Things to do in

San Diego

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

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The 10 top sightseeing spots in San Diego

We can see why San Diego calls itself America's Finest City. With more than 100 miles of coastline and world-class attractions, you won't be wondering what to do, but how to fit it all in! Plan your visit with our list of the 10 best things to see.

Frequently asked questions about San Diego

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

Which tours in San Diego are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?

Planning Your Visit

  • What about the beaches?

    There are plenty of places to swim, surf or sunbathe in San Diego, and it's warm all year round, just don't expect tropical waters: the North Pacific Ocean is famously cool. La Jolla is popular for watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling, while Ocean Beach is lined with palm trees and has an impressive skatepark.

  • When is ComicCon International?

    Every year, thousands of self-confessed nerds descend on San Diego for the annual ComicCon comic book convention. The event has grown year on year, and now encompasses everything superhero, fantasy and pop culture have to offer, including scores of big-name actors. The event takes place over four days in July.

Good to know

  • Language
    English
  • Currency
    USD ($)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (-08:00)
  • Country Code
    +1
  • Best time to visit
    Plan your visit from March to May or September to November, when you'll still have warm weather, but will avoid the school holiday crowds.

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

4.6 / 5

based on 3,300 reviews

We had a beautiful day to enjoy our SEAL Harbor Tour - the sun was shining, the water was calm and the temperatures were perfect! My husband and I enjoyed hearing about the city and how much of the bay was dredged and islands built. When our "car" turned into a "boat" on the bay it was really fun- Seeing San Diego and the surrounding areas from the water, learning about the different activities that were happening around us and even seeing a young porpoise being trained by her Navy handler all made for a very pleasurable experience. I would definitely recommend this tour to people of all ages, those who live locally as well as those visiting the area!

It was a beautiful tour, just enough time (1 hour) we thought about doing the 2 hour but we didnt have enough time. The guide was excellent. We truly enjoyed it.

Great time and a great way to see San Diego. Enjoyed all the drivers and the lunch at Fiesta de Reyes was very good.

Fue una experiencia satisfactoria. Se los recomiendo ☺️

Very nice cruise. Crew are helpful and knowledgeable