San Diego is a diverse city with beaches, mountains, deserts and a vibrant downtown area. Not many cities can boast that many options. This is one reason why San Diego is a popular tourist destination for California vacations. For those who prefer to explore, this West Coast city has plenty of attractions to keep you busy during San Diego getaways. Here are a few of the best destinations to consider on your San Diego trip.
- Hit All The Beaches
The beaches are the biggest draws in San Diego. These stunning strands offer so much more than just lounging in the sand and playing in the waves. The city’s beaches offer world-class surfing, sea kayaking and body boarding. There are also lots of boardwalk areas filled with shops and restaurants, so you have everything you need in one place. If you want easy access to the beach, look for accommodation in waterfront areas. You can find plenty of San Diego beach vacation rentals in and around Coronado Beach, La Jolla Beach, Solana Beach, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach.
- Experience Little Italy
Visit Little Italy for some food and drinks. It’s a close drive from downtown San Diego. Many Top Chef alums and award-winning chefs come here to share their art of cooking with the locals and the visitors. India Street is full of restaurants that serve traditional foods from Southern and Northern Italy. Craft brewpubs abound as well as wineries where you can grab a light libation or two. A waterfront Italian market and deli make you feel as if you’ve stepped into Italy without leaving California. The market carries fresh, local produce. Check out the art galleries while you’re there and shop in the boutiques. Make sure to snap pictures of the Italian architecture of many of the buildings. Amici Park is an ideal place to take the family. The park has a dog park, an amphitheater for movies and bocce ball courts.
- Venture Over to Baja
Baja is only 17 miles from downtown San Diego. It’s located south of the U.S. Mexican International border. Two regions in one give you a taste of the culture and the food of California and Mexico. The terrain is beautiful with ocean and steep cliff views. More than 100 wineries are nearby for some wine tastings. A lot of the restaurants offer local foods and fresh seafood. This is a fun, vibrant area with lots of shops and outdoor activities. You can find clothing, handmade baskets, jewelry and leather items usually at very good prices. Sportfishing, beaches and horseback riding are options for those who prefer to be outdoors.
- Nine Arts Districts
You’ll find an arts district at just about every turn in the city. San Diego has an abundance of talented artists and artisans with different ethnic backgrounds. So, the art expression covers a spectrum of possibilities and genres. You’ll find outdoor murals painted on buildings, dancing in the street and music being played for entertainment. Music will vary from a classical symphony to local bands performing. Public art is displayed in many parks and other green spaces, which adds to the character of this amazing place. The Mesa Art Gallery at San Diego Mesa College showcases new artists and talented faculty artwork. Throughout the arts districts, you can find ethnic foods to enjoy, including Indian, Filipino, Ethiopian and Korean cuisine. Don’t forget to catch a play or a musical at one of the 150 theaters. Grasp some of the history at the Old Town State Park, which is said to be California’s birthplace. Art is abundant in this modern city.
- Potato Chip Rock
For the adventurous at heart, consider a 6.5-mile hike with an extraordinary panoramic view as a reward at the end. Woodson Mountain has a Mt. Woodson Trail that leads to a thin precipice of granite that sticks out of the side of the mountain. Visitors wait in line on a typical day for a rare opportunity to get a photo-op with a view overlooking San Diego. Potato Chip Rock juts out precariously in an odd shape, which no doubt gives it the potato chip name. The hike is about a three-hour uphill climb followed by a one-hour downhill trek through boulders, making it a challenging, invigorating hike. But it’s a one-of-a-kind experience and crowds gravitate to this spot for the sheer novelty of the view. Be sure to take plenty of water for the hike, especially if you make the trek in warmer weather.
- Coronado Island
Take a ferry across the Big Bay and spend a day touring Coronado Island. You can enjoy time on the beach, shopping in gift stores or take a tree tour in Spreckels Park. You have the opportunity to bike or Segway around the island at your own pace, visit the Coronado Museum of History and Art or catch the farmers’ market on a Tuesday afternoon to get fresh, local produce. The Bay Area is an ideal spot to paddleboard, canoe or kayak in the crystal blue water. If you prefer lots of time on the sand and in the surf, you’ll love the five beaches on Coronado Island. The island also has a few spas if you prefer to ease back into total relaxation with a massage, pedicure or skin treatment. There are lots of restaurants offering fabulous options for foodies, so you won’t go hungry while visiting the island.
- Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a huge expanse of culture and history wrapped into one giant park. You can spend days here and still not see all it has to offer. It is the largest urban cultural park in North America with 1,200 acres of land. It’s full of history, culture, shops, architecture, varied museums and multiple gardens. The museums include an automotive museum, a railroad museum and a veterans museum. Walk through the formal botanical gardens or visit the popular San Diego Zoo too. You can hike a canyon trail or try lawn bowling. The sports complex within the park has tennis courts, a swimming pool and a disc golf course. There’s an Old Globe Theater with three stages that hold multiple performances throughout the year. Take in the serenity of the Japanese Friendship Garden. Picnic areas and dog parks are also available.
- Torrey Pines State Reserve
San Diego is famous for its pristine beaches, but its coastline has plenty more to offer. Explore the rugged wilderness of the Pacific at Torrey Pines State Reserve, which has hiking trails along sandstone cliffs and plenty of chances to take a look at local wildlife and plants. When you’re ready to take off your hiking boots, head over to Torrey Pines State Beach for some rest and relaxation in the sand.
- Old Town San Diego
San Diego is home to the oldest European settlement in California, and you can trace the city’s roots in Old Town San Diego Historic Park. Originally founded as a Catholic mission in 1769, this area is now a historic site that boasts preserved adobe buildings and stunning brick structures dating from the 19th century. Once you’re done exploring Old Town, take a walk closer to the water and check out the Gaslamp Quarter. This area is filled with beautiful Victorian buildings and is a great place to go shopping.
- San Diego Zoo
Staying in a San Diego vacation rental gives you lots of time to lounge on the beach, but it also gives you plenty of space in your schedule to see other local attractions. The San Diego Zoo is one of the biggest and most famous zoos in the world, boasting over 3,500 endangered species in excellent recreations of their natural habitats. To see animals roaming as they would in the wild, you can also check out the Safari Park, where elephants, zebras, lions and cheetahs enjoy ample space and open air.