Top 10 Things to do in San Diego, California

Things to do in San Diego
San Diego is a beautiful coastal city in southern California. Check out the top ten things to do in San Diego, California.
Top 10 Things to do in San Diego, California
Things to do in San Diego

Things to do in San Diego, California

San Diego is a beautiful coastal city in southern California. It is one of the largest cities in California and the United States. It has been voted one of the best places to live in the United States and one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in recent years. Families love San Diego because of its famous zoo and local Sea World. Although, it’s a great place for solo travelers and couples. San Diego boasts beautiful beaches, rugged landscapes, and exciting entertainment options. We’ll take you through the top ten things to do in San Diego. And If you’re considering a move to this wonderful city, let Move Central San Diego help make the transition seamless and stress-free. Their experienced team of movers will ensure your belongings are safely and efficiently transported to your new home.

  1. Visit the San Diego Zoo
  2. Watch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs
  3. Get lost in Balboa Park
  4. Hike at Torrey Pines State Preserve
  5. Eat in Gaslamp Quarter
  6. Soak up the sun on Coronado Island
  7. Find the secret sea cave at Cabrillo National Monument
  8. Visit Sea World
  9. Swim in La Jolla Cove
  10. Hike to Potato Chip Rock

Top 10 Things to do in San Diego – Ultimate Bucket List for San Diego

1. Visit the San Diego Zoo

Things to do in San Diego
San Diego Zoo – Koala

San Diego has long been famous for its zoo. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world, and it is the most visited zoo in the United States. This zoo led the global revolution in developing open-air, cageless exhibits. They pride themselves on being one of the very few zoos in the world that can successfully breed giant panda. The Zoo also has quite a unique history. It has its roots in the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. At that time, the ‘exotic’ animals brought in as exhibitions were abandoned. Dr. Harry Wedeforth created the Zoological Society of San Diego. He made a deal with the city of San Diego to take care of these animals and create a zoo.

The Zoo is located in Balboa Park. Single day admissions to the zoo cost $50-60 for adults. The one day pass includes an optional guided bus tour, access to the Skyfari Arial Tram and admission to regularly scheduled shows.

If you are visiting San Diego with a family, you may consider purchasing the Go San Diego Card. This includes access to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Sea World, and Legoland. It’s a bit pricey at $215 for adults and $193 for children.

2. Watch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs

Things to do in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs National Park is located in the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood of San Diego, just south of Ocean Beach. It is a 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego. This park extends along the peninsula’s western shoreline and provides breathtaking views of the region’s dramatic coastal bluffs. See more romantic date ideas in San Diego.

This place is completely free to visit. Start at the lookout at 1100 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Then, you can drive along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and take in the panoramic views. Head to Sunset Cliffs Park by Ladera Street. This place is so scenic that it’s a popular location for wedding photo shoots. You can also hunt for the (not so) secret sea cave at Sunset Cliffs. Also, there is a public beach for swimming and surfing at the base of the Sunset Cliffs. Obviously, the most exciting thing to do here is to watch the sunset. You can do so from various locations all through the park.

3. Get lost in Balboa Park

Things to do in San Diego
Greenhouse at Balboa Park

Balboa Park is home to the San Diego Zoo, but there’s so much more to explore! Similarly to the San Diego Zoo, this park owes its roots to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The exposition was held in Balboa Park, at that time called “City Park.” Balboa Park is also home to the following attractions:

  • The Zoo
  • San Diego Air and Space Museum
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Marston House
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • San Diego Mineral and Gem Society
  • Veterans Museum
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • Botanical Building and Lily Pond
  • Timken Museum of Art
  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • Mingei International Museum
  • San Diego Art Institute
  • Alcazar Garden
  • California Museum of Man
  • Spanish Village Art Center
  • Alcazar Garden
  • Comic-Con Museum (opening soon)

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is quite a special treasure for those interested in miniatures. The Botanical Building was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. It is one of the largest lath-made structures in the world. Lath is made from straight-grained wood composed of thin and narrow strips. The California Museum of Man is famous for its location inside the California Tower. The California Tower is a stunning architectural hybrid. It was also designed for the 1915 Exposition. Take note of the elaborate carvings, colorful glass, and tiles. Much of the architecture in the park was inspired by Spanish designs.

As you walk throughout the park, you’ll enjoy the stunning old-world architecture and art installations amidst beautiful landscaping. The Spanish Village Art Center is an especially colorful and beautiful part of the park. It is set up like a Spanish town and houses local art galleries and studios. Make sure to visit the stunning Alcazar Garden. Stop at Prado Perk for refreshments.

You could easily spend a whole day in this park. While entry and parking at the park are free, each of the museums and institutions has separate fees. You can also purchase a Balboa Park Explorer Pass that includes access to all 16 museums within the park (not including the San Diego Zoo). This costs $59 for adults and $32 for children.

4. Hike at Torrey Pines State Preserve

Things to do in San Diego
Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a 20-minute drive north of San Diego’s downtown. It is a reserve, not a park, meaning that the lands and species here are protected and conserved. The reserve is usually open from 9 AM until 6 PM during summer hours. During summer weekends, there are also free public guided nature walks at 10 AM and 2 PM. To join the tour, meet at the Visitor Center. The park is free to enter, but you’ll pay $10-15 to park your car.

There are miles of trails at this reserve. The trails give access to unique coastal wildlife especially ferns, cacti, and wildflowers. Also, the famous Torrey pines…which are now critically endangered. Torrey Pines National Reserve is the only place in the world you’ll find these special trees. You can see the best from the Parry Grove Trail. The High Point trail offers beautiful panoramic views of the lagoon. Most trails at this reserve are easy to moderate in difficulty, and they are between 2-4 miles long. You can cover a lot of the reserve in half a day.

5. Eat in Gaslamp Quarter

Things to do in San Diego
Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter is located in San Diego’s historic downtown. It’s in the city’s urban center, and it’s the perfect place to find nightlife, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. This is also a great place to stay here. See the top Gaslamp Quarter attractions in this San Diego map.

The best affordable luxury hotels near Gaslamp Quarter are the Andaz San Diego and the Westin San Diego. The top pick for budget travelers is the USA Hostels San Diego.

We recommend eating at the Hopping Pig and Oscars Mexican Seafood. Get drinks at Level 9 Rooftop Bar or the Altitude Sky Lounge. Dance the night away at PARQ nightclub. If you are looking for a more refined cultural experience, visit the Michael J Wold Fine Arts gallery. Be sure to check the Gaslamp Quarter events calendar to find out what special activities are going on during your visit!

6. Soak up the sun on Coronado Island

Things to do in San Diego
Coronado Beach

Coronado Island is connected to mainland San Diego by the bridge. It will take about 15 minutes to drive in from downtown. The beaches of Coronado Island have time, and time again, been voted among the best beaches in the US. The beaches here are lined with pristine white sands that actually sparkle! The sand sparkles due to mineral deposits of Mica. Coronado’s beaches are known for their gentle waters. Besides swimming and relaxing, you can rent equipment to go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and surfing.

One of the most iconic attractions of Coronado Island is the Hotel del Coronado. You can’t miss its red roofs and white cabanas. This hotel was built in 1888! It has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and has hosted many famous people over the years. Coronado Island also has one of the top-rated public golf courses in America. Walk along Coronado’s boardwalk and Orange Avenue. You’ll find plenty of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Have amazing seafood at the Brigantine restaurant.

7. Find the secret sea cave at Cabrillo National Monument

Things to do in San Diego
Sea cave at Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is about a 30 minutes drive from downtown. The monument of this park honors Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who first landed on the San Diego Bay in 1542. His footprints on this land were also the first that any European had left on the West Coast of the United States. Due to this, Cabrillo is one of the historic landmarks in California.

At the Cabrillo National Park, you can visit the Cabrillo Monument, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the beautiful beaches. Cabrillo’s beaches are most known for their well-preserved and ecologically active tide pools. However, the most popular activity to do in this park is to find the secret sea cave. Although, be sure to follow restrictions when advised. Also, sea lions love to hang out in this area!

8. Visit Sea World

Sea World in California
Sea World in California

Sea World is California’s premier oceanographic park. At Sea World, you can visit aquariums, watch shows and take thrill rides. It costs between $70-100 per guest. You can usually find deals and discounts for your ticket.

9. Swim in La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove

La Jolla is San Diego’s upscale seaside neighborhood near Torrey Pines National Reserve. It’s got fine-dining, luxury shopping, and breathtaking beaches.

Start at La Jolla Shores and take the footpath, known as the La Jolla Walking Trail, to the La Jolla Cove. This small beach is north facing. It’s perfect for snorkelling, swimming or surfing.

10. Hike to Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock
Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock has become Instagram famous in recent years. It’s an extremely thin rock ledge that looks like it couldn’t bear the weight of a human. It’s located on the top of the Mt. Woodson summit just outside San Diego.

The Mt. Woodson summit hike is a strenuous 6-8 mile round trip journey. Along the trail, you’ll get to see plenty of unique rock formations as you quickly rise in elevation. There’s no fee to enter, but $10 to park.

Are you now planning a trip and wondering where to stay?

If you want to plan a trip then book flights right here through TripAdvisor or Agoda or CheapAir or Cleartrip or Makemytrip or Priceline.

You can plan your stay in San Diego or any place in California. For the best hotels or the best accommodation in San Diego or places in California, we suggest checking out our favorite sites to book here. We always use these sites to book our stay. Hotel booking can be done through  TripAdvisor or Cleartrip or Agoda or Makemytrip or Priceline to save huge and get best deals on booking your stay.

Click to book the best hotels/resort

Best San Diego Tours


Hope you liked our blog post on San Diego. Do let us know if you have been here and if yes, share your experiences in the comments section.

This is a guest post by Valentina. Valentina’s Destinations was born from her obsession with meticulously researching, organizing and planning her travel itineraries. She is originally from Nis, Serbia. Her family moved to the US when she was young, and she has been living in Chicago for the last decade. Her passion is traveling the world with her boyfriend, Remigijus. When they are not traveling, she works as a physician assistant in the psychiatry field. The mental health field is as rewarding as traveling can be. Valentina has lived in Chicago for the last 7 years. She came to Chicago to attend college at DePaul University. Since then, she has fallen in love with the city. Whenever possible, she enjoys exploring the city’s attractions, restaurants & events. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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10 Things to do in San Diego, California

Top 10 Things to do in San Diego, California

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Top 10 Things to do in San Diego, California

1 thought on “Top 10 Things to do in San Diego, California”

  1. It is interesting to know that San Diego is one of LGBT friendly cities. Coronado Island sounds like Phillip Island in Melbourne 🙂 May consider going to San Diego one day!

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