What to Do in San Diego
Collected by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti , AFAR Local Expert
For a splendid stay in America’s Finest City, visit the beaches, well-known sights like the San Diego Zoo, and creative hubs filled with art galleries, restaurants, and breweries.
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
Oneof California’s most significant historical landmarks, this statue marks the spot where Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on the west coast of the United States. Every year at the end of September, actors re-create...
121 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
Commissioned by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, this historic theater hosted elaborate productions in its heyday. Thanks to large double doors on either side of the stage, it even held a horse-drawn-chariot race in 1923. Today, however,...
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
At the world-famous San Diego Zoo, you’ll essentially take a journey around the world as you explore 100 acres of habitats that resemble everything from the Australian Outback to the South African coastline. In fact, this institution cares so much...
10818 San Diego Mission Rd, San Diego, CA 92108, USA
An active parish of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá remains a tranquil place of worship and reflection. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the first of California’s 21 missions is...
Mount Woodson Trail, Poway, CA 92064, USA
This steep hike is about eight miles out and back, but many are willing to make the trek because of the photo opportunity that waits near the summit. Potato Chip Rock is a sliver of granite that protrudes from a boulder. Since it’s sturdy enough...
2225 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
Gold Leaf cofounder Sonya Kemp worked at design collective SoLo in Solana Beach before fulfilling her lifelong dream of opening her own boutique. Now, she stocks her store with everything from kitchen utensils to kids’ toys, drawing...
2860 Sims Rd, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
Located in Point Loma’s Liberty Station, this multi-concept boutique is as much a place to hang as it is to shop. There’s a café serving locally roasted coffee and artisanal toasts, as well as a 1950s-style cocktail bar with...
3801 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
Located in a renovated warehouse, this artsy gift shop is a dream for lovers of succulents and other cacti. In addition to pale-green air plants and coral-colored water bottles that match San Diego’s dusty color palette, merchandise runs the...
3036, 3039 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
Model, surfer, and designer Kahana Kalama co-owns this highly curated surf boutique in North Park, where he sells beach towels, surf gear, and some clothing. Many items are made in the United States, like Miansai leather bracelets and poppy-red...
San Diego, CA 92113, USA
Located beneath the San Diego–Coronado Bridge, this public space might not be green and tranquil, but it tells a story of perseverance. In 1970, residents of the predominantly Latino Barrio Logan neighborhood staged a nonviolent takeover...
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA, USA
A 1,200-acre green space filled with museums, theaters, and gardens, Balboa Park is the center of art and culture in San Diego. It’s also one of the city’s most historic sites, built for the Panama–California exhibition in 1915. While the museums...
2070 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, USA
Run by two of San Diego’s most noteworthy creatives, this contemporary art gallery in burgeoning Barrio Logan tackles the tough subjects. It’s hosted exhibitions on everything from consumerism in the modern age to the junk-food...
1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
As part of one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hot spots, San Diego and its environs are home to more species than many regions of similar size. To learn more, head to the Natural History Museum’s permanent Coast to Cactus in Southern...
Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park, 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
Cardiff, Encinitas, CA 92007, USA
Located north of Solana Beach, this laid-back community is home to picturesque beaches backed by steep sandstone cliffs. San Elijo State Beach offers a peaky surf break and campground overlooking the bluff. Just north, at Swami’s, the...
6600 Neptune Pl, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
When visiting this dramatic, narrow beach in the wealthy La Jolla enclave, take time to admire—and photograph—its single surf shack. One of San Diego’s most important surf-culture icons, the wooden palapa is actually a designated...
8300 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Adjacent to theSan Diego–La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, La Jolla Shores is popular for a variety of water sports—both above and below the surface. Gentle waves, particularly in summer, make this area a great place for beginner...
Central Beach, Coronado, CA 92118, USA
Backed by historic mansions and a Victorian hotel, Coronado Central Beach recalls a bygone era. Park for free on Ocean Boulevard and make your way past purple-tinged beach grass to the soft sand, which is full of mica that shimmers in the...
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027, USA
Whiletourists flock to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, its Safari Park—located30 miles away in the San Pasqual Valley—is equally interesting. Spread over 1,800 acres, it’s home to more than 3,500 animals and 260 different species as well as a huge...
San Diego, CA, USA
Just a short drive north from downtown San Diego, the 2,000-acre Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers an idea of what Southern California looked like before its coastlines were developed. Experience the area by taking a short walk from the...
1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
San Diego’s newest public space, the 12-acre Waterfront Park offers a large playground, wide expanses of green grass, jets of water for splashing, and great views of the skyline. Bring an umbrella—there isn’t a lot of shade...
San Diego, CA 92129, USA
Covering more than 2,300 acres, Black Mountain Open Space Park features some 20 miles of trails just 45 minutes from downtown. Take the 2.5-mile hike up to the peak for spectacular views of downtown San Diego, Point Loma, Torrey Pines, and even...
2688 E Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
At 4,235 acres, Mission Bay Park is the largest man-made aquatic park in the U.S. Here, water-sports enthusiasts can enjoy everything from kayaking, windsurfing, and wakeboarding to snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing, while landlubbers can take...
312 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054, USA
In 2017 California designated Oceanside one of 14 recognized Arts and Cultural Districts in the state. The community in north San Diego County is home to an active mix of artists, art galleries, and museums. The California Surf Museum,...
309 S Cedros Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075, USA
In Solana Beach’s Cedros Avenue Design District eight women—all with a keen eye for design—make up this collective in a converted warehouse. Each vendor is unique. Ruby Lang sells antiques and oddities; Christie Napier sells children’s toys and...
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