One hundred aces, 3,700 animals, and over 650 species – this is the San Diego Zoo. A true modern marvel, the zoo is one of the finest in America and should be a part of any San Diego vacations nearly impossible to see it all during one day, so it is best to have a plan of action before you enter the park. Come along as I guide you on how to make the most of your day at the zoo.


Getting Started

The San Diego Zoo offers a guided bus tour that covers 70% of the park. I suggest hopping aboard this tour to get an overview of the park before you take to the pavement. Tours depart starting at 9 am, and last about 35-45 minutes. The open air upper deck of the bus has the best animal sightseeing, so try to sit there if you can. During the tour, you’ll get to see Elephant Odyssey, Africa Rocks, Outback, Urban Jungle and Northern Frontier. I was impressed with the views of polar bears, giraffes, elephants, and lions. Plus, the tour lets you see some areas of the park you might not have time to traverse to during your day. After all, this park is massive.

The San Diego Zoo

All the Animals

Once you have a good overview of the park, it’s time to get an up-close look. Grab a San Diego Zoo map, then head to Panda Canyon.  It is an absolute must visit as the San Diego Zoo is one of the only four U.S. zoos home to these amazing mammals. Visit this attraction first thing as it is extremely popular. A baby panda born July 29, 2012, currently calls the zoo home too. If that doesn’t make you hightail it here I don’t know what will. Fill your camera with multiple “aww-inducing” shots. Then head to other areas not seen on the tour such as Lost Forest.

There are a lot of winding, hilly trails within this area but it’s worth the trek. I’m absolutely crazy about apes, so the stoic gorillas and acrobatic orangutan’s were amazing to see. At the time, the orangutan had a baby leading to infinite cute sights. In the Lost Forest, you’ll also want to hit the Tiger Trail. The open viewing areas here provide excellent observation and photographing points. Head to the hippos next. They might be hiding, but look for them. When you find them, you’ll wonder how you missed them as they are some of the largest hippos I’ve ever seen!


What’s Included with San Diego Zoo Tickets

At the Zoo a SkyFari ride is included in your one day San Diego Zoo tickets. I used it to traverse have the park in 4-minutes, and save myself some walking. Take it to the Northern Frontier to see the polar bears swim and play in their large water enclosure.   There’s still a lot to see at the Zoo, but you’re probably feeling a bit tired from all the walking. Luckily, the Kangaroo Express Bus is available in this section of the park. The Express Bus lets you hop on and off at five different stops throughout the Zoo. Just wait at one of the stops for a bus with a green Express banner to arrive, about every 15 minutes. Use the bus to see lions, elephants, giraffes and more. Don’t forget about the koala bears either!


The San Diego Zoo

Discover More

This exceptional Zoo provides an in-depth look at a diverse array of animals. With exhibits designed in a natural form and a lush botanical garden surrounding much of the park, a true habitat-inspired atmosphere thrives. Explore the San Diego Zoo for a closer look at the wild side.

Keep in mind, the earlier in the day you visit the better. The sun won’t be as warm, which many of the animals seek refuge from making them less lively. Plus, the lines and crowds aren’t as bad early in the day so you can get even better views of the animals at the zoo.

Need to escape the everyday? Break away from the norm by treating your family to a San Diego Spring Break. The temperatures are warm, the ocean is nearby, and there are a variety of things to do that will keep kids young and old entertained. What should you do on your San Diego Spring Break vacation? Read on.


San Diego Zoo

Go Wild at the San Diego Zoo

If there’s one thing the whole family can agree on, it’s the San Diego Zoo. Famous the world over for its renowned animal care and exhibits. The urban paradise can easily take a whole day to see, as this place is a lot more than your typical zoo. Start your day off with a guided bus tour of the park. Gaining perspective on this nearly 100-acre park is key to making the most of your day. Decide which exhibits you want to visit again during your San Diego Spring Break vacation, then trek through the botanical canopy of the zoo for a closer look. Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.

Highlights for me always lie in the Lost Forest, home to gorillas, tigers, and hippos; Panda Canyon, home to Giant Pandas; and Elephant Odyssey, home to elephants, lions, and jaguars. Your San Diego Zoo ticket includes the Kangaroo Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Use them! They make traversing the park much easier and save you tons of time.



Build Memories at LEGOLAND

If you have children under the age of 12, LEGOLAND California is just for them. If you’re a parent, you already know the love for LEGOS. At this theme park, that love explodes with larger-than-life LEGO sculptures, Imagination Centers, LEGO-based rides with mild thrills, silly shows featuring LEGO people, and so much more. This spring visitors have exclusive access to LEGO Movie 4D: The Next Adventure, too.  Right outside LEGOLAND is SEA Life Aquarium and it’s included in your ticket purchase. Total bonus! The aquarium incorporates LEGO statues and designs into the underwater scene, a perfect complement to your day at LEGOLAND.


Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

Take to the Outdoors

Be sure to spend at least one of your San Diego Spring Break vacation days sightseeing.  Spectacular sea cliffs, rugged desert terrain, and endless ocean combine to create a natural beauty that can be appreciated at any age. The first time I visited San Diego, I discovered Torrey Pines and have been singing its praises ever since. As a natural reserve its home to not only threatened plants and unique geological formations but stunning overlooks of the coastline and surrounding La Jolla.  The Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, with its tide pools, tall cliffs, and lighthouse, is another favorite as is Seaside Cliffs, a stretch of coastline known for its epic sunsets.

Family Beach ThinkstockPhotos-478212466

Sun, sand, and surf are sure to bring the smiles!

Hit the Sand & Surf

San Diego has some pretty great beaches so it would be a shame to not spend any time at one. And there are so many to choose from! Coronado Beach, with the iconic Hotel Del Coronado framing its shores, is a classic beach consistently voted one of America’s best by the Travel Channel. Mission Beach is ideal for families as the meandering coastline has calm waters, there is lifeguard service during peak season, beachside eateries make it easy to snack and Belmont Park is nearby. Family-friendly La Jolla Shores has sandy beaches and mild waves so young kids can play in shallow waters and bigger kids can body board and even try to surf. Other family favorites include Del Mar, Moonlight Beach, and Tide Beach Park.

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Balboa Park

Sneak in Some Edutainment

There’s no reason kids can’t learn something new while on a San Diego Spring Break vacation. At the New Children’s Museum families will find a dynamic atmosphere filled with inventive and engaging art experiences. Get hands-on with activities and performances at this one-of-a-kind attraction. Tour the USS Midway for a unique glimpse at U.S. history. There are 60 exhibits, 25 restored aircrafts, aviator simulators and so much more to learn aboard this historic aircraft carrier. Balboa Park, with 15 educational yet entertaining museums, is known as the “Smithsonian of the West” due to its vast cultural offerings. Kids especially enjoy the San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

Village Pizzeria Facebook

Village Pizzeria Bayside/Facebook

Play with Your Food

Okay, I’m not really advocating playing with your food. However, eating in San Diego can certainly be categorized as fun which equals playtime in my book. Kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but kid-friendly San Diego restaurants cater to not only their taste buds but their creative side. The Village Pizzeria offers a Build-Your-Own-Pizza night every Wednesday, where kids receive their own pre-rolled dough, marina, cheese and 3 toppings of their choice to create their own specialty, custom pie. Bonus: There are 11 craft beers on tap for adults, seriously scenic views and nearby grassy area for the kids to roam. Waypoint Public has a designated kid’s area with books, games and astro turf for kids who thinking sitting still is for the birds. Plus, they have an affordable just-for-kids menu with hots dogs, mac ‘n cheese and burgers, while adults can enjoy a selection of over 30 craft beers and inventive food menu. Another notable mention is the throwback Corvette Diner, which has a massive arcade room, magicians, and live entertainment.

San Diego Spring Break Fun Awaits

Put these San Diego Spring Break vacation ideas for families to use on your escape from the ordinary. Your kids will thank you!

Be sure to book all your attraction tickets and hotel rooms with Reserve San Diego for the best money-saving deals and insider tips.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Visiting San Diego soon? If so, SeaWorld is most likely at the top of your vacation itinerary. As the premier aquatic park on the West Coast, it welcomes millions of visitors each year. Not only can you get up close and personal with amazing marine life, you can also experience incredible shows and attractions designed with families in mind.  To make the most of your day at the park, be sure to use these SeaWorld San Diego tips.

SeaWorld San Diego Tips: An Insider’s Secrets

1. Buy your tickets in advance
Not only will get to save (Reserve San Diego currently has discounts of $20!) but you can skip the will-call lines and go straight to the turnstiles. Instant access to the park guaranteed!

seaworld San Diego tips

2. Make Time for Feedings and Shows
One of the most helpful SeaWorld San Diego tips is to schedule your activities around the shows. After all, these are some of the best ways to discover more about the marine life at the park. Pick up a show schedule when you arrive at the park or browse the offerings before you arrive. I also recommend stopping by Pacific Point and Manta to get a feedings schedule, so you can feed sea lions and bat rays by hand during your day at the park.

3. Bring a Waterproof Camera
Let’s face it – you’re at an aquatic park and might get splashed a time or two.  Especially at live shows at Shamu Stadium, where the Splash Zone makes the performance even more fun.  Watching the reactions of your kids is a better memory than trying to keep a fancy camera dry. Even at other aquatic attractions a waterproof camera, disposable or otherwise, comes in handy.  You never know when the animals you’re viewing might make a splash! Note:  The splash zone of shows is the first 13 rows at Shamu Stadium.

4. Meet and Greet the Shamu and Crew Characters
They are easiest to catch between 9am-Noon near the front entrance of the park. In addition, you can meet the Sesame Street characters in the Bay of Play after each Sunny Days show. Be sure to grab a park map to get a full list of the park’s character encounter times during the day of your visit.

5. Prepare Properly for Water Rides
Riding Journey of Atlantis?  Choose your seats carefully as the front seat of the ride will get you soaked! You’ll also get wet on Shipwrecked Rapids, but that should come as no surprise considering the name. I suggest bringing some expensive ponchos with you as you’ll fork over a lot for the plastic protectors at the park.


6. Beat the Heat at Cool Zones
It can get hot during sunny California days.  Cool off at attractions like Wild Arctic, Penguin Encounter, Turtle Reef, Shark Encounter and one of three indoor aquariums.

7. Eat Breakfast Before You Arrive
There are delicious breakfast spots located in neighboring Mission Beach.  The Mission Café is a bustling, friendly option with exceptional French toast.   With a full belly, you can start your day off right and save lunch for later in the day.

8. Slather on the Sunscreen
SeaWorld San Diego tips aren’t just about saving money or skipping lines. They’re also about keeping you safe! Be sure to pack sunscreen in your bag so you can reapply as needed throughout the day.  There are shade spots at the park, but most of it is open and sunny.  Which means, you’ll want to avoid a sunburn – the worst vacation companion!

9. Save on Drinks
SeaWorld doesn’t allow outside food, but you can bring in outside water bottles.  Freeze some the night before to drink throughout the day.  If you’re a soda drinker, invest in a $7.99 cup you can refill throughout the day for $1.


10. Arrive Early for the Shows
To get the best seats, arrive 30 minutes early for the shows.  Especially at productions like Sea Lions Live, where Clyde and Seamore perform hilarious pre-show antics.

11. Get your Hand Stamped
Do this when you arrive at the park to ensure you can come and go from the park as you please.  The more flexibility you have with your day, the more enjoyable it will be.

12. Purchase a Quick Queue Pass
If you’re visiting the park during it’s peak times, such as summer or the holiday season, purchasing a Quick Queue pass is a good idea. Why? Because it allows you front-of-the-line access to Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, Shipwreck Rapids, Bayside Sky Ride and Manta. Upgrade to the Premier Pass for reserved seating at SeaWorld shows (excluding Madagascar LIVE).

Keep these SeaWorld San Diego tips in mind to have the best day ever at this amazing aquatic park. With these helpful hints and tricks, you can stay focused on the fun at SeaWorld San Diego CA, knowing you’ve got the inside track on what to do, where to go and what to see.

Find out more about visiting SeaWorld »
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Did you know San Diego is a haven for whales during the winter season? Each year, beginning in December, over 20,000 gray whales make the long journey from Alaska to the warm waters of Southern California. Female whales give birth to their calves during this time, and stay for several months ensuring their young have time to grow strong for the trip home. All of this makes whale watching in San Diego a popular activity, with viewings available from both land and sea.

San Diego whale watching

San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline directly in the migration path of the whales. In order to see these majestic creatures from the shore, check out:

  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve
  • Cabrillo National Monument


To view these impressive mammals up-close, go on a San Diego whale watching tour. Recommended excursions include:


Reserving a San Diego whale watching tour allows you to not only get close to the migrating grey whales, but you can also experience the ocean of the southern coast as well as gain access to expansive views of the San Diego skyline. In addition, these tours are led by knowledgeable guides who inform you of the whale’s migration habits as well as interesting facts about whales and other marine life. Most of the whale watching in San Diego tours also include a sighting guarantee which means if you didn’t see a whale on your trip you can visit again free of charge!

Not visiting during the winter season? No worries! You can still view whales in San Diego during the summer season. From mid-June through September, the largest creatures on Earth – Blue Whales – can be found of the southern coast. In fact, these endangered mammals form the largest group of blue whales in the world with 2,000-3,000 whales journeying here each year. They’re easy to spot, too, as they spout a 30 foot column of water from their blowhole signaling their location. In order to see the blue whales, a tour is necessary as they tend to stay further from the coast than their grey whale cousins. The Hornblower Summer Whale Watching Adventure comes highly recommended. In any event, in any season, you can view whales in San Diego.

Whale watching in San Diego is a prime activity choice for those of all ages. Add a tour to your vacation itinerary for a scenic yet educational experience.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.


While the rest of America wallows in freezing weather, Southern California doesn’t miss a beat. San Diego is open 24/7, 365 days a year – with locals liking winter the most due to the off-season, relaxed vibe of the city. Beaches, attractions and San Diego theme parks have fewer crowds, and cultural as well as outdoor activities are abundant. The seasonal temps and sunshine easily whisk away those winter blues, so take a look at the many things to do in San Diego this winter and get inspired.

Whale watching

Whale Watching

Each year over 20,000 gray whales make the migration from Alaska to Baja California. The warm waters are ideal for female whales to birth their young. Lucky for San Diego, 70 miles of the city’s coastline are right in the migration path. You can see impressive creatures by land at sites like Torrey Pines State Reserve and the Cabrillo National Monument. For a closer look, reserve a San Diego whale watching tour with operators like Flagship Cruises and Hornblower Cruises. Not only will you gain extensive knowledge of whales, but you’ll be able to see the San Diego skyline from a different point of view.

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Famous for wildflowers, the blooms here start as early as mid-February so you can get an early vision of spring. Each canyon and valley of the dessert is a welcome home for various annual flowers. Every corner of Anza-Borrego blossoms with different varieties. Be on the look for Dune Evening Primrose, Desert Chicory, and Desert Sand Verbena.

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February Museum Month

San Diego has a wealth of museums, but in February you don’t have to spend your wealth to visit. That’s because February Museum Month features half-off entry fees at 45 San Diego Museum. Pick up a pass at any of the fourteen Macy’s location in the area, then receive discount admission to museums such as San Diego Museum of Art, USS Midway Museum and Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

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Mardi Gras Merriment

San Diego may be far west of the Louisiana Bayou, but that doesn’t mean they city doesn’t know how to celebrate. Join the Gaslamp Quarter for a Mardi Gras Block Party and Parade on February 6, 2016. Twenty-Two city blocks within the venue will feature 3 main stages and 3 satellite stages along and adjacent to 5th Avenue. The Big Easy Parade start at 9:30pm, complete with Celebrity Grand Marshall and 60 over-top-floats. This one San Diego party you don’t want to miss!

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Explore La Jolla

This seaside town is perfect for winter time exploration. With temps in the 60s, the beaches might be too chilly to dive in but are still great for dolphin and seal watching, as well as sunsets. Along with quirky galleries, charming cafes and scenic walks, you’ll find museums like La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Birch Aquarium. My favorite La Jolla Winter activity? Grabbing breakfast at the Marine Room while watching high tide. Waves up to two-stories high with a side of bacon? Yes, please!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

There’s plenty to see and do in San Diego, but if you’re itching to explore more of Southern California I’m here to guide your way. With day trips from San Diego, you’ll discover everything from wine country to national parks and even a bit of Old Mexico. Ready to see where the open road can take you? Let’s go!

Europa Village FB

Europa Village/Facebook

1) Temecula Wine Country

If you love wine (and really, who doesn’t?) day trips from San Diego to Temecula Wine Country will be right up your alley. Located in Riverside County about an hour from San Diego, wine aficionados can sample award-winning wines in over 50 varieties from wineries like Briar Rose Winery, Europa Village and Longshadow Ranch Vineyard & Winery.

Whites, reds and blends are served in Temecula Wine Country, so every one is sure to find a flavor to suit their palate. Tasting rooms are generally open daily, from 10am-5pm. Sample fees apply to samples. With almost 40 wineries creating Temecula Wine Country, the rolling vineyards of the area are able to create an intimate experience for expert tasters and novices alike.

Wildflower in Anza Borrego

Wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert

2) Borrego Springs

Looking to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind? At Borrego Springs you can do just that as this laid back desert community, located in northeast San Diego County, there are no stop lights and strictly mom and pop-style shops. The slower pace of life can be deeper explored at the nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As California’s largest state park, this sprawling oasis is framed by rugged mountains, and offers scenic drives, hikes and even 4×4 tours.

From late February through March, you can find blossoms on the desert floor, which is a lovely sight to behold. Adding to the unique landscape are large, metal sculptures of prehistoric animals. Built by Ricardo Breceda, these are popular tourist attractions and totally Instagram-worthy.

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Griffith Observatory

3) Los Angeles

With Los Angeles just two hours from San Diego, it’s easy to day trip to Hollywood. If you only have one day to spend in Los Angeles, I recommend venturing to Griffith Observatory for stunning views of downtown Los Angeles as well as the Hollywood sign. Visitors can also look through telescopes, explore exhibits, and see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Add a quick stop to Hollywood Boulevard to your tour, then cruise on down to Santa Monica from endless ocean views and a little seaside fun on the pier.

Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Blue Plate Taco. Located right across the street from the Santa Monica Pier, the restaurant has a beachy vibe and tasty Mexican dishes as well as some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had.

Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina Island

Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

4) Catalina Island

You’re right at the coast, so why not visit an island—specifically Catalina Island. Drive to charming Dana Point for one of the best day trips from San Diego. Here, you can catch a ferry to the island. Catalina Express offers 30 departures daily. However, it’s still best to make a reservation as seats fill up fast!

The trip to Catalina Island takes about an hour, but the time is broken up by sightings of sea life such as sea lions. Once at the Island, take time to explore the quaint streets, shops and scenery that has made Catalina Island famous. Land and ocean adventures are available in both Avalon and Two Harbors, the main entry points for the island. Glass bottom boat tours, dolphin excursions and zipline eco tours are some of my favorite activities, and dining at The Lobster Trap is a must.

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Joshua Tree National Park

5) Joshua Tree National Park

For day trips from San Diego, you can’t beat the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Traveling here takes some time, about 2.5 hours, but the vast scenery of the Park is well worth the trip. Visitors are treated to a vast combination of desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, which are characterized by rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park offers easy walks, strenuous hikes and excellent star-gazing. Must-see spots include Skull Rock and Keys View to the quieter areas around Cottonwood Spring and Black Rock Canyon.

Tijuana Flickr

Flickr/Glen Scarborough

6) Tijuana

Tijuana is just a hop, skip and jump away from San Diego. Located right across the Mexico border, visitors can take a trip to Tijuana solo-style or for added convenience book a group tour. Tijuana has long been known as a shopper’s paradise (be prepared to haggle on prices), with the Zona Rio area being the most popular shopping district. Tour the Zona Centro historic district, home to Avenida Revolución, the main tourist thoroughfare, as well as Rosarito Beach, a relaxing Mexican hot-spot. Even though Tijuana is right across the border from San Diego, you will need your passport for this day trip.

Are you ready for a road trip? With these day trips from San Diego, you can navigate to the best sights surrounding San Diego. As a result, you can easily discover more of this popular vacation destination.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego offers visitors a tremendous amount of things to see and do. Home to stunning scenery, miles of sandy beaches, and an abundance of attractions for all ages, like SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, this Southern California destination is teeming with activities for visitors. Plus, there are plenty of free things to do in San Diego that are fun for those of all ages. In San Diego, visitors can have fun without spending a fortune to do so.

The Best Free Things to Do in San Diego


IMG_6367_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Coronado Beach

1) The Beach

There are over 30 beaches open to the public in San Diego—all of which are free to visit. So, suit up, grab your beach bag and towel, and make a day of it by sunning, surfing, searching for seashells and building sandcastles. A few recommendations include Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores.



La Jolla Cove free things to do in San Diego

La Jolla Cove

2) La Jolla Cove

For an up-close look at local sea life, La Jolla Cove is ideal. Sea lions frolic along the shoreline and nap in nearby rock and sand embankments, putting some serious cuteness on display. Watching these sea lions in their natural habitat is a first-hand look at the natural side of San Diego.



Gaslamp Quarter free things to do in San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter

3) Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter, 16-block historic district in downtown, has a distinct turn-of-the-century Victorian vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in the 1860s, the name of the area comes from the gas lamps used to light the streets. These still adorn the walkways and streets of the area, now home to over 100 shops, restaurants and bars.



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Oceanside Municipal Pier: Flickr/Ted

4) Oceanside Municipal Pier

When you walk along the 1,942-feet of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, you’re walking on a landmark. This pier is the oldest wooden pier on the West Coast, and is great of fishing and wave watching.



Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad free things to do in San Diego

Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad

5) Brewery Tours

San Diego is the home of America’s craft beer scene, so where better to go on a brewery tour? The Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewery, Stone Brewing Company and Lo Jolla Brewing Company all have free tours. Sample free beers while getting a behind-the-scenes look at suds making.



IMG_5675_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Cowles Mountain

6) Cowles Mountain

Hike to the top of Cowles Mountain for prime panoramic views of San Diego County. At 1,593-feet the summit is the highest peak in all of San Diego. The hike is a rather strenuous switchback-style uphill hike, but the views are worth the effort. Arrive early for the best views.



Point Loma free things to do in San Diego

Point Loma

7) Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument, located on Point Loma, commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Along with the monument, there is a historic lighthouse, with views all the way to Mexico, a veterans memorial, sea cliffs and tide pools to explore.


Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve free things to do in San Diego

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

8) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hiking at Torrey Pines is one of the best ways to see the natural beauty of San Diego. Trails curve around sandy mountains, with views of the bright blue coast, jagged sea cliffs and rare Torrey pine trees dotting the way. Plus, you can swim at the base of the Torrey Pines cliffs.



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Old Town

9) Old Town State Historic Park

Trek through the history of California’s birthplace at Old Town, San Diego’s first downtown. There is a distinct feeling of Old Mexico within this 6-block, 12-acre park, with historical sites covering shops, restaurants, museums, preserved adobe buildings and more. It’s easily one of the most authentic free things to do in San Diego.



Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa Building in San Diego, California free things to do in San Diego

Balboa Park

10) Balboa Park

Balboa Park is teeming with free things to do in San Diego. There are over 65 miles of walking trails at Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in America. In addition, there are gorgeous gardens, botanical gardens and spectacular Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to see. Don’t miss the Spreckles Organ Pavilion which hosts free outdoor organ concerts on Sundays at 2pm.


California Surf Museum FB free things to do in San Diego

California Surf Museum/Facebook

11) California Surf Museum

Surf’s up at this museum, home to a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos. Located in Oceanside on Highway 101, tour through the displays on Tuesdays for free admission.




Summer concerts in San Diego free things to do in San Diego

Summer concerts in San Diego

12) Summer Concerts

During the summer season, a variety of venues host free concerts. From the Coronado Summer Concerts in the Park to the La Jolla Concert by the Sea, there is an event planned for every week of the summer. Click here for a comprehensive list of free summer entertainment.



Seaport Village free things to do in San Diego

Seaport Village

13) Seaport Village

Stop by lively Seaport Village for a leisurely stroll along the bayfront, where window shopping, free entertainment and affordable cafes await. Seaport Village hosts the annual Busker Festival each spring, and offers over 75 stores and restaurants. Pop-up concerts and strolling entertainment featured on the weekends.



Sunset Cliffs free things to do in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs

14) Sunset Cliffs

The rugged Sunset Cliffs are juxtaposed with modern highways and homes. Truly lovely during the day, the cliffs are made even better in the evening. Watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon and witness an array of pinks and oranges painting the sky.



Mt. Soledad free things to do in San Diego

Mt. Soledad: Flickr/Oleg

15) Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

Located in La Jolla, Mt. Soledad is an easy-to-access peak with 360-degree views on San Diego. While you enjoy the views, be sure to pay your respects to the brave men and women of America’s armed forces at the Veterans Memorial. Black granite stones tell the stories of those lost, encircling a massive cross honor those who served faithfully.



As you can see, it’s easy to find free things to do in San Diego. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff or entertainment junkie, you can’t go wrong with these absolutely free options. Visitors can experience a fun and unforgettable vacation experience without breaking the budget.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

If you’re searching for a place to vacation with the kids, stop! You’ve found it in San Diego, California. With weather that’s wonderful year-round, engaging entertainment options and a family-friendly vibe, this vacation destination does not disappoint. Accordingly, it’s a favorite city for parents and kids to play. Use this list to hop, skip and jump your way around SoCal experiencing the best things to do in San Diego for families.

Plan your vacation around these things to do in San Diego for families.

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Beach days are the best!

1) The Beach

This one’s kind of a given, right? San Diego has miles of sunny and sandy coastline just begging to be visited. Parents like the fact several San Diego beaches are super family-friendly, too. With that in mind, here are a few kid-approved beaches:

  • Silver Strand State Park
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Oceanside


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San Diego Zoo is one of the only zoos in the world with pandas

2) San Diego Zoo

One of America’s best zoos is located here. And it’s can’t miss! With world-class animal exhibits, including rare pandas, parents will enjoy this outing just as much as the kids. Be sure to go on the guided bus tour, great for getting an overview of this 100-acre zoo. To learn even more expert tips for visiting San Diego Zoo, watch our insider video.

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Balboa Park is one of the prettiest in America

3) Balboa Park

San Diego Zoo is technically located within Balboa Park, but there’s a whole lot more to see here. Home to 14 museums and gorgeous gardens, you can easily spend a whole day exploring with your family. Highlights for families include:

  • San Diego Natural History Museum: animatronic dinosaurs
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: hands on science exhibits
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum: Dress up like an astronaut


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View seals in their natural environment at La Jolla Cove

4) La Jolla Cove

Upscale home and shops surround La Jolla Cove, but the real gem of the area is its cove. The picturesque cove, and its surrounding sea cliffs, have a large population of sea lions. Get out and mingle with them. Your kids will flip! And you’ll probably take about 100 photos. I know I did!


Cabrillo National Monumnet: By Ctorbann, via Wikimedia Commons

5) Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is a fun way to give your kids a hands-on history lesson. Tour the museum highlighting the first expedition to San Diego as well as Point Loma Lighthouse. In addition, the Point Loma Tide Pools are nearby. Kids love checking out the scenery and the sea life there.

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Hand up for fun!

6) LEGOLAND California

If you’re kids are young, and love LEGOs, you’ve got to go to this theme park. It was created with them in mind, with everything from hands-on exhibits to kid-sized rides. Moreover, there’s an on-site water park perfect for those hot San Diego days.


Up close experiences are a signature of SeaWorld

7) SeaWorld San Diego

You’re near the ocean, so why not learn about it at SeaWorld San Diego? This marine park has immersive exhibits dedicated to sea life. Thus, you can explore penguins, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and more. Combine this with exciting shows and rides and you’ve got one of the top things to do in San Diego for families.

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Kids can’t get enough of the Birch Aquarium: Birch Aquarium/Facebook

8) Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This La Jolla aquarium is another way to get an ocean education in San Diego. There are touch pools and tanks with up-close views of moon jellies, sharks, lion fish and more. All of this means families with babies and toddlers will especially enjoy Birch Aquarium.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The beach and sea cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

9) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is stunningly beautiful and one of the best showcases of the natural beauty of San Diego. For this reason, it’s one of the best places to get outdoors in SoCal. There are eight trails to trek, with the Beach Trail and Razor Point trail two favorites. You can easily make a beach day of it here, too, as the Beach Trail has beach access.


The USS Midway is educational yet fun for kids

10) USS Midway

Located along Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, USS Midway Museum features the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Kids will get a kick being aboard this real life carrier, where they can engage in activities like listening to real pilot conversations during Desert Storm, climbing in bunks, and more.

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Bonus: Catch a Game

If your family are baseball fans, why not catch a game in San Diego? Petco Stadium, home to the San Diego Padres, does a top notch job of creating a unique atmosphere for ball games. Not only is weather pretty much always optimal, the stadium serves food key to the San Diego culinary scene. Think burritos, barbeque and pizza. Couple that with a better-than-most craft beer selection and you’ve got an activity sure to please every member of the family.

Which Things to Do in San Diego for Families Are For You?

With this list of the top 10 things to do in San Diego for families you’ve surely found a few perfect for your vacation. Did we miss a favorite San Diego activity? Let us know what your family loves to do here and we’ll be sure to include it in our list.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

As the first park to fuse amusements with marine life, SeaWorld San Diego has long been a staple of the San Diego vacation scene. It’s easy to see why as the park manages to create real, amazing experiences through shows, encounters and rides. If you’re planning a trip to SeaWorld San Diego, use this complete list of must-do SeaWorld attractions as a check-list. It’s an easy-to-follow guide detailing the best SeaWorld has to offer.


Clyde gets in the groove at Sea Lions LIVE

10 Must-Do SeaWorld Attractions

1) Sea Lions LIVE
Of all the sea life at SeaWorld, the Sea Lions are my favorite. They have such personality. This show is a riot, with the stars – Clyde and SeaMore – giving a whole new meaning to slapstick comedy.

2) Wild Arctic
Right here in sunny San Diego you can experience the chill of the Wild Arctic. It starts with a perilous, motion-simulated helicopter ride before landing at base camp. There, you’re surrounded by real life arctic animals like polar bears, walruses and beluga whales. Totally cool.

3) Dolphin Point
Dolphins are seriously smart, which in turn makes them seriously fun to watch. They easily take commands from trainers, almost yearning to please (and get that fish!). Watch as they whirl, twirl and spin through the lagoon pools at Dolphin Point. Then, stick around for a presentations by trainers where you might even get to touch a dolphin!

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Manta features wild-but-mild thrills

4) Manta
To get your coaster fix, be sure to ride Manta. It’s the park’s signature coaster, winning over guests with its wild-but-mild thrills families can enjoy together. Top speeds are a smooth 43mph. Likewise, there are twists, turns, and drops, but no upside down loops. Bonus: You can touch, and even feed, a sting ray in the area surrounding the ride.

5) Journey to Atlantis
Part coaster, part water ride, Journey to Atlantis has long been a favorite of mine. Why? Well, you get two thrills for the ride wait time of one. The first part is a daring log flume drop. Then, barrel down a twisting track as the roller coaster curves kick in. After, view stingrays and leopard sharks in the adjoining aquarium.


Turtle Reef really amazes

6) Turtle Reef
Sea turtles are mesmerizing to watch. These graceful, ancient creatures are on full display at Turtle Reef. In total, there are over 60 swimming amongst other tropical fish and sea creatures.

7) Penguin Encounter
If you didn’t get enough of the Arctic before, you can double down at the Penguin Encounter. There are over 300 penguins, and over seven species at the Encounter. This is due to a successful captive breeding program, one of the only in the world.

8) Dolphin Days
After visiting Dolphin Point, you probably fell in love with dolphins. SeaWorld attractions excel at connecting people with their ocean environments. This is epecially true at the Dolphin Days shows. Watch as they glide through the water and jump through the air, alongside trainers and pilot whales. Once the show is over, you can enhance the experience by adding a dolphin encounter.


Go ahead a touch a ray!

9) Explorer’s Reef
Kids and adults alike will say “Wow!” at Explorer’s Reef. Immersive and engaging, the Reef provides real hands-on experiences with stingrays, brown-banded and white-spotted bamboo sharks. I also recommend visiting the Tide Pools. There, you can touch star fish and sea urchins.

10) Bayside Skyride
Unique to the San Diego Park, the Bayside Skyride is a gondola ride that doesn’t get as much love as it should. The 6-minute ride over Mission Bay is a scenic route worth the detour.

You’re all set! Pack these 10 SeaWorld attractions into one day at the park to experience the best of SeaWorld San Diego.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

During the day San Diego has an abundance of activities to keep you busy. When the sun goes down, though, what should you do? Stop searching for ideas and follow this helpful guide to things to do in San Diego at night.

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Downtown San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is one of my favorite areas in San Diego. Mostly because the restaurants, lounges, shops, theaters, galleries, and nightclubs are a thriving scene year-round. Start the night by dining at one of the more than 50 restaurants. As San Diego is the craft brew capital of the world, I recommend eating at Hopping PigBarleymash, or Union Kitchen and Tap. All three offer delicious food and super suds. Afterwards, hit up the thriving nightlife scene. If you want to dance the night away, go to FLUXX or Moonshine Flats. Alternatively, rooftop lounges like Altitude Sky Lounge and Lounge Six let you relax under the stars. For a good laugh, go to a show at The American Comedy Co.

Baseball Game

PETCO Park, home to the San Diego Padres, is located right next to the Gaslamp Quarter in East Village. So, you can easily experience the scene their while also taking in a baseball game. In fact, less than one block from the park is Half-Door House Brewing Company. It serves craft brews in a cozy house-like setting. Sit on the porch for views of the park.

Moving on to the game itself, a night watching the boys of summer play America’s game is always a good time in my opinion. Petco Park’s lively atmosphere is enhanced by its top notch food and beverage choices. Where else can you get a pulled pork sandwich from Phil’s Barbeque and a beer from Stone Brewing Co.? Nowhere. And that’s exactly why you should go.

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Basic in the East Village

Local Bars

Vacations are always better when you go off the beaten path, and experience the city as the locals do. This is why I love checking out the local bars of a town. You get a real sense of the neighborhood and culture. This especially rings true at local bars in San Diego, where each section of the city has a distinct feel all its own.

East Village

Basic: Located in the heart of East Village in Downtown San Diego, simplicity and urban style converge atBASIC Urban Kitchen + Bar.

Noble Experiment: This swanky speakeasy tucked behind a secret door in The Neighborhood eatery serves craft cocktails.

Gaslamp Quarter

Barleymash: Sports TV & DJs accompany visits to this mod spot, known for craft beer, bourbon & flatbread pizzas.

Prohibition: Stylish red-hued haunt has a 1930s vibe & features live music & seasonally inspired craft cocktails.

La Puerta: Chill Mexican spot offers signature drinks & tequila alongside family recipes, plus DJs after hours.

Little Italy

The Waterfront: This 1933 institution outlasted the waterfront but still draws crowds with pub grub and happy hour.

North Park

Seven Grand Whiskey Bar: Stylish whiskey lounge offers an extensive bourbon menu, craft beers and dark wood-lined interiors.

True North Tavern: Casual bar food and drinks star at this tavern with a lively dance floor plus plenty of TVs.

Pacific Beach

The Local P.B.: Casual neighborhood hangout for pub grub, a rotating selection of craft beers on tap and happy hour.

Tavern at the Beach: Lively mainstay draws crowds indoors or on the coveted patio for beers, bar grub and dancing at night.


Parq Nightclub

Dance Clubs

If you’re itching’ to bust a move, you’re in luck the dance club San Diego is legit. Whether you want to go all out or just need to let off some steam on the dance floor, San Diego’s got you covered.

For the luxe life, visit these dance clubs. Famous DJs, million dollar sound systems, go-go dancers, and laser light shows will make you think you’re in Las Vegas rather than San Diego.

FLUXX: Celeb-friendly club draws a stylish crowd with a pulsing dance floor, big-name DJs and bottle service.

Parq: Farm-to-table eats in a funky setting complete with rollup garage doors and a working tunnel.

Float at Hardrock Hotel: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego offers the hottest dining and nightlife in San Diego, including FLOAT  which is set atop the Hotel overlooking the Gaslamp Quarter.

AD Nightclub: Upscale nightclub specializing in hip-hop & electronic dance music, with name DJs and bottle service.

For a more low-key night, dance clubs in Pacific Beach and North Park are the best. Even so, you’ll also find danceworthy digs in downtown San Diego.

Avenue: This bar features a variety of mixologist-created craft cocktails, fresh squeezed juices and custom flavors. It draws a younger crowd, with college-age kids often hanging out here.

The Air Conditioned Lounge: An under-the-rader hotspot geared towards locals with a hot mix of music and drinks in a totally cool environment.

U-31: Club draws a party crowd for DJs, cocktails, bottle service, sports TV on Sundays, burgers and more.

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The Old Globe Theater/Facebook


It doesn’t matter if you want to go to the theater or a rockin’ concert; you won’t be let down in San Diego. The true variety of entertainment options means you’ll never be bored.

Moonlight Stage: Plays host to everything from classic plays to one-man shows and comedians.

Old Globe Theater: Shakespeare plays and traveling theater shows are the main attraction at the Old Globe Theater.

Humphreys by the Bay Concerts: With a location on Shelter Island, this seaside spot is the hottest place to see concerts by mainstream headliners and class favorites.

As you can see, things to do in San Diego at night supply all the elements of a good time. All that’s missing is you!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.