Be amazed, be enthralled, and be inspired by the beautiful California city of San Diego. With so many things to do in San Diego, you’ll always find something that will suit your tastes and interests.
The eighth-most populous city in the United States, San Diego, America’s Finest City, is situated on Southern California’s Pacific Ocean coast, and located immediately adjacent to the Mexico-United States border.
San Diego is known for its mild Mediterranean weather all year round, its strong association with the Navy, being today’s top development center for healthcare and biotechnology, its natural deep-water harbor, and extensive parks and beaches.
If Chicago is known for its blues and Seattle is regarded for its coffee-lover Boho community, San Diego is known as a surfer’s paradise. Everybody is welcome here. Without further ado, let’s take a journey to the best things to do in San Diego.
The Best And The Most Wondrous Things To Do In San Diego
Welcome to our list of the best and the most wondrous things to do in San Diego.
1. Surf, Ride With The Waves At Black’s Beach
San Diego is the ultimate destination in the United States if you are a traveler looking for some “Vitamin Sea,” looking for beaches. There are so many beautiful beaches in this city, but if you are in search of the perfect surfer’s paradise, it has to be Black’s Beach – without a doubt.
Black’s Beach will give you the waves you deserve when you want to surf. Its submarine trench located offshore comes within a half-mile of the coast. Its ocean wells, raw as they may be, come in quick and forcefully before using up their energy in huge hollow peaks.
However, Black’s Beach is a paradise you reach only when you do some effort. To get to this beach, a long hike down the cliff is required.
Black’s Beach is a great venue for surfers, new and old. But, if you are looking for more options, there are certainly a lot more beaches in San Diego. In the North Coastal area, you’ve got the Trestles, Swami’s, and Del Mar, among many others. Black’s Beach is in La Jolla, but if you are looking for other options, you’ve got La Jolla Shores and Windansea. There’s also Sunset Cliffs at the Point Loma Peninsula, and there’s Coronado and Imperial Bay at South Bay. Or, you may want to instead explore the Pacific, Mission, and Ocean Beaches.
2. Meet San Diego’s Wildlife At San Diego Zoo
If you are looking for things to do in San Diego where you can get to know the city and its areas’ wildlife, travel to San Diego Zoo.
It is a zoo famous in the world, spanning 100 acres and home to over 12,000 rare and endangered animals. The animal family here has the gorilla, giant panda, giraffe, koala, elephant, tiger, cheetah, and mind you, even the polar bear, to name a few.
With so many kinds of wildlife to see here, tourists are advised to spend at least half a day at the zoo if they want to get the full experience. And it’s more than just animal sightseeing here. There are also shows and animal presentations being held.
Plus, during the summer, the zoo hosts the Nighttime Zoo event series where you can jive with the music and dance to the beats provided by the zoo’s performers.
3. Explore Balboa Park On An Electric Bike
As you have learned earlier in this guide, San Diego is home to countless of beautiful parks. And do you know the king of them all? It’s Balboa Park. You’ll be missing a lot if you skip visiting this place while you are in San Diego.
It is a 1,200-acre park and home to 18 beautiful museums, and more. If you want the full experience, it is recommended that you spend at least half a day here, but we’re not gonna blame you if you don’t have enough time. You can instead explore the highlights here, such as the Old Globe Theatre, modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe in London, or avail yourself of an electric bicycle ride experience with San Diego Fly Rides and go strolling around the park.
4. Savor San Diego’s Cuisine At Hotel Del Coronado
If you are a fan of vintage movies, you know that Hotel del Coronado, simply known as “Hotel Del,” has been the backdrop of the classic film with Marilyn Monroe, “Some Like It Hot.” Built in the late 1880s, Hotel Del also displays pictures of Monroe lined along its halls.
Hotel del Coronado follows the Victorian era architectural style, and has several rooms, beach cottages, shops, a spa, a pool, and a fine-dining restaurant. Are you looking for things to do in San Diego where you can experience the city’s cuisine? The best place to do so will be here at Hotel Del.
For instance, this Mother’s Day, you can treat your mom to an unforgettable dining experience as Hotel Del will host a brunch specially just for this celebration. It will feature a chilled seafood bar, regionally inspired dishes, international cuisine, carving stations, and a delectable dessert bar.
Not traveling to San Diego this Mother’s Day? Don’t worry, because the hotel offers many other dining options, from a lunch at the Sun Deck to a dinner at Serẽa.
5. Experience A Vintage Roller Coaster Ride At Belmont Park
A vintage roller coaster ride? Yes, you read that right. San Diego’s Belmont Park is where you can find the “Giant Dipper,” a beautiful old wooden roller coaster constructed in and that dates back from 1925. It is the centerpiece of the park.
Nervous because of how safe it is, considering it is an old roller coaster? There’s no need to. Locals and tourists have been trying this experience with no problems at all. Plus, it is also very affordable. For only $6 per head, you can ride the roller coaster’s famous drips and turns, and get spectacular views of the neighboring Mission Bay and Pacific Ocean. Or, if you’re still feeling energetic, head over to the FlowBarrel, touted as “the mother of all artificial wave machines.”
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6. Go Paragliding At Torrey Pines Gliderport
Paragliding is not for the faint-hearted, but many travelers try this activity whenever there is an opportunity in their destination to conquer their fears. From helping you build a strong core to helping you achieve better balance, paragliding has tons of health benefits.
As you paraglide at Torrey Pines Gliderport, what you get is a bird’s eye view of San Diego’s exceptional Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. You won’t have to worry about your safety because the Gliderport is home to one of the most successful paragliding schools not only across San Diego, but all over North America. Don’t forget to film your paragliding flight! There are also hiking trails here.
7. See Paintings Of Andy Warhol At The Museum Of Contemporary Art San Diego
Are you a fan of Andy Warhol’s art pieces? There are several museums around the world that display his works of art, and one of them has to be in San Diego. Perched right across from the Pacific Ocean in the coastal community of La Jolla is the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Originally, the building was designed by architect Irving Gill to be a home for philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. It was only in 1941 when it was converted into a museum. Right at this very day, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is home to over 4,000 pieces from renowned and emerging artists, including Andy Warhol. You can see his paintings here.
8. See The ‘Birthplace Of California’
Around the world, every avid traveler knows that there are places where old towns are still perfectly preserved. These include Heidelberg in Germany, the Old City of Shanghai in China, and Avignon, France. In San Diego, its Old Town is called “the birthplace of California.” If you are looking for things to do in San Diego where you can travel back in time, this is the place to be.
San Diego’s Old Town is a mile-long area where you can find reconstructed shops and houses built from the first European settlement in California, hence this Old Town’s nickname.
It is not just a flat-lay here. As you stroll around the area, you can be transported through the different eras of California’s history, from the time the Spanish explorers found this place to the California gold rush.
You can also visit shops like the Casa de Estudillo, a house built in the early 19th century and is one of the oldest surviving Mexican-Spanish-style structures of this kind in the state. Here, you can also find the reconstruction of San Diego’s first brick building, which is a courthouse first built during the mid-1800s.
If you are yearning for some old school shopping, you can do so in this Old Town. Plenty of shops here offer handcrafted items from Mexico and other countries in Latin America. Or, if you simply want to stroll and immerse into tradition, the area offers relaxing green spaces where you can listen to mariachi bands.
9. Party At Gaslamp Quarter
Tradition seeps into various attractions in San Diego, such as Gaslamp Quarter. This area is peppered with several Victorian-style establishments that today house a wide range of shops, theaters, art galleries, trendy restaurants, bars, and clubs. So if you are somewhere nearby and looking for things to do in San Diego at night, you can party here at Gaslamp Quarter.
The best place to start your Gaslamp Quarter tour is at the Gaslamp Quarter Gate itself, located along L Street and Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is regarded as downtown San Diego’s main thoroughfare. If Las Vegas has the Las Vegas Strip and Bangkok has its Khaosan Road, this is San Diego’s very own. The action here happens as the sun sets, making it the premier nightlife destination of San Diego.
If you are not a night owl or a party animal, you can still enjoy Gaslamp Quarter. There are areas here in the neighborhood that have been converted into restaurants and rooftop bars, if you are seeking for a more private place while you enjoy the booze.
Furthermore, the Gaslamp Quarter also hosts the San Diego Comic-Con, if you are a fan of comics and pop culture. If you are headed to the Gaslamp Quarter, be reminded. Parking can be limited, especially if the nearby Petco Park hosts a game or event. So, it is best to use public transportation instead.
10. Watch Horse Racing And Place Your Bets
On the other hand, if you are a horse racing enthusiast, find pleasure in watching races, and want to take chances by placing your bets, you can at San Diego’s Del Mar Racetrack.
Opened in 1937 by renowned singer and actor Bing Crosby, Del Mar Racetrack was initially a playground to the stars who took the train down from Hollywood for a day of fun on the turf.
Never worry, because the horse race watching experience here does not cost a lot. General admissions tickets are as little as $6, and minimum bets you can place can only be $2.
If you are hitting the beach and basking in the San Diego sun this summer, don’t forget to stop by Del Mar Racetrack. It will host the summer racing season from July to September. There are also races during the autumn, typically held through November.
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Where To Stay As You Enjoy The Various Things To Do In San Diego
San Diego’s tourist attractions are wide in scope. Meaning to say, exploring its top destinations like its parks and zoos will need you to spend around half a day to enjoy the full experience. While you can explore the city and the things to do in San Diego in a week, it is recommended that you stay longer.
Thus, if you are headed to San Diego, whether for a short or long vacation period, it is important that you know the best San Diego hotels you can stay in. Here’s the list. Take it as our bonus content.
- InterContinental San Diego
- The Pearl Hotel
- Park Hyatt Aviara
- Rancho Bernardo Inn
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar
- The Westgate Hotel
- And so much more!
Plan Your Ultimate San Diego Getaway
San Diego – a city in California where you can get a tremendous taste of America’s Hispanic heritage. Many believe San Diego is just where the best sandy beaches are – the best areas for surfing – but this city offers more. And when we say “more,” we really mean it. San Diego is a melting pot of culture, and a place where you can immerse into outstanding art, enjoy its various parks, and of course experience the city with the whole family. There are literally so many things to do in San Diego, Los Angeles’ chill younger sibling. Plan your ultimate San Diego getaway right now.
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