San Diego is the kind of city you visit in order to relax. It’s the type of place you kick up your feet and enjoy the atmosphere – a mix of beaches and chilled city life – whilst sipping on a drink or just taking in the sun. Of course, if you’re more of a walker there are more than a few sites where you can go for a great stroll or two.
From the city’s famous zoo to it’s modern and redeveloped Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego’s pace of life might be slower than most places, but it uses that time effectively.
Located just a short trip north of the Mexican border where Tijuana rests, San Diego is known for its perfect weather (pretty much), great outdoor activities, and friendly locals. For those looking to make this place their next getaway spot, here’s our ultimate guide to San Diego for making the most of your time there.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the area’s biggest things to see and is visited by countless numbers of people every year. The zoo is home to over 3000 animals from 650 different species. That makes for a lot of stories every year.
One of the biggest attractions here is the large colony of Koalas – the largest outside of Australia, in fact. The zoo is also home to more than 3,000 different lizard species, including the famous Komodo Dragon (which can grow to be a huge 10 feet long!). There are also elephants, Gorillas, Bears, hippos, and more! The animals here are all kept in good, safe environments and enclosures, and are treated very well.
Make sure to visit earlier in the morning. Later admissions can mean that the zoo is packed, which makes moving around harder than it has to be. Moreover, if you arrive too late you likely won’t be able to see everything before the zoo closes.
We promised beaches and here is San Diego’s finest. Pacific Beach is located along a small piece of land between mission bay and the ocean. It’s connected to another beach – Mission Beach – by a long boardwalk. This boardwalk is a great place to head if you’re into people watching or just want to go for a stroll along the seafront yourself. Depending on the time of year, you’ll see a lot of skaters, cyclists, and joggers making their way between the two beaches. Why not join in, right?
There are many different places along the boardwalk and at both of the beaches for you to rent or buy sports equipment. That includes bikes, surfing gear, skates, and more. You’ll also find several restaurants and a couple of bars for you to quench your thirst in. This is particularly focused along Garnet Ave next to the northern part of Pacific beach.
Balboa Park is one of San Diego’s finest cultural attractions. Packed with some incredible architecture, and even more beautiful nature, you’ll find yourself immersed in 1200 acres of museums, cultural attractions, sun, and more.
Balboa Park is most well-known for its 17 museums. This includes highlights such as the San Diego Air & History Museum, The San Diego Natural History Museum, Th San Diego History Center, and the San Diego Zoo (Remember that?).
In order to make things easier, you can buy a San Diego Card in order to be able to explore all of the areas in a single day (well, a lot of them). You can easily walk between all the different places, or if you’re not up for walking there is a tram available.
San Diego Old Town
San Diego’s Old Town is one of the city’s best history museums. Start your visit by locating the Visitor center and then going from there. For $3 US, you can actually attend the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Tour Guide & Brief History tour. Alternatively, just watch the presentation tour (for free) and then head out to explore the Old Town yourself.
If you have the time during the evening, try to book up something at the Cygnet Theatre. There is a range of different shows on here, and it can be great to walk through the Old Town once the sun has started to set – after you’ve left the theatre.
Also, try to check out the historic Presidio Park – the location of the first European settlement in the Western United States. The park is a great walk in its own right, and you’ll have access to even more of the Old Town’s great history.
Located in the downtown area of San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter has the best nightlife in the city. clubs, bars, and more can be found here, along with a couple of choice cultural attractions and restaurants. Many of the restaurants here are independent, smaller places. These are great for getting stuck in with some local cuisine (yes, the US does have local cuisine which isn’t just burgers).
The Gaslamp Quarter is listed as a historic area. This is due to its development history, which dates all the way back to 1867. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Gaslamp Quarter went through a revival to become the place that it is today. At the very least, make sure to invest some time into walking its streets, if nothing else.
Del Mar Racetrack
First set up in 1937, the Del Mar Racetrack is a huge draw to the city during the summer months. Much like ascot in the UK, opening day here sees people come dressed in their most elaborate finery. Hats are a must. In fact, during the opening day there is even a competition to see who can come with the most elaborate hat.
Whilst you might not be a gambler, Del Mar is one of San Diego’s more popular attractions. If the hats can’t convince you to visit, then maybe the area’s beautiful gardens and interesting scenery will instead.
Consider Using the San Diego Card
Consider using this pass if you’re thinking about checking out a bunch of what San Diego has to offer whilst you’re there. That includes places like Seaworld, Speed Boat Adventures, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, and much more. In fact, the tickets offer admission at up to 40 different attractions.
Depending on how much you want to spend, tickets start at $85 US for one day and go up to just $240 for 7 days. You do, of course, have to pay more if you’re an adult (it’s not that much more!). The passes can be used between 9 am and 5:30 pm, which is the standard time of at which most of the attractions close admissions.