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40 Best & Fun Things to Do in San Diego, California

40 Best & Fun Things to Do in San Diego, California

There’s never a shortage of things to do in San Diego, California. Dubbed “America’s Finest City”, San Diego is packed with world-famous attractions, top-rated restaurants and bars, and miles of pristine beaches. But if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, here are the best things to do in San Diego that will show you a side of the city you never knew existed!

People who travel like to know about the top things to see and do in a city. San Diego is a great place to visit because it has famous attractions, good restaurants, and beautiful beaches. San Diego is so much more than just another beach city.

It’s a mix of urban and suburban living that offers great food, amazing weather year-round, and plenty of things to do. You can spend all day on the sandy beaches or head into town for some culture.

Table of Contents

What is San Diego Known For?

San Diego is a coastal Southern California city located in the southwestern corner of the state in San Diego County. It is known for its mild climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive San Diego beaches, long association with the United States Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center.

The city is known for its amazing museums, and theme parks, and is home to one of the largest zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo. It’s a city that’s long been known to be one of the best places to live due to its amazing climate, outstanding things to do, and the number of outdoor activities.

Fun & Best Things to do in San Diego, California

There are museums galore in San Diego—and they’re mostly free! There are also a ton of public parks, lovely beaches, world-class restaurants, unique cultural and historical attractions, and the ever-lively San Diego nightlife, to help you build your San Diego itinerary.

So take advantage of this sunny city with these fun things while you explore San Diego!

1. Visit The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

Safari Park Entrance
Image by  Roller Coaster Philosophy used under  CC BY 2.0

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park is a great place to visit with your family and is one of the top places to visit in the US. The zoo has a wide variety of animals from all over the world, and the safari park lets you experience it up close.

There are also plenty of activities for kids, like the petting zoo and train ride. If you’re looking for a fun and educational day out, then the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is definitely worth a visit. 

The Safari Park is located in Escondido and offers two different experiences: get up close with animals at the Safari Park or explore them from atop a safari vehicle in the Wild Animal Park.

San Diego Zoo is the world’s largest zoo and has over 4,000 animals from over 650 species. The zoo is divided into several different exhibits, such as the Polar Bear Plunge, Panda Canyon, and Elephant Odyssey.

You can also take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn more about how the zoo cares for its animals. If you’re visiting San Diego with kids, then a trip to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park is a must-do activity. You can book San Diego Zoo and Safari Park now.

See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California

2. Go on a Whale-Watching Tour

A Whale watching image.
Image by  clr_flickr used under  CC BY 2.0

Whale watching along the San Diego coastline is an activity that you cannot miss. Whale-watching tour operators offer whale-watching trips year-round, so you’re guaranteed to see some whale action no matter when you go.

The best whale watching months are typically from mid-January to mid-May and then again from mid-September to early November. These are the months when whale populations are at their peak in the waters near San Diego.

However, you can still see whales during the summer months, although the number of whale sightings tends to be at its lowest throughout the year. No matter when you go whale watching, you’re sure to have an amazing experience.

Sound awesome? Book a whale-watching tour today right from San Diego Bay and get ready to see some of the most incredible creatures on earth.

See Related: Best Whale Watching Places in the World

3. Visit Seaport Village

A view of the Seaport Village.
Image by  Prayitno used under  CC BY 2.0

Seaport Village is a picturesque waterfront area in San Diego with shopping, dining, and entertainment. It’s the perfect place to spend a day if you want to relax and soak up the Californian sun.

There are also plenty of boat tours departing from Seaport Village, so you can explore the coastline. Seaport Village is a shopping, dining, and entertainment center in downtown San Diego.

It’s located on the waterfront, with views of San Diego Bay. The center is home to over 125 shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the San Diego Maritime Museum.

4. See a Show at The Old Globe Theatre

Front view of The Old Globe Theatre.
Image by Lori05871 used under CC BY 2.0.

Old Globe Theatre is one of San Diego’s most popular attractions. It’s an award-winning theatre that hosts a range of different productions, from Shakespeare to musicals. If you’re a fan of live theatre, then make sure to catch a show at the Old Globe Theatre during your visit.

The Old Globe has been entertaining visitors for over 80 years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to its impressive main stage productions, the Old Globe also offers a variety of educational programs and events.

5. Go for a hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Image by Amanda Jowinger used under CC BY 2.0.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of San Diego, California’s top attractions. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a coastal area with hiking trails, beaches, and stunning views – perfect for those who love being outdoors.

The reserve is also known for its Torrey pines trees – which are only found in this area of Southern California – as well as its other wildlife. And, if you’re looking to get some exercise while you’re visiting, the reserve’s hiking trails are perfect for you. Plus, the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course is located within the reserve.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is easily accessible by car or public transportation. You can park at La Jolla Shores and then walk to the reserve entrance at South Carlsbad Boulevard and Coast Road (about 1 mile).

Within California’s Torrey Pines State Reserve, Black’s Beach is one of the world’s most famous nude beaches. This isolated region offers hiking and surfing opportunities with several pathways leading to secret bays and stunning ocean views. If you’re looking for something more daring, go all nude.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy the reserve’s beauty or get some exercise, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve should definitely be on your list of places to visit in San Diego.

6. Visit Balboa Park

Front View of The Balboa Park.
Image by Oleg used under CC BY 2.0.

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre cultural and recreational center in San Diego, California with museums, gardens, and Spanish Colonial architecture. If you’re interested in art or history, then you’ll definitely want to add Balboa Park to your itinerary. Balboa Park has been awarded five stars by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for excellence in maintenance and security.

The park also has three golf courses, two swimming pools, a waterpark, and an amusement park. Balboa Park is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations – there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So when you’re planning your San Diego vacation, make sure to add Balboa Park to your list of must-see tourist attractions.

See Related: Best Things to do in Billings, Montana

7. Check out the USS Midway Museum

Night view of USS Midway museum.
Image by DW used under CC BY 2.0.

The USS Midway Museum is a popular attraction in San Diego that’s dedicated to naval history. It’s located on the waterfront in downtown San Diego and features exhibits of military aircraft, naval history, and ship models. 

You can explore the ship, learn about its role in WWII, and see some of the aircraft that were used on board. The museum is also home to a number of interactive exhibits, making it a great place for the whole family to visit.

The most interesting feature of this museum is its collection of warplanes from various eras in American history. There are also several interactive displays that allow you to learn about different aspects of naval aviation through hands-on experiences such as piloting in the F/A-18 Hornet simulator or diving inside a submarine simulator. USS Midway Museum is definitely worth checking out when you’re in San Diego. You can book a visit here.

8. Go surfing at Mission Beach

Mission Beach San Diego.
Image by Patrick Cam used under CC BY 2.0.

Mission Beach is one of the most popular beaches around San Diego for good reason – it has something for everyone. The waves here are ideal for beginners, so if you’ve always wanted to try surfing, Mission Beach is the perfect place to start. There are plenty of surf schools in the area, so you can easily find someone who can give you the basics.

Even if you don’t surf, Mission Beach is still a great place to relax and soak up the sun. The sand is soft and the water is warm, so it’s easy to spend a lazy day lounging on the beach. If you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area.

See Related: Virginia Beach vs Ocean City

9. Visit La Jolla

La Jolla Neighborhood.
Image by Ncole458 used under CC BY 2.0.

La Jolla is an upscale neighborhood in San Diego with boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking for some retail therapy or want to grab a bite to eat.

You can also find some of La Jolla’s best beaches nearby, so it’s definitely worth a visit. La Jolla’s main shopping district is located along Prospect Street, where you’ll find everything from high-end fashion boutiques to local specialty shops.

There are also plenty of great places to eat, whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal. And of course, no trip to La Jolla would be complete without spending some time at the beach.

La Jolla Cove is one of the most popular beaches in the area, and it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

10. Take a tour of the San Diego Harbor

San Diego Harbor.
 Image by Phil Roeder used under CC BY 2.0.

San Diego Harbor is one of the busiest harbors in the world. There are a number of different tour operators that offer cruises around the harbor, and you’ll get to see some of the city’s most popular landmarks. You might even spot a few dolphins along the way.

The natural harbor is what separates this town from other places in Southern California. Take a sensational boat tour of the Pacific Ocean and admire the multimillion-dollar view of the sea.

Alternatively, go sightseeing or book a romantic dinner cruise to rekindle your romantic connection. The enjoyment and beauty of the landscapes are essential activities while you are there if you want to get San Diego’s full experience.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Palm Springs, California

11. Watch a Padres game at Petco Park

People watching a game at Petco Park.
Image by Jim Epler used under CC BY 2.0.

Petco Park is the home of the San Diego Padres, and it’s one of the best places to watch a baseball game. The stadium is located in downtown San Diego, and it has a great atmosphere on game days.

Petco Park contains 1,000 club seats and 48 luxury suites. The majority of suites are located on the loge level behind home plate between first and third base, although many additional suites are located in other parts of the ballpark; none are found on the upper deck.

If you’re a fan of America’s national pastime, then catching a Padres game is a must-do activity. You’ll also catch a great view of the San Diego Skyline while you’re enjoying a game at Petco Park.

12. Visit Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo Monument.
Image by Allie Caulfield used under CC BY 2.0.

Cabrillo National Monument is one of the best places to see in the San Diego area. This park and San Diego landmark offer over 20 miles of trails with stunning views of the California coast and mountains, so be sure to bring a camera. You can even rent binoculars or borrow one from the visitor center if you have forgotten yours.

Cabrillo National Monument is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and you might even spot some whales or dolphins offshore. If you’re looking for something more active, there are also several hiking trails that lead up into the hills above Old Town San Diego.

One trail will take you past an abandoned gold mine while another will take you through a beautiful canyon filled with wildflowers. No matter what you’re looking for, Cabrillo National Monument is sure to have something for everyone.

See Related: List of US National Monuments (Including Best to Visit)

13. Spend a day at LEGOLAND California

Front view of Legoland California.
 Image by Jim Moore used under CC BY 2.0.

If you’re looking for something fun to do in San Diego with your kids, LEGOLAND California is a great option! There’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained, from rides and attractions to a 4-D movie theater and even a water park.

Plus, if your kids are into Lego, they’ll love seeing all of the life-size Lego sculptures around the park…as do I. Hey, you’re never too old to enjoy Lego.

14. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove.

Touched on earlier, La Jolla Cove is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego, and it’s easy to see why. La Jolla Cove is absolutely beautiful, and it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or just relaxing and taking in stunning views. The cove is also a popular spot for people who want to watch sunsets, go on romantic beach strolls, or just enjoy some quiet time.

La Jolla Cove is one of the best places in San Diego to go snorkeling and scuba diving. The clear waters and wide variety of sea life make La Jolla Cove a popular destination for both beginner and experienced divers.

This is also a great place to just enjoy the sun and relax on the beach. Whether you’re looking for a place to work on your tan, go for a swim, or watch the sunset, La Jolla Cove is the perfect spot to enjoy a day outside in sunny San Diego.

See Related: Best Spring Break Destinations for Families

15. Coronado Island

Coronado Island tourist  center.
 Image by Janine Curry used under CC BY 2.0.

Coronado Island is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and it’s easy to see why. The island has gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, and plenty of shops and boutiques. It’s also home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, which has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows.

Coronado Beach has been voted the best beach in California, and it’s easy to see why. The sand is white, the water is blue, and the sunsets are glorious. Whether you’re looking for some family fun or a romantic date with your significant other, Coronado has something for everyone.

You can spend the day at one of their many parks or shopping along Orange Avenue—and then cap off your day with an amazing meal at one of their restaurants!

16. Plan a quick trip to Tijuana

Tijuana Border Fence.
 Image by Tony Webster used under CC BY 2.0.

Just 20 miles from San Diego, Tijuana offers easy, interesting day trip destinations for travelers from both the US and Mexico.

After crossing the international border, take a stroll along the Avenidas Revoluciones, and discover unique cuisine, and craft beer scenes. Also, go for a walk along with the 500-ft-long Pasaje Rodriguez an elegant street dotted with graffiti artists, cafes and bars, and charming shops. Don’t miss this taste of authentic Tequila while you are there. Grab an ice-cold margarita to-go.

You can taste it and learn the way the people drink it too. Tijuana is not only a party city but is also a cultural retreat offering fun and entertainment. If you’re looking for an enjoyable day trip destination, consider Tijuana. You can cross another country off your list if you’ve never visited Mexico.

See Related: Travel Tips for Visiting Mexico on a Budget

17. Taste local cuisine at Liberty Public Market

Liberty Public Market.
Image by Nick Amoscato used under CC BY 2.0.

Liberty Public Market is a foodie’s dream come true. With over 30 independent food vendors, the market has something for everyone. The market is open 24/7, so whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, you’ll be able to find it here.

Liberty Public Market is also home to some of San Diego’s top cuisine, so you’ll be sure to find a dish that will tantalize your taste buds. And if you’re looking for a unique souvenir, the market also features the work of local artisans. A visit to Liberty Public Market is sure to satisfy your hunger.

18. See the stars at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Front view of Reuben H. Science Center.
 Image by Micheal Seljos used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is a great place to visit if you find yourself in Balboa Park with some extra time to kill.

This museum is not only great for kids but also offers a number of interactive exhibits on science and technology that adults will enjoy. The real star of the show, however, is the Planetarium dome.

This immersive experience allows you to see what the night sky looks like without the light pollution from the city. It’s the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and get a taste of what it’s like to stargaze in rural areas.

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the United Kingdom

19. Learn about history at the San Diego History Center

Front view of San Diego History Center
Image by Cultivar413 used under CC BY 2.0.

San Diego History Center is a great place to learn about the history of San Diego and the surrounding area. The museum has exhibits on the early history of the region, the founding of San Diego, and the growth of the city. The museum also has a library with books and documents on the history of San Diego.

The San Diego History Center is a great resource for visitors to San Diego who want to learn about the history of the region. The museum is located in Balboa Park, in the heart of San Diego.

The San Diego History Center is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission to the museum is free for members of the military and their families and discounted for seniors, students, and children.

20. Taste wine at a local winery

Frangipani Winery San Diego
Image by Ewen And Donabel used under CC BY 2.0.

San Diego is a great place to go wine tasting. There are many wineries in the San Diego area, each with its own unique style and flavor. You can buy wine by bottle or glass at many of the city’s restaurants, or go on a wine tasting tour.

San Diego’s climate is ideal for growing many different types of grapes, so you’ll be able to find a wide variety of wines to taste. Whether you’re a red wine lover or prefer white, you’ll be able to find something to suit your taste.

See Related: Best Minneapolis Walking Tours for History Buffs

21. Go on a brewery tour

Stone Brewery Interior.
 Image by Lady Linoleum used under CC BY 2.0.

San Diego is a great city for beer lovers. There are many San Diego craft breweries to choose from, and each one has its own unique brewing style. You can visit a brewery to see how the beer is made and to taste it right off the tap. You can also buy beer to take home with you.

If you’re a beer connoisseur, then visiting a San Diego craft brewery is a must. Check out one of the many breweries in San Diego that has been brewing locally since before it became the hotbed for craft beer it is today. You’ll get to see how they make their beer and taste it right off the tap.

Don’t just stop at tasting though; there are plenty of other cool things to learn while touring these local breweries! You can learn about how they brew their beers or chat with an expert on all things beer-related (like when hops were first introduced). Some breweries will even let you take home your own souvenir bottle or growler so you can remember your trip forever.

22. Get your adrenaline fix at Belmont Park

Belmont Park San Diego.
Image by Roller Coaster Philosophy used under CC BY 2.0.

Belmont Park is a great place to get your adrenaline fix in. The park has a roller coaster, a water slide, and many other rides. You can also play arcade games, go on a carousel ride, and eat at the park’s restaurants. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster is a great way to get your adrenaline fix in.

The coaster is located in Belmont Park, and it is one of the most popular rides in the park. You can also buy a ticket to ride the coaster on its own. Belmont Park is open year-round, and it is easy to get to from anywhere in San Diego.

See Related: Best Breweries in Austin, Texas

23. Visit the San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum Of Art.
Image by ConspiracyofHappiness used under CC BY 2.0.

The San Diego Museum of Art is a great place to view artwork from around the world. The museum has a collection of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.

You can also take a tour of the museum or attend one of the many events that the museum hosts. The museum is located in Balboa Park and is free to visit every day except for Mondays.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the museum stays open until 9:00 pm! This means that you can enjoy an afternoon out with your loved ones, followed by dinner at one of San Diego’s many restaurants before heading back for some more art appreciation at the museum.

You can even make an evening out of it by catching a movie on Saturday or Sunday nights in their outdoor amphitheater. If you’re looking for a romantic date night or a family-friendly activity, be sure to add this amazing museum to your list of activities in San Diego.

See Related: Best Family Hotels in San Francisco, California

24. See the animals at the Living Coast Discovery Center

Living Coast Discovery Center.

The Living Coast Discovery Center is a great place to see animals from all over the world. With a variety of exhibits, including a tropical forest, an aquatic exhibit, and a reptile exhibit, the Living Coast Discovery Center has something for everyone.

You can also take a tour of the center or participate in one of the many educational programs that the center offers. The Living Coast Discovery Center is a great place to learn about animals and their habitats.

25. Go to SeaWorld San Diego

Seaworld San Diego Interior view.

SeaWorld San Diego is a great place to see whales, dolphins, and other marine animals. You can also take a tour of the park, go on a ride, and eat at the park’s restaurants. You can either take one of the many tours or simply stay for the day. Whatever your choice, you will have a fun time exploring all that SeaWorld offers.

There are several shows that are performed throughout the day, including Shamu’s Celebration (a show featuring killer whales), Blue Horizons (a dolphin show), and Turtle Trek (an educational show about sea turtles).

You can also get an up-close look at some of the animals by taking a tour of behind-the-scenes areas, such as the animal husbandry area or the veterinary hospital. SeaWorld is also home to two roller coasters, Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids.

After a day of exploring, you can relax and enjoy a meal at one of SeaWorld’s restaurants. You can buy a Seaworld admission ticket now.

See Related: Hidden Gems in the Caribbean Sea

26. Visit the New Children’s Museum

New Children's Museum San Diego.

The New Children’s Museum is located in downtown San Diego and opened its doors in 1999. The museum was designed to be interactive and has themed exhibits, events, programs, workshops, and camps. There are also themed birthday parties and field trips available for children of all ages!

The New Children’s Museum is a wonderful place for kids to learn about art through play-based activities that encourage creativity and the expression of their own ideas.

27. Soar over Temecula’s wineries in a hot air balloon

Hot air balloon over Temecula valley.

Hot air balloon rides in Temecula are a must-do while you’re visiting Southern California! Not only will you get a chance to see the beautiful Pacific Coastline from a bird’s eye view, but you’ll also be able to take in the stunning scenery of Temecula Valley.

Hot air balloons are the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, or if you’re just looking for a unique and memorable experience. We can cater to your needs and ensure that you have an unforgettable experience.

So what are you waiting for? Book your hot air balloon ride today!

See Related: Best Things To Do in Temecula, California

28. Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art Entrance.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is a great place to start if you want to see some of the best art in San Diego. The museum has always been one of my favorites because it has so many different exhibitions and activities at any given time. In addition to their permanent collection, there are always new exhibits coming through the door that can be both fun and thought-provoking.

If you’re not into contemporary art, then don’t worry! MOCA also hosts traveling exhibitions from other museums around the world—so there’s something for everyone who visits this museum!

The location itself is situated right on Pacific Coast Highway with amazing views of La Jolla Shores below it, so go ahead and bring your camera along with you when visiting this gallery space; there are plenty of opportunities for beautiful shots here!

29. Aquarium of the Pacific, San Diego

Aquarium of The Pacific San Diego.

The Aquarium of the Pacific, San Diego is home to more than 20,000 animals, 300 species, and 40 exhibits. The aquarium is also home to over 500,000 gallons of water. The aquarium’s main exhibit is Sea Base which houses a variety of aquatic life including California sea lions that you can feed by hand!

From there you can explore their exhibits including the Coral Reef Tunnel where you will marvel at some of these great things, including bright beautiful coral and the Yellowstone Plateau which showcases bears galore. In addition, the Shark Lagoon has a shark tunnel where you can get up close with sharks like a sandbar or white tip reef.

Tropical Diver Zone where penguins are your constant companion as well as other exotic creatures such as parrots and flamingos and finally Kelp Forest Exploration where visitors get a chance to see gigantic kelp forests from above or below the surface!

There’s so much more than just these five areas as well–you’ll have to visit this amazing place for yourself.

See Related: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

30. San Diego Air & Space Museum

Air and Space Museum San Diego.
Image by Prayitno used under CC BY 2.0.

San Diego is well known for its beautiful weather and beaches, but the city also has a lot to offer in terms of culture and history. The San Diego Air & Space Museum is one of the many great places to visit while in San Diego. The museum is located in Balboa Park and is the largest independent aviation museum in Southern California.

It has over 400 aircraft and spacecraft on display, as well as a collection of missiles and other military vehicles. Among its many exhibits are an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet and the Space Shuttle Endeavour (the first orbiter to be acquired by a museum).

In addition to these famous artifacts, the museum also contains exhibits such as “Flight Path: Stories of Aviation” which tells stories from different perspectives, and “The Wright Stuff”, which focuses on the Wright brother’s history. The San Diego Air & Space Museum is a great place to learn about aviation history and see some amazing artifacts up close.

31. Visit Point Loma

Point Loma San Diego.
Image by Dirk DBQ used under CC BY 2.0.

Located at the end of Point Loma, this peninsula juts out into the Pacific Ocean and offers some spectacular views. In addition to the beautiful scenery, there’s also plenty to do in this area. At Cabrillo National Monument you can learn more about Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo and his exploration of California in 1542.

The Point Loma Lighthouse is another popular spot in Point Loma. This lighthouse was built in 1855 and is the oldest lighthouse still in use on the west coast of the United States.

It’s a beautiful lighthouse and offers some amazing views of the ocean and the cityscape of San Diego. Point Loma Lighthouse is open to visitors for tours and is a great place to learn more about San Diego’s history and maritime culture.

If hiking is more your thing then there are plenty of trails here too! Some popular ones include Mt. Soledad Trailhead and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park which both offer great views as well as great exercise options!

32. Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Birch Aquarium At Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a must-see attraction in San Diego. Located in La Jolla, Birch Aquarium features an impressive array of marine life, from rays and sharks to colorful fish and sea turtles.

The aquarium also has an underwater tunnel where you can view these creatures up close—even touch them! If you’re looking for something even more interactive than the touch tank, visit “Tidepool Tuesday” when visitors can explore tide pools filled with sea stars and other small marine life.

Birch Aquarium is a great place to learn about the ocean and all the amazing creatures that call it home.

See Related: Best Things to do in Guerneville, California

33. San Diego Natural History Museum

San Diego Natural History Museum.
 Image by Glen Bowman used under CC BY 2.0.

The San Diego Natural History Museum is located in Balboa Park and is open every day. Admission is free, which makes it a great activity for travelers on a budget.

The museum has a lot to offer, including the Dino Dig (a fossil dig that children can participate in), an IMAX theater, a planetarium, live animal exhibits (including snakes and lizards from around the world), an aquarium with sharks and other sea creatures (you can even touch some of them), live insects on display, whale skeletons, and dinosaur bones (including T-Rex fossils that are over 65 million years old).

This museum gets five stars from me because it has so much to offer visitors of all ages (kids love it here). You could easily spend several hours exploring all of its exhibits but if you’re short on time there’s no need to worry: kids will love exploring the dinosaurs, while adults will be impressed by the sheer number of exhibits.

See Related: Things to do in East Bay, California

34. Go shopping in Old Town

Old Town San Diego.
Image by Prayitno used under CC BY 2.0.

If you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, Old Town San Diego is the perfect place to go shopping. This neighborhood is home to a variety of shops selling everything from souvenirs to handcrafted goods.

You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as historic landmarks like Whaley House and San Diego Mission. Plus, it’s just a short drive away from Balboa Park and its many attractions.

35. Museum of Photographic Arts

Museum of photography Art San Diego.

The Museum of Photographic Arts is a must-see for anyone visiting San Diego. The Museum is located in historic Balboa Park and is one of four venues within the complex (The Museum of Photographic Arts; The Idea Factory; The Photo Center Gallery; and The Art Store & Gallery).

The museum’s galleries feature over 7,000 works ranging from photography books published more than 150 years ago to contemporary digital works.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the facility box office upon arrival (cash only). The museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is free for everyone on the first Tuesday of each month.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in California

36. Whaley House Museum

Whaley House Museum Front View.

Whaley House Museum is a historic house museum in Old Town San Diego. It is the oldest surviving adobe structure in San Diego, California. The adobe home was built by Thomas Whaley and his family between 1853 and 1856.

The Whaley family owned the property until 1888 when it was sold to a local businessman who used it as a private residence until 1924. It was then purchased by the city of San Diego where it became the “Historic Site” for which we know it today.

In addition to being an amazing piece of history, this place has some great spook factor going on! You’ll get chills walking through its darkened halls as you imagine what happened here over 100 years ago at this haunted house!

See Related: Free California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

37. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala.
Image by Prayitno used under CC BY 2.0.

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala is the oldest building in San Diego and was the first church built in California. It’s also the only surviving building from the first European settlement in San Diego, which means it has a lot of history to it. The mission was established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769, and over time it grew into a community for Native Americans who converted to Christianity.

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala is considered an active parish church with daily mass services available for visitors and locals alike. The current structure dates back to 1803 when Father Antonio Ubach built a new adobe church on top of what had been there before (we don’t have any records of what that looked like).

Over time, numerous additions have been made such as the addition of stained glass windows around 1900. However, most of the architecture still maintains its original design: Classic Mission style!

See Related: Best Museums in San Diego, California

38. Wine and dine in Little Italy

Little Italy San Diego.

When it comes to Italian food, there’s no better place in San Diego than Little Italy. Here you’ll find everything from traditional pasta dishes to trendy new-school spots.

Little Italy also offers some of the best places to drink in town, including The Lodge Bar at Hotel Erwin (where you can enjoy a glass of wine while watching people pass by on India Street) or The Rooftop at La Valencia (which offers spectacular views). If you’re looking for something more casual, check out Caffe Italia or Buon Appetito for your choice of craft beers or wines by the bottle.

For shopping—or rather window/door shopping—make sure you head down India Street where you’ll find an assortment of small boutiques selling everything from clothing to kitchenware and even furniture. You can book a hotel in Little Italy today.

39. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Image by Ewen And Donabel used under CC BY 2.0.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a must-see for anyone visiting San Diego. The park is located in the Borrego Valley and is the largest state park in California.

The park features a variety of landscapes, from mountains and canyons to deserts and badlands. There are also several hiking trails, ranger-led programs, and opportunities to view wildlife. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the beauty of nature. Ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about the park’s history, plants, and animals. And, with more than 500 miles of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of outdoor activity when you visit San Diego.

See Related: Things to do in Palm Desert, California

40. Pacific Beach Boardwalk

The Pacific Beach Boardwalk Side view.

The Pacific Beach Boardwalk is a 3-mile-long path that runs along the oceanfront from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach. The boardwalk is popular with locals and visitors alike, as it offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

There are also several restaurants and cafes along the boardwalk, as well as a playground, basketball courts, and a skate park. The Pacific Beach boardwalk is also a great place to people-watch, as you’re sure to see a variety of people out and about.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Venice Beach

Final Thoughts

San Diego is a great place to visit and there are many things to do. Make sure you check out these San Diego attractions, no matter if you’re traveling as a family or seeking a couples getaway.

San Diego’s top attractions on this list all have one thing in common: they’re a lot of fun! Whether you’re looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun or you want to explore the city and its history, San Diego has something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today.

If you love San Diego and want to learn more, read some of our posts about the San Diego region. If you’re looking for more information on things to do around the world, be sure to subscribe to our free travel newsletter. We’ll send you updates on the latest attractions and travel guides for our favorite destinations, so you can make the most of your trip.

FAQs

What is there to do in San Diego for free?

Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, Sunset Cliffs Park, Cabrillo National Monument, and Seaport Village are just a few of the top free attractions in San Diego.

What are the best things to do in San Diego with kids?

There are many great things to do in San Diego with kids! A few of the top attractions include the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California, and Balboa Park.

What are some good places to go on a date in San Diego, CA?

There are many great places to go on a date in San Diego! A few of the top spots include the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, and Coronado Island.

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