If you spend any time researching San Diego vacation places to visit, you’ll quickly generate a long list of must-dos – like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland, Belmont Park, Balboa Park, Birch Aquarium, and the USS Midway Museum. There are also wonderful activities in the city, along the shore, and in the ocean that you shouldn’t miss, such as whale watching, snorkeling at La Jolla, and catching the perfect sunset at Point Loma.
In case you missed it, we covered the most common 16 Places to Visit on Vacation in San Diego in another blog post. You can read it here. Let’s dive into some of the unique San Diego places to visit and things to do while visiting Southern California.
Those are all fabulous destinations that should not be missed. But, for some, it’s either “been there, done that,” “not interested,” or “too crowded” for their liking. Some people like to do what everyone else isn’t doing. For whatever reason, sometimes a second list is necessary. But don’t worry. San Diego doesn’t disappoint. The city offers so much to do that it could take a few lists to catalog all the worthwhile outings and adventures in San Diego. From educational sites, museums, galleries, and other intellectual spaces to beautiful scenery and a few eclectic stops, here are 11 more places to visit in San Diego.
#1 – Discover Coronado Island
Just off the coast of San Diego is one of the area’s true gems – Coronado Island. The resort town isn’t actually an island – it’s a peninsula – with spotless white-sand beaches that draw plenty of surfers and beachgoers throughout the summer. There are terrific shops, boutiques, and restaurants to enjoy on Coronado Island, and the iconic Hotel del Coronado, constructed in 1888, harkens to the region’s Golden Age. If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the area, there are electric beach cruisers that you can rent for a couple of hours or the entire day.
#2 – Say Caio to Little Italy
San Diego has one of the most fascinating Little Italy neighborhoods in the country. The district, which is part of downtown San Diego, has trendy restaurants, bars, boutique shops, and music venues, all along with a walkable pedestrian mall that ties it all together. Little Italy is fabulous for lunch, dinner, or late-night eats, but don’t miss out on the local Mercato Farmers’ Market that takes over the streets every Saturday morning.
#3 – Ride the Rails at Old Poway Park
Old Poway Park is perfect for a sunny San Diego afternoon, offering plenty of green grass, shade trees, meandering pathways, and beautiful buildings. It’s an excellent spot for a low-key, family-friendly weekend. The centerpiece of the park is the Poway Midland Railroad. Kids love to ride the choo-choo! Guests can ride the train, tour the Hermitage Museum and explore the historic Nelson home.
#4 – See a Performance at The Old Globe Theater
Situated in the city’s heart in beautiful Balboa Park, the Old Globe offers award-winning performances throughout the year, many of which have gone to Broadway or have been nominated for a Tony Award. The theater is named after Shakespeare’s Old Globe in London. The beautiful facility provides family-friendly performances and more traditional presentations for adults.
#5 – Play at Presidio Park
Presidio Park was established in 1769. It was the first European settlement and mission in the western United States. It once served as a base for the Spanish conquest of California until Presidio Hill was abandoned. The park was later restored in the early 20th century, and a few new Spanish Revival-style buildings and the Junipero Serra Museum were built at that time. Today, the park is a lovely backdrop for a stroll on a bluebird San Diego day.
#6 – Sample the Wares at Liberty Station
Liberty Station used to be a naval training station and housing center, but it has been transformed into a modern commercial center with boutique shops, galleries, small museums, and a few select events throughout the year. The Liberty Public Market draws big crowds that gather to sample the collection of food, brews, cocktails, art, and other available treats. There is a seasonal ice-skating rink during the cooler months.
#7 – Go to the Barona Cultural Center and Museum
The Barona Cultural Center and Museum in East County is a museum that shares the rich culture and history of the Kumeyaay people, known as “Diegueños” by the Spaniards. The museum teaches you all about the people and supports the center’s efforts to protect and acknowledge the Kumeyaay culture and its way of life.
#8 – Get Down at Del Mar
Del Mar is one of the cutest communities in San Diego and an ideal day trip for whale watching, dolphin spotting, building sandcastles, boutique shops, and tasty seaside restaurants. The intimate village has a European feel – a German beach vibe. Start your Del Mar adventure with a coffee or smoothie at the clifftop Powerhouse Park overlooking the ocean. It’s a vibe!
#9 – Pay Homage to Surf Life at Windansea
Windansea is a stretch of beach south of La Jolla that’s home to one of the most iconic surfing landmarks on the West Coast – the Windansea Surf Shack. The shack was built in 1947 by returning World War II surfers. In 1998, the shack was added to the official register by the San Diego Historical Site Board (HSB) and declared a California Historical Landmark.
#10 – Go Boating in San Diego Bay
For a truly unique San Diego experience, rent a boat and tool around the bay for the day. You can take a sunset sailing tour around the bay (there are plenty from which to choose), or you can rent a jet boat to fulfill your need for speed. If you have a group looking for fun and sun on the water, consider a Duffy – a small, canopied boat that comes complete with lots of seating, a stereo and speakers, and coolers to keep your beverages cold.
#11 – Head South of the Border
Tijuana has its own culture and vibe that must be seen firsthand to understand completely. The city is just an extension of San Diego but on the other side of the border, with its distinct culture, food, and … Cerveza! If you’re leery of heading south of the border on your own, consider an American-led guided experience, where all the planning and stops are planned for you.