San Diego Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Family Spring Break Destinations
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Best Things To Do in San Diego

San Diego's coastal seat makes it an ideal destination for adventurers and sun seekers. Whether you're hiking along the sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve, walking through the frothy surf of Coronado Beach or admiring the postcard-worthy scenery at La Jolla Cove, you'll find little reason to stray far from the city's natural wonders. Spend a day at Balboa Park – the city's definitive culturual hub – and soak up the stunning setting while exploring the many museums, theaters and gardens that call this 1,200-acre park home. Though it's tempting to spend your whole vacation exploring, don't forget to carve out some time for a San Diego history lesson: America's Finest City proudly shows off its military and maritime heritage with two well-regarded (and highly interactive) museums.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated February 2, 2018

  • #1
    Balboa Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in San Diego
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Home to the renownedSan Diego Zoo. this 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. Located in downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center), Balboa Park is a great place for a stroll, bike ride or picnic. Wander around the park's many gardens while admiring the intricate

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  • #2
    Mission Beach and Pacific Beach
    View all Photos
    #2 in San Diego
    Beaches, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are one giant, connected shoreline in San Diego. While not as pristine asCoronado Beach, the area is just as popular thanks to all the nearby attractions and amenities. This miles-long stretch of sand fits the SoCal stereotype to a T: throngs of surfers and bikini-clad

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  • #3
    Coronado Beach
    View all Photos
    #3 in San Diego
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Compared toMission Beach, this popular shoreline boasts fewer sunbathers and calmer waves. Just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado Beach is popular with families and couples alike thanks to its miles-long shoreline (affording plenty of room for beachgoers), clean sands, peaceful atmosphere and idyllic location in the "Crown City"

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  • #4
    Gaslamp Quarter
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    #4 in San Diego
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Gaslamp Quarter's 16 blocks are peppered with Victorian-style buildings that now house a variety of shops, art galleries, theatres and trendy restaurants, not to mention plenty of bars and clubs. The area stretches from L Street all the way up to Broadway, including Sixth, Fifth and Fourth avenues as

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  • #5
    San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
    View all Photos
    #5 in San Diego
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also houses one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world (3,500 to be exact). Giant pandas,

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  • #6
    Torrey Pines State Reserve
    View all Photos
    #6 in San Diego
    Beaches, Hiking, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Hiking, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Want to see what San Diego looked like at its founding? It's at the Torrey Pines State Reserve. This oceanfront reserve features 1,750 acres of unspoiled land, protecting the unique topography and various types of flora present from way back when, including the Torrey Pine, America's rarest pine tree. There

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  • #7
    Cabrillo National Monument
    View all Photos
    #7 in San Diego
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The southernmost tip of Point Loma is where you'll find the Cabrillo National Monument. The statue depicts Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, in 1542, was the first European explorer to navigate the Californian coast. Situated about 10 miles southwest of downtown San Diego, this monument is much more than just a

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  • #8
    USS Midway Museum
    View all Photos
    #8 in San Diego
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    San Diego is a big military town. You'll likely see bases scattered about while exploring the city, especially around parts of the San Diego Bay. The USS Midway is one of these affiliated sites that offers an insider's look into what is normally closed off to the public. The USS

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  • #9
    Sunset Cliffs
    View all Photos
    #9 in San Diego
    Hiking, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Next to theCabrillo Monument, travelers say this is the next best place for ocean views in Point Loma. Situated a little more than 9 miles due west of downtown San Diego, Sunset Cliffs stretches across 68 acres and runs 1.5 miles along Point Loma peninsula's western shoreline. The dramatic sandstone

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  • #10
    Maritime Museum of San Diego
    View all Photos
    #10 in San Diego
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Maritime Museum offers a hands-on look at San Diego's days as a bustling seaport. You can tour all types of historic vessels, from sailing ships to submarines, including the world's oldest active ship, the Star of India. Recent visitors said the boat tours gave them a new understanding of

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  • #11
    SeaWorld San Diego
    View all Photos
    #11 in San Diego
    Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Though you may spot wildlife at any one of San Diego's beaches (especially Pacific and Mission Beach) none put on quite as good a show as the performers at SeaWorld. Here you'll get to see a range of animals, including dolphins, California sea lions, California otters and sea turtles, among

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  • La Jolla Shores
    View all Photos
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Known for its gentle waves and active beachgoers, La Jolla Shores is an ideal place to relax for a few hours. Locals and tourists hit this beach to surf, see marine life and enjoy the clean ocean water and sand. Families flock to La Jolla Shores and appreciate the reliable

    ...Read More »
  • La Jolla Cove
    View all Photos
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    La Jolla Cove is the jewel of La Jolla. Located across the water from La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove may not be much in terms of a beach, but its striking beauty and snorkeling reputation more than make up for it among recent visitors. The site is an ecologically

    ...Read More »

Explore More of San Diego

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