San Diego Things to See and Do

Are you visiting San Diego for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Sunny San Diego.

When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is San Diego Zoo, but I prefer to take them to San Diego Zoo Safari Park (30 minutes outside of San Diego) for a more in-your-face exciting encounter with wild animals.

flamingos, san diego zoo, zoo
San Diego Zoo

When I want to escape the crowds/tourists, my favorite place to visit is my own neighborhood, Kensington. There are some great restaurants and places to drink wine and beer that most tourists never stumble upon.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Sunset Cliffs for kissing with a view. My husband and I renewed our vows here last year!

The best place to let the dog run free is Dog Beach.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit any of the beaches here. If you have little ones, Mission Bay provides the sand and water without the waves.

Socal food

If you are looking for typical San Diegan cuisine, you’ve got to try fish tacos. Everyone argues about where the best are, so stop at the first taco shop you see and make your own judgment call.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Caffe Calabria in North Park. They’ve got the best coffee in town, as well as perfect tiny Italian sandwiches and pastries.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to The Prado in Balboa Park. If you love farmers’ markets, check out the one in Little Italy. It’s also a great place to grab lunch!

little italy farmers market, san diego
Little Italy Farmers’ Market

Seeing a lot of surfers? San Diego is a mecca for surfing, and La Jolla Shores and Cardiff are just a few of the great surf spots locals head to when the break is good.

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When you come to San Diego, get your picture taken with sea lions in the background at La Jolla Shores. Just don’t get too close, because they do bite!

sea lion, la jolla, california
Sea lion posing in La Jolla

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

In San Diego, outdoor lovers will want to hike or bike in Mission Trails, which has 5,800 acres of open space and trails of varying levels of difficulty.

One- and two-wheeled bikes are welcome on Mission Trails!


Looking for a little exercise? Walk along San Diego Harbor and admire the sailboats.

If you are a museum lover, Balboa Park is the place to be. With 17 museums and activities year ‘round, there’s always something to do.

Looking for exciting night life? The Gaslamp District offers music, dancing, dining, and excitement for the younger crowd.

The San Diego Reader will keep you posted on what’s happening in San Diego.

In the spring, head to the beaches before they get crowded. The weather’s usually warm enough to sunbathe this time of year, but the water’s always cold!

In the summer, catch the San Diego County Fair. It’s the birthplace of quirky fair food like fried Twinkies and fried butter!

In the fall, head to the mountains of Julian for Apple Days, an annual festival.

In the winter you should attend December Nights. It’s a holiday celebration that includes food and drink for purchase from around the world, music, and entertainment.

san diego, sunset, california
San Diego sunset

Insider Tip: San Diego is the craft beer capital of America. While breweries and tasting rooms are located all around the city, 30th Street is home to some of the best, many within walking distance of one another.

When Susan Payton isn’t running her marketing company, she’s traveling and writing about it on The Unexplorer. She’s written several books (business, as well as travel) and has been published on Forbes, Mashable and other sites. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

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