San Diego is nicknamed America’s Finest City for a reason. Every year millions of people flock to San Diego to enjoy the beautiful coastline with the best weather in the world. The mild climate has resulted in a strong outdoor culture that provides a variety of activities for every type of visitor.
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What’s the best time to visit San Diego?
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San Diego’s average year-round temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so you really can’t go wrong. The temperature does get warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, but it is never too drastic on either side. September is an ideal time to visit as the crowds have died down with the kids back in school and the beach weather is prime. There are many outdoor festivals and events held in September along with San Diego Restaurant Week. The Del Mar Horse Racing Season is also during this month and hosts free concerts if you enter before the last race.
What’s good to know about San Diego?
San Diego really has something for everyone. Each neighborhood exudes its own vibe and lifestyle creating many unique little villages within the city. Check out the hipster scene at a craft brewery in North Park, enjoy pasta and wine in Little Italy, or indulge in fine dining in La Jolla Village.
One Day in San Diego Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in San Diego.
Start the day with a beachfront brunch & Old World Charm
The Hotel Del Coronado became the first seaside resort on the West Coast in 1888. “The Del”, as the locals call it, is an iconic California landmark. A lavish beachfront brunch is a perfect start to your active day in San Diego.
After brunch, explore the grounds then grab a taxi to the Coronado Ferry Landing. Peruse the shops before catching the ferry across the Coronado Bay to downtown San Diego. Grab your camera for souvenir pictures of the Coronado Bridge and San Diego’s beautiful downtown skyline.
Take a stroll and enjoy the scenery
From here take a stroll through the famous Balboa Park and hit a few museums.
The San Diego Zoo is right next to the park and has been rated the best in the world. If you’d rather enjoy the waterfront scenery, walk along the San Diego Harbor and visit one of the many attractions there including the Star of India, USS Midway or Seaport Village.
Pick an outdoor activity for fun in the sun
Join the locals and keep it active with San Diego’s variety of outdoor activities. Pick your favorite and then hit the nearest beach after. For instance, you could surf some waves or kayak through the caves at La Jolla Shores Beach.
If you’d like to try paddle boarding, Mission Bay is a great option. Bikes are an easy way to get around the Pacific Beach area. They can be easily rented from the shops or even on the boardwalk from a DecoBike kiosk with a credit card.
Go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean
San Diego has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Your day wouldn’t be complete without seeing one. If you have time, go for a swim or at least take a walk on the sand and breathe in some ocean air.
Enjoy a drink while taking in an epic sunset
If you’d like to enjoy the beach a little longer, have a seat at one of the many beachfront restaurants. If you’re ready to start your night then head downtown and check out one of the many rooftop terraces. Mr. A’s is known for one of the best panoramic views in the city and is perfect for a sunset toast. You’ll need to dress the part, as it’s a little fancy, but totally worth it for the view. Top of the Hyatt is also a great place to sip a martini in style as you take in the views from this waterfront hotel bar and lounge.
Head to the Gaslamp District for dinner and nightlife
The Gaslamp District is in downtown San Diego and offers quite a variety of cuisine to choose from. Take a stroll down 5th Avenue to discover the many restaurant options while taking in the downtown energy. Café Sevilla is a great option for tapas with live music and dancing. The Gaslamp has many bars, clubs and lounges to explore after dinner. Note: Alcohol is not served past 2:00 am, so many places will start to close around 1:30 am.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO?
Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
3999 Mission Boulevard, Mission Bay
There are plenty of great accommodations to choose from in San Diego. Get the full San Diego experience when you wake up right on the bay and walk to the beach during your stay at The Catamaran Resort & Spa. It’s a beautiful resort that doesn’t break the bank and its beach location is very central.
Lucky D’s Hostel
615 8th Avenue, San Diego – Centar
If you’re traveling alone and on a budget, Lucky D’s Hostel is a great choice. It’s located downtown close to the airport and is also in the heart of San Diego’s nightlife. You can easily walk to all the best restaurants, clubs and pubs from here.
DAY TRIPS FROM SAN DIEGO
There are plenty of reasons to make a day trip from San Diego. Wherever you go, there are plenty of beautiful places that can help you relax and recharge your batteries. Don’t believe it? Here are just a few proofs which show that this really is an incredible area.
First of all, why not visit Mexico while you’re here? Tijuana is just half an hour’s drive away! Many people do that because they only have shopping on their mind (you will find some great prices here), but the food is excellent and there is plenty of cultures to see and experience. The two places are so close, yet a world apart and it really pays to see that.
Never been to Los Angeles? Well, this is your chance! You are only two hours away from this incredible metropolis, so a day trip from San Diego in that direction seems like an excellent choice. Experience the glamour this seat of the entertainment industry has to offer, walk the Santa Monica pier, enjoy a day on Venice Beach or simply go and visit Hollywood. The opportunities are endless.
Back to Mexico for this one. Baja California is just south of Tijuana and contains many gems that simply beg to be explored. The picturesque town of Ensenada is one such place, but you can also head to the Rosarito Beach or maybe Puerto Nuevo. No matter where you go, though, the locals will welcome you warmly, plus Puerto Nuevo has some fantastic fish restaurants.
If you’re looking for a place dedicated solely to tourism, Palm Springs is definitely for you. This resort town has absolutely everything you need to relax: golf courses, spas, a great zoo and so on. Its easy-going lifestyle makes it ideal for a family with children, so if you want something both adults and kid will like you are bound to find it in this attractive little city.
Home to Legoland California Resort which features not one, not two, but three theme parks, Carlsbad is a great place to spend a day. Not only that, but it has loads of beautiful sandy beaches and incredible flower fields, so you really can’t go wrong with this one. Apart from surfing, swimming and playing, you can also enjoy the town’s vibrant cultural and culinary scene. Everything you need for a great day trip is right here, less than an hour away from San Diego.
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING SAN DIEGO
– When you’re planning your trip here, you may want to consider getting yourself travel insurance. We’re not saying that because this place is not safe (quite the contrary), but many people like to have peace of mind knowing that they will be able to get help no matter what happens. World Nomads understand that feeling perfectly because they are a group of travelers themselves, so you can expect some excellent deals from them and a whole lot of other perks and useful advice. Simply head to their website, type in where you’re heading and they will find the best offer for you. Easy as one, two, three!
– Public transport is not widely used in San Diego. The best option for getting around is to either rent a car or request a driver through apps such as Uber or Lyft.
– Tipping is customary and is not usually included in the bill when dining out. A 20% tip is appreciated for great service.
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If you have any other propositions for this One Day in San Diego Itinerary feel free to share it in the comments below!
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Kamelia Britton is a lifestyle & travel blogger who lives in San Diego, California with her cute little dog, Rascal. She has successfully learned how to hack the system and travel the world on a very small budget, all while keeping a full time job as a nurse. She has visited 20+ countries and is inspiring others to do the same by showing them how it's possible. You can subscribe to her blog at http://www.Hackerette.com for tips & tricks on travel hacking.
This sounds like an awesome day in San Diego. When we visited in January we loved exploring Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.
Having grown up in San Diego, I think I would add a couple more places to the list… the Wild Animal park in North county is a day in its self…so worth seeing. It’s an easy drive to Julian, up in the mountains. It’s a fun little town, known for It’s apple pies, cute shops and country-style wineries. Get up early and watch the sun rise at Torrey Pines beach. Or grab some Chinese food to-go and watch the sunset at Coronado beach. Old Town San Diego is always a favorite way to spend the day…It’s a little SD history, fun shops and the best Mexican food!
Thanks for the extra tips! 🙂
We are from rural Oklahoma and are planning on visiting San Diego in June. What is the best way to get around San Diego to see the bay and the beaches? Also, any suggestions where to stay? We want to go to the zoo and enjoy the beaches.
Hi Carrie, we’re happy for you! 🙂 Definitely check out our suggestions on where to stay, we’ve listed some really good places in the article. If you have time, you can use public transportation to get around, depending on the distance.