Imagine a place where the most beautiful landscapes, ocean blue waters, and palm trees are at an arm’s length everywhere you turn. You might think this is all a dream. Well, California dreaming is alive and well when it comes to San Diego. Known as ‘America’s Finest City,’ San Diego will captivate you with its coastal cliffs, stunning landscapes, and unique adventures. My experience living in San Diego is so vast, I narrowed down some of the coolest things to do all the while saving money.
San Diego Zoo
San Diego is a vacationer’s dream with so many exciting attractions, amusement parks, the famous San Diego Zoo, and many other adventurous activities. But no matter if you are a visitor or local, San Diego Zoo is great for families to enjoy a day of learning and fun! Although I am not particularly a fan of zoos, San Diego Zoo is working hard on conservation efforts and helping keep this a wildlife sanctuary.
There is an entrance fee to visit the zoo, however, they offer some free days and discounts on certain times of the year. There are also discounted packages when you purchase tickets for two sites. (For example, the Safari Park and the Zoo). You can also take advantage of the free entry for kids during the month of October. Other discounts include 10% discount for seniors on certain nights or various times of the year, etc. Covid response: Reservations are no longer required to visit. Please see the zoo website for the latest safety protocols.
San Diego offers so much more than just the average everyday tourist hot spots. Here are a few unique things to discover and see in the less traveled areas of San Diego.
Cabrillo National Monument
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is quite a site to see and holds history in San Diego. The lighthouse is a big part of Cabrillo National Monument along with a flourishing coastal Mediterranean ecosystem. This is a migration pathway for gray whales, and a small look into the life of the lighthouse keepers who worked this demanding job.
You can explore further into the lower areas of the park, near the cliffs and tide pools. When the tide has not come in yet, you can wander around the tide pools shore areas. You’ll notice the extraordinary beauty around the cliff areas. Please take caution here, the rocks can be slippery.
This park is part of the national park system, so there is a fee. However, you can visit national parks at no charge on particular holidays of the year. These are great days to visit these parks. Covid response: Please see the National Park Service website for the latest protocol.
Hiking and Exploring
Sante Fe Trail: Coast to Crest
The Sante Fe and Del Dio Gorge Trails are both segments of the San Dieguito River Park area and the Coast to Crest trails. Three pre-historic cultural periods describe parts of this region and some areas here show a peek at how Native Americans explored through this valley. This is an interestingly fun trail as it guides you alongside the Crosby Golf Course. The trail has switchbacks that fun and beautiful to explore. Bikers are also using this trail as well so be careful and on the lookout always. There is no fee for parking or entrance fee at these two parks.
Extra Info:You will find a bike station here along this trail. So if you need to service your bicycle while riding on this trail, you can use this station.
Del Dios Gorge Trail: Coast to Crest
Artifacts discovered in this area were exposed due to a flood in 1927 which reveals more that 9,000 years. This area later became the C.W. Harris Site, which is noted as one of the most significant archaeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Del Dios Gorge Trail is unique in its own way and that its trail takes you along the beautiful Hodges Reservoir and Hodges Dam. This dam was completed in 1918 and has 1234 surface acres, a maximum water depth of 115 feet and 27 shoreline miles.
Another point of interest is the Rattlesnake Viewpoint area. This peculiar tool is quite interesting. You can learn how to use it while enjoying views of Lake Hodges just over the dam. I admit, I was confused at first, until I took time to read the historical information on the displays. This area is perfect for resting and learning about these 2 for 1 archeological trails.
How to view point sculpture. In the center of the viewpoint sculpture which is the apex of the snake’s tail, there is a pipe scope of which you can look through and line up with another feature. These items are marked on the scope as A, B or C; as these point out the spillway, the bulwarks of the dam, and the river below.
Events and Activities
Petco Park Stadium
With its unbelievable backdrop of the city, surrounded by the ocean and spectacular sunsets, Petco Park Stadium will certainly impress you! But the stadium is more than just a baseball field. Enjoy several other events during certain times of the year such as concerts, Monster Truck shows, and other events!
Monster Truck Show: When baseball season is over, the stadium is used for lots of other events throughout the year. The Monster Truck show is one of those events! Join in the fun and see these magnificent giants perform tricks and fun. Some of the popular truck names include Grave Digger, Bounty Hunter, Bad Company, Megadalon, Stone Crusher, and Avenger.
San Diego Padres Baseball: Whether you visit San Diego or are a local, you must experience a baseball game at Petco Park at least once. Several promotions are held throughout the season on certain nights of the week. If there is any stadium to take in a baseball game, then Petco Park is the perfect one to do it! The experience here is indescribable! You can see airplanes arriving for landing in the distance behind the city buildings as you watch the game.
There may not be any other place where you can celebrate such diverse cultures, enjoy art galore, indulge in an aviation museum, explore nature parks, and compete at a sports complex. A park within the city! This unique park expands across so many topics and plays a significant role in conservation.
If you are looking for fun things to do for Halloween, you may want to experience the Haunted Trail, where tickets start at $24.99. Thrill seekers can enjoy several spooky themed spaces along the trail. Another fun event called December Nights, is one of San Diego’s largest holiday markets. Due to the uncertainty of Covid, the 2021 event will continue as modified and will be a drive through experience.
One of the first settlements in San Diego, Old Town is the perfect spot to enjoy history, art, and dining! Established in 1769, enjoy browsing the historical spots and be sure to take some time to wander around, then get ready to tickle your taste buds for some of the best Mexican dining in town!
Local Tip: The restaurant, The Old Town Mexican Cafe is purely delicious! If you stand outside the window of the business, you can look in and watch the cooks making hand made tortillas and other tasty items!
Seaport Village West
This is yet another spot in the area that will certainly take your breath away! While wandering around Seaport Village, you can enjoy shopping along the waterfront! Enjoy browsing shops while taking in the stunning water views. Upcoming promotions include free live music October through December.
USS Midway Museum
Located just a short distance from Seaport Village, enjoy this very cool experience at the USS Midway Museum. This aircraft carrier is an actual military ship vessel that has been decommissioned. An experience that will satisfy any and all you military and aviation history buffs. There are several free admission promotions for veterans and their families offered throughout various times of the year.
Best spots for Coastal Views and Stunning sunsets
Who doesn’t love to enjoy a sunset on the beach? Well, San Diego not only offers landscape beauty but the coastal cliffs and beach views are sensational! This southern California town offers some of the most beautiful places to enjoy stunning views. And the best part is you can enjoy them any time of the day! These spots include the following:
- Ocean Beach
- Oceanside Pier and Beach
- Moonlight Beach
- Sunset Cliffs
- Carlsbad State Beach
I have enjoyed calling San Diego home for more than 25 years. There are still some areas I have yet to see but the beaches are some of my favorite. I have explored all over southern California and made many fond memories here. It can be difficult finding affordable options for entertainment and activities in the southern California region. Planning ahead can save you time and money when trying to enjoy all the activities San Diego has to offer in an affordable way!