The possibilities are seemingly endless for entertaining things to do in San Diego. There’s so much to explore with the ocean, mountains and desert close by. In addition, Los Angeles and Mexico are perfect for a day trip, located just a short drive away. But what should you see and do during your Southern California vacation? To help make planning your stay easier, the team at Bluewater Vacation Homes has created a list of our top 10 things to do. As a bonus, check out some insider tips from our team members.
Voted the #1 zoo in the world, the San Diego Zoo® spans 100 acres and is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals representing over 650 species. Some of its animal residents include Amur leopards, California condors, giant pandas, red pandas and sun bears. Don’t miss the 35-minute narrated Guided Bus Tour near the entrance. See the Africa Rocks exhibit and the gorillas in Lost Forest. For a great view of the city, ride the Skyfari. On weekends, you can feed giraffes.
SeaWorld® San Diego is part theme park, part oceanarium. Ride the all-new Electric Eel roller coaster, witness live natural orca behaviors at Orca Encounter and spot rare sea turtles and thousands of tropical fish at Turtle Reef. Soar high for fantastic views of the park on the Bayside Skyride. At Wild Arctic, embark on a thrilling jet-helicopter simulator ride and explore a frozen wonderland of Arctic animals. For a great deal, we recommend purchasing All-Day Dining.
Declared a National Historic Landmark and listed as one of the Great Places in America, Balboa Park is known for museums, performing arts and lush gardens. Visit one of the fascinating museums like the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Air & Space Museum or Centro Cultural de la Raza, and have a picnic afterward (alcohol is permitted only in these areas). The park also offers walking trails, delightful shops, delicious restaurants, picture-perfect landmarks and guided outdoor tours.
Wednesday is jazz night at Panama 66 featuring draft craft beer brewed in San Diego.
Mission Bay presents a multitude of water sports and outdoor activities perfect for all ages. Go for a swim or relax on the sand at Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park of its kind in the country, stretching over 4,235 acres. Rent a paddleboard and paddle around to spot endangered species of birds; cruise to watch the sun set aboard the classic sternwheeler, the Bahia Belle; travel the bay by speedboat; dock up for lunch by the water at Barefoot Bar & Grill; or warm up by the fire at a firepit.
Explore the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo® Safari Park, a wildlife sanctuary featuring more than 300 species of animals and a renowned botanical collection of 3,500 species of plants. The Asian Savanna and African Plains are the park’s largest exhibits covering over 300 acres. Climb aboard a safari vehicle for the Africa Tram tour to see flocks of birds and free-range herds of giraffes, rhinos, zebras, antelope and buffalo.
Wear comfortable shoes, check out the lemurs and step inside their cage, feed the birds nectar, and splurge for the Caravan Safari Adventure tour and feed giraffes.
With incredible lookouts, expansive beaches and curling waves, La Jolla is one of the top beach destinations in the world. It’s home to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Children’s Pool with colonies of playful harbor seals and sea lions. Check out La Jolla Shores, a favorite beach among locals, and sign-up for surf lessons or go shopping.
A favorite summer night activity is dining on fresh seafood at El Pescador Fish Market or delicious tacos at Puesto Mexican Artisan Kitchen & Bar, and then walking down to Scripps Park for a free outdoor movie in the park. Summer Movies in the Park is held May through October.
There’s so much to do in downtown San Diego. Tour the historic Gaslamp Quarter offering museums, art galleries, concert venues and nightlife; step aboard the USS Midway Museum housed in the retired USS Midway aircraft carrier; visit Seaport Village to browse shops and take in views of the Coronado Bridge; or cheer for the Padres at Petco Park.
Walk down to the Embarcadero and have dinner on the water at Carnitas’ Snack Shack. Get the Pork Belly appetizer!
Embark on a voyage of discovery at Cabrillo National Monument featuring a wealth of cultural and natural resources. The site commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Tour the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and museum, check out the Visitor Center to learn about the voyage of Cabrillo, walk trails for views of downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean or search for sea creatures in tide pools.
Admission is $10, and the park closes at 5 p.m. so make sure you plan your visit accordingly. If you want to visit the tide pools, it’s best to go during low tide. Afterward, check out Liberty Station for a delicious meal, and enjoy a movie at The Lot ($10 on Wednesdays).
Extending from Del Mar past Los Peñasquitos Lagoon to the base of sandstone cliffs at Torrey Pines Mesa, Torrey Pines State Beach is a pristine beach ideal for exploring and relaxing. Nature lovers can enjoy a walk through the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to see native animals, wildflowers and the area’s namesake pine trees. Golfers can tee off at the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Taste your way around San Diego with delicious locally made craft beer. Book a tour and leave the logistics to a professional or go at your own pace on a self-guided tour. Some of our favorite beer stops are Hamiltons Tavern in South Park, Modern Times Beer in North Park, Ballast Point Brewing Company in Little Italy or Miramar, Amplified Ale Works for a great view in Mission Beach and Alpine Beer Company in Alpine to experience a totally different side of San Diego.