Travel Guide | San Diego

San Diego City Guide

With fantastic weather, a rich cultural melting pot and great activities, San Diego is a sure bet for tourists and locals alike

San Diego is the second largest city located on the west coast of the state of California.   The earliest trace of people living in San Diego dates all the way back to 9,000 years ago.  These people were known as the Native America tribe called the Kumeyaay. 

In 1542, Portugese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo officially claimed the land of San Diego for Spain. It wasn’t until 1848 that San Diego finally became a part of the United States.  Like all big cities, San Diego started as a small town. It wasn’t until 1880 that it’s growth began to  rapidly multiply due to the development and establishment of many military bases.

Today, with average daytime temperature of 70 degrees, San Diego is famous for its gorgeous weather. It’s mostly sunny in San Diego, and the winter weather temperature rarely ever drops below 40 degrees.   Thanks to all of its beaches and the fact that it hardly rains, San Diego is the perfect vacation destination.

Due to the many military bases present, San Diego is a rich and diverse melting pot. The multicultural city is also home to professional theatre companies, the Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse, both which have won Tony-Awards.  San Diego also consists of flourishing Opera, bountiful dance companies, and musical artists.

In respect to sports, San Diego is home of the Padres baseball team, Chargers football, and the Sockers Soccer team.

What to See

1. Old Town

Old Town is a collection of historic homes and businesses that transports visitors back to the colonial period. It’s a state historic park, making it a must see in a visit to San Diego.  Tourists feel as if they are transformed back into time when they step foot into  this beautiful area filled with colorful shops, restaurants, museums and hotels.

If you are feeling brave, be sure to check out The Whaley House and Museum, which is one of California’s official haunted houses and is located in Old Town. While you’re there, you can also visit the first California mission, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Acala, to learn more about California’s early history.

2. Balboa Park


Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation. Home to 15 museums, performing art venues, many beautiful gardens, and the San Diego zoo, you’ll be sure to find something here that fits your interests. The architecture is also phenomenal and makes for a very picturesque day trip. Make sure to check the calendar when you visit, because Balboa hosts limited-time events like  museum exhibitions, plays, musicals, and concerts depending on what time of the month it is. If you’re a resident in San Diego, make sure to come on Tuesdays, since it’s free.

3. Seaport Village

Seaport Village is located in Downtown, San Diego right on the harbor. You’ll be able to enjoy 14 acres of waterfront shopping, dining, and entertainment. Within the shops, you’ll also experience breathtaking scenery such as ponds, lakes, fountains, and even an antique Ferris wheel. You’ll encounter many street performers who offer a variety of entertainment! It’s definitely perfect for a bright sunny day. During the summer time you might even be able to catch fireworks.

 4. Cabrillo National Monument


The Cabrillo National Monument is a historic landmark that commemorates the arrival of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo,the first European to set foot on the West Coast of California.  This is why San Diego has the right to brag that it’s the “birthplace” of California.  At Cabrillo you can find a lighthouse, tide pools, and beautiful hiking trails. You also get an amazing view of the San Diego bay. Though there is an entrance fee, it’s definitely worth it.

5. Belmont Park

Belmont park is a historic amusement park located oceanfront of Mission Beach. It’s home to the historic wooden Giant Dipper Rollercoaster. It also features simulated wave machines, restaurants, rides, carnival games, and an arcade. It’s a boardwalk full of fun, and you’ll have plenty to do while getting gorgeous glimpses of Mission Beach.

 Fun for Free



San Diego offers 70 miles of beaches! With perfect temperatures, gorgeous blue waters, and mostly clear skies, visiting the beach is a must! Our beaches are unlike anywhere else because of our beautiful sandstone walls and cliffs. Some popular beaches include

• La Jolla Shores
• Mission Beach
• Pacific Beach
• Ocean Beach
• Del Mar
• Torrey Pines State Beach
• Solana Beach
• Cardiff by the Sea
• Carlsbad

2. Hiking Spots

San Diego is home to dozens of hiking trails from beach side trails to mountain top trails. Some popular trails include

• Torrey Pines
• Potato Chip
• Iron Mountain
• Devil’s Punchbowl
• Balboa Trails

3. Salk Institute


The Salk Institute is a site for innovative biological research, but it offers much more for both tourists and locals.  Because of it’s beautiful architecture and gorgeous view of the beach, it’s named as one of San Diego’s best photography spots.  It’s a great place to explore!

4. Mt. Soledad


At 824 ft up in the air, Mt. Soledad offers a stunning 360 view of La Jolla Shores and its surrounding beaches as well. During sunrise or sunset, you’ll catch colorful skies with perfect views of the ocean. It’s also the site of a Veterans memorial, in which people can come to honor our veterans.

5. Waterfront Park


Located on the edge of downtown (and of course, on the water font) this park is perfect for people of all ages. The public park features fun spray fountains, a huge playground, clean restrooms, and plenty of grass. During the summer, there are often free movies playing movies for anyone who wants to watch. It’s the perfect place to cool off, have a picnic, or even to just soak up the sun.

Where to Eat

Lunch & Dinner

With such a diverse population, San Diego is home to tons of amazing types of restaurants.

1. Lolitas

When you’re in San Diego it is important to try some local Mexican food! Lolitas is the perfect place to satisfy that need, as they have everything from tacos to burritos to carne asada fries. They are also home to the famous 2 in 1 burrito! This burrito is a carne asada burrito with 2 rolled tacos inside, and is definitely a favorite of mine.

2. Sushi Deli

This sushi joint has 3 locations throughout San Diego. Popular for its affordable price and extraordinary flavor, it was named San Diego’s best sushi place for the past few years, so  you don’t want to miss it!

3. Devine Pastabilities

While they do have pasta this is not your typical Italian restaurant. Their signature dish is an Italian roll that is hollowed out, toasted, and stuffed with your favorite Italian dish. They call it the torpasta! It’s a unique and delicious experience that you don’t want to miss.

4. Phil’s BBQ

Phil’s BBQ is BBQ like no other! From grilled ribs to chicken to pulled pork sandwiches Phils is the go-to BBQ spot for locals. The secret lies in Phil’s own special sauce, which is something you don’t want to miss. 


1. Extraordinary Desserts


Extraordinary desserts is the most delicious and popular dessert spot in San Diego.  This restaurant offers a huge array of different desserts, pastries, coffee and tea. No matter what dessert you’ll like, you’re sure to find something that that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Not in the mood for dessert? No problem. You can also order a verity of salads, sandwiches and appetizers.

2. WowWow Waffle


Wow Wow Waffle began making waffles for local farmers markets, inspired by the Belgian waffles native to Liege, Belgium. These waffles are quite different though, as they are made with dough instead of batter, but are deliciously sweet, crunchy, and tasty. Be sure to also grab a cup of their freshly made lemonade.

3. Nomad’s Donuts

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This is no ordinary donut shop. Everyday the shop sells different flavors of donuts. You can always find the daily specials by visiting their Instagram @Nomaddonuts.

4. Hammond’s Ice Cream

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This ice cream shop is unlike any other! With 32 flavors, it’s hard to pick just one. This is why Hammond’s gives you the option to get 2,4,6, or even 32 scoops. It’s served in miniature cones, but a little goes a long way. They also feature a variety of unique flavors, such as Thai tea or sweet potato, which you can’t get anywhere else.

After Dark

Gaslamp Quarter

Within the Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll see a mix of everything from Victorian-era architecture  to skyscrapers. Here you’ll find the finest restaurants, pubs, night clubs, and shops.  The variety of night clubs and dining options makes it a great place to spend an evening out. From rooftop bars to dual piano bars, there’s always something to do here.


San Diego is named the craft beer capital of the world! We have many amazing breweries on every corner. You don’t have to go very far to try some of the finest beer. Some of the major breweries to check out are:

• Karl Straus
• Stone Brewery
• Ballast Point

 What to Do

1. Kayak with a View of the Downtown Skyline


Taking a kayak out to Glorietta Bay located on the Coronado Island will give you stunning views of the Downtown San Diego skyline. You’ll also be able to go underneath the iconic Coronado bridge and dock upon several beaches.

2. Paddleboard in Mission Bay


Whether you’re a stand up paddle board expert, or trying it for the first time, Mission Bay is the perfect spot to learn the sport. Mission Bay typically has very calm waters making paddleboarding a relaxing activity. You’re also surrounded with sand, making it easy to dock anywhere for some well needed relaxation.

3. Rollerblade down the Mission Beach Boardwalk


The Mission Beach Boardwalk is perfect for running, biking, skateboarding, and rollerblading. It’s a span of 3.5 miles and is a great way to exercise and still enjoy the stunning view of San Diego beaches.

4. Visit the California Sea Otters


Head down to La Jolla and catch a glimpse of these sweet animals. They are known for bathing in the sun atop the rocky cliffs.

5. Have a Bonfire


San Diego is well known for the bonfire pits located on several beaches. It is the perfect way to end a day at the beach by cozying up next to the fire and making smores.

San Diego City Guide


Alyssa San Agustin

California State University San Marcos | 5 stories

Alyssa has an eye for adventure and photography. She constantly seeks adventure wherever she goes and longs for travel. Alyssa is a photography enthusiast and uses photography to inspire others to travel and seek adventure on her personal blog. Follow along on her travels and adventures at and on her instagram @baabylyssa

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