What To Check Out in San Diego, California

San Diego is one of my favorite places to go to! Who doesn’t love endless sunshine, brunching by the beach and delicious Mexican food? It’s been a few years since I’ve visited so I recently took a quick trip down there (cheap tickets on Southwest!) to re-explore a couple of places that I love, and to pretty much be a tourist in a city I once lived in for 7 years. San Diego treated me well and gave me the warm sunshine in the beginning of March (which is still considered Winter). If you’re looking for a trip to San Diego, below are a few places that you should check out.

Balboa Park

In front of the lily pond and botanical building

Balboa Park is one of my favorite places to go to hang out. There, you can find 1,200 ares of early 1800s architecture, museums (there’s 17 of them!) and gardens. One of my favorite things to do is to just have a picnic in the middle of the park. I also love exploring and you’ll find something amazing around almost every corner. Some of the hot spots of this park are:

  • The San Diego Zoo – See below as I think it deserves it’s own section 🙂
  • Any of the 17 museums
  • Japanese Friendship Garden – A serene garden representing the friendship of San Diego and it’s sister city of Yokohoma.
  • Botanical Building and the lily pond – Collection of botanical flowers in one building.
  • The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden – Over 100 variety of roses. They typically bloom in April/May.
  • The Prado to walk along – A few museums and cafes, but I like like looking at the architecture.
  • The Spanish Village Art Center – An area to check out some cool art.
  • Spreckels Organ Pavillion – The world’s largest outdoor organ.
  • 65 miles of trails – For hiking, walking or exploring.
  • Restaurants and cafe – Grab a coffee or eat a meal.

San Diego Zoo

Mentioned above, the San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park. What’s unique about this zoo is that it’s one of the few zoos that houses the giant panda! It’s also one of the biggest zoos with over 3,500 animals.

Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is known for its nightlife, but there’s plenty to do throughout the day as well. It’s one of the oldest districts in San Diego with 16.5 blocks of history, and things to do from shopping to eating. You can stop by for brunch, stay around for some shopping at the outdoor mall (Horton Plaza), and then roll into the night and go to a nightclub, restaurant or bar.

Old Town

There’s history all over San Diego, but Old Town was the first settlement in California. Come here to learn more and to also feast on some authentic Mexican food.

Liberty Public Market

Walkway in the Liberty Station at night

Looking for a place to satisfy everyone’s food cravings? The Liberty Public Market is a building with over 30 vendors for food, bars and crafts with communal seating. They also have live music on Sundays as well.

Seaport Village

Seaport Village is a little village right next to the water with over 70 shops, galleries and restaurants. It’s a great place to explore as they have 4 miles of streets that are designed to be car-free. I love coming here for beach vibes without having to actually go to the beach.

Chairs near the water to relax or watch the sunset

Waterfront Walkway

Unconditional Surrender statue

Walk down North Harbor Drive and along the waters of San Diego. There, you’ll find a couple of floating museums, popular statues, a waterfront park, and a couple of restaurants. Some popular statues and museums include:

  • Bob Hope Statue – A tribute to Bob Hope (an entertainer for the American troops) with audio from his USO tour.
  • The Unconditional Surrender statue – A statue that is made after a famous newspaper photo that was taken during the end of WWII.
  • USS Midway – A historical naval aircraft carrier museum where you can explore the many aircraft carriers.
  • Maritime Museum – Museums that are inside the ships and submarines – learn some history, and check out the art.
  • Hornblower Cruise – Cruise around the San Diego harbor for a day/night on the water and to see the beautiful skyline. The also have options for brunch or sunset cruises as well.

North Park

North Park is the “cool” area with hipster coffee shops, craft-beer bars and trendy shops. It’s also known for their restaurants with a lot of brunch options and also nightlife.

Hillcrest

Hillcrest is known as the center of San Diego’s LGBT scene. It’s known for it’s gay bars, but also its variety of restaurants. It’s a great place to grab brunch (or any meal) and walk around.

Sunset Cliffs

Cliff at sunset

Grab a blanket and maybe a picnic basket and join everyone else there to watch the sun set. It’s a perfect view of the horizon where the sun sets into the water.

Sun setting into the ocean

Beaches

Hotel del Coronado at Coronado Beach

It wouldn’t really be a trip to San Diego if you didn’t go to at least one beach. Here are a few popular ones below:

  • Coronado Beach – Enjoy the smooth sand and the view of the hotel.
  • La Jolla Beach – Go kayaking in the caves.
  • La Jolla Cove – Check out the sea lions and some marine life.
  • Mission Beach – Play at Belmont Park (amusement park), volleyball, or have a bonfire.
  • Pacific Beach – Shop at the boutiques and grab a drink at night.
  • Ocean Beach – Area for swimming and surfing.
  • Imperial Beach – Walk the pier.
La Jolla Cove

Hikes

I was going to list a few hikes that I like, but this article pretty much describes them all. If I had to choose one though, it would be to hike Mt. Woodson – the infamous “potato chip rock”. To be honest, the hike itself is not the most exciting, but you have to check out where everyone is going for their instagram. A couple of others I like are:

  • Cowles Mountain – Gets you the highest point in San Diego. There are a lot of switchbacks though!
  • Torrey Pines State Park – A picturesque hike next to the water.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

A 375 foot long bridge suspended in mid air with cables on top of a canyon. Check this out if you want a small adventure and check out the pretty view below.

Petco Park

Catch a baseball game at Petco Park in the heart of downtown.

Cabrillo National Monument

Come and learn the history of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s landing in the San Diego Bay. Explore the rocky coastline with views of the harbor and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. During Jan/Feb, you might even be able to see some whales.

Farmer’s market

Be like the locals and shop at the farmers markets. Some farmer markets are located at Little Italy, Hillcrest, and La Jolla. The dates and times that they are open vary.

Breweries

One of the things that San Diego is known for is their craft beer. There are plenty of breweries all over San Diego where you can grab a drink or do tastings, and there are plenty of restaurants that carry local beers as well.

Mexican Food

Since San Diego is so close to the border, they’re known for their delicious Mexican food. I personally love the tacos and California burritos (burritos with fries, carne asada and guacamole) when I visit. One of the most popular place to go to for tacos is Tacos El Gordo.

Northern San Diego

If you have a car or time, there are a few places in Northern San Diego to check out as well:

  • Botanical Gardens – 37 acres of plants from all over.
  • Carlsbad Flower Fields – Rows and rows of colorful flowers (in the Spring). Ticket are on sale for early March.
  • Legoland – A theme park with a lego theme.
  • San Diego Safari Park – A zoo of safari animals.
  • Birch Aquarium – More than 60 types of fishes and sea animals.