The Best Things To Do In San Diego

The most Southern part of coastal California is San Diego. Home to breathtaking beaches, surfer hotspots, delicious cuisines (especially Mexican food), a top-notch craft beer scene, opportunities to get out on the water, sports teams and one of the world’s best Zoos. There really is a little bit of everything to do in San Diego.

On top of all the attractions, one thing that makes San Diego a perfect place to visit all year round is its ideal weather. It’s almost always 75 degrees and sunny. Whether you’re looking to cool down from a hot summer or get in a warm beach trip during the winter, San Diego is a perfect getaway all year round.

Note: Some stays, tours, passes, and meals were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you on things to do in San Diego.  

WHERE TO REST YOUR HEAD

Hilton Garden Inn Downtown/Bayside

2137 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA

Right in San Diego’s Little Italy you’ll come across the Hilton Garden Inn. A short walk to all the restaurants and breweries that area has to offer, about a 20-minute walk into the gaslamp or to the convention center and a $10 uber ride from the airport makes this hotel’s location one of the best in town. With quality rooms, a top-notch restaurant on site and a pool with a view out over the bay you have everything you need for a San Diego getaway. Book your room here.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Hotel Solamar

435 6th Ave, San Diego, CA

In the heart of the Gaslamp District in the Hotel Solamar. A comfortable place to stay for even a long trip. The staff is friendly, the rooms are beautiful and the daily happy hour is a great plus. The rooftop pool and bar is a great place to read in the sun or to grab a relaxing drink in the evening. You can find rooms on some of the deal sites for as low as $150 a night.

La Jolla Riviera Inn

2031 Paseo Dorado, La Jolla, CA

About 15 minutes north of the airport you can find La Jolla Shores. A great low key beach where everything you need is within walking distance. The La Jolla Riviera Inn is a spruced up apartment complex that is perfect for long term stays or a family vacation. We stayed in a two bedroom suite with five adults and it worked perfectly. If you’re looking for a trip for a week this is perfect since you have a kitchen. Our room even had a gorgeous patio to sit out on in the evening. Plus it is only a five-minute was to the beach.


Traveling to San Diego Soon?

Above are a few of my favorite places to stay in the San Diego area.
Learn more about and book more fantastic hotels in San Diego on Priceline and TripAdvisor.


MY FAVORITE EATS

Downtown / Gaslamp

La Puerta

560 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA

An upscale Mexican restaurant. Whether it’s their fresh squeezed margaritas or their chips and guacamole you’ll enjoy an evening at La Puerta. Stop by during happy hour where drinks and appetizers are half off, this can have a huge impact on your bill. Order one of their versions of the California Burrito. Which if you haven’t tried before is a San Diego staple with french fries in the burrito as well. It might sound crazy, but it is delicious.

Lolitas

202 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA

You’ll find these scattered around San Diego and there is one right over by Petco Park. Stop into this low key shop of a delicious breakfast burrito in the morning or some street tacos in the afternoon.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Sultan Shawarma

543 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA

We were looking for something delicious, but cheap when we stumbled across Sultan Shawarma. Mediterranean food packed with flavor. We got both a shawarma and a falafel plate and split them. Everything was delicious, especially the falafels. If you’re in the Gaslamp and looking for something packed with flavor, but want to avoid some of the higher prices you find in the area this is the perfect spot.

Royal India

329 Market St, San Diego, CA

Awarded as one of the best Indian restaurants in San Diego. I loved everything I tried. Plus they offer a reasonable and delicious lunch buffet. A perfect place to sneak away from the convention or work event that might have you visiting town. The Samosas were particularly delicious.

Berkeley Pizza

539 Island Ave, San Diego, CA

A Northern California specialty brought down to Southern California. At whichever place you visit you’ll find an almost Chicago style deep dish that you can still eat with your hands. A crispy crust and flavor packed fillings.

Old Town

Rockin’ Baja

3890 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA

Over in Old Town, this spot had delicious margaritas and even better fish tacos. They also have a grab your own chips and salsa bars that’s an easy crowd pleaser. From ceviche to lobster tacos, these twists on the classic baja fish tacos were all delectable.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Little Italy

Pacific Standard

2137 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA

Right on the edge of Little Italy, you’ll find this coastal inspired spot. Whether you stop in for a delicious breakfast, I recommend the french toast, happy hour at the bar or a savory dinner you won’t regret it. With local breweries on tap and a Top Chef contestant leading the kitchen, you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself.

Ironside Fish and Oyster

1654 India St, San Diego, CA

One of my favorite meals I’ve had in San Diego. A fish lover’s paradise, you can stop by for happy hour and enjoy a wide selection $1 Oysters. Or enjoy one of their flavor-packed entries. Their lobster roll is to die for and well worth the $20 meal.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Harbor Breakfast

1502 India St, San Diego, CA

A quaint breakfast spot right in Little Italy. You’ll want to head over early since there will be a line on the weekends. Sit at the counter or one of the booths. Order one of their Mexican-inspired breakfast or a classic dish.

Ocean Beach / Pacific Beach

South Beach Bar & Grill

5059 Newport Ave #104, San Diego, CA

A casual dive bar just off the beach. You’ve got a great view and some even better fish tacos. Both the fresh grilled variety and the deep fried are delicious here. Be sure to order a Wahoo Taco and then grab at least one more.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Fig Tree Cafe Pacific Beach

5119 Cass St, San Diego, CA

This place is 90% outside but even though it was raining a bit we stayed drive. Cute and eclectic. It was a perfect place to go to for brunch with the family. They had great options for the vegetarian and gluten-free members of the family. We ordered four types of Eggs Benedict and they were all amazing. The coffee was strong and in mismatching mugs. Looking forward to going back and exploring lunch.

La Jolla

Lena Craft Mexican

909 Prospect St #290, La Jolla, CA

If you’re looking for some elevated tacos this is the spot. Order two or three, although you better be hungry if you go for three. Try the shrimp and carne asada. They both impressed.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Brick & Bell Cafe

928 Silverado Street, La Jolla, CA

Here you find some quality coffee and mouthwatering pastries. A cute little shop that just opened on the main drag in La Jolla Shores. Stop by in the morning before you walk the beach and grab a cup to go, or sit down and relax for awhile in the afternoon.

Piatti

2182 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA

Piatti is an upscale Italian chain you can find around California and a few other places. The spot in La Jolla Shores was nice but casual enough to bring the family. Had a great gluten-free menu, many vegetarian options, and just plain delicious pasta. The service was great, the wine list tasty and reasonably priced. A perfect place for a nice family meal, date night, or really just about any excuse for a good meal.

The Cheese Shop

2165 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA

If you’re looking for a quick bite to bring down to the beach or want to savor on something tasty while you people watch, the Cheese Shop is perfect. A delicious deli where you can order a little bit of everything. Also possibly the best tuna sandwich I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot. The potato salad was perfectly done as well.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Find even more foodie things to do in San Diego’s cuisines in an eating your way through San Diego post. 

THE BEST PLACES TO GRAB A DRINK

Stone Brewery – Liberty Station

2816 Historic Decatur Rd #116, San Diego, CA

One of San Diego’s best-known breweries not only provides you with top notch beer but also a beautiful patio to spend the afternoon at. Just around the corner from the airport, it’s a perfect place to visit on your way out of town. Stone is best known for their heavy hoppy style but when you’re on the property you’ll find beers that any palette will enjoy.

Modern Times

3725 Greenwood St, San Diego, CA

A recent favorite of mine that I was determined to visit on my last trip to San Diego. You’ll find a variety of IPA styled beer as well as a few different types of sour beer to try. Their taproom is a cozy spot to hang out with friends, and located in the Point Loma area makes it easy to swing by some of the other breweries in the area.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Ballast Point

2215 India St San Diego, CA

You can find Ballast Point in a few different neighborhoods around San Diego and a great one is their location in Little Italy. Often rather busy, you can often still find a spot a the bar where you can order right away. Try a tasting flight where you can enjoy a little bit of everything they have to offer. Their Sculpin IPA is a big favorite of many good friends.

ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES TO TRY

Food Tour with Bite San Diego

One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is taking a food tour. My tour with Bite San Diego did not disappoint. We took the Downtown/Little Italy tour and got to see many new spots not only I but local friends who joined hadn’t visited before. It was a delicious afternoon learning a little more about the history of the town as well as eating amazing foods. They also offer tours of Coronado, Pacific Beach, North Park, Liberty Station and more.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Hop On A Boat for Whale Watching

San Diego has gray whales and blue whales swimming up and down the coast for much of the year. It’s a great chance to get out on the water and see San Diego from a different perspective. Read more about taking a whale watching trip over with Maria Abroad. Or how a little about how to whale watch San Diego style by Coleman Concierge.

Get in Some Beach Time

You can’t go to San Diego without a visit to the beach. If you’re used to the East Coast or elsewhere you’ll probably find the water cold, but for us Californians, it’s as warm as you can find. In La Jolla, you can find beautiful cliffsides and a relaxing beach. Or at Mission Beach, you can enjoy a busy boardwalk and flat beach. Coronado Beach is unique with navy planes flying overhead and further north towards Carlsbad you can find some quieter nooks on the coast.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

Visit the One of a Kind San Diego Zoo & Safari Park

In San Diego, you’ll find what is arguably the world best Zoo. It’s an amazing place to animals from all over the world up close and even more than that it is one of the top research institutions that focuses on care and breeding of endangered species. Whether you go for a visit in Balboa Park at the San Diego Zoo or to the Safari Park, called the Wild Animal Park when I was younger, it’s well worth a visit, Find a little more about the Zoo here.

Paddle Boarding on the Bay

I love getting out on the water and one of my favorite ways is hoping on a paddle board. San Diego has a few places perfect for this and one of them is Mission Bay. Here you can paddle along the marina with jellyfish underneath you and dolphins jumping around at the Navy Research Center.Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

If you’re looking for some more things to do in San Diego check out a few of my other posts on the area:

For more information about San Diego check out these great books on Amazon including Fodor’s San DiegoTop 10 San Diego, and San Diego Brewery Guide.

More Reading: A Cyclist’s Paradise San Diego, California

Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more. Top things to do in San Diego, California. Where to stay, what to do, where to eat and more.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the political world in California, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures.

  • Danielle Ditzian

    Oh my god what a freakin’ handy blog post! Love how many different places you’ve listed – I was totally at a loss when I visited, so I’ll be checking back in here when I next go to San Diego!

  • Elaine J Masters

    I’ve lived in San Diego over a dozen years and would like to mention that the weather isn’t always a perfect balmy 75 degrees! Much depends on where in San Diego you are. Inland 2 – 3 miles is most always five degrees hotter than on the coast. There’s often a marine layer of clouds over the beach communities – it usually burns off midday, but not always. Nice suggestions on the rest.

  • So many great options to do. We have yet to make it to San Diego but I have an increasingly long list of things to do when we get there. Looks like the foodie options are pretty good too.

  • You had me at ideal weather – 75 and sunny sounds like my kind of place. I’d love to give SUP Boarding a go – and the food tour alongside the many great places to eat and drink – I’d want to visit them all!

  • Chrysoula Manika

    I have never been to San Diego but I have heard the best. I love your reccomendations and especialy those about food. They all look so yummy!

  • Arzo Travels

    I only spent a day there and just had lunch basically and visited the sea lions 🙂 Would love to come back and do and see more.

  • My parents went to San Diego a few years ago and I remember how much they loved the city. I too love getting to know a city through a good food tour. Hopefully I’ll be able to check out San Diego for myself one day.

  • Such a comprehensive list! I’ll definitely use it if I get to visit San Diego, which looks beautiful and sounds wonderfully lively looking at your article.

  • Laura Robinson

    I’m a big fan of tacos. The hotel you stayed in also looks lovely. I think I would like San Diego.

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