DAY 1: Visit the San Diego Zoo
Start your adventure at the San Diego Zoo!
Established in 1916, the San Diego Zoo covers 100 acres and houses more than 3,700 animals that represent over 650 species. In fact, it’s so massive that they offer bus tours and gondola rides to take visitors across the park. Once inside the gates, you’ll notice that zoo classics including elephants, lions and orangutans are accompanied by rare and endangered species. We highly recommend the curiously striped Okapi, to playful giant pandas, and “laughing” kookaburras in the brand new Australian Outback exhibit.
Grab a bite to eat, rest your feet and then meander through Balboa Park.
Home to some of the most outstanding cultural museums in the area, the park also houses botanical gardens, performing arts areas, gift shops, and restaurants. The picturesque 1,200-acre park is both the oldest and largest urban park in the U.S. Some of our top picks in Balboa Park are the San Diego Museum of Art, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Air & Space Museum, and San Diego Automotive Museum.
A day exploring San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park will keep you on your feet! After all the walking, we recommend a relaxing soak in our outdoor hot tub.
DAY 2: Visit SeaWorld
On day two, head westward toward the water.
To take full advantage of the day, make sure to pack swimsuits, towels, and sunscreen. Forget these and you will be left high and dry. To begin the day, we’ll visit the ever-popular SeaWorld, where you’ll get up close with some of the world’s most majestic aquatic animals. The world-famous Shamu Rocks show is certain to amaze and is accompanied by other fantastic water shows, such as Blue Horizon, One Ocean and Sea Lions LIVE. SeaWorld’s spectacular Turtle Reef features a 300,000-gallon aquarium and houses 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles. Looking to get hands-on? Beluga Encounter, Dolphin Encounter,and Dolphin Point offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences that bring you face-to-face with the mammals. The Riptide Rescue, Shipwreck Rapids, Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic Ride and Manta Roller Coaster are some of SeaWorld’s thrilling attractions.
After submerging yourself in the underwater world, hit the beaches! Thanks to San Diego’s year-round sunny weather, your family will want to be playing in the surf, exploring tide pools and relaxing in the sun at Mission Beach or Pacific Beach. Don’t head home too early tonight. Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach is a favorite of the locals for watching, you guessed it, a glorious sunset!
DAY 3: Take Me To Old Town
It’s time to explore one of San Diego’s biggest cultural sites: Old Town.
A quaint town, Old Town offers visitors an abundance of culture, traditional Mexican eateries and unique shops. Considered by many to be the “Birthplace of California,” Old Town offers free museums, original architecture and reconstructed buildings. The beautiful La Casa de Estudillo, an adobe hacienda built in 1825, is one of the state’s most well-preserved structures. The remodeled Robinson-Rose House serves as the park’s visitor center and boasts a 19th-century scale model of Old Town. For a rare glimpse of a real stagecoach, visit the Wells Fargo Museum. San Diego’s first newspaper, Freemason Lodge and the Mason Street School are all located in the park as well. The Whaley House, one of five buildings in the Whaley House Museum Complex, has been heralded as one of the most haunted houses in the U.S.
By now you may have worked up an appetite. Old Town boasts more than 25 restaurants in a one-mile stretch. There’s plenty of delicious Spanish- and Mexican-style culinary specialties that pair perfectly with the many unique shops and nightly entertainment. Some of Old Town’s must-sees are the Old Town Market, Fiesta de Reyes and Bazaar del Mundo.
DAY 4: Little Italy
Venture downtown on Day Four!
Enjoy a cappuccino and traditional pastry from one of the neighborhood’s authentic Italian cafes. Concentrated on India Street, the growing neighborhood lives up to its moniker as plates of bruschetta, gnocchi, and tiramisu fill the menus of the many Italian restaurants. Downtown on a Saturday? Walk the year-round Little Italy Mercato with more than 150 vendors selling everything from artisan olive oils to non-traditional peanut butter, and fresh organic meats.
A short trolley ride or mile walk will take you to the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Sixteen blocks of Victorian-style buildings stand side-by-side with modern-day skyscrapers. Gaslamp is also a foodie’s dream thanks to over 100 fine pubs and restaurants to satiate even the grandest of appetites. A Gaslamp staple, Horton Plaza, is undergoing a massive renovation. The new plaza is slated to include an amphitheater and more! While the Gaslamp Quarter can be a playground for the young and old, take note: When evening arrives and the gas lamps turn on, adult activities run the night.
Just blocks from the Gaslamp Quarter is Seaport Village: a collection of shops, cafes and restaurants by the harbor. Very family-friendly, there are plenty of activities for the kids here. Take a ride on the antique Looff Carousel, stop by a street artist for caricatures, or duck into one of the deliciously quaint sweets shops to see what treats they offer. Every day between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. the food court comes alive with music from local and visiting bands. Jam at the Sunday Concert Series from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
History buffs are sure to take the short stroll along the water towards the USS Midway. As you near the massive aircraft carrier, observe memorials dedicated to the area’s servicemen and women. Snap a picture in front of the “kiss statue” which duplicates the famous exchange between a sailor and nurse as they celebrated the end of WWII. Climb aboard the USS Midway Museum and a self-guided audio tour will take you to over 60 locations from the engine room to the control tower.
DAY 5: Coronado
Over the bridge, to the beach, to Coronado we go!
While the Coronado Bridge and Silver Strand Boulevard connect the island to the mainland, they nevertheless seem to be worlds apart. Where San Diego enjoys the hustle and bustle, Coronado has perfected the art of relaxation. This laid-back town also boasts one of the world’s best beaches, Coronado Beach. It takes just a glimpse of the mile-and-a-half-long beach and iconic Hotel Del Coronado to see why it won the title in 2012. Coronado is relatively flat, but the mica in the sand gives the beach a must-see silver sheen. Pet-lovers, don’t forget to bring along your dogs! There is an off-leash dog-friendly area at the end of Coronado Beach. Your pups will love playing in the waves and running in the warm sand.
Beachgoers arrive early with towels, umbrellas and coolers, ready to hunker down for a long day in the sun. Not to worry though; on Coronado Beach it isn’t difficult to nab the perfect spot on the sand, even in the busier summer months. In addition to the amazing beach, visitors to Coronado Island have great resorts, shops and eateries to choose from. When it’s beach break time, duck into the famous Hotel Del Coronado, stroll the tree-lined main street and pop into the Coronado Museum for a history of the island’s naval influence and famous visitors. If you packed your golf clubs, schedule a tee time at the 18-hole Coronado Golf Course. The beautiful greens are matched by the incredible views of San Diego.
As the dusks arrives on day five, be inspired by beautiful sunsets, San Diego’s skyline and the Point Loma Lighthouse.