Spectacular weather, vibrant neighborhoods, world-class attractions and gorgeous beaches—the wonders of San Diego set the stage for unforgettable adventures. From relaxing on postcard-worthy shores and dining at ocean-to-table restaurants to uncovering ancient settlements and reeling in monster tuna, California’s second-largest city is guaranteed to excite and astound. San Diego is also one of America’s most family-friendly cities, so round up the kids and create memories that will last a lifetime at one-of-a-kind theme parks.
Get Out and Play
Sparkling beaches and plenty of green space make San Diego a top outdoor recreation destination. Hike through numerous trails in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to see the rare namesake trees (only two naturally occurring groves exist on the planet) and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re here during spring, lose yourself in a sea of bright wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, directly to the east.
Adventures on the water await at Mission Beach Aquatic Park. Rent a boat on the bay or take surfing lessons in the nearby ocean. Scuba diving and swimming also are all possibilities here. You can even take a fishing charter from Mission Beach to the south to chase mahi-mahi, marlin and many types of tuna offshore. Freshwater anglers can also cast their lines in over 20 lakes and reservoirs and reel in trout, catfish, sturgeon and more.
Made for Families
San Diego makes the perfect family vacation thanks to its laid-back attitude, welcoming locals and a wealth of thrilling attractions. Bring the kids to see giant pandas, elephants, tigers and over 3,000 other animals at the famed San Diego Zoo. For a more intimate experience, venture into the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to come face-to-face with rhinos, giraffes and gazelles. Check out sea life in compelling habitats at SeaWorld San Diego overlooking Mission Bay. Catch a dolphin show or meet sea life at the Aqua Touch Pool.
San Diego After Dark
Adults will find plenty of fun in the lively Gaslamp Quarter. Sixteen blocks of modern buildings and historic Victorian homes house everything from restaurants and galleries to bars and nightclubs. Beer connoisseurs will also get to sip on West Coast-style IPA at over 150 breweries around the city.
See Whales and Fireworks
Year-round festivals and exciting events mean anytime is a good time to visit San Diego. From December to May, take a whale watching cruise to see more than 20,000 gray whales migrate to the Baja California lagoons. In town during Independence Day? Feel like a kid again at the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Watch the largest fireworks show in San Diego County at Big Bay Boom, or take part in the 4th of July Run and Ride.
In mid-July, don your mask and cape, and go to Comic Con International, the biggest pop culture event in the country. If food is your passion, don’t miss Taco Fest in May, Taste of Little Italy in June, or the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival in November.
Embark on a voyage of discovery
Did you know San Diego is the birthplace of California? Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo reached the shores of San Diego in 1542 and was the first European voyager to make it to the West Coast of the United States. Learn about his legendary landing at Cabrillo National Monument. After exploring historical exhibits in the visitor center, enjoy a stroll through Bayside Trail, check out the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, or cycle along Cabrillo Memorial Drive.
Old Town Treasures
Delve deeper into California’s past at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Home to adobe houses and other historic buildings, this park offers an authentic glimpse into the past, while entertaining you with restaurants and museums.
A Taste of Mexico
Mexico is just a stone’s throw away and you’ll recognize its influence on the food, art and architecture of San Diego. Foodies will want to devour “Cali-Baja” dishes like fish tacos and lamb barbacoa. Art lovers should visit Barrio Logan, a neighborhood in south central San Diego renowned for its Mexican-inspired galleries and cafes. You’ll also find Chicano Park here, a National Historic Landmark that houses the biggest collection of Chicano murals on the planet.
Just a five-minute drive away is Balboa Park. Boasting stunning Spanish-styled buildings constructed in the early 1900s, this park will keep you busy with lush gardens, 10 performance spaces and more than 17 museums. The 1,200-acre expanse also features the Japanese Friendship Gardens and the award-winning Old Globe Theater.
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier
A must-see sight on the San Diego Bay waterfront, the aircraft carrier USS Midway’s impressive half-a-century tenure in the United States Navy included combat roles in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm before it was decommissioned in 1992 and began its enterprising new role as a floating naval-aviation museum in 2004. Visitors enter the 1,001-foot-long Midway on the carrier deck, where the planes were housed before and after each sortie. History exhibits shed light on the ship’s voyages.
Hotel Del Coronado
A cultural attraction as well as a place to go on a grand shopping spree, the Hotel del Coronado still draws the international traveling set in the same way as it did when it first opened in 1888. Combining style and substance, the legendary hotel was the brainchild of a couple of entrepreneurial Midwesterners: Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story. The pair purchased land on the Coronado Island in 1885 with the vision of building a stately Victorian-style hotel on the beach. With its whimsical turrets, cone-shaped pavilion and grand lawns, it’s an elegant and enchanting slice of Victoriana as well as a beloved national icon.
Can’t decide between San Diego’s many seafood and Mexican specialty restaurants for dinner? Seek out Oscar’s Mexican Seafood. Oscar’s is a classic local hole-in-the-wall taco shop, and it would go unnoticed if not for the crowds outside waiting for spicy shrimp and surf and turf tacos. And never come to San Diego without your dog. North Ocean Beach, also known as Dog Beach, is the second largest leash-free beach in America, with 38 acres of sand. Hundreds of tail-wagging canines visit Dog Beach every week.
For More Information
San Diego Tourism Authority