While we can assure you that you definitely need more than a day to explore all there is to see in San Diego, we’re here to help you make the most of your short time in this amazing city with the use of our amazing itinerary.
Over 35 million people pay a visit to San Diego each year, and is known by many as one of the best cities to visit in the US, which is mainly because there is so much to see and do during your time here.
As a result of this, it does make narrowing down where to go during your visit extremely difficult, with a whole array of museums, historical sites, beaches, and amazing restaurants and food stalls just waiting for you to discover them.
Although, you won’t manage to do or see everything that San Diego has to offer, this itinerary will ensure that you get a good taste of what this city has to offer.
Whether you’re simply visiting San Diego for a day trip, or you’re planning some sort of romantic getaway, allow our itinerary to inspire you and your trip, just don’t be afraid to change it up if you find something that catches your eye!
After your day in San Diego you’ll quickly realize that you barely even began to explore the city, but this should only excite you more, as there’ll be more to see when you come back next time!
So, let’s take a look at everything you need to know for spending a day in one of California’s best cities.
When To Visit San Diego
Considering that the weather in San Diego is pretty warm all year round, with temperatures somewhere between 60 to 70 degrees fahrenheit, it means that there really is no time to visit San Diego.
But, it’s worth considering some of these factors before you go ahead and book your stay in the city, as you might decide you’d rather visit some other time instead!
The summer in San Diego is extremely busy, especially since children are out of school, so you can expect much larger crowds and queues, and you can also expect everything to be more expensive too.
For those who are looking to pay a visit to some of San Diego’s amazing beaches, then the best time to visit is either July or August, as this will ensure the warmest weather, which means that you can explore the beach long into the evening.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and the summer surcharge, then the best time to visit San Diego is either in the Spring, so between March and May, or during the Fall, ideally between September and November.
You’ll still be able to enjoy the slightly warmer weather of San Diego, and you’ll also be much more likely to find great deals on places to stay too.
If you don’t deal well in the heat, then Winter is when San Diego is at its coolest, but it’ll still be around 60 degrees fahrenheit at this time of the year, and even the rain showers will be warm too.
Another issue with a winter visit is that many of the attractions will either be closed, or have shortened hours, so it’s maybe not the best time to visit the city.
Do You Need To Rent A Car Whilst In San Diego?
Not all of the attractions you’ll want to visit during your time in San Diego are going to be near each other at all.
So, whilst you can use a rental car to make your way around the city, simply using Uber should be fine if you’re only going to be in the city for the day anyways, and it allows you to create the ultimate self-guided tour of the city.
What Part Of San Diego Should You Stay In?
There are a number of different areas of San Diego in which you can stay in during your time in San Diego, and each of these areas is going to provide you with a completely different experience, so it’s definitely worth spending some time and researching each area before you decided upon which one is going to be the best option for you.
The three main areas of San Diego are: Mission Bay, Gaslamp Quarter, and La Jolla, and for those who are only going to be spending a day in the city, these are going to be the areas to stick to when it comes to finding somewhere to stay.
Starting off with La Jolla, this is the place to visit if you’d prefer a more upscale visit to San Diego, it’s home to a number of incredible high-end restaurants and gorgeous luxury hotels, and is even located right on the beachfront too.
Options tend to be slightly more limited, as they’re constantly in demand.
Mission Bay is a great place to stay when visiting San Diego for a number of reasons, most notably because of its incredible location in the bay, and being just a short walk away from Mission Beach itself.
In addition to this, it’s also relatively close to Balboa Park and Old Town San Diego, which makes it the perfect base from which you can explore the city from.
Finally, Gaslamp Quarter makes for the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere which is going to be right amongst the nightlife of the city.
It’s also close by to Balboa Park, as well as San Diego Zoo too, so it’s perfect for those who are looking for an action packed visit to San Diego, even if it’s just for a day!
Exploring San Diego In A Day – Itinerary
So, now that you know where the best places to stay are, as well as what time of year is best for you to visit San Diego, it’s now time for us to take a look at what some of the best things for you to get up to are during your stay in San Diego.
Just remember, if there’s something specific that you want to see or do, then you can easily adjust this itinerary to fit it in, as this is purely to give you some inspiration for what a day in San Diego could look like!
Any good day adventuring around a new city is going to require you to start off with a good breakfast, and when in San Diego, there is absolutely no better place to get a breakfast than from Café 222, which is often regarded as one of the best places to get breakfast in the entire city.
Café 222 will have all of the usual breakfast options that you’re used to, however, there’s also a number of unique options outside of the usual breakfast fare that will really be sure to peak your interest, including things such as peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast, which even got recognition from Bobby Flay!
There’s also the revered pumpkin waffles, which could easily be a pumpkin pie if you closed your eyes, and there’s also the amazing blueberry cornbread waffles for you to try too.
Once you’re all done with your incredible breakfast, it’s time for you to get into your car or Uber, and to make your way down to the Navy Pier for a visit to the USS Midway Museum that’s located there!
A Museum visit is a must in any city, and the USS Midway Museum is a great one to visit when in San Diego.
This aircraft carrier turned museum is filled with various military equipment and vehicles, as well as a glimpse into what life would be like for those in the navy.
All of the staff at the museum are volunteers, and many of them are veterans too, which means they’re always extremely knowledgeable, so it’s a great time to ask questions, especially since so many of them have exciting stories to tell and share with you.
Once your time at the museum has come to an end, it’s time for a trip down to La Jolla beach!
There’s a reason why La Jolla Beach is so popular with almost everyone that visits San Diego, and that’s because not only does it contain some of the most stunning beaches that you will ever see, but because they’re also completely family friendly too.
Which means that it doesn’t matter whether you’re going to the beach by yourself, or with your whole family, you can be sure that you’re going to have a good time.
When you first arrive at La Jolla, make your way over to La Jolla Cove, as this is the perfect spot for you to go and take a look at the sea lions and seals that live there, although you’ll only really be able to seem them if the weather is good enough, as they tend to like to bask in the sunshine, but you might just be lucky enough to see and hear them swimming, as they are kind of noisy.
It’s now time for you to make a choice, do you want to have a relaxing and peaceful walk along the gorgeous sand, or do you want to fulfil that desire to go shopping?
Many people are surprised to discover that La Jolla has an incredible shopping area, with a diverse range of mall stores, unique boutiques, and even some high-end shops too, which will provide you with the perfect shopping experience during your time in San Diego.
Whether you decided to go for the walk or the shopping spree, there’s no doubt that you’ll now be ready for some lunch!
San Diego is home to a number of amazing foodie spots, but none come better than the farm-to-table eating that you can get at Urban Plates.
The menu features a number of different sandwiches and salads, as well as soups, and plated meals too, so there’s definitely enough to feed your appetite.
The best thing about Urban Plates is that all of the food is made from fresh ingredients and completely from scratch too, which leads to food that tastes as good as it looks.
Honestly the menu is just stacked with great options, so much so that we never know what to have right until the last moment, but whether you go for the chicken sub or the grilled steak salad, we’re sure that you’ll adore whatever you eat!
It’s also worth leaving enough room for some dessert too, as their dessert menu is full of delicious treats that you simply have to try out.
Now it’s time for a visit to Balboa Park!
Once you’ve made your way to Balboa Park, San Diego is your oyster, with a great number of museums, theaters, gardens and cafés all able for you to walk to, so much so that it’s probably impossible to do them all in a single day.
There’s also San Diego Zoo, but in reality you’d need an entire day to explore that properly!
Some of the more noteworthy places to visit from here include the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego History Center, the Museum of Man, as well as the Botanical Building, but what you get upto here is entirely for you to decide.
After you’ve explored some of what Balboa Park has to offer, it’s time for dinner!
We know it’ll be slightly early in the day for dinner, but it’s all a part of our plan, and besides, all that wandering around will definitely have you ready for something to eat, and what better to eat than the delicious Mexican food from the Old Town Mexican Café!
There are so many options here, so take your time to pick, and then sit back and savor the incredible old town atmosphere until your food arrives.
With dinner done, you are now free to explore San Diego’s old town, which is filled with plenty to see and do, but there are a couple of things you should definitely do during your time here, including:
A visit to La Dulceria Mexican Candy for some delicious sweet treats to enjoy as you wander around this historic part of the city.
La Casa De Estudillo Museum, which was the home of the incredibly rich Estudillo family, with the building originally being built back in 1827.
In the present day, this home has been transformed into a museum, and is filled with perfect replica decorations and furnishings that will transport you back to almost 200 years ago.
So for the history buffs out there, this is a great way to learn more about San Diego’s past, plus the tour is completely free too!
Finally, you can treat yourself to some dessert from The Baked Bear, which allows you to design your own ice cream sandwich to enjoy, you start by picking your cookie or brownie for the top, and then the bottom (they don’t have to match though!) and then you can choose which ice cream you want, as well as what toppings you’d like to be added too.
There’s even the option to have your sandwiches warmed up as well!
This delicious dessert treat is the perfect way to bring your day of exploring San Diego to a close, and will be well worth the wait, so it’s definitely something to keep on your mind as you travel from place to place in the city.
A Summary Of The San Diego In A Day Itinerary
- Begin with Breakfast at Café 222
- Visit to the USS Midway Museum
- Look for the seals and sea lions at La Jolla Cove
- Take a walk on the beach or go for a shopping spree
- Enjoy a lunch at Urban Plates
- Make your way to Balboa Park
- Visit some of the museums and gardens in the area
- Feast on some authentic Mexican food at Old Town Mexican Café
- Wander around Old Town San Diego
- Treat yourself to some dessert at The Baked Bear
So there you have it, our guide to what you can get up to during a day in San Diego.
As you’ll probably be able to tell during your visit, it would take more than just a day to manage to explore even a quarter of what this city has to offer, which is exactly why some people spend a full week in the city.
However, for those with time constraints, hopefully this itinerary will be able to inspire you to make the most of your short time in the city, and to see and do as much as possible while you’re there, so we hope you enjoy it!
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