#1 Balboa Park
This 1,200-acre park is the cultural center of San Diego and is home to many museums, gardens and other fun attractions and venues, including the famous San Diego Zoo. Balboa Park is a great place for a walk, bike ride or after-school picnic. While strolling through the many gardens, the admirable Spanish Renaissance architecture adorns the park. The Botanical Building is one of the most photographed sites in Balboa Park and is one of the largest lath buildings in the world. Inside the building, one encounters impressive collections of tropical plants and orchids. The park also features a cactus garden, a rose garden, a Japanese-style garden, and a palm canyon, among many others.
#2 Surfen in Pacific & Mission Beach
Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are a huge, contiguous stretch of coastline in San Diego. The beach is a very popular place to surf in San Diego and offers both high and low waves, perfect for beginners and experienced surfers. Numerous surf schools right on the boardwalk offer surfing lessons, and appropriate surfing equipment such as wetsuits and surfboards can also be rented here. In addition to surfers, skaters and cyclists can be found along the beach promenade. There are numerous rentals for other water sports equipment in the neighborhood, offering everything from jet skis to kayaks. This laid-back beach neighborhood is also home to trendy beach bars and casual cafes that will invite you in for a post-surf drink or two!
#3 Ocean Beach Farmers Market
Be on the lookout for the Ocean Beach Farmers Market, which takes place every Wednesday! This local market has the same free-spirited and funky vibe as the rest of this beach neighborhood. Browsing through the countless vendors of fresh fruits and vegetables, deliciously prepared foods, and interesting crafts is accompanied by live music, incense, and beach weather. Each of the delicious offerings can be sampled and questions are sure to arise as to which tasty fruit, vegetable, hummus or cheese varieties to take home. Don’t get too satiated with the tastings, though, because there are plenty of choices for dinner, such as street tacos (for just $1.50), sandwiches, more unusual, delightful dishes such as “torpastas” (baguettes filled with delicious pasta), African bowls and more.
#5 Wanderung Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
This oceanfront nature preserve encompasses 1,750 acres of pristine land and protects unique topography and several species of flora, including the Torrey Pine, America’s rarest pine. The preserve is also home to one of Southern California’s last salt marshes and a refuge for waterfowl and offers plenty of hiking trails with breathtaking views of the beaches and ocean. Tip: The best time to hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is in the spring, as wildflowers also bloom colorfully at this time of year.
#6 Old Town
Take a trip back in time at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a mile-long stretch of restored stores and homes on the site of the first European settlement in California. Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace of California” and shows visitors what it was like to live in different eras of California history – from the time of the Spanish explorers to the California Gold Rush. In addition to traditional homes and museums, Old Town is also home to many stores selling handmade items from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Another highlight of a visit to Old Town is the authentic Mexican food with homemade tortillas and refreshing margaritas. After dinner, the green spaces, where live music is often played, are especially good for relaxing.
#7 Sunset Cliffs
Dedicated in 1983, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, stretches 1.5 miles along the western shoreline of the Point Loma Peninsula. The dramatic sandstone cliffs and pristine vegetation along with the breathtaking panoramic ocean views make for a memorable walk, both day and night. The most popular time, however, as the name suggests, is sunset. It’s worth bringing something to eat for a picnic at this iconic sunset location.
#8 Nachtleben in Gaslamp Quarter
As the sun begins to set and the need for a delicious dinner and drinks increases, be sure to visit the lively Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego. This 16-block Victorian neighborhood is the historic heart of San Diego and the perfect destination when it comes to dining, bar hopping and pure entertainment. In addition to the many great restaurants, you’ll find several rooftop bars, pubs, clubs, live music venues, theaters, and music halls!
#9 La Jolla
La Jolla is a coastal town known for its gorgeous beaches, chic boutiques, and fantastic restaurants. After a visit to see the sea lions in the stunning La Jolla Cove, a snorkeling or kayaking trip along the coast is a great option, as is exploring the many small stores in town. There’s definitely no shortage of great cafes, bars, and seafood restaurants to try here. Most of them even have ocean views!
#10 Coronado Island
Cross the famous blue bridge or take the ferry from Downtown to Coronado Island, San Diego’s island resort town. With brilliant white sandy beaches, the iconic red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, idyllic parks and plenty of restaurants, Coronado is a perfect place for a day trip. Since Coronado is basically just flat land, it’s especially a relaxing place to bike. Rent a bike and pedal around the island, through quaint neighborhoods and along stunning bays and beaches. The beautiful parks come alive during live concerts in the summer, music groups fill the air with popular songs while people picnic with friends.