Day Trips and Vacation Side Trips from San Diego

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Active Outdoors: Hiking, Biking, Water Play

Kayaking in La Jolla
vlasta2/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ideas for an Active Day Out in San Diego

  • Mission Bay: Play beach volleyball, bicycle, surf.
  • Kayak La Jolla Cove: La Jolla Cove is a nice, calm place to kayak with lots of marine life to see. Rent yours from Hike Bike Kayak La Jolla or La Jolla Kayak.
  • San Diego Bike Tours: With them, you can bike and learn about town at the same time.
  • Segway Tours: I think Segway tours are so much fun that I don't really care what I'm seeing along the way. Add a touch of Coronado ambiance and you're almost sure to have a good time.
  • Best Beaches: Whether you're looking for a place to surf, a beach volleyball net or a place to play with the dog, we've got them covered.

Active Day Trips Out of Town

  • Cuyamaca State Park: This is one of the prettiest parks in the area, with lots of hiking trails and places to get active.
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Arts, Architecture, Science and the Unusual

USS Midway in San Diego, CA

TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon 

Ideas for an Unusual Day Out in Diego

Unusual Day Trips Out of Town

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Cute Towns

Downtown Julian, California
Adapted from Colin Smity/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Cute Towns Near San Diego

  • Julian: A former mining town with an old-fashioned downtown.
  • La Jolla: Pretty, upscale, located on the cliffs above an interesting ocean cove.
  • Tijuana: We may be stretching it a bit to call any part of Tijuana "cute," but interesting is definitely a good descriptor these days.
  • Coronado: We like the laid-back ambiance and tidy neighborhoods here.
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Family Adventures

Tidepooling at La Jolla Cove
©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Famiy Days Out in San Diego

  • Sea World: You know the place, at least by reputation. What always surprises me is how much fun I have when I go.
  • Legoland: A great place for the younger set.
  • Mission Bay: Less tourist-ified than most of the San Diego beaches.
  • Coronado Beach: Gently sloping sand, small surf and year-round lifeguard make Coronado Beach great for kids.
  • Ocean Beach: If any of your family members are the furry, four-legged kind, this beach is the only place in San Diego where dogs can run off-leash.
  • Whaley House: If your kids like ghosts or the idea of ghosts, they might like to visit one of the most haunted places in the country.
  • San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park: These are both old standbys for a day out in San Diego.
  • Balboa Park: With plenty of room to romp and lots of places to visit, Balboa has something for every family member.
  • Birch Aquarium, La Jolla: We like this small aquarium, which is much more kid-manageable than its bigger siblings.

Family Day Trips Out of Town

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Indoor Activities

The Botanical Building in Balboa Park

 TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon

Ideas for a Day Indoors in San Diego

San Diego weather is generally mild and it doesn't rain much, but there are days when you might want to be inside instead of out.

  • Balboa Park Museums: They've got a museum that should appeal to almost any interest.
  • San Diego Missions: Take a tour of San Diego history at two of the state's most noteworthy Spanish missions.
  • Maritime Museum: The boats are out in the open, but there's a lot to see inside them.
  • Casinos: If gambling strikes your fancy, the San Diego area has plenty of places to participate.
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Lunch, Brunch and Foodie Destinations

Lunch at Seaport Village
Prayitno/Flickr/(CC BY 2.0

Ideas for Brunch in San Diego

  • Hash House A Go Go: Citysearch readers voted it the best place for breakfast in 2008.
  • Cafe on Park: A neighborhood eatery serving creative egg dishes.
  • Hornblower Brunch Cruises: A great way to get your brunch and sightseeing, too.
  • Old Town: Pleasant surroundings, outdoor patios and large portions make the Old Town restaurants a perennial favorite with many visitors
  • San Diego Brewery Tours: San Diego has become one of the best places in California to find fine, micro-brewed beers and this tour lets you visit three of the area's best breweries without having to find a designated driver to do it.
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Natural Beauty

Joshua trees in Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Momatiuk - Eastcott / Getty Images

Ideas for Exploring Natural Beauty Near San Diego

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Nice Drives

A cliffside in San Diego overlooking the water during sunset

TripSavvy / Sharyn Umaña-Angers 

Nice Drives From San Diego

  • Cabrillo National Monument: OK, it's really kinda in town but on the edge, a nice short drive to a really scenic spot.
  • Scenic Loop: If you've ever seen those scenic highway signs on the road or on a map, this route follows their California poppy icons. Take I-8 east to Hwy 79 north to Hwy 76 west and back to San Diego
  • Anza-Borrego State Park: It's a nice drive out into the desert and if you go at the right time in spring, you may catch the wildflowers in bloom.
  • Coronado Bridge and Silver Strand Highway: Just head over the bridge and turn left at the water for a nice drive through Coronado and along a sliver of sand so narrow you can sometimes see water on both sides of the road. Keep going south through Imperial Beach and you'll eventually reach the mainland again.
  • San Diego Harbor Cruise: On this one, you leave the "driving" to the skipper, but it's the same kind of experience as a good drive, with lots of interesting things to see along the way.
  • Drive to Julian: The drive up to this little former mining town is always pleasant, and in the fall, you'll find plenty of produce stands sellling locally-grown apples along the way.
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Rest and Relax

Pools at Glen Ivy Hot Springs
Courtesy of Glen Ivy Hot Springs

Relaxing Day Trips Out of Town

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Seasonal Events, Festivals and Things to Do

Getting Ready for a Scene at Pageant of the Masters
Courtesy of Pageant of the Masters

Ideas for a Seasonal Day Out in San Diego

Seasonal Day Trips Out of Town

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Shopping Jaunts

Horton Plaza Shopping Center
Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Ideas for a Day of Shopping in San Diego

  • La Jolla: Lots of art galleries and boutiques make for great window-shopping even if you don't buy a thing.
  • Hillcrest: One of the city's liveliest areas, with lots of local shops and things to do.
  • Spanish Village, Balboa Park: You'll find a lot of nice artist's studios here, and with no middleman taking their cut, prices are reasonable.

Shopping Trips Out of Town

  • Palm Springs Outlets: An extensive outlet mall with lots of name-brand shops
  • Tijuana: You probably know about the main drag, but we'll tell you where to shop with better prices and fewer hassles.
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Vacation Side Trips

Road going to Death Valley from the west
©2011 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

If you're on vacation in San Diego, you don't have to stay in time all the time. These places are all suitable for a one or two-day side trip.

  • Hollywood: Great for the star-struck and fun even if you aren't.
  • Newport Beach: San Diego has plenty of beaches, but Newport's Balboa Island is a nice slice of old-fashioned fun.
  • Disneyland: It's not too far away. Find out how to stay out of line and have a great time.
  • La Jolla: With a beautiful bay and a pretty downtown overlooking it, La Jolla really is a jewel (which is what its name means).
  • Death Valley: Best visited on a two-day side trip, Death Valley offers a fascinating desert landscape.
  • Palm Springs: Fun for shopping, mid-century architecture and desert relaxation.
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