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Things to do in

San Diego

Think of California and you'll picture all things San Diego: surfer hair, slow pace, and guaranteed sun.

Our most recommended things to do in San Diego

San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

1. San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

Take a self-guided audio tour onboard the world’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, the historic USS Midway. See the carrier’s 25 restored aircraft from the days of WWII to Operation Desert Storm. Visit areas throughout the Midway, from the crew's sleeping quarters to the pilots' ready rooms. Docents are available throughout the carrier and are eager to share their stories, anecdotes, and statistics, creating a picture of just how important the USS Midway was to the U.S. Navy. Most guests spend 3 to 4 hours exploring this historic aircraft carrier and learning its history. The included audio guide, available in 6 languages, will help you explore the dozens of highlighted areas across the massive ship.  There are family-oriented activities throughout the Museum. Included are 3 types of flight simulators, music videos, short films, climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, and more. The Museum is located at the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

2. San Diego: Harbor Cruise

See San Diego's best sights. Learn about the city and enjoy a cruise on the bay. Depending on the option booked, this tour takes you under the Coronado Bridge, past military ships, waterfront landmarks, and marine life for a look at San Diego's scenic beauty and fascinating history. This tour’s luxury ships offer three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board snack bar serving snacks, soda, beer, wine and cocktails (available for purchase). This is a great way to experience San Diego from the water.

San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

3. San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

Discover the underwater world at SeaWorld San Diego, with animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and thrilling rides. Get up close to marine life and enjoy educational animal presentations for the whole family to enjoy. Upgrade your ticket to include a dining pass to eat all day at SeaWorld. Experience thrilling rides such as Electric Eel with its high-energy twists and loops, or Manta, with two thrilling launches that send riders soaring in the spirit of the world’s largest ray. For kid-friendly fun, enjoy Tentacle Swirl, Sea Dragon Drop, Elmo's Flying Fish, and so much more. Admire the animals at SeaWorld such as beluga whales, walruses, penguins, sharks, and orcas as you learn about these incredible creatures. Enjoy interactive exhibits such as the Explorer's Reef Touchpools and Sea Lion Point. Explore the Sesame Street Bay of Play where you can meet your Sesame Street friends. If you choose to upgrade to the all-day dining bundle, you can get an entree, a side/dessert, and a drink every 1 hour at Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen, Big Bird's Bistro, Coral Market, Shark Market, Orca West Market, and Pretzel Shop.

San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

4. San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

See the sights of San Diego Bay on a fully-narrated cruise. Pass by Seaport Village, Shelter Island, Coronado Island, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument, among other notable points of interest, while taking in beautiful skyline views. Choose between a 1-hour cruise of either the North or South Harbor, or book the 2-hour cruise, which includes both. San Diego’s North Harbor cruise takes you past historic ships in the Maritime Museum, Harbor Island, North Island Naval Air Station, and Shelter Island. The South Harbor route includes sightings of the Coronado Bridge, the U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier, the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet, and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. As you sail, keep a lookout for wildlife such as blue herons, sea lions, and pelicans Listen as your professional crew provides commentary about the rich local and military history, points of interest, and facts about San Diego Bay. This sightseeing cruise also showcases local environmental conservation efforts through video clips and onboard displays.

San Diego: Sightseeing Dinner Cruise with DJ Music

5. San Diego: Sightseeing Dinner Cruise with DJ Music

Enjoy a dinner cruise from San Diego that combines culinary excellence with unforgettable scenery and ambient DJ music. Look for local wildlife as you sail and admire views of the city skyline, the Coronado Bridge, and the Cabrillo National Monument.  Stroll the spacious decks and watch the sunset before dinner. Dinner is a seated meal with an elaborate wine list, upgrades and additions, and vegetarian options. Savor crisp salads, braised ribs, oven-roasted salmon entrees, and luscious desserts After dinner, listen to relaxing music, as you enjoy your dessert and coffee. Photos are taken at beginning of the cruise and they can be purchased at the end when you return to your meeting point.

90-Minute San Diego SEAL Tour

6. 90-Minute San Diego SEAL Tour

Splash into San Diego’s most unique sightseeing tour. See the best of San Diego on land and in the water. Take a seat on the San Diego SEAL tour, an adventure that takes you through the most interesting sights in the city before heading out into the harbor of San Diego. Your 90-minute fully-narrated tour will wind through picturesque San Diego streets before splashing into the water for a cruise of San Diego Bay. On land, you will pass the Embarcadero and San Diego International Airport. You will learn about the importance of the military in San Diego and other San Diego icons as you travel along the scenic coast. Once you splash into the Big Bay, you will glide by Navy ships, tugboats, and fishing vessels throughout the harbor as you listen to stories of early sailors. Experience the history and ecological wonders of San Diego in the comfort and security of a virtually unsinkable Hydra-Terra. Driven by our experienced captains, these amphibious vehicles are specially designed and built to navigate on both sea and land. Each one is Coast Guard approved and meets all passenger vehicle and department of transportation requirements to ensure safety and comfort for all. Both tour bus and boat, the San Diego SEAL journeys through San Diego by land and sea. Our unique amphibious vehicles are Coast Guard approved, ensuring you a safe, one-of-a-kind experience. Relax and enjoy amazing views during the best sightseeing adventure in San Diego.

Champagne Brunch Cruise in San Diego

7. Champagne Brunch Cruise in San Diego

Sample a variety of breakfast and dinner dishes with fantastic views, and then head to the outdoor deck for fresh sea air and a narrated bay cruise. San Diego’s most popular and unique Sunday Champagne Brunch features views that change with the courses. This brunch is complete with bountiful selection of breakfast and lunch entrees, carving stations, salad and dessert bar, and free flowing champagne. Lovely light music and sightseeing completes your entertainment! You’ll be thrilled to know that Hornblower Cruises doesn’t participate in cruise style seating, you’ll have privacy at your table and not be seated with strangers! SAMPLE BUFFET MENU Accompaniments Basket of Fresh Croissants & Cinnamon Rolls with Strawberry Jam, Whipped Honey Butter and Seasonal Fruit Seasonal Salad Chef's Selection Seasonal Green Salad Entrees Seafood Selection Shrimp Cocktail w/ Lemon Wedge & Cocktail Sauce | Grilled Brown Sugar, Soy & Ginger Salmon Duet Entree (Select One Egg Course and one Carving Board Course below)  - All Entrees served with Roasted Red Creamer Potatoes with Colorful Roasted Peppers Poached Egg on Buttermilk Biscuit with Spinach Supreme and Hollandaise | Fluffy Omelet with Ham & Cheese or Spinach & Artichoke topped with Salsa Fresca  Duet Entree (Select One Egg Course above and one Carving Board Course) - All Entrees served with Roasted Red Creamer Potatoes with Colorful Roasted Peppers Carved New York Strip with Pico de Gallo | Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Mango Chutney Breakfast Upon Request Hickory Smoked Bacon | French Toast with Maple Syrup & fresh Berries | Chef's Selection Vegan Menu Available Dessert Dessert Trio New York Style Cheesecake | Chef's Chocolate Creation | Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

La Jolla: Sea Cave Kayaking Tour with Guide

8. La Jolla: Sea Cave Kayaking Tour with Guide

Discover San Diego's Marine Protected Area, home to a variety of fish, birds, dolphins, turtles, sea-lions, and whales. With the help of an experienced guide, explore the famous Sea Caves of La Jolla and paddle inside Emerald Cave in a double kayak. Watch sea lions sunbathing on the rocks and swimming in the sanctuary. Marvel at the bright orange garibaldi as they stand out among the vibrant green sea grass and numerous other fish swimming around and delighting the eye. In the summer and fall months, tour groups will often see harmless leopard sharks, and you may also find grey whales in their migration during the winter. You might even see dolphins cruising alongside your kayak before you make your way back and prepare to surf your kayak back to shore.

Sights & Sips 2-hour Sunset Cruise on San Diego Bay

9. Sights & Sips 2-hour Sunset Cruise on San Diego Bay

Come aboard the only floating happy hour in San Diego. The Sights & Sips Sunset Cruise on San Diego Bay includes complimentary appetizers, a no-host bar featuring refreshing drink specials and a perfectly timed sunset every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer. Get ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of the magnificent San Diego Bay. The bay boasts some of America's most historic warships such as the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Midway as well as playing host to the scenic sights of the Coronado Bay Bridge and Seaport Village. Take part in a cruise experience where the celebration begins the moment you come on-board. Start with cocktails on deck, then relax as our gracious crew transports you to a world of ease and luxury. You and your guests will feel pampered, privileged, relaxed and refreshed. Quench your happy hour thirst aboard the Sights & Sips Sunset Cruise.

San Diego: Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour

10. San Diego: Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour

While San Diego is known worldwide for its beautiful beaches, mild climate, and abundance of points of interest, not many people know about the city's darker side. Discover San Diego's long history of unnerving deaths, mysterious occurrences, and ominous sides on a fun and informative guided tour. Travel back in time and hear about the spirits of the notorious characters who lived and died in San Diego. First, venture into the sleepy streets of the Mission Hills neighborhood, where Pioneer Park is transformed at night. Continue to Old Town, walking through El Campo Santo Cemetery and learning about the notorious past of this city full of gunslingers, gamblers, ladies of the night, and many more unsavory characters. Finally, the tour includes a tour of the grounds and exterior of the Whaley House, where many reported paranormal occurrences have taken place.

Frequently asked questions about San Diego

What top attractions are a must-see in San Diego?

What are the best day trips and excursions from San Diego?

The best day trips and excursions from San Diego are:

Tijuana

Insider tips: Planning a trip to San Diego

San Diego, the 8th largest city in the United States, is famous for its temperate year-round weather, gorgeous sunsets and lots of fun things to do. The famous San Diego Zoo, beautiful Balboa Park and downtown nightlife make San Diego a favorite destination for families. There is so much to do in San Diego that we enlisted the travel experts at TravelingMom, a leading family travel website, to share their favorite things to do and tips for making the most of a visit, even if you only have a few days. Here you can look into TravelingMom's San Diego guide.

What should I do on my first trip to San Diego?

Balboa Park in downtown San Diego is an absolute can't miss. This 1,200-acre mid-city park is fille with gardens, museums, cultural spots, theaters, playgrounds and walking trails. There are plenty of low-cost and free things for families to explore within Balboa Park. The beautiful beaches are another wonderful place to spend a warm day in San Diego. Whether you're looking for tidepooling in Point Loma, boardwalk fun in Mission Beach, or cliffside sunsets in La Jolla, there's a beach that just right for your family.

What are some hidden gems to see in San Diego?

San Diego is best known for its beaches, but there is so much more nature to discover, including desertscapes and mountain fun. For hiking, fishing and camping, head to the Laguna Mountains to experience unplugged family time.

How much time should I spend in San Diego?

It is nearly impossible to experience all of the wonders of San Diego in one visit. Consider focusing your visit into one area, starting with either downtown or the beaches. To explore the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Coronado Island and other downtown activities, plan on 4-5 days. A beach vacation to San Diego could be a weekend getaway, by choosing one beach to visit per day depending on your family's favorite acticities -- surfing, boardwalk rides and games, swimming, snorkling or tidepooling.

What food is San Diego known for?

Tacos are San Diego's best known meal, namely fish tacos made with white fish, usually yellowfin or bluefin tuna. Nearly every restaurant menu will offer a version of this San Diego speciality. Fish tacos are generally breaded and deep fried fish filets, served in a warm corn tortilla with white sauce, chopped cabbage and salsa verde.

What is the best way to get around San Diego?

While most Californians rely on personal vehicles for transportation, if you don't have a car, the trolley is an easy way to get around in San Diego. A trip on the ferry from downtown to Coronado is an excellent way to reach the Island. Consider renting a bike or scooter to get around the downtown area. The Coaster Train, as the name implies, travels only along the coast. The north/south running commuter line has 8 stops between downtown and Oceanside. If you plan on venturing out to hike, fish and experience nature, you will need a car. Travel freeways between 10 am and 2 pm to avoid the heaviest traffic clusters and worst traffic jams.

What are the best months to visit San Diego?

The best time to visit San Diego is in September and October. Summer crowds have thinned out but the weather is still very warm for swimming and outdoor activities. With most kids back in school, places like LEGOLAND, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo are far less crowded. October is ideal for families on a budget, as many popular locations offer kids free admission for the entire month. Aim for early October versus later in the month, when many students are out of school for fall break.

What is Gaslamp Quarter known for?

The Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego is known for boutique shopping and family restaurants by day and exciting adult nightlife like bars, live music and dance clubs. The trolley line stops right here so visitors can enjoy without having to find a paid parking lot. The Gaslamp is walkable to area attractions including Petco Park for Padres baseball games, Seaport Village and harbor.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Hillcrest is the heart of San Diego's LGBTQ+ community and offers plenty of outdoor patio dining, craft brewpubs and a weekend farmer's market. There is a variety of foods and flavors within walking distance of each other on University Avenue and sidestreets, including dessert-only hot spots.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

For souvenier shopping, visitors can't miss Seaport Village. There are more than 50 unique shops spread out in this bayside location, selling everything from books and toys to art and San Diego-made products. Plus, there are plenty of dining spots and a carousel for the kids!

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Diego?

For Airbnb, look for a walkable neighborhood like South Park. The area is full of historic homes within walking distance of restaurants, parks and breweries. Plus, it's very close to downtown, the airport and the famous San Diego Zoo.

What are the best beaches around San Diego?

San Diego is known for their many beautiful beaches. Mission Beach and the surrounding bay is a family-friendly hot spot, with ample free parking, grassy picnic areas and play grounds. Belmont Park is a highlight, with a beach-side roller coaster and other amusements. Plenty of sand and waves for boogie boarding and swimming. Those with younger children should visit the bay, with tamer waves for wading. Many areas for dining and shopping along the boardwalk.

Which neighborhoods are the most budget-friendly?

To find budget accomodations and dining, move away from the coastal locations. Mission Valley offers lower costs on hotels than beach cities. Drive further east to suburban areas like La Mesa to find unique dining and micro-breweries.

Which neighborhoods should you visit if you'd like to splurge?

For the ultimate splurge vacation, La Jolla, Del Mar and Torrey Pines. Hotels are swank and upscale dining abounds. Expect designer fashion boutiques, art galleries and a higher price tag for everything in these locations.

Other Sightseeing Options in San Diego

Want to discover all there is to do in San Diego? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about San Diego

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 4,382 reviews

Driver and guide were top notch. Very informative comments as we toured without being too much talking. Loved it!!

The crew and staff members definitely made this a memorable experience. I would definitely do this more often

Thus Cruise was amazing! The food was great and the views awesome. I would highly recommend!

Even if you are not interested in military history this ship and tour will amaze you.

The tour guide was knowledgeable & I enjoyed my experience.