If you’re looking for sunny skies and warm beaches, San Diego is the destination for you. There are lots of fun things to do in San Diego, whether you want to explore iconic areas, hop on thrilling rides, or simply relax in the summer sun.
San Diego, California is considered a paradise to many, so there’s no shortage of activities to brighten your day. Here are sixteen fun things to do in San Diego that you might want to add to your itinerary.
#1 – Balboa Park
Balboa Park is so much more than just your average outdoor space. It takes up 1,200 acres of San Diego, and it has many other attractions inside it, including the zoo, some museums, historic buildings, theaters, and restaurants. The reason many people love visiting Balboa Park is because it has lots of beautiful sights. There are plenty of walking trails to explore, which will take you through gardens with over 350 different plant species. It even has an indoor botanical building, which is a great starting point for guests. With so many attractions in the famous park, you could spend your whole vacation there if you wanted to.
#2 – Coronado Beach
Coronado Island is truly the tropical oasis of San Diego. While it’s technically a peninsula rather than an island, it’s still a popular tourist destination, full of hotels, restaurants, and of course, the famous Coronado Beach. This beach is perfect for a relaxing day in the sun. It’s known as a great tanning location while also having more relaxing waves and cleaner sand. Along the beach is the Hotel del Coronado and some mansions, which have gorgeous architecture. These structures make the beach a great photo spot no matter which way you’re facing. The best and most exciting ways to get to this “island” are to take the ferry or drive across the massive Coronado Bridge.
#3 – USS Midway Museum
Most tourists don’t travel to tropical destinations to educate themselves, but the USS Midway Museum is not your typical museum. This attraction is one of the most fun things to do in San Diego because it’s a great opportunity to tour a real-life aircraft carrier. The entire museum is floating on the water, and it’s over 1,000 feet long and taller than a 20-story building. San Diego has lots of history related to the military, so that’s why they have this attraction to show you what life on an aircraft carrier would be like. You can explore different areas of the ship, including the flight deck, mess hall, and sleeping quarters.
#4 – Little Italy
As the name implies, Little Italy is a popular neighborhood in San Diego that’s full of Italian restaurants, bakeries, wine bars, and shopping. It also has some restaurants that aren’t Italian, in case you have a picky eater traveling with you. Little Italy is the city’s oldest business district, and it’s a fun area to walk around. Depending on the time of year, you can also check out lots of events, such as farmers markets, art festivals, and other attractions unique to Little Italy.
#5 – Belmont Park
Belmont Park is San Diego’s very own amusement park, which has been open since 1925. If you’re traveling with kids, this might be one of the most fun things for you to do in San Diego due to its wide variety of attractions. The park as 12 rides, three eateries overlooking the ocean, a zipline, a mini golf course, rock climbing, lasertag, and many smaller attractions like carnival games. The most popular ride in the park is the Giant Dipper, which is a 2,600-foot roller coaster that can easily be seen from a distance. So, whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or some relaxing ocean views, this park has something for everyone.
#6 – San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo can be found right in Balboa Park. It’s one of the best rated zoos in the world, and it’s home to over 650 different animal species including giant pandas, elephants, koalas, and polar bears. It was one of the first zoos to have cage-less exhibits, and the enclosures today more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats. There are over 100 acres to explore at this attraction, but you can opt to take a bus tour or ride the “Skyfari tramway” to help you get around easier. At a separate location, you can also check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which has multiple safari experiences, including some African animals like lions and elephants roaming in a large open space.
#7 – Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego is the spot where the first European settlement of modern-day California was. It’s a neighborhood with lots of historic structures, many of which were built between 1820 and 1870. It also has plenty of green spaces, memorials, picnic areas, restaurants, and shops. The State Historic Park in Old Town is also a must-see. It’s a free attraction that takes you back in time to learn about the cultures during the American settlement. Old Town might not be the most action-packed attraction, but it’s great for a peaceful and educational stroll when the weather is beautiful.
#8 – La Jolla Cove
La Jolla is a California beach town that’s almost surrounded by water. The seaside village of La Jolla Cove is only 20 minutes away from downtown San Diego. It has plenty of cute little restaurants and shops, but most people visit for the beaches. The gentle waves of the La Jolla shore are a favorite for many visitors. Most of the beach areas have a lifeguard present at all times, along with public restrooms. This area also has some of the most beautiful photo opportunities, with cliffs and caves found along the shimmering blue water. It’s the perfect destination for a day in the sun.
#9 – San Diego Bay Cruises
One of the most fun things to do when you’re surrounded by water is go on a San Diego cruise. After all, some of the best views of the city can be seen from the ocean. So, you can set sail on a 1-hour cruise for amazing sights and luxury. You’ll get to see the many popular landmarks from a new angle, and you might even see some wildlife, such as sea lions, pelicans, and herons. During the cruise, a guide will be sharing interesting facts about San Diego, and it will make you feel like an expert without even setting foot in the city. As long as you don’t get seasick, this is a gorgeous attraction to check out.
#10 – Children’s Pool
Don’t be fooled by the name. Children’s Pool isn’t a pool at all, but instead, it’s a beach! It was given this name because it’s one of the safest beaches your child can swim at in San Diego. The beach has a large concrete wall on one side of the water, which blocks out treacherous waves, leaving this beach calm and stress-free. As an unintended bonus, the calm waters appeal to seals and sea lions, who often come to hang out and give birth to their pups. They’re adorable creatures as long as your family knows not to get too close to them.
#11 – Sunset Cliffs
If you love watching the sunset, then Sunset Cliffs Natural Park will be one of the most fun things to do in San Diego for you. This mesmerizing 68-acre park is full of many natural sights, including caves, ocean bluffs, tide pools, and natural arches. And of course, it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset near San Diego. It has a lot of high points along the ocean’s coast, making the sunset look incredible. You might even see some whales and dolphins as the sun goes down. During the daytime, there are also plenty of trails to explore.
#12 – SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld is a famous amusement park and aquarium that many animal lovers are familiar with. The park was first created when graduates from the University of California wanted to create an underwater restaurant. But, of course, they ended up making this major attraction instead. SeaWorld started out with only a few attractions, some dolphins, and some sea lions. But it has grown so much since then. Now, SeaWorld is known for its massive collection of aquatic animals, its large roller coasters, and its many popular shows. If you want to see lots of cute animals like penguins, whales, turtles, and sharks up close, then this is the place for you. It’s certainly one of the most fun things to do in San Diego if you have children along.
#13 – Legoland California
Legoland California is another kid-friendly attraction that’s located only 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. It’s an amusement park with rides that are geared toward a younger audience. In between the bigger attractions, there are incredible Lego sculptures scattered throughout the park. From buildings to dinosaurs, you’ll find just about anything you can imagine made out of Legos. This is just one of the many Legoland attractions throughout the world, and it’s guaranteed to entertain families, no matter how good their Lego-building abilities are.
#14 – Fashion Valley
Fashion Valley is a stylish outdoor shopping center that first opened its doors in 1969. Its design is made using Spanish architecture, fountains, and palm trees. If you love shopping, this might be an exciting stop for you. As you might’ve guessed, this space is known for its endless collection of fashion, from all types of styles. It has over 200 stores on-site, along with 30 restaurants for when you need a bite to eat. It’s more upscale than your typical shopping center, but it brings in over 18 million visitors annually.
#15 – Embarcadero
Embarcadero is San Diego’s harbor front, which is where you’ll find the USS Midway Museum and many cruises. But this space is for so much more than just riding on boats. It’s a social area with lots of fantastic views and scenic walking trails. It’s a popular spot for fountains, playgrounds, and splash pads, so your kids will have blast while you admire the departing ships. Nearby, there are also plenty of dining and shopping options, which have some of the best views in the city. While looking out on the water, you might even spot a whale or two. It’s a beautiful area to explore, and it’s especially convenient if you’re checking out one of the nearby attractions.
#16 – Gaslamp Quarter
Finally, the Gaslamp Quarter is one of the most fun things to do in San Diego because it’s a beautiful historical sight with lots to experience. This “Historic Heart of San Diego” takes up 16 blocks. There are also 94 historic buildings that you’ll come across. The Gaslamp Quarter is where downtown San Diego originally got started. To this day, it’s still full of exciting things to do. It’s home to over 100 restaurants, bars, and breweries. Yet, if you’re not feeling hungry, you can check out art galleries, symphony halls, and boutiques as well. Like many popular areas of San Diego, it often hosts events, such as Comic Con and a Margi Gras festival.
Are you looking for fun things to do in San Diego? Well, luckily for you, the list of must-see attractions never ends. These are just 16 of the many exciting things that San Diego has to offer. So, take your time, look over your options, and choose the ones that stand out to you. No matter what you do in this tropical city, you’re sure to have a blast! And of course, if you haven’t settled on your vacation destination, you should consider other areas of sunny California too.