September in San Diego is largely a month of transition for locals as kids settle back into a school routine. For tourists, especially those with arrival dates after Labor Day, it’s an awesome time to visit. You get fantastic summer-like weather, fewer crowds, and great hotel rates.

The information below will hopefully help you decide when the best time to visit San Diego is for you. Or, if you have a trip booked, you should have a better idea of what to expect in September.

I’ve included a few September events that are happening around the county and ideas for things to do.

Through my affiliations, you can save on tickets, tours, and hotels. I may be compensated if you purchase through some links in this post—our editorial guidelines.

Small sail boats in the sand bordering Mission Bay in September
Mission Bay on a September afternoon

San Diego September Weather

The sunny weather that graces San Diego in August typically bleeds over into September and cools down toward the end of the month. Let me tell you what that actually means.

Our Microclimates

If you’ve read my recaps of other months, you know that San Diego microclimates include coastal regions, inland valleys, mountains, and the desert.

San Diego weather in September that is relevant to you depends on which of these microclimates you’ll be in the most.

Usually, tourists will keep an eye on coastal weather, where most of our major attractions and beaches are located. Plus, it tends to be way cooler during the day here than inland in say El Cajon.

It’s Still Sunny in September

While pumpkin lattes are rolling out, San Diego September weather does not usually require long sleeves and sweaters during the day. It’s warm outside.

September 2022 was one of the hottest month of the year. September 2023 was odd because a few hurricanes in the south caused humidity and even some rain!

We sometimes have Santa Ana winds in September that cause the air to feel very hot and dry for several days at a time. Temperatures spike (and so does fire risk) during these winds. The sun does not take a break, though; it shines while the Santa Ana winds blow.

It may get a little cloudy early in the morning, but it usually burns off to reveal beach weather. The ocean temperatures begin to cool off a little toward the end of the month. If the sun is shining, you won’t notice this much.

For those of you who like weather stats, here they are for September:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 77°F/66°F
  • Rainfall: .2 inches
  • Days of sunshine: 70%
  • Daylight: 12.5 hours
  • Ocean temperature (high/low): 68.3°F/65.2°F

What the Beach Is Like

Scripps Pier and lifeguard tower on a sunny September day at La Jolla Shores Beach.
La Jolla Shores Beach on a September morning

San Diego beaches are busy surrounding Labor Day weekend. That’s because Labor Day weekend is one of the most popular times to visit San Diego.

After Labor Day weekend crowds leave, you’ll find more room at the smaller beaches like Windansea Beach and La Jolla Cove. And, you’ll maybe get lucky enough to find weekday street parking.

You should definitely check out La Jolla Shores Beach because the leopard sharks are still swimming near the shore (more on this natural phenomenon below).

Weekends, however, are still busy because locals want to soak up the last of the true beach weather. Surfing camps have called it quits for the season, but you can (and should) still book group and private lessons if you want to learn how to hang ten in September. Check out our best surfing schools.

Ocean Tips

The September ocean temperature at the beginning of the month is nice for swimming and general beachgoing. Toward the end of the month, the water temperature tends to dip. However, September 2019 saw record ocean temperatures into the 70s lasting longer than usual.

As always, wetsuits are necessary for long days of surfing, surfing lessons, and snorkeling in deeper water.

Advice for Booking Hotels in September

If you’re looking at beachfront San Diego hotels during Labor Day weekend and the week leading up to it, book as soon as possible. The early bird catches a lower rate.

Red beach chairs in the sand in front of Hotel del Coronado.
Hotel del Coronado sets up for the day on a late September morning

Rates will increase closer to your travel date. They will steadily creep up, rarely falling in between, until the hotel sells out.

And, most of our popular hotels will sell out. In 2022, there wasn’t reasonably-priced hotel inventory on the beach during Labor Day weekend, especially if you’re looking at places like Hotel del Coronado. In 2023, there was some because of our odd weather pattern.

A BENEFIT OF FLEXIBLE RATES

If you book a flexible rate through the hotel and you see the rate drop, the hotels can usually modify your reservation to the lower rate. Or, you can cancel and rebook.

If you’re entitled to a room upgrade subject to availability at check-in, like people who book my portfolio of hotels and holders of elite hotel program status are, don’t plan on receiving it during the Labor Day travel period. Book the hotel room that you really want to avoid disappointment.

On the other hand, starting a few days after Labor Day Monday, San Diego hotel rates begin to fall. The second week of September through mid-October is a fantastic time to plan a vacation. You’ll benefit from lower hotel rates, fewer crowds, and sunny weather.

Notice how we said lower rates and not low rates. Since the pandemic, San Diego has become a very popular travel destination. Rates have risen to reflect the demand and, of course, the rise in goods and services that we’re experiencing across the country.


San Diego September Events

San Diego events in September focus on culinary and Halloween themes. The latter is fantastic should you visit San Diego with kids and teens. While we don’t necessarily see much traditional “fall weather,” we can create a nice facade with our theme parks and other attractions.

Padres Baseball Season

The Padres play at PETCO Park on select dates in September (check the schedule). Some dates are themed and could include Party in the Park: Beerfest or Alzheimer’s Awareness.

SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular

SeaWorld San Diego Halloween events start in mid-September this year. There’s the family-friendly Spooktacular and the scary Howl-O-Scream evening event that requires a separate ticket.

San Diego Restaurant Week

San Diego Restaurant Week happens twice per year in September and January. Restaurants across town put together set menus at several price points starting at $20 though they can go as high as $60 (George’s at the Cove with three courses — still an incredible deal I’ll take advantage of). You can also order set meals to-go from some places.

The idea is to bring the customers good value but also to encourage diners to try restaurants that are new to them. September’s Restaurant Week will run between September 24 – October 1.

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

If you’re ready to start getting spooky, LEGOLAND’s Brick-Or-Treat event is a great way to enjoy some family-friendly haunts. 

LEGOLAND’s annual Monster Party provides live entertainment, costume contests, limited-time attractions, character meet & greets, and trick-or-treating! You don’t need a special ticket to the event if you have most day passes, hotel packages, and/or annual passes. There’s also other brand new entertainment this year, so you don’t want to miss out!

SAVE ON LEGOLAND TICKETS

You can find great pricing on LEGOLAND tickets here. Use promo code LEGO for savings of $2-18, depending on the ticket.

Miramar Air Show

The popular military air show will return in September 2024. Stay tuned for details.

Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon

PAWABUNGA! Surf’s up for your furry friends. San Diego is notoriously a dog town. Everybody has a dog here; to be honest, you stand out more if you don’t have a dog, or love dogs! We even have restaurants in town where dogs can order from special menus. It’s no surprise that San Diego would host an iconic Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon in the fall. 

The Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon takes place on September 8th at Del Mar Dog Beach. You can watch as impeccably trained pups take on San Diego’s waves. Outside of the main event (the surf competition), there’s other attractions, too, such as kid’s crafts, live music, and other end-of-summer fun. 

CRSSD Festival

Festival season may be coming to a close, but there’s always room for more in San Diego. Live music never stops here, since outdoor venues can continue operating year-round. CRSSsD Festival takes over Waterfront Park from September 23-24, bringing your favorite electronic music acts to an action-packed weekend at the beach.

This year’s lineup includes some heavy-hitters like Duck Sauce (of “Barbara Streisand” fame), Fatboy Slim, Joseph Capriati, and ARTBAT. Fans of the electronic music genre will notice that the festival covers a ton of history, making it possible for several different age groups to have a good time here.

CRSSD Festival provides vending from local businesses, offering tasty treats including food and adult beverages throughout the whole weekend.


Things to Do in San Diego in September

September is a fun time in San Diego since everyone is shifting gears. It’s almost like it’s summer year-round here, but we begin to get a taste of fall in September. This year, there is not a shortage of things to do all month long.

Enjoy the Last of the Summer Beach Weather

Whether it’s taking the kids after school, full-days on the weekend, or morning surf sessions, enjoy maximizing warm weather and ocean temperatures at San Diego beaches.

Snorkel or Swim with Leopard Sharks

Two snorkelers swim with leopard sharks in La Jolla.
It’s fun, I promise!

Usually, at the beginning of September or end of August, news outlets will start posting photos that look a lot like the one above. La Jolla leopard shark numbers begin to reach peak numbers toward the end of August and into September.

They incubate their babies in the warm shallow water during the day and feed on squid in the nearby submarine canyon at night.

The best place to see them is on the beach in front of The Marine Room restaurant on La Jolla Shores Beach. You don’t need to swim out too far to see them. Sometimes all it takes is walking out into knee-deep water.

Bring your own snorkeling gear or book a snorkeling tour that focuses on this part of the La Jolla Underwater Park. Some tours this time of year are dedicated leopard shark sightings.

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Use code LJMOM20 for a 20% discount on kayak and snorkeling tours, lessons, and rentals. Book now.

Go Apple Picking in Julian

Locals in-the-know head up to Julian in the fall for apple picking season in the mountain town’s orchards. Here’s a list of U-Pick orchards. Check with the orchards closer to when you’d like to go to for operating hours.

One popular spot is Julian Farm & Orchard because you can fill up a bag of apples but also pick up a pumpkin, enjoy the petting zoo, try a rock climbing wall, and u-pick raspberries, blueberries and blueberries.

On your day trip, take advantage of other fun things to do in Julian, CA.

Go to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The shoulder season (basically, in between when schools are back in session and Kids Free San Diego in October), is a fantastic time to explore both zoos with fewer crowds. Sure, there will be some field trips and young families but it’s not quite as busy.

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Book a Hotel Pool Cabana

And, don’t forget that you can reserve pool day passes, cabanas, and more at San Diego resorts around town through ResortPass. It’s a perfect way to make the best of a heat wave.

See A Concert

Live music in San Diego is unbeatable. There are so many artists that visit our city all year long. We have Lil Jon coming to town on September 3rd. Fan-favorite Bad Bunny is taking over Petco Park on September 18th. Fans of classic rock will not want to miss seeing Chicago at our intimate venue, Humphrey’s, on September 13th.

Spend the Day in La Jolla

Yes, a small plug for my home community. Why? After Labor Day, we experience some weekday parking relief. Even in these uneasy times, it’s been hard to score free street parking.

So, come on over to shop and dine. Take a seaside walk along La Jolla Cove to see ocean views and our sea lions. With fewer people on the beach at the Children’s Pool, the seals may return in larger numbers (early morning and near sundown are your best bets). Lay a towel in the sand at Shell Beach and grab a gelato at Bobboi with less of a line.

If you’re seeing the leopard sharks, don’t forget that La Jolla Shores is also full of good places to eat. See how to spend a day in La Jolla.


What to Wear in San Diego in September

What to pack for San Diego in September is similar in theory to most months. Our weather patterns usually call for layers, but that’s expected as we transition into fall, even outside of San Diego. Locals love this time of year because they can begin to bring out their favorite hoodies and jackets (in between heat waves, that is).

We residents aren’t wearing as much beachwear while out and about simply because the kids are in school and we’re at the beach less.

And, if you’re wondering whether it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day, San Diegans do it all the time. Bright white or winter white… it doesn’t matter, so don’t stress about it. We encourage you to wear whatever makes you comfortable, even if that includes an all-white sundress.  White T-shirts and jeans are staples of mine, year-round.

The packing list is similar to August:

  • Face covering (optional in most places – but good to have one just in case)
  • Bathing suit
  • Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Flip flops for the beach and pool
  • Sandals
  • Bathing suit cover-up
  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Pants or jeans (you’ll want these for outdoor dining toward the end of the month)
  • Light sweater or wrap for evenings
  • Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual dress or collared shirt and nice jeans (only if you plan to dine in one of our nicer restaurants )

See also: Fall Things to Do in San Diego


Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

We’re returning to our daily routines after the thrills of summer are wrapping up. Kids, teens, and college students are heading back to school. Parents are readjusting to school schedules. Grocery stores and Starbucks are putting out pumpkin-flavored items. 

Outdoor dining is a fan favorite among locals around this time, too.

Live music and art shows are another huge hit among San Diego residents. We have so many incredible tours hitting the town this year. It’s so easy to pack your schedule with tons of concerts if you love music in San Diego. Our venues are absolutely incredible, and hold lots of history, so I recommend checking out at least one while you’re here.

If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in September!

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

Explore More Things to Do in San Diego

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