Planning your perfect getaway to San Diego? We’re sharing our seven “must-visit” places in San Diego that need to be on your itinerary.
San Diego is one of the most picturesque and vibrant cities in America, with a pleasant climate all year round. It is home to many world-class attractions, museums, and outdoor activities, which makes it a great destination for visitors of all ages. With your bags packed and your transportation booked, all you need to do is figure out your itinerary. Here are 7 must-visit places when touring San Diego:
1. San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world and is home to more than 4,000 animals from 650 species. Families and couples alike will enjoy a trip to the zoo. Visitors can take guided tours through the park to learn more about wildlife conservation efforts. This zoo has plenty to see and plenty of activities. No matter what time of the year, there is always a special event. If you can, check out the nighttime events at the zoo when the weather is right or over the Christmas holidays; even the zoo animals get into the spirit of things.
- Balboa Park
While downtown, catch a show at Balboa Theater. When you are done, set an afternoon aside for a trip to Balboa Park. The zoo is technically located within Balboa Park, so you are already there! But if you continue your trek, you will find multiple theaters, gardens, walking paths, and an ever-changing backdrop. There are child-friendly attractions like the miniature train, California tower, and carousel. If the heat of the day is too much, go into the Timken Museum of Art, Fleet Science Center, or WorldBeat Center for educational activities.
2. Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
If you’ve never hit your head and ankle simultaneously while lost in the belly of a ship, then all aboard the USS Midway Museum. This is a historic aircraft carrier docked downtown. With your ticket in hand, you can get lost over and over as you view the exhibits, watch the party boats down below, and grab some souvenirs on your way out. The museum also has flight simulators and a movie theater. It is an experience you will never forget!
3. Downtown Sights
And since you’ve already paid for parking, take some time to hang out downtown and walk through Waterfront Park, the Embarcadero, or Seaport Village.
- Check out the Fish Market if you are looking for fresh eats.
- Stop by the Children’s Museum for family-friendly fun away from the sun.
- If the USS Midway sparked your maritime interests, walk over to the Maritime Museum.
- Check out Balboa Park or catch a show at Balboa Theater.
Just a quick taxi ride or walk along North Harbor Drive will give you scenic views of the bay, the USS Midway, and the ports before you stop for a bite at the historic Tom’s Lighthouse or Coasterra.
If seafood isn’t your style, Little Italy is a few blocks away, and every corner will offer something noteworthy.
Looking for a place to relax with a bit of entertainment to it? The Gaslamp Quarter is the place to be. With 94 historic buildings, you can catch street music festivals, St. Patrick’s Day events, Mardi Gras, and more here. When it’s not a major holiday, you can still find great nightclubs.
While in the Gaslamp, take a break for a different kind of show; Petco Park is just a block away. The Padres once played farther inland at Qualcomm Stadium, but now it’s much easier for tourists to catch a baseball game juxtaposed by the harbor. In the offseason, you can still see multiple other venues like rugby or soccer matches or concerts.
4. Mission Beach & Pacific Beach Boardwalk
A trip to San Diego would not be complete without a visit to Mission Beach and the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. This two-mile beachfront boardwalk offers plenty of activities, from biking and rollerblading to volleyball courts and beachside eateries. You can also rent bicycles for an afternoon ride or go on a Jet Ski adventure and tour San Diego Bay. Here you can find great restaurants jutting into the coast and, of course, make an excursion to SeaWorld. SeaWorld puts on nightly fireworks shows, so if you hang out anywhere in Mission Bay, you can watch the sunset and the sky light up. Having polarized sunglasses and a hat with you will guarantee a perfect day without any sun damage.
- Cabrillo National Monument
History buffs will love a quick trip to Point Loma, where the Cabrillo National Monument lies. It marks the first landing of a European expedition along the West Coast (plus stunning views of the harbor, downtown city skyline, and Coronado).
- Mission Basilica
Hidden amidst the massive skyline and parks, you will find the second Franciscan mission founded in California. This small mission, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, is a historic landmark. It is also where the first public execution took place in San Diego. What you see today is a reconstruction; the original burnt down after an uprising by Native Americans in 1775.
- Good Eats
Downtown is home to great food. Every few blocks, you will find a change in theme. So, while you are still along the waterfront, you can check out the Fish Market if you are looking for fresh eats. For great food or just a fun time watching the local fishermen yell and throw fish, go to Seaport Village. Just a quick taxi ride or walk along North Harbor Drive will give you scenic views of the bay, the USS Midway, and the ports before you stop for a bite at the historic Tom’s Lighthouse or Coasterra. If seafood isn’t your style, Little Italy is a few blocks away, and every corner will offer something noteworthy.
5. Beach, Beach, and More Beach
San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches. You can pick the perfect beach depending on what it is you want to do. Looking to relax with a book? Head over to La Jolla. In fact, La Jolla is home to Torrey Pines State Reserve, where you can hike to the top of beautiful cliffs and catch a never ending coastal expanse. La Jolla Cove is home to some of the best tidepools around. La Jolla Cove is one of San Diego’s most beautiful seaside spots, with crystal-clear waters and plenty of marine wildlife for visitors to observe. This small beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking in the summer months when the weather gets warmer. Don’t miss out on this unique spot; take a stroll by the ocean or grab some lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.
Interested in sailing? Go downtown. Want to try water sports? Head over the bridge to Coronado.
You can’t truly experience San Diego without taking a trip to Coronado Island. It is home to the iconic Hotel del Coronado, and you’ll want to take a few pictures for your social media before the fun begins. Stroll down Orange Avenue for some shopping and dining, or hit the beach. Just don’t forget sunscreen, as this island offers plenty of sunshine all year round!
For a unique hike, get a car and drive inland to Ramona. If you aren’t careful about timing your drive, you will certainly find yourself stuck in traffic, but at the end of your drive is a steep (very steep) hike to Potato Chip Rock. This famous natural ledge of Mount Woodson looks like a potato chip, thinly dangling over a backdrop of wild countryside. It is a popular tourist destination and one fit for Instagram selfies. How creative can you be?
7. Old Town
Once you finish downtown, head up the road to Old Town. This historic neighborhood is well worth a visit. It is the first European settlement in California and the oldest neighborhood in the city. Wander around the cobblestone streets and check out the restored buildings and museums. There are plenty of restaurants to try, as well as vintage shops. Take a peek at some of San Diego’s history with a visit here. You’ll only have to walk around a few streets before you find multiple souvenir shops, delicious Mexican restaurants, and half a dozen different museums, each of which is worth a quick tour.
These 7 must-visit places in San Diego will provide visitors with a truly unforgettable experience. With its stunning natural beauty, fascinating history, and exciting attractions, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So if you’re looking for an amazing destination to explore and relax, San Diego is the perfect place!