San Diego Bucket List

San Diego is one of this country’s hottest vacation spots, and there’s no need to wonder why: perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, parks around every corner, activities for families, galore; it’s practically a mecca for tourists. This San Diego bucket list will fill your days with tons of fun.

The ultimate San Diego bucket list of what to see, where to go, what to eat, and things to do in and around San Deigo.

We somehow won the Air Force lottery and were lucky to call this place home for three years, so we wanted to make the most of it.

Yeah, sometimes it’s easier to stay home and be lazy, but life is so much more fun when you actually experience it.

Our San Diego Bucket List

Our San Diego Bucket List has something for everyone in it. I’d love to hear from you if you do anything from this list!

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Things to do with the Family

⬡ Go tide pooling (info here)

Go whale watching with Hornblower

Visit the San Diego Zoo (a lot)

⬢ Visit the Birch aquarium

Visit the Safari Park (a lot)

⬢ Play at Legoland

⬡ Check out the “Top Gun Bar

⬡ Explore Cabrillo National Monument  (info here)

Take a trolley tour

Check out a San Diego Padres Game

Here's everything you need to know for a day of fun at a San Diego Padres game. Gather your kids, get your tickets, and get ready for some fun!

⬡ Ride a camel (info here)

⬡ Go glamping

⬡ Spend the night at the Safari Park’s Roar & Snore (info here)

⬡ Hike the Batiquitos Lagoon (info here)

⬢  See the flower fields in Carlsbad (info here)

Eat our way through Carlsbad

⬢ Spend the day at the beach

⬢ Check out Balboa Park with a Scavenger Hunt

⬢ Step foot on the USS Midway

⬢ See Shamu at Seaworld

⬢ See the sea lions up close at La Jolla

⬡ Take Bella to the dog beach

⬡ Hike up and see Potato Chip Rock

⬡ Hop a ferry and scoot around Coronado Island

⬡ See the Grunion Run in August

⬡ Play at the 25th Street Musical Bridge (info here)

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⬢  Stroll the Oceanside Pier

Enjoy the Del Mar Fair

⬢ See the sights at Seaport Village

⬡ Have fun at Belmont Park (ride the roller coaster!)

Watch the planes at the Miramar Air Show

Watch the waves hit at The Marine Room for High Tide

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⬡ Do the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon (again)

⬡ Ice Skate on the Beach at Hotel del Coronado (during the holidays)

⬡ Visit Mission Basilica de Alcalá

Hike Torrey Pines

⬡ See the U.S.Sand Sculpting Challenge over Labor Day weekend

⬡ See the (boat) parade of lights over the holidays

Visit Old Town San Diego

⬢ Mission Beach

⬢ North Park Farmer’s Market

⬢ Little Italy Farmer’s Market

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⬡ Picnic & Play in Balboa Park/Old Globe Theatre

Date (night) Fun

⬢ Laugh at a Comedy Club

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⬡ Cruise the Pacific for dinner (info here)

Have breakfast or dinner on the beach

⬡ Stargaze at the Palomar Observatory (info here)

⬡ Experience ComicCon firsthand

⬡ Strike a pose at the Unconditional Surrender Statue

⬡ Go deep sea fishing

⬡ Check out The Shout House (Dueling Piano Bar)

Take a gondola ride

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Kayak in around La Jolla

⬢ Catch a flick at the Rooftop Cinema 

⬡ See the sunset at Sunset Cliffs

Wander the Gas Lamp Quarter

⬡ See a movie under the stars (at the drive-in)

⬡ Go on a date to Shelter Island

⬢ Take a cooking class

⬢ Watch a movie at once of those fancy-schmancy theaters

⬡ Go on a food tour (info here)

Good Eats

Eat (lots of) fish tacos

⬡ Enjoy an Ice Cream Flight at Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

⬢ Eat in Little Italy
     • Trattoria Fantastico

⬢ Indulge at the Donut Bar

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⬢ Check out Liberty Public Market

⬢ Dine al fresco on a rooftop overlooking the ocean
     • Pacifica Del Mar

⬢ Devour a burger from Hodad’s (reader recommendation)

⬢ Try out Buona Forchetta (reader recommendation)

⬢ Pizza Port (reader recommendation)

⬢ Urge Gastropub (reader recommendation)

⬡ California Burrito from Juanitas (reader recommendation)

⬡ Carne Asada fries at Jilberto’s (reader recommendation)

⬡ Burger at Slater’s 50/50 (reader recommendation)

⬢ Filipi’s in Little Italy (reader recommendation)

⬡ Tacos at Puesto! (friend recommendation)

Outside of San Diego:

⬡ Avocado Festival (in October; info here)

⬢ Go apple picking in Julian (and then eat all the amazing pie!)

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Drink vino in wine country

⬢ Experience the Rose Bowl Parade

⬢ Travel to Hawaii

⬡ See: The Ellen Show, Price is Right, Jeopardy

Drive the Coastal Highway

Go on a cruise from San Diego

Visit Disneyland

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⬡ Check out Knotts Berry Farms

Ride the train up the coast to LA

Have you been to San Diego before?
Tell me what I missed and fill me in on other must-see and must-do places!

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29 Comments

  1. Such a great list. I plan on traveling there one day soon hopefully and when I do I’ll check out some of the stuff on this list. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your list is thorough! I was going to suggest Julian but it’s already there. Hm. I’d maybe add get a burger from Hodad’s, take the train up the coast to LA, check out some of the 140+ breweries (Stone is one of the bigger ones), and since you have Disneyland, go to Knotts Berry Farm, which was always my preference 🙂

    1. When we first got here we had dinner with some friends, and they brought out a pie from Julian. Oh. My. Gosh. It was delicious! Adding the other things you listed—so happy you mentioned Knotts; I totally forgot about going there!

  3. Those fish tacos look INSANE! Where are they from? I’m visiting San Diego in August, so this post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time!

    1. Oh, you’re going to have SO much fun when you’re here!! The fish tacos in the picture are from the Oceanside Pier, and they were SOOOOO good. It’s a little bit of a drive up there, but absolutely worth it 🙂 I think the place is technically called “The Tin Fish Restaurant.” Hope that helps!! Check back on the blog again before you get out here and see if I’ve been anywhere else that you need to check out!

  4. Wow! This is an incredible bucket list! I am definitely going to have to visit San Diego now that I know there is so much to do there! I bet you are going to have the time of your life completing this list!

  5. You had me at fish tacos. I love them! I have always wanted to go to San Diego. It seems like such a great place. Maybe I’ll just have to start planning a family vacation there.

  6. San Diego is the best! You have a great start to your list! I would add a LOT more to the food section (and are you guys into beer/craft beer?)
    For now: Pizza Port (there are 6 or so locations in the county), Urge gastropub, try a california burrito from Juanita’s in Encinitas, carne asada french fries (we go to a place in Escondido – Jilberto’s), burger at Slater’s 50/50.

    Stuff to do I would add North Park Farmer’s market and picnic and play in balboa park/Old Globe Theatre!

    1. So happy you chimed in 🙂 With SOOOO many places to eat here, I was hoping locals would tell me all the insider spots! Adding these to the list now! As for beer…we like to drink it, but aren’t huge into the craft beer craze. Oh! And also adding the NP farmer’s market; we went to the one in Little Italy and loved it. Can’t beat a great Farmer’s Market!

  7. Go to the zoo in October when it’s free for military. It’s freaking expensive otherwise.

  8. Great list! I can’t wait to make one for Colorado Springs. 😀
    Let me know if you need help planning your trip to Hawaii!

  9. My husband and I are planning a trip to San Diego next month – thanks for the list!! We are going to add a couple to our list of stuff to do!

  10. You’ve hit them all! I lived in San Diego for 3 years a child–my dad was a Marine stationed at Miramar and we lived literally less than 5 minutes from the Padres Stadium!

    La Jolla, Seaworld, the Zoo, Balboa Park, Old Town, and Del Mar Fair were definitely some of my all-time favorites as a kid!

  11. Looks like a great list!! And you should DEFINITELY hit up Hawaii! I don’t mean to self-plug, but I’m putting a link to all of my Hawaii travel posts so you can peruse through them for ideas 🙂 And take advantage of the military lodging for sure!

    Good luck with the bucket list!

  12. You definitely lucked out on San Diego. We still have 2 yrs left at Fort Knox (4 if we’re lucky!) and although I love it here, I’m curious to find out where our next adventure will take place!

  13. Great list! As a native I’ve done most of them. One thing you might add is to go up to Mt. Laguna in the morning when it snows, then head to the beach in the afternoon for the sunset and burritos! I love my city!

  14. I started my bucket the list the moment I found out we’d be PCS’ing to Miramar haha but it’s not neatly as detailed as yours so I may just have to steal a few to add to mine. I can’t wait to get out there and join you next month! 🙂

  15. My family lived in SoCal when I was young. Our last city was Santa Ana, where we lived for three years, and left for SC when I was 7. We definitely went to the San Diego Zoo a bunch of times!

    I can’t wait to follow all of your family travels!

  16. I’m from LA and used to go on short family trips to San Diego all the time, but I never realized there was so much I was missing out on! This is an amazing list.

  17. You have to eat at Filipi’s in Little Italy. There are other locations, but the Little Italy one is the best. They have the most amazing food, and it is in the back of a little Italian market that you walk through to get to the restaurant. It is our absolute must stop every time we are in San Diego. We also love watching the hang gliders at Torrey Pine. I think those are the only things I would add to the list! You have a great list.

  18. I hail from Northern California. San Francisco to be precise. But would to concour that San Diego is the home to the best weather in the west coast or even better still the best in the whole union. Which actually makes the greatest place to want to reside. I’ve been there severally on vacation with my family. It’s a place worth visiting.

  19. Fig Tree Cafe in Pacific Beach is awesome!! Amazing menu for a little restaurant and super cool vibe!🍃

  20. Take a walk on the boardwalk in Pacific beach and have breakfast at Kono’s!
    Visit shell shop in LaJolla and go down their steps and seek your adventure.
    Kayak in LaJolla coves.

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