The 12 Best Things to Do in San Diego

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Mission Beach in Mission Bay, San Diego/Oyster

No matter the season, San Diego’s consistently cool beach-going vibes and casual laid-back attitude always make it a great city to visit. With so much to choose from, from a hike along the beautiful beachfront trails in Torrey Pines or a bike ride around Coronado Island to chowing down on some of the best California burritos in town, here’s a look at the 12 best things to do in San Diego.

1. Get some culture.

Home to 17 museums including the San Diego Natural History Museum and Reuben H. Fleet Center, as well as the world famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park,  is a 2,000-acre urban cultural park in the heart of downtown San Diego that’s not to be missed. 

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Del Mar Equestrian Center.

Del Mar Equestrian Center.

2. Play the ponies.

If you’re lucky enough to be in San Diego between July 19 and September 4, the Del Mar Racetrack is a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon. Every Friday following the last race, a concert series commences on the fairgrounds and is free of charge for racegoers. 

3. Eat breakfast burritos at Pipes Café.

A San Diego institution, Pipe’s Café in Cardiff-by-the-Sea has been serving up some of the best breakfast burritos in town since 1995. Order at the counter and post up on the outside patio. Pipes is across the street from San Elijo State Beach which is a great place to walk off a burrito food baby once you’re done.

La Jolla.

4. Swim with seals.

La Jolla Cove is home to a population of wild seals and sea lions, and there’s no better way to see them up close and personal than renting a kayak or paddleboard from one of the nearby shops. La Jolla Kayak and Everyday California have you covered, and both offer professionally led tours around La Jolla’s coastal cliffs and sea caves.

5. Get your Mexican food fix.

Eating good Mexican food is a moral imperative on any visit to San Diego, and there are hundreds of options to choose from. For some of the best carnitas, carne asada, and California burritos in town, head over to Rico’s Taco Shop in Encinitas. Downtown near the airport, El Indio Shop has been in service since 1940 and bills itself as the birthplace of the taquito. Everything here is delicious, and if you can, snag a spot outside at one of the nearby tables.

6. Get high up.

For an experience you’ll never forget, head over to the Torrey Pines Glider Port where you can sail into the sunset (literally). The Gliderport — a world class flying site located on the bluffs of Torrey Pines overlooking La Jolla — offers flight lessons, certifications, and tandem flight paragliding. There is also a cafe on site, which is a great place to post up, grab a snack, and look out over one of the most beautiful views in town.

Torrey Pines. Courtesy of Jeeheon/Flickr.

Torrey Pines. Courtesy of Jeeheon/Flickr.

7. Take a hike.

Torrey Pines State Reserve is a 1,700-acre oceanfront reserve featuring eight miles of trails to choose from. The Beach Trail, which is a nearly three-mile loop with ocean views along the way, is by far the most popular, so be prepared for lots of foot traffic, especially on weekends.

8. Go bottoms up.

San Diego’s beer and spirits scene has really taken off over the last few years. For some seriously delicious cocktails and amazing scenery to boot, Level2 in La Jolla offers uninterrupted views over la Jolla Shores.  If you’re looking for some serious bar hopping it doesn’t get much better than San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. There are dozens of bars, restaurants and clubs to choose from, but we recommend Noble Experiment, a sexy speakeasy excellent craft cocktails and an always fashionable crowd.

9. Vintage shop in Pacific Beach.

Pacific Beach, or P.B., as it’s known by locals, may be home to some of San Diego’s best bars, bonfires, and an ever-eclectic boardwalk scene. However, it’s also one of the trendiest areas in town for vintage lovers. Head down Garnett Avenue, the bloodline of P.B., and you’ll find a variety of thrift and vintage shops including Frock You Vintage Clothing and Garnet Vintage Home Collection.

Coronado Island.

Coronado Island.

10. Bike around Coronado Island.

Located across the San Diego Bay and connected by a bridge, Coronado Island is home to a variety of beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants, quaint ice cream shops, and hip boutiques along Main Street — not to mention the famous Hotel Del Coronado. While there are a number of ways to see Coronado, renting a bike is perhaps one of the best options and bike rentals are available around the island. 

11. Visit Liberty Public Market.

Set within a historic building in Point Loma, the 25,000-square-foot Liberty Public Market is an indoor-outdoor venue that was transformed from a 1920s-era naval base commissary into a massive 21st-century market. Featuring some of San Diego’s best culinary offerings, this spot is now home to more than 30 local artisans’ shops, restaurants and bars, as well as one of San Diego’s most beloved breweries, Stone Brewing Company.

12. Take a San Diego Beer Trolley tour.

San Diego is dubbed the craft beer capital of the world, and for good reason. With more than 200 breweries, microbreweries, tasting rooms, and brewpubs around the city, there’s no better way to see and experience it all than the Beer Train Trolley Tour. The five-and-a-half-hour tour includes a flight of beer at each of four breweries, and guests are educated in the history of San Diego’s beer scene.

Need a hotel recommendation? Check out our reviews and photos of 142 hotels in San Diego.

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