Things to do in San Diego

Things to do in  San Diego

Every season is beach season

San Diego embodies the quintessential Southern California lifestyle in many ways, with a relaxed, low-key vibe not typically found in cities of its size. Here you’ll find miles of sandy beaches and imposing headlands, fantastic restaurants and lively bars, and the oldest Spanish settlement in modern-day California, now simply known as San Diego’s Old Town. Many of the things to do in San Diego are centered around sprawling Balboa Park, from the anthropology-focused Museum of Man to the globally celebrated San Diego Zoo.

Top 15 attractions in San Diego

USS Midway Museum

Formerly the US Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century (1945 to 1991), the USS Midway is now a floating museum docked off the coast of California. Aboard the hulking vessel, visitors can now explore more than 60 exhibits as well as peek inside the museum’s impressive aircraft collection.More

Balboa Park

Home to world-class museums, manicured gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of San Diego city sights. Its 1,200 lush acres (486 hectares) comprise the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy walking and hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs.More


Across the bay from downtown San Diego, the small resort town of Coronado is an idyllic escape from the city with a wide, sandy coastline and a tree-lined main drag that’s home to shops and restaurants. Visitors go to hang out on the beach, tour historical sites, and watch the sunset.More

Cabrillo National Monument

On the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula, which separates the Pacific Ocean from San Diego Bay, Cabrillo National Monument stands in honor of Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who journeyed up the California coast in the mid-1500s. Stop at the statue for views of the open sea, bay, and San Diego skyline.More

Gaslamp Quarter

The epicenter of San Diego’s party scene, the lively Gaslamp Quarter offers much more than just pulsating nightlife. The charming downtown neighborhood is also rich with cultural museums, art galleries, concert venues, and symphony halls, plus loads of lovely alfresco eateries. But back to the nightlife: Clubs, dive bars, and cocktail lounges draw the university crowd, while diverse audiences fill the Spreckels and Balboa theaters for performing arts, comedy shows, and live music.More

Maritime Museum of San Diego

From steamships to submarines, the Maritime Museum of San Diego welcomes you aboard an array of historic ships, letting you delve into the rich maritime history of San Diego. Each vessel offers its own exhibits and experiences. The museum’s fleet ranges from the world’s oldest active sailing ship—Star of India—to modern submarines.More

Little Italy San Diego

Once home to generations of Italian families who who made their living in San Diego’s flourishing fishing industry, Little Italy is now a lively neighborhood packed with restaurants, patio cafés, craft brewpubs, urban wineries, and little plazas with fountains and views of the bay. The trendy, walkable neighborhood—in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter—also has upscale boutiques, art galleries, chic shops, boutique hotels, and live music venues, so there is far more to experience here than just the delicious food.More

Old Town San Diego

Dating to 1769, Old Town San Diego is the site of California’s first European settlement. To see the district's prime attraction, stop at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park with its preserved adobe buildings and living history demonstrations such as blacksmithing. The area is also home to restaurants, shops, and live entertainment.More

Seaport Village

A harborside hub buzzing with shopping, dining, and entertainment, Seaport Village attracts tourists and locals alike. The historic-style waterfront has everything from upscale eateries to vendors selling fresh fish. Stroll the boardwalk, ride the carousel, or indulge in seafood while listening to live music.More

San Diego Zoo

See 3,700 animals from 800 different species at San Diego Zoo, spread across the lush grounds of the 1,200-acre (485-hectare) Balboa Park. Save time on the day by buying tickets in advance, so you can start exploring bioclimatic zones and exhibits straight away. Enjoy free shows and presentations, or upgrade to include the 4D theater or carousel rides. Combine your trip with a visit to San Diego Safari Park for the ultimate day for wildlife lovers.More

Petco Park

Home to the San Diego Padres major league baseball team, Petco Park opened in 2004, replacing the old Qualcomm Stadium with a new venue whose design reflects San Diego’s coastal setting. Visitors can enjoy modern amenities, views of the city skyline, and even behind-the-scenes tours.More

Point Loma

Point Loma sits on a hilly peninsula west of Downtown San Diego, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. This seaside community is best known for its tide pools, historical landmarks, and sweeping views of the bay and the San Diego skyline. With plenty to do and see, it’s no wonder it’s one of the city’s most photographed spots.More

San Diego Air & Space Museum

Dedicated to the preservation and education of air and space technology and history, the San Diego Air & Space Museum (SDASM features a variety of aircraft and aerial vessels, as well as artifacts and photos that depict the past, present, and future of aviation. Dating back to 1961, the SDASM is one of the country’s top aerospace museums.More

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, part of the larger San Diego Zoo, is an 1,800-acre (728-hectare) open-range park housing some 3,500 animals from about 430 species. The park’s open layout allows herds of giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and other animals indigenous to Africa to roam the re-created valley floor.More

San Diego Harbor

The city’s waterfront Embarcadero district is one of the San Diego Bay's most vibrant areas. From museums to maritime attractions, and from Seaport Village's shops and restaurants to the area’s parks, the San Diego Harbor is known for its entertainment offerings and family-friendly attractions.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in San Diego

San Diego Harbor Cruise

San Diego Harbor Cruise

San Diego Whale Watching Cruise
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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

Haunted San Diego Ghost Tour

Haunted San Diego Ghost Tour

San Diego Bay Jet Boat Ride

San Diego Bay Jet Boat Ride

San Diego Whale Watching Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

San Diego Whale Watching Tour

San Diego Seal Tour

San Diego Seal Tour

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

Small Group Sunset Sailing Experience on San Diego Bay
Special Offer

Small Group Sunset Sailing Experience on San Diego Bay

$119.00  $20.23 savings
San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

Champagne Brunch Buffet

Champagne Brunch Buffet

San Diego Premier Brunch Cruise

San Diego Premier Brunch Cruise

San Diego's Best-Kept Secret: Sunset Sail Aboard A Classic Yacht
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All about San Diego

When to visit

The beauty of San Diego is that you can visit year-round, as the weather is generally warm and the sun most likely will be shining. Its cool season is December–March, but even then temps are mild. Summer and school winter holidays bring more tourists, especially at the beaches. To avoid the tourist rush, visit in the “seasons” of spring or fall.

Getting around

Downtown San Diego and surrounds have a convenient trolley system that connects to the city's bus system. That said, San Diego is a sprawling city, so the most convenient way to get around is usually via car. Rideshares like Uber and Lyft and e-scooter rentals are options, too. Public transport is available along the coast with the Coaster commuter rail service, with eight stops between San Diego to Oceanside.

Traveler tips

Embrace the water when in San Diego. You can take a sailboat on the San Diego Bay, do stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or ride a sea bike in Mission Bay or La Jolla Cove, and surf just about anywhere along the coast. Remember, the water is chilly with average summer temps of about 67°F (19°C). Reward yourself with fish tacos and margaritas at one of the many San Diego restaurants that offer these SoCal specialties.

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A local’s pocket guide to San Diego

Sasha Lozovoy

A Viator account manager, California native, and La Jolla resident, Sasha can be found enjoying the sunshine, petting dogs, and seeking out the tastiest acai bowl San Diego has to offer.

The first thing you should do in San Diego is...

rent a car. You’ll need a set of wheels to explore the multitude of diverse neighborhoods in San Diego and try the fish tacos each has to offer.

A perfect Saturday in San Diego...

starts with a hike around Torrey Pines State Reserve, where you can enjoy views of the Pacific, the golf course, and the gliderport. Cap off your day with carbonara at Barbusa in Little Italy.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Coronado Island. Grab brunch at Parakeet Cafe and wander through the whimsical and historical Hotel del Coronado. Don’t be surprised if you witness a beachfront wedding or proposal!

To discover the "real" San Diego...

walk along the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. Jump in a game of volleyball, take a dip, grab a bite, or simply people-watch. You’ll find a harmonious collection of locals, tourists, college students, roller skaters, and more.

For the best view of the city...

most people would say a rooftop in the Gaslamp District, but try Point Loma Lighthouse in Cabrillo National Monument instead. Explore the tide pools below if you visit during low tide.

One thing people get wrong...

is assuming everyone surfs. On any given day, you’ll get your fair share of sandy folks out riding tubes, but it’s by no means a prerequisite for visiting or living in the area.


People Also Ask

What can you do in San Diego?

Soak up San Diego’s famous sunshine with a day swimming or surfing at one of the city’s many beaches. Get a dose of culture at a Balboa Park museums, take the kids to the San Diego Zoo, explore Spanish history in Old Town, or enjoy the diverse nightlife of the Gaslamp Quarter.

What is a good day trip from San Diego?

Popular day trips from San Diego include a ferry ride across San Diego Bay to charming Coronado Island or a drive to the posh seaside village of La Jolla. The historic missions of San Juan Capistrano and theme parks like LEGOLAND® and Disneyland® are also within easy driving distance.

What's San Diego known for?

San Diego is best known for its world-class beaches and warm, sunny weather. The city is also home to a wealth of cultural attractions including Balboa Park, Old Town, the USS Midway Museum, and the famous San Diego Zoo.

What should I not miss in San Diego?

San Diego’s can’t-miss sights include beautiful Balboa Park, Ocean Beach, and harborside attractions like the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum. It’s also worth taking a ferry across the bay to historic Coronado Island, or planning a night of grown-up fun in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter.

Is San Diego worth visiting?

Yes. San Diego is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US for good reason. Miles of sandy beaches and nearly perfect weather year-round make it ideal for outdoor fun. There’s plenty of culture, too, from Old Town’s historic Spanish missions to the museums of Balboa Park.

What locals do in San Diego?

Most San Diego locals love to be outdoors, so favorite activities include surfing at Mission Beach, tide pooling at Silver Strand, hiking at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, or soaking up the sun in Balboa Park. Find locally loved restaurants in Little Italy, North Park, or Liberty Station at Point Loma.

How can I spend 3 days in San Diego?

If you have 3 days in San Diego, spend your first day learning about California history in Old Town and getting cultured at Balboa Park’s museums. You'll also want to dedicate a day to riding the ferry to Coronado Island or driving down the coast to La Jolla, followed by a night out in the Gaslamp Quarter. Finish with a day at the beach.

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