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. 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 // 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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Tourist Attractions

  1. Balboa Park (Botanical Building)

Must-see lily pond and a bontanical building built for the 1915-1916 Exposition.

  1. Gondola Ride at Loew’s (Coronado)

50 minute long Italy-inspired ride through the Coronado Cays. Reservations required.

Open once a year in spring from March 1 through May 10.

Largest comic convention in the world. Even if you don’t go, you can walk the streets and see all the cosplay.

Cool sea cave, about 150 steps to the bottom.

32 Flavor Ice Cream Flight at Hammonds Gourmet Ice Cream North Park San Diego.
  1. Belmont Park

Historic amusement park located on Ocean Front at Surfrider Square.

  1. Horton Plaza & the Gaslamp Quarter

Step into the world of Dr. Seuss.

First Legoland outside of Europe!

If the conditions are right, you can find the Sunken Ship nearby.

  1. Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Open to the public as a museum.

  1. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Many historic buildings from the period 1820 to 1870.

This is probably the most famous tourist attraction here.

Called the Wild Animal Park by locals.

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

The interactive tide pools and exhibitions are great for kids.

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 a gift shop and tea rooms.

  1. Keys Creek Lavender Farm

You can go glamping by the lavendar fields.

  1. Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

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.

  1. Del Mar Fair Grounds

Usually runs at the beginning of June through early July.

Outdoors + Urban Parks

  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.

From Shelter Island to Coronado Bridge.

Quality private lessons, great for beginners.

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).

Our favorite beach hike.

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.

  1. Kayaking through La Jolla Caves

You’ll be able to see harbor seals, sea lions, birds, and even whale spouts.

  1. Stonewall Peak Hike

Easy, shady trail. Windy at the top, so wear layers!

  1. Camp / Hike Mount Laguna

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.

  1. Cedar Creek Falls

Be careful! The rocks are slipper around the waterfall.

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

For that perfect shot of the pier at sunset. Tons of engagement, wedding, family photographers shoot out here.

  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

Try land sailing.

  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.

  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.

  1. Hang Glide at Torrey Pines Gliderport

Try a 20-25 minute flight with a certified pilots.

  1. Intertubing at La Jolla Indian Reservation

Tube rentals are just $10 for an entire day.

  1. Split Mountain Hike

Only recommended for very experienced hikers.

  1. Hike Mission Trails

38 moderate trails right outside of San Diego.

  1. Hike Cuymaca Peak

You can even spot Mexico from this peak!

Popular for the ‘gram.

32 Flavor Ice Cream Flight at Hammonds Gourmet Ice Cream North Park San Diego.

Museums

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.

  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

The stadium itself is pretty cool. It’s made of Indian sandstone and stucco.

  1. Old Globe Theater

A copy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

  1. San Diego Derby Dolls

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, great atmosphere.

  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.

  1. La Jolla Open Air Farmer’s Market

Live music, food trucks, shopping, and more.

Dine at a bay-view restaurant.

Whisknladle La Jolla (101 Things to Do in San Diego)
  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.

32 Flavor Ice Cream Flight at Hammonds Gourmet Ice Cream North Park 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

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).

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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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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101 Things to Do in San Diego // Local Adventurer #sandiego #california
101 Things to Do in San Diego California - the Ultimate San Diego Bucket List - from the popular spots everyone has to do at least once to the spots a little more off the beaten path. // localadventurer.com

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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