San Diego is a major city in Southern California and the state’s second largest. It sits just 20km away from the Mexican border city of Tijuana. San Diego has long been known by its nickname of ‘America’s Finest City.’ It’s also known as Silicon Beach for the large numbers of tech startups in its boundaries. The city was founded in 1769 and has a population of 1.4 million people.
It’s difficult to know where to start with things to do in San Diego as there’s so much to choose from. The city has a great mix of historic, cultural and modern attractions for visitors and locals. Let us take you on a guided tour of some San Diego points of interest to check out on your visit!
USS Midway Museum
This museum is based in downtown San Diego at Navy Pier. The star of the show is, obviously, the Midway aircraft carrier. The Midway was the longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century in the United States. It was also the only one operational throughout the period of the Cold War. The USS Midway Museum has been open since 2004 and is the most popular warship museum in the US.
A ticket to will get you on board where you can explore the engine room, the bridge, the post office, the Galley, and the sleeping quarters. It gives a really great idea of what it must have been like to live on board the vessel on the high seas and is a really fun thing to do in San Diego with kids.
Tickets required, available online or at the ticket booth, $9 to $22
Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego was created in 1769 and was the first settlement in the state of California. It has 36 historic sites and museums, 100 stores, 32 restaurants, and 10 hotels. The houses and sites are all steeped in history, and each plays such an important part in highlighting California’s roots.
The area is the city’s historic heart and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in San Diego. It will be of particular interest to history buffs. One of the highlights of Old Town San Diego is the range of different restaurants on offer. There’s something here to suit everybody’s palate. If you’re a fan of Mexican food then Old Town San Diego is not to be missed.
San Diego Zoo
There aren’t many visitors to San Diego who aren’t already aware of the world famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It is consistently voted the top zoo in the world. It is THE premier thing to do in San Diego with kids. The zoo currently has a focus on the endangered Red Panda, and they might just be the cutest things you’ll ever see. San Diego Zoo is also home to bonobos, which are thought to be the most intelligent primates on Earth. The big cats are always popular, as is the range of colorful tropical Birds.
If you prefer your animals scaly, the zoo is home to a green anaconda – the heaviest snake in the world. If you’re more a fan of fluff, there’s some adorable White Arctic Foxes to see. They’re probably a lot cuter from a distance that they are up close, mind you.
Tickets required, Available as day passes, $46 to $56
Point Loma Lighthouse
At the southern tip of the Pont Loma peninsula sits the historic Point Loma Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is no longer operational, but it’s now open to the public as a museum. The lighthouse was built in 1855 and is located within the Cabrillo National Monument. The Lighthouse structure is the only one remaining on the west coast of America. The tower sits at a height of 21 m and the light from the top is still operational today. It’s one of the most historic sites in the city, and it’s a great San Diego point of interest to see during your time here.
Tickets required (for Cabrillo National Monument), Last for 7 days, 10 to $20
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute
A visit to the Birch Aquarium is one of the great things to do in San Diego with kids. You can see more than 5,000 fish in 60 aquariums. There’s a ton of interactive activities to keep the kids happy. The cutting-edge research from Scripps Institution of Oceanography always keeps the adults engaged, too.
Some of the most popular activities on offer at the aquarium include watching the live animal displays. However, the biggest draw for visitors is watching staff feeding the sharks and giant black sea bass. Wanna know how much they eat? You’ll have to go to find out! Luckily for you, you get to watch it all from behind the safety of some very thick glass. Gonna need a bigger aquarium…
Tickets required, available online or from the ticket booth, $16.50 to $19.50
Legoland San Diego
What better thing to do in San Diego with kids than take them to the amazing world of Legoland? There’s never a chance to be bored here, with the Sea Life Aquarium, Deep Sea Adventure and Water Park to explore. If the little ones aren’t too tired after all that, they can expend more energy on dozens of rides in the park.
Adults can enjoy the Block of Fame, where there are busts of historical figures made from Lego. It’s always fun trying to work out who they all are. Alternatively, adults can just chill out for the day and let the kids run around. There’s lots of shopping in the park stores and there’s a great selection of dining experiences to enjoy. The burgers, pizzas, BBQ, and ramen should provide something for everyone. The Creperie, sweet store and apple fries will appeal to those with a sweet tooth. There’s no chance of going hungry here.
Tickets required, available online or walk up, starting at $89.99
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is dearly loved by San Diego locals. You might not think it looks like much at first, but the 375m bridge is a hidden gem. Walking across the bridge allows you fantastic views of Sessions Canyon, which lies 70 feet beneath the soles of your shoes. The bridge was originally engineered in 1912 to provide a path across the canyon. These days, there are numerous ways to get to the other side, but the bridge has always remained in place. It’s a real San Diego point of interest that captures the hearts of all who cross it. Ask a native about iconic things to do in San Diego and they’re bound to bring it up.
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About San Diego
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about what to do in San Diego. The questions cover a range of topics and will help you research and plan your next trip to the city.
What is San Diego known for?
There are many famous San Diego beaches, with Coronado and La Jolla two of the most popular. San Diego is also known for its mild year-round climate. It is well known as a center for Biotechnology, largely due to the work carried out at the University of San Diego, California and the UCSD Medical Center.
Is it expensive to live in San Diego?
In a word, yes! In relation to the rest of the United States, San Diego is 44% more expensive to live in than the national average. Housing, utilities and groceries are also higher than the national average for the United States. BUT, there are so many fun things to do in San Diego that people rarely regret staying.
What are fun things to do in San Diego?
Fun things to do in San Diego are plentiful! Head out to Balboa Park for some cultural fun in its 1,200 acres. It is home to some of the city’s most popular attractions, including San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Natural History Museum. If you love differing styles of architecture then you won’t want to miss the Japanese Gardens and the Spanish Village.
If you like being adventurous, head to SeaWorld San Diego, or Belmont Park Theme Park. These are excellent things to do in San Diego with kids…if they don’t mind getting wet.
San Diego is a laid-back city with very welcoming people. There are a lot of things to do in San Diego for all ages, interests and cultures. San Diego’s beaches are a draw for visitors and residents alike and the climate is generally perfect all year round. San Diego has a full range of hotels, motels and apartments to stay in and the city is served by San Diego International Airport (formerly known as Lindberg Field). It’s only 3 miles from downtown, so it’s a hassle-free trip there and back! California’s second largest isn’t called ‘America’s Finest City’ for nothing and it’s a firm favorite with visitors and residents alike. The only problem with things to do in San Diego is finding the time to enjoy them all.