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San Diego is one of the sunniest places in California, the finest city in America, and is a mind-blowing tourist destination. There is a lot to know about this city and, certainly, a lot to love about this city.
No matter how often one has visited San Diego, there will always be something new to try, which is the best part of this city. Here, you can experience the world-famous San Diego attractions and the unique local feel.
The perfect weather, mouth-watering fish tacos, year-round activities, breweries, and spectacular shorelines make San Diego what it is and why people love it in the first place.
So, such an amazing place deserves some attention. This is why we have compiled a list of some of the best things to do in San Diego.
However, before moving on, how about you learn a few fun facts about San Diego? After all, some might be visiting San Diego for the first time, and knowing a few things about exciting destinations never hurts.
Furthermore, if planning your next trip to any US city, consider checking out Bookmundi. This platform offers various small-group and independent tours to explore every nook and corner of the city you plan to visit. They also look after your accommodation and transport facilities at the best price.
Fun Facts About San Diego
San Diego is known for its pristine beaches, delicious foods, locals, and vibrant atmosphere, but there’s more to the city than is known. So, let’s know some facts, shall we?
1. Home to the rare “Torrey Pine.”
Torrey Pines is a rare, endangered tree variety in San Diego. San Diego is one of the only places where this tree grows and can be found.
2. Home to the famous California Burrito
The famous and delicious Golden State food California Burrito is originally from San Diego.
3. Comic-con International is held here.
The famous comic book convention, comic-con International, is held in San Diego annually. It first occurred in 1970, when only a few 100s of people visited; however, now over 130,000 visitors can be marked.
4. San Diego: The birthplace of California
San Diego is called the birthplace of California because it was the site of California’s first permanent Spanish settlement.
5. Tuna Capital of the world
San Diego was named the “Tuna Capital of the world” from the 1930s to the late 1970s. This was because every major cannery of that time was based in San Diego.
6. La Jolla had houses specifically for small people
It is said that some people who played Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz movie moved to the La Jolla region in San Diego and built houses, known as “Munchkin houses,” specifically for small people.
So, these are just a few interesting and fun facts about San Diego.
13 Amazing Things to Explore in San Diego
1. A visit to the San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego
Located within Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is rated among the best zoos in the world. The zoo houses over 650 species, from big cats to Komodo Dragons. For animal lovers, this zoo can be as exciting as anything best in the world.
San Diego Zoo houses the world’s largest collection of endangered and rare animals. The journey inside the zoo starts with numerous trails where you will come face to face with exciting creatures. The best way is to explore the whole area on foot, from one trail to another. However, if you get tired, there is also a 35-minute guided bus tour.
And if you are into something adventurous, you might want to go for the “bird’s eye view” of the park provided by the sky-far aerial tramp. This aerial adventure will take you from one end of the park to another.
What else to do?
In addition to getting a closer look at all the rare creatures, the zoo organizes animal encounter programs, animal shows, and 4-D movie theatres about wildlife.
So, all in all, you will never run out of options in the zoo. You can always enjoy one thing or the other.
While speaking of San Diego Zoo, there is also the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you can have the experience of a lifetime.
The Safari Park alone is ten times more exciting than the famous San Diego Zoo. The ride to the park through the African Plains and Asian Savana to view the giraffes, rhinos, lions, and wildebeest is worth remembering.
2. Petco Park
100 Park Blvd, San Diego
The state-of-the-art Petco Park is a ballpark in downtown San Diego. It is one of Major League Baseball’s best stadiums. The park is amazing in every way possible, has the best baseball sightlines, and offers breathtaking views of San Diego.
It is home to the San Diego Padres MLB team and a great destination.
You will get awesome views of the San Diego Bay and San Diego skyline from the stands. This point celebrates all of San Diego, the game, the city’s beauty, the spirit of the people, the sky, and the sea.
What else is there?
The park also has an entertainment zone for the kids and amazing food. From hot dogs, BBQ, and fish tacos to Roman-style Pizza, you will get everything here.
3. Go Back in Time: Old Town San Diego Park
While in San Diego, you can take a trip back and experience the old town.
The Old Town San Diego Park is a living history museum established in 1968 that preserves and commemorates historic buildings, restored shops, and houses from the 19th century.
This San Diego museum is one of the most visited in California as it features various aspects of San Diego’s history and culture. The period from 1820 to 1870 can be very well studied here.
What to see?
Apart from the preserved historic architecture, you can see reconstructed buildings. Besides that, in the area, you can find various shops offering authentic handicrafts and restaurants with authentic food.
4. Whale Watching
Watching whales anywhere, anytime, is always a fun activity to do. San Diego offers an amazing chance to watch whales, too.
The California Gray Whales can be seen migrating from Northern Alaska to Baja California while passing by San Diego between December and April.
So, during this time, you can head up to the Embarcadero, San Diego’s harbourfront, for a whale-watching cruise. This cruise journey is assisted by a naturalist who will provide insights into the whales.
The cruise, with its indoor and outdoor seating arrangement, is thoroughly enjoyed by visitors. Apart from catching sight of whales and dolphins, you are certain to spot many harbor seals and sea lions.
Also, you can enjoy and experience San Diego County’s Pacific Ocean coastline. So, one way or the other, you will enjoy your time.
5. Enjoy at the Mission Beach & Pacific Beach
858 San Diego
Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are the hot spots for San Diego’s youth and tourists. These two beaches are separate beaches. However, they are connected through one giant shoreline. Although these two beaches aren’t as exceptional as the Coronado Island Beach, they are just as popular.
Both beaches share the same boardwalk, ocean, and sand, yet they have a few noteworthy differences. Mission Beach has a premier amusement park known as Belmont Park, which is everyone’s absolute favorite. And it is a bit calmer than Pacific Beach.
This vintage amusement park is known for its historic landmark, the Giant Dipper. It is a roller coaster built in 1925 and is still running.
Pacific Beach, on the other hand, has a more lively environment and offers the best nightlife in San Diego. Even if you walk along the boardwalk, you will feel the vibe. It is one of San Diego’s prime spots.
Both the beaches are excellent for surfers, so if you are into surfing, here’s another bonus. You should go to Mission Beach for a more relaxed, family-friendly beach experience.
Located south of the Pacific beach in Mission Bay, a human-made saltwater bay is also equally enjoyed by visitors. So after you hit the beach, you can drive up here.
There’s another option for you if you enjoy small, compact beaches. The La Jolla Cove, surrounded by the cliffs in the La Jolla neighborhood, is a small cove and beach with scenic scenery.
La Jolla Cove is perfect for adventures like diving and kayaking.
6. Torrey Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla
Torrey Pines Gliderport is a prime location in Southern California for hand gliding and paragliding. Even if you have no experience in these activities, you can just come here to enjoy the cool ocean breeze and the breathtaking scenery.
The Gliderport offers world-class flying lessons, tandem flights, and flying sites. This is the place to start if you want to try paragliding for the first time. Go for a tandem flight and truly experience what a free flight is all about.
You can also sit on one of the benches and linger over the beautiful views. And if you are there on a Saturday afternoon, you can enjoy live music.
Speaking of Torrey Pines, visitors might also have a good time at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a National Natural Landmark featuring about 2,000 acres of Pacific coastline.
Soaring Heights: A San Diego Paragliding Adventure
Being the proprietor of SerenTravelty.com, a website devoted to promoting adventurous and exhilarating travel experiences, Sira Mas offers adventure seekers the chance to have an exhilarating paragliding journey in San Diego.
Views and Excitations: The Ideal Combination
I’m drawn to this experience because it’s the ideal balance of breathtaking natural beauty and adrenaline. Paragliding is a memorable and breathtaking experience made possible by San Diego’s unspoiled beaches and rocky cliffs.
Flying Free: Floating Over the Pacific
As you navigate the air over San Diego, picture the rush of wind, the expansive views of the ocean, and your sensation of success. There’s no sensation like the freedom you get when flying through the air with a vibrant parachute.
7. Maritime Museum of San Diego
1492 N Harbour Drive, San Diego
Maritime Museum of San Diego, located a few steps from the USS Midway on the waterfront park of Embarcedero, is a popular tourist attraction home to the nation’s largest collections of historic sea vessels.
The museum features some of the world’s largest and finest collections of historic ships, including the oldest ship, Star of India. It is the oldest ship in the world that is still active regularly.
What to see?
Currently, the museum has 11 heritage boats and submarines. The best part about the museum is that visitors can explore the boats visually but can sail on one of them. There are different boat tours, and prices depend on the ship you pick.
The exhibits are quite fascinating for youngsters and adults, and this has directly come from past visitors. And the tours provide a beautiful insight into the golden age of sailors.
One similar touch museum in San Diego is the USS Midway Museum. It is a historic naval aircraft carrier museum home to an extensive collection of aircraft, including the longest-serving aircraft.
Another museum (which is entirely different than these two) is the legendary Whaley House Museum.
8. Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter is a 16-block heritage area with Victorian-style buildings in downtown San Diego. The area has many art galleries, shops, restaurants, theatres, and trendy clubs and bars.
What to do here?
If you are looking for bustling nightlife in San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter is the place for you. The food scene here is worth trying, too. This neighborhood has over 100 sidewalk restaurants, so you can keep strolling and run into some amazing food places.
And if you want to experience the lively atmosphere of Gaslamp Quarter, you can pick any rooftop bar or an open-air patio seating restaurant.
This neighborhood is the heart of San Diego. Anything you want to do, you can do here: shopping, bar hopping for some craft beer, or trying different delicacies like Mexican food or Italian food.
9. Mission San Diego De Alcala
10818 San Diego Mission Road
The Mission San Diego De Alcala, set up in 1769, is the first Franciscan mission in California, and it is still running today as a Catholic Church.
Even if you are not religious, you must visit the mission because it is a beautiful historic building. There are regular guided tours of the whole compound, and you can even take a tour in advance.
The museum also houses archaeological findings such as pottery, weapons, and Kumeyaay handicrafts.
10. Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
Nestled in the cliffs of Point Loma, the Cabrillo National Monument is the point where a European person named Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first set foot on the West Coast.
The site commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on 1542 September 28, by a historic statue standing tall since 1988. From this point, visitors will get spectacular views of San Diego, including the downtown and the surrounding areas.
As you are done with the views, there is an exhibit hall next to the monument where you can learn about Cabrillo’s life.
Since you would be already in Point Loma Peninsula while visiting the monument, there are other fun things to explore in San Diego here.
You will find amazing hiking trails, tide pools, and much more.
11. Children’s Pool Beach
Children’s Pool Beach, also known as the Casa Beach in the La Jolla area, is a small beach with a scallop-shaped coved which works as a protective wall against the La Jolla Shores. It is a safe swimming beach for the kids who want to enjoy San Diego’s water without the surf coming in.
It is an undesirable swimming spot with calm waters. It is one of the most known and visited beaches in La Jolla.
The beach is quite pretty and calming, so visitors can bring their children here for some fun with the water. And adults can have a good time here too. The beach has a very relaxing vibe.
It was built back in 1930 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps as a gift to the community of La Jolla.
12. Little Italy
Area 48 ha
Little Italy is another interesting neighborhood in San Diego.
Here, you can get a feel of the real San Diego; all you need to do is “do as the locals do.” Visit the Saturday Mercato Farmers Market and enjoy various locally produced items. And even if you can’t go for this one, there are other farmer’s markets every week.
This neighborhood has pizza spots, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, breweries, and cafes. And almost all the places are packed with people and have a lively atmosphere. You will surely have fun visiting Little Italy.
True Food Kitchen: Nourishing, Gut-Friendly Dining in San Diego
“True Food Kitchen in San Diego, California, [stands out as] an excellent restaurant choice for a healthy and gut-friendly meal. It [has a focus] on nutrient-rich, seasonal ingredients and a menu inspired by Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid.
The restaurant emphasizes whole foods, organic produce, and sustainably sourced proteins, promoting a well-rounded and nourishing dining experience. It accommodates various dietary preferences, offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
Their diverse menu includes dishes rich in fiber, antioxidants, and essential nutrients, fostering digestive health. The restaurant prioritizes cooking methods that preserve nutritional integrity. With a commitment to wellness and a vibrant atmosphere, True Food Kitchen in San Diego provides a culinary haven for those seeking delicious, wholesome, and gut-friendly meals.”
13. Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Avenue
Coming to San Diego will feel incomplete if you didn’t spend some time in Hotel Del Coronado, the pride of Coronado.
Hotel Del Coronado is a historic landmark and Victorian beachfront hotel that opened in 1888. It was the largest hotel in the world during that time.
Today, the hotel is famous for its scenic ocean views, red roof, and architecture. If you are in San Deigo, it is a must for you to spend a day here, enjoy a special Sunday brunch, and soak up the resort’s fascinating history.
This hotel was once the playground of Hollywood superstars.
Sunny Jim Cave: San Diego’s Hidden History Gem
“One hidden gem or lesser-known attraction in San Diego that I [would] recommend to others is the Sunny Jim Cave. This [is a] historic tunnel [that was] dug out by a couple of Chinese laborers in the early 1900s.
The tunnel was used by bootleggers during the Prohibition era for smuggling alcohol and opium into San Diego. You can enter the cave through a wooden staircase inside a souvenir shop called the Cave Store.
The entrance fee is only $5, and you can explore the cave and see the stunning views of the ocean and the cliffs. The flora and fauna will give your eyes a soothing mood.
The cave is also named after a cartoon character, Sunny Jim, because [the opening of] the cave resembles his profile. The Sunny Jim Cave is a unique and fascinating place [to visit] in San Diego.
It is an educational place where you will learn about the history, the geology, and the legends [of this] hidden gem. So, this is the place which has 3 in one beauty.”
Travel Tips on San Diego Bay:
Once in the city, you will see what the city is hiding from the world.
But one important thing to know apart from all these amazing things is the major highlight of San Diego, the San Diego Bay. A trip to San Diego will be more exciting and fun-filled when you experience the best of this coastal city bay.
So what’s stopping you? Pack your bags, and get going.
Start your journey from one of the suburbs like Del Mar or Leucadia. They have beautiful scenery. After that, you can go for the different activities that we have made a list of. There are many things to explore in San Diego, so planning things will help you enjoy almost everything.
If you enjoy games and sports, you can plan a visit to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, or for some fun games, you can visit some of the theme parks in San Diego. Another must-visit site in San Diego is Balboa Park, home to the famous “Old Globe” theatre.
And if you want to enjoy the open air and sea breeze and get stunning picturesque views of the city skyline, drive up to the famous Coronado Bridge. It has a magical feeling to offer.
Guest Author: Saket Kumar
Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Sathi Chakraborty