San Diego Vacations

Photo of San Diego Bay
San Diego Bay (Port of San Diego)

San Diego Beach Travel Tips

  • For a classic, summery scene any time of year, try Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, where the three-mile boardwalk teems with young and old revelers alike rollerblading, cruising the beach, and looking out for fun.
  • Want to have a beach bonfire? Most beaches in San Diego County have fire rings.
  • Coronado Beach is a good bet for surfers, swimmers, and families. Bring plenty of beach toys—you'll find sand volleyball courts near the lifeguard station and prime kite-flying near the beach's southern end.
  • Leave the beer cooler at home: Since 2008, alcohol has been banned from San Diego city beaches. But you don't need to go thirsty, as plenty of sand-side restaurants serve up something to watch the sunset with.
  • Traveling with a water dog? Try the North Beach section of Coronado Beach, or Ocean Beach's Dog Beach (between the Mission Bay harbor channel and Ocean Beach's north-end jetty), which even has a dog-level drinking fountain.

When you think of San Diego, you might think of surf, sand, and sun, but a visit here can also take you through dozens of world-class museums, major family attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, and the hip shops and restaurants you'd expect of the country's ninth-largest city.

Daytime is when the city really shines, especially for outdoorsy folks who love activities on the water and on the land. Find surf just off the Pacific's beaches; paddle Mission Bay; and explore trails and beaches, sand volleyball courts and bike paths. Balboa Park, the nation's largest urban cultural park, has 1,200 acres open to lawn bowlers, mountain bikers, joggers with strollers, and happy dogs. The park is home to 15 museums, many of which fill the stunning Spanish Colonial Revival buildings along the fountain-studded El Prado walkway. They showcase treasures from around the world, from the works of the European masters at the San Diego Museum of Art to locally found fossils at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

San Diego's early inhabitants used reed boats to get around, and in 1542, Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first to sail into San Diego Bay. The subsequent years have brought sailors and ships from around the world; the U.S. Navy has its largest West Coast base here. Strolling the waterfront, you can experience San Diego's seafaring history at the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum, while yachts and ferries cruise by in the background.

You'll find more of San Diego's roots in Old Town, where the Spanish built their first settlement on the west coast of what's now the United States.

And even if your days are packed, there's plenty to do come sundown, too. Travelers looking for the buzz of a city-new restaurants, bar-hopping, theater-without the frenetic pace and suit-and-tie formality of other urban destinations will find the perfect blend here. In the evenings, young professionals fill the restaurants, pubs, and clubs in the Gaslamp Quarter and the North Park neighborhood. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach draw a young crowd clad in flip-flops and board shorts. Many spots have patios that let you take advantage of the good weather with a drink in hand. Unpretentious fine dining can be found here, with the local, organic food scene particularly big in La Jolla's restaurants. There's also a burgeoning craft brewery scene, and be sure to have a local point you in the direction of his or her favorite fish taco joint.

Getting around the city is easy. Downtown San Diego is only five minutes from the international airport. From here, many hot spots-from the waterfront's nautical sights to a Padres game at PETCO Park to the restaurants and clubs of the Gaslamp Quarter-are in an easy walking radius. Public transportation, including trolleys and buses, can whisk you to destinations like Balboa Park, Old Town, or SeaWorld San Diego. And even farther-flung attractions, like kid-friendly LEGOLAND and the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, can be reached in less than an hour by car (as long as you're not traveling during rush hour).

Wherever you go, the laid-back vibe (after all, there are 70 miles of coastline in the county) makes sightseeing seem as relaxing as a day on the beach.

Published: 16 Jun 2010 | Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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