Things to Do in San Diego – a Guide to America’s Finest City
Welcome aboard to the first spot in the California state where Europeans stepped ashore. Miles of beautiful beaches, rich heritage, cultural diversity, cuisine and beautiful nature surrounding it will give you plenty of things to do in San Diego.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, the mild climate will give you many opportunities to engage in your hobbies and outdoor lifestyle. The cost of living in San Diego may be above the national average, but the place certainly doesn’t lack opportunities to learn something new, try out delicious food, or just have a good night out with friends. Here is our list of locations and activities to visit and try if you plan on moving to San Diego or if you are just visiting for a few days.
Things to Do in San Diego If You Are Moving Alone
Whether you are moving for a job or looking for a fresh start in America’s Finest City, it may be hard to adapt in the beginning, especially if you struggle with relocation depression. It will probably take some time to overcome moving anxiety and get to know all advantages of moving alone. But if you manage to find reliable San Diego movers with excellent moving services, you won’t have to worry at least about the technical aspect of your relocation. Move into a smaller home if you’re alone and save some bucks for various activities, or pick the cheapest way to move out of state and save that way. Whatever you choose, planning your moving budget would be a smart thing. If you wish to move economically, but you don’t want to deal with the whole relocation process by yourself, ask the relocation company about the cheapest time of the year to move.
The best way to handle the scenario of relocating alone is to take up activities where you may meet people, and if you play your cards right, those will usually be people of similar interests as yours. Consider finding a job before moving to another state to ease the process. Of course, it will be much easier if you already have connections in the place you are moving to, but if you don’t, it is not the end of the world. You will make some in no time if you are open to the possibilities. Here is our selection of the top thing to do if you’re about to relocate here alone and looking to meet new people.
- Sand Castles Building Classes is an opportunity to wake up your inner child and have loads of fun. The place is famous for the annual Sand Castles Challenge and if you may find your hidden talent if you take a building class. Classes usually last for 3 hours and you will get all the equipment you need on the spot, go through the basics, and try to build your dream castle with the help of a skilled instructor. The classes are held on Del Mar beach and they cost $140 for two people.
- Grotto Climbing and Yoga is a great way to indulge in an outdoor physical activity in a controlled environment. Although this is an indoor improvisation of free climbing, it is as close as you get to the real experience in an urban area. There are many spots throughout the place and you can surely find one close to your work or apartment. If you need to relax after work, you can do that with guided yoga classes on the same premisses.
- After you settle down and adapt to life in your new place, it is time to expand your horizons and take a tour of the wider surrounding area. One way you could do it is on a bike, and the most beautiful place to ride your two wheels in this area is the Silver Strand Bikeway. You could look at the sunset at your own pace and snap a few memorable photos while you are at it.
- If you are a fan of street art, you should check out murals of Barrio Logan. You could take a guided tour and get detailed info about street artists and the street art there or you could take a cup of coffee to go and feast your eyes while taking a stroll.
- Full Moon Party at Trilogy Sanctuary near La Jolla beach is a truly unique experience. You will not only witness great performances, but you can also participate. Moon elixirs, themed food and drinks, aerial fire shows, dance, open mic night, and yoga are just some of the magical things that are happening once every full moon.
- Axe Ventures in North Park offers you the opportunity to wake your inner lumberjack without taking the trip outside the urban area. You can throw axes at the target after your stressful day and wake your primal instincts. It’s like darts, only more extreme.
- Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt gives you the double benefit of getting to know a part of the city while solving a mystery. This Sherlock game of finding clues and solving the mystery is out in the open and it can get quite tricky, which only makes it more fun to participate. Do you think you could solve a perfect crime? Well, now you could find out. Let the games begin, and may the greatest detective win.
- There is nothing quite like free-fall experience, but if you are not quite there yet, may we suggest the next best thing-Indoor SkyDiving. Powerful wind turbines in special chambers will get you as close as possible to the real thing without jumping out of a plane.
- Silicon Beach is big on clues and puzzle games, escape rooms, and scavenger hunts. One of those is Puzzleroom. If you thought that that giant puzzle you got for last Christmas is hard, think again. Puzzleroom is the level up for the adult puzzle solving games and boards.
Relax in a Park After a Busy Day
Whether you want to take a cup of coffee out in the open or spend some time in the fresh air without taking the long trip to the outskirts of the town, a walk in the park is your best option. Take a break from house-hunting and take some time to enjoy the fresh air. America’s Finest City has many beautiful and spacious parks scattered around, and we are sure you can find your favorite spot in one of them.
Featured and Theme Parks
For those of you who want to give some substance to their walk, there are a lot of interesting theme parks.
- Queen Calafia’s Magic Circle is a sculpture garden that doesn’t charge entrance. This Alice-In-Wonderland-like site is an ideal place for an art-hungry soul. You should, however, spare a few days if you want to appreciate every sculpture in it since it is spread on 12 acres. This is definitely a place worth revisiting.
- Cabrillo National Monument Park is the place that connects the area as it is today with its historical roots. The monument on the highest spot in the park is dedicated to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese Captain that first docked to this part of the US in 1542. Besides paying your respects to this brave explorer, you can enjoy the phenomenal view from the top.
Enjoy Your Walk in the Park and Soak in the Sun
There are many parks where you can sunbathe for a few hours and enjoy your free time outdoors, and you don’t have to go very far.
- Waterfront Park is very popular because of its huge fountain where you can actually dip your toes and cool off on warm days. You can also lay down on the grass, enjoy reflecting pool and native plant garden. There are also playing installations for younger visitors.
- If you want to have a break after a visit to La Jolla, you can do that in Ellen Browning Scripps Park. It is situated just above the La Jolla Cove and if you get lucky, you might spot some Sea Lions and Seals from atop.
Find a Bit of Everything in Balboa Park
This is a place where you’ll come back time and time again. Besides the beautiful Spanish colonial architecture featured throughout the area, you have many museums, gardens, and art exhibits to visit, activities to engage in and events to attend every single day. If you have no idea where to roam for the day, Balboa Park is the safest bet, it will charm you every single time.
Engage in Various Activities on the Beach
Sunbathing and swimming aren’t the only beach activities. America’s Finest City has miles and miles of beautiful shorelines and you can surf, build sandcastles, wakeboard, scuba dive, rent a boat, etc.
What is great is that there are beaches for all age groups and activities in San Diego. Some are good for catching waves, others are good for taking your inexperienced children swimming or enjoying an afternoon with your pets.
Best Surfing Beaches of San Diego
Most of the cities in California will give you an opportunity to catch a great wave, and Sandi is no exception. Some spots are perfect for a bit less experienced surfers, while others are for the more experienced, even pro-level surfers. If you ever thought about engaging in this adrenaline sport, here you will have the opportunity to start and improve.
- Ocean Beach is the top pro surfing spot here. Not only are the waves here great, but it is also very wide and has a long pier for spectators and fans. If you want to impress your significant other with your surfing skills, bring them to the Ocean Beach pier and show off.
- Trestles is arguably the finest spot for pro surfing. The beach is a bit remote but it is well worth the trouble, even more so when you consider that the biggest pro surfing competition in the area is held right here.
If you are more on the beginner side of the scale, you should check out La Jolla Shores and Surf Divas Surfing School. There you can work with professionals who will make you break the wave in no time.
Other Fun Activities on the Beach
If you are not that big of a fan of surfing and you want to expand your horizons beyond swimming, there are many other activities that could interest you and cool you off during the hot summer.
- If you are a fan of fishing you could indulge in your hobby in the Mission Bay, Point Loma and Oceanside. You can get your license in any tackle shop nearby, but be aware of the strict prohibition of fishing of any kind from La Jolla Cove to Torrey Pines Park.
- Diving will let you see much more than sea creatures here. You can take a peek at some very old shipwrecks along the coast. If you are a fan of colorful underwater fauna, you will find it in La Jolla Cove Reefs.
- Boating is a great way to reach all those hidden inlets and islets around the area and discover many beautiful spots along the way. If you want to sail, you can book a three-hour tour from Embarcadero and enjoy the sea and shorelines while an experienced captain takes care of everything.
Visit a Museum and Get to Know the Cultural Heritage of the Area
Since this area is the cradle of California, there is a rich historical heritage and people are very proud of their origins and culture. Besides the classical in-door museums, you have many improvised parks and villages that paint a picture of what it was like to live centuries ago. If you want to get in touch with the past times and participate in various fun activities on-site we have a few good suggestions for you.
Historical Parks and Villages Worth Seeing
- The first place that comes to mind is Old Town San Diego Historical Park. Located in the heart of the town, this attraction shows just how strong Mexican influence was among the first settlers and still is today. You will find many original colonial buildings that might give you a better insight into the architecture of the time. Besides, you can dine in one of the many restaurants that serve Mexican food with a modern twist to it. What may be even more interesting are the processions that happen regularly and embody the mixture of different cultures.
- If you are a fan of powerful machinery, you have to check out the USS Midway Museum. It is the oldest serving aircraft carrier, and you can gaze at this magnificent feat of engineering as well as at more than 30 restored aircrafts from 1945, 14 jets and much more.
- Mormon Battalion Historic Site was a stronghold during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. It has been recently revamped for visitations and it very authentically shows the life and the architecture of the era.
- Point Loma lighthouse was built in 1855. Its original lense had a range of 24 miles towards the open sea. If you time your visit right, you may even catch the reenactment of Captain Israel, who was the lighthouse keeper in the 19th century.
Take a Classical In-Door Museum Tour
Besides the lively and colorful historical parks and open-door museums, America’s Finest City has many in-door museums with great exhibitions.
- The Museum of Art has a vast collection of Spanish Baroque and Renaissance paintings. This is a great place to see examples of the Golden era in art history. The regular exhibitions are not the only interesting thing you can catch in this institution in Balboa Park, it also hosts a plethora of events for school kids and cocktail nights and film screenings for adults.
- The Natural Museum is yet another interesting location in Balboa Park which is definitely worth the time it takes to visit it. It is home to some spectacular fossils, dioramas and interactive stations that represent California’s ecosystems. Besides that, it is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California.
- The Air and Space Museum is situated in a modern Ford Building in Balboa. You will get to travel through the centuries of aircraft making and have an opportunity to try a flight simulator or watch some magnificent 3D or 4D shows dedicated to flight and aircraft.
- The Museum of Man will get you closer to the pre-colonial era and cultures that were native to the region, as well as to some Mesoamerican civilizations like the Mayans. Besides, you can also find out a lot more about beer thanks to an exhibition that showcases 10.000 years of beer making and features a golden cup of an Incan king that is estimated to be more than 600 years old.
- The Whaley House Museum -If you are a fan of ghost stories and haunted houses, don’t hesitate to visit this place. It was built on the ground where criminals were once hanged. It was officially declared haunted by the US Commerce Department in 1960. Some say that you can hear the footsteps and cries of the hanged criminals in the night.
Shop and Enjoy Live Music in Old San Diego
This area offers so much more than a peek into the past. The location is conceptualized as a fun place for all age groups. You can visit one of the many historical exhibitions and pop for a cup of coffee or a quick bite afterward.
If you are in a fancier mood, there are also some upscale restaurants. You could also do some shopping, find very interesting, unique and native gifts, souvenirs and home decoration in the shopping area. Don’t miss some of the great concerts, since there is at least one every day on the schedule.
Going for a Night Out
Even though it is not like you are moving to New York, but Sandi has some great options for a night out. What is interesting is that most of the night scene is located either on rooftops or in the basements. Our top picks for a fun night out are:
- Fluxx in downtown for dance and great cocktails
- Belly Up for a casual night with friends
- Oxford Social Club is a boutique lounge experience
- Rooftop by STK for a great view with a poolside
- The Grass Skirt is a hidden tiki bar that all the people who visited recommend
- Moonshine flats for a bit of country-style fun
- Prohibition speakeasy, if you find it
- Onyx room is a three-level dance club
What to Visit in Sandi with Your Significant Other?
If you are moving with your partner, you won’t lack romantic, exciting and interesting places to visit together. There is something for every occasion and for everyone’s pocket.
Activities for Active Couples
If you are an active couple, you will have many things to choose from, or you can even make a list and check everything one day at a time.
- Kayaking in La Jolla can be a very romantic experience, and you can choose to kayak together or alongside each other. Maybe a bit of a competition is your game. While there, you could also stumble upon the Kayaking concerts at Humphreys. It is exactly what it sounds like, a concert stage on the cliff by the sea which you can listen to from the kayak below. Now tell us that that is not over-the-top romantic.
- They say that healthy relationships rely on a lot of laughter, and Laughter Yoga in Balboa is one way to do it. Meditation and Yoga were never so fun.
- If you are both golf fans, or you want to learn how to golf, Torrey Pines Golf Course might be the right place for you. Besides the perfectly cut grass and very affordable prices, these courses feature a beautiful view of the sunset.
- Escape rooms are a fun way to join your forces to solve a mystery. One thing that this town doesn’t lack in choice is escape rooms and mystery hunts. Show everyone how strong you are together.
- Whale watching is something you will remember for the rest of your lives. Getting so close to these magnificent creatures will give you an experience that will connect you on a whole different level. There are tours organized regularly when the migrations start.
For When You Want to Lay Back and Relax, out in the Open
Someone would think that drive-in movies are things of the past, or that picnic in the open is too cheesy, but we can all agree that they have a timeless charm.
- One of the top drive-in places that still goes strong is South Bay Drive-In. Get all warm and cozy in your car, take some popcorn and drinks and enjoy an old school kind of romantic evening with your loved one.
- Rooftop Cinema Club is yet another authentic cinema out in the open. You can enjoy movies and gaze at the stars above or the street lights below and all at the same time on the same spot.
- Harbor Cruise may not be all the way seat back and relax, but it offers a pretty much laid back experience with a different perspective to the city. Get to know the coast from the boat and enjoy the ocean with your partner.
The Most Romantic Spots to Dine Together That Are Not Restaurants
Dining out doesn’t have to be in some expensive upscale restaurant, you could also organize a good old fashioned picnic during the day or in the evening if you want to look at the stars.
- La Jolla Shores Park will give you all, the waves that clash soothingly with the sand, miles and miles of sandy beaches, undisturbed view of the night sky and the smell of the ocean. Get your picnic basket, spread a blanket and enjoy the night sky.
- Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is yet another spot you should visit for the beautiful sunset panorama if nothing else. And while you are there, why not make a toast for a happy life that awaits you together.
Eat out in Some of Sandi’s Best Restaurants
What you will not miss here is the exquisite food is some of the best restaurants in San Diego. Mexican influence is very strong and present, especially in the restaurant industry. The perfect climate of the area and the position of the city allow for great fresh produce throughout the whole year. Some restaurants, however, earned their reputation over the years, and they are a great place to start your foodie escapades. But you will find your favorite spots eventually. If you were wondering “what are the best restaurants near me”, here are the ones to start with:
- Hodads is a diner with insane burgers and burger combinations. Sweet, salty, spicy, sour, umami, they have it all. Not only that their combinations are crazy, but their burgers and burger baskets are also crazy big.
- Bluewater Seafood Market and Grill is the place to go if you crave good quality, fresh seafood. They have a serious reputation but they are also very affordable. Try their oysters and blackened sea bass.
- Nine Seas seafood truck is not your regular restaurant or diner, but it serves food that can compete with them. You can try tostadas with all the seafood and they do not skip on the fresh ceviche.
- And last, but not least on this list is not a particular restaurant, but rather a whole area where you can find many of the top ones. Take a trip to the North Side and enjoy the most unique food combinations you will find in the whole area.
Our Top Picks If You Want an Active Day
If you decide to learn how car shipping works because you want to use auto transport services to take your car with you, and you have a whole day just to explore the area, you will find a lot of interesting places nearby. Some will take a bit more effort to reach but they are well worth it.
- Sunset Cliff Sea Cave is a unique spot with an open ceiling that can be reached when the tide is right.
- Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to the Torrey pines that can be found in only two places on earth, here and 200 miles south.
- San Diego Coronado is a spot just across the town that you can reach by driving over the bridge or by ferry. The beach there is one of the most beautiful beaches in the States and it is very popular with surfers
- Gliderport is America’s top paragliding and hang gliding location. If you love extreme sports, this will be a trip well spent.
Fun Activities for the Whole Family
If you are moving with your family, you may be wondering how to approach your children with the idea of moving away from all they know and love. Since you probably know what is best for your family and they won’t have much say in the matter, the best thing you could do is to get them excited about everything that you are going to see and do together. Every change should be for the better and the easiest way to cope with anxiety about moving is to fall in love with your new place of living. Here are some interesting locations and activities your kids would enjoy.
Activities for Youngsters
- The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a hands-on interactive experience. It is like a patch of Africa in the middle of the town. You can choose a caravan truck, zip line or cart tour. If you have more time on your hands, you can also do an overnight tour and experience the most authentic safari outside of Africa.
- Legoland can be as much fun for you as for the little ones. Wake your inner child and make this 30-mile ride from downtown to this attraction for the whole family. We recommend that you spare the whole day and go through all the attractions like Explorer Island, Funtown, Miniland USA, Castle Hill, Imagination Zone, Pirate Shores, Land of Adventure, etc.
- Children’s Pool Beach at La Jolla is naturally formed small cove with shallow water where your kids can swim protected from the high waves and dangerous currents.
- Visit UTC Ice Sports Center, and you get to go ice-skating even in California.
- San Diego Zoo is a fun place for the whole family, and with more than 3500 animals and 650 species, you will have a lot to show and teach your little ones. The stars of the Zoo are Xiao Liwu Giant Panda and Angalifu the Rhinoceros.
- Broaden the horizons of your kids by taking them to the Fleet Science Center and Planetarium. Venture into the furthest parts of the Galaxy, learn about the planets and the black holes in the planetarium. As for the rest, you should know that the first IMAX Dome Theatre was right here and it is a truly interesting experience. You could also engage your children in interactive science exhibits that are very much hands-on.
Top Spots for Your Pets
The Birthplace of California is an active community throughout the year and pets are not excluded from an active lifestyle. Your pooch will get all the rights, fun and respect it deserves. Moving with your dog here will benefit both you and your canine companion.
The area is well known for many dog-friendly beaches and your pet could engage in various activities you probably never thought of before. Besides the usual fetch game and pleasant swimming in the hot months, you can also take your dog sailing and surfing.
There is an annual dog surfing competition on Imperial beach, and it is as much fun as you would guess for all the parties involved, fur and no fur alike. The most popular dog beaches are Coronado dog beach, Fiesta Island and Del Mar dog beach.
Besides the designated dog parks, there are many other parks in the area that welcome leashed dogs. You could take your dog to Balboa Park and Sunset Cliffs to enjoy a beautiful sunset together.
If you want to take your dog with you when you are going out for a bite, you can. There are more than a few spots that allow dogs at their outside tables like The Patio on Lamont, Fred’s Mexican Cafe and The Landing Grille.
If you want to culturally elevate your dog, take him to the Village Art Center and enjoy some beautiful open space installations together. This is an artsy hub where you can buy art if you particularly like some pieces. If you want to make it all about your best friend, take him to pet-spa at Howlistic and treat him with some special delicacies from Dexter’s Deli.