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Itineraries for Your Trip to San Diego

San Diego locals share their perfect days.
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1 Day in San Diego for First Timers

Curated by Leah Still Jollfreelance writer based in San Francisco.

With a plethora of family-friendly attractions that highlight history, culture, and wildlife, plus its sunny setting on the Pacific, San Diego is an ideal place to spend a day, no matter what your interests are. Here are the top ways to experience the city with limited time.


Orient yourself with San Diego on the hop-on hop-off trolley, which provides open-air transportation so you can reach the locations that interest you at your own pace. Perhaps check out Old Town State Historic Park, Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, or Little Italy—some of the most popular destinations for sightseeing, eating, and people-watching. For independent travelers, the Go San Diego Card provides entrance to many of the city’s best attractions at one price. If you prefer a set itinerary and commentary about the sights, opt for a guided city tour.


San Diego is well-known for its zoo, home to the city’s beloved giant pandas—wildlife lovers won’t want to miss this attraction. You can combine your visit with a trip to its sister property, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Park. Alternatively, check out SeaWorld San Diego, located in Mission Bay, to see dolphins, sea lions, and other marine animals. If you’re more of a history or naval buff, the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego are within walking distance of each other on the Embarcadero, which runs along the San Diego Bay waterfront.


Spend the evening on a San Diego Bay dinner cruise, which provides a chance to look back at the city as it lights up for the night. Cruises typically include a full meal such as steak or seafood with side dishes and dessert, served in an enclosed cabin. Most boats also have open-air decks to taking in the views and fresh ocean air. Opt for a luxury experience for additional features such as Champagne or a DJ for onboard music and dancing. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase if they are not included in the price.

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