Places to Stay and See in San Diego
San Diego has a great community, and throughout the entire year there are tons of spectacular events. Over 160 events are held every year, and it can be great fun for the entire family. There are all kinds of free concerts in the park and many free events that are fun for all ages. Check out these favorite places and activities in and around San Diego.
San Diego Beaches
Head over to one of San Diego’s many beaches. They are all free to the public, to swim, sail, hang ten or just hang out. The kids can play in the sand while you collect seashells. Or just bask languidly in the sun. Be sure to bring paper or plastic bags, for trash, shell collections, putting wet clothes into, etc. Plan ahead.
La Jolla Cove
Visit La Jolla Cove for gorgeous sunsets over the beautiful ocean. The Cove is among the most magnificent natural settings you’ll ever see anywhere. If you move right up to the waves with your camera, you can get a shot of just the water and the incredible multicolored horizon that makes you feel you’re right in the middle of a documentary special.
Visit the downtown Seaport Village. You can spend hours being entertained for free, casually strolling, people-watching, and shopping if you like. Enjoy a kickback day of lounging in the grass and watching the many passing yachts and huge ships on picturesque San Diego Bay. Or you cans take in the sights from one of the many eateries that have views of the water.
Stroll through the 16½ blocks of historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. Here you will get a taste of history and view the renovated turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture, home to boutiques, art galleries, specialty shops and more. The better deals for eats are around the perimeter, where the locals are more apt to congregate. Just look for the Chargers and UCSD shirts.
Fly a kite along the grassy field in the Tecolote Shores of Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic park that is absolutely amazing. You will be safely away from tall trees and overhead wires as you launch your kites into the gusty bay breezes.There are free organ concerts on Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion (Balboa Park). The Organ Pavilion is home to one of world’s biggest pipe organs, a famous San Diego landmark for almost a century. You won’t hear any Top 40 songs, though, mostly show tunes and waltzes, but those gigantic 32-foot pipes can shake, rattle and roll you, for sure.
Old Town San Diego
Take the road less traveled in Old Town and experience the living legacy of San Diego history. Visitors are invited to wander free through Old Town’s historic buildings that include the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego, Steely Stables, Stewart House, Estudillo House and the blacksmith shop. You’ll want to watch your step, though, since most of them pre-date modern building codes.
Mission Bay Park
Jog or bike along Mission Bay Park’s many trails. Walkers and joggers share more than 20 miles of picturesque running paths that twist through sunlight and shade near the shoreline and feature workout courses at planned stations along the way. Insider tip: You will find fewer people there during weekday work hours.
Take the time to visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista for a free tour of the 150-acre facility. Tours include viewings of training fields and tracks, athletes’ dorms and the Otay Lake Reservoir. Tours are offered daily from the Copley Visitor Center between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m-3 p.m. on Sunday.
Are you a stargazer? Well you’re in luck. Outside the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park on the first Wednesday of every month you can get a glimpse of the universe like you’ve never seen. The San Diego Astronomy Association sets up huge telescopes to offer guests a great view of all the stars in the San Diego night sky. The college kids who help out are especially excited to share what they know.
Hop in the car and take a picturesque one-hour drive to Mt. Laguna. Once there, head out for a rejuvenating hike and take in some of the fresh mountain breezes whooshing through the pines. A little piece of heaven!
You’ll hop into a time machine when you visit Julian, a century-old gold mining town in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Pick up a free map at the Chamber of Commerce for a self-guided walking tour of the area’s historic sites and later enjoy a slice of homemade apple pie, a Julian specialty!
Torrey Pines State Park
Load up your picnic basket and head to Torrey Pines State Park where you will see some daring hang-gliders get all acrobatic in the strong winds that sweep along the coastline cliffs. It’s a real thrill just to watch!
Head over the border into Tijuana. Entrance is free, most of the people are friendly and there are always great deals on handmade gifts and apparel as well as great shopping in stalls and stores where you can pick up some unique souvenirs to take home. There is no need to go overboard about safety, but it is best to stay on the main drags, and always stay in large groups. Be sure to stay alert, and drink only bottled liquids.
Mission Beach Boardwalk
Skateboard, rollerblade or bicycle down the Mission Beach Boardwalk. This is a scenic three-mile boardwalk that sprawls along picturesque Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
Mission Trails Regional Park
Visit Mission Trails Regional Park to explore the cultural, historical and recreational aspects of San Diego. Stop at the Visitor’s Center and learn about the wonders of nature and the people that first settled here on the land. Or make an adventure out of it and stroll through the park’s 40 miles of natural and developed biking and hiking trails. Be sure to stay on the marked trails now!
Scuba dive or snorkel off San Diego’s shores and marvel at all the spectacular sea creatures. La Jolla Cove offers some of the most crystal clear waters on the California coast, as well as miles of protected underwater preserves to explore.
Take in some bird watching at Torrey Pines State Reserve. Located high above Torrey Pines State Beach, the area is home of the rare and ancient Torrey Pine as well as a protected habitat for thrashers, swifts and woodpeckers. Remember your camera or you’ll be kicking yoursef!
Venture through Balboa Park and gaze in wonder at its beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. While there, take advantage of the park’s many opportunities, which include 15 museums (some museums are free on Tuesdays), free daily park tours, public organ concerts (Sundays) and spectacular gardens (seven are free daily).
Visit the many other museums around town. Many are free on certain days, as well. In its La Jolla facility, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is free on the third Tuesday of each month; the downtown facility is free daily.
Gather family, friends and firewood for a quaint and cozy beach bonfire at one of the county beaches. These include La Jolla Shores, Mission Beach and Coronado Beach.
Head over to Point Loma, where you can explore the tide pools at low tide and get up close and personal with shore crabs, elusive octopus, flowery anemones, deadman’s fingers and several other interesting sea creatures. Insider tip: Parents, if you have a child who is a budding oceanologist or zoologist, this may be the most exciting thing of all for them.
Cruise to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla for a super 360-degree view of the city, plus Mission Bay and the La Jolla coastline. You will also find spectacular views of San Diego’s East County communities at the top of Mt. Helix.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Explore the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to experience the natural beauty of the desert. The 600,000-acre park is one of the largest state parks in the United States and each spring from March to June it explodes into a rainbow of colorful wildflower blossoms.
The Big Bay
Take a scenic walk along The Big Bay, San Diego's "largest attraction." Here you will find almost 30 miles of waterfront featuring marinas, bayside parks, all kinds of shops and restaurants, and plenty of promenades and bike routes. The Big Bay is a hit for all ages and interests. Insider tip: Set a time limit for yourself, or you may not get anywhere else the whole day. Some people spend their entire vacation in this one stretch, and don’t forget that about 10 cruise ship lines serve San Diego and deposit boatloads of tourists when they pull into port. Some smart vacationers check the cruise line schedules and head to Big Bay when it’s least crowded.