San Diego is a magical place. It’s less crowded than San Francisco or Los Angeles, and slightly less expensive, too. San Diego has miles and miles of gorgeous coastline, and thanks to year-round sunshine it’s also a great place for outdoor fanatics. If you’ve recently moved to the area, then it’s time to explore!
One of the best beaches and attractions the city has to offer is Coronado Island, just over the bridge. Some of the best things to do in San Diego include paddling through waves at Coronado Beach on either a kayak or surfboard. One might also enjoy hiking on the beautiful sandstone cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve, laughing alongside silly sea lions at La Jolla Cove, playing golf at Torrey Pines, and treating your taste buds to new delicacies at the San Diego Brew and Food Festival.
But those are only the tip of the iceberg. These ten suggestions will help you explore your fabulous new home.
Balboa Park is the heart and soul of San Diego’s cultural scene. The park has more than 85 cultural and recreational facilities, most of which are free or inexpensive. The best exhibits in Balboa Park are the Botanical Building, San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Zoo, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Fleet Science Center, and the Museum of Man.
The Botanical Gardens at Balboa Park
Deep inside Balboa Park are its famous botanical gardens, home of the world’s first greenhouse built with no glass. In 1915, the gardens were constructed using wood lath to feature in the Panama-California Exposition, and it remains one of the largest lath structures ever created.
More than 2,100 permanent plants call the gardens home. Some of species living in the gardens include: ferns, orchids, cycads, palms, and seasonal flower displays. It’s a beautiful scene and a great way to escape the stresses of everyday life in the city.
The Children’s Pool
San Diego’s climate and oceanside location makes it an excellent city for wildlife lovers, particularly people who want a more natural experience than what a trip to Seaworld provides. Among the most popular areas for wildlife watching is the Children's Pool, a beach in La Jolla where seal sightings are common. The destination was initially built to be a public swimming pool with a seawall to protect children, but sand made maintaining the area a challenge.Now it’s a pool for both humans and seals, where they can frequently be seen flopping around the area.
Coronado Municipal Beach
Coronado Beach is often considered to be one of the best beaches in the United States, ranking high on many top-10 lists. The string of beaches are wide, easily accessible and very clean. The northern end is also dog-friendly, and much of Coronado is popular for surfing because of its calm waters. The Hotel Del Coronado is a popular tourist hotel, but the restaurants and shops inside are often frequented by locals as well. The hotel is home to a MooTime Creamery, a popular ice cream shop that opened its first location on Orange Avenue in 1998. It is a must-have after a long day at the beach.
MIssion Bay Park
Mission Bay Park is a well-traveled city park with 27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches. The park also has marinas, a horseshoe court, sand volleyball courts, beachside fire rings, picnic areas, children's play areas, and plenty of paths for cycling and jogging.
As an extra treat for wildlife lovers, Mission Bay Park has a great birdwatching atmosphere thanks to its several wildlife preserves, and there are plenty of spots for surfing, snorkeling and ocean kayaking.
San Diego Zoo
In the heart of Balboa park is the San Diego Zoo, which is often rated as one of the best and most influential zoos in the nation. The zoo houses more than 3,700 animals and 650 species that live in open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate the animal’s natural habitats. The San Diego Zoo also has some of the world’s largest free-flight aviaries. Most of the avian exhibits look natural and contain pools, open-air moats and darkened blinds.
Beer is among the most popular of commodities in in San Diego. The city has more than a dozen microbreweries, many of which distribute beer nationwide. Exploring these breweries takes a while (and some fortitude), but there are several companies that offer brewery hopping tours. The tours are relatively low cost and offer guided walkthroughs at several breweries around the city. A few must-visits for craft beer aficionados are White Labs, Stone Brewing, The Lost Abbey, and Abnormal Beer Company.
Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, is the MLB baseball park in downtown San Diego. It opened in 2008 and holds some of the best city views of San Diego. The park has more than 41,000 seats, and is home to several events throughout the year.
Petco Park also features guided tours, where visitors explore the press box, much of the building itself, and sit behind the dugout to watch the Padres practice.
The Old Globe
If you’re a live theatre fan, then visiting the Old Globe is a must. The theater is one of the most celebrated, award-winning, American theatres on the West Coast. The Globe has three stages and houses 15 plays each year. The performances at The Old Globe range in style, content and historic periods, ranging from Shakespeare’s plays to the development and full production of new works. If you just want to dip your toes into the playhouse, then the annual Shakespeare festival is by far the most popular event and a great way to engage in the arts scene.
Take a Scenic Drive
Our last recommendation for things to do while exploring San Diego is to take the 59-Mile Scenic Drive. The afternoon excursion winds alongside the coastline and through quaint, charming neighborhoods. When you get get hungry on your journey, take the exit towards “Harbor Island” and stop at Point Loma seafood for some of the best and freshest fish and chips in town.
Many coastal cities feature similar attractions to San Diego’s, but none can compare to the opportunities San Diego holds for both tourists and locals alike. Make sure to venture outside of the box. San Diego’s offerings extend far beyond this list and there’s a hidden gem around every corner.