San Diego, California has a wide range of activities and things to see. Here are the quintessential San Diego ones you should do at some point in your lifetime.
Take a Limo Bus to Different Breweries
The best way to visit the many breweries of San Diego is to choose several favorites and then take a limo bus there. Then you don’t have to worry about driving and you get to have fun in between brewery stops socializing on the limo. Plus, it conveniently lets you sample a wide range of breweries in one day if you’re short on time.
Eat a Baja Fish Taco
The baja fish tacos in San Diego are legendary with their crispy fried outside layer, tangy white sauce, generous heaping of cabbage and salsa fresca, and occasionally cheese (the latter is up for debate if it is truly an authentic baja fish taco if there is cheese on it). Not sure where to find one? Check out our list of my favorite places for fish tacos in San Diego. If you’re in a big hurry, the southern California food chain, Rubio’s, is surprisingly good and has locations all over the county.
Visit Point Loma's Cabrillo National Monument
The Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is home to gorgeous views, the best of which can be seen from the Cabrillo Statue where you’ll find a 360-degree view of the ocean and San Diego. While visiting Cabrillo National Monument you can also see the statuesque Point Loma Lighthouse and have fun looking for sea creatures in the nearby tide pools.
Participate in a Themed Bar Crawl
San Diego is the perfect spot for this thanks to a variety of bars lining hot spots such as Garnet Street in Pacific Beach and the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown. Plus, the weather is always temperate enough that you can have fun showing off those costumes while walking down the street without worrying about having to wear a coat in winter or being overheated in summer.
San Diego and surfing go hand in hand. While not every person who lives in San Diego is a die-hard surfer (some of us...ahem, like myself...have trouble getting up on a board) we all secretly wish we were, and you have to attempt it at least once. Even if you can't get up on the board and catch a wave, you'll have fun falling in the water while trying -- just make sure you go to a beginner surf spot like the area north of the pier in La Jolla.
Visit the Museums of Balboa Park
Balboa Park has over 20 museums all located within walking distance of each other. From science museums to history museums to art museums, there is a museum to satisfy just about every interest. Even if you think you're not a museum person, try the Air and Space Museum -- you might be surprised. Or, at the very least, walk around the gorgeous grounds of Balboa Park and take in the historic architecture.
Go Whale Watching
Every December through April, the Gray whales migrate through San Diego, sometimes so close to shore you can see them from land. The best way to see these magnificent beasts, though, is on a whale watching tour out of the San Diego harbor. For more tips about spotting whales in San Diego, visit our whale watching article.
Have a Night Out in Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter is always hopping on Friday and Saturday nights (and most other nights). If you don't live downtown, rent a hotel room some night and go have fun dancing at one of the trendy clubs until 2 a.m. without having to worry about how you'll get home. Or have a sophisticated night out at one of the Gaslamp's sumptuous restaurants.
Kayak in La Jolla
The cliffs that make up part of the shoreline of La Jolla have some secret caves within them, and during a kayak excursion out of La Jolla Shores you can don a helmet and explore inside these interesting and exhilarating caves. It's also a treat just getting to kayak around in the ocean under the sunshine while making your way to and from the caves -- you may even see a seal swimming around and under your kayak while you paddle.
Visit Children's Beach in La Jolla to See the Seals
Kayaking isn't the only place to see seals while in La Jolla. You can also walk down to Children's Pool Beach while at the La Jolla Cove and see the many, many seals that have claimed the beach as their home. They lounge about on the beach and swim in the water nearby and are a delight to behold for both adults and children.
Drink a Beer at Stone Brewing Company in Escondido
Stone Brewing Company was one of the first San Diego craft breweries to really make a mark on a national (and now even international) scale and helped put the San Diego beer scene on the map. Though they have several restaurants and tasting rooms in San Diego County now, the original is still the best, in my opinion, and is located in Escondido. It has a decently sized indoor dining area that looks into the brewing room, but it's the outside area that really holds the charm with a massive beer garden complete with walking trails, ponds and bonfire pits.
You can also tour the brewery.
Attend Del Mar Racetrack's Glamorous Opening Day
Each summer, big hats come out and the dressed up crowd cheers at the Del Mar Racetrack as magnificent thoroughbred racehorses gallop around the picturesque track on opening day. Make your day at the opening even more memorable by arriving in a limo or entering the hat contest.
Apple Pie in Julian
Right on the outskirts of east San Diego County at the base of the Cuyamaca Mountains lies the tiny town of Julian, home to apple orchards and an assortment of delicious pies. You can find Julian apple pies in the city of San Diego, but it's much more charming to have a slice in Julian in the fall with crisp air and mountain town ambiance. Check out this guide to Julian apple pie.
Visit the San Diego Zoo
This is probably a no-brainer if you have kids, but even adults will enjoy walking around the impressively planned and landscaped San Diego Zoo.
Jet Ski Mission Bay
Mission Bay is a calm inlet of water right across from Mission Beach that is a great place for water sports. You can paddle board and kayak, but it's most exhilarating to rent a jet ski and race across the water.
Charter a Sailboat
Take the quintessential San Diego harbor cruise to the next level by chartering a sailboat around the bay. You can rent one for the day that comes with a driver so you can just lounge on it with friends and enjoy the views.
Spend a Night in the Hotel Del Coronado
The Hotel del Coronado is an iconic San Diego landmark that also just happens to be a luxury hotel...that you can stay in. Yes, it might set you back a pretty penny, but think how marvelous it will be to enjoy a day at the pristine Coronado beach, enjoy a drink at the Hotel Del's outdoor bar, walk around the grounds of the hotel and not have to leave at the end of the day? Instead, you can retire to your well-appointed rooms, enjoy the views of Coronado, and maybe even get a little thrill if you opt for one of the haunted room.
Golf Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines Golf Course isn’t just the place of many PGA tournaments; it’s also jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The course is located in scenic La Jolla right next to the ocean, which provides stunning views from every hole. The course is also challenging and if you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to golf Torrey Pines at least once.
Eat a California Burrito
A California Burrito is stuffed with French fries and Carne Asada and is a quintessential San Diego meal. Top choices to do so at include El Zarape in University Heights, Lucha Libre Taco Shop in Mission Hills, Nico’s Mexican Food in Point Loma, La Puerta in the Gaslamp Quarter and the multiple locations of Roberto’s Mexican Food or Lolita’s Taco Shop.
Eat a Burger at Rocky's Crown Pub
Rocky’s Crown Pub has a dive bar atmosphere and a simple burger on the barebones menu. But in this case, simple is mouthwateringly delicious. You can read more about Rocky’s and why you should try one of its burgers here.
Eat a Burger at Hodad's
Hodad’s started out as a little eatery in Ocean Beach and quickly developed a cult following that often resulted in a long line stretching down Newport Avenue. Now there are multiple locations, but you’ll still probably find a line of people waiting to get their Hodad’s burger fix. Bite into one to find out why.
Get into a Debate with Someone About the Better Burger: Rocky's or Hodad's
Locals tend to feel very passionate about this issue. Let me know in the comments below which burger place is your favorite!
Eat a Fresh Spiny Lobster…After Lobster Diving
Spiny lobsters can be found on the menu of some of the seafood restaurants around San Diego when they’re in season, but to really make it a memorable experience, catch one yourself. You’ll have to apply for a fishing license (getting a spiny lobster fishing license is a fairly easy process) and maybe invest in some gloves, but then you’re on your way to catching a live lobster with your own two hands – a very cool thing to cross off a bucket list.
Eat a Breakfast Burrito
Breakfast burritos are a morning staple for many San Diegans. They’re often huge and chock full of ingredients, which range from golden potatoes and gooey cheese to creamy avocados and savory meats plus generous portions of spicy salsa. Pipes Café in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is great for a breakfast burrito since is has a fun surfer-inspired décor and a patio that provides gorgeous views of the ocean. Cotija's Cocina Mexicana in Point Loma is also a popular eatery known for its delectable breakfast burritos.
Explore Old Town
From old Victorian houses to supposedly haunted colonial buildings, there is a lot to see in Old Town and no San Diego experience would be truly complete without walking around and exploring it. Stop by Old Town Mexican Café to get some fresh homemade tortillas, too. Old Town is also a fun place to stay while visiting San Diego that is often more affordable than staying right downtown or by the beach but still gives you a quintessential San Diego vibe.