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Fun Things to do in San Diego


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city guide

Not only is America's Finest City one of the best places to live on the West Coast and one of the best places for veterans to retire, but it also has great employment opportunities, a plethora of beautiful beaches, top-notch cuisine, affordable neighborhoods, and much more!


Best time to go

The best times to visit San Diego are March through May and September through November. You can find some great deals on travel rates during the low seasons in comparison to the peak summer season.


Fun city facts and activities

    For such a laid-back destination, the best things to do in San Diego might surprise you. As the country's eighth-largest city, San Diego isn't the sleepy beach town many once thought of as Los Angeles' laidback neighborwhile there's still plenty of surfers and Navy servicemembers to be seen here, the coastal city is an international mega-region stretching from Imperial Beach to Oceanside. Come here for the beaches, sure, but stay for the culture.

    Whether it's Comic-Con that brings you to town, San Diego Beer Week, a triathalon or just a beach getaway, take time to enjoy some of San Diego's best attractions while you're here. And if you're toting along kids, you'll be happy to know that San Diego doubles as one of the countrys top family-friendly destinations, with no shortage of delicious, family-friendly restaurants, iconic amusement parks, cuddly pandas, and tons of parks and picnic spots, too.

    For the 21+ crowd, its also a craft brewery and nightlife mecca. While fish tacos may be the most sought-after dish in San Diego, it's the craft beer industry that has solidified the city's nickname as "The Capital of Craft" with its more than 150 craft breweries. Combining the two is highly recommended!
City facts

Neighborhoods to explore

    Pacific Highlands Ranch
    La Jolla
    Solana Beach
    Torrey Pines
    Downtown San Diego
    South Park

Food Specialties

    While beach towns are often regarded more for their surf and sun than their savvy dining, the best restaurants San Diego prove to be an exceptionfrom stylish dining rooms to casual beachside eats, the coastal city bursts with creativity and bonafide kitchen chops.

    While it once sat in the shadows of Los Angeles' flashy dining scene, San Diego has attracted several big name chefs in recent years, including Richard Blais, Brian Malarkey, and Claudette Zepeda (of Top Chef fame). Now, San Diego stands firmly on its own culinary reputation, popular enough that dinner reservations are recommended in bustling areas such as Little Italy, La Jolla, and the Gaslamp Quarter.

    Looking for a signature dish? If theres a staple order, its Baja-style fish tacos paired with local craft beer (likely a hoppy IPA from one of San Diegos many craft breweries), a bright combo thats perfect in the citys gloriously sunny climate where dining al fresco (or inside chic, open-air spaces along its best beaches) is possible year-round. So if youre headed to this coastal hot-spot, check out our list of the best restaurants in San Diegoand dont forget to bring a healthy appetite.

San Diego Offbeat activities

Free or cheap things to do

1. Stand-up Paddle Boarding: With its beautiful beaches, San Diego is the perfect place to stand-up paddle board. There are plenty of rental companies along the coast that offer boards, and you can paddle around the calm waters of Mission Bay or explore the beautiful coastline.

2. Skateboarding: San Diego is home to some of the best skate parks in the country. Head to Mission Valley's Crown Point Skate Park, Ocean Beach Skate Park, or Clairemont Skate Park to test your skills.

3. Movie Night at the Beach: On select nights throughout the summer, the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department hosts free movie screenings on the beach. Pack a blanket and some snacks and enjoy a night of entertainment under the stars.

4. Horseback Riding: Take a trail ride along the beach or through the hills of San Diego County. There are several horseback riding companies that offer guided tours, so you can explore

Offbeat activites
Kid friendly

Fun things to do in with kids

Free or cheap things to do

1. San Diego Zoo
This 106-year-old crowd pleaser is world-renowned with over 4,000 animals and an exotic garden setting. With 100 acres of diverse habitats, the zoo might feel like its own continent. Start with a narrated, double-decker bus tour to get a quick overview of major attractions. Highlights include cuddly koalas of Australian Outback, celebrity pandas of Asian Passage, and adorable penguins of African Rocks. When tykes get restless waiting for koalas to wake, hop aboard the SkyFari Aerial Tram that soars above treetops to another kid fave, Discovery Playground.

2. Balboa Park
Outsizing New York Citys Central Park, this sprawling urban oasis is like a mini European town with kid-friendly museums, striking architecture, and dazzling gardens. Whirl around a historic carousel, catch a free amphitheater concert, and sniff fragrant plants in the breathtaking Botanical Building. An Explorer Pass offers discount admission to all 17 museums including the popular Model Railroad Museum. Cool your heels at the al fresco restaurant Panama 66 with Nutella & banana sammies for kids and local draft beer for parents.

3. Belmont Park
This spiffy seaside amusement park is abuzz with thrill rides, midway games, and beachfront eats. The recently restored 1925 amusement center exudes timeless charm with none of the grit. Hurl balls to topple clowns, putt candy-colored golf balls through a tiki island, and squeal in delight aboard the historic Giant Dipper roller coaster. Quick bites come deep-fried, glazed, or frozen, but youll find more substantial options at waterfront restaurants such as Beach House, Cannonball, or Draft.

4. LEGOLAND California Resort
Everything is awesome at this vibrant Lego-constructed world thats a worthwhile drive from San Diego. Geared toward the 12-and-under set, the parks themed landscape and painstaking, large-scale models put that Lego aisle at Target to shame. Ooh and ahh at mini reproductions of San Francisco, Las Vegas, and the Star Wars galaxy, and ride a Dragon coaster that zips through a castle of animated Lego figures. The resort features a separately ticketed aquarium and water park, plus two Lego-themed hotels to rest your weary bricks.

5. SeaWorld
Trust us: your little ones will have a whale of a time at SeaWorld. Here, they can get up close with orcas, walruses, penguins, sharks, flamingos, seals, dolphins, otters, sea lions, and more. There are rides and roller coasters, of course, plus interactive animal activities and presentations. Special events are held throughout the year, including Halloween and Christmas-themed celebrations and even a craft beer festival. Don't miss the Bayside Skyride gondolas that offer prime views of Mission Bay from above.

6. Mission Bay Park
This sheltered bay and its surrounding beaches make up a 4,300-acre outdoor, aquatic playground teeming with water sportsstrap on the life-jackets and choose your vessel. Numerous vendors rent every watercraft imaginable (from sleek pedal boats to jet skis and family pontoon boats) to explore the bays many coves and waterways. Alternatively, you can also rent bikes and cruise the parks 27 miles of coastline.

7. Waterfront Park
Modern play structures, splash fountains, and picnic spots lure families to this 12-acre kids zone overlooking San Diego Bay. Let the little ones run loose while you rest and enjoy views of the coast. On warm days, barefoot kids splash around a large fountain. Waterfront Park fronts the touristed Embarcadero promenade, making it an easy detour after visits to the historic Star of India, Maritime Museum, and Carnitas Snack Shack (a locals fave).

8. San Diego Comic-Con
Superheroes and super-fans turn San Diego into a virtual Justice League during the citys largest event of the year. Kids 12 and under get free admission to the four-day comic convention, but consider Sunday for the smallest crowds and special kids activities such as drawing workshops and cartoon premieres. Theres also plenty of fun to be had outside the conference center including free eventsthe Nintendo Lounge is a biggieand marveling at an endless parade of Wookies and Wonder Women.

9. Pacific Beach Boardwalk
San Diegos sunny beach culture is on full display along this bustling waterfront promenade. Linking the spirited Pacific Beach and Mission Beach hoods, the three-and-a-half mile beachfront path teems with inspiring ocean vistas and fun diversions that make for a pleasant, inexpensive afternoon. Stroll out to Crystal Pier to watch surfers, stop for ice cream at one of the many stands, or plop down on the beach and bury your toes in the soft sand.

10. Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream
Now with two locations in San Diego, Hammond's is a favorite among both kids and adults. It won't take a hot summer day to draw in crowds hereHammond's has more than 300 flavors of Tropical Dreams "super premium" Hawaiian ice cream and sorbet that delivers an extra rich and creamy texture. Can't decide on a flavor? Order an ice cream flight with mini cones containing between 6 and 32 flavors.

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City data and FAQ 

Is San Diego worth visiting?

In my honest opinion, absolutely worth it. So much to see and do, no matter what you like to do. You can do the club thing, go sailing, go to the beach, go inland and hike trails in either the chapparal or the forest, go to museums, whatever. The weather is amazing overall no matter the time of year. Sometimes rain, summers not horrifically hot unless you go inland (and even then, its got nothing on Nevada or Ariziona). Yes, its not cheap, but where is? You can stay inland and I would recommend either driving there or getting a car when youre there. If you stay within San Diego proper, theres a trolley that is pretty good getting you around. Yes, there are areas that arent great, but most big cities have that. Truly, San Diego is still a gem of a city.
Elaine Robson Lived in San Diego (1977 2017)

What is San Diego most known for?

San Diego has long been known for having the best zoo in the world. The downtown zoo and the Safari Park are famous for having a huge variety of species. The habitats are spacious and similar to the natural environments of the species.
Linda Milles Lives in San Diego, CA (1985 Present)

The beaches and surfing; SeaWorld theme park; San Diego Zoo; San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Atlas rockets for the Mercury orbital missions were built in San Diego. The Ruben H. Fleet Science center. Everyone has been there once. I once did a service calls at his house in the Point Loma area. (he had already passed but his window was still living there). The first European to visit San Diego, Juan Rodr_guez Cabrillo, was not Spanish. He was Portuguese. But was sailing under the flag of Castile.
William Wood Lives in Southern California

Beaches . Perfect weather , blonds and hot latinas . It is developing a nice downtown as I write
Dave Dale - M.D. in Medicine and Healthcare, Harvard University

The zoo; fish tacos; good surfing; great sunsets; insane cost of living; traffic; access to the ocean, mountains, the desert and an international boarder, all no more than an hour away.
Harry Roberts - PhD in Muffinology & Musical Aerobics, San Diego State University

Are two days enough to visit San Diego?

I live just North of SD and often drive down to the zoo or to have dinner and Margaritas in Old Town. Many of my LA friends come down for a couple days or a long weekend. Just make a list of what you want to see and dont rush. The zoo takes most of a day to truly walk and enjoy if you have kids with you. Start early and then head out to have dinner in one of the many sections, like Little Italy, Gaslamp, Old Town.
Suzanne Smith - Floral Designer

If you want to see all thats going on nope; two days is barely enough to see the zoo and Balboa Park. A week or more, really. Particularly in late summer when the water is nice and warm (nearly 70!)
Harry Roberts - PhD in Muffinology & Musical Aerobics, San Diego State University

It depends on what you want to do. You could spend 2 days at the Zoo and Balboa Park alone. There is plenty to do if you like the outdoors, wineries, breweries, attractions, water sports, baseball games and so on.
Lynn Haims - Lives in San Diego, CA

Do you need a car to visit San Diego?

Probably.. if you stay right in La Jolla village or downtown San Diego , the two walkable hoods of SD , you can survive w an Uber app and legs pretty well . If u are in any of the low density hoods its too spread out , so Id rent a car they are pretty cheap .
Dave Dale - M.D. in Medicine and Healthcare, Harvard University

If you plan to visit The San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Pasqual Valley I recommend renting a car. It is about 30 miles from central San Diego. It is about a 40 minute drive. It is over 2 hours by public transit. You could probably get there by taxi or Uber/Lyft. The round trip cost could equal the price of a car rental. I havent priced out a car rental recently. But Uber is about $59 each way plus tip.
William Wood Lives in Southern California

It depends on what you want to do and where youre staying. If you stay at the beach and dont want to go to all the attractions, probably not. If you want to go to the zoo, wild animal park, Legoland, Sesame Place, Sea World, etc. then yes, you need one. We dont have great public transportation except from downtown (ball park, Seaport Village, Little Italy) up the coast to UCSD/La Jolla. The distance from downtown or south beaches to places like Legoland, Wild Animal park, wineries, etc. can be an expensive Uber ride_ We live near Sea World and will Lyft or Uber to downtown or La Jolla, but not much farther.
Lynn Haims - Lives in San Diego, CA

YES. San Diego is a fairly spread out town with minimal mass transit. If you are staying downtown, thats one thing - but if you are in the burbs, youll want a car to get downtown or the beach or zoo.
Harry Roberts - PhD in Muffinology & Musical Aerobics, San Diego State University
No. You really do not. You can use Lyft or Uber and you will avoid having to drive in the traffic and navigating in a city you do not know. Also you will avoid parking which can be inconvenient and expensive especially in popular locations. I have used these services a lot in many cities and have never had to wait more than 3 - 6 minutes and they are very inexpensive.
Thomas Frank - Lives in Providence, RI

You could make do using taxi or Uber if you are staying in the central city visiting Old Town and the zoo. But if you want to see the Wild Animal Park (Safari Park) or Legoland or any sight on Point Loma a car is necessary. SD is a big, spread out city and county.
Linda Miles - Lives in San Diego, CA (1985 Present)

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