Things to Do in San Diego

Activities to Do in San Diego

Take a stroll at Balboa Park, Surf at Coronado Beach, Hike along the cliff of Torey Pines State Natural Reserve, Shop at Gaslamp Quarter, Visit San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and many more.

With its easy-going culture and the best set-up to awaken the adventure lover within you, there are numerous amazing things to do in San Diego. Located in Southern California, it is the oldest city of California and is the ideal place for sun-seekers and adventurers. It is a city with universal appeal that has a laid-back atmosphere and a comfortable climate.

There are many spots in San Diego like Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo and Aircraft Carrier Museum that offer exciting activities to do in San Diego with family. The ones who seek adventure can also hike along the cliff of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve as well as surf on Coronado Beach.

When talking about the things to do in San Diego at night, you can try the most delectable cuisine of the city with an influence of Mexican taste. Also, don’t miss out on watching the sun dip from the mission bay Sunset cruise as it is the best way to start your night. Overall, San Diego is truly a perfect place to plan all kinds of vacation, be it educational or adventurous.
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San Diego Zoo
This 100 acres zoo was opened in 1916 and has about 12000 animals within its territory at present. Here, you can find over 650 species and subspecies of animals. The concept of recreating natural habitats for the animals with the help of open-air, cageless exhibits was pioneered by the San Diego Zoo, making it one of the best places to visit in San Diego.

You can explore the various exhibits in the zoo namely Monkey Trails and Forest Tales, Scripps Aviary, Polar Bear Plunge, the Discovery Outpost, Ituri Forest, Elephant Odyssey, Gorilla Tropics, Sun Bear Forest, Bonobos, the Tiger Trail, Clouded Leopard, etc.

Location: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, United States

Timing: 9 AM to 8 PM

Entry Fee: $62 per adult, $52 per child
Sea World
You can stroll along this beautiful park and see numerous animal exhibits like orcas, otters, bat rays, belugas, sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, dolphins, flamingos, walruses, pilot whales, eels, penguins, some tropical birds, etc.

You can also watch the famous live educational presentations, including the latest presentation called R is for Rescue. You can also try the chef-crafted cuisine together with craft beers and cocktails here. A reservation is required for every visitor to attend the SeaWorld. Fireworks presentation is also conducted at SeaWorld on some selected dates.

Location: 500 SeaWorld Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, United States

Timing: 10 AM to 8 PM, Closed on Tuesday

Entry Fee: $93.99 per adult, $78.99 per child
Coronado Island
This resort city is located across the San Diego Bay and was incorporated in the year 1890. This tied island is connected to the mainland by the Silver Strand. It is one of the most famous tourist places in San Diego with tourism being a vital part of Coronado Island’s economy.

You can explore the several shops, theatres, and restaurants along Orange Avenue in the downtown district. You can stay here in one of the three major resorts namely Coronado Island Marriott, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, and the Hotel del Coronado.
Uss Midway Museum
This historical naval aircraft carrier museum is located at Navy Pier and is one of the most interesting attractions in San Diego. The aircraft carrier Midway is situated in the museum. Here you can see a huge aircraft collection in this museum which was opened in the year 2004.

This carrier has served through the Cold War and even after that. You can also visit over 700 events and several field trips hosted by this museum ship in a year. Here you can get a self-guided audio tour of the various parts of the museums.

Location: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, United States

Timing: 10 AM to 5 PM

Entry Fee: $26 per adult, $18 per child, $18 per veteran, Free for infants below 5 years
La Jolla Shores
It is a vacation/residential community and beach encircling Laureate Park is a mixed-use village. It is one of the best places to visit in San Diego where you can take part in swimming, snorkelling, and stand-up paddling.

It is the only boat launch beach in San Diego where you can go kayaking. You can also see stingrays, leopard sharks, and some other sea life here sometimes. While here, you can also explore the sea cliffs near La Jolla Cove and Black’s Beach.

Location: La Jolla, CA, United States
Cabrillo National Monument
Built in the year 1949, the Cabrillo National Monument is one of the main historical attractions in San Diego. This monument has a late 19th and 20th-century revival architectural style. You can attend the Cabrillo Festival Open House held on a Sunday of October each year.

You can also enjoy the Mexican, Kumeyaay, and Portuguese singing, dancing, regional food, historical reenactments, and several children’s activities at several other events held at the Monument. You can also enjoy a fantastic view of the Coronado, Naval Air Station on North Island, and the harbour and skyline of San Diego.

Location: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, United States

Timing: 9 AM to 5 PM

Entry Fee: $10 per head
Old Town
This neighbourhood is the oldest settled area and the first European settlement of today’s California. The Old Town is one of the most famous tourist places in San Diego. You can explore Presidio Park and the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park here.

This town hosts many annual events such as the Cinco de Mayo celebrations of San Diego, Dia de Los Muertos community-wide celebration, and the Old Town Art Festival. You can enjoy the two-day Christmas festival called Fiesta Navidad where the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem on the first Christmas is reenacted.

Location: San Diego, California, USA
Old Town State Historic Park
This state-protected national park is located in the Old Town of San Diego and was established in the year 1968. You can explore numerous buildings situated in the park and dating back to the period between 1820 and 1870.

For history buffs, it’s one of the best places to visit in San Diego, with several historic buildings such as a schoolhouse, the first newspaper office of San Diego, a cigar and pipe store, gardens and houses, and a carriage collection in a stable. You can also explore the shops, museums, and restaurants, which are a part of this park.

Location: 4002 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110, United States

Timing: 10 AM to 5 PM
Gaslamp Quarter
This downtown area has earned a place in the list of most famous attractions in San Diego because of its exciting nightlife. You can enjoy your time here in clubs, cocktail lounges, and dive bars for a memorable night. You can also enjoy the comedy, drama, and music programs at the Spreckels and the Balboa theatres. This area also has a range of global and independent restaurants. Explore Horton Plaza Park with grassy lawns, an interactive fountain, ice cream, and coffee from the coffee vendors present in the park.

Location: Bounded by RR tracks, Broadway, 4th, and 6th Aves., San Diego, California
Mission Beach
This neighbourhood has earned a place in the list of best tourist places in San Diego because of its sands and serene waters. You can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, volleyball, and many other watersports on the beach. There is also an amusement park named Belmont Park with a wooden roller coaster and you can also see marine shows at the SeaWorld. The SeaWorld also allows you to have an up-close view of dolphins and orcas. You can also satisfy your hunger at any of the several eateries and casual cafes lining Mission Boulevard.

Location: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, United States

Timing: 9 AM to 6 PM
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Located in Point Loma, this national park is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Ocean Beach, Catalina Blvd., and Santa Barbara St., making it one of the most beautiful places to visit in San Diego. You can take a walk on the cliffside and watch the fascinating sunset, though the cliffs are not completely safe.

You can also enjoy surfing below the cliffs and explore Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. You can see carves, sea caves, coastal bluffs, and arches all around you as you travel towards the clifftop. You can also get a chance to see the migrating California grey whale from the cliffs.

Location: Ladera St, San Diego, CA 92107, United States

San Diego Museum Of Art
This fine arts museum is located in Balboa Park and has a wide collection, the maximum being Spanish arts. Opened in 1926, this museum was originally known as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. It is the largest and oldest museum in San Diego. A major fundraiser called ‘Art Alive’ is hosted by the museum in April every year. You can also enjoy other events like ‘Culture and Cocktails’ and ‘Art after Hours’. The museum has a very thorough collection with art pieces dating from 5000 BC to 2012 AD.

Location: 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92102, United States

Timing: 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday - 12 PM to 5 PM, Closed on Wednesday

Entry Fee: $3 per head
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Originally known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park and opened back in the year 1972. With a large number of animals, wild and endangered, housed, this zoo is one of the largest tourist places in San Diego. Here you can see animal species from several continents namely Asia, Africa, Australia, America, and Europe. The Africa tram, a free-range enclosure, is the main attraction of this zoo and houses numerous animals like giraffes, cranes, antelopes, buffalo, and rhinoceros. One other important thing for you to see here is the California condor breeding program.

Location: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027, United States

Timing: 9 AM to 7 PM

Entry Fee: $165 per adult, $155 per child

Balboa Park
Built in the year 1868, this urban cultural park contains several theatres, museums, and the popular San Diego Zoo. You can also explore the natural vegetation zones, green belts, open space areas, walking paths, and gardens. You can also relax and taste excellent food in the restaurants located within the park. There are also several recreational activities, concerts, and events hosted in the park that you can enjoy. You can explore the Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego Art Institute, Museum of Us, etc. that make this park one of the best places to visit in San Diego.
Location: San Diego, CA, United States
Entry Fee: $46 per adult, $27 per child

Point Loma And Cabrillo National Monument
Point Loma is a peninsula with several famous attractions like a park with trails, tide pools, Cabrillo National Monument, and exhibits about California history. The Sunset Cliffs National Park is one of the best places to visit in San Diego, where you can see beautiful sunsets and enjoy delicious food in restaurants and explore the shops.

You can also see the varied species of plants and animals in the peninsula and enjoy several events hosted at the Cabrillo National Monument, a designated California Historical Landmark.

Location: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, United States

Timing: 9 AM to 5 PM

Entry Fee: $7 per head

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San Diego Things To Do FAQs

Which are the best things to do in San Diego?

1. Take a stroll at Balboa Park: There are many activities to do in San Diego with family, among which one is to take a stroll at Balboa Park. It is a vast site that encompasses gardens, numerous museums, historical buildings and green space. Moreover, it is a great place to enjoy a picnic with your family or go on a bike ride. The site has a striking collection of orchids and tropical plants. There are also Spanish-style predominant structures where you can take tons of photos, a beautiful lily pond and an interesting art museum. Apart from this, the site also contains the famous San Diego Zoo that you must visit.

2. Surf at Coronado Beach: Another fantastic thing to do in San Diego is surf at Coronado Beach. It is a popular destination for many families and couples because of its idyllic location, clear sand and peaceful atmosphere. Moreover, the beach offers plenty of picturesque scenery. The beach is protected from the strong Pacific wells by Point Loma in the west. Thus, you can surf and swim without any life threat. However, if you are too scared to try water sports, you can schedule a picnic with your family. In addition, if you plan to visit the city in the winter months, you can try Jet ski or just gaze at the beautiful scenery.

3. Hike along the cliff of Torey Pines State Natural Reserve: The place is located on the Pacific coastline of La Jolla, covering an area of 2000 acres. The cliff offers an incredible view of the ocean and is the favourite spot of many people. It provides its hikers with a trail of eight miles which you can also use as a beach trail to reach natural unexplored beaches. The reserve inhabits endangered Torrey Pines, which grows only here and on the coast of Santa Barbara. In addition, if you are lucky enough, you might also get a peek of blue and grey whales from the cliffs. Apart from this, you get to discover the breathtaking view of coastlines and gorgeous sandstone ravines.

4. Shop at Gaslamp Quarter: One of the amazing things to do in San Diego at night is shopping at Gaslamp city. This place is a hub of the city’s nightlife. The quarter has restored the Victorian buildings of the late 19th and early 20th, buzzing with trendy shops, entertainment venues, restaurants and art galleries. So after you have shopped your heart out, you can taste some fantastic cuisine in one of the fancy restaurants. The place offers everything from Persian food to pizza and has an amazing jazz ambience. Moreover, you can also attend theatre shows and comedy performances if you like.

5. Visit San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: It is one of the most famous and largest zoos in the United States that people come to visit from different parts of the world. It is a family attraction place and visiting here is considered as one of the top activities to do in San Diego with family. Your kids are sure to get awe-struck by the exotic population of wildlife here. The zoo is famous for giant pandas, gorillas, koalas, grizzly bears, polar bears, leopards, sloths, bonobos, and rhinos. Here you can also sign up for a close-up experience or behind the scenes. Apart from this, you also get to discover an impressive botanical collection containing more than 70,000 plants.

6. Try different rides at Belmont Park: Trying different rides at this amusement park is one of the best activities to do in San Diego with family. The park contains 12 rides, an 18-hole mini-golf course based on Tiki-theme, three fabulous oceanfront eateries, and a small attraction host. However, what attracts the most visitors is the Giant Dipper. This wooden roller coaster is a National Historic Landmark and the dream of many. Riding this giant coaster is a rite of passage for every kid who either came on a tour at San Diego or was born here. However, there are other options as well, like Beach Blaster, Octotron and Control Freak.

7. Discover varieties of fishes in Birch Aquarium: Another fantastic thing to do in San Diego is discovering different varieties of fishes in the Birch Aquarium. It is a fascinating aquarium located on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus and contains a mesmerizing spectrum of marine life of the Pacific Ocean. Your journey will start from the Hall of fish to the most fantastic 20 minutes of your life. You will find a 260,000-litre kelp forest tank, treasured loggerhead turtle, and coral reefs. Moreover, you can show the teens mesmerizing starfish, sea cucumber, hermit crabs, and lobster at the Tide-pool plaza.

8. Try paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport: If you are an adventure seeker and seek thrill, you can try paragliding or hang gliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Take your reach high into the sky, and for that, you don’t need previous experience. Each flight lasts for 20 to 25 minutes and gives adventurers the chance to gaze at the vibrant water bodies, sandstone cliffs, golf courses, and the awe-inspiring black beach. Anyone can try this sport, but minors have to get approval from their guardians or parents to try this adventurous activity.

9. Cruise in San Diego Bay Beach: One of the best ways to experience the scenic beauty of the city is from the sea. It is a one or two-hour tour where you get to watch the whale. Apart from this, one can also enjoy taking the seal tour. Where kids are interested in exploring the wildlife, the older members are more interested in meals and drinks provided on the cruise as you float. The cruise will allow you to soak yourself in the sun and the fresh air altogether. Moreover, you will also get narration of the little history on the cruise while enjoying the city skyline.

10. Explore Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum: One of the top things to do in San Diego is exploring the famous Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. It includes more than 25 restored aircraft and 60 exhibits. Two hundred twenty-five thousand military servicemen served the ship, and to learn all about its history, you can get yourself a self-guided audio tour. Moreover, if you pay an additional fee, you also get to board a flight simulator.

What are the things to do in San Diego at Night?

1. Spend the night in Wild Animal Park: One of the most exciting things to do in San Diego at night is to explore the Wild animal park. Here you get to go on Snore Safari Night, guided hikes, get plenty of food, animal viewing and tent options for sleepovers.

2. Hang out in boozy arcade: Coin-Op Game room in the Gaslamp Quarter offers the visitors a chance to enjoy the nightlife and play arcade game. The party gets even more interesting by the add-on fun of punch bowls, craft cocktails, beer taps and classic bar bites.

3. First Friday at liberty stations: Make sure to take a Liberty Station stroll on the first Friday of every month between 5 pm to 9 pm. At the time, you get to enjoy music, dance, theatre, working artists, galleries and museums. You can also enjoy cocktails and dinner at nearby clubs.

4. Gaze at the stars: Another fantastic thing to do in San Diego at night is to catch a program in the Fleet Science Centre. The program is called The Sky Tonight, where you get to focus on Black holes, Neutron Stars, and Gravitational Waves. Moreover, they will also narrate you through the Milky Way Galaxy, Tidal Forces, and Mercury. 

What are the romantic things to do in San Diego?

1. Cuddled up drive-in movie: The most romantic thing you can do for your loved one is to schedule a drive-in movie date. You can pile up the back of your car with cushions and blankets and watch films on three 100-foot screens.

2. Bonfire at the beach: Another romantic thing to do in San Diego is set up a cosy bonfire at the beach. With the glorious sunset setting and soothing music of ocean waves, it is sure to give you the most romantic moment of your lives. Dozens of beaches offer this facility; you can choose any.

3. Catch a full moon dinner cruise: What can be more romantic than taking your better half to a dining cruise beneath a vibrant skyline and glowing full moon. As you float above the glittering river, you are served a three-course dinner, a glass of bubbly champagne, and a floor to dance under the stars

4. Go apple picking: La Jolla offers couples a unique opportunity to go apple picking and enjoy the mountain's scenic beauty. The apple picking season starts in September and allows you to collect your apples while clicking thousands of photos of the picturesque region.

What are the Things to do in San Diego with kids?

1. Visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps: Birch Aquarium is one of the best places you can take your kids to. It is a perfect setting that allows your kid to get close to the glowing moon jellies, sharks, silvery Sardines, lionfish, and other sea animals. You can also take your kid to Tide Pool Plaza to amuse him/her with sea cucumber and starfish.

2. Catch animal show at SeaWorld: One of the top activities to do in San Diego with family is to catch an animal show at SeaWorld. Here you not only get to see sea lions and dolphins but also an aquarium full of sea creatures and a shark tank.

3. Enjoy at the water park: When touring with kids, how can you miss hitting Aquatica San Diego Water park. The park has a lazy river, a wavy pool, and other water play areas. You can also get on water slides or rent a cabana for more fun.

4. Belmont Park: Another amazing thing to do in San Diego with family is to visit Belmont Park. Here you get to hop on the historic roller coaster and enjoy the most joyous ride with your kids. It is ranked as the best activity to try with youngsters. Along with rides, you also get fantastic restaurant options.

What are the best adventure activities in San Diego?

1. Paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport: One of the top adventurous things to do in San Diego is fly Tandem at Torrey Pines Gliderport. This activity does not require experience. The instructor will guide you and make sure you are safe. The flight will make sure to give you some lifetime views worth remembering.

2. Thrill-ride on the Bay: San Diego offers its thrill-seeker to enjoy a thrill ride at the Patriot Jet Boat. It reaches a speed of 50mph and provides thrill through 360-degree turns while showing sights. In addition to this, you get rock background music and pleasant staff.

3. Drive a speedboat: In San Diego, you get a chance to navigate a 13-foot speed boat all by yourself. It is a 13-mile sightseeing loop where you get to explore a seaport village, navy ships, and many more stops. However, the boat can carry up to three people only.

How can I reach San Diego?

1. By flight: San Diego International Airport is the main landing port of the city which serves dozens of airlines. So you can reach it from any part of the world.

2. By Road: If you want to reach San Diego through the road, you can take three interstate roads. It will be more manageable if you rent a car, hire a taxi or drive on your own.

3. By train: If you are travelling from nearby cities, you can reach the city through AMTRAK. It is a commuter train that runs by COASTER. However, it provides limited or no service during weekends and Sundays especially.

What is the best time to visit San Diego?

The best time to visit San Diego is during spring and fall, i.e. from March to May and September to November. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and there is a smaller crowd. Moreover, the hotel prices are also reduced to half.

What is San Diego famous for?

San Diego is famous for many reasons, but the most admired thing is the miles of white-sand beaches, various fun attractions, and the amazing weather.

Is it safe to go to San Diego?

San Diego is a big city, and like every other big city, there has to be a crime. But the incidents of crime are very less. So it is relatively safer than many cities around the globe. So you can feel safe travelling to the town.

Do I need a visa for San Diego?

When planning to enter a US State, citizens are needed to show a valid passport, trusted traveller program and US passport card or an Enhanced Driver's Licence. Apart from this, the residents must hold a green card.

Does San Diego have a beach?

San Diego has a seventy-mile pristine coastline, which is divided into six amazing beaches. They are La Jolla, Coronado, North County Coastal, Mission Bay and Beaches, Harbour Island and Shelter Island, South Bay and Point Loma.

How many days are enough in San Diego?

Three days are enough to explore the food, outdoor activities, culture, nightlife and endless tourist spots in San Diego. However, if you want to spend more time, it's sure you will not get bored by this city.

What is there to do for adults in San Diego?

There are plenty of amazing things that adults can try in San Diego, like taking a boat and cruise, trying speed boating, catching a baseball match in PETCO Park, and exploring the Gaslamp Quarter.

What is San Diego best known for?

Some of the famous attractions that people come to visit from different parts of the world are Spanish Colonial-style architecture, historical museums, botanical gardens, and a notable San Diego Zoo.

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San Diego Things To Do Reviews

Jasmine Wilson
Reviewed: 18 Dec 2022
Enjoying various rides and attractions at SeaWorld was a wonderful experience for our family. Even the lunch included in our package was delicious. Many thanks, Thrillophilia for suggesting this trip and arranging it for us at the last moment at a great discount.
Mesbah Bibi
Reviewed: 22 Dec 2022
Our tickets got emailed within an hour or so super quick and the zoo was great lots of animals and beautiful plants.
Petra Kovac
Reviewed: 08 Nov 2022
My family and I recently booked San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets through Thrillophilia and were delighted with our experience. The booking process was simple and hassle-free. We were also able to avail some great discounts and offers from Thrillophilia. We truly enjoyed our visit to the Safari Park... Read More
Sebastian Phillips
Reviewed: 08 Nov 2022
It was a lifetime’s worth of experiencing the sea world in San Diego. We had an amazing time spotting some marine animals. Thank you Thrillophilia for helping us to book this ticket at such a low price.
Luna Taylor
Reviewed: 14 Sep 2022
Thrilliophilia helped me book tickets easily to Seaworld San Diego with their simple booking process and sent me an instant confirmation of my slot.
Toby Parker
Reviewed: 02 Sep 2022
SeaWorld really does bring the marine world to life and is a must-visit place for everyone. We loved seeing the penguins, whales and dolphins here. Absolutely recommend travelling with Thrillophilia for their hassle-free bookings.

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