Fun Things To Do in San Diego
San Diego is a is a fun tourist destination with sunshine almost every day in both winter and summer. Some say that this city has the most ideal climate in the world! We’ll help you discover the best San Diego activities with our favorite fun things to do in San Diego.
The Weekend Guide to San Diego
There are many fun things to do in San Diego on a weekend adventure. Hiking, surfing, kayaking or SUP, eat tacos, taste craft beer, or visit the many famous local attractions. Let’s go on a San Diego for a weekend getaway!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Getting to San Diego & Getting Around
Fun Things To Do in San Diego
Day Trips to Mexico from San Diego
San Diego Restaurants & Bars
Places to Stay in San Diego
Getting to San Diego & Getting Around
San Diego is located on the California coast about 120 miles south of Los Angeles and can be reached by car, bus or train from there. The drive takes about two or three hours depending on traffic, which unfortunately can be really bad.
Most people visit San Diego by car but it is also possible to get there by Greyhound bus and Amtrak train. Both will take you directly into the downtown area which is very convenient for a fun weekend trip. And you can even enjoy a craft beer on the ride. Another unique option is to grab a ride in a Tesla with Tesloop. (check out this post with 10 things to bring on your Amtrak trip!)
There is a small international airport in San Diego (SAN) that sees flights mainly from domestic destinations but also cities like London, Zurich and Tokyo. The closest major airports are John Wayne (SNA) Los Angeles (LAX). You can rent a car at these airports or take an airport shuttle.
Once you are in the city it is easy to get around the downtown area on foot or by bike. Try Lyft or Uber to take you where you need to go if you don’t have your own wheels. You can take local public transport to get around too, I especially like taking the trolley which goes to Old Town, downtown, Little Italy and Gaslamp. You’ll probably prefer a car to take you to locations further afield like La Jolla. San Diego is quite large in size so definitely choose your lodging locations based on things you’d like to see and do.
Fun Things to do in San Diego
Here are a few of my favorite activities to do in San Diego and places to see when visiting the city and the surrounding area.
Did you know San Diego has 70 miles of coastline? The beach is just one one of the fun, cheap things to do in San Diego. Some of San Diego’s best beaches are:
- Mission Beach has a boardwalk and an old wooden roller coaster for lots of fun in the sun
- Coronado Beach is the location of the lovely Hotel Del Coronado
- Solana Beach has lots of cute coves and good surfing spots
- La Jolla Shores is one of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego
- For something different, visit nude Black’s Beach
- Brought your pup with you? Head to Fiesta Island where they can run free
Are you looking for things to do in downtown San Diego or interesting things to do in San Diego? Learn more about the city on a guided tour:
- Take a craft beer tour and sample some of the best brews in the area
- Check out the waterfront and Little Italy on a Segway tour
- Take a tequila, tacos and tombstones walking tour for some tasty snacks along with your history lesson in San Diego’s Old Town. This first permanent non-native settlement in Alta California was originally built in 1769.
- Learn about the history of the Gaslamp district while you eat and drink at local restaurants on a walking food tour or while riding Segways.
- Solve clues and complete challenges on the Urban Adventure Quest, fun for a group or the family
- Hop on the Trolley Tours to sightsee around the whole city
Hit the water. There are so many cool things to do in San Diego around the ocean. You can go surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, SUP, sailing and snorkeling:
- Rent a stand up paddle board at Harbor Island or take a lesson if you are a newbie and want some tips.
- Go kayaking La Jolla’s sea caves and the giant kelp forests to see the local wildlife.
- Take the $5 ferry to Coronado Island then rent bikes and ride around.
- Take surf lessons at La Jolla Shores or go snorkeling at La Jolla Cove
- Check out the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument
- Enjoy a sunset sail or a food and wine cruise on a quiet electric boat.
- Traveling with a group of friends or family? Take a private yacht for a day sailing.
- Go for a harbor cruise with champagne brunch
San Diego is surrounded by beautiful trails. If you are looking for fun places in San Diego and places to explore near the city, go for a hike at:
- Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
- Los Peñasquitos
- Cabrillo National Monument
- Three Sisters Waterfall
- Anza-Borrego State Park
Some of the most popular San Diego family activities and San Diego tourist spots include:
Balboa Park: This large city park includes San Diego museums and performing arts venues like the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Photographic Arts Museum. Explore this popular San Diego attraction on your own or even go on a scavenger hunt.
SeaWorld: This marine life park is one of the most popular things to do in San Diego with kids. Purchase tickets online here.
Old Town State Park: Step back in time at the most visited State Park in California. You can see how life was lived back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Check out old hotels, schools, horse drawn carriages and shops. Free guided tours happen regularly so check the website or ask when you arrive. The park is free to enter and there are plenty of charming eating and drinking establishments in the area.
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: Head to Escondido to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where you can see zebras, elephants, giraffes and lions in a grassland setting. The famous San Diego Zoo is home to polar bears and pandas, elephants and koalas. It is one of the best San Diego attractions for kids. Save money and get your combo tickets here.
Day Trips to Mexico from San Diego
A favorite activity for San Diego visitors is a day trip across the border to Mexico. Popular destinations include Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Ensenada, and the Baja California wine country.
If you are planning to take a day trip to Tijuana you can do a guided tour or head there on your own. The best recommendation is to take the San Diego Trolley or drive to the border, park at the lots on the USA side and walk across instead of driving your own car into Mexico. On the Mexico side you can grab a cheap taxi or Uber to take you into town.
Oh and just a side note, for some reason many gringos say Ti-a-juana. Notice that there is no “A”. It is pronounced Ti-hwana. 🙂 Tia Juana would be Aunt Jane.
If you’d like to explore further south you might want your own car, or join a group tour like this one to Ensenada. Remember you will need Mexican car insurance (buy it online ahead of time) if you plan to take your vehicle across the border and some rental car companies forbid it. Also be prepared for a sometimes very long wait at the border, especially crossing back into the USA.
Would you like to visit Valle de Guadalupe and taste the wines from the region? You can visit on your own or do a wine tour. A few of the best tour companies that make trips here include Baja test Kitchen, Club Tengo Hambre, Valley Girl Wine Tours and Baja Winery Tours. And there is another option as well. You can book an UBERValle to take you from Tijuana or Ensenada on a day excursion to Valle de Guadalupe for your own wine tour itinerary.
Places to Eat & Drink in San Diego
San Diego and the surrounding area is full of microbreweries, and finding the best one is an exciting thing to do in San Diego for fans of craft brews. Beer lovers should check out some of the more than 140 craft brewers in the San Diego area like major players AleSmith, Ballast Point, Karl Strauss, and Stone. Looking for something more crafty? Head to Lost Abbey, Wavelength, Modern Times, Belching Beaver and Border X. If you love craft beer and want to learn all about the local scene, check out this guide to San Diego’s Top Brewers by Bruce Glassman.
- If you love bloody marys hit up the West Coast Tavern for brunch
- For casual eats, try out Hundred Proof
- Can’t decide between a wine bar, beer bar or dinner? Head to The Cork & Craft
- Nishiki Ramen has delicious ramen as well as the spicy Death Ramen competition
- Try Juniper & Ivy for a nice meal out with inventive modern cuisine
- Head to Buona Forchetta for tasty pizza and pasta
- Vegans might want to try Kindred for plant based food and cocktails
- Keto dieters might want to check out Werewolf
- Head to George’s at the Cove for a meal with a pretty view, plus tasty cocktails too
- In the mood for a sweet treat? Grab some ice cream at Salt & Straw
- Since you are in SoCal you gotta eat some tacos! Luckily there are many many taco spots to choose from – some offering traditional tacos with others creating upscale or even vegan options. Check Yelp for the highest rated tacos near you. Or head to Puesta, Cali Street Tacos, Not Not Tacos, Mikes Taco Club, Del Sur, Lucha Libre, Oscar’s Mexican Seafood or Tacos El Paisa.
Cool Places to Stay in San Diego
Here are some of the best hotels to stay in San Diego, from most luxurious to more budget options.
- Hotel Del Coronado: Victorian-style hotel that sits right on the sand, the most famous of the San Diego beachfront hotels
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar: enjoy the pool, spa, tennis courts and golf club
- Lodge at Torrey Pines: ocean views, spa, delicious restaurants, close to hiking and beaches
- Empress Hotel: great location and large rooms
- US Grant: an elegant downtown hotel opened in 1910 by President Grant’s son
- Horton Grand: historic building in the Gaslamp with fascinating history
- Andaz San Diego: a fun hotel with a rooftop bar and pool
- Kimpton Solamar: downtown hotel with excellent staff and chic decor
- Urban Boutique Hotel: a comfortable hotel with friendly staff in Little Italy
Looking for unique lodgings in San Diego? Check out these gorgeous apartments on Airbnb. Use this link to make your first booking and get a credit for up to $38.
- Urban Treehouse: a penthouse apartment in downtown San Diego with a huge balcony
- Apartment in Little Italy: this light and bright apartment is in the middle of everything
- The Casita: a gorgeous lemon yellow guesthouse in a lovely backyard garden
- South Park Studio: this centrally located little cottage has a brick fireplace
- Hunter Sailboat: for something different, stay on this lovely sailboat and make use of kayaks and bikes to explore
Use Hotels Combined to search for San Diego lodgings and find the best prices across booking engines.
I hope this article helps you plan an amazing trip with both inexpensive things to do in San Diego as well as exciting things to do in San Diego. Have fun!
You might also like these posts:
- 10 Fun Things To Do in Santa Cruz
- Fun Hotels in Palm Springs
- 10 Cool Things To Do in Big Sur
- Awesome Places to Stay Near Yosemite
- 5 Best Tijuana Food Tours
- Fun Things To Do in Central California
- 10 Things to Pack for Your Amtrak Trip
- 13 Weird Things To Do in Las Vegas
- Sailing Instagram Accounts to Inspire You