San Diego Travel Guide

Whether you want to windsurf, catch some rays on the beach, or visit the world-renowned zoo, experience the vacation of your dreams in sunny San Diego. Places to visit and unforgettable adventures await you in this vibrant city. More than 70 miles of beautiful coastline beckon to all those who love the seaside. Couples, families with kids, and large groups will enjoy the gorgeous weather that attracts vacationers year round. We hope that you enjoy reading the San Diego travel information in this guide. If you see something we've overlooked, please let us know by sending your suggestions.

What to Do in San Diego

In this part of California, there's no shortage of tourist attractions. San Diego offers visitors so many options for a fun-filled vacation. Visit Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, LEGOLAND California, or one of many beaches.

SeaWorld San Diego

Sea World

From killer whales to otters to penguins, Sea World is a must-see for visitors to the San Diego area. Take the kids to a show featuring performing animals. The massive aquariums put you face-to-face with fish, sharks, and other creatures. Sea World's interactive exhibits let you feed dolphins. When you're ready for a change of pace, there's the Sesame Street Bay of Play where the kids can enjoy rides. There's also the Coco Loco Arcade for older kids.

Be sure to check for any seasonal events that might be happening at the park. At certain times of the year, the park offers shows into the evening hours and closes with a spectacular fireworks display. Also, there are opportunities throughout the year to dine near the dolphin habitat or with Shamu, the killer whale. You'll enjoy a delicious buffet meal while watching these amazing creatures at play.

The San Diego Zoo

Like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo puts you close to some of your favorite animals. This sprawling 100-acre attraction features animal species from all over the world. There are polar bears, big cats, elephants, hippos, camels, and crocodiles, just to name a few! The giant bears of Panda Canyon are especially popular with visitors.

It's not just the animals that are so impressive. The zoo is also home to a remarkable collection of plants. Not only do visitors enjoy seeing these beautiful plants as they walk through the zoo, the animals benefit too. The zoo grows its own bamboo for the panda bears and eucalyptus for the koala bears.

There's so much to see here, it's no wonder many visitors take advantage of the guided tours of the park. One tour takes you behind the scenes. Another puts you even closer to some of your favorite animals. Tour availability will vary by season so be sure to check a schedule to see which tours are offered the day you plan to visit the zoo.

San Diego Vacation Rentals

The Wild Animal Park

Located about 30 miles from the San Diego Zoo is the Wild Animal Park. This attraction in the San Pasqual Valley draws crowds to its open-range animal exhibits. You can see exotic animal species in settings that closely resemble their natural habitats. There are zebras, gazelle, rhinoceroses, and wild horses. Tours are available, including some that let you feed the animals. Check the park's schedule for the most up-to-date tour information and times.

LEGOLAND California

Adventurers of all ages will find fun activities, rides, and attractions at this park dedicated to the beloved Lego building blocks. See animals, people, boats, cars, and other items made entirely of Legos. Located about 40 minutes from San Diego, it's worth the drive to enjoy this expansive park. There's a water area called Pirate Shores. If you plan to spend much time here, it's recommended that you wear a swimsuit and bring a change of clothes. There are plenty of rides throughout the park, including roller coasters, a log flume, and a free fall ride. If you've ever wondered how they make those fun little blocks, you can find out with a factory tour.

At the Beach

When you've worn out your feet by walking around these tourist attractions, San Diego has its share of inviting beaches. While it's perfectly fine to spend the afternoon under an umbrella with a good book, the beach can also offer plenty of activity. Be a beachcomber for an hour and explore the treasures of the tide-pools. Or, give surfing a try. You'll be in good company because surfing is very popular in San Diego. Head over to Mission Beach where you can ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster. There's also a good opportunity to people-watch at Mission and Pacific Beach. When you're ready to spend some quality time at the beach, you'll likely have a hard time deciding where to go. Other great beaches in the San Diego area include Imperial, Coronado, and Windansea. You have your pick of places to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf!

Whale watching is a fun activity, if you're in the area between December and March. You'll be watching the whales as they migrate to warm waters near Baja, California. Many companies offer whale-watching tours, so be sure to shop around and find the tour that's best for you in terms of schedule and price.

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What to See in San Diego

Balboa Park calls itself the biggest urban cultural park in the U.S. The San Diego Zoo is located here, but it's just one of the many features. There are 15 museums, gardens, and places to enjoy the performing arts. This park provides exciting events year round, so be sure to check a schedule to find out what's happening in Balboa Park during your trip. Plan to visit California Tower, a 200-foot structure that reflects the ornate beauty of Spanish-style architecture.

One of the museums in Balboa Park is the San Diego Museum of Art. View impressive paintings, sculptures, and other works of art on display in spacious galleries. This venue offers a variety of pieces from around the world. The museum rotates exhibits and brings in special collections on a regular basis. There's also a lovely sculpture garden on the museum grounds.

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Where to Shop and Eat in San Diego

San Diego ShoppingIt's not hard to find fine dining in San Diego. Truluck's offers superb seafood. Other top restaurant picks include Bertrand at Mister A's (American), Anthology (American), Sushi Ota (Japanese), and Georges California Modern (American). If you'd like to sample French cuisine and don't mind higher prices, give Tapenade, Pamplemousse Grille, or The Marine Room a try. If you're traveling during a busy time of year, it's always wise to make reservations to avoid long waits at the most popular restaurants.

When you're ready to shop, there are plenty of malls. You'll experience upscale shopping at Fashion Valley Center. This mall has Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, and Bloomingdale's. For outdoor shopping, consider visiting Otay Ranch Town Center. Most stores open to the outside, meaning you'll catch some sun as you move from Ann Taylor to H&M. If you love Target, you'll want to check out the two-story store at Westfield Mission Valley. This shopping center also has a Nordstrom Rack where you can find some good bargains.

Don't forget to visit little shops and boutiques tucked away in neighborhoods and surrounding towns. There's excellent shopping at locally-owned stores in Little Italy, Hill Crest, and Mission Valley. If you're looking for something unusual or for collectibles, spend some time wandering around Adams Avenue Antique Row.

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When to Visit San Diego

One of the main attractions of San Diego is its mild climate. Like most places in the US, August is the hottest month and December is the coolest. Temperatures remain pleasant year round with daily highs ranging from the mid 60s to the upper 70s. Rain is more likely from January through March, but even at these peak times, rainfall totals remain quite low. If you're looking to work on your tan, consider avoiding mid-May through mid-July when local weather patterns can bring fog and overcast skies to the coast. If you want to go whale-watching, the season begins at the end of December and runs through March.

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What to Bring to San Diego

While temperatures are generally mild, bring a sweater or light jacket with you. You probably won't regret bringing a pair or two of light-weight pants. There can be fairly significant changes in temperature from mid-day to evening, so it's best to plan accordingly.

Consider bringing whatever gear you need for sporting or leisure activities. Though most equipment is available for purchase or rent, you can save money by bringing your own.

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Local Services in San Diego

San Diego offers the same services you'd expect to find in any large metropolitan area in the US. There are hospitals, pet care services, and childcare providers. There are several forms of mass transit, including commuter trains, trolleys, and public buses (known as MTS).

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What to Know About San Diego

There can be some variance in temperature here. The same day may offer pleasant weather at the beach, but hotter temperatures on the mesas. Be sure to check the local forecast each day to ensure you have the proper attire for where you're going.

Become familiar with the three different lines of the city's trolley system. It's a great, inexpensive way to get around. When you purchase your ticket at a self-service kiosk, you'll need to use that ticket within an allotted time, usually a matter of hours. Avoid this situation and save money by purchasing day passes.

Consider booking your trip between late November and mid-February, when San Diego is less crowded. High temperatures will still be in the mid 60s to lower 70s. That's definitely warmer weather than you'll find in many other places during the winter months. You're also sure to find more deals and discounts at restaurants, attractions, and events when tourism is slow. At this time of year, you’ll avoid the crowds when you go out to eat or visit the zoo.

If you're planning to visit Sea World, you're not allowed to bring in any outside food or drinks except bottled water. Given that concession prices tend to be a bit high inside the park, save yourself a few bucks by bringing your own water. If you don't want to buy food inside the park, pack a cooler and eat your meal at the picnic tables just outside the entrance area.

Depending on which beach you visit, you might need to take an extra measure of caution as you walk into the ocean. Instead of picking up your feet as you walk, shuffle them so that you'll disturb any stingrays that might be ahead of you. Stings from these creatures can be very painful.

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Getting to San Diego

Unless you're coming by car, train, or bus, you're likely to arrive at the San Diego International Airport. The airport is just three miles from downtown San Diego. There are taxis, shuttles, and rental cars available to get you from the airport to your San Diego vacation rental.

If you're coming from a western state, you might consider taking a Greyhound bus or Amtrak. For each of these options, you'll want to check schedules, itineraries, and prices to see if either of these is a better alternative to driving or flying. By evaluating the cost and travel time, you can determine your best option for getting to San Diego. Sometimes it’s worth a little extra money for a plane ticket if it means arriving earlier in San Diego.

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Why San Diego Vacation Rentals?

San Diego vacation rentals give you more amenities than a hotel or San Diego B&B. Many rentals offer kitchen areas, multiple bedrooms, laundry facilities, and a living space. With the extra space, you'll be able to unpack your suitcases and feel more at home during your vacation. Enjoy more privacy than you'd have at a crowded hotel. You'll find vacation rentals are close to some of the best areas of San Diego. It will make your visit to sunny San Diego as picture perfect as a postcard!

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