Things to do in
San Diego

Think of California and you'll picture all things San Diego: surfer hair, slow pace, and guaranteed sun.

Top activities

Top sights in San Diego

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Our most recommended things to do in San Diego

San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

Take a self-guided audio tour onboard the world’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, the historic USS Midway. See the carrier’s 25 restored aircraft from the days of WWII to Operation Desert Storm. Visit areas throughout the Midway, from the crew's sleeping quarters to the pilots' ready rooms. Docents are available throughout the carrier and are eager to share their stories, anecdotes, and statistics, creating a picture of just how important the USS Midway was to the U.S. Navy. Most guests spend 3 to 4 hours exploring this historic aircraft carrier and learning its history. The included audio guide, available in 6 languages, will help you explore the dozens of highlighted areas across the massive ship.  There are family-oriented activities throughout the Museum. Included are 3 types of flight simulators, music videos, short films, climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, and more. The Museum is located at the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.

San Diego Zoo: 1-Day Admission Ticket

San Diego Zoo: 1-Day Admission Ticket

Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to over 4,500 rare and endangered animals, and experience their worlds at the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, and other areas. The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is known for its naturalistic habitats and unique animal encounters. An urban paradise for all ages, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see in Southern California. Winding paths through the tropical oasis of a botanical garden bring you to the zoo‘s rare and fascinating animals, including koalas, Galápagos tortoises, tigers, eagles, flamingos, great apes, and more. Other exotic animals you may encounter include Sichuan takins, Buerger’s tree-kangaroos, arctic foxes, pangolin, and Visayan warty pigs. Explore Africa Rocks to discover penguins, baboons, the mysterious fossa, weaver birds, and other unique creatures. The festive, lively atmosphere makes the San Diego Zoo a great place for family fun and gathering friends. Discover the wonders of wildlife with animal encounters, interactive experiences, and exciting animal presentations and shows. The Zoo’s 17 Galápagos tortoises are now at home at the Fetter Family Galápagos Tortoise Exhibit. When keepers are present, you can pet and occasionally feed the tortoises over a short rock barrier. At the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge, you can get closer to polar bears than ever before. Climb aboard an Arctic research helicopter, crawl into a bear den, or measure yourself against the size of a polar bear. The Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey is a 7.5-acre habitat and a first-of-its-kind experience. This area combines the fun of a zoo with the experience of a museum by creating an untamed landscape of animals from the past and present. A leader in animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo is at the heart of the San Diego experience.

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

See San Diego's best sights. Learn about the city and enjoy a cruise on the bay. Depending on the option booked, this tour takes you under the Coronado Bridge, past military ships, waterfront landmarks, and marine life for a look at San Diego's scenic beauty and fascinating history. This tour’s luxury ships offer three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board snack bar serving snacks, soda, beer, wine and cocktails (available for purchase). This is a great way to experience San Diego from the water.

San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

Join the Hop-on Hop-Off Tour of Old Town San Diego at any of the tour's 12 boarding points and visit more than 100 interesting points in Coronado and San Diego at your own pace. You can begin at any time of the day and listen to the entertaining narration of the onboard conductors along the way. San Diego is known as America’s Finest City, and as you explore the sights of Old Town and the scenic coastline you’ll see why. Opt to begin your tour at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where you’ll see original adobe homes and artifacts from the earliest Mexican settlements. At the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, you’ll learn about the importance of the U.S. Navy's presence in San Diego. Then continue on to nearby Seaport Village, where you can stop for refreshments and enjoy shopping and entertainment. In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll find loads of shops and other interesting places located in Victorian-themed buildings. One particular house of interest is the William Heath Davis House. Built-in saltbox style, it is similar to the original home of Davis, who founded New Town San Diego. When you’re back on the trolley you’ll be entertained once again by the conductor’s narration. Continue on to the well-known Hotel del Coronado, one of America’s leading resorts. You may choose to take a stroll through nearby Balboa Park, along El Prado, the promenade lined with Spanish-style buildings. With more stops than any other tour, this hop-on hop-off trolley ride is guaranteed to deliver. In addition to sightseeing, enjoy free shuttle service to and from select area hotels, a map and day planner, and $70 in discount coupons to use at restaurants and area attractions. Hop on or hop off at 12 convenient stops: A - Old Town State Historic Park (4010 Twiggs St & San Diego Ave.) B - Maritime Museum of San Diego/Star of India (1492 N Harbor Dr) C - San Diego Embarcadero (1004 N. Harbor Dr) D - Headquarters at Seaport Village (789 W Harbor Dr) E - Seaport Village (825 W Harbor Dr) F - Marriott Marquis & Marina (333 W Harbor Dr) G - Gaslamp Quarter (480 4th Ave) H - Petco Park/San Diego Convention Center (855 E Harbor Dr) I - Barrio Logan (1113 E.Cesar Chavez Pkwy) J - Coronado/Orange Avenue (1107 Orange Ave) K - Balboa Park and El Prado Museums (2175 Presidents Way) L - Little Italy (1605 India St)

La Jolla: 2-Hour Kayak Tour of the 7 Caves

La Jolla: 2-Hour Kayak Tour of the 7 Caves

Take a lesson before the tour begins and grab all the necessary kayak equipment. The tour takes place in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. There are 3 different habitats in the reserve, and on your tour you will have the chance paddle to all three - the rocky reefs, sandy flats, and kelp beds. Paddle to the seven caves of La Jolla and go into the Clam’s cave, which is the largest cave on the tour. See the local marine life on the tour including sea lions, harbor seals, Garibaldi, leopard sharks, and the occasional dolphin.

San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

See the sights of San Diego Bay on a fully-narrated cruise. Pass by Seaport Village, Shelter Island, Coronado Island, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument, among other notable points of interest, while taking in beautiful skyline views. San Diego’s North Harbor cruise takes you past historic ships in the Maritime Museum, Harbor Island, North Island Naval Air Station, and Shelter Island. The South Harbor route includes sightings of the Coronado Bridge, the U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier, the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet, and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. As you sail, keep a lookout for wildlife such as blue herons, sea lions, and pelicans Listen as your professional crew provides commentary about the rich local and military history, points of interest, and facts about San Diego Bay. This sightseeing cruise also showcases local environmental conservation efforts through video clips and onboard displays.

San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

Discover the underwater world at SeaWorld San Diego, with animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and thrilling rides. Get up close to marine life and enjoy educational animal presentations for the whole family to enjoy. Upgrade your ticket to include a dining pass to eat all day at SeaWorld. Experience thrilling rides such as Electric Eel with its high-energy twists and loops, or Manta, with two thrilling launches that send riders soaring in the spirit of the world’s largest ray. For kid-friendly fun, enjoy Tentacle Swirl, Sea Dragon Drop, Elmo's Flying Fish, and so much more. Admire the animals at SeaWorld such as beluga whales, walruses, penguins, sharks, and orcas as you learn about these incredible creatures. Enjoy interactive exhibits such as the Explorer's Reef Touchpools and Sea Lion Point. Explore the Sesame Street Bay of Play where you can meet your Sesame Street friends. If you choose to upgrade to the all-day dining bundle, you can get an entree, a side/dessert, and a drink every 1 hour at Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen, Big Bird's Bistro, Coral Market, Shark Market, Orca West Market, and Pretzel Shop.

San Diego: Whale Watching Tour

San Diego: Whale Watching Tour

Marvel at the amazing views of San Diego Bay as you look out for sightings of marine wildlife including dolphins, sea lions, gray whales, and more. Your tour will be led by ocean experts as you get a deeper understanding of the ocean ecosystem and the sea creatures that live in it. Discover the San Diego coast on a two-story whale watching yacht, featuring 360-degree views from the main level and upper sundeck, multiple restrooms, and free guest WiFi. You will follow the whale migration path to bring you up close for the best sighting spots, which change every day. Early in the season, whales swim closer to the coast, so the maximum distance is about 3-5 miles. On their return trip, northbound whales swim further out, up to 9-12 miles off the coast. Make sure to wear layers as it can get pretty cool on the bay and don't forget to wear your sunscreen and hat while on this excursion. Bring your camera to capture all the memories you'll make on this exciting adventure.

San Diego: City Lights Night Trolley Tour

San Diego: City Lights Night Trolley Tour

Your 90-minute night tour boards in Seaport Village and starts off by exploring the West Coast’s premier entertainment district, known as the Gaslamp Quarter, full of vibrant nightlife, bright lights, and Victorian architecture.   Then, make your way to Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S., where stunning buildings, fountains, and statues glow bright at night. From Balboa Park, drive to the top of Coronado Bridge for more spectacular sights, including the lights coming in from Tijuana, Mexico, the bay, and Downtown San Diego. Then, travel to Coronado’s Ferry Landing for a 20-minute stop to take in the stunning beauty of the San Diego city skyline, visible from across the bay and a perfect photo opportunity. From Coronado, make your way back to San Diego to take in the Embarcadero’s bay-front views. You’ll see the Historic County Administration Building, Maritime Museum’s Star of India, the USS Midway Museum, and Navy aircraft carriers from across the bay. The tour ends in Seaport Village.

San Diego: SEAL City Tour by Amphibious Bus

San Diego: SEAL City Tour by Amphibious Bus

Splash into San Diego Bay with an insightful tour across land and water on this unique sightseeing adventure. Take a seat aboard a hybrid bus and boat and take in many of the most interesting sights in the city. Wind through picturesque San Diego streets before splashing into the water for a cruise of San Diego Bay. Learn about San Diego's main landmarks from your guide. Pass the Embarcadero and San Diego International Airport. Hear about the importance of the military in San Diego and other local icons as you travel along the scenic coast. See the Aircraft Carrier USS Midway, the old schooner "Star of India" and the old Police Headquarters Once you splash into the Big Bay, glide by Navy ships, tugboats, and fishing vessels throughout the harbor. Pass by Shelter Island and listen to stories of early sailors. Take in the wildlife - most notably the seals which hang out in the harbor.

Frequently asked questions about San Diego

What top attractions are a must-see in San Diego?

The must-see attractions in San Diego are:

See all must-see sights in San Diego

What are the best day trips and excursions from San Diego?

The best day trips and excursions from San Diego are:

See all day trips and excursions from San Diego on GetYourGuide

Insider tips: Explore San Diego like a local

Mark and Kristen Morgan are the British-American authors behind Where Are Those Morgans travel, hiking and photography blog, which has 2.5 million annual readers. As former career scientists, the Morgans officially left the lab in 2018 to pursue their dream job of helping others travel the world and have been on the road ever since.

What should I do on my first trip to San Diego?

First-time visitors to San Diego should prioritize exploring the 2,000-acre Balboa Park filled with gardens, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The enormous USS Midway aircraft carrier museum on San Diego's Embarcadero is another incredibly popular spot in the city that you shouldn't miss.

What are some hidden gems to see in San Diego?

Old Town San Diego was the first European settlement in California and it has been maintained as it was in the 19th century. Today you can walk around museums, eat fantastic Mexican food, shop at craft stores, or even have a fright fest at the supposedly haunted Whaley House Museum. Another hidden gem in San Diego is the coastline from Torrey Pines all the way down to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You can watch gliders take off above you from the crowd-free Blacks Beach, take photos at Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, and find the secret swings with a view near the Birch Aquarium parking lot.

How much time should I spend in San Diego?

Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in San Diego for a first visit. You can explore the major neighborhoods, including the Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla, spend time on the beaches, visit museums, and enjoy the best of San Diego's excellent food and craft beer scene.

What food is San Diego known for?

The simple but delicious fish taco is a must-try when visiting San Diego. Also known as the Baja taco, it originated in Baja California, just across the border in Mexico, so still pretty local. If sit-down restaurants aren't your thing, you can drive around San Diego and stop at one of many popular taco trucks.

What is the best way to get around San Diego?

San Diego is split into several small pockets, and you will need a car to get around if you want to tick off the most famous areas. You can walk or taxi around Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown, and Embarcadero. But if you want to visit Old Town, La Jolla, Ocean Beach, and Coronado, you will need to drive or book a day trip that includes transportation.

What are the best months to visit San Diego?

Spring and fall are the best seasons of the year to visit San Diego. Plan for April to May or September to October if you want to benefit from lower hotel prices, fewer crowds at the beaches and museums, and more availability at restaurants. The beauty of San Diego is you don't have to plan around the weather because it has one of the best year-round climates in the United States.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit?

Gaslamp Quarter, Embarcadero, and La Jolla are the three best neighborhoods to visit in the San Diego area. Gaslamp has the food, shopping, and nightlife scene. Embarcardero has the USS MIdway and follows the marina which is stunning at sunset. La Jolla is an upscale and family-friendly coastal neighborhood with many coves, beaches, and sea lions. All three should be included on your San Diego itinerary.

Where should I eat in San Diego?

Foodies visiting San Diego should head for the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy. Whether you are in the mood for a steakhouse, seafood, Mexican food, or fine dining, you will find it all in Gaslamp Quarter. Unsurprisingly, Little Italy is the go-to for some of the best Italian food in Southern California.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Head to La Jolla for high end boutiques or visit Fashion Valley in the Mission Valley area for a shopping mall overflowing with designer shops.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Diego

The best hotels in San Diego are spread across several neighborhoods. Gaslamp Quarter is arguably the most popular neighborhood in San Diego because it has the best restaurants and nightlife, is pedestrian-friendly, and is centrally located for exploring the Embarcadero or Balboa Park. However, if you want a more relaxing experience near the ocean, stay in the glitzy La Jolla area. Families or couples who want instant beach access at affordable rates should look to stay around the Mission Beach neighborhood.

What's are the top 4 tips you'd give to someone traveling to San Diego?

1) Rent a car if you want to access the further out beach areas, La Jolla or Coronado.

2) Check the Padres baseball schedule. Visiting on game days means hotels are fuller and prices are heavily inflated.

3) Explore off-the-beaten-path areas. San Diego is pretty photogenic so don't forget to grab your camera and go exploring.

4) Book in advance. San Diego's popular attractions can have long lines and sell out, so plan ahead to make sure you aren't disappointed or wasting time.

What should people avoid doing in San Diego?

The most important thing to avoid in San Diego is not giving yourself enough time. You will spend a full day in Balboa Park, a full day at the beaches, and a full day around Gaslamp Quarter with its adjoining neighborhoods. And avoid getting too close to the sea lions in La Jolla — especially if you see them fighting.

What are your favorite GetYourGuide experiences in San Diego?

1) San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

2) San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

3) San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

What is one thing that surprised you about San Diego?

It's a small, laid-back city with so many great places to visit and we didn't expect it to be so easygoing and relaxed, especially after visiting other famous Californian cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles which were much more hectic at times.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in San Diego?

Families should head to San Diego Zoo, frequently heralded as the world's best zoo thanks to its environments and conservation efforts. San Diego is also home to the first SeaWorld location.

What is the best thing to do in San Diego for couples?

One of the most romantic things in San Diego is watching the sunset from anywhere on the west-facing coastline. Our favorite spot is the aptly named Sunset Cliffs.

What are the best things to do outdoors around San Diego?

Mission Trails Regional Park, to the northeast of San Diego, is a popular place to go hiking year-round. Fortuna Mountain Trail is one of the best hikes in the 8,000-acre recreational park.

What are the best beaches around San Diego?

Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are popular for surfing, Blacks Beach is quiet, and Coronado Beach is expansive with a popular dog beach section.

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What people are saying about San Diego

Overall rating

(5,338 reviews)

I enjoyed the challenge of kayaking from the beach out into the ocean. It’s a bit intimidating but adventurous floating to the sea caves. We saw 3 dolphins swimming near us while on the ocean !

Awesome although not a passionated guy. It was so cool and interesting to see the flight deck and to go into the choridors and revive what navies guys lived at their time. I recommend 👌

It was a fantastic tour. First Mate Amy and Captain Long were great. Very informative and made out tour very enjoyable.

👍👍👍👍 Super beautiful zoo embedded in a breathtaking botanical garden.

Great everything was great Sara the guide was awesome