20 Things to do in San Diego
Point Loma Tidepools
Watch the Hangliders
See The View
Cabrillo National Monument
Grab a Fish Sandwich
Ride the Carousel at Seaport Beach
Take a Cliff Walk in La Jolla
Visit the Museum of Art
See the fish at the Aquarium
Go nude at the beach
Hear the Drum Ring
Take a Hike
Ride the Roller Coaster
Go to a Farmer’s Market
Take a Ferry
Enjoy Fresh Mexican Food
Visit an Aircraft Carrier
1: Watch the Seals
Watch the seals frolic in the water and bask in the sun at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. The beach used to be popular with children and sun worshippers but the seals have now taken over and enjoy the beach to themselves. Some days over a hundred seals call this home. See them in their natural beauty. Get close and take some great pictures from various vantage points. The area is marked off with rope on the sand and the sea wall to the west. Please obey the rules of non engagement. Located at the beach at 850 Coast Blvd. West of Prospect off Jenner. Also park at the Cove and walk south along the coastal sidewalk.
2: Point Loma Tidepools
Did you know that the Tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument are one of the last and best-preserved rocky Intertidal areas open to the public in Southern California? Located on the west side of the Cabrillo Point Park, a spectacular rocky shoreline provides tidepools of marine creatures. A myriad of marine plants and animals, including lacy red and slimy green algae, sluggish sea hares, leggy octopi, darting fish, and the always entertaining hermit crabs, live in this rocky intertidal area.
The tidepools are accessible by car only through the Cabrillo National Monument. Take Canon street off Rosecrans to the top of hill and take a left on Catalina Blvd. Open 365 days a year. 9am-4:30pm. If you want a great fish sandwich before you head up try Point Loma Seafoods. Take Emerson off Rosecrans. Visit Cabrillo Monument (see below) while you are there as it is part of the park. Fee is $5 (non-commercial) fee per vehicle. For more info, visit nps.gov/cabr.
3: Watch the Hangliders
First established as a soaring site in 1930. Torrey Pines Gliderport is the home to hang gliding, paragliding, radio-controlled model sailplanes, and full-scale man-carrying sailplanes. It is considered by glider enthusiasts of all types to be the “Kitty Hawk of the West.” Located atop the majestic cliffs of Torrey Pines, Blacks Beach and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this is surely to be a highlight of your visit to San Diego. Breathtaking beauty awaits you mixed with the awe inspiring bravery of men and women jumping off the shear cliffs strapped to a wing or a parasail.
Directions from Interstate 5 – Exit Genesee Ave. Go West up hill – 4th stop light make a left on North Torrey Pines Road (to head south). Make a right onto Torrey Pines Scenic Drive (2nd stoplight). Take Torrey Pines Scenic Drive all the way to the end and park in the dirt parking lot. Located on top of the hill. Just look up to see gliders flying along the cliff!
4: See the View
Mount Soledad is a prominent landmark high above the city of La Jolla. The 823’ hilltop site is the home of the stark white Latin Cross that can be seen for miles and thus offers a great vantage point looking north towards Oceanside and Los Angeles. On a clear day you can see the hills of Mexico to the south, east to the Cuyamaca mountains and west overlooking La Jolla and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.Sit on the steps to the cross, or sit in the car and enjoy the view. Visit the Memorial Walls to honor the veterans and active duty servicemen who have lost their lives protecting our country.
Access Mount Soledad from many different locations from Pacific Beach off the I-5 head up Soledad Mtn. Road. From north Pacific Beach head up La Jolla Mesa Drive and wind your way up. You will see the radio towers as you approach. You can also wind up Hidden Valley Road to Villa Capri off La Jolla Parkway. There is no charge.
5: Cabrillo National Monument
Watch the video above or go to our video page!
A spectacular view awaits you at the end of Point Loma and a scenic drive past Fort Rosecrans Cemetery. Whales are often seen from here on a clear day, January through middle March.
Climbing out of his boat and onto shore in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped into history as the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. A short walk leads to the old Point Loma Lighthouse. This picturesque structure is restored to its 1880s appearance and presents life as it was for the lightkeepers and their families. A self-guided two-mile walk through a coastal sage scrub forest begins near the Lighthouse. This trail offers views of the harbor and city of San Diego and is particularly pleasant during the spring when wildflowers bloom. South of the Lighthouse is the Whale Overlook. This vantage point offers pleasant views of the Pacific Ocean and the New Point Loma Lighthouse.
To get to Cabrillo National Monument, take Canon street off Rosecrans to the top of hill and take a left on Catalina Blvd. Open 365 days a year. 9am-4:30pm There is a $5 (non-commercial) vehicle fee for park entrance. For more info nps.gov/cabr Combine this trip with the Tidepools (#2)!
6: Grab a Fish Sandwich
Watch the waves in La Jolla. Call ahead and order a Salmon Sandwich with avocado or an Ahi plate from El Pescador on Pearl Street. Serving the freshest fish in town. (858)456-2526. Stroll straight down to the waterfront (about 3 blocks) and sit on the grass or the scattered picnic tables and picnic a hundred feet from the surf. Take a stroll along the coast north to the Childrens Pool and watch the seals basking in the sun.
7: Ride the Carousel at Seaport Village
We hate to say it, as we are anti-corporate and this place can be costly, but kids love this place, and we are all about kids and family. You will enjoy 14 acres of waterfront shopping, dining and an entertainment complex recreating a harbor side setting of over a century ago. Four miles of cobblestone pathways border the San Diego Bay, ponds, lakes, fountains and colorful, lush landscaping await you. The area includes over 50 unique shops, casual international eateries for everyone and a few fine dining waterfront restaurants. A make up of street performers and artisans – caricaturists, face painters and balloon sculptors can be found throughout. Ride the carousel. An 1895 Antique carousel with hand carved animals by Charles Loof.
Located downtown on San Diego Bay at Kettner Blvd. and West Harbor Drive, just west of the Convention Center, Seaport Village is open daily 10am – 9pm.
8: Watch a foreign film
Located in the heart of San Diego’s Uptown District, the uniquely designed Hillcrest Cinemas represent the city’s largest theatre complex dedicated to independent film and foreign language cinema. Theatres are located on the second floor of the Art Deco-influenced Village Hillcrest shopping complex on Fifth Avenue between University Avenue and Washington Street. The best art films are shown here. Landmark Theatres Located at 3965 Fifth Avenue. (619) 819-0236
9: Take a Cliff Walk in La Jolla
Check out our video above!
Most locals don’t even know this place, but the birds do. Find the Shell Shop in La Jolla just a few hundred feet above the cove on Coast Walk. Just a few steps to the left of the shop you will find a trail that heads north high above the water on the cliffs. The large pelicans and other seabirds nest precariously, perched on the cliffs as you will see. Seals bask in the sun on the rocks below. In addition you will get a spectacular view of the ocean and the coastline on a clear day up to Oceanside and beyond. The blue and ever changing aqua color of the water directly below is play area for Kayakers of all sorts looking up at the birds and cliffs of La Jolla. See gorgeous homes in abundance, scattering the bluffs as you are practically in there front yard. Before or afterwards we suggest visiting the shell shop. This is the entrance to the Caves. (there is a small entrance fee, as the entrance is only accessed through the shell shop, and well, it’s America) Over one hundred dimly lit stairs will guide you through the caves and down to the waters edge vantage point. A must see when in the area!
10: Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum is housed in the original personal residence of Ellen Browning Scripps perched on the cliff overlooking the beautiful La Jolla shoreline. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) provides an unprecedented variety of exhibition spaces and experiences for the community, showcasing an internationally recognized collection of art and a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs. The art and location make this a must see in San Diego. 25 years old and under get in free, provided by a grant from Qualcomm. Located at 700 Prospect Street in La Jolla. (858) 454-3541. www.mcasd.org.
11: See the fish at the Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. An interactive museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps scientists on climate, earth and ocean science. Hours 9am – 5pm daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. Location in La Jolla at 2300 Expedition Way. Admission: Adults – $12.00, Seniors (60+) – $9.00, College Students with I.D. – $9.00 Youth (3-17 years) – $8.50. For more info (858) 534-FISH, aquarium.ucsd.edu.
Pictured: a Bell Jellyfish
12: Go nude at the Beach
Black’s Beach in San Diego is one of the largest nude beaches in the United States and is popular with many Southern Californian nudists and naturists. Black’s Beach was traditionally recognized as a clothing optional beach, nudity is tolerated The clothing optional portion of Black’s Beach begins about 100-yards (91m) south of the trail head leading to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, and runs north for approximately 1.1-mile (1.8 km) to the steel buoy south of Flatrock. Best access flat beachwalk, park at La Jolla shores and walk north. Or access from Torrey Pines State Park and walk South. Can also be accessed but not advised from the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Very steep unstable cliff access. Be respectful of others and nudity is not indecency.
13: Hear the Drum Ring
Each Sunday afternoon, people gather on the grass in Balboa Park near the Cultural Center off Park Avenue and the 163. Drummers of all ethnicity’s gather informally and form a circle and beat their drums from large to small. The drumming emphasis is on African quasi-Mande rhythms but riffs can vary. Improvisational community drumming for all. If you are not instrumental just enjoy basking in the sun and listening to the rhythms or dance and meet some fun people. Fun for kids as well. Share some culture. The starting time varies on the time of year. Generally, it gets going at about 3:30 in the summer and about 2:30 in the winter. It lasts until sundown.
14: Take a Hike
The Reserve is a coastal state park and consists of a plateau with cliffs that overlook Torrey Pines State Beach. From the cliffs or many places along the beach, it is possible to see La Jolla to the south and Del Mar to the north. During whale migrations, it is sometimes possible to see whales from the cliffs. At the southern end of the beach is a large rock that projects into the ocean, called Flat Rock. South of this rock is San Diego’s unofficial nude beach, Black’s Beach. Eight miles of trails within the park offers an attraction for hikers and beach-goers (guided nature walks take place on weekends and holidays), The reserve includes a lagoon is vital to migrating seabirds. Many different kinds of wildlife and flora are found within the reserve including the rare Torrey Pine Tree.
15: Take a Pedicab
16: Ride the Roller Coaster
Belmont Park located in Mission Beach offers tons of fun for the kids. Belmont park itself offers the Giant Dipper an original old wooden Roller Coaster still rideable although built in 1925. Surrounding the Giant Dipper is an Amusement Park complete with a carousel, arcades and snacks for the kids. Also housed in the park is the Flow Rider. A machine creating a man made surfing wave. Spectators enjoy watching as much as people do riding the waves.
If that is not enough Mission Beach with 2 miles of oceanfront offers opportunities to sunbathe, surf, ride bikes or just play Frisbee. Bike rentals are available on the Boardwalk. This is a great thing to do as you can ride north along the boardwalk and then cut over at PB Drive and head back along the Mission Bay route.
17: Go to a Farmer’s Market
Our favorite Farmers Market around the City. A great way to spend a Saturday morning and awake all your senses. Get the best in freshest produce. Stroll up and down the streets, closed to traffic and sample lots of tasty foods, desserts, breads, olive oils, pesto’s and humus, fruits and juices to name a few. You will find the freshest flowers. Smell the Gerber Daisy’s. Many other vendors show off their trades from jewelry to art.
Saturdays 9am – 1:30 Located at West Date at India Street. Parking can be somewhat of a challenge.
18: Take a Ferry
The Coronado Ferry Landing is a great place for a half day trip! Located at the east end of Coronado, just across the big blue bridge. Get there by car or take the 15 minute Ferry from downtown San Diego’s waterfront. A great view of San Diego’s skyline awaits you.
See the boats coming in and out of the harbor. Grab a great coffee from Kaffeen’s (don’t be fooled by the permanent kiosk) they are serving up a great flavorful cup of Joe or a Mocha with chocolate whipped cream on top. Stroll through the quaint stores or grab a bite in several of bayside restaurants. Check out a gallery or two or just pull up a chair on the grass and enjoy the view. Highly suggest renting a bike or a surrey(a cool bike with four wheels and seats an equal amount of passengers in style) and ride around Coronado and feel like a local.
19: Enjoy Fresh Mexican Food
Have a margarita and eat great Mexican food with an authentic ambiance. Casa Guadalajara captures the spirit of Mexico. One of the last places left in Old Town that still has that authentic feel. Transport yourself to Mexico and enjoy delicious food. Their margaritas are not only good, but inexpensive. The chips are excellent, thin and fresh tasting, not greasy. The Salsa is great with just the right amount of heat. Traditional tasty Mexican dishes include tacos(try the fish tacos), burritos, tostadas and chicken mole. Hungry? Have the carne asada and cheese enchilada, Muey Bueno! The Mariachi’s stroll at peak times. Located on the far north end of Old Town with their own parking lot. 4105 Taylor St (between Juan St & Sunset St). Phone (619)285-6111.
20: Visit an Aircraft Carrier
Imagine experiencing life at sea aboard one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. Visitors to the USS Midway Museum explore a floating city at sea and relive nearly 50 years of world history aboard the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. When you enter, you are given a set of headphones that allow you to hear details and stories about what you are seeing as you walk along. You can go from the engine room to the bridge. You will also see 25 restored aircraft and 60 exhibits while walking in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country. Staff on board are informing and educational. The kids will love this one.
Located on the water at 910 North Harbor Drive (alongside Navy Pier) Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, (Thanksgiving and Christmas excepted) $18 for Adults and $10 kids 6-17. Under 5 free. (619) 544-9600