Top 26 San Diego Attractions & Things To Do You Just Cannot Miss

Last Updated on March 29, 2024 by Nikki Jain

If your travel goal this year is to visit a city with beautiful views and even better weather, San Diego has you covered. There is something for everyone when it comes to San Diego attractions. It is especially a great destination if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are many beaches and nature reserves. This makes San Diego perfect for hiking, biking, or even hang-gliding (a very popular San Diego activity).

You will find yourself walking through historical neighborhoods, visiting museums, or hiking on the beautiful bluffs of the San Diego Coast. Not to mention, they have some of the best Mexican food in the United States. The city is close to Mexico, after all. You will find yourself enjoying all the city has to offer when you reference this list of the top tourist attractions in San Diego, “America’s Finest City”.

Things To Do in San Diego

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1: San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo
Dreamstime/Arne Beruldsen

The San Diego Zoo is one of the most visited attractions in America. This is why it is high on our list of things to do in San Diego.

The zoo is famous for its open-air cages that allow the animals to live in environments most like those they are meant to dwell in.

It is home to many endangered species. It is where research and conservation thrive. You can see pandas, hippos, and Tasmanian devils here. They have shows, a 4D theater, and even an aerial tram.

There are also self-guided botanical tours to experience if you want to learn more about interesting and endangered plants. The zoo is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM, so there's plenty of time to explore at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.

Book San Diego Zoo Ticket

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

2: The Botanical Building and the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden (Balboa Park)

The Botanical Building and the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden (Balboa Park)

These San Diego attractions are within walking distance of each other in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park itself is home to many attractions. These two locations are for plant lovers and people of all kinds.

The architecture of the Botanical Building is stunning. It is one of the largest lath structures in the world. The lily pond here is a fantastic addition to this spectacular attraction.

See tropical plants, seasonal flower displays, orchids, and more.

Head over to the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden for a stroll through their collection of over 1600 roses with 130 varieties. They are in bloom from March through December.

Book Balboa Park Walking Tour

Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

3: SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego

One of the family-friendly things to do in San Diego is visiting SeaWorld. Nothing beats the exciting marine attractions found at SeaWorld Park.

If you dream of seeing Killer Whales, Sea Turtles, Bottlenose Dolphins, Penguins, Sharks and other sea creatures that you only read in books, it's time to visit SeaWorld San Diego and learn more about these animals.

It not only offers interaction programs but also gives out animal care and rescue seminars to help spread awareness on how to preserve marine life.

Book SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Ticket

Address: 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

Also Read: 15 Most Beautiful Cities in California

4: USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum

This is one of the most popular things to see in San Diego. The USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century.

It was named for the Battle of Midway but was not used in World War II. It was notably used during the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.

You can tour all parts of the ship, including the flight deck and below deck exhibits!

They also have fun activities like flight simulators and island tours. They have themed weeks, movie nights, and a Fourth of July celebration every year.

Book USS Midway Museum Ticket

Address: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

5: Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp is one of the most bustling parts of the city when it comes to nightlife.

Live music can be heard everywhere. It is full of bars and rare restaurant experiences, like the Pushkin Russian Restaurant. Or, try rooftop bar options like the Altitude Sky Lounge.

You can enjoy comedy, music, and drama at the Spreckels and Balboa theaters. There are many great boutiques for shopping as well.

Additionally, Petco Park is in this area. It is home to the baseball team, the San Diego Padres. The Gaslamp Quarter is lively, active, and one of the best places in San Diego to experience the nightlife scene.

Book Gaslamp Quarter Tour

Address: Fourth Ave & Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101

6: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Dreamstime/Ken Wolter

Old Town San Diego is a historic district in the city. There are numerous historic buildings located in this area, dating back to the early 1800s.

It was the first European settlement in California. One notable building is Whaley House which Travel Channel named as the most haunted house in America.

You can immerse yourself in history while touring the buildings or taking a horse-drawn buggy ride.

There are many great places to stay in Old Town along with excellent restaurants. Finally, there are many festivals and art displays to enjoy throughout the year.

Address: 4002 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110

7: La Jolla Cove and Seal Rock

La Jolla Cove and Seal Rock
Flickr/alyssa BLACK.

The hilly seaside of La Jolla is a charm, especially for seaside buffs. It is surrounded by oceans, sea-level caves and beaches, which makes it one of the pricey possessions of the city.

La Jolla's coast is not only for tanning and enjoying a cocktail but for some blue whales that are spotted in the area from time to time, too.

La Jolla Cove is part of a marine reserve that has abundant wildlife and kelp forests. This is one of the greatest San Diego attractions for those that enjoy scuba-diving and snorkeling.

Take the 10-minute walk over to Seal Rock to view hundreds of seals sunbathing and playing along the shoreline. There is also the Children's Pool Beach, where one can view seals, birds, and other sea life.

Book La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour

Address: 1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

8: Legoland


While Legoland is not technically in San Diego, it is less than an hour away. It is one of the most popular family-friendly places to visit in San Diego.

Grab the family to play in the amusement park, water park, and Sea Life Aquarium.

There are accommodations available within the park offering vacation packages. These packages are complete with Legos to play within each room.

If you ever think that only kids can enjoy playing with Legos, you will absolutely change your mind once you visit this amusement park.

Here, you can ride real Lego cars and boats or visit huge Lego houses and castles. They have amazing replicas built out of Legos, including one of New York City. This replica was made with over 2 million Legos.

It is one of the must-visit destinations in the San Diego area if you have kids.

Whether you are traveling as a couple or bringing your kids with you, LegoLand is a place that you shouldn't miss on your San Diego travel bucket list.

Recommended: Admission to Legoland is included in an all-inclusive city pass. Check reviews & prices >>.

Address: 1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

9: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is another excellent addition to your list of things to do in San Diego.

This aptly named park is the best place to watch the sunset around. Plus, there are arches, caves, and incredible coastal bluffs to hike around and view.

Grey whales can often be seen migrating down the coast. The elevation in this location makes whale-watching sublime.

There are three main branches of this park, Osprey, Luscomb's Point, and Ladera Street. Any of these entry-ways are perfect for sunset viewing.

Address: Ladera St, San Diego, California 92107

10: Coronado Island

Coronado Island

Coronado is a small island located in the northwest section of San Diego Bay. It is an integral part of San Diego and imperative to your visit to the city.

To get there, you can drive across the Silver Strand Peninsula or the Coronado Bay Bridge. It is also accessible by water taxi or ferry.

There are beaches and parks to explore. It also makes a great vacation spot in San Diego with many hotels and delicious restaurants. It is a very pet-friendly area of San Diego, as well.

It is one of the most quintessential San Diego destinations.

Book Coronado Island Walking Tour

Address: 1100 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118

11: North Park

North Park
Flickr/Allan Ferguson

The North Park neighborhood of San Diego is not-to-be-missed.

Often described as a "hipster" neighborhood, you will find this location to be full of street art, coffee shops, micro-brews, and lovely brunch spots.

Central to this neighborhood is the Observatory North Park. This is a theater from 1929 that hosts live music acts from around the world.

There is also a weekly Thursday market where you can see live music as well as attend a bluegrass brunch at Urban Solace.

This is one of the best places in San Diego if you are looking for lively nightlife.

12: Hang-gliding and Paragliding Tours

Hang-gliding and Paragliding Tours
Flickr/Chad McDonald

One of the most popular outdoor activities in San Diego is hang-gliding or paragliding. You will see many people suspended in the sky when exploring the city, especially on the bluffs of La Jolla.

These are some of the most incredible things to see in San Diego.

There are many opportunities to attend flight school and learn this skill. There are also tandem adventures available.

The most popular option is at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Come here for an experience that is sure to get the heart pumping.

It will lend itself to incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline of Mexico and California.

It is a unique and special opportunity to experience gliding through the air. This is why it has to be one of our top picks for things to do in San Diego.

13: Seaport Village

Seaport Village

In keeping with San Diego's rich marine influences, Seaport Village is a harborside area filled with shops, galleries, and restaurants.

They take their love of the ocean seriously as they have multiple programs to promote sustainability and eco-consciousness.

They have a carousel and a trolley to ride on, too. Or, head to Oslo Sardine Bar for an interactive art experience.

Enjoy an upscale meal with a view or grab some Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Enjoy strolling around the many San Diego attractions that can be found here.

Address: 849 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Looking to visit other amazing places in California? Check out our lists of things to do in Sacramento & things to do in Los Angeles!

14: Belmont Park

Belmont Park

This is one of the most fabulous family-friendly tourist attractions in San Diego. Plus, it has a lot of history.

It provides an opportunity for amusements, games, and food at a historical, classic American boardwalk.

There are two attractions from the original park, the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and the plunge pool.

The Giant Dipper is an old-school wooden Roller Coaster, sure to bring the thrills. The plunge pool is still open and has been renovated, with some of the original features kept intact.

It was one of the world's first saltwater pools. Come to Belmont Park for rides, shopping, delicious eats, and fun of all sizes.

Book Unlimited Ride Pass at Belmont Park

Address: 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, California 92109

15: Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach

There are numerous beaches in San Diego, but this one is one of the most famous and highly-rated vacation spots in San Diego.

The Crystal Pier Hotel and Cottages is a popular place for luxury accommodations with excellent views.

You can rent a bike and enjoy a ride along the 3.2-mile long scenic boardwalk. You can also learn to surf at one of the many surf shops in this area.

You can also find some great seafood at one of the many restaurants along the boardwalk. Seafood in San Diego is a must on your list of places to go in San Diego!

Address: Grand Avenue, San Diego, CA

16: Liberty Public Market

Liberty Public Market
Flickr/Nick Amoscato

Liberty Public Market is a relatively new marketplace in San Diego. It was built in 2016 and is located in an old Navy building.

This is one of the best food attractions in San Diego. There are incredible options to satisfy any craving.

You will find artisan food, craft beer, and jewelry here. Awaken your senses in the sights, sounds, and tastes at the Liberty Public Market.

Address: 2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, California 92106

17: Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument
Flickr/Neil Silverthorn

This park is a part of the National Parks System (NPS) of America. The NPS manages wildlands and historical landmarks.

You can visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse or the Juan Cabrillo statue.

Head to the tide pools for an exquisite marine-life experience. Observe anemones, chiton, urchins, starfish, sea plants, or any number of other sea life.

The best time to visit the tidepools is during low tide. You also may need a permit to visit the tide pools.

Check on the park's website for information on restrictions and permits required for this beloved San Diego attraction.

Book Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

18: Mexican Food

Mexican Food

One of the best things about the places to visit in San Diego is the option to head to a myriad of Mexican restaurants.

San Diego is less than an hour away from Tijuana, Mexico. You can even take public transit to the border and walk into Mexico for a day trip. Just remember, it can take a few hours to get back into the US.

Immerse yourself in this excellent cultural food experience when you visit San Diego tourist attractions, as the options are endless.

Our top pick is La Guerrerense for their Tostadas de Mariscos (seafood tostadas).

Anthony Bourdain chose this restaurant for its high-quality seafood (a must in San Diego) and delicious street-food style.

We also recommend burritos from Lolitas, fish tacos at Cafe Coyote, or the el pastor tacos at Tacos El Gordo.

Book Mexican Food Walking Tour

19: Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Flickr/Allan Ferguson

This is the first establishment of the 21 missions along the California Mission Trail on El Camino Real.

El Camino Real (the King's Highway) was the original road connecting these missions. They are beautiful displays of Spanish architecture.

The Mission San Diego was originally founded in 1769. It has been rebuilt many times since. It is still an active religious institution where you can attend church and community programs.

Additionally, this is a great location for learning history. They have a museum and artworks in the church dating back to the 15th century. They have a beautiful garden to enjoy for meditation as well.

Address: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd, San Diego, CA 92108

San Diego is one of the best golf destinations in the world. The gorgeous weather and stunning views make this city ripe for world-class golfing.

The most popular and iconic golf course to visit would be the Torrey Pines Golf Course. It has been host to the US Open.

They also host the PGA Farmers Insurance Open in January. In addition to Torrey Pines, there are other great golf courses to explore on your trip to San Diego.

Check out the Aviara, La Costa, and Madera courses which also boast impressive resumes for hosting professional tournaments.

These are some of the most beautiful sights to see in San Diego.

Also Read: Best Golf Courses in The US

21: Museum of US (Balboa Park)

Museum of US (Balboa Park)

The mission of this museum states, "Inspiring human connections by exploring the human experience." That is precisely what you'll find in this museum when you visit San Diego.

There are exhibits on human history and sociology, including Ancient Egypt, BEERology, the Kumeyaay tribe, and race in America.

You can also tour the California Tower, where you can learn about the history of Balboa Park and catch 360 views of the city.

Visit this museum to learn about yourself, humanity, and what we can do to be more culturally conscious.

Address: 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

22: UCSD Stuart Art Collection

UCSD Stuart Art Collection
Flickr/Sam Beebe

The University of California's San Diego campus has an incredibly exciting art collection.

The art is mostly in sculpture form and can be found around the outdoor areas of the campus. There are some art displays within the buildings as well.

The entire campus is a part of the collection.

Some notable works to check out would be "Sun God" by Niki de Saint Phalle or "Bear" by Tim Hawkinson. "Fallen Star" (by Do Ho Suh) is especially entertaining, featuring a small house suspended crookedly on the top of a campus building.

Address: 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093

23: San Diego Central Library

San Diego Central Library

It is not always common that a library is on the list, but this is one of the most cultural San Diego attractions. It had to make it into this list.

The library was rebuilt in downtown San Diego in 2013. It is a modern building with an incredible metal lattice dome. The beautiful architecture of the building has won many awards.

In addition to the impressive architecture, this library is home to the world's second-largest collection of baseball memorabilia.

They also feature a rare books room, an art gallery, and a large children's library complete with murals of Dr. Seuss board games and activity centers.

Address: 330 Park Blvd, San Diego, California 92101

24: Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve
Dreamstime/Sandra Foyt

Torrey Pines is one of only 14 natural reserves in California. These places are untouched, pristine natural environments with rare rock formations and endangered species.

Located in La Jolla, this outdoor adventure haven is easy to reach as it is within San Diego city limits. It was originally the land of the Kumeyaay Native American tribe.

There are opportunities to view the ocean, the rare Torrey pine, and seabirds. There are miles of incredible beaches and an amazing lagoon. It is one of the most spectacular vacation spots in San Diego.

Please check their website for restrictions and policies of this place that is so worthy of conservation. Always pack out what you pack in.

Book Torrey Pines E-Bike Tour

Address: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, California 92037

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25: Maritime Museum of San Diego

Maritime Museum of San Diego
Flickr/Port of San Diego

Since San Diego is a coastal city, we recommend adding the Maritime Museum to your itinerary when researching for San Diego attractions.

The museum features historic vessels such as sailing ships, steam-powered boats, and submarines. It is home to the world's oldest sailing ship, the Star of India.

They offer on-the-water adventures with tours aboard sailboats and powered boats.

Also, they have visiting and permanent museum exhibits on view for you to learn about San Diego's history and its connection with the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, you can learn about maritime communities and ships from around the world.

Book Maritime Museum Ticket

Address: 1492 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

26: Grant Hill Park

Grant Hill Park
Flickr/Chris Favero

This park has a rich history. The land was originally purchased and named by Ulysses S. Grant Junior, son of the United States president.

While this park is not very large, it offers incredible views of the Coronado Bay Bridge and the city. There is also a playground, basketball courts, and tennis courts.

We recommend picking up lunch nearby and enjoying a picnic with a view. It is also a great spot to view the sights at night.

If you are looking for a less-crowded location, this is an excellent place for you on our list of things to do in San Diego.

Address: 2660 J St, San Diego, CA 92102

Plan your trip to San Diego soon!

As you can see, there are endless possibilities of things to do in San Diego. It is an amazing city with beautiful views and rich cultural experiences. The city is a wonder of architecture and a blessing to visit. From history and nature to art and culinary wonders, you will find yourself in love with San Diego attractions.

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