Top 8 Summer Activities in San Diego
With summer in full swing, San Diego is the best destination for a family vacation or a romantic weekend by the beach. There's plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy our sunshine along with staying cool when the temperatures creep up!
In addition, with the cost of entrance fees at more popular destinations like the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Sea World and Legoland being quite expensive, you might be searching for free or cheap things to do to keep the kids occupied. Well look no further, here's our top 8 San Diego summer activities to break out the bikinis and bring on the smiles!
top 8 Summer activities in san diego
1. Visit Balboa Park's Museums and Trails
Need to get some shade and cool off? Balboa Park is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring over 15 different museums, botanical gardens and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. It's also home to the San Diego Zoo!
Are you more interested in trail running and mountain biking? Well then check out the miles of gentle rollers with wide open trails or single track with rock gardens and steep switchbacks. You'll cruise past oak groves, eucalyptus trees, dry stream beds and lots of cactus gardens. Balboa Park is also dog-friendly, so enjoying walking, running or biking with your favorite pup, on a leash of course!
Parking is free and the best spots that are the least congested are near Morley Field or the Golden Hill Trails Gateway. If you enter the park on Laurel, drive past the Prado and park in the large lot behind the organ pavillion. Balboa Park is also home to the Morley Field Sports Complex and Dog Park and the Balboa Park Golf Course. Here you will find a dog park, tennis, the San Diego Velodrome, Bud Kearns swimming pool and a driving range!
Before you roll out of the driveway, checkout our checklist of road trip travel essentials!
2. Pedal or Stroll on Over to Coronado
Do you prefer to get around town by bicycle? If so, then pedaling the Bayshore Bikeway and along the Silver Stand let's you see downtown San Diego, and the sleepy beach town of Coronado. Start near Waterfront Park in Little Italy and head south on the Pacific Coast Highway to pick up the Bayshore Bikeway. The trip is a flat 24 miles on a mix of bike paths and surface streets that finishes up at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Ferries depart every 20-30 minutes for a 15 minute ride back to either the Convention Center or Broadway Pier.
Not too comfortable riding with traffic on surface streets? Take the ferry across to Coronado first. You can walk around by the harbor shops and restaurants, or catch a taxi to the Hotel Del Coronado. Cruise the beach or stay on the bike path all the way down to the Silver Strand.
Need gear for your bike ride and have some time before your trip? Check out TASCO MTB for our favorite gloves, socks and sessions ride tees!
Here's a few more options in San Diego where you can scoop a bike, helmet, bike lock and don't forget lights if you plan to pedal until sunset:
3. Be a Kid Again at Waterfront Park
Do you have childhood memories of running through sprinklers? If so then you’ll love Waterfront Park. Set amongst downtown San Diego’s landmark buildings, you can play in the fountains, the kids zone or come down for a picnic on the lawn to catch sunset. Just perfect for summertime in San Diego! In addition, Waterfront Park is within walking distance to the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum.
4. Kayaking and Snorkeling at La Jolla Shores
We love spending days along San Diego's 70 miles of coastline, however sometimes we want a little something more than sunbathing. If this sounds like you, then La Jolla Shores is the place to be for some of the best snorkeling and kayaking in Southern California. In addition, you can also try standup paddle boarding and surfing!
Here’s a few of the best places to rent gear:
While out on the water, be prepared to see California sea lions, brown pelicans, bat rays, bright orange garibaldi and harbor seals. The Leopard sharks, which get their name from the spots on their skin, congregate in the calm, shallow waters on the south end of Kellogg Park. For the easiest swim and best visibility, wait for low tide and little to no wind, park near the Marine Room Restaurant and walk down their beach access path.
La Jolla Shores is also a great place for young ones as the waves are smaller than other spots in San Diego. In addition, parking is free at Kellogg Park. Make sure to check the surf conditions and the tide before you go. Forgot your suit or a cover-up? Amazon has some great deals under $25 and can deliver to your hotel or AirBnb within 2 days!
5. Cruise the Pacific Coast Highway
Are you staying in North County? If so, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is the best place in San Diego to pedal, jog and soak in the ocean views! Start in at Torrey Pines or in Solana Beach and pedal north thru Encinitas, Leucadia, Carlsbad and finish up at Oceanside Harbor Village. You can turn around whenever you're ready, or ride all the way up and back. It's 27 miles one-way from Torrey Pines to Oceanside Harbor.
Even driving this stretch of San Diego's coastline is incredible. Make sure to pack the beach essentials as well- sunblock, hat, water, bathing suit and a towel. This way you can swim along the way at Fletcher’s Cove, Moonlight Beach or Swamis! Looking for a cute beach bag? Here’s a few woven bags we love!
6. Hiking, Biking and trail Running at Torrey Pines
One of our favorite summer trail runs is through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The best part? You can enjoy a swim after your bike, run or hike! Trails at Torrey Pines are a few miles or less and range from easy to moderate. We like hiking or jogging up to the Nature Center first, then making our way back down to the beach via the Razor Point Trail or the Beach Trail.
If you park in the North Beach Parking lot, off of Carmel Valley Road, you can extend your hike to include the marshland trails around Los Penasquitos Lagoon.
7. Visit Belmont Park
A trip to San Diego is not complete without a day at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. Originally built in the 1950's, Belmont Park consisted of the Plunge pool and the Giant Dipper roller coaster, which still stands today.
The pool is currently undergoing renovations, however the amusement park is filled with rides, arcade games, lazer tag, mini golf and rock climbing. Adjacent to the park are tons of shops, bars and restaurants like Draft and Cannonball where you can grab a beer, a burger and catch the sunset.
8. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach
Pedal, run, rollerblade or skate along Ocean Front Walk from South Mission Beach to Pacific Beach (PB). This beautiful stretch of beach, home to the most summer rentals in San Diego, goes all the way from South Mission Beach through Pacific Beach to Bird Rock in La Jolla. As you make your way north you'll find a few more popular San Diego summertime spots, like Lahaina's Beach House and World Famous.
Forgot flip-flops or feeling like a new bikini? We love Havaianas flip-flops and you can have these delivered right to your doorstep! Would you rather walk to shop? Well then walk one block east of the beach, to Mission Boulevard, where you will find plenty of bars, restaurants, bike and surf shops. You'll also find one of our favorites, Single Fin Surf Grill with the best bartenders at the beach serving up tasty breakfast burritos, craft beers and cocktails.
There’s definitely a lot of things to do in San Diego in the summertime, and we hope this gets you excited! Remember to check out the Visit San Diego website for current events, weather, travel tips and tons of others ideas for summer activities in San Diego County. We also invite you to share your stories with us of your favorite San Diego summer activities. To learn more about what we do on the regular, follow Top Rope Media's adventures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Until next time, happy adventuring!
- Meredith McConvill