Skip to main content

These are the 10 best things to do in San Diego, according to a local

These are the can't-miss activities for your San Diego trip

top of body of water
Daniel Guerra / Unsplash

Perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and endless adventure – that’s the essence of San Diego. This Southern California city has long been a favorite destination for travelers who are looking for a taste of the laidback West Coast lifestyle. And for those looking to explore the city, we put together a list of the best things to do in San Diego, according to a local.

1. See the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Carlsbad Flower Fields
Sam Loera / Carlsbad Flower Fields

Spring in San Diego just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beautiful Carlsbad Flower Fields. This attraction spans nearly 50 acres and features a stunning display of ranunculus flowers blanketing the rolling hills in a rainbow of colors. It’s a photographer’s dream come true! The blooming season typically runs from early March through early May, so plan your visit accordingly.

2. Take a trip to the Del Mar Horse Races

Thoroughbred horse racing track and surrounding area with mountains in the distance.
Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock

The legendary Del Mar Racetrack, a premier venue for thoroughbred horse racing, never fails to offer an adventurous day. There’s nothing quite like dressing up to the nines, sipping on cocktails, placing bets, and soaking in the electric atmosphere as the horses thunder by. If you’re planning a visit, the summer racing season kicks off in mid-July and runs through early September, while the fall season takes place in November. 

3. Explore Balboa Park

Grey Concrete Building Surrounded by Trees
Zachary Sawchuk / Pexels

Balboa Park is a cultural oasis in the heart of San Diego, boasting 18 museums, stunning gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. You could easily spend an entire day (or more!) wandering through the lush landscapes, marveling at the Spanish Renaissance-style architecture, and immersing yourself in the diverse exhibits. From the Museum of Us to the Air and Space Museum, there really is something to pique every interest.

4. Check out the San Diego Zoo

entrance to the San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo / San Diego Zoo

While you’re near Balboa Park, take a visit to the San Diego Zoo. Renowned for its innovative animal habitats and commitment to conservation, the San Diego Zoo is a must-visit destination. Prepare to come face-to-face with over 12,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 680 species. You can expect to see cheetahs, elephants, grizzly bears, giraffes, koalas, lions, penguins, and so much more!

4. Visit the iconic Top Gun house in Oceanside

Top Gun House
DarkNight0917, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

For fans of the classic film Top Gun, a visit to the iconic blue house known as “Charlie’s house” is a nostalgic experience. Located right across from the pier in Oceanside, the house has been converted into a charming pie shop called The High Pie. Channel your inner fighter pilot, grab a slice of apple pie, and snap a photo in front of the recognizable exterior. Then, walk down the Oceanside Pier and take in the salty ocean air.

6. Indulge in a wine country day trip

grapes on vineyard
Pixabay / Pexels

Who can resist the call of delicious wine and the chance to wander through wineries nestled amidst rolling hills and sprawling vineyards? San Diego County is home to several award-winning wineries, making it a perfect destination for wine enthusiasts. Take a day trip to the Fallbrook area and explore wineries like Monserate Winery and Fallbrook Winery. Sip on locally produced wines while taking in the stunning vineyard views and relaxing ambiance.

7. Hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

brown rocky shore near body of water during daytime
Jon Doerr Jr / Unsplash

Nature lovers will be in awe of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, which offers breathtaking views and hiking trails that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a casual stroller, the hike caters to all skill levels and provides opportunities to spot diverse wildlife.

8. Catch a Padres game at Petco Park

baseball game at night in stadium
Derek Story / Unsplash

Is there anything more American than catching a baseball game on a sunny afternoon? Petco Park in downtown San Diego provides the perfect setting with its views of the city skyline and typically great weather. Arrive early, grab a hot dog and a beer, and soak in the energy before the first pitch.

9. Discover La Jolla Cove

brown wooden dock on sea during daytime
Alexia Laiter Garza / Unsplash

If you’re craving a full day of beach therapy, head to La Jolla Cove to watch the sea lions work on their tans. These playful marine mammals love lounging on the cove’s rocky shores and putting on a show for visitors. It’s easily one of the most picturesque spots in San Diego. Afterward, take your pick of delicious restaurants just walking distance from the ocean. 

10. Stroll through Seaport Village

brown wooden house on water
Isaias / Unsplash

Seaport Village is a charming waterfront area perfect for a relaxing stroll. You’ll find eclectic shops, restaurants with patios overlooking the ocean, street performers, and that classic Southern California energy. With its proximity to the ocean and the San Diego International Airport, a trip to Seaport Village can make for an awesome start or end to your San Diego adventures.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelly Baker
Kelly is a writer who loves good books, baking homemade bread, playing the piano, and spending time with her family.
Tee up at one of the best golf courses in Florida
There's a reason Florida is a hot spot for golf
Palm trees by the ocean at Hammock Beach

Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa

As a devoted golfer, you want to play as much as possible. You spend weekends hitting the links and refining your swing while elevating your game and enjoying your passion. But that isn’t always possible. When seasons change or rain arrives, you’re stuck on the couch watching the PGA Tour. Also, to play the world’s best courses, you’ll need to hop on a plane and go exploring.

Read more
Get the best deal without the hassle: The best sites to book flights
If you're not booking direct, try one of these sites to book flights
man holding credit card looking at computer

Finding cheap flights can feel like a full-time job, with prices varying wildly across different booking sites and search engines. Spend too little time searching, and you could easily overpay. But go down an endless rabbit hole of flight searches, and the "deal" you scored may not be worth the hassle. 

The good news is that not all flight search engines are created equal. Some make it easier to find great deals without the headache of combing through countless options and websites. When you use the right flight booking site for your needs, you can take the stress out of trip planning while still saving big. 

Read more
This is the best time to visit Switzerland
Is there really a bad time to visit Switzerland?
Vaud Switzerland by Lake Geneva

When you want to escape, Switzerland provides the ultimate playground. Jagged peaks cut into the horizon, the high alpine putting nature’s majesty on display. Hiking and biking trails let you roam and explore, with vast meadows and vistas around every turn. World-class terrain greets skiers and snowboarders, like Mont Fort at 4 Vallées in Verbier. Cuisines like fondue or Älplermagronen offer unique tastes and textures.

That’s a lot to take in, and if it’s your first time, you might be wondering the best time to visit Switzerland. If you’re looking for low crowds and good deals, specific periods let you play on a budget. On the other hand, different seasons feature ideal weather or winter fun. Whatever you’re after, we’ll steer you right on your alpine vacation.
The Alps on a budget or perfect weather? Here’s when to visit Switzerland

Read more