San Diego Attractions & Things to Do
America’s Finest City is a versatile travel destination with something for everyone to enjoy. San Diego is a surfer’s paradise, the beaches are beautiful, the city has lots of museums, there are plenty of outdoor adventures in San Diego, and the San Diego Zoo is one of our most popular attractions.
On this page, I’ve collected my best San Diego travel tips, guides to San Diego attractions, and information about San Diego activities and where to stay in San Diego, whether you’re traveling alone or with kids.
San Diego Attractions
It’s hard to make a list of the best San Diego attractions and amusement parks because there are so many options. Before you begin planning your itinerary, think about what you like to do when you travel.
If you have children, you’ll probably want to build visits to SeaWorld® San Diego and the San Diego Zoo into your itinerary. The zoo is beautiful and is considered one of the best zoos in the world. SeaWorld has marine life exhibits as well as a few thrill rides like the Manta roller coaster and Shipwreck Rapids, and for littler kids you can visit the Sesame Street® Bay of Play®. There’s also the Aquatica water park, which has rides for visitors of all ages. Rest assured there are plenty of things to do in San Diego with kids.
Adults and teens will love kayaking around the sea caves of La Jolla, hiking the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, or watching for whales on special whale watching kayak tours.
Make time to visit the Maritime Museum of San Diego and the USS Midway Museum — an aircraft carrier turned floating museum that will show you what life is really like for sailors. You can see a lot of the city from the water, so look into the bay tours and harbor cruises, too.
TIP: When you’re thinking about where to stay in San Diego, think about what you plan to do. It’s worth booking a hotel that will be near the priority items on your must-see/must-do list.
San Diego Activities
Some visitors aren’t looking for a theme park or touristy experience when they come to San Diego, and there is plenty here for these travelers, too.
I love taking friends and family from out of town to Balboa Park (the nation’s largest urban cultural park) because you can easily spend multiple days exploring the trails, gardens (the Japanese Friendship Garden is a particular highlight), play areas, restaurants, and museums.
You can have underwater adventures in San Diego, too. A lot of San Diegans are unaware that the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park lies between Scripps Pier and La Jolla Cove. It has 6000 acres of reefs, kelp beds, sand flats, and underwater canyons. There are guided diving and snorkeling tours, and you can even swim out from La Jolla Cove.
If you’re into watersports, stop by Mission Bay. It’s a manmade bay with waveless beaches and calm warm water where kids and adults can try stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, jet-skiing, and water skiing. There are boat rentals if you want to fish, surfing and sailing lessons, and water-powered jet pack experiences for those visitors hungry for thrills.
And of course, you should make time to visit some of the ocean beaches of San Diego. We have 70 miles of beautiful coastline where experienced surfers can catch some epic waves, kids can build sandcastles and splash in the waves, or you can simply stroll. You could probably spend an entire San Diego vacation at the beach, and there are lots of lovely San Diego beach hotels you should check out if that’s your plan.
Don’t assume that a vacation in my home city will break the bank. Because I live here, I can share insider information about San Diego activities that are low-cost or no-cost. My guides to San Diego attractions and where to stay in San Diego include information about free things to do in San Diego and budget hotels, too.
We have resources to help with booking a hotel in San Diego, some luxury hotels with benefits, and plenty of hotel lists in our San Diego travel series to help figure out which one is right for you. You can also bundle San Diego hotels with theme park tickets to save.