10 Things to Do in San Diego

I traveled to San Diego with some friends for a wedding. We were in town for a long weekend and had a day and a half to explore San Diego prior to the wedding. Below is a list of 10 things we saw/did in this limited time.

1. Old town We had a delicious lunch on the patio of Barra Saloon in Old Town. Visit Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Old Town Market which are next to the restaurant. Since you are practically in Mexico, check out the Old Town Tequila Factory. The Old Town Market you will find a bunch of shops with colorful Dia de los Muertes knickknacks.


2. Ocean Beach is a popular area to swim and surf. Next to Ocean beach is Dog Beach, an area you can bring your dogs to swim and play on the beach. There is a pier with a café at Ocean Beach if you want to stop for refreshments after visiting the beach. A few minutes from Ocean Beach is Sunset Cliffs. Visit the cliffs to watch the sun set on the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind this is a very popular area and parking is limited.

3. Cabrillo National Monument– This is a unique park with tidal pools. Check the high and low tide schedule for the best times to visit. There is an entrance fee to the park, but we happened to go on National Parks day, or something like that, so the fee was waved. There are also trails you can walk along and see the unique California landscapes. I have heard of the Secret Cave, but when I asked a park employee about this, I was told it is off limits to the public due to the Marine Mammals Protection Act. In the park you will also find a visitors center and Point Loma Lighthouse.

4. Little Italy– I love Italian food and love visiting Little Italys (whether in Philadelphia, New York City, or Washington D.C.). Depending on which day you choose to visit this district, you may be able to visit one of the farmer’s markets. You will find Waterfront Park next to Little Italy.


5. Balboa Park consists of a bunch of gardens and museums such as:

  • Desert Garden
  • Rose Garden
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Palm Garden
  • Archery range
  • San Diego Art Museum
  • Sculpture Garden
  • Botanical Garden
  • Alcazar Garden
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Some of the museums or gardens require an entrance fee. In some of the parks you may find hummingbirds flying around.

6. The Spanish Art Village is next to Balboa Park. The courtyard is covered in brightly colored tiles and is quite stunning. There are some great little craft shops and there is a glassmaking studio. You may be able to take a glass blowing class if you schedule it in advance.

Spanish Village Art Cener
Spanish Art Village

7. Gaslamp Quarter– Visit this district at night to see all the gas lamps lit up. We had dinner and drinks here and enjoyed the aesthetic. There is a cat café which will likely be closed if you are stopping by for dinner. There are some nightclubs in the area.


8. Sea Port Village–  This is a shopping village on the water. We stopped in at Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes for a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. The ‘Cupcake Wars Winner’ sign caught our attention and we were not disappointed. If you walk along the water you can find the Embracing Peace statue (pictured below) in Tuna Harbor Park. On the opposite side of Sea Port Village you can find San Pasqual Winery and Embarcadero Marina Park North. There are a also few military memorials/museums if you are interested.

9. Bernardo Winery is about 30 minutes from San Diego or La Jolla.  There are several other wineries in the area of Bernardo Winery if you have the time to go wine tasting. Bernardo Winery is beautiful, large and has a few little shops on site as well as places to eat such as Café Merlot and a coffee shop. The wine is pretty good and bottles are reasonably priced.


10. La Jolla is 20-25 minutes from downtown San Diego. If you are interested in art, Dale Chihuly is one of my favorite sculptors. He currently has an installation at the Salk Institute. I was unable to visit the installation since I was in a rush to get to a wedding, but La Jolla has some other nice features- Steps to the Sea, Shell Beach Tide Pools, Ellen Browning Scripps Park, kayaking to the La Jolla Sea Caves, snorkeling with sharks, etc.

Other Options:

  • The San Diego Zoo is supposed to be phenomenal. It is so large it would take nearly a full day to see it all and we opted not to go.
  • Sea World San Diego
  • Belmont Park
  • Coronado Beaches- there is also a dog beach here. you can surf or scuba

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