Can’t believe it’s already been 2 weeks since we moved to San Diego. It’s probably our favorite city in California with San Francisco at a close second.
We made a decent dent on our city bucket list for Las Vegas during our 15 month stay, but getting through our San Diego list will take a lot more strategic planning. Food is always high priority on our list, but we know not everyone travels for food, so all the food and breweries are listed towards the bottom.
This list will continue to change and evolve as we discover new and better things to eat, see, and do in San Diego.
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Last Updated: Jan 14, 2019
The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List - 101 Things to Do in San Diego
Balboa Park (Botanical Building)
Balboa Park has a ton of attractions. Be sure to see the lily pond and a botanical building built for the 1915-1916 Exposition.
Gondola Ride at Loew’s (Coronado)
Go on a 50 minute long Italy-inspired ride through the Coronado Cays. It’s one of the best things to do in San Diego for couples. Reservations required.
These beautiful flower fields are open once a year in spring from March 1 through May 10. Stop by for great photo ops.
Largest comic convention in the world. Even if you don’t go, you can walk the downtown San Diego streets and see all the cosplay.
This cool sea cave has about 150 steps to the bottom. Do you see anything in the shape of it?
This historic amusement park is located on Ocean Front at Surfrider Square.
Horton Plaza & the Gaslamp Quarter
Step into the world of Dr. Seuss. The architecture really makes it feel like you’ve stepped in to the books and why its one of the most unique things to do in San Diego.
If you’re looking for things to do in San Diego with kids, check out the first Legoland outside of Europe!
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Open to the public as a museum. The entire area is a beautiful place to spend the day.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Many historic buildings from the period 1820 to 1870. Be sure to check out the Whaley House Museum.
This is probably the most famous tourist attraction here and rated one of the best zoos in the United States.
Called the Wild Animal Park by locals and definitely should make your San Diego fun things to do list. We fed giraffes and rhinos while we were there.
The interactive tide pools and exhibitions are great for kids.
The best time is mid-December through April to see migrating gray whales.
See some of San Diego’s old original houses from the late 1800’s. One house is open to the public, as well as a gift shop and tea rooms.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm
You can go glamping by the lavendar fields and wake up to the scents of lavendar all around you.
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
It’s a short walk across the bridge, but be careful because it’s does sway quite a bit.
Try a cocktail cruise at sunset. It’s great for a romantic evening out.
Del Mar Fair Grounds
The fair usually runs at the beginning of June through early July. This is always fun for the whole family.
Outdoors + Urban Parks
Pacific Crest Trail Hike at Cleveland National Forest
Jet Ski from Shelter Island to Coronado Bridge. It’s a great way to see the city from the water.
Get quality private lessons that are great for beginners. It really helped us learn how to stand up on the board.
We’ve visited a lot of bouldering gyms, but we love the folks that run this gym, and they have a lot of creative routes too.
Our favorite beach hike has to make our San Diego best things to do list.
Great view of the sunset and a cool spot to watch surfers.
Mission Bay Beach
You can wake board and parasail here.
Grunion Run at Pacific Beach or at Mission Beach
Watch grunions spawn on the beach in the middle of the night. It’s definitely one of the unique and cool things to do in San Diego.
Kayaking through La Jolla Caves
You’ll be able to see harbor seals, sea lions, birds, and even whale spouts in La Jolla cove. If being on the water doesn’t sound appealing, it’s still worth exploring the La Jolla shores.
Stonewall Peak Hike
This is an easy, shady trail.It does get windy at the top, so wear layers!
They have a clean campsite, great for RVs, too. Be cautious of wildlife, such as snakes.
Hike the Santa Margarita Trail
You can also go horseback riding on this trail.
Palomar Observatory Hike
Short 2.2 miles hike with views of the Upper French Valley and Mendenhall Valley.
Los Penasquitos Canyon Hike
11.3 mile heavily trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall. It’s accessible year-round.
Our favorite short hike and something we always recommend when people ask about what to do in San Diego.
Cedar Creek Falls
Be careful! The rocks are slippery around the waterfall.
Stop by for that perfect shot of the pier at sunset. Tons of engagement, wedding, family photographers shoot out here so don’t expect to have it to yourself.
Trendy hotels, bars and cafes line the boardwalk, popular amongst younger crowds.
Several art galleries and boutiques, surfing outfitters, and other unique shops.
Known as an expert surfing spot. Due to rocks and strong currents, it’s not a great beach for swimming.
Silver Strand Beach
You can try land sailing here.
Oceanside Beach & Pier
Nice fishing pier and good for casual walks.
Beach volleyball and bonfires are popular here.
You can jump off the arch at your own risk. Otherwise, it’s our favorite spot to watch sunset.
Try skin diving and go camping by the beach.
Jump into the Devil’s Punchbowl
Do this at your own risk. Otherwise, it’s still worth checking out and watching other people jump in.
Hang Glide at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Try a 20-25 minute flight with a certified pilots. We enjoy watching everyone float through the air.
Intertubing at La Jolla Indian Reservation
If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon, head up here. Tube rentals are just $10 for an entire day.
Split Mountain Hike
This is a tougher hike and only recommended for very experienced hikers.
Hike Mission Trails
Mission Trails Regional Park has 38 moderate trails right outside of San Diego so there is plenty to choose from.
Hike Cuymaca Peak
A great hike if you love views. You can even spot Mexico from this peak!
One of the most popular hikes in San Diego County for the ‘gram. Expect crowds and lines waiting for their chance to take a photo.
A great museum for anyone who loves all things flying. Check out their Max Flight Simulator.
SD Museum of Art
Hundreds of Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and more.
San Diego Museum of Man
Learn about California native peoples, Egyptian, Mayan, man’s relationship with animals, etc.
USS Midway Museum
Check out America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century.
We loved seeing the old submarines and war ship at this museum. They do some fun demonstrations too.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala
Dates back to 1769 and heavily restored mission.
Reuben H Fleet Science Center
Free admission on the first Tuesdays of each month.
Shows + Events
One of the most popular things to do in Downtown San Diego. The stadium itself is pretty cool. It’s made of Indian sandstone and stucco.
Old Globe Theatre
A copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
San Diego Derby Dolls
If you’re looking for fun things to do in San Diego, go watch some bad-ass roller derby.
Food + Drink
Grab a drink, play with cats. Maybe even adopt one and bring them home.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
Their ceviche is a must-try.
San Diego Harbor & Hops on the Harbor Dinner Cruises
Beers from local breweries and various food selections on a fun cruise ride.
Little Italy Farmer’s Market
More than 200 vendors supplying fresh produce, artisan breads, and more.
La Jolla Open Air Farmer’s Market
Live music, food trucks, shopping, and more.
Dine at a restaurant San Diego bay view or peruse the shops.
Doner Kebab at the Kebab Shop
(6 Locations) The doner box is on a lot of lists, but when we went Jacob got the doner box and I got the doner kebab, and we both think the kebab is much better. :)
(North Park) Pair it with the jalapeno muffin and you’ll thank us later.
Get a big ol’ rack of ribs!
On the 38 Essential San Diego Restaurants Winter 2020.
Coop’s West Texas BBQ
Go early. They’re always busy.
Speakeasy type bar. Reservations required.
South Beach Bar and Grille
The lobster taco is our go-to.
Juniper and Ivy
Innovative new American dishes.
Beautiful desserts and coffee.
(La Jolla) We loved their brunch servings and their laid back vibes.
Flavorful Mexican food and fun decor in their dining room.
Oven fired pizzas, red pepper hummus, and a only a short walk from Balboa Park.
Try the carne asada fries.
Popular with the foodies. Try one of their creative cocktails, too.
Try their super popular Maple Donut and Fried Chicken.
Soda and Swine
Hip eatery, unique alternative soda selections.
(La Jolla and Seaport Village) Artisanal tacos and bowls.
(Chula Vista) San Diego tacos with a cult following.
Try their Unicorn Donut.
(University Heights) Patio games, cocktails, and snacks.
Breweries are one of the big San Diego attractions. Stone Brewing has 32 specialty craft beers on tap, plus 100+ bottle selections.
Dog friendly tasting room. Their beers are categorized into four subcultures – Old World, Out West, Stygian, and Feral.
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
We liked their barrel aged brews.
Cool tasting room and outdoor patio, great IPAs.
Great for large groups and dark beer and stout lovers.
Duckfoot Brewing Co
Gluten free beer that actually tastes good!
St Archer Brewery
Beers on nitro, tusk and grain beers, and more.
White Labs Brewery
Try a flight with the same beer but different yeast strains. It’s crazy how just changing the yeast strain makes the beer taste totally different.
Taken Off the List + Honorable Mentions
- Alforon (Mediterranean / Lebanese food in Rolando) – this was on yelp’s 2014 top 100 places to eat in the US. Maybe we overhyped it, but we were underwhelmed.
- Nomad Donuts – great if you like cake donuts in general but not so much if you like yeast ones. I have, however, tried some cake donuts that have been that so good it could change your mid. These didn’t.
101 THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO Map
Anything I’m missing that you feel belongs here? What would be at the top of your Ultimate San Diego Bucket List?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust