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100+ Fun Things to Do in San Diego (May 2018 Guide)

100+ Fun Things to Do in San Diego (May 2018 Guide)

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Fun, Food and Sun, San Diego has so many things to do! From theme parks to beaches, museums and historical sites, there are a variety of activities for any age. San Diego is a great tourist destination, but also a great place to explore if you’re a local!

Be sure to use the filters to sort by Location, FREE, Type of Activity & much more.

If you’re looking for family fun, check out this post: 100+ Things To Do in San Diego with Kids

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

things to do in san diego torrey pines

Located just south of Del Mar, the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the most picturesque locations in all San Diego. The 1,750-acre reserve has sandstone canyons, pine forests, and trails that overlook the ocean. Open during daytime hours, the trails are highly maintained and have various levels of difficulty. The Visitor Center/Museum has free guided nature walks for the general public on weekends and holidays at 10am and 2pm. The natural reserve is a great place to hike, but to preserve the ecosystem, only water is allowed in. Please keep pets at home and save picnics for the beach below. Pay parking lots are available on the beach below and up at the top of the reserve.

Soak in the Sun at Powerhouse/Seagrove Park

Seagrove and Powerhouse Park are both coastal parks with amazing views. Right next to one another, both areas have grassy lawns that overlook Del Mar City Beach. They also have picnic tables, benches, and walking trails. Powerhouse Park even has a small play structure for kids. Both of these parks are near two of the most popular oceanfront restaurants in Del Mar, The Poseidon and Jake’s Del Mar. Powerhouse Park and Community host several special events throughout the year including live music and movies in the park. Check out the Del Mar Foundation website for more information.

Climb to the Top of the Iconic California Tower

things to do in san diego balboa park

Constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the San Diego Museum of Man is one of the most recognizable buildings in San Diego. The California Tower was closed to the public for 80 years. Now open to the public, the tower provides a 360º view of downtown San Diego. The tower has 7 floors and the climb is 125 steps.

Del Mar Fairgrounds

One of the most popular locations in North County is the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Well known for the hosting the county fair and annual horse races, the Fairgrounds go beyond and host special events all year round. Featured below are some of the most popular annual events, but make sure to see the calendar for other unique experiences including expos, specialty races and more.

San Diego County Fair

Every June the Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts one of the largest County Fairs in America. The San Diego County Fair has everything you could want, musical groups, magic shows, hypnotists, animals, an array of fried foods and rides. The fair ends with a Fourth of July fireworks spectacular.

Del Mar Horse Races

The Del Mar Horse Races have been a San Diego tradition since the 1930’s. Every summer people flock to the races for the fun, thrill, and excitement. Opening Day is celebrated by over 40,000 people who come out to be seen at this fun and fashionable event. The races are also accompanied by a concert series. The shows are included in the ticket price.

Kaaboo Del Mar

Kaaboo Del Mar is a three-day festival that features music, art, food, and comedy. In September, the all-ages festival has a mix of current artists and legendary bands that are featured among several different stages. Kaaboo also has culinary delights by featured chefs and local craft beer. The comedy portion features many diverse comics and runs the length of the festival in a separate pavilion. Unlike more rugged outdoor fests, Kaaboo has many options and perks available to make the experience as luxurious as possible.

The Scream Zone

Some people love to be scared. The Scream Zone is San Diego County’s largest, goriest and scariest haunted experience. The Zone features three main haunting areas: the House of Horror, the KarnEvil, and the Haunted Hayride. In the House of Horror, there is room after room of visual and visceral experiences, clowns will scare you until you don’t know which way to go in the darkness! The Haunted Hayride takes you on a journey filled with zombies, clowns, and other wicked characters. KarnEvil incorporates everything scary from freak shows and carnivals and amplifies them until visitors are terrified. Parents are welcome onto the grounds free of charge if they don’t want to participate in any of the horrors.

See the Cherry Blossoms at The Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden celebrates the bond between San Diego and its first sister city, Yokohama. Visited by over 100,000 people annually, the gardens are immersive and beautiful. They feature Japanese culture through landscaping, koi ponds, water features, and Sukiya-style architecture. A great community resource, the gardens have a variety of educational programs, artists, exhibits, and festivals.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Every Spring the garden celebrates the Japanese custom of Hanami, which is the appreciation of Cherry Blossom flowers. The garden bursts into a beautiful pink wonderland when the Cherry Trees bloom. The festival celebrates this glorious occasion with live performances, Japanese street food, vendors and a Children’s Corner. Even if you don’t make the festival, the gardens are abloom during Spring and a site to be seen.

  • Cherry Blossom Festival
  • The Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10am-7pm; Special Exhibit Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:45am-4:45pm,
  • Admission (Garden-Only): $10/Adults; $8/Students,Seniors (65+), Active Military (must show ID), Children 6 and Under: Free
  • Admission (Garden & Special Exhibit): $15/Adults; $12.50/Students,Seniors (65+), Active Military (must show ID); Children 6 and Under: Free
  • Residents Free: Third Tuesday of the month (with ID).
  • Parking: Lot
  • 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101

Test Your Fear of Heights on the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

things to do in san diego Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Constructed in 1912 the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge connects Spruce Street between Front Street and Brant Street. The Suspension Bridge crosses over the canyon below. On windy days the bridge will sway. This bridge is a fun and hidden historic site in San Diego, and a great place to snap a pic.

Celebrate History in Old Town San Diego

things to do in san diego old town

Founded in 1769, San Diego was the first European Settlement in California. On 230 acres, Old Town is rich with history and culture. The park has historic buildings and sites that give insight into early San Diego life. Old Town is also filled with shops and restaurants. Known for Mexican food many will be surprised to know that Old Town also has wonderful Italian, Japanese and American restaurants. Old Town also hosts several events throughout the year.

Fiesta Old Town

May 4-6

Old Town celebrates Mexican Heritage with a weekend packed with fun. The event includes live performances, mariachi groups, lowrider clubs, Lucha Libre matches, stagecoach rides and more. The Fiesta also has activities just for kids, such as a petting zoo, pony rides, and activities.

Stagecoach Days

Saturdays, July-August

Beginning with a parade to celebrate Independence Day, Stagecoach Days delve into the past and explore our heritage and traditions. On Saturdays in July and August, Old Town explores different themes with special demonstrations and historical artifacts. Learn how Blacksmiths forged, or watch Vaqueros ride and rope, Stagecoach Days transport you through time.

Dia de Los Muertos

End of October and Early November

Old Town celebrates Mexican culture with a Dia de Los Muertos celebration to remember those who are no longer with us. The festive weekend includes face painting, altars, public memorials, arts and crafts, piñatas and traditional dancers.

Explore the Little Italy Mercato

On Saturdays, the Little Italy Mercato brings over 200 vendors to the streets of Little Italy. The Mercato is one of the best Farmers Markets in San Diego and features fresh produce, flowers, and specialty foods. Farmers Markets are important because they support local farms and economies. Not only can you talk with the farmer who grows the food, you can ask whether it’s organic and non-GMO. You also know that the produce is ripe because it was picked locally and doesn’t need to be shipped before it can be consumed. The Little Italy Mercato is also a great place to eat lunch with plenty of delicious food that’s ready to eat.

Explore Liberty Station

Liberty Public Market is located in Liberty Station, which was formerly the site of San Diego’s Naval Training Center. In Point Loma, not only are the grounds historic, but they are vibrant as well. Liberty Station is an area that has been inhabited by restaurants, shops, artisans, galleries, and is a hub for entertainment and events. The grounds are green and inviting with tons of historical landmarks strewn throughout. A way to acquaint yourself with them is to explore Friday Night Liberty.

Friday Night Liberty

First Friday of Every Month

5pm-9pm

The first Friday of every month Liberty Station comes alive with the city’s biggest art walk. There are live performances, galleries, music, and food. Friday Night Liberty is a great way to explore the grounds.

Swing with a View in La Jolla

The La Jolla Secret Swings are not-so-secret. The swings are usually located high up on a hill overlooking the beautiful La Jolla coastline. The tricky part about finding the swings is that they are constantly being cut down. However, someone keeps putting them back up. Currently, there is a swing near the Birch Aquarium. There is a small trail stemming from the parking lot which is marked by a small wooden pallet bridge. Follow the trail up a hill and find a swing hanging from a tree that overlooks La Jolla Shores. If you get there and the swing is missing search Instagram for #lajollasecretswings and see if any new ones have popped up!

Enjoy the Coast at Ellen Browning Scripps Park

things to do in san diego ellen browning scripps park

Ellen Browning Scripps Park is one of the most popular parks in Southern California. Right on the water, the park is always buzzing with people. It’s beautiful location also makes it very popular for weddings and photographers. Just north of the park is La Jolla Cove. Just south is the Children’s Pool filled with wildlife.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a small beach just north of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. The Cove is part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve which preserves the area and its inhabitants. On calm days the water visibility can exceed 30 feet, which makes the Cove popular for scuba divers and snorkelers. There is always a lifeguard on duty for swimmers and surfers. Picturesque, this beach is a local favorite.

The Children’s Pool

From the park, you can follow the sidewalk south to the Children’s Pool. Originally the Children’s Pool was meant to be a protected swimming area, but it has since become a favorite resting spot for harbor seals. Seals can be found at the Pool year round. Beach access is restricted during Harbor Seal Pupping Season, December 15-May 15, between these dates you can still watch the seals from above.

Enjoy the Sunset at Fletcher Cove Beach Park

A family favorite, Fletcher Cove Beach Park (also known as Pillbox), is a great place to spend an hour, an afternoon, or the whole day. When the tide is high, the actual beach may be small, but at low tide, families can enjoy the area and walk to nearby tide pools. Tide Pool Park (Table Tops) is located about half a mile north of the cove and has a reef that is uncovered during low tide. During high tide, the reef makes Table Tops a great surfing spot. Fletcher’s Cove also has a park with grassy areas, a playground with swings, picnic tables, and basketball courts. Popular at sunset, you’ll often see families gather to enjoy the last bit of the day. Fletcher’s Cove also has several great restaurants within walking distance. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park area, but not on the beach.

Explore La Jolla Cove on a Kayak

A San Diego favorite, Kayaking is a wonderful way to explore the coast. La Jolla Kayak offers various tours of La Jolla Cove which include kayaking, snorkeling, bicycling, diving and special sunset tours. During these tours, you can paddle into sea caves, swim with sharks, snorkel through an underwater park and more. La Jolla Kayak will lead you to all the best spots and inform you about the area.

Kayak and Snorkel Tour

2 Hours

Single Kayak: $69; Double Kayak: $109 (prices may vary based on date and time)

This tour begins at La Jolla Shores beach and follows the coast to sea caves. At the caves, the tour continues in the water as you snorkel through an Ecological Reserve. During the swim, you will encounter Garibaldi, leopard sharks and sea lions. The tour also includes all equipment and a personal flotation device.

Enjoy Nature at San Elijo Lagoon

The San Elijo Lagoon is over 1,000 Acres of Ecological Reserve land between Solana Beach, Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe. The lagoon is home to over 1,000 species of animals. The Nature Center features exhibits about the local ecosystem. Just outside the center, you’ll find a mile-long loop trail is ADA-accessible and can be hiked at any age. The center also hosts several community events including walking tours, discovery days and informational classes on conservation.

Enjoy Nature on the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

Opening up to the ocean, Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland that separates Encinitas and Oceanside. One of the few remaining tidal wetlands in southern California, the area is a nature preserve and designated Marine Protected area. The north side of the lagoon has a 2-mile walking trail with multiple public parking lots. Open from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week, the trails are wide and flat, perfect for strollers, wheelchairs, and dogs (leashed). There are several parking areas around the lagoon, check the Vister’s Page for more information.

Take a Stroll at Seaport Village

On the bay, Seaport Village is a popular tourist destination filled with shops and restaurants. The location is a great place to spend the afternoon strolling, dining and shopping. Every day you’ll find performance artists and musicians camped along the bayfront. The Village is also home to an antique Carousel that was built in 1895. Seaport also has several Special Events during the year including a Busker Festival, a pirate-themed Landlubber Day and Holiday Events.

Continue your stroll through Embarcadero Marina Park North. Located right next to Seaport, the park trail continues to follow the bay on a peninsula. The park is filled with grassy areas, picnic tables, and giant Coral trees.

Explore the Mission Beach Boardwalk

Ocean Front Walk is an urban trail that follows the coast for 3.2 miles between South Mission Beach Park and Palisades Park. Start your trek at South Mission Beach Park. There is a parking lot there, additional parking can be found just east at Mission Point Park. South Mission Beach is wide and has a basketball court, several volleyball courts, picnic areas and fire pits. From there follow Ocean Front Walk north. Along the path, there are several restaurants, shops, and even Belmont Park. Ocean Front Walk is a popular area, perfect for a stroll, a jog and people watching.

Explore Cabrillo National Monument

things to do in san diego cabrillo national monument

The Cabrillo National monument is located on the southern tip of Point Loma. Established in 1913, the historical grounds commemorates Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo was a Spanish explorer and was the first European to set foot on what is now the west coast of the United States. The site is also home to a historic lighthouse, which was built in the 1800’s. Cabrillo only opens the old Point Loma Lighthouse three times a year. The Cabrillo National Monument has a variety of activities including hiking, tide pooling, and whale watching.

Cabrillo Festival

Annually at the end of September, the Cabrillo Festival celebrates our diverse history and highlights traditional Native American, Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican cultures. The festival begins with the reenactment of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s first step on the sand and continues with live performances, educational activities, cultural demonstrations, food, and artisans. During the festival, the Kumeyaay tribe also demonstrates traditions such as basket weaving.

Explore a Sea Cave at The Cave Store

La Jolla has seven naturally carved sea caves. Popular with kayakers, most of the caves can only be accessed by water. The Sunny Jim Cave is the exception. The Cave Store is a short walk from La Jolla Cove and is an eclectic shop with clothing, jewelry and more. The store also has a man-made cave entrance. A stairway in the ground may seem to lead to a lower level, but in fact, it’s a stairwell down to the Sunny Jim Cave. The stairs are steep and plentiful, which may be difficult for some. Also beware, the stairs get slippery towards the bottom. The Sunny Jim Cave is a fun and unique adventure. After exploring the cave, visitors can follow the trail west of the parking lot out onto scenic sandstone cliffs.

Take the Ferry to Coronado Island

Flagship Cruises ferry visitors between San Diego and Coronado Island every day. The Ferry departs from the Broadway Pier or from the San Diego Convention Center. The ride only takes 15 minutes and passengers get a great view of the San Diego skyline. On Coronado, the Ferry Landing has a small beach, grassy areas, unique shops, and restaurants. On clear days the area is a great place to grab a snack and watch all the boats in the bay. The Coronado Ferry also allows bikes onboard free of charge. Tickets can be purchased at any of the departure areas. The schedule varies so make sure to check times beforehand.

See the Ocean Sparkle at Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in San Diego County. The beach is 1.5 miles long and is popular with families, surfers, and sunbathers. The sand and water of Coronado beach glimmer with little specs of Mica. This shine adds to the magic. The beach offers a lot, a dog park, fire rings, restrooms, tide pools, restrooms, fishing and a lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard tower even provides beach accessible wheelchairs free of charge. The beach also backs against the famous Hotel del Coronado, which is a wonderful and historic place to stay if you want to enjoy the beach for multiple days.

Explore Balboa Park

Balboa Park was established in 1868 and is a National Historic Landmark. A cultural hub, the park is on 1,200 acres near downtown San Diego. Every day the park is alive with visitors, street performers, and artists. Several museums are on the grounds and range from fine art to science. Balboa is also home to the Old Globe theater which was originally built in 1935 and still runs productions today. The San Diego Zoo is also located in Balboa Park and is one of the most popular destinations for visitors. The grounds also have several gardens, restaurants, play areas and trails. Every Sunday at 2pm, guests can listen to free organ concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The park has hosts many community events and festivals annually. With so many things to explore, the park is an ideal place to spend the day.

Balboa is free to explore, however, there are admission fees for the museums, theaters, and zoo. There are several ways to enjoy Balboa at discounted prices. Resident discounts, Explorer Passes, and Kids Free October are only some of the ways to save.

Residents Free Days

On Tuesdays Balboa Park offers San Diego County residents free admission to the Museums (please see calendar for dates, certain exhibits may not be included, must show ID)

Balboa Park Explorer Pass

The Explorer Pass allows visitors to explore Balboa museums in an affordable way.  With an Explorer Pass visitors can customize their savings and choose between Annual, Multi-Day and Single Day options.

Macy’s Museum Month

Historically, February is the slowest month for local museums. To change that, Macy’s Department Stores and San Diego County Museums have joined together and created Macy’s Museum Month. During the month visitors can explore local museums and gardens at a fraction of the cost. Click the link above for more information.

Spend the Night at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an unexpected wonder in North County San Diego. Acres of habitats and savannahs are hidden amongst the hills. The Safari Park is massive, which means that even on busy days you don’t feel crowded. The Park takes you on a journey through Bamboo Forests, Jungles, and the Savannah. The Safari Park offers various extras that you can add to your day, including a 2-hour Caravan Safari where guests can feed the giraffes. The Safari Park also hosts several unique dining events throughout the year.

Roar and Snore

The Safari Park has a special camp set up and invites guests to spend the night. The park even offers dates just for adults. Roar and Snore includes night hikes, animal encounters, and special behind-the-scenes moments. The sleepover also includes an evening snack and breakfast the following morning.

Grab a Brew at the San Diego Zoo

Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is home to over 3,700 animals and has more than 700,000 exotic plants. The zoo is known around the world and is often the number one destination for visitors. The zoo is massive, on 100-Acres it takes a whole day to see everything. Luckily there are buses, tours, and a Skyride to help navigate through Rainforests, African savannahs, and the Arctic.  The zoo also has many restaurants and snack shacks around the park.

Zoo Brew is a great place to stop during your visit. Close to the entrance, the hut has snacks, water and your choice of “brew”. Choose from a variety of specialty coffees or adult beverages like craft beer and wine. The zoo allows visitors to walk around the park with alcohol and doesn’t require you to stay in a specific area with your drink.

Food, Wine, and Brew Celebration

In September, the Zoo holds a tasting event with over 160 of Southern California’s best vendors. The event has globally inspired food, and drinks from local breweries and wineries. The night also features live music with 7 stages set up throughout the park, animal encounters, and several fun entertainment zones. Proceeds benefit the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. 21+

Green Flash Concert Series at Birch Aquarium

The Birch Aquarium in La Jolla is home to more than 5,000 types of sea life, and features research done at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. The Birch Aquarium has something for every age. The habitats are beautiful to look at, there is a giant kelp forest, and a bioluminescent Infinity Cube. The tide pool area at Birch allows visitors to touch marine life and overlooks La Jolla Shores. Birch also hosts Whale Watching Tours, Grunion Run outings and Tide Pool excursions.

Green Flash Concert Series

Starting in May, the Birch Aquarium teams up with The Belly Up that combines live music with amazing view. The evening series features different musical artists each month and runs through September.

Spend the Day at SeaWorld

SeaWorld is an aquarium, a theme park, a marine mammal park and more. In recent years SeaWorld has become a polarizing topic. To combat that, they have switched their theme to conservation. They have also added rides and attractions without animals to cater to a wider audience. SeaWorld offers several deals on Admission Prices, check them out here. The park also hosts a variety of special events, such as food and wine festivals and holiday celebrations throughout the year.

Marine Life

SeaWorld is a portal into the fascinating world inside the sea. Seaworld has informative and interactive animal encounters. There are touch pool and tide pools, aquariums with octopus and spider crabs, and encounters with sharks, penguins, and turtles. Larger animals include walrus, beluga whales, dolphins and of course, orcas. The Orca Encounter is no longer a “show”, but highlights natural behaviors, and teaches about orcas in the wild.

Rides and Attractions

SeaWorld has thrill rides for all ages. Large roller coasters include the Manta, Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids. Smaller kids can enjoy rides at the Sesame Street Bay of Play. Children of any age can enjoy the Skyride and the Skytower. For busy days a Quick Queue Pass is available to skip long lines. Please check height requirements prior to your visit.

Shows

SeaWorld has a variety of shows during the day. There are animal-based shows, such as the Sea Lion, Dolphin, and Orca Shows.  There is also a show filled with trained rescue animals, called Pets Rule. SeaWorld revolves themed shows based on holidays throughout the year. On special holidays, SeaWorld also features fireworks.

Animal Encounters

For guests that want a closer look, SeaWorld offers many animal encounters for an additional fee. Interact with dolphins and penguins, or get an up-close visit with an orca. Guests can even experience being in the water with dolphins or beluga whales. Less expensive options include dining with a view of the orcas.

Drink Play Create at The New Children’s Museum

The New Children’s Museum downtown has three levels dedicated to playing and art. The museum uses hands-on and interactive exhibits to engage children and encourage creativity, confidence, socialization, and collaboration. All art installations are inspired by children and have been constructed with them in mind. From playhouses to giant food sculptures, there is always something to run and jump on. The museum is also very hands-on, you can find a variety of art areas for creating. Outside sculpt with clay or paint a giant metal object, sinks are nearby in case things get messy! The New Children’s Museum also has community events, workshops, classes, school groups, birthday parties and camps.

Drink Play Create

For the 21+ crowd, the museum hosts themed parties called Drink Play Create. The events feature music, local brewery samples, and “big kid” art activities. Drink Play Create is a fun time to explore the museum and exhibits that are just as fun for adults.

Go on a Culinary Adventure at Liberty Public Market

Liberty Public Market is a daily public market that brings together artisans, restaurants, vendors and craftsman in one open location. The market has a variety of cuisines to choose from, as well as bakeries and desserts. On Monday have Lobster Rolls, Tuesday try Stuffed Burgers, Wednesday get a Taco, Thursday a Sushi Burrito, and Friday some Ramen. The market has so much you could eat there every day and still have not tried it all. Not only can you grab lunch at Liberty, you can get everything you need for dinner later. On weekdays, the market has a happy hour that’s not to be missed.

Happy Hour

Happy Hour at the market doesn’t just mean drink specials, during Happy Hour all the vendors run specials! Which means half-off burgers, $1 baguettes, half-price oysters, $4 pints, and much more!

Spend a Romantic Evening on a Gondola

You don’t have to travel all the way to Venice to experience a romantic gondola ride. The Gondola Company gives tours locally through the waterways of the Coronado Cays. And unlike Venice, the Cays have less traffic, which means a more serene experience. The gondolier plays music and talks about the area, certain gondoliers will even sing a song or two. The Gondola Company offers two cruise types, a daytime trip and a sunset cruise (both last 50 minutes). The Sunset Cruise is the most popular option. Passengers can select from a menu of wines or bring their own. The gondola will have glasses, blankets, and an ice bucket. Feel free to bring a small picnic as well (finger foods work best onboard), or you can buy a truffle plate for a treat. The Gondola Company also has packages for larger tours, family trips and is available for special events.

Listen to a New Band at the Casbah

The Casbah is a San Diego staple and brings a variety of music to the city. The venue has a 200+ capacity and includes an enclosed smoking patio, a back bar with pool tables and a music room with a full bar. The Casbah has bands almost every night of the week. The venue opens at 8:30 pm and bands usually start playing around 9 pm. Most Shows range from Free-$15. 21+.

Whale Watch with The Maritime Museum of San Diego

The Maritime Museum is a collection of ships that educate the public about the history and science of the sea. The historic vessels include sailing ships, steam-powered boats, and submarines. The Maritime Museum also has several nautical exhibits, including the history of chart navigation, the age of exploration and sailing, and the steam age. The Maritime Museum also hosts several special events throughout the year including festivals, regattas, and a concert series.

Included with admission is the Star of India, the B-39 Submarine, and the Steam Ferry Berkeley. Constructed in 1863, the Star of India is the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Built out of iron, the Star of India has circumnavigated the world 21 times. Another unique vessel is the B-39 Submarine. The B-39 is an authentic diesel-electric submarine from the Soviet Navy. Commissioned in 1967, the sub served active duty for more than 20 years, through the height of the Cold War. The Steam Ferry Berkeley houses the bulk of the museum. This is where most of the exhibits are. The Maritime Museum also has several Water Adventures to choose from. One of the most popular is the Whale Watching Tour.

Whale Watching Tour

4 Hours

$42.50-$85

America was one of the world’s most famous yachts and is what the “America’s Cup” trophy is named for. A replica of that glorious ship can be found at the Maritime Museum. The 139-foot low black schooner cuts through the water smoothly. America goes out on Whale-Watching trips only once a day and each voyage includes a full-sail experience. The tour includes light snacks and beverages (beer and wine available for sale), and FREE admission to the Maritime Museum. America is also available sunset sails, dinners, corporate events and overnight sails.

Play with Art on the Crab Carillon Musical Bridge

San Diego artist Roman de Salvo and composer Joseph Waters collaborated to create a musical bridge in San Diego. The bridge is located on 25th Street above State Route 94. The bridge’s railing contains 488 brass chimes that play a song composed by Walters. The song is a palindrome and plays the same whether pedestrians are walking north or south.

Crab Carillon is a unique little wonder in San Diego. Next time you’re in the area make sure to bring a stick to play the music as you cross.

Celebrate! at San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride is the city’s biggest yearly party, but it is also where we celebrate our diversity and promote equality. It’s an event when any person can stand up and say “I matter, and my voice should be heard”. Pride is a sea filled with colorful, educational, and debaucherous fun. While a lot of partying happens during the events, the undercurrent is filled with history, and struggle. Pride is a time to celebrate LGBTQ families and individuals that have withstood the tide. Pride consists of the Parade, the Festival, SheFest and many other events surrounding the date. Check the calendar for dates, times and prices.

Explore an Aircraft Carrier at The USS Midway Museum

things to do in san diego USS Midway

Approximately 200,000 sailors served aboard the USS Midway during its service almost 50-year service. In 2004, the USS Midway opened as a museum and has over a million visitors per year. A visit to the USS Midway is educational and awe-inspiring. The self-guided tour traverses the whole ship, including sleeping quarters, the bridge, the engine room, the galley and the brig. Above deck displays different types of aircraft and includes open cockpits and flight simulators. The Midway even has a movie theater! The Midway hosts special events throughout the year, including a special Fourth of July celebration on the water.

Fourth of July Aboard the Midway

The Midway has the best location to view the San Diego “Big Bay Fireworks” show. Located just across from the barges that set off the fireworks, 4,000 lucky guests will get an amazing view. The event also features food, live music, and a USO Review. The Midway also allows guests to bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs and small coolers with snacks. This event sells out annually so get your tickets early!

Learn to Skate with the San Diego Derby Dolls

Roller Derby teaches players how to stay focused and be calm while under pressure. The San Diego Derby Dolls were established in 2005 and represent the San Diego Community with integrity. The Derby Dolls are open to all new participants 18 and older, and also has a Junior League and a Co-ed Recreational League. For the main league, the Dolls have a tiered program that will teach even the most inexperienced skater how to play Roller Derby. Bootcamp practices are held Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings. There is also an open skate on Fridays to practice skills.

Open Skate

All ages (skaters under 18 must have a legal guardian present)

Friday: 6pm-8pm; Sunday: 3pm-5pm

$5 Drop-In Fee

Open skate is co-ed and open to all ages. Open skate includes both banked and flat tracks, as well as the ramp. Skaters must skate on quads and some loaner gear is available (but limited).

Get a Dole Whip at Belmont Park

Belmont Park is a historic amusement park on the beach in Mission Bay. The park’s main attraction is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Originally built in 1925, the wood coaster has scenic views of the ocean at its peak. The park has many other carnival rides for all ages, including a carousel and train for little ones. Belmont also features a climbing wall, zip line, miniature golf, and laser tag. Parking and admission are free, and the rides and attractions are individually priced. Belmont Park has several dining options. During the winter months, the park closes several attractions for maintenance. Call ahead of time to plan your visit.

Dole Whip

Hours: Friday: 12:30-8pm; 11:30am-9:30; Sunday: 12:30-8pm

Price: $4-$8

Disney fans will rejoice to find this famous treat somewhere out of the park! Not only that, Dole Whip at Belmont includes Strawberry as a flavor!

Enjoy the San Diego Symphony Orchestra

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra has performed for over 100 years. Based at the Historic Copley Symphony Hall the orchestra performs over 140 concerts per year. One of the highlights of the year is the Symphony’s Summer Concert Series, Bayside Summer Nights.

Bayside Summer Nights

June-September

7:30 pm

Set against the San Diego Bay, Bayside Summer Nights pairs the Symphony with an array of guest artists. The summer series begins with a 4th of July spectacular that includes fireworks. In fact, many of the shows in the series conclude with a fireworks display. Located at the Embarcadero Marina Park South, the concerts have a variety of seating options including Lawn Seating all the way up to reserved Champagne Seating.

Meet a Sea Turtle at the Living Coast Discovery Center

The Living Coast Discovery Center educates visitors about local wildlife, environmental protection, and coastal conservation. The center features sea turtles, rays, and spiny lobsters. There are also feathered friends such as owls and falcons. They have feeding demonstrations throughout the day that are informative. They also offer Private VIP tours for an additional fee. Living Coast is great for an afternoon picnic and also has hiking trails that lead to the beach. Living Coast has Yoga classes, composting classes and more.

VIP Turtle Encounter

$50 for up to 6 people

The VIP Turtle Encounter allows guests to get up close to these creatures that are usually only seen in the wild.Guests will get to feed the animals and get a special behind-the-scenes tour.

Skate Your Heart Out at Linda Vista Skatepark

The newest skatepark in San Diego is epic. Linda Vista Skatepark is totally interwoven into the landscape and made to feel like a natural part of the environment. The skate terrain is huge with 34,000 sq ft of skate space. There are street plazas, different bowls and a snake run with a one of a kind full pipe. Linda Vista even has a pedestrian bridge where you can watch the action from above. Skaters from all over will flock to this new haven.

San Diego Comic Con International

Comic-Con International is a huge event in downtown San Diego. Drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, the entertainment and comic convention usually sells out before most people know it’s scheduled. Fortunately, the Con has become so massive that you don’t need a badge to enjoy the festivities. San Diego Comic-Con attracts celebrities, networks, and fans from all over. The event completely takes over downtown San Diego for the time it’s here. Hotels, parks, museums are parking lots are transformed into pop-culture experiences. There are several parties, meetups, gallery displays and interactive demonstrations that are worth visiting. In order to fit it all in, look up events beforehand and plan a walking map for the day. Find a central parking garage (there are several in the area), and enjoy!

Celebrate Culture at Chicano Park

Chicano Park has almost 8 acres of art, sculptures, and earthworks dedicated to the Mexican-American, Native American and Immigrant cultures. The park, like any other, is a great place for picnics and family gatherings, but the art and history make it unique. In 1970, the community took a stand and fought for the park being built instead of any other development. Together they brought the idea of a public space with artwork. All of which is celebrated on Chicano Park Day.

Chicano Park Day

April 21, 2018

Chicano Park Day celebrates the history of the park and the cultures that it represents. The celebration includes performances by Aztec and Folklorico groups, live bands, art workshops, speakers and more.

Get Spooky on a Haunted San Diego Tour

For over 15 years, Haunted San Diego has been entertaining visitors with the haunted history of the city. The year-round tours are intimate and only allow groups of less than twenty. Each tour will provide an educational insight into San Diego History and allow passengers to exit and explore different historical sites. During the 2-hour experience expect spooky stories, a visit to five documented haunted locations and a haunted theme. Fun and entertaining, Haunted San Diego is an excellent way to explore unknown parts of the city.

Look Into the Past at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

The Flying Leatherneck Museum is located at MCAS Miramar San Diego and is a one-of-a-kind US Marines Aviation Museum. Dedicated to preserving the history and incredible contributions by Marine Corps aviators and their ground support, the museum is a unique and interesting place to explore. The grounds are home to over 48 aircraft flown by Marines. Volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Located on base, the museum has its own entrance for the public.

Open Cockpit Days

In the summer months, the Aviation Museum hosts several open cockpit days. During cockpit days, selected aircraft will be open for guests to sit in and imagine what it’s like to be an aviator. On select dates, former pilots discuss the planes they once flew.

Take a Selfie on Potato Chip Rock

Tourists and locals flock to the Mount Woodson trail just to take pictures on Potato Chip Rock. The thin rock seems to defy gravity, and even though it’s only about 20 feet above the ground, the right camera angle can make it seem like you’re death-defying. Besides the great pictures, the summit also offers great views. The main trail begins at Lake Poway and is almost 7 miles long (there is a small fee to park in the Lake Poway lot). There is an alternate route from the southeast, that is about half that long, and has more shade. The trailhead is on CA-67, south of the fire station. The climb is fairly steep with 1220 feet elevation gain and is on paved road. Take plenty of water, especially during the summer months. Leashed dogs welcome.

Feed the Birds at Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary

Just south of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary is a local gem. The cozy outdoor space is covered in trees, has a handful of picnic tables, and a koi pond. Free Flight is home to a variety of birds, many of which are being transitioned between owners. Sometimes people who adopt birds do not realize their lifespan can be from 30 to 80 years. When owners can no longer care for their companions, Free Flight shelter, feed and rehabilitate the birds until they can be adopted into a new home.

Free Flight is a great place to visit. The birds thrive on human interaction and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions. Birdseed and fruit are also available for purchase. While the sanctuary is kid-friendly and wheelchair accessible, there are no public restrooms.

Jump Off A Cliff at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

things to do in san diego Torrey Pines Gliderport

Torrey Pines Gliderport is the go-to place for paragliding and hang-gliding. Steeped in history the cliffs at Torrey Pines have played a pivotal role in flight history. Since the late 1920’s aviators and innovators have utilized the height of the cliffs to develop flying techniques and instruments.  With almost 100 years of flying history, the Gliderport is the most historic aviation site in North America. Today, visitors can tandem glide or learn to paraglide solo, the Gliderport is also popular for RC Gliders.

Cliffhanger Cafe

Located 350 feet above the water, the Cliffhanger Cafe has amazing views. Overlooking the Gliderport towards the ocean below, the Cafe serves Breakfast, Salads, and Sandwiches. Outdoor seating puts this cafe in the perfect spot to watch the action above and the beauty below.  From May-September the Cafe has live music on the weekends.

Explore Sandstone Canyons on Annie’s Canyon Trail

Located near San Elijo Lagoon, Annie’s Canyon Trail (Mushroom Caves Trail) is great for all ages. From the end of N. Rios Avenue, the hike is short (about 10 minutes), and mostly flat. The hike takes you to sandstone canyons. The trail continues through narrow passages and uses ladders and stairs to help the ascent to the top. It’s a quick fun trail, with lots of hidden spots, even caves that have been “decorated” over the years. With an elevation gain of 200 feet, the overlook has panoramic views of the Lagoon and the ocean.

Party in the Park with the San Diego Padres

Since 1969, the San Diego Padres have been giving San Diegans someone to cheer for. The Padres are the only professional team based in San Diego and play baseball at PetCo Park. Tickets are affordable and there are plenty of home games to attend. Not just about Baseball, many of the home games have themes including Marvel Day, Family Fest, Out at the Park and even nights with Fireworks. On Friday nights, when the Padres are at home, ticket holders are treated to Happy Hour.

Party in the Park

Unwind from your work week with Baseball Happy Hour. Party in the Park celebrates Friday Home Games with a pre-game cocktail hour. Presented by Southwest Airlines, Happy Hour is from 4:30pm-7pm has $5 drink specials, and live music. Party in the Park will also feature themes and giveaways. Party in the Park is included in the price of admission, however, certain giveaways are limited and must be purchased with a themed ticket package (prices vary based on seat location).

Fireworks in the Park

After a select few home games, Petco will light up the sky with Fireworks displays and Laser Light Shows. The fireworks can be seen from any seat in the stadium, but fans are allowed to move about and find a better view if they choose.

Go Camping at San Elijo State Beach Campgrounds

San Elijo State beach has one of the most popular campgrounds in Southern California. The campgrounds are hard to reserve during the summer months, but if you’re a local, there is plenty of space in the off-season. Camping is a great way to sleep by the beach, and walk to the waves for an early morning surf. Campers can spend all day by the water, and build campfires at night. If you’re less of a camper, and more of a “Glamper”, there are plenty of restaurants in the area, and you can even get pizza delivered! Leashed dogs are allowed in the campgrounds, but not on the beach.

Support Native Pollinators at Butterfly Farms

It’s a sad fact, but bees and butterflies are disappearing. Concerned by the decline of native pollinators, Butterfly Farms was established in 2013. The organization is dedicated to education, research and the conservation of butterflies. The farm consists of a Vivarium (butterfly free flight house), a classroom, nursery, laboratory and event center.  Butterfly Farms is a great way to spend the afternoon watching these beautiful insects. You can also learn what types of plants to use to attract your own butterflies at home.

Explore The San Diego Botanic Garden

The only way to describe the Botanic Garden in Encinitas is MAGICAL. You can explore the grounds time and time again, and still find new surprises and hidden nooks.  With picnic tables and benches throughout the grounds, the gardens are a great place to spend the day. The grounds also feature sculptures that are incorporated into the landscape. During the year the Botanic Gardens host art shows, special events, holiday events, and classes on gardening. The Gardens also have several plant sales throughout the year that offer unique species to the community.

Visit the Peacocks at the Leo Carrillo Historic Ranch

If you don’t live in the area, the Leo-Carrillo Historic Ranch is not very well known. The Ranch sits on 27 acres and has adobe buildings, beautiful landscape, and peacocks! Leo Carrillo perfect for an afternoon stroll or a picnic, trails weave through the grounds and dozens of peacocks meander about. The former working ranch was owned by Leo Carrillo, who is known for playing Pancho, the Cisco Kid’s sidekick. Leo Carrillo spent his life as a preservationist and conservationist and served on the California Beach and Parks Commission. Throughout the year the ranch also hosts many community events, including a Movie Nights, a Wild West Fest, and a Holiday Celebrations. The beautiful grounds are also very popular for weddings.

Celebrate Spring at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

things to do in san diego flower fields

Every year Spring bursts to life at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. With over 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers, the fields are vibrant. The bloom only lasts for about six to eight weeks, from early March to early May. The Flower Fields also have Theme Gardens, a Sweet Pea Maze, fresh strawberries, and picnic areas. During the season the Flower Fields host an array of special events including classes, arts and crafts fairs, special dinners, and live music on the weekends.

Go Au Naturel on Black’s Beach

About three miles north of La Jolla Shores, and just south of the Torrey Pines Gliderport, Blacks Beach is one of the most beautiful and scenic beaches in the county. Difficult to get to, Blacks is also home to a nudist section and one of the best surfing spots in the area.

Blacks Beach is known as the first nudist beach in the country. Also known as the Boneyard Beach, the unofficial nude section spans about one mile. Located directly under the Gliderport, on most days you will find people taking full advantage of the clothing-optional policy.

Blacks Beach is not only for those who want to avoid tan-lines but is home to one of the most powerful surf breaks in SoCal. The underwater canyon creates larger waves that are fast breaking. This makes the spot popular and the crowd can sometimes be aggressive. Therefore only experienced surfers should visit this spot and swimming is discouraged.

Access to the beach is difficult. On low tide days, the beach can be accessed from La Jolla Shores of from Torrey Pines State Beach. During high tide, you can reach the beach from the Gliderport, which involves a long and steep staircase. For the more adventurous crowd, try the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The trail starts in the neighborhood and descends through slot canyons for over 250 feet. It’s a beautiful and scenic hike, but definitely a challenge on the way back up.

Drink A Mai Tai at Bali Hai

On the San Diego Bay, Bali Hai is a San Diego Staple. The restaurant has been in operation since 1954 and is known for its Polynesian theme, great view, and wonderful service. Go for happy hour drinks, dinner or a special occasion, Bali Hai is great for all. At Bali Hai, the Drink Menu is separated into categories, under the STRONG LIBATIONS! Menu you’ll find the World Famous Bali Hai Mai Tai. Made up of Rums and sweet liquors this Mai Tai has no juice added – so beware!   Bali Hai is open daily for lunch, brunch, and dinner, mid-afternoon they only serve appetizers. A 3% surcharge is added to each guest check, due to increase in costs.

Champagne Sunday Brunch

Hours: 9:30am-2pm

Price: $44/Adults;  $20/Children 6-12; Children Under 5: Free

Champagnes Brunch includes Mimosas and so much more. Bali Hai offers traditional American breakfast options intertwined with Korean, Hawaiian, Vietnamese; and other Pacific Islander cuisine.

Find Serenity at the Meditation Gardens

The Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens are internationally renowned. The gardens have lush plants and beautiful ocean views. Paths wind and loop through the grounds, and there are several sitting areas and koi ponds. The gardens are serene and quiet when visiting please be respectful to those that are meditating on the grounds.

Have a Bonfire on Moonlight Beach

In the 1900’s people would flock to this beach for its perfect moonlight pictures. Still a local favorite, this beach is SoCal defined. In the heart of Encinitas, Moonlight is just a walk away from several great shops and restaurants and has a large parking lot that overlooks the beach below. Facilities include a snack bar, showers, volleyball courts, and bathrooms. For kids, there is a playground and a large flat beach area away from the water (perfect for flying kites). Moonlight is also a go-to spot for parties and has several fire pits available. However, if you want to stake your claim, get there early, the pits are popular and are first-come-first-serve!

Watch Artists in Action at the Lux Art Institute

The Lux Art Institute is redefining what we think of as a museum. Instead of featuring static works in a gallery, Lux brings artists and the community together for a more interactive experience. To do this the institute has a unique residency program that invites internationally recognized artists from all over the world. During residency, the featured artist will live and work at the Institute, create original pieces, and teach classes for the community. Visitors are also invited to walk through the Artists Pavilion during that time, to watch the process of art being made.

The Education Pavilion features the work of local artists, who also teach classes to the community. Trained Lux Liaisons are available to the general public during operating hours, and can also be reserved for larger groups. For adults, the cost is only $5 (21 and under: free, 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult). Besides classes, Lux offers lectures, demonstrations and other special events.

MCAS Miramar Air Show

The MCAS Miramar Air Show is the largest air show in the United States. Approximately 700,000 people flock to this annual event. Not just an airshow, the 3-day festivities include musical performances, ground performances, and many displays of aeronautical acrobatics. The highlight of the show is the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, otherwise known as the Blue Angels. Flying at the show since the 1940’s, the Blue Angels amaze crowds with their precision and skill. On the ground, the air show will feature a myriad of military and civilian planes. (Since parking is located on a military base all drivers are required to have a valid driver’s license, Registration, and Proof of Insurance. When driving a rental car, drivers need a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance and a copy of the rental agreement). General Admission is free, however, if you’d like to reserve certain sections or seats please see the website.

Skate at Encinitas Community Park (Poods)

Known locally as Poods, the highlight of Encinitas Community Park is the 13,000 sq ft skate plaza. Nicknamed in honor of a resident, Poods is a local favorite and draws skaters from near and far. The park has everything a skater could want, bowls, a vert ramp, and even a concrete street section.

Encinitas Community Park is on 44 acres of land just west of I-5. The park consists of multipurpose fields, a dog park, the skatepark, walking paths, a children’s play area, and several picnic areas scattered throughout. Restrooms available. Beer and wine allowed.

Take a Hike at Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

The Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is a 700-acre canyon filled with Oak trees and various wildlife. The reserve has many hiking trails that are open to the public during daylight hours. The trails vary in degree of difficulty with most being short and easy. If you want a more challenging path, follow the Green Valley Truck Trail east to the Ramona Lake Dam. Blue Sky has docents on-hand to answer any questions about the area.

Enjoy a Day on the Water at Lake Poway

things to do in san diego lake poway

Lake Poway is one of the best lakes in North County.  A local favorite, the lake has boat rentals, water sports rentals, and fishing. The adjacent park is green, has shade trees, loads of trails, picnic areas, an archery range, and playgrounds.

Lake Poway has many fishing options including shoreline, dock or boat. The lake is stocked with Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Sunfish, and Trout. The Concessions Stand also sells everything from bait to equipment. California State Licenses are not required to fish on the lake, however, you must purchase a permit. Fees are $3 Youth (8-15), $7 Adult, $3 Senior and $4 for Military (with ID). There are also options for 10-day permits. Lake Poway also offers Trout Fishing Seminars and hosts a Kids Fishing Derby Annually.

Open 7 days a week the Entry Station charges a $10 parking fee for all non-Poway residents on weekends and holidays. Beer and wine permitted (no glass). Leashed dogs permitted (100 ft away from shoreline).

Learn Musical History at the Museum of Making Music

The Museum of Making Music is fun, educational and interactive. The museum unfolds the history of musical instruments through recordings and hands-on exhibits. Visitors will also learn the how music was brought to the stage, radio and how it is recorded. The museum not only hosts permanent and special exhibits, it also has a regular concert series.

Enjoy The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum

For those interested in model building, the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum features hundreds of small and miniature metalworking projects. The museum houses models of cars, planes, small working machines, clocks and more. The facility also includes a well-equipped machine shop manned by volunteer craftsmen, which allows visitors to watch machinists at work. Featuring collections from: model makers, model engineers, miniature gunsmiths, precision jewelers, metalworkers, miniature combustion engineers, engravers, watch and clock makers, the museum has become a gathering place for craftsmen of all types.

Fish at Lake Hodges Reservoir

Lake Hodges Reservoir was created in 1918 when the Hodges Dam was built on the San Dieguito Creek. Since then, the reservoir has become the home to many outdoor activities. At the reservoir you can go boating, fishing, hiking or just spend an afternoon having a picnic by the water. Hiking and riding trails at the reservoir follow a 7-mile primary route along the water. The trail terrain is varied and includes streams, lush valleys, oak forests, rocky spots and open fields. More information on the trails can be found on the San Dieguito River Park website.

The recreation area at Lake Hodges has six BBQs and twelve picnic areas. There is a Visitor Center near the boat launch that has restrooms, and a dock to fish off of. There aren’t any water fountains so make sure to bring your own. Ground fire, glass containers, and camping are not allowed in the picnic areas, self-contained gas BBQs are ok. Keep dogs and little ones near – snake warnings are posted everywhere. Leashed dogs allowed (away from water). Alcohol permitted (no glass).

Lake Hodges fishing season runs from February through October. Permits can be purchased at the Concession Stand, the electronic pay station, or the iron ranger box (by envelope). All anglers 16 years and older must have a California State Fishing License. Lake Hodges is open for fishing and boating on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sundays (one-half hour before sunrise to sunset). On those days, the Rocky Mountain Recreation Company rents rowboats, motorboats, single and double person kayaks. Private boats, including kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and float tubes are allowed all three days. RMR is open from February to October 31 (but call ahead to make sure 760-432-2023).

Spend the Day on the Water at Carlsbad Lagoon

The Carlsbad Lagoon is a great place to spend the day. Filled with many water sports options, the lagoon has something for everyone. Motorized rentals include Yamaha WaveRunners, boat rentals, and Wakeboarding and Waterskiing (includes a boat with driver). If you want a little slower speed the lagoon rents kayaks, stand up paddle boards, canoes, paddle boats and aqua cycles. The Lagoon has its own private beach and rents out private party areas for large groups.

Camp with Your Friends at South Carlsbad State Beach

Go camping by the beach! During the summer months, the South Carlsbad State Beach is extremely popular. However, locals have the opportunity to use the campgrounds in the offseason with great ease. Perfect for a weekend, weekday, or you can even rent a space for just one night. The campsite features RV Sites with hookups, RV Dump Station, RV Access, Camp Store, Restrooms, and Showers. Inland sites are $35/night and premium campsites are $50/night.  The campground also has a large group space available called Pelican Point.

Pelican Point

Large groups can camp together at Pelican Point. The site is big enough for 40 people and up to 10 vehicles are included in the price (with a maximum of 2 RVs). The site also has several picnic tables and a fire pit. The group site is also available for events and costs $500 a night.

Take a Behind the Scenes Tour at the Mission San Luis Rey

Built in the 1800’s, the Mission San Luis Rey is an Oceanside treasure. Known as the King of the Missions, San Luis Rey is the largest mission in California. Seeped in history, the grounds are peaceful, educational and a wonderful place to visit any time of year. The Mission also hosts special community celebrations and has weekly tours.

Dia de Los Muertos

In October, the mission comes to life with the annual Dia De Los Muertos celebration. Every year, over 40,000 people attend this celebration that remembers departed family and friends. The event is free and features traditional altars, Latin music, a chalk cemetery, entertainment and cultural festivities for the whole family. Children can learn the history and significance of Dia de Los Muertos, all while enjoying music, dance, arts, and crafts.

Behind the Scenes Tour

Saturdays: 11am and 1pm; Sundays: 1pm

Cost: $12/Person, $10/Students, Seniors, Active Military

The Behind the Scenes Tour at the Mission San Luis Rey is offered on the weekends. The tours are usually 75 minutes long and give visitors access to restricted areas such as the Rose Garden, and the courtyard that houses the oldest Peppertree in San Diego. On Saturdays, the tour is led by MiraCosta History Professor Brad Byrom. His insight into the history of the Mission is both entertaining and informative. On Sundays, the tour is led by docents. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring water and wear sunscreen.

Play a Round at Torrey Pines Golf Course

Located on top of the cliffs in La Jolla, the Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course has one of the most breathtaking views in Southern California. Two 18-hole courses hug the cliff’s edge and overlook the Pacific below. Open in 1957, the course has even been selected to host the 2021 United States Open Championship, which will bring the top golfers in the country to our city. Open to the public, Torrey Pines also has a driving range, putting greens, and a full resort onsite. San Diego residents receive a significantly discounted rate for both courses, and can even play 18-holes (weekdays at twilight) for only $25!

Life Drawing with the Oceanside Museum of Art

With a view of the Oceanside Pier and the Pacific Ocean, the Oceanside Museum of Art celebrates art through engagement, education, and innovation. The museum hosts revolving contemporary art exhibits throughout the year.  OMA also provides classes, lectures, concerts, camps, docent tours and community events. The museum offers free admission the first Sunday of every month.

Life Drawing

$12/Members, $15/Visitors

The Oceanside Museum of Art offers Life Drawing Sessions about once a month. These sessions include a live model who will do 5-minute to 40-minute poses. Artists bring their own materials and the Museum will provide tables and chairs.

Chocolate Factory Tour at Chuao Chocolatier

Baconluxious. Ravishing Rocky Road. Cheeky Cheeky Churro. These are only some of the names of the delicious chocolate creations by Chef Michael Antonorsi, who helped found Chuao Chocolatier. Chuao (chew-ow) started in Encinitas about 15 years ago and has now expanded nationwide. Take a step behind the magic, and see how the “joy” is made. The Chuao Chocolatier Factory is located in Carlsbad, CA and opens its doors for factory tours on Wednesdays and Fridays. Visitors (Ages 10+) can discover the hard work, dedication, and process that goes into each chocolate bar.  The tour even includes a taste of the delicious confections! (Closed-toed flat footwear required).

Test Your Skills at The Paintball Park

Play Paintball on real military bases! Learn strategy, work in teams and develop communication skills. The Paintball Park has two locations in San Diego County, Miramar, and Camp Pendleton.  Both parks offer Paintball and Airsoft. Both parks have several courses to choose from, each featuring actual military vehicles on course. The Paintball Parks are open on the weekends, and available for private parties (15+) seven days a week. Pricing varies, packages that include gear rental start at $44 and go up based on rounds. If you have your own gear admission is $20. There are discounts for military personnel. Located on military bases, identification and a submission form (7 days in advance) are required to enter.

Dance the Night Away at The Belly Up

The Belly Up is a live music venue in Solana Beach. On Cedros, Belly Up promotes all different genres of music including hip-hop, rock, alternative, reggae, R&B and more. The venue even has cover bands and a weekly Happy Hour to start the weekend by dancing! Belly Up has a full bar and menu to order from. 21+.

Friday Night Happy Hour

5pm; $10

Join bands such as Atomic Groove and Super Nacho as they play all your favorite hits. Doors open at 5 pm and the music starts at 5:30 pm. Even though the party starts early, the dance floor is always packed. The party ends at 8 pm, just in time for dinner!

Explore Oceanside Pier

things to do in san diego oceanside pier

One of the longest wooden piers in California, the Oceanside Pier is always buzzing with people. Popular with locals and tourists there are many ways to spend your day at the pier. At the entrance is the amphitheater, which hosts musical performances and movie nights. At the end is Ruby’s Diner. A 50’s themed diner, Ruby’s serves burgers and milkshakes with an epic view. Along the pier, people line up with fishing poles to catch what’s below. As you walk along you’ll see Pelicans, Seagulls, and all the surfers trying to catch waves. The pier has light posts, so it’s a perfect place to catch the sunset.

The beach south of the pier is one of the most popular in North County. The kid’s playground on the sand is always full, and at sunset, you can see the fire pits start to glow. The beach also has picnic tables and BBQs, which make it easy to spend the day. There are several pay-parking lots close-by.

Learn about Surf Culture at the California Surf Museum

Surf culture is celebrated at the Oceanside California Surf Museum. Exhibits include a Brief History of Surfboards, Surfing Found in Pop Culture, and educational displays about the ocean. The museum’s most popular exhibit is Courageous Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton. The exhibit tells the story of how Bethany survived a shark attack that ultimately resulted in the loss of one of her arm. At the time of the attack, Bethany was only 13 years old. The display includes her bathing suit, and the board she was riding, which has a very big chunk bitten out of it. Her story is especially resonating, because instead of leaving the sport, Bethany was determined to return to surfing, and paddled out just 3 weeks after the attack. Since then Bethany has become surfing icon. The First Tuesday of every month the California Surf Museum lowers admission to $1.

  • California Surf Museum
  • Hours: Friday-Wednesday: 10am-4pm; Thursday: 10am-8pm; Closed Major Holidays
  • Admission: Adults $5, Seniors/Military/Students $3, 12 and under Free
  • First Tuesday of the Month: Admission $1
  • Parking: Street
  • 312 Pier View Way, Oceanside

Listen to Music at Escondido Center of the Arts

The Escondido Center for the Arts is the heart of Escondido. Performers and musicians from all over the world come to the center each year. The Center of the Arts has a Concert Hall, a smaller theater, a conference center and a museum. From September through June, the Center of the Arts hosts a free concert every first Wednesday of the month. The concerts are first-come-first-serve, but you can also reserve tickets for $12 beforehand if you want to ensure a seat. Each performance has two showtimes 4pm and 7pm, with different Food Trucks featured each month. The Center also partners with the community during the year for special events.

Get Spooked in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

Tucked between many North County cities, the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is a hidden canyon of beauty. The area has 11 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. There are many trails that stem from the trailhead. A favorite is the Botanical Trail that follows the creak and is shaded by Oaks. The reserve also has picnic areas and viewpoints. Leashed dogs allowed.

Every day, hikers enjoy Elfin Forest with no qualms.

The spookier side of the forest keeps many visitors away. Several stories contribute to the legends. One is of a lady in white, haunted by the loss of her family. Another is of Gypsy tribes haunting the area after being persecuted. And the last involves a closed Asylum in the area. All based on urban legends (no asylum was ever reported to have been built in the area), the stories have evolved over the years.

Enjoy a Sunset Cruise on Lake San Marcos

Lake San Marcos is a small neighborhood lake in Southwest San Marcos. The lake is a great place to spend the day and offers rentals that include boating, fishing, paddle boarding, water trikes and kayaks. The Marina at San Marcos also has excursions with Captains available.

Sunset Cruise

Friday and Saturday

3pm-5pm

$40/person; 5 people minimum

For those who’d rather someone did the driving for them, the Marina offers a Sunset Cruise that includes a Captain. The 2-hour excursion includes beer, wine, champagne and snacks. The cruise is for 5 people minimum, so gather your friends for a great Happy Hour.

Movie Night in the “Park”

In Carlsbad Village, right across from the beach, Park 101 is a kid and dog-friendly complex that has a walk-up window, a deli, a cafe, a pub, a rooftop lounge and serves great BBQ. Park 101 has something for everyone, the multi-use area has a picnic area, bar stools, and fire pits. For fun, there are lawn games such as Cornhole, Jenga, Dominos and more. On Wednesday Nights, Park 101 hosts a movie night. The movies start at dusk, and Park 101 serves complimentary popcorn. Bring a blanket and enjoy! Make sure to get there early, Park 101 has a $5 Happy Hour from 3pm-6pm.

Find Magic at Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is a special and enchanted garden. Designed by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, the mosaic garden features brightly colored mosaic sculptures, inspired by California’s mythical and historical past. Hidden within Kit Carson Park, finding the garden is part of the fun.  The garden contains nine large-scale sculptures, a maze entryway and is encircled by a circular snake wall. Weather permitting, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to Noon. If you can’t make it on a weekday, the Circle is also open on the second Saturday of each month from 9am to 2pm.

Find Nature at Felicita County Park

Felicita County Park makes you feel like you’ve left the city completely. Nestled on 53 acres of dense Oak groves with hiking trails, streams, and several large boulders, the atmosphere is very serene. Felicita is also the site of one of the largest and oldest Native American Villages in the county. Grinding holes and other artifacts can be found as evidence of the centuries-old Northern Diegueno Tribe.The park also includes 2 horseshoe pits, picnic tables, BBQs, 4 playgrounds, restrooms, and a volleyball court. Leashed dogs allowed. Alcoholic beverages allowed.

Bowl at Urge Gastropub and Common House

Urge Gastropub elevates traditional American culture through locally sourced comfort food, wine, and craft cocktails. The menu may not seem revolutionary until you realize that it’s paired with bowling, bocce ball and other fun games. The bowling alley has a Big Lebowski theme and even has White Russian specials. With a great atmosphere and a location near CSUSM, the pub gets busy, so be prepared for a lively crowd. Urge Gastropub is also home to Mason Ale Works. Bowling gets pricey in the evenings, so if you want to enjoy your game at a lower price, weekdays before 5 pm are your best bet.

See All of North County at Double Peak Park

Double Peak Park sits on the highest peak in North County and has 360º views from the ocean to the hills. At the top of the summit are picnic benches and a free telescope. Double Peak is accessible by car for those who just want the view. The park is also a trailhead. If you want the summit to be the goal of your hike, start at Discovery Lake.

Discovery Lake

A hidden gem, Discovery Lake is nestled in a quiet residential area. The lake has several trails that stem from it, including easy loops and an ascent up to Double Peak. The 5-acre lake has a paved 0.8-mile loop around it. This easy trail allows people to walk, run, bike, scooter, or even ride horseback! One half of the trail is shaded by trees, and the other is in full sun. The lake even has a small dock that is popular for fishing.

The main trail at Discovery Lake heads up through a neighborhood and continues to the Double Peak Summit. The moderate hike ascends just over 1,000 feet and is about 4.25 miles. There are restrooms located in both parking lots.

Brunch at the Hotel Del Coronado

things to do in san diego hotel del coronado

Opened in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado is iconic. The wooden Victorian beach resort has been a destination for celebrities, royalty, and politicians. Charlie Chaplin, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Prince Edward, and Barack Obama are only a fraction of the people who have stayed at the Hotel Del. When visiting, make sure to pass near the shops (beach level) and look at the displays of memorabilia! The hotel has also been featured in television, movies and is even where L. Frank Baum wrote most of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ.

People still flock to this hotel and it is one of the most popular San Diego destinations. If you don’t plan to stay there, the hotel is still a great place to visit. Hotel Del hosts many special events which range from Movie Nights by the ocean, live local bands in the lounge, and Ice Skating around the holidays. There are several bars and restaurants with great atmosphere and views. The Hotel even has a lavish brunch that it serves every Sunday.

Sunday Brunch

$98/Adults; $36/Children ages 6-10 (Under 5: free)

Sunday Brunch at the Hotel Del is legendary. Set in the Crown Room, even the atmosphere seems decadent. With stations upon stations, the menu has something for everyone. Highlights include fresh seafood, specialty meats at the carving station, and indulgent desserts. There is also a Bloody Mary Bar and made to order Mimosas. Sunday Brunch at the Hotel Del is perfect for special occasions or as a splurge. It’s definitely an experience to try at least once! (Valet parking is $30 for 2 hours, and $10 each additional hour. If you spend $50 at any of the restaurants or shops, parking can be validated and is reduced to $5 for 3 hours. There is also street parking nearby).

Practice Yoga on the Beach with Perfect Balance Fitness

Yoga on the Beach is a quintessential Southern California activity, busy lifestyles can be balanced by taking a moment to center yourself.  Perfect Balance Fitness offers private and group Vinyasa Yoga and Stand Up Paddleboard lessons. Based in North County, the sessions are customized to ability levels. Perfect Balance has regularly scheduled classes on Ponto Beach, Carlsbad and on Lake San Marcos, and they are also available for private group events.

Watch Drag Race Live at Urban Mo’s

RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a cultural phenomenon. Long before that, Urban Mo’s has been hosting Drag Shows in Hillcrest. Food, cocktails and a friendly crowd, make Mo’s a popular destination and a great place to find a party. On Wednesday nights, Mo’s hosts the Dreamgirls Revue. The line-up includes an array of drag superstars, including RuPaul’s Drag Race alums. If you can’t make it to the show, you can live stream the event and virtually tip the performers.

Be Entertained at Moonlight Amphitheater

Located in Brengle Terrace Park, Moonlight Amphitheater has been producing professional stage productions in North County for over 38 years. The amphitheater is outdoors and has a variety of seating including lawn seats. Moonlight Stage Productions present four musicals per year which include a combination of professional and local talent. They also use Broadway sets and costumes and a live orchestra. In between the musicals, Moonlight has Symphony Performances, hosts Rock Bands, opens for Family Movie Nights and more.  

Learn to Blacksmith at the Antique Gas and Steam Museum

The Antique Gas and Steam Museum is a unique Vista destination. On over 55 acres, the museum was founded in 1976 and has a collection that focuses on early American life and technology. The main exhibit includes a wide array of machines and vehicles that are located throughout the grounds. Another popular exhibit is the Farmhouse and Parlor that represent what life was like at the turn of the century.

The museum is a parent organization to several other groups including Vista Forge (part of the California Blacksmith Association), N’ Scale Short Track Railroad, Palomar Handweavers, and the West Coast Clock & Watch Museum. On Saturdays, the public can watch various demonstrations from each of these groups. The Blacksmith Shop also has classes available to learn the trade.

Blacksmith Shop

The Blacksmith 101 Program teaches the basics of the trade over 3-4 months. The program starts with the Coal Forge, students will learn to light it and use it to heat the metal. Next, tools will be introduced to forge, twist and bend metal into shapes. Students will work on three projects during the program, including making their first set of Blacksmith tongs.

Enjoy Sunset Yoga at Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park has an amazing location near the harbor on San Diego Bay. The park is set against downtown buildings and still has a great view of the water.  Every Monday and Thursday, the County of San Diego hosts therapeutic-based yoga for all levels of practitioners. Unlike some yoga classes, Waterfront Yoga is reasonably priced at only $7 per class. The class focuses on the practice of safe, effective, and dynamic poses that will increase strength and flexibility. Participants gather in front of the County Administration Building to sign-in and pay (credit and cash accepted). Once a month Waterfront Yoga also holds a Full Moon Session.

Experience the Grunion Run

Grunion is a small silver fish found along the coast of Southern and Baja California. From March through September, the Grunion migrate out of the water, onto the sand, to lay their eggs. Watching the process has become a popular sport, where thousands of people gather, to watch the thousands of fish spawn, all under the night sky. For those who’d like to try to catch the fish, a California Fishing License is required (16+). Also, catching Grunion is a little tricky, since there is no line or bait used, just your hands. Those catching the Grunion for food are encouraged to only take as many as they’ll consume. Grunion can be filleted, battered and fried for fish tacos, or filleted and grilled with lemon and salt. The Grunion Run can be observed all along the coast, however, if you’d like an informative evening to try the Grunion Tours with Birch Aquarium.

Birch Grunion Runs

Birch takes groups of people out to experience the Grunion Run in a unique way. Before witnessing the experience, groups get a special presentation and learn all about the natural phenomenon. Participants should bring warm, waterproof clothes and a flashlight. Minors 6 years and older may attend with a paid adult. Pre-Purchase required.

Experience Vegan Deliciousness at EVE Encinitas

EVE Encinitas is a cozy cafe that serves a Vegan menu with Gluten Free options. Voted one of the best restaurants in San Diego, EVE serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu has a creative vegan cuisine, superfood smoothies, acai bowls, kombucha, cold-pressed juices and more. On Tuesdays, EVE hosts Inner Temple. Inner Temple is an all-day event that features an Artisan Market, Meditation, Healer’s Temple, Ceremonies, and Dance Parties. EVE also hosts special events such as comedy sketches and provides a space for the community to gather.

Enjoy Yoga, with Goats!

Goat Yoga has become a thing. The concept is simple, you practice yoga while mama and baby goats let their natural curiosity take over. Goats will kiss your toes, jump up on your back and wander about. It’s a fun way to bring joy and nature into your practice. Yoga with Goats can be enjoyed in San Marcos and Encinitas.

The Blissful Goat

The Blissful Goat gives practitioners a chance to slow-down and spiritually connect with nature, goats and themselves. Classes are over an hour and give plenty of time to cuddle with goats and take plenty of selfies. The Blissful Goat has latex-free yoga mats available to rent for $3 (to keep your mat clean). Participants must be over 18 years old and weigh at least 100 pounds.

Sugar Sweet Farms

Sugar Sweet Farm is a hobby farm in Encinitas. The property has an orchard, farm animals, and Goat Yoga. Yoga classes are 50 minutes long and allow 15 minutes post-class for goat interaction and pictures. Participants can do as much or as little yoga as they choose because sometimes goat-cuddles are healing too. Classes are for 16 years and up, but Sugar Sweet Farms offers a Parent and me class for 10 years and up.

Take a Tour of Palomar Observatory

The Palomar Observatory is privately owned and operated by Caltech. The Observatory is home to the Hale Telescope, which is one of the most significant telescopes in the last 100 years. Palomar is also well-known for the discovery of the dwarf planet Eris in 2005. That discovery changed our solar system by redefining Pluto as a dwarf planet. From now on, kids will grow up with only 8 official planets. Palomar Observatory is open to the public daily. From April through October, the observatory gives guided tours on the weekends. Tours are for guests 5 years and older. The inside of the Observatory is kept chilly, so bring a jacket. Also, there are no gas stations on Palomar Mountain, so make sure to have a full tank.

Try a Bacon Burger at Hodad’s

Hodads has been serving excellent burgers to the San Diego community since 1969. Located just off the sand in Ocean Beach, the atmosphere is laid back and fun. In 2007, when the restaurant was featured on the TV show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Hodads became THE burger joint to visit when in San Diego. The featured burger was the Bacon Cheeseburger, which features a bacon “patty” instead of strips. Hodads was featured a second time on the show when they unveiled a tribute to the host Guy Fieri. His burger, named the Guido, features Pastrami, Grilled Onions, and Swiss cheese. The OB location is especially popular on the weekends and during the summer, a line out the door is not unusual. However, Hodad’s now has additional locations in the Gaslamp District, and inside PetCo Park.

Explore Your Creativity at Mint Studio

Mint Studio is the perfect place for those obsessed with Pinterest and Etsy. The Do-It-Yourself creation space is available for drop-in projects and also holds workshops led by local artisans and makers. The projects are widely varied and include instructions on how to make Succulent Wreaths, Macrame, Punch Needle Designs, Shibori and more. Mint Studio also holds geared to improve your business and balance your lifestyle. All workshops and classes are a great way to create community and connections with like-minded people. Mint is also available for private events, has kids classes, and hosts special holiday events.

Tour Mission Bay with Ship ‘N a Bottle

For those looking for a fun bay tour, but want something a little more intimate, Ship ‘N a Bottle is a great choice. The tour takes place onboard a 1967, 26’ Sloop Sailboat and is skippered by licensed Coast Guard Captains. Ship ‘N Bottle has two 90 minute tour options available. One for couples and another for private groups (6 maximum). The tour includes wine and a cheese and fruit plate. Additional wine is available to purchase onboard, and there is a $10 corkage fee if you bring your own bottle. During the excursion, the Captain informs guests of the area and is entertaining without being intrusive. Ship ‘N a Bottle is a wonderful alternative to larger dinner cruises around the bay.

Watch the Sunset from the Top of Mt. Soledad

things to do in san diego mount soledad

Mt. Soledad is home to the iconic Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial. Conceived in 1952, the Memorial can be seen from miles by the 27-foot cross that towers above. The grounds have several walls that honor veterans that have served in wartime from all five branches of the military. Mt. Soledad has a parking lot and a grassy area that overlooks the ocean and the valley that surrounds it. It is a peaceful spot to pay tribute and to watch the sunset.

Sneak Away to a Hidden Bar

San Diego has many great options for going out. There’s dinner, dancing, chill lounges and beach hangouts. However, nothing makes a drink taste better than adding adventure to it. San Diego County has several hidden Speakeasies in the area. Some are original from the Prohibition Era and others are fun hidden spots that add intrigue to the evening.

The Captain Charles Kenneth

Captain Charles Kenneth is located underneath the Land and Water Company in Carlsbad Village. The bar was an original Prohibition Era Speakeasy and is preserved as it was, complete with unfinished walls. To enter, follow the Instagram account @TheCaptainCharlesKenneth or go to the website, daily passwords are posted there. To enter, give the doorman the code and you will be led down the corridor to the entrance. The doorman also gives a brief history of the bar along the way. The Captain is cozy, so make sure to call ahead and put your name on the list, or have dinner at the Land and Water Company for priority seating. There is a dress code: no baseball caps, men’s tank tops, sandals or shorts, just try to look nice. The menu has a great variety of cocktails that are inspired by the past.

The Noble Experiment

Shhh. This one is a secret. Well, a very unkempt one. The Noble Experiment is inside the restaurant Neighborhood, in the Gaslamp. To find it, head towards the bathrooms and examine the stack of kegs. What you’ll find is a hidden door. The bar is cozy and unique, expect a floor-to-ceiling bar, a chandelier, a ceiling covered in portraits and a wall made of skulls. The “Secret” spot fills up quickly (there are only 32 seats), so making a reservation in advance is wise. Reservations are accepted (by text or online), for parties of 5 and under, one week in advance.

Prohibition

Prohibition embodies the Gatsby lifestyle in the Gaslamp. Prohibition is freestanding and located through the doors of a “law office”. Find the door marked “Law Office: Eddie O’Hare Esq” and you’rein. No reservations required. Prohibition provides a complete sensory experience with decor, music, and cocktails. Dress to impress and help keep the place special.

False Idol

Looking for a Tiki Lounge vibe? False Idol has you covered. Outside find the brick that tells you to “Demand Less”. Go into the Craft and Commerce. There will be a steel door to the left of the main bar which leads to a walk-in cooler. If you see human heads, you’re on the right track. The next door to False Idol takes you into a hidden Tiki Oasis, complete with head to toe Polynesian decor, waterfalls and fire. Beware of the exceptionally strong cocktails, they are delicious AND potent. If you’re with friends try the Alkala the Fierce. Served ON Fire – it’s an experience to be shared. Reservations in advance are available, or you can put your name on the list while eating at Craft and Commerce.

Join the Rooftop Cinema Club

Watching movies outdoors is a fun and more casual way to experience a film. The Rooftop Cinema Club has set up on top of the Manchester Grand Hyatt to bring the ultimate film experience to San Diego. The location is ideal, perfectly placed between the bay and downtown. Deckchairs make-up the rows and you’ll never miss dialogue with wireless headphones. The movies are a mix of new releases and iconic favorites. Tickets can be purchased for a single chair or a double chair, and you can add bottomless popcorn. There is also a bar available, and the Top of the Hyatt is a great place to grab a quick bite first. The box office opens an hour before the movie, make sure to arrive early to grab the perfect seat.

Enjoy Sustainable Sushi at the Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Attached, the Wrench and Rodent and the Whet Noodle are redefining what we think of as Sushi and Ramen. Both restaurants use quality, sustainable, locally-sourced ingredients, have a casual atmosphere and are delicious. While non-traditional, the menus take the essence of the craft and serve it up in a new and exciting manner. The punk rock atmosphere seeps into the food and it seems like nothing is beyond grasp. Vegans love the spot because they give just as much love and care to produce, as they do to the fish. Wrench and Rodent has become one of the most popular restaurants in North County. You can feel the love and dedication in each bite.

Hike to the Rancho Peñasquitos Waterfall

The Los Peñasquitos Reserve lies on over 4,000 acres in San Diego County. When there’s rain, the Los Peñasquitos waterfall can flow for over 7 miles, making it one of the lushest and scenic hikes in San Diego County. The trail is fairly flat and well marked on the way towards the waterfall. A local favorite, the trek is at least 5 miles so make sure to wear sunscreen and proper shoes if hiking after a rain (for mud).

Take an Art Workshop at Artlexia

Artlexia is a specialty shop in North Park that features vibrant Mexican art and cultural gifts. The shop carries everything you can think of, cookbooks, novelties, candy, children’s books, spices, ceramics and a ton of Frida Kahlo inspired items. Like Mexico, the shop is vibrant and colorful. Throughout the month Artlexia host crafting workshops for the community. Learn to paint wine bottle, or practice watercolor, the options vary monthly. Artlexia also has a strong social media game, their blog highlights recipes and travel and their Insta account is on point.

Take a Brewery Tour on the Pinzgauer

San Diego is known for its breweries, if you’re a fan of craft beer it’s hard to know where to start. The Scavengers Brewery Tour is here to help you! Tours are based out of downtown and North County. The day will include a ride on the 6-wheel Swiss Safari Vehicle the Pinzgauer! This beast of a vehicle is open-air, seats up to 13, and sets the tone for this fun and adventurous experience. The tour starts with cold craft beer on the Pinzgauer and includes stops at three breweries. Each brewery will provide 3-4 Tasters. There is also a behind-the-scenes production tour at one of the breweries. The day is hosted by an official “beer geek” and includes lunch.   

Enjoy a Horseback Ride on the Beach with Surfside Ranch

Surfside Ranch has been leading trail rides for over 20 years in San Diego. Guests can choose between Trail Rides, Beach Adventures, and even Sunset Beach Rides. The Trail Rides wind through the beautiful chaparral hillsides of Southern California. Beach Rides explore the sand and surf at the Border Field State Park. Surfside Ranch also offers other services such as a Petting Zoo, Summer Camps, Birthday Parties and a Western Event Venue.

Enjoy Music Fun and Sun at Fiesta Del Sol

Fiesta del Sol is in its 39th year and is SoCal’s best FREE music festival. Located in Solana Beach the festival takes place over a weekend from 9am-9pm. The music lasts all day and features the best San Diego local bands. The Unplugged Stage has a more quaint acoustic feel. Along with music, the event features over 200 local artisan and vendor booths. For families, Fiesta Del Sol has many rides and attractions for kids. All in all, the Fiesta Del Sol is one of the best local events of the year.

Listen to a Concert on the Bay

For over 35 years, Humphrey’s Concerts have brought in amazing performances to the San Diego Bay. Located on Shelter Island, the 1,400 seats outdoor venue is the ideal location to see your favorite acts from today and yesterday. From April through October Humphrey’s features a variety of entertainment. In addition to watching the show, you can add a dinner package or a hotel stay to your experience.

CityFest Street Fair

CityFest is the largest Street Fair and Music Festival in San Diego. Each year over 150,000 people attend the festivities to celebrate Hillcrests Community spirit. Over 5 city blocks are filled with vendors, arts, crafts carnival rides, and food. Local shops and venues along 5th, Robinson and University also participate in the fun. Live bands and local performances will be featured throughout the day, and into the night. CityFest is great for all ages during the day, but at night it becomes an adult affair.

Learn how to Fly with Aquatic Aviation

Hydroflying is a sport that lets people fly through the air by using water for propulsion. Aquatic Aviation teaches clients how to navigate in the air with a Flyboard, Hoverboard or Jetpack. First timers are encouraged to try the Hoverboard and Flyboard first. These methods are more stable and let you balance, and control the jet flow with your legs and feet. The Jetpack is a bit trickier since it’s located on the back. Water shoots down from a backpack and you control movement with your arms, just like in a James Bond movie.

Aquatic Aviation has been operating since 2012. The company employs experienced instructors to guarantee success even on the first visit. They will even take great pictures of you soaring about the water’s surface. Lessons begin at 15 minutes and can be booked up to 40 minutes. The Flyboard 40 minute package is the most popular. Aquatic Aviation also offers group discounts.

Float Through the Air with Sky’s The Limit Ballooning Company

Sky’s The Limit Ballooning Company is a local, family-owned business that has been giving balloon rides since 1994. Born in Encinitas, the owner, James Lawson, fell in love with flying at an early age. Sky’s the Limit has a fleet of balloons and can take people on romantic private tours, or accommodate larger groups of up to 16 passengers. Sky’s the Limit has flights out of Del Mar, Temecula, and Santa Barbara.

The Del Mar Champagne Evening Flight

The Del Mar Champagne Evening Flight gives a new perspective to the beautiful Del Mar Coastline and floats over the luxurious mansions and estates of those who live there. The flight begins by watching the balloons be filled to their full glory. The flight duration is about an hour, but the whole experience takes three to four hours. Each flight is followed by a champagne celebration that can include a “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary” banner-by-request.

 

Supergirl Surf Pro

The Supergirl Pro Series celebrates female strength, independence, and empowerment. The Surf Pro is the largest all women’s surf contest in the world. Not only does the Supergirl Pro series drawn the top competitors in the field, it includes a weekend of fun on the Oceanside Strand.

Along with the Surf Competition, the Festival Village has all sorts of activities for all ages. These include autograph signings, vendors, contests, fitness classes, seminars a beer garden, and more. During the event, there are also Pro Skateboarding and BMX demonstrations. The event features a concert series and has live bands and DJs throughout the day. Over 100,000 people visit the contest each year, and it is one of Oceanside’s biggest yearly events.

Get Indoor S’Mores at Campfire

Gathering around a fire with friends and family and sharing food is one of humanity’s oldest traditions. Campfire Restaurant is trying to get back to that simplicity. The rustic interior is open and inviting. The outdoor patio is spacious and even comes with a teepee. The menu is seasonal and ever-changing, but always features the smoky flavors of a fire. The cocktails are also refreshing and incorporate flavors from nature like douglas fir, burnt cinnamon, and aloe vera.

S’Mores

A great way to end your Campfire meal is with S’Mores (of course!). The dish gives you the complete campfire experience. The plate of ingredients comes complete with a small charcoal filled bowl, just toasty enough for you to get the Marshmallows that perfect shade of brown.

Hang Out at Little Italy’s Piazza della Famiglia

Officially opened in March 2018, the Piazza della Famiglia aspires to become the central hub for Little Italy. The 10,000-square-foot European-style piazza has a rustic feel with cobblestones, cafe tables, and a fountain. The Piazza will be surrounded by restaurants and will feature community events such as live music, farmer’s markets, and yoga. Besides traditional restaurants, the Piazza will also feature a Food Hall filled with a variety of dining options.

Try a Bloody Mary “Meal” at Farmer’s Table

Farmer’s Table takes the Farm-to-Table model and runs with it. The atmosphere is filled with rustic decor and even includes a full-sized tractor in the dining room. The locally-sourced menu features organic ingredients and is influenced by Italian and Southern Californian Cuisine. Favorites include the pizzas, burgers, and benedicts. The menu is also clearly marked for Gluten allergies, vegetarian and vegan options. Farmer’s Table also has a wonderful cocktail list that includes an array of Bloody Mary’s.

The Barn Yard Bloody Mary

Farmer’s Table has several Bloody Mary’s on their menu. The least expensive option in the Peter Rabbit. For $12, the Bloody comes with grilled seasonal vegetables, cheese-stuffed mushrooms, and assorted veggies. The Tijuana Maria, a SoCal influenced Bloody, features bacon-wrapped hot dogs, Mexican-Style street corn, pickled jalapeños and carrots, and is made with Jalapeño vodka. If you want the full Farmer’s Table Bloody Mary experience, order the Barn Yard. This $45 Bloody Mary serves 4 people and comes in a full-sized pitcher. Exploding from the drink are skewers of roasted seasonal veggies, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, bacon wrapped shrimp, and a WHOLE CHICKEN. Seriously. The Barn Yard is not only a drink and a meal, it’s an experience.

Play Your Favorite Games at Coin-Op Game Room

Looking for something different on your night out? How about an adult video arcade, filled with your favorite games, food, and drinks? Coin-Op Game Room hits the nostalgia button just right. The games focus on the classics and include Street Fighter, Ms. Pacman, Mortal Kombat, Pinball and more. Along with the fun atmosphere, Coin-Op has a full menu, great cocktails, and local craft beer. Coin-Op has two locations in San Diego, and both feature one full day of Free-Play each month.

Take a Tour of the Iconic Salk Institute

things to do in san diego Salk Institute

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a Scientific Research Institute in La Jolla. Founded by Jonas Salk, the creator of the Polio Vaccine, the Salk Institute is one of the top institutes in the country. The building, designed in 1960 by Louis Kahn, is heavy and monolithic. The beautiful and historic site overlooks the ocean and is an amazing place to take pictures.

Architectural tours of the Institute are offered Monday through Friday at noon. The buildings were designed to attract and inspire researchers from around the world. The design is bold and dramatic, resting 350’ above the Pacific Ocean on 27 acres. One hour tours are led by docents and advanced reservations are required.

  • Architecture Tour
  • Hours: Monday-Friday at 12pm
  • Price: $15/adults; $10/Students, Seniors and Military, Free/Children 12 and Under

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the Salk Institute offers a free “Meet-A-Scientist” talk. Located in the Red Brick Courtyard near the Reception Area, visitors can learn about the latest research and scientific discoveries that are happening.

If you just want to look around, visitors are welcome Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Visitors are asked to check in at the reception desk to obtain a visitor’s badge. Recreational photography is permitted, but visitors are encouraged to respect other guests and the Salk staff. There is also a Cafe onsite if you’d like to spend the afternoon.(Drones and selfie-sticks are not permitted).

Watch Sand be Transformed at the US Sand Sculpting Challenge

Each year the US Sand Sculpting Challenge imports 300 tons of Sand to the Broadway Pier. Over Labor Day Weekend, Sand Sculptors from around the world use the sand to create 3-Dimensional masterpieces. They work on the sculptures publicly Friday through Sunday, and on Monday there is a demonstration that explains the process. The final sculptures are more than impressive, with most pieces weighing over 10 tons. The Challenge also features other art forms such as glass, ceramic, and metal works. The four-day extravaganza will also have live music, food trucks, a beer garden, kids activities (including a sandbox), and more. A significant portion of the proceeds goes toward local Children’s Educational Charities.

Get Your Buzz On at Better Buzz Coffee

Better Buzz Coffee is a San Diego favorite. Founded in 2002 as a coffee cart, Better Buzz has opened new and more elaborate shops throughout the county and even has dedicated roasting facility in Vista. All locations are a little different but all are popular. Better Buzz drinks start with espresso and expand to feature handcrafted specialty drinks, frozen blends, cold brew, drip coffee, smoothies and more. The “Best Drink Ever” is a Classic Americano with Creamy Vanilla. Food options depend on location, but favorites are the Acai Bowls and Avocado Toast. Better Buzz has earned local loyalty, so don’t be surprised by lines, especially at the smaller locations. Judging by the length, it’s totally worth the wait.

Better Buzz Hillcrest – Cafe and Roastery

The most recent addition to the Buzz family, the Hillcrest is a site to be seen. Now the Flagship Store, Hillcrest Buzz has 7,500 square feet of modern and inviting space. The open plan has several seating choices and a vintage roaster on display.

Pacific Beach West – Cafe and Drive Thru

The Pacific Beach West location has plenty of counter seating and a lovely outdoor patio.

Encinitas – Coffee and Juice Bar

The Encinitas location has family-style seating and several high-tops. The menu also includes fresh pressed juices and smoothies.

Fashion Valley – Coffee Bar

Located in Fashion Valley the Better Buzz Coffee Bar has a quaint interior with a few outside tables.

Point Loma – Cafe and Drive Thru

The Better Buzz Point Loma Cafe has a quaint interior with community, table and cozy seating. The Cafe also has a small patio.

Mission Beach – The Lab

Mission Beach has bar style-seating near the windows. Great place for your morning with delicious and substantial breakfast sandwiches.

San Marcos – Drive Thru and Walk-Up

The San Marcos location doesn’t have any seating, but that doesn’t keep people away. Rush hours include lines at the drive-thru and walk up windows.

Pacific Beach – Drive Thru and Cafe

The Better Buzz pacific Beach location has a great interior and a great outdoor patio with swings!

Eat like a Unicorn at Creme and Sugar

Creme and Sugar is Insta-Famous. The Unicorn themed desserts are so beautiful that people flock to the locations as much for the visual as the taste. Cups and bowls overflow with pastel colors and rainbow marshmallows. Birthday or Special Occasion cakes are also available in all the Unicorn colors.  Creme and Sugar also has a full coffee bar for those without a sweet tooth. The best reason to go to Creme and Sugar is written on the window “ Because every day should start with coffee and end with ice cream”. Words to live by.

Try Rolled Ice Cream at Bing House

In Kearny Mesa, Bing House serves delicious Thai-style desserts and coffee. The interior of the shop is sleek, modern and welcoming. The thing that makes Bing House stand out is the quality and flavor of their menu. The Soft Serve ice cream is delicious and can even be ordered in a Fish-shaped waffle with fruit.  There are also several variations of Shaved Ice, including some with fruit balls, mochi, and soft serve.

The star of Bing House is the rolled ice cream. Watching the process of the rolls being made is part of the fun. The base is poured on an extremely cold metal circle and is manipulated with other ingredients until it can be spread and rolled. The process takes about 2 minutes and is mesmerizing. Once rolled, all pieces are gathered into a cup and other toppings can be added.

Find the Freshest Fish at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

The Tuna Harbor Dockside Market brings fishermen and the public together in a friendly environment. The market is a way to find sustainable and delicious catch that is incredibly fresh. There is a dedicated fish cutting station that is free of charge (donations are encouraged). If you’re not a cook? No problem. You can visit a vendor that not only catches the fish but prepares it into delicious yumminess for your pleasure. The Tuna Dockside Harbor Market is a great place to visit on the bay.  

Learn to Skydive at iFly

Ever wanted to learn how to Skydive, but didn’t want to actually jump out of a plane? IFly is the place for you. The indoor wind tunnel simulates the skydiving experience. When you enter the vertical tunnel you experience bodyflight, with instructors leading you every step of the way. Each iFly session is the equivalent of 1.5 skydives, includes all flight-gear, pre-flight training, flight certificate, souvenir video, and photo. iFly has two locations, one in Mission Valley and the other in Oceanside.

Tacos El Gordo

20 minutes from the border, Tacos El Gordo is authentic as you can get. One of the most popular Taco stands in the country, there are lines out the door most of the time. To make sure you are standing in the right line, follow the signs at the front. El Gordo roasts meats El Pastor style and makes their own tortillas. Adobada tacos are the most popular and are roasted on a spit with a pineapple on top. The second best tacos are the Carne Asada, but everything on the menu is fresh and worth trying. Tacos El Gordo has three locations in San Diego.

Support the Community at Switchfoot's BroAm

Switchfoot is a Grammy-winning Rock Band that hails from San Diego. After much success, they decided to give back to the community that raised them. The Switchfoot BroAm celebrates the things the band members love: music, surfing, and San Diego. The annual event takes place at Moonlight Beach and features a surf contest, a free concert, and benefits at-risk youth.

Try Omakase at Kaito Sushi

Kaito Sushi is fairly modest. Tucked into a strip mall, the restaurant is comprised of a Sushi Bar and a few tables. However, unlike most SoCal Sushi restaurants, Kaito is not your place for California Rolls. The chefs are highly trained and know the nuances of seafood. Kaito imports a diverse and impeccably fresh assortment of seafood daily.

The best way to experience Kaito is by Omakase. Omakase is a Japanese phrase that translates into “I’ll leave it up to you”. Which means that you trust the chef to make you the best possible food. The experience becomes a journey of the senses that leads you to unexpected and delicious flavors. Favorites include the Amberjack Carpaccio, Halibut with Yuzu Kosho, and the Uni.

Eat Clean at Grabbagreen

Founded by moms, Grabbagreen brings a healthy option to fast food. The menu is Semi-Organic, Preservative-Free, GMO-Free, and contains locally sourced ingredients. At Grabbagreen you can find bowls, wraps, acai bowls, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, breakfast and kid-friendly options. All items are made-to-order and can be modified for those with dietary concerns. Grabbagreen also offers a variety of elixirs for your health.

Grabbadetox

Grabbadetox is a great way to cleanse your body of toxins and flood it with vital nutrients. Choose from a 1, 2 or 3-day program that consists of over 20 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Each day will include 6 juice plans and two elixirs that will detoxify the body. The juice is custom-prepared, so be sure to call or order online.

Indulge at Addison Del Mar

Addison Del Mar is San Diego’s only 5-Star, 5-Diamond Restaurant. An evening at Addison is pure decadence, from the menu to the atmosphere, every detail is considered with the guest in mind. Acclaimed Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef William Bradley creates his menu from seasonal local ingredients and is influenced by contemporary French Cuisine. The restaurant is the pinnacle of elegance and has a European charm. Guests are treated like royalty by the waitstaff who are at hand for every part of the experience. Addison’s Contemporary French menu takes simple ingredients and combines them masterfully into varied flavor combinations. The menu is seasonal and changes often.

Four Course Menu

$110/person*

Guests choose three savory and one sweet course options to create their own 4-course menu. For an additional fee tableside cheese service and wine pairings are available.

Chef’s Tasting Menu

$250/person*

The Chef’s Tasting Menu is the best and most indulgent way to experience Addison. The multi-course evening allows the Chef to be creative and take guests on a culinary journey.

*Pricing is subject to change based on the seasonality of ingredients. Reservations for parties of eight or more guests will include a gratuity of 20%.


Drea Colores Drea Colores grew up in Tucson, AZ and now lives in Carlsbad. Writer + Maker + Photographer. IG: dreacolores