The Ultimate Guide to the Best things to do & activities in San Diego
San Diego County is one of the most expansive counties in California. With many neighborhoods and small cities there is a multitude of things to do to fill every day with fun. San Diego is most well known for its gorgeous coastline and beaches, but there are many other things to as well, such as: hiking, biking, outdoor shopping, and more. Organized into region and neighborhoods we’ve complied the ultimate guide to things to do in San Diego, CA.
In This List, Navigate to:
- Northern San Diego
- Central Coastal San Diego
- Southern San Diego
- Northeast County
- Southeastern San Diego
Northern san diego
North County is a great place to visit in San Diego. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern California. It offers a lot of outdoor activities and fun things to do.
The City of Oceanside is the oldest city in San Diego County. It is located at the southernmost end of the county, and it borders both Orange and Riverside Counties. The city has a population of just over 100,000 people.
Oceanside offers many outdoor activities for residents and visitors alike. The beaches are a major attraction, as well as fishing and surfing on the pier. In addition to these, there are many parks that offer hiking trails, horseback riding trails, bike paths, and more. There are also many hotels in Oceanside where you can stay while visiting this beautiful city.
The Oceanside Harbor is a public park located in the seaside city of Oceanside, California. The harbor is one of the few harbors in southern California and it features a boat launch, fishing pier, picnic tables and benches.
San Luis rey bike trail
The San Luis Rey Bike Trail is a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. The trail is open to the public and is free of charge. There are no entrance fees or parking costs.
The San Luis Rey Bike Trail extends from the city of Oceanside in San Diego County to Camp Pendleton in Orange County, with a total length of about 30 miles. The trail can be accessed at various points along its length, including through the cities of Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
The bike trail is mostly flat and runs along the coast through some beautiful scenery that includes beaches, cliffs and rugged terrain.
Oceanside pier and bike ride
The Oceanside Pier is a great place to ride your bike.
The pier is a popular tourist attraction, but it’s also a great place for locals to ride their bikes. The pier is located in the heart of Oceanside, California, and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. There are many different trails that are perfect for biking, and you can take your bike on any of them!
Carlsbad is a beautiful and sunny place. The city has an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, making it one of the sunniest places in the world.
The city was originally founded as a health resort in 1887, and today it still attracts many visitors looking to enjoy its outdoor activities, sunshine, and natural beauty.
Go to the flower fields or strawberry picking depending on the season
The San Diego County Flower Fields is a place where wild flowers grow in abundance. In the spring, the fields are covered with a blanket of blooming flowers and it looks like a field of snow. The flower fields is a favorite tourist destination in California.
The San Diego International Flower Fields is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vista. It is open on weekends from March through April, and on Saturdays throughout May. The fields are closed during all other times of the year to allow for maintenance and to prepare for next year’s season when they will be open as well.
San Diego is also perfect place to pick strawberries. The climate is ideal for growing strawberries and there are plenty of strawberry fields in the area. A couple great options are:
- Rancho Santa Fe Garden Center – This is a family-friendly farm where you can pick your own strawberries, as well as other fruits and vegetables. They also offer fresh produce, meat, eggs, honey and more!
- Egger Farms in Escondido – This farm has over 2000 acres of land with over 10 acres of strawberries! You will be able to pick your own berries while learning about the history of farming at the same time.
Carlsbad lagoon lies just inland of Tamarack surf beach, and is perfect for a more relaxing day in the water. Surf and waves can get powerful in Carlsbad, so Carlsbad Lagoon is a nice option when looking for a more laid back day. Stand Up Paddle-boarding, kayaking, jet-skiing, wakeboarding and boating are all very popular activities in Carlsbad Lagoon.
Location: Lagoon Pl, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Calavera lake is the largest state owned nature reserve in Carlsbad. An awesome fact is this site lies on an extinct volcano! Whether you live in San Diego or are just visiting, if you are looking to see some amazing and diverse wildlife this is most definitely the spot.
The trails around Calavera Lake are home to Buckeye butterflies, White Tailed Kites, Orange Throated Whiptails, and much more. There are multiple trails around Calavera Lake all of them are about a mile in length, so they are very accessible for many people. If you are an avid hiker the trails are all a network, so you can do them all in one trip and make it one long and fun journey that lasts about 4.8 miles!
Shop till you drop at the carlsbad premium outlets
If you love outlets as much as I do then the Carlsbad Outlets are a most stop on your trip to San Diego. The outdoor mall has a whimsical charm with a large windmill beside them.
We also often hear of people who travel to San Diego just to shop at the outlets in Carlsbad. But what is it that makes this place so special? What is the appeal of shopping at Carlsbad premium outlets?
The answer is simple. It offers a great variety of stores and brands, making it one of the most popular places for shoppers from all over the world. You can find anything from clothes, shoes, and accessories to home furnishings and electronics. And not only does this outlet mall have an excellent selection of stores, but it also has some amazing restaurants and cafes as well.
Location: 5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Encinitas is a beach town in North County San Diego. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and spending time with friends and family. The city has over 18 miles of coastline, which is perfect for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing.
With so much beautiful coastline and scenic views, Encinitas is a hotspot for some great outdoor actives in San Diego. Check out some of our recommendations below!
The meditation gardens
The mediation gardens San Diego is a great place to go to if you want to have some peace and quiet. It’s a park that is full of different types of gardens and it’s a great place to go if you want to relax. The gardens are very pretty and they have a lot of different types of plants in them. There are also a lot of benches and areas where you can sit down and relax.
The gardens are open to the public and free to visit. They are dedicated to the teaching of Paramahansa Yogananda, who is the founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship.
The gardens were designed by architect Franz Lipp and feature a number of different areas, including a rose garden, a lily pond, and a meditation pavilion. There is also a visitors center on-site, which offers information about the gardens and Paramahansa Yogananda.
San Diego Mediation Gardens Location
stone steps beach
Stone Steps Beach is a great place to go. It’s located in San Diego and has beautiful views of the ocean, as well as the bay. There are plenty of activities to do there, from surfing and kayaking to hiking and picnicking. The beach is also dog-friendly so you can bring your pup along too!
San Diego botanical garden
San Diego Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to visit.
San Diego Botanical Gardens is a large and beautiful piece of land in the heart of San Diego, California. It’s also a great place to spend time with your family and friends. There are many things to see and do at the gardens, but one of the most popular attractions is the Japanese Garden.
San Diego Botanical Gardens Location
D street viewpoint park
The D Street Viewpoint Park is a great place to visit in the summer. It has a lot of trees and plants, which means that you can get some shade while still being outside. There are also benches and picnic tables so you can sit down and have a picnic. The park has a pond with koi fish in it that you can feed if you want to. You can also see some ducks around the pond, but it’s not too close to the water for them to be dangerous.
D Street Viewpoint Park Location
The San Diego Safari park is an extension of the San Diego Zoo. The SD Zoo has made an amazing conservation impact and contributing to their cause is well worth the drive inland. Did I mention the San Diego Safari park is the only zoo in the entire United States with a platypus. That fact alone should make your visit.
Location: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027
The Yellow Deli is a whimsical sandwich shop found in Vista, CA. With indoor outdoor areas to explore it is certainly an experience to be had. While the commune that owns the Yellow Deli as a franchise has had their share of controversy, we’ll stick to the sandwiches and sunshine.
I’ve never met a person who didn’t love legos and San Diego’s East county is home to the one and only Legoland. This theme park is centered around some pretty amazing lego builds, and let’s not forget the entire Star Wars area. While it may not have many rides, Legoland is a great way to get out of the house and entertain your kids for a few hours.
Location: One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Central coastal san diego county
While not quite north county, but still north enough in San Diego for us to consider it a separate region we have deemed this part of SD county “Central Coastal San Diego County.” These are the more affluent areas of Del Mar and La Jolla, where you can expect to find beautiful beaches and more laid back upscale vibe, than their more southerly counterparts.
The city of Del Mar is a coastal city in San Diego, California. It is located about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego and has a population of 21,000. It is part of the North County Coast region.
Del Mar has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and outdoor activities. The beach is one of the most popular destinations for visitors as it offers a great place to relax, play and enjoy the sun.
Take your dog to the del mar dog beach
The dog beach in Del Mar is a great place to take your furry friend for a walk. It’s close to the ocean and the dogs get to play in the sand. The beach is really well-kept and there are plenty of benches to sit on while you watch your pup play.
Location: 3200 Camino Del Mar Del Mar, CA 92014
explore tide pools at Cardiff state beach
The Cardiff-by-the-Sea Tide Pools is a beautiful place to visit. It’s a great place for families and children to explore the ocean. The tide pools are always changing with the waves, so you can come back at different times and see new things every time.
the del mar fair
The Del Mar Fair is a three-week event that takes place in the month of July, and it is one of the largest fairs in the state. The fair has been held for over 100 years, and it features many different events such as concerts, a petting zoo, and games. If you are in San Diego in the month of July the fair is something you cannot miss!
La Jolla meaning ‘the jewel’ in Spanish is one of San Diego’s ritziest neighborhood. Many of the high end restaurants offer incredible outdoor dining options overlooking La Jolla Cove. The beaches along La Jolla’s cliff are pristine and well taken care of, many are great for a family day out at the beach (with the exception of Black’s Beach). Our top outdoor picks range from hiking the cliff at the Torrey Pines Nature Reserve to spending the day finding all the painted murals in La Jolla Village.
Hike torrey pines
Torrey Pines Nature reserve offers an easy beginner friendly hike. Boasting gorgeous views of the cliffs and Pacific Ocean below this is a can’t miss activity when visiting San Diego. Try and do this hike on a weekday, as the parking lot fills up very quickly on the weekends. While the initial hike is very popular among tourists and locals alike, there are many smaller trails at the top where you can get away from the crowds.
explore la jolla’s caves
La Jolla’s coastline offers many opportunities to explore the cliffside caves. The easiest access point is through the Cave Shop at La Jolla Cove. For a small admission fee walk down the steps into one of the coolest caves in San Diego. This cave has an incredible view for pictures as well. Other access points into different caves can be seen by kayaking tours throughout the cove.
find all of downtown la jolla’s murals
La Jolla has a multitude of murals throughout the Cove area. With so many streets to explore and different restaurants and stores to find, the murals can add an extra element of fun. It’s hard to miss the giant paintings along many of the business exteriors, but there are a few hidden on the back streets closer to the surrounding neighborhood. My favorite by far is this color block mural on Eads Ave. Read more about the artists inspirations before traveling to it.
see the seals at la jolla cove
The Children’s Pool in La Jolla Cove has some of the best sea life in San Diego. The most prominent are the seals lining the rocks around the beaches. This access point to the ocean is great for spending a day socially distanced from the wildlife and possibly swimming alongside them. The Children’s pool is also a popular snorkel location with many sea turtles known to populate the area. This is a can’t miss beach spot when exploring San Diego.
Looking to add a bit of fun to your trip? Look no further than the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego. This area is full of fun things to do in the California Sun. It is also very central to the greater San Diego beach towns.
Crystal Pier is a historic pier in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego, California. The pier was built in 1908 and originally extended 1,000 feet into the ocean. It was extended to its current length of 2,500 feet in 1923. The pier is home to a large number of shops and restaurants, and is a popular tourist attraction.
The pier offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and is also a popular surf spot. The pier also has tons of places in proximity to rent kayaks or paddle-boards so you can see the amazing view from the water as well.
Learn to surf at Tourmaline beach
Surfing at Tourmaline Beach is one of our top recommendations for outdoor activities in San Diego. The reason we chose tourmaline for this list out of all San Diego beaches is it is a very forgiving break for beginners.
Surfers at tourmaline tend to be friendly to locals and non locals alike. Tourmaline has a sandy bottom, which makes getting out in the ocean very easy. Tourmaline is also absolutely breathtaking with nice white sand and crystal blue water.
Walk through the shops on garnet street
Garnet is the main street that runs through Pacific Beach and it is home to some awesome shops. From clothing to antique stores you are sure to find something you love. Not to mention Garnet is home to more bars per square mile than other place in San Diego. Go shopping and have a drink at some of the best bars in PB.
Mission Beach is a great place for an outdoor day. It’s usually sunny, so you can walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the sunshine. There are also lots of places to go shopping, eat food, or just watch people on the beach.
belmont park and mission beach boardwalk
The Belmont Park Boardwalk is one of the most popular attractions in Mission Beach. It is a great place to visit when you want to get some sunshine, exercise and fresh air.
Mission Beach is a family-friendly neighborhood with plenty of outdoor activities. The boardwalk offers a perfect place for people who love sunshine and outdoor activities.
Belmont Park Boardwalk has a variety of shops and restaurants that offer food, drinks, coffee and other goods.
jet ski in mission bay
Mission Bay is located just inland of Mission Beach and is a popular place for more relaxing days on the water. You will find people enjoying all sorts of water actives here from boating to paddle-boarding. We highly recommend jet skiing though as there are secret bars in the middle of mission bay only accessible by jet ski!
Southern san diego
Ocean Beach is a small beach town in San Diego. It is popular for its laid-back atmosphere and natural beauty.
The ocean beach has a long history of being a popular tourist destination. The first visitors to the area were the native people who came from inland and settled on the coast, using the ocean as their main source of food. In 1835, when California became a state, there was an influx of settlers from all over Europe who wanted to make their fortunes in gold mining, farming and ranching.
Ocean beach farmers market
One of the best ways to spend a Sunday in San Diego is by going to the Ocean Beach farmers market. There is nothing better than walking around, smelling all the fresh produce and tasting it. You can find everything from local organic fruits and vegetables, to artisanal cheeses, flowers, soaps and more.
The market is open every Sunday from 9am-1pm and it’s located at the intersection of Voltaire St. & Pacific Beach Dr., San Diego CA 92109
ocean beach dog beach
A walk on the beach is a great way to spend time with your dog. Ocean Beach is the perfect place for you and your pup to enjoy the sunshine, ocean breeze, and sand.
It’s also a great place for you to meet other dog owners, socialize your pup, and have some fun in the sun.
The dog beach at Ocean Beach is on the west end of the beach and has an entrance fee of $2 per car or $5 for all day parking. The dog beach has a separate area for small dogs only, an area for large dogs only, and an area where both large and small dogs are allowed to play together.
Downtown San Diego is a great place to visit. It is a very sunny place with many outdoor activities.
The Downtown San Diego area is filled with sunshine and perfect for outdoor activities. There are many things to do including walking around, going to the harbor, and checking out a baseball game or other activities at Petco Park.
The uss midway
The U.S.S. Midway Museum is the largest naval ship in the world and has been open to the public since 2004. The museum is a floating museum, located on Pier 30-32 near downtown San Diego, California and is operated by a nonprofit organization. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2003 and in 2006 was designated as an official San Diego Historic Landmark.
The U.S.S. Midway Museum offers visitors a variety of things to do, such as guided tours through the ship’s displays, hands-on exhibits for children, interactive videos about naval aviation history and deck tours which take visitors outside to walk around on the flight deck or below decks to see where sailors lived during their deployment aboard the ship when it was operational from 1945.
Location: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
The San Diego Padres are a Major League Baseball team in the National League. They play their home games at Petco Park in Downtown San Diego, California.
The Padre’s stadium is located in downtown San Diego and has been the home of the Padres since 2004. The stadium is built on a parking lot and is surrounded by restaurants, bars, hotels, and office buildings. It has a capacity of 42,000 seats with an average attendance of 30,000 people per game.
The vibes at a Padres game are fantastic and the stadium is completely outdoors. Baseball season starts in the spring so you can expect most games to be played in beautiful sunny weather.
The old town district is a popular tourist attraction in San Diego. It is also an attractive place for locals to visit and enjoy the sunshine. Visitors can walk around the historic buildings and enjoy a variety of shops, restaurants, or even take a boat ride on the San Diego Bay.
One of the coolest outdoor activities in San Diego is by far the Ghost Tours in Old Town. The rich history of this area of San Diego makes for the perfect backdrop for some real spooky history. Not only that but the Whaley House was named as the most haunted house in the US by the Travel Channel.
The Historical Tour is a great way to explore the old town and its rich history. The tour starts off at the San Diego Museum of Man and continue towards the Old Town Plaza. It explores the culture, traditions, and heritage of this area.
The tour also includes visits to some historical buildings such as Casa de Estudillo and Casa de Bandini which are located in Old Town State Historic Park. These buildings have been preserved for their historical significance to the city of San Diego.
The Little Italy neighborhood in San Diego is a great place to visit on a sunny day. The Italian culture and cuisine can be found all around the area, making it an ideal spot for foodies and people who love the outdoors.
Little italy farmers market
The Little Italy Farmers Market is a magical place to visit. It’s an outdoor market with a great atmosphere.
The Little Italy Farmers Market is a magical place to visit. It’s an outdoor market with a great atmosphere, and it has everything from produce to flowers and plants, all grown locally in California. You can also find delicious food here, like breads and pastries for breakfast or lunch.
The Little Italy Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, rain or shine!
relax on coronado beach
Coronado Beach is a popular beach in San Diego. It is the perfect place to spend a day at the beach with family and friends.
The sand is soft and white, there are palm trees that provide shade and plenty of restaurants nearby. There are also volleyball nets, basketball courts, and plenty of other activities to do on the beach.
ice skating at the hotel del in the winter
The outdoor ice skating rink is a popular attraction at the Hotel Del San Diego. The rink is open for the public and it’s free to use. There are skates available for rent on site as well.
A great way to enjoy the sunny weather and get some exercise, ice skating at the Hotel Del San Diego is a nice pastime activity.
Location: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
southeastern san diego
Balboa Park is a large urban park in San Diego. It’s the second largest urban park in the United States and is home to many cultural and historical sites.
Balboa Park offers a variety of activities for people of all ages. There are museums, gardens, and theaters to explore. Tourists can visit the historic buildings or take an art class at one of the many art galleries. There are also many outdoor activities like cycling or jogging around the park’s perimeter.
pride parade in hillcrest
The Hillcrest Pride Parade was first organized by the Hillcrest Business Association in 1977 to celebrate diversity and inclusion and to honor those who have fought for LGBT rights.
The parade originally started at Adams Avenue and University Avenue, but now it begins at Balboa Park near Sixth Avenue and Upas Street. The parade ends at University Avenue near Normal Street where there is a celebration with food vendors, live music, DJ’s, dancing, games, booths from local sponsors and organizations.
cowles mountain hike
Cowles Mountain is a prominent mountain in San Diego, California. It is the highest point within the city limits and is located in the Mission Trails Regional Park.
Cowles Mountain and Mission Trails Regional Park are on the west side of San Diego. The park can be reached from Interstate 8 to Cowles Mountain Road, then to Cactus Road, or by traveling south on Old Highway 80 from Lake Murray Dam.
The trail is about two miles long with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet (370 m). The summit provides 360° views of San Diego and its surrounding mountains ranges including Mount Baldy in Los Angeles County and Mount Laguna in San Diego County.
more things to do in san Diego
Looking for more things to do in San Diego? Check out this great video on some tips for the best things to do in San Diego:
San diego activities FAQ
The price of things to do in San Diego can vary widely by activity. The cost of living in San Diego can be high so things can be expensive. On the other hand, going to the beach or going for a hike are totally free!
San Diego is famous for having some of the best weather in all of the United States. San Diego is nicknamed sunny San Diego for a reason. The beaches of San Diego and the coastal climate of the city are world renowned. Visit San Diego for an epic experience with some of the most fun things to do in the world.
For less crowds and affordability the best time to visit San Diego is in the winter. For swimmers and beach goers the months of July and August will have the best ocean temperature for swimming without a wetsuit.