Our top things to do in San Diego
After wandering the streets of San Diego during a hectic Comic-Con and the famous 4th July celebration, the Big Bay Boom, we invested time in exploring one of California’s most beautiful cities. San Diego is home to an extensive list of major events including the Winter and Spring Gray Whale Watching and the KAABOO Del Mar Festival. We derived a list of our year-round top things to do in San Diego for others to enjoy.
The Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter is a popular area of downtown San Diego that was formerly known as the ‘New Town’ in contrast to Old Town, which was the original Spanish colonial settlement of San Diego. Despite the name of the district, gas-lamps were not the main source of lighting.
The area gets its name from a symbol that was chosen during the redevelopment and preservation efforts that occurred during the 1980s. Four new gas lamps have been installed to keep the district unique and recognizable.
The Gaslamp Quarter is currently home to a vast amount of bars and restaurants making it a lively area to be in at night. There are many unique and fun bars to choose from and our favorites were Whisky Girl and Moonshine Flats. The Gaslamp Quarter was one of our favorite things to do in San Diego at night.
Dating back to the 1860s, the Gaslamp Quarter is a lively 16 and a half block district of downtown San Diego.
P.B aka Pacific Beach
Pacific Beach is a neighborhood in San Diego that is popular with surfers and students. Locals refer to the area as ‘P.B’, typical to the California abbreviating style.
The beach and the boardwalk have a wide variety of bars, eateries, and quirky stores selling surfing apparel and cool clothes.
Pacific Beach has a hip vibe similar to that of Miami, Florida.
Enjoy activities, whether participating or watching, that include surfing, Frisbee throwing, swimming, sunbathing and skating.
The Pacific Beach boardwalk, which is formally known as Ocean Front Walk/Ocean Boulevard, stretches alongside the beautiful white Californian sands for 3.2 miles. This is where cyclists, rollerbladers, tourists and shoppers hang out. Chilling by one of the many white sand beaches is one of the top things to do in San Diego for visitors of all ages.
Not a lot of visitors to San Diego are aware of the gem that is Little Italy. The small area, with a population of a little over 1000, is a scenic neighborhood lined with Italian restaurants, retail shops, home design stores and art galleries.
The area is marked by a distinctive ‘Little Italy’ sign and the are hosts frequent festivals and events including the weekly ‘Mercato’ – Farmer’s Market every Saturday 8am to 2pm.
Italian chefs flock to Kettner Boulevard, also known as ‘Top Chef Alley’ offering an array of distinctive eateries in the city. India Street offers cuisines from North and South Italy including Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, featuring a traditional Italian dining experience along with a delicatessen and a market.
Little Italy San Diego hosts several fun festivals including the Little Italy Festa every fall and the Mission Federal Art Walk every Spring.
Mona Lisa Italian Foods deli offers an authentic Italian market with a wide selection, native wine and deli sandwiches.
Little Italy is home to boutiques including The Shopaholics Boutique and Melero Boutique & Gallery offering unique clothing and craft items. The Kettner Art & Design District is home to quirky art galleries and shops.
Check out the Little Italy events if you’re in the area.
San Diego Bay is a natural harbor full of interesting history and sites to see. The Bay is 12 miles (19 km) long and 1 to 3 miles (1.6 to 4.8 km) wide.
The curvy San Diego–Coronado Bridge can be seen in the Bay, designed so ships can pass underneath it. In the northern part of the bay there are two commercial islands called Harbor Island and Shelter Island in the Northern part of the Bay.
An annual fireworks display called the Big Bay Boom is held on the Fourth of July over the waters of the Bay.
Check out our Big Bay Boom blog for more information.
Mission Beach has a neighboring boardwalk known formally as Mission Boulevard. The area is popular for sunbathing, surfing, bicycling, skateboarding and Frisbee throwing.
Mission Beach is a two mile area of beautiful white sands between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay.
A local skating club known as ‘Skate This’ puts on a public display for free on the weekends. Spectators are treated to tricks and dancing on both roller-blades and roller-skates.
You can watch surfers practice on a surf simulation wave right on the boardwalk.
Belmont park is an exciting historical oceanfront amusement park featuring vintage games and rides, gift shops and a landmark wooden roller coaster right beside Mission Beach.
Visitors can enjoy an Adrenaline Zone that has a zip line running right along the park.
An enormous rock climbing wall is also located in Adrenaline Zone.
The park’s most iconic attraction is the Giant Dipper roller coaster, which is considered a local landmark to San Diego.
Mission Brewery Tour
If you’re a fan of craft beer and you haven’t tried a brew from the Mission Brewery, then you are missing out.
Mission are responsible for the release of Mission Blonde, Mission Hefeweizen, Mission Amber and Mission IPA as well as their famous ‘Hard Root Beer’ which is 7.5% ABV.
Hour long tours of the Mission Brewery are available for $10 per person and they run over the weekends on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.
Because we love beer, this is one of our favorite things to do in San Diego.
Your $10 will get you 5 tasters, sometimes more as they are poured out of a jug among the tour group.
The brewery tour guide will detail the whole brewing process from smelling the fresh hops to cleaning the tanks post-production.
There is an incredible bar area within the brewery to enjoy before or after the tour as well as a shop selling fresh beer and Mission Brewery memorabilia.
The relaxed ambiance of the Mission Brewery is reflected in it’s informal policies on food. There is no in-house menu or kitchen, bringing your own food is welcomed. There are regular food trucks that visit the site for visitors to enjoy.
The Mission Brewery is located in the historic Wonder Bread building, which was built in 1894. The former commercial bakery now holds a capacity of 10,000 barrels a year and a tasting room for up to 400 people.
Choose from a wide selection of beers and visit with dogs and children who are always welcome at Mission Brewery.
Click here for more information on the Mission Brewery Tours.
Seaport Village is at the heart of the Bay of San Diego. The village is a wonderful waterside complex with lots of shops, restaurants, grassy areas and water fountains.
Seaport village has a garden like feel and visitors slowly pace through to admire the view of the Bay. Seaport Village is also home to the Busker Festival where buskers line up to entertain crowds for free (tips are encouraged).
Petco Park is a baseball stadium located in the heart of downtown San Diego. The park is home to the Major League Baseball (MLB) San Diego Padres. The park is also used as venue for concerts, soccer, golf, and rugby.
Check out the Petco Park events calendar to see what is on while you’re in town.
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