10 Outside Activities in San Diego
CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT AND POINT LOMA LIGHTHOUSE
A quaint reminder of the simpler things, the Cabrillo monument is renowned in San Diego for its picturesque Old Point Loma Lighthouse, thriving tide pools, whale watching and its fantastic views of the San Diego. Ideal for newcomers and those thirsting for a slice of San Diego history, this landmark stands 462 feet above sea level, giving visitors some of the best views of the bay or up the coastline. Admission is $5 and lasts for a week.
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, Point Loma
SAN DIEGO ZOO
With more than 4,000 animals, the San Diego Zoo is a wonderful and nurturing environment where visitors can have a peek into the lives of its creatures. Visitors with or without children can enjoy popular exhibits such as Panda Central, Elephant Odyssey and Polar Bear Plunge. Although maze-like, the zoo is best explored by foot and provides many shade and food areas to rest if patrons need a break. The zoo also charges a small fee to ride the open-air trams and a Skyfari ride over the zoo, but each is worth the investment. $35 adults, $26 children.
2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park
TORREY PINES STATE BEACH AND RESERVE
Although hidden from view while driving the Pacific Coast Highway, Torrey Pines is one of the true gems of San Diego’s natural environment. It is known for its beautiful flowers, shy animals, cliffs for meditation and spectacular sunset views. Visitors can start from the bottom up to avoid an $8 parking fee and hike up the winding mountainside, enjoying the breathtaking ocean views as the path rises 300 feet. Those who desire a lighter alternative can pay the fee and start enjoying the trail walks from the top of the mountain. Once at the top, visitors can enjoy the golden sunset or choose one of the multiple zigzagging trails that lead down to the beach-side of Torrey Pines beach.
12600 North Torrey Pines Road
Perched next to downtown San Diego, Balboa Park spans 1,200 acres and is home to 14 museums — enough to satisfy anyone’s cultural appetite. Balboa Park also has four theaters, a sports complex, playing fields, bountiful gardens, an open-air pipe organ, a huge botanical building and even an antique carousel. The Spanish architecture that makes Balboa so beautiful, including the 200-foot California Tower, are remnants from the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition.
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park
OLD TOWN HISTORIC PARK
As remnants of the Spanish and Mexican beginnings of San Diego, Old Town Historic Park is the most popular tourist attraction in San Diego. With original adobe buildings in the heart of Old Town, quaint businesses spread around and volunteers dressed in 1800s attire to authenticate the experience, it is a delightful place for visitor to spend the day. The park also provides tours every day at 2 p.m. Old Town is also known for having a plethora of wildly popular Mexican food. Although Old Town is very busy on the weekends, visitors can still be entertained by the many galleries, shops and the Whaley House, the oldest brick home in Southern California and one of the most famous haunted homes in the nation.
4002 Wallace Street, Old Town
LA JOLLA SEA CAVES
The seven beautiful sea caves of La Jolla, located just north of the village are etched out of a 75-million-year-old sandstone sea cliff. Most of the cliffs are only accessible by kayak and are a popular attraction for those looking to enjoy La Jolla’s Ecological Reserve. Many La Jolla agencies offer kayaking and snorkeling tours where visitors are guided to the caves and then strap on the snorkeling gear and to see sea lions, leopard sharks, garibaldi, and shovelnose guitarfish. The price is as low as $52.50 per person and the tours are about 150 minutes long.
SAN ELIJO STATE BEACH CAMPGROUND
Located on a narrow strip of land between Highway 101 and the ocean below, campers are situated on top of a beautiful scenic bluff at San Elijo. This state park offers swimming, surfing, showers and picnicking. There’s also a nearby reef popular with snorkelers and divers. The campground attracts about 500,000 visitors annually and is a hot spot during summer seasons. Reservations are required www.reserveamerica.com Sites run $20-$35. Parking $6 weekdays, $8 weekends per car, or park free nearby on Coast Highway 101.
2050 South Coast Highway 101
Reminiscent of San Diego days of old, Belmont Park, built in 1925, is a Mission Beach landmark. This park is a great place for a diversion for kids, carnival lovers and romantics. The park is known primarily for The Giant Dipper, a nostalgic wooden roller coaster, but Belmont also has a good mix of other carnival rides, shops, an arcade and an indoor pool. For those bored of the beach, it’s a fun alternative. Admission is free; however, attractions cost 2-6 tickets, and tickets are $1 each.
3146 Mission Boulevard
Considered a jewel of San Diego, Coronado is home to the Hotel del Coronado, a historic landmark. This beautiful and quaint beach town is certainly a fun place to explore, with more than 70 restaurants, high-end boutiques, art galleries, day spas, yacht marinas, a stunning 18-hole golf course and several relaxing resorts. A town rich with history, Coronado is located only two miles away from downtown San Diego. There is also daily ferry boat service every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Broadway Pier or the Fifth Avenue Landing to the Coronado Ferry Landing. $6.50 round trip.
A serene and calming location, Lake Poway is a great place to walk barefoot in the grass and have a picnic in the shade with a view of the expansive lake. Although tucked deep in Poway, Lake Poway provides year-round fishing and boating, a jungle gym for children, softball and volleyball fields, and hiking or biking opportunities. $5 admission for non-Poway residents but worth the investment for a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of San Diego.
14644 Lake Poway Road