Top 15 San Diego Sights & Attractions

From gorgeous beaches and viewpoints, to historic districts, parks and museums, San Diego offers visitors numerous sights & attractions for everyone. After many years in San Diego, I want to share here my top 15 San Diego attractions, places I often visit myself and show as a guide to friends and family.

1. Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs San Diego

The idyllic nature park Sunset Cliffs is located south of Ocean Beach and is the perfect place to admire what makes San Diego and California so beautiful. With no real beach, the attraction here is the cliffs and trails around Sunset Cliffs. If you want, you can take one of the steep paths to the water and explore the area around the tide pools. For everyone else, Sunset Cliffs is the ideal place to relax with a cup of coffee, enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean and watch the surfers.

My tip: Sunset Cliffs is one of my favorite places in all of San Diego, but be careful at the cliffs: There have been a few accidents here and there! Parking is free and the experience is most impressive at sunset.

2. Balboa Park

Balboa Park San Diego

One of the most popular parks in America and one of the most popular San Diego attractions! Balboa Park is known for attractions such as the botanical gardens, the famous Lily Pond and its many museums such as z.B. known to the San Diego Museum of Art.

Tip: Balboa Park is one of the few sights in San Diego that is best explored on foot! Take your time, wander off the main trails and discover the park for yourself. By the way, the San Diego Zoo is integrated into the park, so a visit can be combined wonderfully!

3. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla, one of San Diego's wealthiest neighborhoods, is home to the beautiful La Jolla Cove, a nature reserve that is a haven for sea lions, fish and birds. Thanks to its protected location, La Jolla Cove is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and much more, in addition to wildlife watching. In addition, there is Scripps Park, a large green space for playing and relaxing.

My tip: Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove is one of the highlights in San Diego! After your visit, take a short walk to the center of La Jolla to refuel in one of the many stores and restaurants.

4. Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines San Diego

Torrey Pines is a state nature preserve and ideal for hiking, home to one of the most famous golf courses in the U.S., and a gathering place for many of San Diego's paragliders and hang gliders. Thanks to its easy profile, a hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is recommended for everyone, and you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the cliffs, beach and Pacific Ocean. From here you can also admire the paragliders flying a few miles south high above the Pacific Ocean.

My tip: Start with a hike at the ' Torrey Pines' nature reserve and enjoy the unique views. A short drive away, a visit to the Torrey Pines Gliderport is worthwhile to see paragliders up close and have a bite to eat at the 'Cliff Hanger Cafe'.

5. Coronado Island

Coronado Island San Diego

Coronado is a popular peninsula located west of downtown, accessed by the famous Coronado Bridge. Voted the best beach in all of America in 2012, Coronado Beach is a must-see for all beach lovers: a large, wide beach, beautiful sunsets and the opportunity to have a bonfire on the beach round out the beautiful atmosphere. Other highlights include the historic luxury hotel 'Hotel Del Coronado' and the relaxed downtown area with stores and restaurants.

My tip: Explore Coronado by car, as the distances on the peninsula are quite long. Visit Bayview Park for a great view of the downtown San Diego skyline. After a wonderful walk through downtown and eating ice cream at the Hotel Del Coronado, you can enjoy the sunset on the beautiful beach.

6. Mount Soledad Memorial

Mount Soledad is probably the best viewpoint in San Diego. With a 360 degree view over La Jolla and Del Mar to the north and Mission Bay and Downtown to the south, you can even see as far as Mexico on a good day! As a memorial for war victims, Mount Soledad attracts many visitors and also serves as a good orientation for newcomers, as most of San Diego's neighborhoods can be seen from here.

My tip: If you have time, we recommend a visit during the day, and then also at night when San Diego is brightly lit!

7. Mission Beach Boardwalk

One of the best places to experience typical California beach life is the iconic boardwalk in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. The 5km from the southern tip in Mission Beach with its volleyball fields to the northern end in Pacific Beach invite for strolling or biking. Life is in full swing here: wide beaches, surfers, numerous stores and restaurants do the rest. A popular vantage point is the Crystal Pier and the grassy area at the north end of the boardwalk near Law Street with fantastic views over the Mission Beach coastline. Here in the picture: An icon in San Diego, SlowMo!

My tip: Rent a beach bike (beach cruiser) and explore the promenade at the beach as well as at the bay! The more ambitious can continue directly to La Jolla Cove, a beautiful 11 km bike trail! If you're out on a Saturday or Sunday morning, stop by the patch of greenery at the north end of the boardwalk: Here, there's donation-based outdoor yoga where you can either actively participate or just watch.

8. Gaslamp Quarter

The historic Gaslamp Quarter is located in the heart of downtown San Diego and is today a trendy area with good restaurants, stores and galleries. The area, which stretches roughly from Broadway to San Diego Bay, is one of the best San Diego sights around, thanks in part to its Victorian architecture and abundance of gas lanterns.

My tip: If you want to go out for a nice meal or if you are looking for the nightlife in San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter is the place to be. Otherwise, a walk through the neighborhood connects well with nearby Seaport Village and the aircraft carrier USS Midway.

9. Seaport Village & USS Midway

Located very close to each other, a visit to Seaport Village and the USS Midway Museum can be combined well. Seaport Village is a beautiful area near downtown with restaurants, stores and entertainment for walking along the waterfront of San Diego Bay.

And for all historically-minded visitors to San Diego, attractions like the USS Midway Museum reflect much of the present and past of the United States and are a must-see during a stay in San Diego. The former aircraft carrier has been converted into a museum and gives visitors an up-close look at life on a former aircraft carrier.

My tip: The area is ideal for walking and exploring, as there is more to see around the bay. It is a good idea to leave the car outside and walk along the waterfront, also because parking around Seaport Village is expensive.

10. Seaworld San Diego

One of only 3 locations in the world, SeaWorld in San Diego is a magnet for visitors and a major attraction for families. From the popular Shamu show with its mighty killer whales, to underwater tanks for sharks, polar bears, rays and many other animals, there is much to marvel at here. You can't get this close to these animals anywhere else.

11. Cabrillo National Monument

Together with Mount Soledad, Cabrillo National Monument is a popular viewpoint and one of the most visited San Diego attractions! For a small entrance fee you have a wonderful view over the Pacific Ocean, downtown and Coronado. And with a little luck you can spot a whale or two in the distance! Also worth a visit: the lighthouse, a small museum and the beach with its tide pools.

My tip: On the way to Cabrillo is the university 'Point Loma Nazarene', a beautiful campus, located directly on the cliffs. Both should be visited on one of San Diego's many cloudless days, as the view is sometimes obscured by the clouds of the 'Marine Layer'.

12. Old Town

Old Town offers visitors a historical look at how San Diego came to be. This is where soldiers and settlers originally settled around the mission. Today it is a historic park with museums, traditional stores and restaurants that recall the city's Mexican-American past. It is the most visited park in California and admission is free.

My tip: The best time to visit Old Town is in the cooler evening hours and on 5. May to the 'Cinco de Mayo' festivities.

13. San Diego Zoo & Wildlife Animal Park

The second best zoo in the world (2014) is one of the top sights in San Diego! It is characterized both by its tropical flora and by its animals from all regions of the world. One of the main attractions are the giant pandas, plus giant tortoises, monitor lizards, rare bird species and of course many other animals.

For animal and nature lovers, consider the combination package with San Diego Wild Animal Park. 45 minutes north of the zoo, this 700-acre park is home to animals in outdoor enclosures, including lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos and more. You can explore the park on foot and by train, other options such as a safari ride through the enclosure to get up close and personal with the wild animals can be booked as well.

14. San Diego Harbor Cruise

One of the best ways to see the San Diego skyline, harbor and Coronado Peninsula and bridge is on a harbor cruise. Rides are moderated and 1 or 2 hours long, depending on the package. See a different side of San Diego and learn about the city's history, how it came to be, and the role the bay has traditionally played. Several boat operators are available.

My tip: The longer tour (2 hours) covers both the southern and northern parts of the bay, so it includes the skyline, Coronado, a side trip to the warships, and more. For those who have the time, I highly recommend the longer tour.

15. Birch Aquarium (Scripps)

The educational value of this aquarium is to teach us all about the importance of conservation and specifically the protection of the world's oceans. Birch Aquarium is not huge and can be walked through in 1-2 hours, but is built with attention to detail and kept as natural as possible. A visit could be.B. offer on one of the few rainy days.

Tip: After visiting the aquarium, take a hike across campus and down to the beach at La Jolla Shores.