Must See Places to Visit in San Diego

Must See Places to Visit in San Diego

Getaway Staff
Updated: May 12, 2021

San Diego is a beautiful home to a large range of attractions and activities for visitors of all walks of life and ages. There are several things that you can do to keep yourself entertained along the gorgeous California coastline. Whether you are traveling with a family or just taking on the sites by yourself, memories can easily be made here. Beaches, zoos, museums, restaurants, and entertainment are all among some of the best things to do in San Diego. Surfing the rolling waves, visiting amusement parks, and taking in the up-and-coming restaurant scene are only a few options.



The eastern shores of San Diego Bay have some spectacular views, many of which are viewable from the Embarcadero. Located at the edge of downtown along the bustling San Diego Harbor, this waterfront neighborhood has access to shopping, dining, and entertainment. Walk aboard historic ships at the San Diego Maritime Museum, enjoy public art and pier fishing at the marina parks, then spend time window shopping at Seaport Village. If you need some cardio after indulging in fresh fish tacos, try renting a bike or strolling along the waterfront promenade.


02Surfing in the Pacific

A group of surfers on their boards watch the sunset on the waves off Solana Beach. Rick Doyle / Getty Images

Surfing isn't just for the professionals in San Diego, though you'll find plenty of them hitting the waves along the coastline. Beginners can paddle out from La Jolla Shores or try their hand at bodyboarding at Marine Street Beach. Experienced surfers should try Windansea in the wintertime, while Black's Beach is famous for its year-round swells.


03San Diego Zoo


Perhaps one of the most well-known attractions in the area, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park spans over 100 acres and houses over 3,500 rare and endangered animals from all over the world. The Zoo offers guided bus tours of the entire park lasting 35 minutes. There is also a Skyfari aerial tram offering another perspective while being transported to the other side of the large park. There are multiple educational shows and even a 4-D movie theater for wildlife films. This is a great adventure that will provide lasting memories.

ChrisFlorence / Getty Images


04Balboa Park


Balboa Park sprawls over 1200 acres and is home to the San Diego Zoo which takes up approximately 100 acres. The detailed Spanish Renaissance buildings are scattered throughout the park including the Botanical Building. This building is a well-photographed buildings housing beautiful flowers and plants. The park has rose gardens, cactus gardens, Japanese gardens and palm tree canyon. Simply strolling or biking around the park is an adventure in itself.

Ron_Thomas / Getty Images


05Coronado Beach


Coronado Beach is a tranquil location for sunbathing and swimming. The calm waters of the area make it ideal for a family picnic. A view of the 130-year old National Historic Landmark the Hotel del Coronado on the edge of the water makes it even more enjoyable. This is a picturesque stop on any trip to San Diego.

Ron_Thomas / Getty Images


06La Jolla

siblings playing in tide pools at low tide Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

La Jolla is a picturesque seaside community with a little bit of something for everyone. Shops, art galleries, and various eateries keep you busy all day, with enough time to take in a breathtaking sunset from the coastal bluffs. If you're in the mood for adventure, paddle alongside the migration path of grey whales, or tour the Seven Caves on a kayak. Tire the kids out on a trek down 145 steps to Jim's Cave at The Cave Store, then to the Children's Pool to watch the seals sunbathe.


07Gaslamp Quarter


Walking among the lights and excitement in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego will provide you with a real feel for the nightlife. This 16-block Victorian style area is home to shops, theaters, art galleries, and dining opportunities. It is the place for outdoor events and music many nights of the week. This is an easy stop for dinner or simply a stroll.

Metaphortography / Getty Images


08Maritime Museum of San Diego


No trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. There are tours available for many kinds of sailing ships and submarines. The ships alternate based on the time of the year. The museum offers standing exhibits and artifacts as well making it an educational experience as well as entertaining.

BethMyer / Getty Images


09SeaWorld San Diego


There are few travelers in the United States that have not heard of SeaWorld San Diego. This wildlife attraction sits on the San Diego beach and is an amusement park and educational adventure all in one. Visitors can enjoy interactions with many sea creatures. Their underwater tunnel is an experience in marine life, and the penguin exhibit has over 300 penguins to visit. Those that really want an adventure can try one of the many rides available.

photovideostock / Getty Images


10Cabrillo National Monument


The Cabrillo National Monument sits at the very edge of Point Loma just outside of San Diego. The statue is a depiction of Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, an explorer that was the first from Europe to visit California in 1542. The view from this site is epic and an incredible way to see the shoreline. Clear skies even bring visions of the Tijuana, Mexico mountains.

Tashka / Getty Images


11USS Midway Museum


San Diego has many military bases throughout the city. The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier with the distinction of carrying over 225,000 sailors over the course of its activity. There are over 60 exhibits as well as 29 aircraft having been restored. Some of the aircraft on exhibit include those from World War II, the Korean War, and even Operation Desert Storm.

pinggr / Getty Images


12Sunset Cliffs


Close to the Cabrillo Monument lies one of the best places to get a fantastic photo of the ocean. The Sunset Cliffs run a 68-acre distance along the shoreline producing stunning sun-kissed rocks that glow ranges of orange and red in the evening. Utilizing the provided stairway, site-seers can enjoy a stroll enjoying the view with crashing waves and distant ships. This spot is a beautiful place to end a day before heading out for the evening.

Maryna Patzen / Getty Images


13Torrey Pines State Reserve


Perhaps one of the best ways to get a good look at San Diego’s shoreline is by visiting Torrey Pines State Reserves 1,750 acres. This land is untouched and protected lined with dramatic cliffs and pine trees including the Torrey Pine, the rarest in the United States. The awe-inspiring views make hiking the 8 miles of trails an experience like no other.

OttoKruse / Getty Images



14. Little Italy

San Diego's oldest continuous business district is also a vibrant, walkable neighborhood with a community-oriented vibe. Little Italy welcomes visitors to stop and enjoy the local flavors and scenery. Enjoy a snack relaxing at a patio cafe, or have a few drinks at a friendly pub. If you're in town on Saturday or Wednesday, look for some fresh, local fare at the Farmer's Market. You'll find an unforgettable experience for any budget.


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