Our most recommended things to do in San Diego

San Diego Zoo: 1-Day Admission Ticket

1. San Diego Zoo: 1-Day Admission Ticket

Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to over 4,500 rare and endangered animals, and experience their worlds at the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, and other areas. The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is known for its naturalistic habitats and unique animal encounters. An urban paradise for all ages, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see in Southern California. Winding paths through the tropical oasis of a botanical garden bring you to the zoo‘s rare and fascinating animals, including koalas, Galápagos tortoises, tigers, eagles, flamingos, great apes, and more. Other exotic animals you may encounter include Sichuan takins, Buerger’s tree-kangaroos, arctic foxes, pangolin, and Visayan warty pigs. Explore Africa Rocks to discover penguins, baboons, the mysterious fossa, weaver birds, and other unique creatures. The festive, lively atmosphere makes the San Diego Zoo a great place for family fun and gathering friends. Discover the wonders of wildlife with animal encounters, interactive experiences, and exciting animal presentations and shows. The Zoo’s 17 Galápagos tortoises are now at home at the Fetter Family Galápagos Tortoise Exhibit. When keepers are present, you can pet and occasionally feed the tortoises over a short rock barrier. At the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge, you can get closer to polar bears than ever before. Climb aboard an Arctic research helicopter, crawl into a bear den, or measure yourself against the size of a polar bear. The Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey is a 7.5-acre habitat and a first-of-its-kind experience. This area combines the fun of a zoo with the experience of a museum by creating an untamed landscape of animals from the past and present. A leader in animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo is at the heart of the San Diego experience.

San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

2. San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

Take a self-guided audio tour onboard the world’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, the historic USS Midway. See the carrier’s 25 restored aircraft from the days of WWII to Operation Desert Storm. Visit areas throughout the Midway, from the crew's sleeping quarters to the pilots' ready rooms. Docents are available throughout the carrier and are eager to share their stories, anecdotes, and statistics, creating a picture of just how important the USS Midway was to the U.S. Navy. Most guests spend 3 to 4 hours exploring this historic aircraft carrier and learning its history. The included audio guide, available in 6 languages, will help you explore the dozens of highlighted areas across the massive ship.  There are family-oriented activities throughout the Museum. Included are 3 types of flight simulators, music videos, short films, climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, and more. The Museum is located at the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.

San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

3. San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

Join the Hop-on Hop-Off Tour of Old Town San Diego at any of the tour's 12 boarding points and visit more than 100 interesting points in Coronado and San Diego at your own pace. You can begin at any time of the day and listen to the entertaining narration of the onboard conductors along the way. San Diego is known as America’s Finest City, and as you explore the sights of Old Town and the scenic coastline you’ll see why. Opt to begin your tour at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where you’ll see original adobe homes and artifacts from the earliest Mexican settlements. At the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, you’ll learn about the importance of the U.S. Navy's presence in San Diego. Then continue on to nearby Seaport Village, where you can stop for refreshments and enjoy shopping and entertainment. In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll find loads of shops and other interesting places located in Victorian-themed buildings. One particular house of interest is the William Heath Davis House. Built-in saltbox style, it is similar to the original home of Davis, who founded New Town San Diego. When you’re back on the trolley you’ll be entertained once again by the conductor’s narration. Continue on to the well-known Hotel del Coronado, one of America’s leading resorts. You may choose to take a stroll through nearby Balboa Park, along El Prado, the promenade lined with Spanish-style buildings. With more stops than any other tour, this hop-on hop-off trolley ride is guaranteed to deliver. In addition to sightseeing, enjoy free shuttle service to and from select area hotels, a map and day planner, and $70 in discount coupons to use at restaurants and area attractions. Hop on or hop off at 12 convenient stops: A - Old Town State Historic Park (4010 Twiggs St & San Diego Ave.) B - Maritime Museum of San Diego/Star of India (1492 N Harbor Dr) C - San Diego Embarcadero (1004 N. Harbor Dr) D - Headquarters at Seaport Village (789 W Harbor Dr) E - Seaport Village (825 W Harbor Dr) F - Marriott Marquis & Marina (333 W Harbor Dr) G - Gaslamp Quarter (480 4th Ave) H - Petco Park/San Diego Convention Center (855 E Harbor Dr) I - Barrio Logan (1113 E.Cesar Chavez Pkwy) J - Coronado/Orange Avenue (1107 Orange Ave) K - Balboa Park and El Prado Museums (2175 Presidents Way) L - Little Italy (1605 India St)

San Diego: Harbor Cruise

4. San Diego: Harbor Cruise

See San Diego's best sights. Learn about the city and enjoy a cruise on the bay. Depending on the option booked, this tour takes you under the Coronado Bridge, past military ships, waterfront landmarks, and marine life for a look at San Diego's scenic beauty and fascinating history. This tour’s luxury ships offer three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board snack bar serving snacks, soda, beer, wine and cocktails (available for purchase). This is a great way to experience San Diego from the water.

San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

5. San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

See the sights of San Diego Bay on a fully-narrated cruise. Pass by Seaport Village, Shelter Island, Coronado Island, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument, among other notable points of interest, while taking in beautiful skyline views. San Diego’s North Harbor cruise takes you past historic ships in the Maritime Museum, Harbor Island, North Island Naval Air Station, and Shelter Island. The South Harbor route includes sightings of the Coronado Bridge, the U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier, the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet, and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. As you sail, keep a lookout for wildlife such as blue herons, sea lions, and pelicans Listen as your professional crew provides commentary about the rich local and military history, points of interest, and facts about San Diego Bay. This sightseeing cruise also showcases local environmental conservation efforts through video clips and onboard displays.

La Jolla: 2-Hour Kayak Tour of the 7 Caves

6. La Jolla: 2-Hour Kayak Tour of the 7 Caves

Take a lesson before the tour begins and grab all the necessary kayak equipment. The tour takes place in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. There are 3 different habitats in the reserve, and on your tour you will have the chance paddle to all three - the rocky reefs, sandy flats, and kelp beds. Paddle to the seven caves of La Jolla and go into the Clam’s cave, which is the largest cave on the tour. See the local marine life on the tour including sea lions, harbor seals, Garibaldi, leopard sharks, and the occasional dolphin.

San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

7. San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

Discover the underwater world at SeaWorld San Diego, with animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and thrilling rides. Get up close to marine life and enjoy educational animal presentations for the whole family to enjoy. Upgrade your ticket to include a dining pass to eat all day at SeaWorld. Experience thrilling rides such as Electric Eel with its high-energy twists and loops, or Manta, with two thrilling launches that send riders soaring in the spirit of the world’s largest ray. For kid-friendly fun, enjoy Tentacle Swirl, Sea Dragon Drop, Elmo's Flying Fish, and so much more. Admire the animals at SeaWorld such as beluga whales, walruses, penguins, sharks, and orcas as you learn about these incredible creatures. Enjoy interactive exhibits such as the Explorer's Reef Touchpools and Sea Lion Point. Explore the Sesame Street Bay of Play where you can meet your Sesame Street friends. If you choose to upgrade to the all-day dining bundle, you can get an entree, a side/dessert, and a drink every 1 hour at Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen, Big Bird's Bistro, Coral Market, Shark Market, Orca West Market, and Pretzel Shop.

San Diego: Patriot Jet Boat Thrill Ride

8. San Diego: Patriot Jet Boat Thrill Ride

Embark on a thrilling adventure on the San Diego bay as you zip and zoom past military ships, along the downtown skyline, and under the iconic Coronado Bridge. With rock music pumping, feel the wind and the refreshing spray of the San Diego bay as the Patriot carves 360-degree turns and reaches speeds upwards of 50 miles per hour. There's no experience like it. Enjoy gorgeous views on a 30-minute tour on an open-air jet boat. No two Patriot trips are the same, but this is not just a random joy ride through the bay. You will be taken past San Diego's most beautiful waterfront sights including: USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado Bridge, Star of India and the iconic ships of the Maritime Museum, as well as the San Diego skyline. You may get wet, but ponchos are provided.

La Jolla: 2.5-Hour Kayak and Snorkel Tour

9. La Jolla: 2.5-Hour Kayak and Snorkel Tour

Paddle to the sea caves of La Jolla and snorkel amidst the surrounding Ecological Reserve. Get up close and personal with the Garibaldi, Leopard sharks, rays, and other unique local creatures. Explore La Jolla's pristine underwater Ecological Reserve during the calm water months of summer. Snorkel in two unique habitats, the rocky reef between Goldfish Point and Emerald Cove, and the sandy flats outside of the Marine Room. Along the reef and caves, you'll likely see Garibaldi, sheepshead, blue moon, and other indigenous fish. Sea lions, Brandt's cormorants, and brown pelicans also frequent this habitat. Harmless leopard sharks, bat rays, and shovel-nosed guitar fish inhabit the sandy flats on the south end of La Jolla Shores. Snorkel in these shallow waters teeming with life throughout the warm water months. All snorkeling equipment and wetsuit (which can be kept for the remainder of the day after the tour) is included.

Los Angeles: Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 40+ Attractions

10. Los Angeles: Go City All-Inclusive Pass with 40+ Attractions

The Los Angeles All-Inclusive Pass by Go City gets you into over 40 top attractions in the city for one low price. Save up to 50%* on admission compared to buying individual tickets and pay nothing at the gate. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, Dolby Theatre, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, and many more of the best things to do in L.A., Hollywood, and beyond. In addition, when you buy a 3-, 5- or 7-day pass, you also get a ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood. You can take up to 2 weeks from when you first use the pass to use the remaining calendar days on your pass. The free digital guide helps you decide what to do, where to go, how to get there and how to make reservations in advance when required. Simply show your pass straight from your phone (or printed) at the gate or ticket office to get in. Activities, attractions, and tours included with the Los Angeles All-Inclusive Pass: Theme Parks • Universal Studios Hollywood Ticket (3+ day passes only) • Knott's Berry Farm • LEGOLAND California (choice between San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND) • Knott's Soak City Water Park Outdoor Activities • Hollywood Sign Tour • Celebrity Bike Tour by Bikes & Hikes LA (choice between self-guided or guided tour) • Whale Watch & Dolphin Tour - Beautiful Newport Beach • Huntington Beach: 2-hr SUP board or kayak rental • Huntington Beach: Yoga on the beach • Long Beach Waterfront and Downtown Walking Tour • Santa Monica 3-Hours Bike Rental • Los Angeles 2-Hour Fishing Tour • 2-Hour Beach Bike & Skate Rentals • Highlights of Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Tour Tours • Big Bus Discover Hop-on Hop-off Tour • Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood • Big Bus Celebrity Lifestyle and Homes Tour • Dolby Theater Guided Tour • Downtown LA Food and Culture Tour • Glass Bottom Boat Eco Tour • SoFi Stadium Tour • Getty to Griffith Bus Tour • Long Beach Waterfront and Downtown Walking Tour Family-Friendly • Madame Tussauds Hollywood • Aquarium of the Pacific • TCL Chinese Theater - Tour or Movie and a drink (choice between TCL Chinese Theater or Hollywood Museum) • Santa Monica Pier Aquarium • Los Angeles Zoo • California Science Center IMAX Movie • San Diego Zoo (choice between San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND) Museums and Entertainment • Hollywood Museum (choice between TCL Chinese Theater or Hollywood Museum) • GRAMMY Museum • Battleship IOWA Museum • Natural History Museum • Autry Museum of the American West • Museum of Latin American Art • Cabrillo Maritime Museum • Richard Nixon Library • South Coast Shop & Dine Package • Holocaust Museum LA *Savings based on itineraries on Go City website.

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Frequently asked questions about San Diego

What top attractions are a must-see in San Diego?

Insider tips: Explore San Diego like a local

Mark and Kristen Morgan are the British-American authors behind Where Are Those Morgans travel, hiking and photography blog, which has 2.5 million annual readers. As former career scientists, the Morgans officially left the lab in 2018 to pursue their dream job of helping others travel the world and have been on the road ever since.

What should I do on my first trip to San Diego?

First-time visitors to San Diego should prioritize exploring the 2,000-acre Balboa Park filled with gardens, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The enormous USS Midway aircraft carrier museum on San Diego's Embarcadero is another incredibly popular spot in the city that you shouldn't miss.

What are some hidden gems to see in San Diego?

Old Town San Diego was the first European settlement in California and it has been maintained as it was in the 19th century. Today you can walk around museums, eat fantastic Mexican food, shop at craft stores, or even have a fright fest at the supposedly haunted Whaley House Museum. Another hidden gem in San Diego is the coastline from Torrey Pines all the way down to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You can watch gliders take off above you from the crowd-free Blacks Beach, take photos at Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, and find the secret swings with a view near the Birch Aquarium parking lot.

How much time should I spend in San Diego?

Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in San Diego for a first visit. You can explore the major neighborhoods, including the Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla, spend time on the beaches, visit museums, and enjoy the best of San Diego's excellent food and craft beer scene.

What food is San Diego known for?

The simple but delicious fish taco is a must-try when visiting San Diego. Also known as the Baja taco, it originated in Baja California, just across the border in Mexico, so still pretty local. If sit-down restaurants aren't your thing, you can drive around San Diego and stop at one of many popular taco trucks.

What is the best way to get around San Diego?

San Diego is split into several small pockets, and you will need a car to get around if you want to tick off the most famous areas. You can walk or taxi around Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown, and Embarcadero. But if you want to visit Old Town, La Jolla, Ocean Beach, and Coronado, you will need to drive or book a day trip that includes transportation.

What are the best months to visit San Diego?

Spring and fall are the best seasons of the year to visit San Diego. Plan for April to May or September to October if you want to benefit from lower hotel prices, fewer crowds at the beaches and museums, and more availability at restaurants. The beauty of San Diego is you don't have to plan around the weather because it has one of the best year-round climates in the United States.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit?

Gaslamp Quarter, Embarcadero, and La Jolla are the three best neighborhoods to visit in the San Diego area. Gaslamp has the food, shopping, and nightlife scene. Embarcardero has the USS MIdway and follows the marina which is stunning at sunset. La Jolla is an upscale and family-friendly coastal neighborhood with many coves, beaches, and sea lions. All three should be included on your San Diego itinerary.

Where should I eat in San Diego?

Foodies visiting San Diego should head for the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy. Whether you are in the mood for a steakhouse, seafood, Mexican food, or fine dining, you will find it all in Gaslamp Quarter. Unsurprisingly, Little Italy is the go-to for some of the best Italian food in Southern California.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Head to La Jolla for high end boutiques or visit Fashion Valley in the Mission Valley area for a shopping mall overflowing with designer shops.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Diego

The best hotels in San Diego are spread across several neighborhoods. Gaslamp Quarter is arguably the most popular neighborhood in San Diego because it has the best restaurants and nightlife, is pedestrian-friendly, and is centrally located for exploring the Embarcadero or Balboa Park. However, if you want a more relaxing experience near the ocean, stay in the glitzy La Jolla area. Families or couples who want instant beach access at affordable rates should look to stay around the Mission Beach neighborhood.

What's are the top 4 tips you'd give to someone traveling to San Diego?

1) Rent a car if you want to access the further out beach areas, La Jolla or Coronado.

2) Check the Padres baseball schedule. Visiting on game days means hotels are fuller and prices are heavily inflated.

3) Explore off-the-beaten-path areas. San Diego is pretty photogenic so don't forget to grab your camera and go exploring.

4) Book in advance. San Diego's popular attractions can have long lines and sell out, so plan ahead to make sure you aren't disappointed or wasting time.

What should people avoid doing in San Diego?

The most important thing to avoid in San Diego is not giving yourself enough time. You will spend a full day in Balboa Park, a full day at the beaches, and a full day around Gaslamp Quarter with its adjoining neighborhoods. And avoid getting too close to the sea lions in La Jolla — especially if you see them fighting.

What are your favorite GetYourGuide experiences in San Diego?

1) San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

2) San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour

3) San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise

What is one thing that surprised you about San Diego?

It's a small, laid-back city with so many great places to visit and we didn't expect it to be so easygoing and relaxed, especially after visiting other famous Californian cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles which were much more hectic at times.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in San Diego?

Families should head to San Diego Zoo, frequently heralded as the world's best zoo thanks to its environments and conservation efforts. San Diego is also home to the first SeaWorld location.

What is the best thing to do in San Diego for couples?

One of the most romantic things in San Diego is watching the sunset from anywhere on the west-facing coastline. Our favorite spot is the aptly named Sunset Cliffs.

What are the best things to do outdoors around San Diego?

Mission Trails Regional Park, to the northeast of San Diego, is a popular place to go hiking year-round. Fortuna Mountain Trail is one of the best hikes in the 8,000-acre recreational park.

What are the best beaches around San Diego?

Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are popular for surfing, Blacks Beach is quiet, and Coronado Beach is expansive with a popular dog beach section.

Other Sightseeing Options in San Diego

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What people are saying about San Diego

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 5,338 reviews

Fantastic trip out to sea! Saw hundreds of dolphins and a handful of grey whales! Including a 2 day old baby!

This was a great way to see San Diego as a whole when you can’t decide what to see and are on a time crunch.

Very cool experience, with lots to see. I would do it again - to see what I missed!!

It’s amazing and the docents are informative, terrific people.

The tour was interesting, the tour guides were terrific.