Warm and welcoming, San Diego is one of the crown jewels of the California coast. Beaches and breweries dot the map, along with several other prime San Diego attractions. For Angelenos, a weekend trip to San Diego is a great way to escape. And for other travelers, San Diego might be the perfect introduction to the California way of life. With so many things to do in San Diego, you may not ever want to leave. Check out my suggestions for all the fun things to do in San Diego!
Disclaimer: Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. By purchasing products using these links, you can support a Cajun in Cali at NO cost to you. Getting the goods you want while showing support is the best of both worlds!
What Makes San Diego Unique
Perched on the US/Mexico border, San Diego is a vibrant community filled with diversity and flavor. The area is the perfect mix of beach and desert, making it a good place to experience outdoor activities such a surfing, hiking, and camping. The temperate climate makes San Diego a year-round destination, though there are peak seasons to consider.
Where to Stay in San Diego
On my first trip to San Diego, I stayed in various parts of the city trying to get a feel for the best location. Most recently I stayed at the Marriot Marquis near the Convention Center, which was perfect for exploring. It's easy to walk to nearby restaurants & bars from the prime location, and the neighboring metro station means getting around via public transportation is a breeze. While you won't be able to visit all the destinations in this guide via public transport, many of them are easily accessible.
The pool and lounge areas at the Marriot Marquis were second only to the gorgeous San Diego beaches. And if you're too tired to go out, there are several dining options to choose from right on the grounds of the hotel. Be sure to ask for a room with a view so you can enjoy stunning skyscapes from the comfort of your private balcony!
check out that view!
Hang out at the Beach
San Diego is home to world-class beaches, so it makes sense that any time spent in San Deigo would include some beach time. The warm sun and sand is the perfect way to wind down after traveling. And the many beach activities (hello, surf lessons!) will have you and your crew occupied for hours. Coronado Beach on neighboring Coronado Island is one of the most famous. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are the closest to downtown (mainland) but will require a car to access. No matter how you get there, spending some quality time on a San Diego beach is a must. Just be sure to bring your sunblock and refreshments!
**If you can't make it to the beach, do yourself a favor and book a harbor cruise. There's nothing like spending time on the open water!
See the San Diego Zoo
You can’t make a list of San Diego attractions without the famous San Diego Zoo. Zoo-lovers come from all around to experience one of the world’s best zoos. Pricey but worth it, the zoo is a full day’s worth of fun for the entire family. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the animals and exhibits, some of which are rare and unusual. Don’t miss the famous pandas! While you're there, be sure to enjoy the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It's one of the many reasons I want to get back to San Diego asap!
Explore the Embarcadero
This “landing point” is a great place to explore on a warm, sunny day. Home to some of San Diego’s top attractions, the Embarcadero should be high on your list of places to visit. The Embarcadero sits beside the Big Bay in the San Diego harbor and is a hub for passing cruise ships and day cruises.
Historic attractions like the USS Midway and the Star of India line the harbor at the Embarcadero. And restaurants, hotels, and bars are just steps away, making the Embarcadero area an ideal place to stay while in San Diego. And don’t forget Seaside Village while you’re there! This cute complex is filled with shops and restaurants, ideal for quiet waterfront afternoons and evenings.
Visit the USS Midway Museum
Although it was the home of the famous Top Gun’s Flight School, the USS Midway Museum is much more than a movie set. This former US aircraft carrier is now an interactive maritime museum, perfect for sea-lovers of all ages. Step onboard history with skip the line with special passes from Viator!
SoCal Styles You Need for San Diego
Explore Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a HUGE urban park. It's one of the highlights of San Diego, as well as home to some of San Diego’s most famous attractions. The park features native plant gardens, grassy fields, and event venues; but the real draw is the famous San Diego Zoo and the many museums scattered throughout the park. The Museum of Man, Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, and Air & Space Museum are just a few of the many museums drawing visitors to the park year-round. And a walk along the main promenade, El Prado, to admire the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is another great way to spend time in Balboa Park.
be sure to bring sun protection
Visit the Village of La Jolla
Pronounced “La Hoya”, La Jolla is a quintessential California town. It's ideal for couples and families. The famous La Jolla Cove is home to sea life of all shapes and sizes, making it a popular place for snorkeling and diving. Seals sunbathe most of the day on the rocky shores of La Jolla, while smaller sea life lounge in the many tide pools accessible in the village. Enjoy a sea cave tour by kayak, or rent a bike to explore on land. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art before heading to dinner at Brockton Villa, a cozy seaside restaurant with out-of-this-world views.
|San Diego Beach and La Jolla Torrey Pine Tour - $69.00|
Explore the beach life on our tour. Take a a comprehensive adventure of La Jolla and the beautiful areas of this jewel a journey to the top of Mount Soledad. Explore the best of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Go to the Gaslamp Quarter
Downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter is home to some of the most hip bars and restaurants. For over 150 years, the Gaslamp has been drawing visitors in search of fun, including many US sailors blowing off steam on shore leave. But nightlife isn't the only reason to visit. Named for the historic gas lamps that lined the streets, this historic neighborhood is home to tons of Victorian buildings and hidden gems. Many of the best hotels neighbor the Gaslamp Quarter, making it super easy to spend an evening exploring on foot.
Spend time in Old Town
Did you know that San Diego was the first European settlement of the West Coast? Founded in 1769, the settlement of San Diego has been home to Spanish, Mexican, and Native Americans for centuries. And Old Town San Diego State Historic Park commemorates the area's history with charm and wit. Once the commercial hub of the region, Old Town is now a tourist destination. Filled with quirky shops and restaurants, Old Town is a fun way to spend an evening. Sounds and smells of Mexican culture waft through Old Town's streets, making it an ideal spot to experience San Diego history.
don't miss my other California travel posts
Let's Stay in Touch
Like this post? If so, be sure to check out my other travel articles! Plus, be sure to sign up for email updates. You'll get access to all my freebies, including my best travel hacks, photography tips, and more. And don't forget to connect with me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook!
Thanks for all your interest and support!