San Diego, also known as America’s Finest City, is a popular vacation destination year round with beautiful weather, miles of coastline, huge attractions and countless things to do. Its natural beauty and vast topography can keep even the pickiest of travelers entertained with fun outdoor activities, relaxing beachfront strolls and exciting nightlife. No matter where you’re from or what time of year it is, there is always something fun to do in San Diego.
As a San Diego native, I’ve grown up exploring the ins and outs of this city and all it has to offer. I’ve spent countless hours at the Zoo, Safari Park and SeaWorld. I’ve left a full day at the beach looking like a lobster more than once and I’ve embarrassed myself on the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter making it easy for me to break down good, bad and the ugly of things to do in San Diego.
So, here it is – my list of the top 5 things to do in San Diego from a local who’s done it all!
Go to the San Diego Zoo
It’s called the World Famous San Diego Zoo for a reason. For all you San Diego visitors, a day at the San Diego Zoo is an absolute must! It’s perfect for all ages with strollers, wheelchairs and a tram making it easy to get around and explore. Guests can spend the day with lions, tigers, and bears – oh my! Or head over to the new elephant exhibit and hang out with Asian elephants and rhinos. Beware – A rhinoceros urinates backwards and it can shoot up to 6ft, so watch out if one starts backing up to you!.
Book a Dinner Dance Cruise on the San Diego Bay
There is no better view of San Diego than from aboard a boat on the San Diego Bay. A few different companies offer dinner cruises, but my favorite is Hornblower Cruises and Events. The elegant Hornblower yachts take visitors out for a three hour cruise along the San Diego Bay where you can see the sparkling lights of downtown reflecting in the water below. Hornblower serves a decadent three course meal, offers champagne or sparkling cider and has a live DJ for hours of dancing during this nightly event. It’s an easy way to make a special occasion that much more memorable and it’s a great a chance to see San Diego in the best way possible – from the water.
Bare it all at Black’s Beach
As San Diego’s only nude beach, Black’s isn’t for the faint of heart. The hike to this secluded beach can be tough and you never know what or who you will find when you get there, but it’s worth the trip. Whether you decide to hike down from Torrey Pines State Reserve or walk up from La Jolla Shores (only accessible during low-tide), the trek will be beautiful.
Black’s Beach is protected by towering sea-bluffs that keep it secluded. It’s like enjoying your own private beach, besides the random naked person skipping in the surf. So let it all hang out on your next trip to San Diego and bare it all at Black’s Beach!
Learn How to Surf
San Diego is known for surfing and supporting the “surf-bum” lifestyle. Everywhere you look people are dressed like they just came from the beach, and maybe they did. You can’t go into a lounge or restaurant without seeing someone in jeans or board shorts and flip flops, sand in their hair and a healthy tan. So, why not get in on all the fun and take a surf lesson on your San Diego vacation? Lots of local surf shops offer board rentals and have qualified instructors to help ease the process. Join the cool crowd, work on your hang ten and pick up the new hobby of surfing in San Diego.
Dance the Night Away in the Gaslamp Quarter
Sure San Diego is known for beautiful coastal views and amazing scenery, but it also has a fun downtown social scene in the ever popular Gaslamp Quarter. Comprised of 16 blocks of shops, restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs and music venues, the Gaslamp Quarter is the “place to be” for young adults in San Diego. Every night the streets of downtown are packed with trendy club goers and music lovers looking to have a fun night out in San Diego. The historic buildings of this area have been updated to fit into the modern bar scene creating an interesting and vibrant environment for getting out and mingling with the locals.
This article was written by Carli Leavitt, the editor of SanDiego.com. Leavitt is a San Diego native with a passion for her city and a wealth of knowledge about local attractions, hotels, beaches and nightlife venues in southern California.