More than 35 million people visit San Diego each year, and they all go for something different.
Some flock to the beaches and their high-rise condos and resorts; others are more interested in the quirky, funky places that house the city’s art, food, fashion and music.
Why are you interested in San Diego?
Are you going for the cruises or the cocktails?
Are you dying to see the baseball stadiums or the sunken submarines?
Maybe you want to experience it all. That’s okay, too.
We can help with planning your trip until your itinerary is just the way that you want it.
Are you ready to explore one of the finest vacation spots in the United States?
Here are 57 things to do in San Diego, California!
Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking through these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
1. La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed destinations in San Diego, and once you’re snorkeling underwater with a school of bright, colorful fish darting all around the bubbles, you’ll understand why.
The water is beautiful. The beaches are tropical.
Local marine life includes everything from starfish to sea lions, and the landscapes range from sandy cliffs to grassy hills and slopes.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of cool things to do at La Jolla Cove, too.
It’s a popular site for swimming, kayaking, scuba diving, hiking, biking and picnicking.
Since it’s part of a marine refuge area, there are restrictions against things like motorized boats, but you’ll find plenty of entertainment elsewhere.
Consider a trip to La Jolla Cove if you have a water-resistant camera and a love for photo ops.
You’ll definitely fill your reel in a place like this!
Address: 31100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037, United States
Looking for more thrills around La Jolla? Be sure to check out some of the things to do in La Jolla.
2. San Diego Zoo
You’ve been to zoos before, but you’ve never been to the San Diego Zoo.
Home to more than 3,500 animals, the San Diego Zoo is considered one of the best in the world.
Tigers stalk around canyons. Monkeys swing from trees. Birds and butterflies flutter in open-air houses.
You don’t have to feel guilty about your patronage, either.
The San Diego Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation, so your money is going to a good cause.
In fact, they actually pioneered the “cageless” habitat design that would later become standard in zoos.
Do you love animals? Do you want to enjoy tours, shows, rides, theaters and aerial trams?
The San Diego Zoo offers such a good time that it’s basically a vacation within a vacation, so you’ll definitely want to stop by while you’re in California.
Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
3. iFLY San Diego
Sky diving is one of the most fun things to do in San Diego, and you don’t even need a plane.
With indoor skydiving facilities like iFLY, you can experience all of the thrills with none of the risk!
The secret lies in their wind tunnel.
Built with revolutionary technology, it mimics the sounds, speeds and sensations of a death-defying dive, but you’ll actually just float in an enclosed tunnel.
There will even be flight instructors nearby to supervise.
Kids and adults are both welcome at iFLY.
There are some age restrictions for very young children, but even if they aren’t allowed in the wind tunnel, they can appreciate the demonstrations, snacks, simulations and more.
If you’re looking for cool things to experience on your vacation, stop by iFLY.
It isn’t the only indoor skydiving facility in California, but it’s one of the best, and it’s centrally located near San Diego for those who are vacationing there.
Address: 2385 Camino Del Rio N, San Diego, CA 92108, United States
4. MooTime Creamery
Locals have been going to MooTime Creamery for generations.
Despite its popularity, it retains a cozy, nostalgic atmosphere that will take you right back to the days of neighborhood ice cream shops.
It’s the kind of place where you and your own kids can form a new tradition.
Flavors rotate daily and include the classics as well as fun, creative inventions like “brownie batter” and “black raspberry chunk.”
You can order old-fashioned cones or new-school novelties like waffle tacos and cookie sandwiches.
Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the place is always packed, so you’ll want to get there early.
Another option is to grab your frozen dessert and enjoy it on a stroll through San Diego’s sunny streets!
California can get hot.
Use the MooTime Creamery to cool yourself down amidst fun flavors and vintage-style charm.
Address: 1025 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118, United States
5. Downtown San Diego
With everything from hole-in-the-wall diners to luxurious spas and resorts, downtown San Diego is one of the most fun, diverse places in the city.
Whether you’re traveling for work or leisure, you can find plenty of activities to show you a good time.
Bars and clubs are there for the hopping.
Symphonies and orchestras can offer amazing date nights.
If you’re into history, there are gaslamp historical quarters teeming with museums, monuments and landmarks.
If you’re more modern, there are trendy cafes and glitzy boutiques located in parks, plazas and shopping malls.
The list of things to do in downtown San Diego is so large that it could be its own list, so trust us when we say that it’s a bustling place filled with possibility.
If you’re thinking about what to do on your San Diego vacation, downtown is an absolute must.
6. Balboa Park
You can’t visit San Diego without a trip to Balboa Park.
Packed with trails, gardens, museums, zoos, theaters, concert stages and recreational facilities, it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the entire state of California.
Nature lovers can stroll through dozens of landscapes that include everything from lily ponds to zen gardens.
History buffs can take tours through museums, memorials, art houses, science centers and cultural institutes.
Do you like culture? Someone is always hosting an open-air concert or theater production.
Do you like games? There are ballparks, bowling alleys and remote-controlled racetracks.
There are even fun and unique places to visit like archery ranges!
There are so many cool places to see in Balboa Park that you might need to plan a second vacation just to experience it all.
It’s easily one of the best things to do in San Diego, California, so give yourself plenty of time to explore it!
Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
7. 10 Barrel Brewing Company
Vacations can be stressful. If you need to crack open a cold one to relieve some stress, visit the 10 Barrel Brewing Company.
Located inside a two-story warehouse, this microbrewery is the definition of “industrial chic.”
Gigantic windows cast sunshine over hardwood floors; ceilings have light bulbs hanging from exposed wood beams and criss-crossed metal tracks. Outside, a rooftop bar is always packed with people.
If crowds aren’t your thing, you don’t have to be near them.
You can go to the brewery for nothing more than its collection of craft beers.
They have so many to choose from that you could get drunk just by sampling different kinds!
The 10 Barrel Brewing Company is one of the best spots to grab a beer in San Diego.
In a city with hundreds of bars and brewpubs, it stands out from the crowd for both style and substance.
Address: 1501 E St, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
8. Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Situated on top of a cliff, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse used to be the most elevated lighthouse in the United States.
It was so tall, in fact, that the clouds often hid it from view, so lighthouse keepers would fire shotguns at approaching ships to keep them away.
Things are much less dramatic now, but the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is still great in terms of San Diego attractions.
You can take a tour, explore the grounds, visit the on-site museum and catch a show from historical re-enactors.
On the lighthouse’s birthday, the actual tower is open to the public, so you can climb the steps and gaze at San Diego from on high.
You won’t want to miss the Old Point Loma Lighthouse if you’re a fan of fun landmarks and monuments.
Just the fact that it’s still standing is a testament to its strength!
Give it a visit while you’re touring the California coast.
Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, United States
9. Belmont Park
It’s hard to miss Belmont Park.
With a gigantic wooden roller coaster that winds around the San Diego coastline, it’s the kind of destination that will stop you right in your tracks.
The roller coaster is just the beginning.
For high-octane fun, you’ll have your choice of slides, carousels, ziplines, tilt-a-whirls, vertical plunges and bumper cars.
For entertainment on the ground, there are things like laser tag and mini-golf.
There’s even an old-fashioned arcade for adults who enjoy the nostalgia!
If the sights don’t get you, the sounds and smells will.
Belmont Park is the kind of place where pretzels are always cooking and grand prizes are always jingling.
It’s a must do for folks who aren’t afraid of color, noise, food, fun and excitement.
To unleash your inner child in San Diego, take a trip to Belmont Park.
It’s one of the hottest tourist spots in the state, and it’ll leave you breathless from the sun and the rides!
Address: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, United States
10. The Casbah
Are you ready to rock the casbah?
This entertainment venue is one of the best in San Diego, especially if you’re a fan of live music.
It has live performances at least 5 – 6 times per week!
Some are indie bands that you won’t recognize.
Others are famous names like Alanis Morissette and Blink-182.
The Casbah even hosted Nirvana back in the day, so it isn’t some rinky-dink stage; it’s one of the major points of interest of San Diego.
A full bar keeps the alcohol flowing.
A lounge area offers a pool table and other amenities.
There’s even a semi-secret room that’s only opened during sold-out shows when the space is needed, so there are actually benefits to going when there’s a crowd!
If you’re wondering what to see in San Diego, California, stop by the Casbah for some beer, billiards and bands.
It isn’t a place to bring the kids, but it can provide adults with a lot of fun.
Address: 2501 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
11. Cedros Avenue Design District
If you like to explore off the beaten path, let your wandering feet take you to the Cedros Avenue Design District in San Diego.
It has more than 80 vendors packed into 2.5 blocks, and most of them are local, independent artisans who specialize in homemade goods and trendy services.
Book lovers will appreciate the collections of rare and secondhand volumes.
Fashionistas will enjoy the boutiques and street stalls that sell everything from jewelry to luxury footwear.
Health nuts will appreciate the juice bars, smoothie stands and tea shops.
The atmosphere ranges from thrifty to upscale.
The businesses can be fun and trendy or old, battered and authentically vintage.
The Cedros Avenue Design District is one of the most unique things to do around the San Diego region.
There’s simply nowhere else in the city like it.
If you’ll be in town, you’ll definitely want to drop by and pick up a souvenir or two.
Address: Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, CA 92075, United States
Located just a few miles from downtown San Diego, Embarcadero is one of the busiest waterfront destinations in California.
It has plenty of tourist attractions, including a floating maritime museum, but it also boasts a rich and colorful history as a port.
People have been flocking to Embarcadero for generations.
In the old days, they fished off its piers and docked along its harbors; today, they’re more likely to go dining, shopping, cruising or sightseeing.
The seafood is fresh. The attractions are awesome.
The bars and restaurants are always lively, and if you visit during the summer months, there’s a festival just about every week.
Consider a trip to Embarcadero if you’re looking for fun things to do in San Diego along the coast.
There’s a reason why it’s considered one of the top sites in California!
Address: Harbor Drive between Market and Grape streets Broadway Pier, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
13. Spanish Village Art Center
The Spanish Village Art Center offers a sensational collection of art.
For starters, it has a constant rotation of artists who work with felt, paint, metal, beads, photos, glass and clay.
There’s always something new to see even if you’ve visited before, so the locals of San Diego enjoy it just as much as the tourists.
Thanks to the diversity of its artists, there’s also a lot of variety in its subject matter.
The displays range from sharply critical contemporary paintings to soft and mellow vintage-style prints.
A global atmosphere is very much present.
Stop by the Spanish Village Art Center for a trip into the imaginations of diverse international artists.
Their work is the definition of creativity, and you’ll have a blast as you explore it.
You can travel the world without ever leaving San Diego, California!
Address: 1770 Village Pl, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
14. San Diego Air and Space Museum
Have you ever seen the planet from a bird’s eye view?
At the San Diego Air and Space Museum, it’s not just possible; it’s a standard feature.
This museum offers all kinds of pictures, videos, displays, exhibits and models that celebrate the intersection of science and technology.
The halls are filled with reproductions of aircraft and spacecraft.
The galleries immortalize the names and faces of pilots, astronauts, engineers and other important people in the field.
There are even interactive portals where you can watch a rover in action or snap a selfie in a space suit!
If you’ve ever watched The Martian and dreamed about having Matt Damon’s job, the San Diego Air and Space Museum is your chance to get up close and personal with the skies.
It’s easily one of the best places to visit in San Diego.
Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
15. Lake Hodges
With an activity roster that includes everything from kayaking to barbecuing, Lake Hodges is one of the most fun places in California.
It’s about a half-hour drive from San Diego, so you’ll need to be okay with taking a detour, but escaping the city lights will be worth it.
You’ve never seen a glittering blanket of stars like this one.
The lake itself is a reservoir that stretches for more than 1,200 acres.
That translates to miles and miles of shoreline that can be used for boating, fishing, picnicking and more.
A concession stand offers snacks, and a bait and tackle shop has rentals and licenses for various activities.
There’s nothing like deep lungfuls of fresh, clean air to make you feel connected to nature.
At Lake Hodges, you’ll be absolutely dizzy with it.
It’s the best lake in the San Diego region for getting away from it all!
Address: 20102 Lake Dr, Escondido, CA 92029, United States
16. Grand Tea Room
There’s nothing like a good cup of tea, and the Grand Tea Room is the place to get it.
Nestled in the historic district of downtown Escondido, it has a quaint, cozy atmosphere where the tables are covered in lacy doilies and the decorations range from ornate portraits to padded couches straight out of a vintage novel.
The menu is just as charming as the furnishings.
If you’re short on time, have just a cup or two of chai, red bush, darjeeling or classic black tea.
If you want one of those high afternoon tea experiences that you’ve always seen on Downton Abbey, reserve a two-hour slot that includes a full platter.
You’ll be served scones, fruit bowls, petite desserts and dozens of varieties of loose-leaf tea.
The Grand Tea Room isn’t one of the flashier tourist spots.
In fact, its tucked-away location is easy to miss.
Fortunately, it’s worth the effort of finding it, especially for tea addicts who are always on the prowl for their next fix.
Go and see what flavors that California teas can offer you!
Address: 145 W Grand Ave, Escondido, CA 92025, United States
17. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
With a name like “Sunset Cliffs,” you might expect this place to be amazing.
The good news is that you’d be right.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is one of the most gorgeous locations in San Diego, so it’ll make an unforgettable memory for you during your vacation.
The first step is actually getting there.
For the best views, you’ll need to hike to one of the clifftops to watch the sun sink behind the horizon.
You can also explore caves, caverns and coastlines with amazing rock formations and colorful displays of nature and sea life.
One of the best tourist spots is an underground cave with an open ceiling where you can watch the clouds and stars drift by.
Another popular location is a bluff where you can go cliff diving into the water.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in San Diego at night, swing by Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
It more than lives up to its name with its breathtaking summits.
Address: Ladera St, San Diego, CA 92107, United States
18. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Are you wondering what to do in San Diego on a rainy day?
It’s a rare phenomenon for such a sunny place, but it does happen, and it doesn’t have to be a vacation ruiner.
Just visit somewhere like the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD).
MCASD houses many different types of art, including paintings, sculptures, scrolls and 3D art installations that jut out from the walls and dangle from invisible strings.
The only requirement is that they don’t date back further than 1950.
They have to be modern.
Visitors to the museum can take self-guided tours or attend special events like lectures and auctions.
Their calendar is always packed, so it’s just a matter of choosing something that interests you while you’re in San Diego.
Don’t let a rainy day put a damper on your vacation.
With places like the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, you can still enjoy a fun afternoon in the city.
Address: 1100 Kettner Boulevard (between Broadway and B Street), San Diego, CA 92101, United States
19. San Elijo Lagoon
Coastal wetlands are disappearing from California, but the San Elijo Lagoon is one of the few remaining holdouts.
It’s fiercely protected by local environmental groups because of both its beauty and its biodiversity.
Visitors to the San Elijo Lagoon are encouraged to start at the nature center.
It was built with recyclable, sustainable materials and runs on solar power, so it gets a gold seal when it comes to eco-friendliness.
It’s filled with samples from the lagoon and artifacts from the Native American tribes who used to live on it.
When you’re ready to go outside, there are ample trails for walking and hiking.
They range in difficulty depending on their length, terrain and elevation.
Some wind around the marshes and shrubs for miles; others are just short treks to see the birds.
The San Elijo Lagoon is proof that San Diego attractions don’t have to be razzle-dazzle to be awesome.
A quiet afternoon on the trails will be just as fun as some of the other things in the city!
Address: 2710 Manchester Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007, United States
20. Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is such a famous place in San Diego that its residents have their own name: “OBceans” or “OBecians.”
They’re proud to live there, and fortunately, they’re happy to welcome tourists as well.
The main draw of Ocean Beach is its potential for a shopping extravaganza.
Hundreds of vendors call it home, and most of them are small, independent retailers selling books, flowers, furniture, jewelry, baked goods, antique collectibles and all of the kitschy souvenirs that you could ever need.
Some big-name businesses have tried to set up shop in Ocean Beach, but they’ve always been stopped by the community.
People organize protests every time.
This is one of the only places to visit in San Diego that hasn’t been commercialized!
Are you visiting the coastal cities of California?
Do you want cool things to see in a neighborhood like none other?
Grab a reusable shopping bag and make a trip to Ocean Beach.
Address: Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107, United States
21. Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
If you’re pouring over a map of San Diego and wondering where to go, consider Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave.
Formerly a smuggler’s tunnel, it’s become one of the best known attractions in the city for folks who like cool historical locations.
Your journey starts in a small, wood-shingled beach shop.
There are hundreds like it in California, but this one has a secret exit that will lead you down sandstone cliffs and into a sea cave.
The trip will be dark, wet, humid and slippery.
There are stairs and rails, but they’re built directly into the caverns, and the tides wash over them quite often.
The danger is part of the appeal, however.
It truly looks and feels like the bootlegger’s passage that it used to be.
If you want to make some fun, lasting memories while you’re in San Diego, grab your flashlight and venture into Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave.
Address: 1325 Cave St, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037, United States
22. Bahia Belle
Travel to Mississippi without even leaving California when you take a cruise on the Bahia Belle.
It’s a gigantic, turn-of-the-century sternwheeler boat, and it meanders through San Diego’s bays and harbors like something out of Gone With the Wind.
Hours of operation are 6 PM – 1:30 AM, so it’s a nighttime adventure.
Families can enjoy a wholesome “sunset cruise” with snacks and beautiful views of the water.
Singles can mingle with “after dark” parties that include cocktails, live music and other forms of entertainment.
Bahia Belle is operated by the Bahia Resort Hotel, and it’s free to all guests.
You can also purchase one-time tickets if you aren’t staying at the hotel.
A trip on the Bahia Belle is one of the top things to do in San Diego.
It’s such a fun and unique setting that everything will feel like new, so even if you’ve taken cruises before, buy a ticket for the sternwheeler tonight!
Address: 998 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, United States
Amusement parks are always a popular option for tourist attractions in San Diego, but there’s something special about Aquatica.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the perfect way to cool down during a hot day in San Diego.
With everything from thrill rides to lazy rivers and pools, you can swim, splash, slide and dive to your heart’s content.
Maybe it’s the fact that it offers lots of fun activities outside of the water, too.
You can catch a marine show, dine at a seafood restaurant or have a close encounter with a dolphin or penguin.
Either way, if you’re looking for family-friendly undertakings in San Diego, Aquatica is a must do.
You can buy day passes or season passes depending on the length of your vacation.
Stay for the afternoon; stay for the summer.
Aquatica will always welcome you!
Address: 2052 Entertainment Cir, Chula Vista, CA 91911, United States
24. Cardiff State Beach
California is known for its beaches, but with miles and miles of coastline to choose from, how are you supposed to pick the right vacation destinations?
One option is Cardiff State Beach in San Diego.
Protected by the government, it offers clean, sandy slopes and warm waves that are suitable for swimming and surfing.
You can even take the dog for a walk as long as he stays on a leash.
There are plenty of scheduled activities to choose from as well.
Do you like working up a sweat? Join a yoga class or volleyball game on the beach.
Do you live for camping? There are campgrounds nearby where you can set up your RV.
By offering endless amounts of fun, Cardiff State Beach has cemented itself as one of the best beaches in San Diego.
If you only have time to hit a couple while you’re in town, make sure that Cardiff is on your list.
Address: Highway 101, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007, United States
25. Legends Gallery
Did you know that Dr. Seuss lived in San Diego?
While not a real doctor, his “prescription for fun” endeared him to the masses to such an extent that he has the place of honor in San Diego’s Legends Gallery.
Filled with all of the delightful whimsy that you’d expect, the Legends Gallery is a place where renowned authors and illustrators have their work showcased to the world.
There are early, unreleased sketches from famous books; there are 3D models of beloved characters brought to life.
Dr. Seuss isn’t the only legend on display, either.
You can learn about Tom Everhart, Mackenzie Thorpe and many others.
Some hail from San Diego; others are international creators.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Legends Gallery is one of the best attractions in San Diego.
It fills a fun little niche that you didn’t even know existed, but once you visit, you’ll be glad that you did.
Address: 1205 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States
26. Compass Balloons
Located a few miles outside of San Diego, Compass Balloons is a hot air balloon company that offers scenic rides over southern California.
You’ll marvel at everything from city towers to remote valleys and vineyards in wine country.
Depending on your budget, you’ll also have options for public, private or group tours, so it’s the kind of experience that you can customize.
Are you hoping for a romantic date night?
Book a his-and-her ride during the sunset.
Are you traveling with co-workers and looking for team-building exercises?
Toast to a successful product launch while you’re hundreds of miles in the air.
Compass Balloons will let you experience all of the amazing sights of southern California from an unforgettable vantage point.
Anyone can take a walking or biking tour, but how many people can say that they’ve taken an aerial tour?
As long as you don’t mind a short drive outside of San Diego, Compass Balloons is one of the best places near the city to have an adventure.
Address: 1969 Villa Cardiff Dr, Cardiff, CA 92007, United States
27. San Diego Model Railroad Museum
You never really outgrow a childhood obsession with trains, and at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, you can embrace that fact.
It’s a place that you won’t find in a lot of travel guides, but as the largest museum of its kind in the entire world, it’s a valuable sightseeing location in California.
Model trains cover every inch of the space.
Some are miniature replicas of historic, real-life locomotives; others are imaginative toys built for kids that have colorful pieces and moving parts.
If you like learning about trains, there’s a reference library in the back of the museum, and it includes books, videos, manuals, blueprints and antiquated footage that was saved from the ravages of time.
Visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum if you’re looking for cool places to go that aren’t listed in every single brochure about San Diego.
Sometimes, the little-known spots can offer the best experiences.
Address: 1649 El Prado Modern and Contemporary Art and Dynamic, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
28. Children’s Pool Beach
Are you looking for fun things to do in San Diego with kids?
You might like Children’s Pool Beach.
Originally commissioned as a place where children could swim without the danger of high waves, it quickly became a nesting spot for local seals.
They flocked to the area by the hundreds, and it actually became unsafe for kids to be in the water because of their bacteria.
If you visit Children’s Pool Beach this weekend, you’ll find that swimming is technically allowed but highly discouraged.
Kids still love it, however, because of the seals.
They dive, splash, call to each other, sunbathe on the rocks and generally have the time of their lives in their adopted habitat, so it’s a sightseeing opportunity like none other.
If you love animals, Children’s Pool Beach is one of the best places to visit in San Diego.
It offers a zoo-like experience of getting close to wildlife, but it’s all natural.
Your kids will be talking about this memory for years to come.
Address: 850 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037, United States
29. Petco Park
Home to the San Diego Padres, Petco Park is a baseball stadium where you can take the whole family out to a ball game.
It’s filled with state-of-the-art features that include everything from gigantic videoboards to smaller HDTVs scattered around the bars and concession stands so that you’ll never miss a moment of the action.
Baseball isn’t the only thing to enjoy at the stadium, either.
It’s also been a place for rugby, basketball, golf and tennis as well as concerts and motor sports.
It even held American Idol auditions back in the day!
Long story short, there’s lots of stuff to do at Petco Park.
It’s just a matter of looking at their schedule and seeing what options are available to you while you’re in San Diego.
Are you ready to chomp some peanuts, watch some hoops or bang your head to some metal music?
Petco Park has it all!
Address: 100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
30. San Diego Museum of Art
You can’t miss the San Diego Museum of Art.
Its front doors are located in a gigantic, cathedral-style facade that took a full two years to build, and they can be seen from every direction if you’re in the neighborhood.
They’re that big.
Inside, the collections are just as impressive as the exterior.
The museum is home to hundreds of paintings, sculptures, documents, artifacts and general historical pieces, and they date all the way back to 5000 BC.
You can explore the entire rise and fall of an ancient civilization just by passing through a particular hallway.
Tours are available, but they’ll need to be scheduled in advance.
If you’re hoping to go this week, call as early as possible.
They can get booked up quickly.
The San Diego Museum of Art is one of the major points of interest in the city.
Don’t resist the temptation to peek inside.
Once you see those humongous doors, let them guide you to a wonderful tribute to art and culture.
Address: 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92102, United States
31. Little Italy
You can smell the pastas and sauces.
You can hear the drifting notes of violins in the air.
This is Little Italy, and it’s located right in the heart of San Diego.
You don’t have to travel to Europe for an authentic Italian experience.
Thousands of miles away, this bustling block offers everything from food to fashion for lovers of Italian culture, making it one of the coolest places to visit in California.
Dine at the restaurants. Sip cocktails in the open bars and umbrella-covered patios.
Watch street performers do their thing, and empty your wallet at upscale clothing boutiques and souvenir stalls.
San Diego is no stranger to exotic cultures.
For example, it also boasts a Chinatown and an Asian Pacific Historic District.
There’s just something special about Little Italy, so if you’re looking for unique things to do while you’re in the city, stop by for a deep-dish pizza with all of the fixings!
Address: 1668 Columbia St From Laurel south to West A Street, San Diego, CA 92101-2502, United States
32. Villa Montezuma
Also known as the “Spook House,” the Villa Montezuma of San Diego is a haunted mansion that has been baffling and frightening residents since its foundation in 1887.
It was built by a famous pianist who died quite suddenly after playing a single, final note of a piano performance.
His friends at the dinner party had no idea what was wrong since his fingers were still poised over the keys.
After his cremation, the mansion was passed from owner to owner, and they all reported strange incidents and occurrences.
There was a corner where nothing would grow.
There was a hidden passageway that defied all architectural logic.
Today, the Villa Montezuma is one of the biggest places of interest for supernatural spooks.
People come from all around the U.S. just to see San Diego’s haunted mansion.
If you dare, it can be a fun stop on your travel itinerary as well.
Address: 1925 K St, San Diego, CA 92102, United States
33. Mission Trails Regional Park
The whole preserve spans more than 7,000 acres, and depending on where you enter, you can see everything from bare, rocky cliffs to green fields bursting with life.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the wide range of activities offered at the park.
You can walk on the trails or bike along the river; you can camp in the mountains or go picnicking in the plains.
There are even areas for horseback riding if you want to try some fun vacation activities that you can’t get at home.
The Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in San Diego, and since it’s open 365 days per day, you don’t even have to plan your trip around it.
It’ll always be there.
Just grab your hiking boots and go!
Address: 1 Father Junipero Serra Trl, San Diego, CA 92119, United States
34. UTC Ice Sports Center
San Diego might be known for its sunshine, but there are plenty of places to go if you’re in the mood for something chillier.
One of these sites is the UTC Ice Sports Center.
Located in a shopping center, the UTC Ice Sports Center offers an indoor ice-skating rink for visitors of all ages.
Free skating is their popular pastime, but they also have shows, classes, hockey games, ice polo lessons and more.
Your skill level doesn’t matter.
You can be a complete beginner and still have fun.
They actually offer free classes if it’s your first time on the ice!
The UTC Ice Sports Center is a little piece of winter even during the blazing days of a California summer.
It’s one of the best things to do in San Diego when you’re tired of the heat, and thanks to its full rotation of shows, classes and lessons, you’ll never want for things to do.
Another bonus is that it’s located within a shopping center, so when you tire of skating, just put your regular shoes back on and hit the theater or the food court!
Address: 4545 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122, United States
35. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Despite its popularity as a tourist attraction, it offers a glimpse into the rugged, untamed beauty of California’s wilderness.
Part of its wild nature comes from the fact that it’s protected land.
Home to the endangered Torrey pine tree, it’s monitored closely by ecologists to ensure that this precious species is preserved for future generations.
You can still find plenty of action at the reserve, however.
There are dozens of trails, cliffs, gardens and beaches for the outdoor explorer.
There’s even a nude beach for adults!
Take a trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve if you’re wondering where to visit in San Diego.
It has a different kind of magic than the urban sprawl of the city, but it’s still a wonder to behold.
Address: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States
36. Coronado Bridge
Built in 1967, the Coronado Bridge is an architectural marvel.
It’s instantly recognizable as part of the San Diego skyline, and it winds and twists around the bay for a distance of more than 11,000 feet.
It even lights up at night!
You might not think of a bridge as a must see travel location, but you will after you’ve driven over the Coronado.
It offers panoramic views of blue water in every direction, and if you roll your windows down, you can enjoy a fresh ocean breeze that fills your lungs and whips the hair around your face.
It’s basically a scenic drive on a busy highway, so you can experience the best of both worlds.
The one drawback of the Coronado Bridge is that there’s no path for pedestrians, so you’ll need a car.
Another option is to find a tour or travel guide that will take you in a bus or van.
If you can find a way to cross the bridge, however, it’s worth the effort.
In fact, it’s pretty much a crime to visit San Diego without seeing the Coronado Bridge.
Put it on your to do list and get the full San Diego experience!
Address: State Route 75 South Embarcadero, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
37. Barona Resort and Casino
Are you feeling lucky?
Hit the slots at the Barona Resort and Casino.
It’s a little outside of San Diego, so you’ll need to be comfortable with leaving the city limits and hitting up another region of California, but it’ll be worth the gas money if you make it all back!
Table games include everything from poker to roulette.
The restaurants offer fine dining as well as classic, comfortable fare like burgers, wings, noodles, pizzas and steaks.
The resort will be ready for you when you get tired.
The casino will be waiting when you wake up again.
The Barona Resort and Casino is one of the best attractions near San Diego.
If you’re ready to court Lady Luck, call and book a room tonight!
Address: 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040, United States
38. Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar
Located in a single dimly-lit room with red walls and wooden furnishings, the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar is like a blast from the past.
It has the kind of rustic charm that defined old-school California architecture, so when you step through the doors, you half-expect to see miners or gold rushers kicking up their boots after a long day of work.
The menu, however, is thoroughly modern.
There are steaks and kebabs; there are crab legs, lobster tails and shrimp cocktails.
When you’re done with the main course, order some cheesecake or chocolate mousse pie for dessert!
Another fun thing about the restaurant is that it has a piano bar.
Several nights per week, you can enjoy live music from local musicians.
Some will even sell their music after the show if you want to take home a souvenir from San Diego.
The Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar is a must see while you’re in San Diego.
Not only does it have a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, but its steak is some of the best in the city.
You’ll definitely leave this place with a loosened belt!
Address: 2223 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104, United States
39. San Diego Bay
Bursting with shops, resorts, restaurants, malls and other hubs of events and activities, San Diego Bay is one of the most vibrant waterfront communities in California.
There are so many things to see and do that your neck will have a permanent crick as you try to look at everything all at once.
Are you hungry?
Grab a bite to eat at one of the many burger joints and shrimp shacks.
Are you restless?
Hit the water with a boat, kayak, yacht or cruise ship.
Are you looking for a cultural experience?
Check out one of the floating museums or art galleries.
Depending on when you visit the city, you might also catch some spectacular annual events.
There are fireworks on the Fourth of July and a parade of holiday lights during Christmas.
Check the bay’s website to see if there’s anything happening this weekend!
If you’re wondering what to visit in San Diego, make time for the San Diego Bay.
It’s a must see for tourists, but even the locals have fun here.
40. California Tower
With the mountains to the east and the ocean to the west, the views from California Tower have to be seen to be believed.
Not only will you enjoy a stunning panorama of sky, air, land and water that stretches in every direction, but you’ll get to do it from eight stories high.
Tours are available every day.
You reserve a ticket for a specific time, and a guide will take you up the tower while sharing facts and stories about everything that you pass on the ascent.
It takes about 40 minutes in total, and when you’re done, you’ll be at the eighth-floor observation deck.
You might also like the view from the ground.
The California Tower has an ornate and intricrate design that combines features of Baroque, Plateresque and Gothic architecture.
It’s the kind of landmark that you can admire from great distances as it looms over San Diego.
Do you like historic monuments?
Do you enjoy aerial views in 360° visibility?
Make the climb up the California Tower.
You won’t regret it.
Address: California Tower, 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
41. Liberty Public Market
When asking people for recommendations on what to do during a trip to San Diego, they’ll probably mention Liberty Public Market.
It runs all day and every day, and it offers a staggering amount of goods from dozens and dozens of vendors.
Whether you’re looking for rare books, artisan cheeses, homemade jewelry or cheesy t-shirts saying “I Heart California,” you can find them here.
The market is housed in an old Navy building, so there’s an industrial feeling to the space even as you move among bouquets of fresh flowers and bread that’s still warm from the oven.
You can drink and dine; you can shop ’til you drop.
Every corner holds a new opportunity, especially if you’re open to trying new foods or swapping stories with stall owners.
Expect a crowd.
Liberty Public Market is one of the major points of interest of San Diego, so there are always folks milling near and within it.
If you don’t mind a little hustle and bustle, however, Liberty Public Market is definitely one of the best stops in San Diego.
It’s the kind of iconic destination that you have to visit at least once!
Address: 2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106, United States
42. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Located a few miles outside of San Diego, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club offers the latest and greatest in horse racing.
Spectators fill the seats in their finest fashion; gamblers are allowed to bet on more than a dozen races per day.
Its southern-style charm has been transported from Kentucky to California.
There are even kid-friendly days if you’re looking for San Diego attractions that the whole family can enjoy.
Though it’s primarily a place for adults, the racetrack has also been used for concerts, carnivals, food truck festivals and more.
Are you feeling lucky?
California’s gambling laws can be complicated, but at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, everything is legal and regal.
It’s a high-class attraction for folks who are ready to hit a jackpot.
Address: 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014, United States
43. Nico’s Mexican Food
If you’ve never had fries stuffed inside of a burrito, you’re missing out on a southern California classic.
It might sound like a strange combination of ingredients, but it’s served in just about every food truck and food court in the area, including San Diego.
Nico’s Mexican Food is one of the best places to try this savory wonder.
Their tortillas come stuffed with meats, cheeses, fries and your choice of beans and salsas.
They’re tidily wrapped to start with, but once you bite into them, you’ll turn into a wild animal savaging at its kill.
They’re that good.
Other menu options include tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and sides like beans and fried rice.
Everything lives up to the “Mexican” part of the restaurant name.
Truly, though, the crowning jewel is the fry-filled burrito.
It’s known as the “California burrito.”
Once you’re converted to its goodness, you’ll never go back.
Address: 4918 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107, United States
44. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala
There are dozens of basilicas in the state of California, but the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala is the most iconic.
Founded in 1769, it has the white stucco walls and metal bells that mark classic Spanish architecture, and it also boasts many “firsts” for the region.
It was the first basilica built in San Diego.
It was the first to martyr and entomb a Christian priest.
It was one of the first to be registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Today, the basilica still functions as a church.
You can attend mass or say your prayers under the tiled archways as the bells ring.
Tours are also available; you can stroll the grounds, listen to the stories and get a closer look at the religious history of California.
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala.
It’s one of the biggest points of interest in San Diego for both the devout and the secular.
Address: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd, San Diego, CA 92108, United States
45. Mount Woodson Trail
The Mount Woodson Trail isn’t for beginners.
Let’s make that clear right away.
It’s a six-mile hike through dense and difficult landscapes, so if you’re headed to California to relax, a sweaty climb through the mountains probably won’t be your idea of a good time.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, however, and you live for the burn of your muscles as you ascend to new heights, the Mount Woodson Trail might be right up your alley.
Not only will you challenge yourself with your rise to the top, but you’ll also see amazing rock formations along the way.
The most popular is a jutting platform over thin air that you can actually stand on, but there are others as well, and they all make amazing photo ops.
Not everyone finds it fun to test themselves with new challenges.
If you aren’t afraid of a little sweat, however, the Mount Woodson Trail might be the best spot for you to get your heart pumping.
46. Fleet Science Center
The Fleet Science Center isn’t your usual science center.
Founded in 1973, it was the first museum to build a planetarium and IMAX dome on site, offering its guests a wide range of entertainment options even as it educated them on scientific subjects.
Other museums quickly went “hey, that’s a good idea” and copied the design, and now, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a museum dome.
The good news is that the Fleet Science Center is still just as fun as it was in the ’70s.
Offering all kinds of interactive exhibits and learning stations, it’s a place where visitors can get hands-on with science.
Kids and adults will both love it!
If you’ll be near the Fleet Science Center while you’re in San Diego, it’s worth a pit stop.
Its displays, games, events and classes are sure to keep you busy, especially if you’re already a fan of STEM learning.
Address: 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
47. SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego is one of the top places to see in the city.
Part aquarium and part amusement park, it combines games and activities with fun learning experiences for the whole family.
Visitors of all ages will have a blast at SeaWorld!
You’re probably familiar with its popular events like orca and dolphin shows.
But did you know that it also has movies, rides, slides, gondolas and play centers?
There are even roller coasters that will send you careening all through the park!
Kids will love the interactive exhibits and animal habitats.
Adults will enjoy the more sophisticated offerings like the aquatic-based Cirque du Soleil performances.
It’s held at night, so it’ll be perfect for romantic dates with a special someone.
SeaWorld San Diego is a top 10 stop in the city.
It might be a bit cliche in terms of tourist attractions, but there’s a reason why thousands of visitors flock here every year.
Address: 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, United States
48. Waterhorse Charters
There are few things as fun as diving to the sunken ruins of a wrecked ship.
However, it can be a difficult hobby for beginners to get into, so it’s a bucket list item that usually goes unfulfilled.
Waterhorse Charters can change that.
Offering supervised dives for visitors of all skill levels, they’ll take you on ghostly underwater journeys to ships, canyons, coral reefs and kelp forests.
They’ll provide transportation to and from, and they’ll offer refreshments while you wait.
You’ll basically enjoy a mini-vacation on board while they take you to cool dive spots.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a complete novice.
They’ll guide you.
They make diving a fun and accessible activity for anyone with the guts to try it.
Are you ready to swim with the fishes through the remains of the HMCS Yukon or P38 Aircraft?
It’ll be lots of fun, especially if you’re clamoring for unusual things to do while you’re in San Diego.
Contact Waterhorse Charters today and ask about their dives!
Address: 1617 Quivira Rd suite b, San Diego, CA 92109, United States
49. Oxford Social Club
California might be known for its sun and sand, but there are plenty of establishments where you can enjoy a classier atmosphere, and the Oxford Social Club is one of them.
Like its name suggests, the Oxford Social Club isn’t the “sloppy drinks and neon lights” kind of club.
It’s an upscale place where you can socialize with others while enjoying a drink or a dance.
If you want to cut a rug, there’s an entire floor for tangos and lambadas; if you’d prefer to unwind in the lounge area, that’s an option as well.
Bottle service is available for well-to-do patrons.
Plush couches and hanging chandeliers will complement trays and trays of cocktails.
If you’re wondering what to do while vacationing in San Diego when you have a more refined palate than most, consider a trip to the Oxford Social Club.
You’ll feel like royalty as you enjoy a sophisticated club experience in one of California’s trendiest cities.
Address: 435 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
50. The Cat Cafe
You might be familiar with the cat cafes of Asia, but they’re much rarer in the United States.
San Diego is one of the few cities to have one.
If you’ve never been to a cat cafe, they’re exactly what they sound like: places where you can chill out, enjoy a cup of coffee and cuddle with a friendly feline.
In San Diego, the Cat Cafe even works with a local animal rescue in hopes that its “employees” will be adopted.
Drink some tea. Eat a scone.
Swish a feather on the table until a calico pounces on it like a ferocious lion.
This is an average day at the cat cafe, so if you love kitties, make sure to stop by one of the most fun and creative establishments in California!
Address: 472 Third Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
Looking for more adventures around California? Why not check out some of the best things to do in Temecula?
51. Spreckels Organ Pavilion
If you’ve never heard a gigantic pipe organ played in an open-air pavilion, have you really lived?
Fortunately for your bucket list, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion offers weekly performances of its outdoor organ.
You can bring a picnic blanket or enjoy the shade of its umbrella-covered tables as you listen to a variety of tunes played on 5,000 different pipes.
You see, the organ isn’t limited to just “organ” sounds.
It can mimic everything from pianos to classical horns, so you’ll get to hear a lively performance from what sounds like a full-time band but is actually a single, city-employed organist.
San Diego is one of the only cities in the world to have a designated organist.
You’ll regret it if you pass up the opportunity to hear them play, so visit the Spreckels Organ Pavilion this weekend for a rare treat!
Address: 2125 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101, United States
52. Bernardo Winery
The Bernardo Winery is one of the oldest in southern California.
It’s family-owned and operated, and it specializes in old-world hospitality as well as dazzling vintages that you can’t get anywhere else in San Diego.
Tastings are available by the glass and by the bottle.
Tours can teach you all about the process of winemaking, and you’ll get to explore both the winery and the outside grounds.
They’re dotted with gardens, vineyards and village shops, so there are lots of cool things to admire.
If you come out of the experience with a new favorite brand, they sell plenty of products on location, and they also have an online store that you can peruse when you get home.
Put the Bernardo Winery on your list of San Diego attractions that you won’t want to miss.
Even if you aren’t a big wine drinker, it’ll offer a relaxing afternoon among the grapes.
Address: 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, San Diego, CA 92128, United States
53. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
You’ve been to the zoo. You’ve been to the aquarium.
What if you still haven’t had your fix of nature’s coolest creatures?
Take a trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Covering almost 2,000 acres, it’s one of the largest wildlife preserves in all of California, and it’s teeming with lions, rhinos, antelopes, giraffes and everything else that you’d expect to see on a real safari.
The Lion Camp is probably the biggest draw of the park, but there’s also a Tiger Trail and a Gorilla Forest.
Additional enclosures house everything from birds to lizards.
If you love animals, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the best place to visit for wildlife observation in San Diego.
It might even be better than the zoo and the aquarium since it’s so much larger!
You’ll have tons of fun here, and if you pay attention to the informational exhibits, you might just learn something as well.
Address: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027, United States
54. Old Town
Take a step back in time with Old Town.
Like its name implies, it’s a historic part of San Diego where everything from the architecture to the commerce has a vintage-style charm.
It’s the oldest settlement in the city, too, and it might just be one of the oldest in the entire state of California.
The houses and hotels have adobe walls.
The old-fashioned courthouse sits next to telegraph offices and newspaper shops.
There are historical demonstrations every day from blacksmiths, farmers, jewelers and general re-enactors.
Travel in May and you’ll get to participate in the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Travel in December and you can have wonderful experiences during Fiesta Navidad.
If you’re a history buff, Old Town is one of the top travel destinations in San Diego.
It’s a must do in terms of art, history and cultural significance, so you should definitely put it on your wish list.
No matter when you want to go, you’ll find something nifty to enjoy.
Address: 34002 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110, United States
55. Del Mar City Beach
Beaches are a dime a dozen in San Diego, so they need something special to stand out.
At Del Mar City Beach, it’s the grunions.
If you’ve never heard of a grunion, it’s basically a small, silvery fish that looks like a sardine.
Every year, they congregate in the thousands to swim and spawn on California shores, and people come to watch during much-celebrated “Grunion Runs.”
Del Mar City Beach isn’t the only place to enjoy a Grunion Run, but it’s one of the best.
It gets so many fish that the water seems to turn silver, and when you’ve filled up your camera roll with all of the pictures that you can possibly take, there are other local amenities to keep you occupied.
If you’re looking for fun and unique experiences in San Diego, try a Grunion Run at Del Mar City Beach.
It’s the kind of thing that you can brag about for years to come whenever people ask about the coolest stuff that you’ve seen or done.
Address: 1700 Coast Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014, United States
56. Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Stretching for almost 400 feet across open air, the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is the best way to give yourself a gut check in San Diego.
Do you have what it takes to walk the entire length?
Can you handle the swaying motions and the howl of the wind as you travel so far above the ground?
It isn’t a famous attraction.
In fact, it’s considered something of a hidden gem of San Diego since it’s hidden among cliffs and canyons.
There are local residents who don’t know about it!
If you’re looking for fun times in California, however, the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge will give you a vacation story that’s worth sharing.
If you dare, you can even stop halfway across and take a selfie or two.
Address: W Spruce St, San Diego, CA 92103, United States
57. Hotel del Coronado
You might not think of a hotel when making a list of San Diego’s finest attractions, but the Hotel del Coronado is an exception.
Not only does it offer lush, comfortable rooms, but its activity roster is brimming with possibilities.
Get pampered at the spa. Ride a gnarly wave during a surf lesson. Roast smores at a private beach bonfire.
You can enjoy all of these activities and more at the Hotel del Coronado.
Additionally, there are seasonal events that you won’t want to miss if you’re traveling to San Diego at particular times; from fireworks to holiday shows, there’s always something fun going on.
Ask them about their wintertime “Skating by the Sea” event where they set up an ice skating rink right there on the beach!
The best things to do on vacation aren’t always amusement parks and other screaming delights.
Sometimes, they’re relaxing mornings spent on a fold-out lounge chair as you sip cocktails and enjoy the sunshine.
Book a suite at the Hotel del Coronado for luxury California living.
Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To San Diego
Whether you’re interested in sun, surf or turf, these are just a few of the best things to do in San Diego, California.
They’ll definitely cross some activities off your bucket list, so get to packing!
Southern California is waiting for you!