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20 Epic San Diego Bucket List Items

June 24, 2017
San Diego Bucket List
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After living in San Diego for 2.5 years, I made it my mission to tick off some major bucket list items. Trust me, San Diego is a destination where you could never be bored!

San Diego has so much to do and so much to offer. Honestly, the only question is: can you fit all of your San Diego bucket list items into your itinerary? I have faith that the answer is yes. 🙂

I did A LOT in the 2.5 years I lived in San Diego. In this post I’ve compiled the best (and most epic) San Diego bucket list items that I completely recommend you to do.

I’m excited. Are you? Let’s dive in!

20 Epic San Diego Bucket List Items

Do you need a hotel for your trip to San Diego? Check hotel rates here.

1. Watch a Game at Petco Park

Petco Park is the baseball park and home of the San Diego Padres. Located downtown close to the Gaslamp district, I definitely recommend coming here for a relaxing afternoon! Sit back, relax, take in a ball game, and drink some overpriced beer. 🙂

San Diego Bucket List- Petco Park

2. Visit the Hotel del Coronado

Crossing the Coronado Bridge and visiting the super famous Hotel del Coronado is a must! It’s also featured in a number of films, but the most popular is Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe.

If you want to stay here rooms here are kinda expensive, but if you want to splurge I would totally recommend it. It is a once in a lifetime experience. 🙂 You can check room rates here

There are a few tours you can take to get the most out of your visit and have a bit of fun:

  • Coronado Sightseeing Tour – This tour is pure luxury with an extensive visit of the Hotel del Coronado , the Coronado Beach, and even the cute boutique hotel Glorietta Bay Inn
  • Coronado Island Segway Tour – I mean, who doesn’t love a good segway tour? 🙂 This tour not only explores Coronado Island, but also downtown San Diego and the Embarcadero. 

San Diego Bucket List - Coronado Beach

3. Enjoy the Views from the Mount Soledad Cross

Drive the windy roads up to the Mount Soledad cross. It’s a landmark in San Diego, and also a great lookout point over the city. On top of that, it’s designated as Korean War memorial, and you can even see a photo of my grandpa here!

San Diego Bucket List - Mount Soledad cross

San Diego Bucket List - Mount Soledad cross

4. Explore Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument park offers great views of San Diego’s harbor and skyline. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a must, and is a San Diego icon.

During the winter months of January to March, it’s a popular spot to try and catch a glimpse of the grey and blue whales migrating from Baja California to Alaska. There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle, but stay up to date before your visit by checking out the Cabrillo National Monument website.

San Diego Bucket List - Cabrillo National Monument

5. Visit Seaport Village

Located downtown along the San Diego bay waterfront, you’ll find the charming Seaport Village. It’s fun for adults and kids alike, and features shops, eateries, and outdoor entertainment. It’s also nicely decorated and festive around the holidays. 🙂

San Diego Bucket List - Seaport Village

San Diego Bucket List - Seaport Village

 6. Spend the day at Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay Park is one of the most popular spots to just be outside and enjoy the San Diego sun. The options are endless here. You can have a picnic, a bonfire, bike or run along the pathway, go paddle boarding, play volleyball, or even sail. It has it all!

Read more: San Diego’s Best Outdoor Activities

San Diego Bucket List - Mission Bay Park

San Diego Bucket List - Mission Bay Park

 7. Discover Old Town

Come to Old Town and immerse yourself in history and culture!  After all, Old Town was California’s first settlement. There’s plenty to do here. Wander through unique shops (like old school candle and soap shops), pan for gold, take an Old Town Tequila and Tortillas tour with a local guide. This way you’ll explore the local streets on a walking tour of the city, get inside tips from a local, and it even includes handmade tortilla, short of tequila (or a margarita, beer, or soda), chips and salsa, and a street taco! And if you didn’t know, street tacos are a big deal in San Diego. 🙂

 San Diego Bucket List - Old Town 

San Diego Bucket List - Old Town

8. Wine and Dine at the Temecula Vineyards

Meet Southern California’s wine country, Temecula Valley. If you thought Sonoma and Napa Valley was all California had to offer, I’m pleased to inform you, they’re not. 🙂

In Temecula you can expect award-winning wines, tasty restaurants, and cozy bed and breakfast inns. Also not to be missed are the sunrise hot air balloon rides over Temecula Valley! This is truly an amazing San Diego bucket list item! I recommend booking tickets in advance here

If you want to stick to the vineyards, here are some amazing tours available to get the most out of your Temecula Valley experience. 🙂

  • Guided Wine Tasting Tour – This is a half-day tour and includes lunch, a narrated tour, free hotel pickup and drop off.
  • Grapehopper Tour – What I like about this tour is it offers a flexible schedule from multiple wineries to choose from as well as roundtrip transportation 
  • Horse-Drawn Trolley Tour – This is a really unique way to visit Temecula Valley and includes a professional guide!

Read more: Temecula Valley: A Guide to Southern California’s Wine Country

San Diego Bucket List - Temecula Valley

San Diego Bucket List - Temecula Hot Air Balloon

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9. Frolic with the La Jolla Seals

La Jolla’s coastlines are easy to love. 😍 I mean, they have it all! Dramatic sea cliffs (check!), hidden coves (check!), rocky reefs (check!), and beautiful sandy beaches (double check!).

Also you cannot miss La Jolla Cove.Here you can get up close and personal to the seals and sea lions that sunbath on the rocky shores.

I especially love sea kayaking along the La Jolla shores! With La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks you can take a tour around beautiful La Jolla and see the sea lions, leopard sharks, and of course, the caves!

San Diego Bucket List - La Jolla Cove Seals

San Diego Bucket List - Kayaking La Jolla Cove

10. Spend the Day at the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park

Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is famed for being one of the best zoos in the world! Enough said, right? 😂

At the San Diego Zoo you can expect to see over 3,700 animals, not to mention the shows, 4-D theatres and play areas. Most notably, the San Diego zoo has been able to successfully breed the Giant Panda. You can even receive daily updates via the panda cam from the convenience of your own home.

I highly recommend you book your tickets in advance online (which you can do through this link) because there is always a line, and if you don’t have a rental car you can even book a tour so you’ll be picked up and dropped off from your hotel for a very reasonable price (park admission included in price). 

San Diego Bucket List - San Diego Zoo

North of the San Diego Zoo (30-mile drive to Escondido) is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a not-for-profit organization. It is a species conservation and breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo, and offers free-range enclosures housing animals from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Here you can go on safari and get up close to rhinos, giraffes, elephants, buffalo and more!

I would also recommend booking your ticket in advance online for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 🙂

Another great option is if you plan on visiting BOTH the San Diego Zoo & San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you can save 20% on the combined admissions when you book a 2-visit pass.  If you want to skip the hassle of making the 30-mile drive to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, book a pick up and drop off from your hotel (safari park price not included)

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Bucket List - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Bucket List - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

 

11. Go Paddle Boarding

A super popular (and fun!) activity is paddle boarding. There are many locations to paddle board, but I would recommend the San Diego Bay Harbor as a favorite. You have the San Diego bay on one side with great views of the downtown skyline and Coronado Bridge.

If you don’t have your own paddle board, renting and lessons are available really cheap through this link.

San Diego Bucket List - Paddle Boarding

12. Explore the Little Italy Mercato Farmer’s Market

This is my faaaaaavorite market! Every Saturday (year-round, rain or shine) the Little Italy Market is open. There are over 200 tents and live music on the streets. The vendor options are endless and the atmosphere is vibrant.

San Diego Bucket List - Little Italy Farmers Market

Here you can find a little bit of everything. Come hungry because this market has the best food! Sample fresh cheeses, almond paste, and flavored hummus and garlic spreads. Then wash it down with unique combinations of kombucha, cold brew, or refreshing juices.

 

San Diego Bucket List - Little Italy Farmers Market

The shopping is also fantastic! You can find the most beautiful jewelry pieces, boutique clothing, or even succulents and plants for your garden.

San Diego Bucket List - Little Italy Farmers Market

For all the wine lovers out there, I’m also a big fan of the Little Italy Walking Tour with Wine Tasting. This is my kinda tour. You get an incredibly informative tour of Little Italy, along with 12 tastings which includes cheese and panini. 

Read more: A Guide to the San Diego Farmer’s Markets (for every day of the week!)

13. Enjoy an Evening in the Gaslamp Quarter

Located downtown, the historic Gaslamp Quarter is popular for its dining options and a fun night out. It’s the best place to be for food, bars, and entertainment and is in close proximity to the Convention Center, Seaport Village, and Petco Park.

I love learning the history behind the locations, and the Gaslamp Quarter is full of history. I highly recommend taking this walking tour if you’re also into that kind of information.  There’s also a super popular Gaslamp and Waterfront Segway tour that’s honestly the best way to see a city. 🙂

San Diego Bucket List - Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego Bucket List - Gaslamp Quarter

14. Visit the LEGOLAND California Theme Park

Yep, that’s right. The plastic construction toy, Legos, has its own theme park!

This is a family friendly attraction with rides, shows, and even a LEGOLAND waterpark! You can save time by booking your tickets in advance, or even book your tickets so they include a pickup and drop off to your hotel

San Diego Bucket List - Legoland

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15. Watch the Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is one of my favorite spots in San Diego! The rugged and rocky coastline is an ideal spot for running or walking along the sea-cliffs. Or my favorite choice, hunker down at sunset to watch the sun disappear into the sea. 😍

San Diego Bucket List - Sunset Cliffs

Free yoga is also available here! Sunset Cliffs Yoga meets every Wednesday at 5:30pm and Friday at 11am. So come get a great workout with a spectacular, seaside view.

San Diego Bucket List - Sunset Cliffs Yoga

 16. Explore Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a gorgeous area to explore with a plethora of museums, parks, beautiful Spanish architecture, and gardens everywhere. Some personal favorites is the beautiful architecture at the Casa de Balboa and Casa del Prado buildings, the Spanish Village Art Center, the Rose and Japanese Friendship Garden and the Natural History Museum.

Balboa Park is pretty large and there is a lot to see, so for time’s sake it might be best to take a tour. Here are are some great ones I’d recommend:

  • Balboa Park Walking Tour – This tour is probably the best bang for your buck because it’s a small and intimate tour and you’ll get loads of information and ensure you see all the highlights. 
  • Balboa Park by Segway – Yes, there’s a Segway tour for everything in San Diego! 
  • Balboa Park Private Tour – This is like the VIP of Balboa Park tours. You’ll get a pick up and drop off in a luxury car from your San Diego hotel, water and snacks included, professional tour guide,, and free admission to certain attractions. 

San Diego Bucket List - Balboa Park

San Diego Bucket List - Balboa Park Spanish Village Center

PS: The Botanical Building and Lily Pond is an extremely popular spot and you’ll find many people here lingering to take a photo.

San Diego Bucket List - Botanical Building and Lily Pond - Balboa Park

17. Go Surfing

It seems like just about everyone surfs in San Diego. And why wouldn’t you, it’s California, right? Just be sure to wear a wetsuit, the water’s freezing!

If you don’t know how to surf, now is the best time. 🙂 You can take surf lessons in La Jolla, which is where the below photo was taken and is my favorite surf spot. They also have surf lesson options for kids. 🙂

San Diego Bucket List - Surfing

San Diego Bucket List - Pacific Beach Surf Shop

18. Hang glide or Paraglide off Torrey Pines Cliffs

For all the daredevils out there, come to the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Paragliding and hang gliding has never been more scenic! You can fly tandem, or even earn your wings and get certified.

San Diego Bucket List - Torrey Pines Cliffs

19. Explore the Carlsbad Flower Fields – Spring Only!

April showers brings May flowers. 🙂 And they’re especially beautiful at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. At $14.00 a person, these colorful flowers attract visitors from all over. 

San Diego Bucket List - Carlsbad Flower Fields

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20. Take a Harbor Cruise

Taking a tour of San Diego’s waterfront is one of the most popular bucket list items you can do in San Diego. There are so many options! You can do anything from one-hour harbor cruises, dining cruises, or even whale watching cruises. Below are some of my favorites:

San Diego Bucket List - Harbor Cruise

San Diego Bucket List - Harbor Cruise

If you made it all the way to the bottom of this list, first of all, YAY you rock and I love you. Second, what did you think of this list of San Diego bucket list items?

I am proud to say I have done all of them, so I know you’ll have a blast ticking them off your San Diego bucket list too!

Lastly, if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck for what to do in San Diego in a short period of time, I would definitely recommend one of these tours:

  • San Diego Hop-on Hop-off Trolley – I love these tours because you can see everything you want to at your own pace. You can choose from a one-day or two-day ticket
  • San Diego City Tour – This is a half-day tour and allows you to see a lot in a short period of time including the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, and La Jolla. 
  • San Diego Scenic Tour – This is a 4-hour tour of the best scenic stops including La Jolla, Mount Soledad, Coronado Island, and downtown San Diego including Balboa Park, Little Italy and Gaslamp. 

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San Diego Bucket List

What’s on your San Diego bucket list? Love to know in the comments below!





TIFFANY NICOLE

Tiffany created Lavender Vines as a place to share her love for Jesus and adventures from around the world. She has a slight obsession with salted caramel lattes, Japanese kimonos, and an ongoing love affair with NYC and Paris.

  • Reply
    Ytzi
    July 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Omg it seems like there so much to see and explore! How awesome!!!

    • Tiffany Nicole
      Reply
      Tiffany Nicole
      July 19, 2017 at 11:07 am

      There are! Such an amazing city and tons of to explore! <3

  • Reply
    Noelle Across The Pond
    August 5, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Wonderful list! This is so useful as I plan for my trip to San Diego 😀

    • Tiffany Nicole
      Reply
      Tiffany Nicole
      August 9, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      YAY I’m glad! Let me know what you think of the spots! 🙂

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