34 Of The Best Places to Go in San DiegoJump To Recipe
My husband (B) and I are both native San Diegans. I love San Diego because it is so diverse, and it has something for everyone! If you want to experience art, various cultures, different scenery, warm and sunny climate, San Diego is where it is at!
One day I had spent the morning snowboarding in Big Bear (over 2 ½ hours away from San Diego) then spent the evening down by the ocean!
If you want hiking, San Diego has several hiking trails, if you want beaches, there’s plenty to choose from, if you want to go to the desert, San Diego has that too.
These are 34 of our favorite things to do/places to visit in San Diego. These places are family-friendly and are great spots to go on a date, or just to go explore with a friend!
P.S. These aren't listed in any particular order, rhyme or reason.
34 Of The Best Places to Go in San Diego
1. The Cottage - La Jolla Cove
A quaint little place, rightfully named The Cottage, is located in La Jolla. The Cottage serves breakfast and lunch. I love sitting outside under the colorful umbrellas while enjoying a Mexican Mocha Cafe Moto Espresso with my breakfast.
2. Cauldron Ice Cream - Convoy
Scientifically sweet, Cauldron Ice Cream makes their ice cream "cooked" to order. You can watch them make ice cream right in front of your eyes by using liquid nitrogen. One of our favorite flavors is Earl Grey Lavender with a Puffle cone!
3. Red O - La Jolla
I’d definitely recommend this as a date night or brunch with friends. They serve gourmet Mexican cuisine. Red O has a regal feel, and even more romantic at night.
4. Seaside Market - Cardiff by the Sea
Gourmet meets grocery! They not only have fresh produce, meat, dairy, pantry items, but they also have a beautiful array of flowers, household essentials, and the best part, they have a cuisine and bakery department! My husband and I will order a hand-crafted dish by a Seaside Market Chef, have them heat it up, and enjoy our meal on the beach!
5. Bagel & Donut Bar - Santee
If you are ever in this neck of the woods, you need to try these donuts out! They serve both gourmet hand-crafted donuts as well as classic donuts. I got to talk with the owners who are so nice, a husband and wife team with a background in Culinary Arts! You won’t have to wait long to get these Instagram-worthy donuts!
6. Donut Bar - Downtown San Diego
Expect to wait in line, and make sure you get there early because once they sell out, their doors are closed! Come with an appetite because these gorgeous donuts are humongous and a beautiful piece of artwork. Check out their Instagram for pictures of what they offer.
7. The Lot - La Jolla or Liberty Station
Dinner and a movie gets taken to the next level with The Lot. Pick a movie of your choice, choose your seat, and relax in luxurious lounge chairs. Best part is their extensive menu. Goodbye popcorn and nachos!
8. Caffè Calabria - North Park
A taste of Italy in your cup, or your plate. Not only do they serve coffee, but they serve pizza as well. I love the atmosphere of Caffè Calabria, and it is spacious! Surprising for North Park, as they usually have smaller spaces.
9. Dunedin New Zealand Eats - North Park
Dunedin (pronounced Dun-ee-din) is a place to get great tasting food made with organic ingredients. Get a taste of authentic New Zealand food while in San Diego!
10. Hash House a Go-Go - Hillcrest
Chances are you will have to wait a good 30+ minutes to be seated, but it is worth the wait. Hash House a Go-Go offers breakfast and lunch menu items. They have huge portions, so come hungry!
11. Jake’s - Del Mar
B and I love taking the scenic route up the coast to go to Jake’s. The view of the ocean is simply gorgeous, and the food is impeccable. If you aren’t a fan of seafood (like me) they also have a nice selection of land lover food.
12. Leroy's Kitchen and Lounge - Coronado
You will find modern, diverse, eclectic flavors served here. Leroy’s is where I first discovered bacon jam. So good! Definitely come for lunch when you are visiting Coronado.
13. Sundae’s - Coronado
Sundae’s in Hotel Del Coronado was once Moo Time (the second location in Coronado) and it turned into Sundae’s in 2018.The ice cream menu was revamped by Las Vegas chef, and gorgeous displays of gelato are available. Not only is their gelato #instagramworthy but, it tastes incredible too! After grabbing gelato, feel free to head towards the beach and soak in the sun for a spell.
14. Better Buzz - Hillcrest
This Better Buzz location is (in my opinion) the most aesthetically pleasing BB coffee shop in San Diego. They offer various specialty drinks, breakfast items, sandwiches and smoothie bowls as well. This location is unique with having multi levels inside a historic building.
15. Torrey Pines State Beach - La Jolla
If you want a scenic hike, come here. B and I have both hiked here in the day time and night time. Just a serene walk by the sea in a beautiful and clean environment. Since the Torrey Pines State beach is a protected natural reserve, keep in mind dogs are not permitted, and food and drinks are not allowed either.
16. Cafe Coyote - Old Town
If you want to find good Mexican food, visit Old Town. My favorite spot there is Cafe Coyote. They have a ton of seating, and I enjoy catching up with friends here. Can’t beat chips and salsa!
17. Specialty Produce - Old Town
Visiting Specialty Produce feels like a backstage pass to grocery shopping where executive chefs shop! If you enjoy cooking and picking out quality ingredients, you have to take a trip to Specialty Produce. It is open to the public, so don’t worry about needing a restaurant license.
18. World Famous - Pacific Beach
World Famous is slightly tucked away, but the view of the ocean and their food is truly outstanding. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on seafood.
19. South Jetty - Mission Beach
Mission beach is one of my favorite beaches. It is a laid back beach, and it is great for playing basketball or volleyball. I have even attempted surfing once here too. Just a short walk to Belmont park, and if you feel like getting a good workout in, you can rollerblade, or skateboard down the boardwalk to World Famous for dinner.
20. Moonlight State Beach - Encinitas
Sounds like a romantic beach getaway right? Well this beach is actually not exclusive for lovers haha. It is a great place to take the kids and it has a playground and area for volleyball too. Plenty of good bathrooms to change in as well. (Beach bathrooms are usually the most vile but these ones are nice!)
21. Cabrillo National Monument - Point Loma
If you are a SD native, you most likely visited the Cabrillo National Monument on a school field trip. As an adult, it is just as exciting. This is a beautiful spot where you can look out at the ocean and look down around San Diego. You can also take a short walk up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse as well!
22. Hotel del Coronado - Coronado
Built in 1888, the charming Victorian hotel still charms visitors and locals to this day. It has gone under some incredible renovations, still keeping the historic feel, but making modern upgrades. Even if you aren’t a hotel guest, you are welcome to explore the property and experience many of their available outlets (spa, dining, shopping, historic tours).
23. Balboa Park - San Diego
Balboa Park, one of San Diego’s icons, and for good reason. I love Balboa Park because it is a great place to walk around, visit museums, grab a bite to eat, and take in culture. Balboa Park is especially popular for taking photos and weddings.
24. Mount Soledad - La Jolla
Another great lookout spot. I especially like coming here at dusk/night time because the views of La Jolla are magnificent. I like that the drive up isn’t too long or twisty (I tend to get carsick). Mount Soledad also has a tribute to our veterans.
25. Old Point Loma Lighthouse - Point Loma
This little lighthouse has a lot of character and a story to be told. I love going up inside and reading about its history. Just a short walk away from the Cabrillo National monument, and not to mention spectacular views of the Pacific ocean!
26. Cowles Mountain - San Carlos
Cowles Mountain is a popular mountain for hiking. It is not too intense of a hike either. But if you do want to make it more challenging, you can hike up the backside, or even run up the front of Cowles Mt.
27. Mission Trails Regional Park - San Carlos
Mission Trails Regional Park has about 60 miles of trails ranging in difficulty from hills to valleys. It is also a cultural and historical center, so make sure to stop by the visitor’s center.
28. Liberty Public Market - Liberty Station
This is a great place to go on a date, or on a family outing. There are plenty of places to eat, shop for souvenirs ,go on a peaceful walk, play in the playground, or take pictures. Liberty Station has a lot of San Diego naval history as well.
29. Soda and Swine - Liberty Station
Such an interesting ambience when you go in. I love a restaurant that puts good effort into their atmosphere. Like my dad would always comment about restaurants, the atmosphere is so key! Their food is excellent. Soda and Swine is a perfect spot to relax and get some drinks and appetizers with friends/coworkers/family.
30. Richard Walker’s Pancake House - La Jolla
There are two locations in San Diego, one in downtown and one in La Jolla. B and I enjoy going to the La Jolla location as there is more seating, and La Jolla is one of our favorite spots as well. Obviously famous for their pancakes, they have an extensive breakfast menu.
31. Shelter Island - Point Loma
A great place to run, walk or bike with views of the San Diego skyline. Shelter Island is one of San Diego’s boating centers with access to aquatic activities such as jet ski rentals. Jet skiing is so thrilling, definitely book a 60-90 minute rental.
32. Cleveland National Forest - Santa Ysabel
This is a bit of drive, but well worth it. B and I love coming here to star gaze. Bring a jacket though, it can get cold! There is a little park and ride area where they also have a bathroom if you need it.
33. Palomar Mountain Observatory - North San Diego County
A must visit landmark in San Diego, you have to explore inside the Hale Telescope for decades the largest telescope in operation. If you are going to drive up Palomar Mountain, make sure you have a full tank of gas, because there aren’t any gas stations on the mountain.
34. Sugar Factory - Downtown
Sugar Factory is a bumping, energetic place, rightfully so because they are the kings and queens of sugar! They do have regular food too, but you’ll definitely want to try one of their elaborate desserts. If you come on your birthday, or order their special sundae, they will make an amazing performance.