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 2020 September events that are happening around the county and ideas for things to do in this most unusual year. If you make bookings using the links below, I may be compensated.
San Diego September Weather
The sunny weather that graced San Diego in August typically bleeds over into September. Let me tell you what that actually means.
If you’ve read my round-ups 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 be keeping an eye on coastal weather where most of our major attractions and beaches are located.
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.
We sometimes have Santa Ana winds in September which causes the air to feel very hot and dry for several days at a time. Temperatures spike (and so does fire risk). It’s still consistently sunny.
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 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
San Diego beaches are busy during the week leading up to and through Labor Day weekend. In fact, Labor Day weekend is one of the most popular times to visit San Diego.
After Labor Day weekend crowds depart, 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 have arrived (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’d like to learn how to hang ten. Check out our best surfing schools.
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 temperatures tend to dip. However, September 2019 saw record ocean temperatures into the 70s!
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.
Rates will increase closer to the date. They will steadily creep up, rarely falling in between, until the hotel sells out. And, most of our popular hotels will sell out. Even in 2020, there is very little reasonably-priced hotel inventory on the beach during Labor Day weekend with Hotel del Coronado sold out a while ago.
A BENEFIT OF FLEXIBLE RATESIf 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 in the days surrounding Labor Day. 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.
San Diego September Events
San Diego events in September focus on culinary and Halloween themes. The latter is fantastic should you be visiting San Diego with kids and teens. However, this is a very different year so many of the usual events have been postponed.
California Wine Month
California Wine Month celebrates grape harvest season across the state. We have over 100 wineries in San Diego, so the annual promotion draws attention to local winemakers and encourages visitors and residents to visit tasting rooms or taste from home. Take a look at the event calendar as there are plenty of opportunities to learn about California wineries and even purchase wines at a discount.
Normally, the CRUSH event is a great time to take a day trip to Temecula, but it’s happening online this year. Some San Diego tasting rooms are open, but wineries like Rancho Guejito will send wine to your home in San Diego at an unreal price. San Diego residents can also check your local wine section in grocery stores like Whole Foods.
Padres Baseball Season
The Padres play in September, with a chunk of home games September 7 – 16 at home. The stadiums are fanless but you can try to watch “live” from Altitude at the top of the Marriott or perhaps a Ballpark Suite at Hotel Indigo.
Normally, home games in September are awesome days or evenings out whether you bring the family or even a group of coworkers. Next year.
SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days
This theme park’s limited reopening comes in the form of a special event running on weekends through the end of the month. SeaWorld San Diego Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews offers six food or beverage tastings with admission to outdoor exhibits and shows.
The only way to enter is with a special event ticket though you can save a few dollars with a discounted Zoo Days ticket. Annual passholders should log into their accounts to purchase discounted tickets.
San Diego Restaurant Week (Postponed to 2021)
San Diego Restaurant Week happens twice per year in September and January. Restaurants across town put together set menus at several price points. 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 instead be an online promotion of restaurants called Dine Diego and will run from September 15 – October 15.
LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights (Postponed to 2021)
Normally, LEGOLAND’s annual and super-popular Brick-or-Treat Party Nights start the last weekend of September. The event will not occur in 2020, sadly.
We also normally have the KABOO festival and Miramar Air Show in September. Both have been postponed to 2021.
Things to Do in San Diego in September
This hasn’t exactly been your average year (2020), but there are definitely some things to do in San Diego in September that are worth considering.
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.
Snorkel or Swim with Leopard Sharks
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. 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 and sometimes all it takes is walking out into the water. Bring your own snorkeling gear or book a snorkeling tour that focuses on this part of the La Jolla Underwater Park.
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Go Apple Picking in Julian
Several of the U-Pick apple orchards in Julian plan to open for the 2020 season. Check with the orchards closer to when you’d like to go to make sure they are open.
Julian Farm & Orchard is open for berry picking now with pumpkin and apple picking available after September 19, 2020. Volcan Valley Apple Farm plans to open on September 11, 2020. And, there are several others that you can try. Here’s a list of U-Pick orchards. While you’re there, you can take advantage of other fun things to do in Julian, CA.
Visit the San Diego Air & Space Museum (Please)
San Diego Air & Space Museum was the first to announce its reopening. The news came after the state announced a new tier system that permitted indoor museums to reopen on August 31 at no greater than 25% capacity.
My opinion is that some museums will not reopen under these limited circumstances. But the ones that can will bring joy to the visitors who haven’t been able to see and learn from the exhibits inside in many months. So, please go spend the day in Balboa Park, and check out the original and replica planes, rockets, and space memorabilia at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Go to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Tip: It would be easy to pair a visit to the San Diego Air & Space Museum with a visit to the San Diego Zoo.
Both of the San Diego Zoo Global parks are open and could use our support (we’re members and love them so much). The majority of their exhibits are open and they’ve modified some of their tour offerings to suit small family groups.
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Try a Workcation or Schoolcation
Yes, these two words are real activities now. Hotels are transitioning their available room and activity inventory into bookable day experiences. They’re also marketing overnight experiences to guests who need to school or work online.
Work with a view of Torrey Pines Golf Course at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Reserve just an office for the day or upgrade your package to include a priority tee time. You can use the facilities and I’d recommend capping off the day with dinner at AR Valentien.
San Diego Mission Bay Resort is offering a Recess at the Pool package that includes complimentary Wi-Fi, a $25 resort credit for break time, two bike rentals, and a s’mores kit. Use promo code RECESS on their website (rates start at $215/night).
Check Out a Drive-In Concert or Movie
Westfield North County mall has partnered with California Center for the Arts, Escondido (CCAE) to put on a series of concerts and movies held in the Nordstrom parking lot.
The September Drive-In Concert Series schedule is as follows:
- September 5: Daring Greatly with special guest Lee Coulter
- September 12: Lao Tizer Band with Darryl Williams
- September 19: Aki Kumar with Gunhild Carling & Band
- September 20: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
- September 23: Three Dog Night with special guest Danny McGaw
- September 26: When September Ends: The Music of Green Day
The September Drive-In Movie schedule is as follows:
- Thursday, September 3: Cars
- Thursday, September 10: Inside Out
- Friday, September 11: Jurassic Park
- Thursday, September 17: Tangled
- Friday, September 18: Mama Mia!
- Thursday, September 24: Shrek
- Friday, September 25: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark
*The drive-in schedule for October and November will be announced in mid-September.
Purchase tickets in advance. A portion of ticket proceeds benefits CCAE who supports various organizations throughout San Diego County.
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.
What to Wear in San Diego in September
What to pack for San Diego in September includes layers like it does in most months. The days start to shorten and you’ll definitely want a light sweater or jacket to participate in the street dining experiences that are popping up all over the county.
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. White T-shirts and jeans are a staple of mine, year-round.
The packing list is similar to August:
- Face covering — required everywhere you’re not 6′ from someone
- Bathing suit
- Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection
- Flip flops
- Bathing suit cover-up
- 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 back into the school routine, albeit a much different one than last year. We’re sorting out after school activities and how to keep the kids off of their devices and outdoors more now than ever.
Outdoor dining continues to be a welcome trend with restaurant patios creeping into the streets. Some streets are entirely closed on weekends. More residents are feeling comfortable going out in small groups so my invitations to dine al fresco have escalated over the last few weeks.
September 2020 Recap
Not only were we limited, like the rest of the state and much of the country, in what we could do outside of the house but the weather was unusually hot — well above monthly averages. In fact, the second week of September which is normally a fantastic time to visit, was partially marred by smoke from the Valley Fire for nearly a week. Fires in San Diego are a rare event but they do happen when the weather is hot and dry. Santa Anas happened more than usual. The last week of September saw a heatwave of beaches at mid-80s degrees and inland in the mid-90s.
If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in September!