitats.
You may discover information on how the Zoo is assisting endangered species at several locations across the Zoo. Their work seems to be pretty amazing, despite the fact that it is difficult to ascertain precisely how much they do and how much potential damage they may cause to some of the creatures that they keep in cages.
The San Diego Zoo is renowned for its botanical collection, which includes more than 700,000 different kinds of exotic plants, and it is home to more than 3,500 species of rare and endangered animals.
You could very easily spend a whole day here, and if you are coming to San Diego with children, this is the perfect place to keep them engaged throughout your time there.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a massive wildlife preserve that serves as a home to over 3,000 different species of animals. The park has a total area of 1,800 acres (730 hectares), of which more than half has been designated as a habitat for native species that are protected.
Their safari is fantastic, and it nearly gives you the impression that you are truly traveling across Africa.
The multitude of additional fees is the one aspect of the Safari Park that is not to my liking. The tickets to the park are not inexpensive to begin with, so it was a huge letdown when I arrived at the park and discovered that the majority of the park’s enjoyable activities required additional money.
Taking a ride in a hot air balloon or participating in any of the other safari activities are both going to cost you a pretty penny. However, if you are willing to splurge, the safari park even offers the opportunity to tent within the park for an additional fee.
A helpful hint: While the San Diego Zoo may be found in the heart of the city, the Safari Park is situated around 40 minutes north of the city. Even if I like the Safari Park better than the San Diego Zoo, it’s possible that going to the Zoo will be the most time-efficient choice during a visit to San Diego.
To avoid waiting in line, purchase your skip-the-line tickets in advance. You are able to make reservations for either the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park here.
Take a Walk Through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Take in the Breathtaking Scenery While You’re There
One of San Diego’s most popular places to visit is the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve.
Hiking at Torrey Pines is one of the best things to do on a short visit to San Diego.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve may be found in close proximity to both La Jolla and Del Mar.
Torry Pines should be at the top of your list of things to do in San Diego if you are looking for a place to go hiking that also offers stunning vistas of a more rocky stretch of the coastline in Southern California.
The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a reserve that spans 1,750 acres and is located above Torrey Pines Beach. The reserve’s total area is 710 hectares. It is committed to the preservation of the Torrey Pine tree as well as other native plants and animals.
The beauty of the wild, undeveloped landscape that is so near to the city cannot be overstated.
Once you have walked up the hill, there is a visitor center that is impossible to miss, as well as a giant map that details all of the numerous routes. To go to the beach at the end of the Beach Trail, which runs along the cliffs and provides stunning vistas, is one of my favorite things to do.
Because the hiking paths vary from extremely simple to moderate in difficulty, this is an activity that is particularly ideal for people of all ages.
Try to spot some wild animals like a fox, a skunk, or a raccoon. If you are really fortunate and happen to be in this area around the time of year when whales migrate, you may even be able to observe whales from the cliffs.
I really like coming here early in the morning for a peaceful stroll, as it helps me get my blood pumping and prepares me to face the remainder of the day with renewed vigor.
Or I could go there at the end of the day to take in the breathtaking view of the sunset from the cliffs. Because the reserve closes promptly after sundown, you won’t have much time left to loiter around after you get there.
Tip: If you want to avoid having to pay for parking, park on the road that is outside of the reserve. There is no charge to enter the reserve if you want to do it on foot.
Head over to Coronado Island using the Ferry.
Visit Coronado Island if you just have a few days in San Diego to spend there.
Coronado Island is a must-see attraction that offers a variety of activities for visitors to San Diego.
When I visit Coronado Island, I get the impression that I’m going on a short vacation since the island has the atmosphere of the ideal resort town.
Although Coronado is not physically an island, it has the atmosphere and characteristics of an island. The Silver Strand, a lengthy isthmus that spans south of the island and links it with Imperial Beach, serves as the land bridge that allows access to the mainland from the island.
You can go to Coronado by route 75, but if you want to turn it into a pleasant adventure that lasts the whole day, I suggest taking the boat instead of driving.
From either the Broadway Pier or the Convention Center, you may board a ferry that will transport you to the Coronado Ferry Landing after a gorgeous and enjoyable voyage of fifteen minutes.
The schedule and fare information for the ferry may be found here.
The Coronado Ferry Landing is a quaint and cozy waterfront location that is home to a variety of restaurants, cafés, and stores. Even if you don’t ride the boat, it’s still worth your time to stop here, have a look around, and take in the vista of downtown San Diego.
You may either walk to the other side of the island, which will only take you about half an hour, or you can rent bicycles at the Ferry Landing and use them to explore the island. The world-famous Hotel del Coronado and a large stretch of sandy beach may be found in this part of the island.
Hotel del Coronado
Visit the Hotel del Coronado for some sights and activities during your brief time in San Diego.
The Hotel del Coronado was constructed in 1888, and in 1977 it was given the status of a National Historic Landmark.
Before the word “resort” was ever coined, the hotel functioned as one and catered to an affluent clientele coming from the Midwest, the East Coast, and Europe. These visitors, who often had their very own staff with them, would frequently remain for many months at a time throughout their stays.
The hotel is now available to the general public, despite the fact that it is consistently ranked as one of the most costly hotels in San Diego. You may take a tour of it, learn about its history and notable people who have stayed there in the past, eat lunch in their restaurant, and look around their stores.
It is said that the hotel is haunted by a number of spirits, the most famous of which is supposedly Kate Morgan. It is said that she committed herself at the hotel in 1892 after discovering that her boyfriend had been unfaithful to her. Her ghost is said to still inhabit the building.
After you’ve had a look around the hotel, you may relax on the beach or explore the restaurants and boutiques that line Orange Avenue. However, before you depart, you should be sure to dip your feet in the sand since legend has it that the sand on Coronado is some of the finest and most velvety sand in all of southern California.
An interesting fact is that if you were to look at Coronado Beach from above, you would see that the big sand dunes that are located close to the hotel del Coronado make out the word “CORONADO.” Back in the 1980s, one of the city’s workers was responsible for the creation of these.
It was impossible for him to figure out what to do with all of the seaweed that had been washed up on the coast by the ocean. He came to the conclusion that he should stack it up, then cover it with sand, and use it to spell out the name of the island.
You would never have imagined that these dunes spell a word as you walked by them, but now that you know, you may just be able to see it…
Pay a visit to the Museum on the USS Midway.
In the heart of downtown San Diego is the marine museum known as the USS Midway Museum.
The United States Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Midway, which served her country during the 20th century longer than any other, has been converted into a museum that houses a significant collection of airplanes.
It provides a lot of information on the United States Navy and many of the aircraft that are part of that service. In spite of the fact that I have never had much of an interest in either the military or the navy, I found that my visit to this museum was rather enjoyable.
It is really well organized, and although it is instructive, it still manages to be amusing.
Make sure to take advantage of their audio self-guided tour. You will have a deeper comprehension of the aircraft carrier, the many aircraft, and the various accomplishments of the Navy over the years as a result of reading this.
Additionally, while you are there, you will have the opportunity to test your skills as a pilot on their flight simulator. That day, I discovered something important about myself: I would be the world’s worst jet pilot!!
It is highly recommended that you take your children to the USS Midway Museum while you are in San Diego since it is both entertaining and instructive.
A word of advice: the museum shuts at 5 in the afternoon, and since there is so much to see and do there, I strongly advise going there as early as possible in the morning. You may purchase tickets to bypass the queue here, which will allow you to enter the venue more quickly.
Stop in Little Italy for a Cappuccino or a Decent Glass of Wine While You’re in San Diego Things to Do on a Short Vacation in San Diego
A trip to San Diego should definitely include some time spent in Little Italy.
If you ever find yourself in San Diego, you absolutely must pay a visit to Little Italy. It is one of my absolute favorite sections of the city. It has a (very) faint Italian atmosphere to it and is a charming area that caters primarily to pedestrians.
This is the place you should go to if you are interested in finding a decent wine bar, cuisine that is (nearly) authentically Italian, or an excellent Italian deli.
Walking along India Street in the late afternoon or early evening to take in the ambiance is one of my favorite things to do here.
Or, even better, if you are going to be in San Diego on a Saturday morning, you should head to the Farmers’ Market that is located in Little Italy. It is one of the biggest Farmer’s Markets, but it is also my personal favorite! It extends along West Date Street for a total of five city blocks, beginning west of Kettner Boulevard and ending at Union Street.
As Little Italy is considered to be one of the more upscale areas in San Diego, you shouldn’t expect to find many inexpensive dining options here. It also has a far better atmosphere in the evening as compared to the daytime, so unless you are heading to the Farmers Market, I suggest checking out this portion of San Diego in the evening instead of during the day.
Visit Old Town to Gain Knowledge Regarding the History of San Diego
When people ask me for recommendations on things to do in San Diego, one of the first things that come to mind is going to Old Town.
The first Spanish colony on the west coast of the United States was located in what is now known as Old Town San Diego. It has been transformed into a lively and well-kept area that offers visitors 12 acres of Mexican history and historical landmarks, as well as early California-style restaurants, colorful shops, museums, and a theater, in addition to the renovated Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Between the years 1820 and 1870, the early days of the town of San Diego are commemorated by a large number of historic structures that have been conserved and museums.
If you are interested in the history of San Diego, you should make a trip to Old Town. There you will find a lot of interesting things. Or, if you just appreciate an authentic Mexican setting and delicious Mexican cuisine.
It could seem to be a little bit fake when compared to other historic places in nations with a far longer history; nonetheless, this does not make it any less interesting to visit!
The San Diego Mormon Battalion Historic Site is highly recommended as a destination for tourists. It’s a colorful and engaging museum that tells you about the history of Mormon migration to the West Coast and how they contributed to the development of San Diego. And even better: it’s free!
Get good at surfing!
Taking a surfing class is a great way to spend a few days in San Diego.
In spite of all the new constructions and the fact that San Diego is now the second-largest city in California, it has managed to maintain its reputation as a chill surfers’ town.
If you still have some time on your hands and are looking for things to do in San Diego, you should return to the beach and sign up for some surf lessons.
This website allows users to make reservations for surfing lessons in La Jolla.
Alternately, if surfing isn’t really your style, you may try other water sports like sailing, parasailing, or a calm sunset cruise. But whatever you do, don’t skip out on the chance to see the stunning coastline and breathtaking sunsets of San Diego!
Stop at La Jolla Cove to say hello to the seals and sea lions who live there.
The sea lions and seals of La Jolla are must-see attractions for visitors to San Diego.
It is required that you see the seals and sea lions if you are going to San Diego on vacation.
If you were to ask me, I would say that this is one of the most entertaining activities that can be done in San Diego.
You will see a large number of seals and sea lions in the area around La Jolla Cove, which is a little cove with a very small beach. They do nothing except lounge about, take in the rays, and swim in and out of the cove.
Therefore, my advice is that you should swim with them! If you are willing to brave the chilly waves of the Pacific Ocean, bring your mask and snorkel with you (or you can purchase or rent them at La Jolla), and I promise you will have an experience that you will never forget!
Maintain some distance from the seals and sea lions, and under no circumstances should you attempt to touch them. However, as long as you leave them alone and just float about them in silence, they will most likely approach you and check you out, and you will be able to see them swimming, playing, and interacting with one another.
I have gone snorkeling in many other parts of the globe, including the Caribbean and the Maldives, but I can say without a doubt that this particular excursion is up there as one of my very best experiences.
Be conscious of the fact that these creatures have an unpleasant odor. Or alright, their crap does. Because there are so many seals and sea lions in this area, their odor may be picked up from a great distance. It is possible for things to get quite difficult, which, if you ask me, is all the more motivation for you to don a snorkeling mask and go swimming in the pool with your friends!
A word of advice: if you are seeking for enjoyable things to do in San Diego, I wholeheartedly recommend going on a kayak tour of the caves near La Jolla. In addition to that, it’s a fantastic opportunity to observe some seals and sea lions!
Take a Look at the Leopard Sharks as Well
The yearly gathering of the greatest number of leopard sharks anywhere in the world takes place at La Jolla. They may be seen throughout the warmer months directly off of La Jolla Shores beach.
Take your mask and snorkel with you to La Jolla Shores beach if you chance to be there at the correct time of year and see if you can see any leopard sharks.
They are often startled, so if you want to go near to them you should simply float about and make as few movements as possible.
The best time to view them is in August and September, but if you’re fortunate, you could get a glimpse of them as early as June or as late as December.