Visiting America’s Finest City and looking for the best things to add to your San Diego bucket list? I’ve got you covered – lots of iconic touristy spots, local taco and burrito spots, and stunning beachy vista points coming right up! This post is super comprehensive – there’s over 125 things to do in San Diego listed below!
San Diego is known for its endless sun, swaying palm trees, and 70 miles of pristine beaches! There’s sea caves and rugged cliffs to explore, the cutest sea lions known to man, the postcard-perfect resort city of Coronado, and you can even go snorkeling with leopard sharks.
It’s your quintessential California beach city, with tons of natural beauty, eclectic shops, world-class tacos and dining, loads of breweries, and even lots of history and culture. There’s really something for everyone here! I mean, you could easily spend a full day exploring just Balboa Park itself!
So, let’s get to it: I present — the ultimate list of things to do in San Diego (aka an epic San Diego bucket list). Whether you’ve lived here for a while and are looking for new things to do in San Diego, or are just visiting for a few days, keep this list handy and wander around.
→ Read Next: The Perfect 3 Days in San Diego (the ultimate itinerary)
Iconic San Diego Bucket List Items
1. Feast on a massive California burrito, one of San Diego’s most iconic dishes. They’re filled with carne asada, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, and french fries (!!!) stuffed silly into a flour tortilla. Come hungry, because they’re huge. Lucha Libre, Colima’s, and La Puerta are some of the best spots for them.
2. Watch the most gorgeous sunset at Sunset Cliffs, with its stunning ocean vistas, untouched vegetation, and dramatic sandstone cliffs. Make it extra special by bringing a blanket and some cheese/wine for a romantic picnic! A must on any visit, even if you’ve only got one day in San Diego!
3. Spend an afternoon exploring the best of the best of Balboa Park — there’s the authentic Alcazar Garden (modeled after a garden in Spain), the Spanish Village Art Center (a San Diego bucket list must for color lovers), the (free!) botanical garden and lily pond, Spreckels Organ Pavilion (with free weekly concerts), and over 15 museums!
But whatever you do, don’t miss strolling down the Prado, full of ornate baroque architecture to admire. Up for some adventure? You can also take a San Diego Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt or go on a walking tour of the park to ensure you don’t miss anything.
4. Have drinks in the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy to experience San Diego’s buzzy craft cocktail scene! There’s rooftop bars, hidden speakeasies, and trendy/hip spots. Literally something for everyone. We love Craft & Commerce, Wolfie’s Carousel Bar, and can’t wait to head up to The Nolan next!
5. Learn about the birthplace of California at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a historic neighborhood created back in 1769. Check out the handmade pottery and Mexican ceramics, watch the daily mariachi band and Folklorico dancing, and try a (free) piping hot homemade tortilla. Check out this Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones Walking tour to get a different feel for the area!
6. Take the ferry over to Coronado Island and spend a day in the quaint coastal village — go wine tasting at Coronado Tasting Room, hang by the beach, ride bikes around the island, and see the San Diego skyline from Centennial Park. Don’t wanna miss anything? Book yourself on a Coronado Island Sightseeing Tour.
7. Throw your hands up on the historic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster (with speeds up to 48mph with sharp dips and turns) at Belmont Park, a beach-side amusement park with phenomenal views of the ocean. Then take a walk on the boardwalk and hang at the beachfront tiki bar and cabanas!
8. Throw on a light jacket and roast marshmallows and indulge in s’mores at a bonfire on the beach — you’ll need to secure a fire pit early in the day as they’re all first come first serve. Want a gourmet experience? Rent a fire pit at Hotel Del Coronado and enjoy all the yummy treats on the menu (even a charcuterie board!) It’s been on my San Diego bucket list forever!
9. Spend a day among the 4,500 rare and endangered animals at the San Diego Zoo, and don’t miss the aerial skytram, polar bear plunge, and Galápagos tortoises — it’s world famous for a reason and their conservation efforts are really admirable (definitely not your typical zoo).
10. Kayak the La Jolla Sea Caves and through the Ecological Reserve — take a guided tour to see the best caves or explore on your own by launching your own kayak at the The La Jolla Shores Boat Launch located on Avenida de la Playa. You might even see leopard sharks, sea lions, dolphins, and more!
11. Wander around Seaport Village and go shopping for eclectic gifts and souvenirs. Make sure to grab some fudge from Seaport Fudge Factory Inc. before heading out!
12. Be wowed by the leafy (and weedy) sea dragons and the two-story, 70,000 gallon Giant Kelp Forest at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography — I don’t recommend giving any money to SeaWorld San Diego; the Scripps Aquarium is a much more ethical choice.
13. Watch the seals and sea lions at La Jolla Children’s Pool and Sea Wall — we found them so cute and ended up watching them for over an hour! You’ll probably smell and hear them before you see them! Visiting in winter? You may even see some baby seal pups!
14. Cheer on the Padres at a baseball game at Petco Park — a San Diego bucket list must for sports lovers! There’s even breathtaking views of San Diego and delicious tri-tip nachos from Seaside Market (so yum) so everyone will enjoy the game. You can even take a stadium tour of Petco Park!
15. Get out onto the water on a San Diego Bay Harbor Cruise, where you’ll see important landmarks such as Coronado Bridge, Downtown San Diego, Midway Aircraft Carrier, and many more. Make it extra special on a dinner cruise or sunset sail!
16. Travel in the back of a covered, open-air safari truck to get up-close and personal with a variety of birds and mammals on a wildlife safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (kinda like what I did at Safari West in Santa Rosa!)
Art and Culture
Take a stroll looking for pops of color in the East Village — there’s over a dozen new murals in the East Village. My favorite part? They’re all painted by female muralists as part of the Ladies Who Paint initiative, hoping to bring more visibility to these talented artists. We all need a little more girl power, don’t we?!
Explore the campus of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and get your photoshoot on — you’ll find some of the best architecture in all of the city here! Expect clean lines, perfect symmetry, and neutral colors. It’s the ultimate combination of science and architecture.
Wander around the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park, checking out the myriad of artist galleries and strolling in the colorful courtyard. If you love color, you’ve gotta put this on your San Diego bucket list.
Find and admire the elaborate sand castles at Coronado Beach by Bill Pavlacka, The Sandcastle Man. He’s a freelance artist that builds 3D sculptures out of sand and they change frequently so you’ll never know what you’ll find! Look in front of the Hotel Del Coronado as that’s where they predominantly live.
Take a touristy picture with the “Greetings from San Diego” mural in North Park, made by the same company who designed the “Greetings from San Francisco” mural in Umbrella Alley in SF! It’s got all the iconic gems of San Diego you’d expect it to have — like the distinctive Victorian roof of the Hotel del Coronado, La Jolla cove, Ocean Beach pier, and even the U.S./Mexico border.
See a show at the Old Globe Theatre in beautiful Balboa Park — there’s tons to pick from, including Shakespeare and classic musicals to new plays. It was modeled after Shakespeare’s Old Globe in the UK, so if you’re missing London, add this to your San Diego bucket list.
Go mural hopping in the neighborhoods of North Park and South Park — some of my favorite photo spots in all of San Diego are here! Pigment, Artelexia, Fragment #35, and Native Poppy have my favorite art pieces!
Admire the unique architecture of the Geisel Library on the UCSD Campus. It’s kinda like an inverted 8-story pyramid, filled with over 7 million books! Whoa!
Check out the 72,000 square feet of the San Diego California Temple — the two striking white spires are even more impressive all lit up at night. Even if you aren’t religious, it’s still a peaceful place to walk around and enjoy the scenery.
Find your favorite color at the aptly named Favorite Color mural in La Jolla, created by Roy McMakin back in 2010. Since you’re already in the area, why not check out some other La Jolla murals as well.
Hear a concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, the world’s largest pipe organ. We were lucky enough to watch a rehearsal performance on our last visit and it was honestly so mind blowing! The talent is real!
See the “Fallen Star” at UCSD, an art installation by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh. What is it? Literally a cute little cottage that looks like it’s been dropped from the sky and landed on the roof at an angle. Whoa. It kinda looks like Dorothy’s house from the Wizard of Oz just randomly appeared on campus! The installation is open to visitors, and yes, it’s earthquake safe.
Secret San Diego Bucket List Items
Head to the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, a Saturday marketplace with stalls selling fish, shrimp, and more, freshly caught by local fisherman. It’s a cool place to shop for fresh seafood on the dock behind Seaport Village.
Find the Mushroom Beach House in La Jolla, a unique mushroom-shaped building hiding at the bottom of the cliffs at Blacks Beach. You can’t enter the house since it’s private property, but still fun to see from the beach!
Swing your little heart out on the hidden swings in La Jolla (one of the best photo spots in San Diego) — park by the Birch Aquarium and make the short (and easy) hike up from Expedition Way. There’s even ocean views!
Climb up the nearly 200-foot-tall California Tower at Museum of Us for expansive views of Balboa Park. It’s covered with intricate carvings, colorful tile, and even glass beads!
Participate in a Grunion Run at the beach! What’s that you ask? When THOUSANDS upon thousands of small silver fish swarm the beaches at night and bury their eggs in the sand — a phenomenon unique to only southern California and the northern Baja coast! I bet you’ve never seen anything like it in your life. A must for the San Diego bucket list!
Watch the brave souls jump off the sandstone cliffs at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, and then decide for yourself if you wanna take part next time!
Go on an epic adventure to the hidden Sunset Cliffs Sea Cave, a sea cave with an impressive open ceiling! It’s only accessible during negative tide, so do your research ahead of time! Add this to your San Diego bucket list if you want a true adventure!
Explore the Sunny Jim Sea Cave, the only cave in California accessible by land. You’ll need to enter via a 100-year-old tunnel from The Cave Store and walk down over 100 possibly slippery steps, but that view from the cave — omg!
See the impressive San Diego skyline from Centennial Park on Coronado Island — since the park sits right across the bay, you get perfect views of downtown.
Walk across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, hidden in a residential neighborhood that sways when people walk on it. Look down below for views of the canyon!
Find the mysterious sunken ship at Coronado Beach — it’s a super rare occurrence (occurring only after big storms and during particularly low tides), and one I definitely haven’t been able to check off my San Diego bucket list just yet!
See downtown San Diego all lit up at night from Harbor Island, especially Coasterra and Island Prime (and order the fresh crab and avocado stack while you’re there!)
Climb down the potentially muddy trail from the Coast Walk to find the La Jolla Secret Swing #2 — hidden in a grove of palm trees! You’ll need to wear proper shoes if you wanna cross this off your San Diego bucket list!
San Diego Bucket List Beaches
Sunbathe on the long, sandy stretches of Torrey Pines State Beach while watching the hang gliders soar overhead (you’ll have to hike down since the beach lies at the bottom of the State Reserve).
Rent an iconic red and white striped chaise lounge and spend the day relaxing at Coronado Beach — it’s commonly said to be one of the best beaches in America (once you see the seemingly-endless white sand complete with gold sparkles you’ll easily see why). Worth checking out on a day trip to San Diego for sure.
Hang ten on a surf lesson, rent a stand up paddle, or simply relax for a quintessential Southern California beach day at La Jolla Shores Beach
Walk over to Scripps Beach and don’t miss a shot under the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier! One for the San Diego bucket list if you’re looking for the best photography locations. You may even see an engagement photoshoot over here!
Catch some waves at Blacks Beach below the bluffs of Torrey Pines (you can see all the hang gliders in the sky here!), just remember it’s a nude beach so keep this in mind so there’ll be no surprises.
Dip your toes in the water at La Jolla Cove, one of San Diego’s prettiest spots — there’s even sea lions hanging out here sometimes!
Walk above Windansea Beach on Neptune Place to see one of La Jolla’s prettiest beaches, a local’s spot surrounded by multi-million-dollar homes (the strong shore break can be super dangerous so leave the water for the surfers)
Hikes, Trails, and Nature
Scramble and squeeze through the small sandstone canyons on Annie’s Canyon Trail then climb up the metal stairs to the viewpoint above — it’s less than 2 miles roundtrip and totally looks like the Slot Canyon Hike in Anza-Borrego State Park near Borrego Springs I recently did.
Spend the day hiking up El Cajon Mountain (El Cap), probably the most grueling item on this San Diego bucket list at over 12 miles roundtrip and over 4,000 feet in elevation gain! The relentless journey up and down is definitely not for the faint of heart! Come prepared!
Head to San Diego County’s second highest point at 6,512 feet on the Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail — it’s beautiful yet strenuous, with tons of spring wild flowers on the seven-mile out-and-back trail near Julian.
Make the grueling trek down from the Torrey Pines Gliderport to Black’s Beach; just again, remember it’s a nude beach so no photos!
Leap onto the sand from the Torrey Pines State Park Beach Trail, starting high up in the cliffs and weaving your way down to the beach via a rustic footpath and then finishing off with some stairs.
Shimmy down and scramble along the natural steps of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, full of crazy sandstone formations and a deep ravine heading to Black’s Beach. (Psst — it’s also known as the Saigon Trail, Secret Surf Trail, or simply the La Jolla Trail).
Go for a wander along the Scripps Coastal Meander Trail, connecting two overlooks via a boardwalk more than 150 feet above the beach. Expect beautiful views of the Scripps Pier down to La Jolla Cove, and north to Torrey Pines State Beach and beyond.
Work up a sweat for that instagram photo at Potato Chip Rock, a rock resembling, you guessed it — a potato chip (!) at the end of a 7 mile hike (just be sure to dedicate a full morning for this San Diego bucket list item because it’s 30 miles north of the city in Poway).
Look up at the palms along the 2-mile Palm Canyon Trail in Balboa Park — there’s over 450 palms in nearly 2 acres — a true tropical oasis right in the middle of the park!
Head to the summit of Iron Mountain for one of the best 360 degree views in San Diego. And once you get to the top, use the viewfinder to find the iconic landmarks of the city!
See amazing sea life at the Cabrillo National Monument tidepools, like starfish, crabs, lobsters, sea anemone, and maybe even an octopus! Volunteers may be there to help you identify species.
History in San Diego
Check out the USS Midway Museum with it’s life-at-sea exhibits, restored planes, and flight simulators aboard a legendary aircraft carrier.
Pay your respects at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial where you can also sneak panoramic views of San Diego.
Take a ride on the Coronado Ferry, the oldest working wood ferry in the US, and only a few bucks to Coronado Island.
Walk in the footsteps of California’s early European settlers at Presidio Park, 40 acres of green space on a hill overlooking Old Town (it’s even been designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960)!
Visit San Diego’s Natural History Museum and travel through 75 million years, learn about the unique biodiversity of Southern California and Baja California, and watch some films in the 3D theatre!
Walk along the waterfront and find the iconic “Embracing Peace” statue, more commonly known as the Kissing Sailor Statue, at a whopping 25 feet tall and 6,000 pounds. Such an iconic thing on this San Diego bucket list!
Check out Heritage County Park, complete with restored Victorian homes (from the late 1880s-1890) and the city’s first synagogue, The Temple Beth Israel.
Explore Cabrillo National Monument at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, with the Historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse, views of San Diego’s harbor and skyline, as well as lots of history about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States).
Wander around Chicano Park, home to the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world. There’s over 80 paintings on seven acres over here; such an unexpected explosion of color!
Learn about the scandals, debauchery, brothels, and more in what used to be San Diego’s red light district on the aptly named Brothels, Bites, and Booze Tour
San Diego Bucket List Foodie Spots
Stuff yourself silly with a California burrito from Lucha Libre Tacos, kinda a mix between a street-style taco shop and a lucha libre match like we saw down in Mexico City. Don’t miss the old-school wrestling memorabilia on the walls.
Wear your stretchy pants to Monello, my favorite Italian spot in Little Italy! I always come for the cheese wheel pasta (it’s literally tossed together in a wheel of cheese) and a gourmet pizza! The ravioli’s pretty spot on, too! This needs to go on your San Diego bucket list — promise me!
Drive a few miles south for an authentic Tijuana taco experience at Tacos El Gordo, only 10 miles from the Mexican border. Easily the best al pastor and carne asada you’ll find. Try a mula with griddled cheese — those are my favorite!
Unleash the inner instagrammer in yourself and go snap happy at Morning Glory. Think rose-gold accents, tiled floors, Millennial-pink booths, and even a few rock ‘n roll touches. But expect a (long, long) line — the deco brunch vibes and pink interior are popular for a reason! Order the souffle pancakes and breakfast carbonara — both my favorites!
Bite into a juicy chicken sandwich from The Crack Shack — but whatever you do, order a side of biscuits (they’re so flakey and buttery!)
Stand on line with the locals at Las Cuatro Milpas for some authentic old-school, no-frills Mexican food and homemade tortillas — we got 2 huge plates of food for just over $10!
Snack on some fish tacos from Oscars Mexican Seafood, easily the best spot for fresh fish tacos in all of San Diego.
Feast on a classic California burrito and signature carne asada fries at Lolitas Mexican Food, perfect for some late-night food or before/after a Padre’s game!
Feast on maple bacon donuts, French toast logs, popovers, mimosas, and more at Great Maple for brunch with your girlfriends — upscale and hip with a fun, retro 1950’s vibe. This place is poppin you guys! Make a reservation in advance.
Inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana, The Taco Stand is a San Diego bucket list must for any foodie like me! Definitely grab a few al pastor tacos (obviously), but try the churros and carne asada fries too!
Hit up the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market on Saturday’s from 8am-2pm. You’ll find over 150 vendors with fresh produce, meat & eggs, crafts, plants, and more. There’s also a farmers market in Hillcrest and La Jolla if you can’t make one in Little Italy.
Make a reservation at Puesto, an eclectic spot (with graffiti art on the ceiling) featuring artisanal tacos, mango shrimp ceviche, and mango margaritas. The tacos are kinda overpriced, but worth it to go once.
Have a romantic meal at Island Prime overlooking the water and San Diego skyline. We left absolutely obsessed with all our dishes, especially the crab avo stack, ribeye steak, burrata, and OMG the popovers. Drool.
Sit on the deck overlooking the water watching sailboats go by at The Fish Market – San Diego. Lots of fresh grilled fish and seafood plates on the menu!
Desserts in San Diego
Drool over a pop tart donut from the Donut Bar in the Gaslamp — the menu changes all the time so you can try something new every day! They’re HUGE and super instagrammable — I even added them to my best photo spots in San Diego post!
Build your own dessert heaven from the ground up at iDessert; you customize the entire thing, including the meringue, gelato, and toppings (make it a Vegas bowl for a super-unique surprise).
Save some room after dinner and treat yourself to a few of San Diego’s prettiest (and delectable) desserts at Extraordinary Desserts — we’ve tried quite a few and love them all!
Make some room for some globally inspired donuts from Nomad Donuts — they’ve even got wood-fired Montreal-style bagels if you don’t want something so sweet.
Order a Hammonds Ice Cream Flight with all 32 flavors on the menu — perfect for those who can’t decide what flavor to pick! The mini cones are just too cute and perfect after a day at the beach. A San Diego bucket list must for ice cream lovers like myself!
Cool off with a handcrafted Mexican popsicle at Holy Paleta — they’ve got tons to pick from, including yogurt with fresh fruit, cookie butter, coffee stuffed with condensed milk, key lime pie, and even matcha latte.
Try a scoop or two of small-batch ice cream from Stella Jean’s Ice Cream — I fell in love with their branding and the flavors were super unique (bring a pint home if you want some for later).
Coffee and Cafes
Sip some San Francisco (!!!) Sightglass Coffee at Communal Coffee, a neighborhood coffee shop, and then take a look in the colorful, bohemian shops. Both spots are super cute and equally instagrammable, but everyone says the South Park location is cuter. Decide for yourself — of course I went to both!
Make a stylish pit stop at The Grounds Bean Bar for locally roasted beans, baked goods, & light bites — still on my San Diego bucket list! Just look at that wallpaper and branding!
Choose from single origins, blends, and barrel-aged coffee blends from Modern Times Coffee (The Invigatorium). The whole space is super eclectic, with a life-size Ronald McDonald, golden palm trees, and a fun disco ball.
Order a Mint Infused Iced Coffee at Better Buzz, one of my favorite coffee shops in La Jolla with a massive neon BUZZ sign and the cheery pink tables. Easily one of the most instagrammable spots in San Diego!
Sip on a specialty green matcha drink from Holy Matcha; posh and perfectly pink! The leafy green wallpaper is such a vibe (I low-key want it for my bathroom).
Enjoy some delicious coffee and ice cream all in the same place at Glazed Coffee and Creamery, a new, beachside spot in PB!
Skip the Starbucks and head to S3 Coffee Bar — California’s only 2D cafe! Not only are there 2D walls, but pink velvet chairs and a cacti mural outside, and yes the food and drinks are delicious (I loved my rainbow colorburst vanilla latte and mozzarella avocado toast).
Cocktails, Breweries, and Nightlife
Hit up Trailer Park After Dark, a dive bar serving American comfort food and beers in a funky trailer park-themed atmosphere. Such a fun vibe.
Sit at the rotating bar at Wolfie’s Carousel Bar, an immersive and whimsical new bar in Little Italy with pink, plush seats, creative cocktails, and cheesy French Onion soup. Don’t worry, it moves very slowly, making a full rotation only once every 14 minutes. Add this to your San Diego bucket list if you’re looking for some great IG photos!
Check out San Diego’s craft brewery scene, and hit up local spots like Green Flash Brewing Co, Belching Beaver (what a name, right?!), and Amplified Ale Works — you’ve surely got your pick with over 150 breweries in the county!
Have drinks by the fireplace at Hotel Del Coronado, the old-school but still very swanky famous historic beachfront hotel. If you’re not in the mood for alcohol, the agua frescas are super refreshing!
Sip a Mai tai at the Bali Hai Restaurant super slowly with views of the bay — it’s one of the strongest drinks in the entire city! Make sure to order some food to go along with it — luckily all the Polynesian-inspired meals are fantastic!
Find Noble Experiment, a hidden speakeasy! It’s swanky and secret, tucked behind a secret door in The Neighborhood. You tell them what spirits you like and the bartender whips you something right up!
Warm up by the fire at Craft & Commerce, one of our favorite cocktail bars meets gastropubs in San Diego. Just note some of their decor includes taxidermy, so stay away if that’s not your jam.
Try a few beers on tap or go for a full flight at Modern Times Beer — it’s got a cool, retro hipster vibe complete with weird post-it note art (that changes periodically), old comic books on the walls, and vintage books holding up the bar.
Make a reservation at Raised by Wolves, an upscale bar hidden in a liquor shop — yes please! There’s old-world decor and oak-clad walls giving this cocktail bar a sense of mystery and pure opulence. A San Diego must list must if you adore craft cocktails.
Watch the city transform at night, with beautiful lighting effects in Balboa Park, bright lights and Victorian architecture in the Gaslamp Quarter, and the illuminated San Diego city skyline on the San Diego City Lights Night Tour
Sip your adult beverage of choice high above the streets of the Gaslamp — there’s plenty of rooftop bars including The Nolen, Rustic Root, Altitude Sky Lounge, and The Pool House (because drinks always taste better with a view)
Seasonal Things to do in San Diego
Spot a whale (Gray Whales migrate winter-spring, while summer sees the legendary Blue Whale) on a whale watching cruise! You’ll probably also see pods of dolphins and plenty of sea lions!
Smell the beautiful blooms at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. There’s rows and rows of ranunculus, a cool ocean breeze, sweet smells, and that SoCal sun. Paradise does exist — in the form of 70 million pretty blooms! I was so excited to finally check this off my San Diego bucket list last year! (Spring)
See a horse race and bet on your favorite thoroughbred at the beautiful and historic Del Mar Racetrack (Summer and late Fall)
Swim/snorkel with dozens of leopard sharks in La Jolla — peak viewing is between August and September and you can expect to find the largest annual aggregation of leopard sharks in the world (Summer to early Fall)
Skate by the Sea at the Hotel Del Coronado — the ice rink is set up right by the ocean so you get a great view and can even watch the sunset! Sounds like a San Diego bucket list item for me! (Winter)
Day Trips from San Diego
Devour a famous piece of apple pie from Julian Pie Company in nearby Julian, a cute little gold mine town and one of the best places to visit in San Diego in the fall! You can also go apple picking, sip some apple cider, and even pay a visit to the California Wolf Center.
Head to the desolate desert landscape of Borrego Springs. It’s laid back and unpretentious, with fabulous night skies and a super funky art scene with those infamous metal sculptures. We were surprised by how much we loved this little town!
Pack up the car and drive to Joshua Tree National Park for wild and wacky Joshua Trees, rugged rock formations and giant boulders, an arid desert landscape, and super dark starry night skies. One of my favorite national parks in California.
Spend a few hours exploring (and photographing) every nook and cranny of Salvation Mountain, the quirkiest technicolor mountain you’ve ever seen. It’s a true candy-colored fantasy world in the middle of the desert.
Fall in love with Palm Springs, full of mid-century modern architecture, boozy weekend brunches, old Hollywood glitz and glam, epic pool hangs, and those chic desert vibes.
Savor some Bordeaux and Rhône varietals in Temecula Valley, and then you can treat yourself to a hot air balloon ride above the vineyards the next morning (or check out the Balloon and Wine Festival in May)! Definitely one for the San Diego bucket list!
Explore the San Juan Capistrano mission (it’s fascinating and famous for a reason), then admire the Spanish architecture, wander through the charming Los Rios Historic District, and have afternoon tea.
Rent a 4×4 and hit up Anza Borrego State Park for some off-roading adventures, including up to Font’s Point for sunset, the surreal desert badlands (California’s Grand Canyon), the remote Clark Homestead site at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, a dry lake bed surrounded by colorful mountains, and for views of Vista del Malpais.
Hang ten in San Clemente, one of the chillest towns in all of Orange County. Expect near perfect weather, white, sandy beaches, Spanish-style architecture, a rich history, and even golf cart culture (yes, really)!
Sip big, bold, juicy, oaked reds in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s very own wine country! Foodies and wine aficionados, add this to your San Diego bucket list pronto!
Slap on some Mickey Mouse ears and stroll on into the most magical place on earth, Disneyland, of course! Full of just as much magic as you remember as a kid!
Stand below sea level at the Salton Sea, one of the lowest spots on Earth (at 227 feet below sea level) and probably the stinkiest spot on this San Diego bucket list. Don’t miss the Recreation Area and Bombay Beach Ruins.
Feel like you’re standing on a different planet at the Glamis Sand Dunes — even Jumanji 3 was filmed right here! You can simply walk out onto the perfect sand ripples or watch the ATV and buggies race on the dunes.
Hop the border and head south to Tijuana; do some shopping on Avenida Revolución, sip on tequila, feast on some mole tamales, walk on the boardwalk in Playas de Tijuana, and do some learning at the Tijuana Cultural Center.
Brave the traffic and head north to Santa Monica and Venice Beach, where you can walk the Venice Canals, go for a long bike ride on the boardwalk, ride the West Coaster in Pacific Park, and eat funnel cake (the ultimate boardwalk food).
Go abroad to Rosarito Beach, a resort town on the coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula known for its beautiful beaches, great snorkeling and surfing, adventurous outdoor activities like horseback riding and zip lining, and its vibrant nightlife. Don’t miss a sunset here — I’ve heard they’re stunning!
Which of these things to do in San Diego are you adding to your San Diego bucket list?!
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