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Itineraries for Your Trip to San Diego

San Diego locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in San Diego for First Timers

Curated by Jenna Scatenaa writer who has visited San Diego more than 20 times.

First time in San Diego? If you’ve just seen this city’s stunning, expansive ocean views for the first time, I’ll wait a minute while you catch your breath. But once you do, you’ll want to get started exploring the many facets of this city, which is full of opportunities for adventure. With its sunshine, warm weather, and California spirit—and innumerable options for activities on land, on sea, or even in the air—San Diego is the perfect place to try something you’ve never done before, be it whale-watching, surfing, or paragliding. Here are some of my suggestions for your first trip to America’s Finest City.

San Diego boasts pleasant, mild temperatures and comfortable weather year-round.

If you only have time for one thing, make it Balboa Park.

Day 1

There's so much to do and see in San Diego; use your first day to get your bearings! For a good overview—and the option to explore on your own schedule—a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour can be convenient.

For lunch, stop at the Gaslamp Quarter, which is known for its nightlife but also boasts some of the most exciting food in the city.

In the afternoon, jump back on the trolley (or in your car) and make your way to the San Diego Zoo, where you can see 3,500 animals. Explore the other parts of Balboa Park afterwards.

Day 2

Start day two by soaking up views on a morning harbor walk before breakfast at a local favorite like Dockside 1953 or Kono's Cafe. Afterwards, get out on the water and see the local ocean life on a whale watching tour or book a private surf lesson to learn how to ride wives like a local.

After you disembark, stretch your legs on a walking tour of the neighborhood of Barrio Logan, where you can see street art and stop at boutiques and local restaurants.

After dark, learn about the Gaslamp's hidden history on an evening walking tour. Afterwards, the buzzy nightlife scene awaits!

Day 3

Take a scenic walking tour on day three, and you’ll have the chance to see the rest of the city, including Mt. Soledad, Coronado Island, and Old Town—plus some beautiful views along the way.

Spend the afternoon in trendy Little Italy. If you can’t pick just one of the area’s great restaurants, take a tasting tour; sampling food and wine with a small group is a great way to immerse yourself in this quaint neighborhood.

Before you leave town, toast your trip on a sunset yacht cruise, enjoying skyline views; if you’re lucky, you might spot a dolphin or two.

See more things to do in San Diego