Ultimate San Diego Bucket List – 101 Things to Do in San Diego CA

Ultimate San Diego Bucket List – 101 Things to Do in San Diego CA

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.

101 Things to Do in San Diego - San Diego What to Do // Local Adventurer #sandiego #california

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Last Updated: Jan 14, 2019

The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List - 101 Things to Do in San Diego

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Local Tip / Pro Tip / Note: dsfsdfsd

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Tourist Attractions

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

Sunny Jim Sea Cave San Diego To Do | Things to Do in San Diego Today
  1. Belmont Park

This historic amusement park is located on Ocean Front at Surfrider Square.

  1. 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!

If you’re looking  unique things to do San Diego offers ice skating by the sea. If the conditions are right, you can even find the Sunken Ship nearby.

  1. Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Open to the public as a museum. The entire area is a beautiful place to spend the day.

  1. 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.

Caravan Safari San Diego Wild Animal Park (101 Things to Do in San Diego). | San Diego- Things to Do
  1. Birch Aquarium

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.

  1. Keys Creek Lavender Farm

You can go glamping by the lavendar fields and wake up to the scents of lavendar all around you.

  1. Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

It’s a short walk across the bridge, but be careful because it’s does sway quite a bit.

  1. Coronado Ferry

Try a cocktail cruise at sunset. It’s great for a romantic evening out.

  1. 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

This is the highest peak in San Diego and gives you great panoramic views.

  1. Pacific Crest Trail Hike at Cleveland National Forest

Ever since reading Wild, I’ve been thinking if she can do it, maybe I can too! I’d love to check out portions of the hike this before attempting the full thing.

This is one of our favorite activities and we always see families here. Also explore the secret sea cave.

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.

Cowles Mountain Hike (Ultimate San Diego Bucket List / 101 Things to Do in San Diego- Things to Do)

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.

  1. Mission Bay Beach

You can wake board and parasail here.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Stonewall Peak Hike

This is an easy, shady trail.It does get windy at the top, so wear layers!

  1. Camp / Hike Mount Laguna

They have a clean campsite, great for RVs, too. Be cautious of wildlife, such as snakes.

  1. Hike the Santa Margarita Trail

You can also go horseback riding on this trail.

  1. Palomar Observatory Hike

Short 2.2 miles hike with views of the Upper French Valley and Mendenhall Valley.

  1. 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.

  1. Cedar Creek Falls

Be careful! The rocks are slippery around the waterfall.

Coronado Beach (Best Things to Do in San Diego). | San Diego-Things To Do
  1. Scripp’s Pier

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.

  1. Pacific Beach

Trendy hotels, bars and cafes line the boardwalk, popular amongst younger crowds.

  1. Solana Beach

Several art galleries and boutiques, surfing outfitters, and other unique shops.

  1. Windansea Beach

Known as an expert surfing spot. Due to rocks and strong currents, it’s not a great beach for swimming.

Carlsbad Beaches (101 Things to Do in San Diego).
  1. Silver Strand Beach

You can try land sailing here.

  1. Oceanside Beach & Pier

Nice fishing pier and good for casual walks.

  1. Moonlight Beach

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.

  1. Carlsbad Beaches

Try skin diving and go camping by the beach.

  1. 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.

  1. Hang Glide at Torrey Pines Gliderport

Try a 20-25 minute flight with a certified pilots. We enjoy watching everyone float through the air.

  1. 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.

  1. Split Mountain Hike

This is a tougher hike and only recommended for very experienced hikers.

  1. Hike Mission Trails

Mission Trails Regional Park has 38 moderate trails right outside of San Diego so there is plenty to choose from.

  1. 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.

Potato Chip Rock | Things to do Today in San Diego / San Diego Best Of

Museums

A great museum for anyone who loves all things flying. Check out their Max Flight Simulator.

  1. SD Museum of Art

Hundreds of Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and more.

  1. San Diego Museum of Man

Learn about California native peoples, Egyptian, Mayan, man’s relationship with animals, etc.

  1. 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.

  1. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Dates back to 1769 and heavily restored mission.

  1. 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.

  1. Old Globe Theatre

A copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

  1. 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.

  1. Oscar’s Mexican Seafood

Their ceviche is a must-try.

  1. WhisknLadle (La Jolla)

Local mussels and great atmosphere. Check out our full post to see everything we tried.

  1. San Diego Harbor & Hops on the Harbor Dinner Cruises

Beers from local breweries and various food selections on a fun cruise ride.

  1. Little Italy Farmer’s Market

More than 200 vendors supplying fresh produce, artisan breads, and more.

Even if you’re not looking to buy any product, stop by to try the fresh uni! 

  1. 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.

Whisknladle La Jolla (101 Things to Do in San Diego) | Things to Do Near Me
  1. 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.

  1. Phil’s BBQ

Get a big ol’ rack of ribs!

  1. Dija Mara

On the 38 Essential San Diego Restaurants Winter 2020.

  1. Coop’s West Texas BBQ

Go early. They’re always busy.

  1. Noble Experiment

Speakeasy type bar. Reservations required.

  1. South Beach Bar and Grille

The lobster taco is our go-to.

  1. Juniper and Ivy

Innovative new American dishes.

  1. Extraordinary Desserts

Beautiful desserts and coffee.

(North Park) The North Park area is one of the more popular places to visit in San Diego. While you’re in the neighborhood, try the 32 Flavor Ice Cream Flight.

32 Flavor Ice Cream Flight at Hammonds Gourmet Ice Cream North Park San Diego. | Things to do in California San Diego

(La Jolla) We loved their brunch servings and their laid back vibes.

  1. Lucha Libre

Flavorful Mexican food and fun decor in their dining room.

  1. Cucina Urbana

Oven fired pizzas, red pepper hummus, and a only a short walk from Balboa Park.

  1. Lolitas

Try the carne asada fries.

  1. Prep Kitchen

Popular with the foodies. Try one of their creative cocktails, too.

  1. Great Maple

Try their super popular Maple Donut and Fried Chicken.

  1. 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.

  1. Donut Bar

Try their Unicorn Donut.

(University Heights) Patio games, cocktails, and snacks.

  1. Stone Brewing

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.

  1. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

We liked their barrel aged brews.

Cool tasting room and outdoor patio, great IPAs.

Green Flash Brewing Company (Ultimate San Diego Bucket List). | What to Do San Diego

Great for large groups and dark beer and stout lovers.

  1. Duckfoot Brewing Co

Gluten free beer that actually tastes good!

  1. St Archer Brewery

Beers on nitro, tusk and grain beers, and more.

  1. 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.

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in NYC.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Love this! Could this be downloaded and printed via PDF?

    1. We have a printable version Are you signed up for our newsletter?

  2. One of the best traveling blogs out there! I am currently trying to plan my trip to San Diego and this has helped SO much… Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you, Katie! Let us know if you need any more specific recommendations. :)

  3. Disc golf at Morley Field in Balboa Park.
    Score and smoke a bowl with a stranger and new friend on hole 12 at Morley Field.
    Visit Tijuana for a day is always a San Diego thing to do (bring back fireworks if ur feeling ballsey).
    Watch a movie at one of the few drive-ins still existing (Imperial Beach).
    Laugh at the dogs at Dog park in ocean beach.
    Buy something @ Kobeys swapmeet at the sports arena.
    Find the red rock “lips” bordering lemon Grove and La Mesa near the Lemon Grove exit off the 94.
    Find the reverse gravity spot on Dictionary hill in Spring Valley and watch a ball roll uphill.
    Have an apple pie in Julian.
    Mansion gawking at La Jolla farms near UCSD.

  4. thank you

    we are going to travel to this great place, and we were searching for the top things to do in San Diego when we found your blog , It’s really so useful

  5. Ive Legit Done Just about everything on here crying because i wish there was more to do in my home city..

    1. haha but luckily in socal you have so much within driving distance! If you wanna deal with the traffic LA always has a ton to do. My fave place to escape to is Joshua Tree since it’s only a couple of hours. :)

  6. I was searching for the top things to do in San Diego and came across your blog. What a great list, especially of the eateries! I’m glad food’s a high priority for you. We already have lots in common haha!

    Anyhow, I recently started a food tour company called Wild Foodie Tours. We conduct food tours primarily in Tijuana. Come back to San Diego and check us out! Definitely must have a food tour on your list :)

    1. Thank you, Albert! The best kinds of people are the ones that know how to enjoy their food ;) I would love to visit!

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