Get ready for a warm welcome along San Diego's shores. Surfers can hang loose in La Jolla, cultured company will delight in Balboa Park's museums and groups can get their grub on in the Gaslamp. America's Finest City offers the very best of sun and fun.
World-class names such as Rembrandt, Boucher, Copley and Corot grace the walls of this tiny treasure. Request a guide or pick up an audio tour if you want some context – the signage doesn't offer much to go off of. There's a donation box at the end, but this Balboa Park gem doesn't require a fee.
On Sundays in the summer, the world's largest outdoor pipe organ comes alive with free concerts. Even when it isn't making music, the 4,500-pipe wonder is a sight to behold. It's also located in Balboa Park, with plenty of free parking and nearby dining at The Prado.
The outdoor stage - a replica of Shakespeare's original - envelops the audience in stunning architecture and greenery as they watch award-winning classics. Two indoor stages offer new picks and seasonal showings such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The oldest-standing residence in the Gaslamp Quarter now serves as the home base for historical exhibits, educational lectures and entertainment events. There are numerous tours, including guided paranormal walks that get guests up-close and personal with infamously rowdy ghosts.
Grab lunch in trendy North Park at this counter-service spot known for its pork belly and craft beer. There's always a long line, but it's worth the wait. Settle in on the covered patio out back and try the chipotle aoli. Standard meals here go for under $10.
Sink your teeth into the daringly delicious Yodel, a devil's cake dessert accented with white chocolate and hazelnut brittle. What comes before is equally enticing: pork shoulder rubbed with garam masala, ahi tuna tartare with warren pears and banana-cinnamon drink called the “Pineapple Expression.”
Little Italy's craft beer scene is thriving to the point that it prompted San Diego's Museum of Man to open a temporary “Beerology” exhibit. Join one of several tours featuring handpicked selections at spots including Craft & Commerce, Ballast Point and Bottle Craft Brewery.
Don't miss happy hour in the city that invented the fish taco! This seaside joint has been featured as one of Food Network's Top American Restaurants, and it's one of the best spots to score shrimp and mahi or a gigantic ceviche cocktail.
Get a peek into the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Here, scientists and researchers promote ocean conservation and share their findings with the public in a purposefully hands-on environment. Visit the tide pools for an intimate viewing of the life of an underwater creature, and step out onto the terrace for an astonishing view of the La Jolla shoreline.
Ride the historic wooden roller coaster overlooking miles of beach. This boardwalk promises endless fun, from carnival-style attractions to an up-and-coming restaurant scene. Get a feel for the surf on the only FlowBarrel wave machine in the United States, and then slip away to the shore to try out the real thing.
The longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century now sits in the San Diego bay as tribute to this county's long history of service. Kids can duck into sleeping quarters and get a thrill on flight simulators for a hands-on learning experience that's guaranteed to leave an impression.
The otherworldly exhibits here transport visitors into a whole new dimension of learning. Explore space, the process of aging in the human body, illusions and more. Don't miss the IMAX Dome Theater for a larger-than-life look at various wonders.
Rent a bike and explore the shore-side paths of Coronado Island. This shop offers individual bicycles, tandems, trailers, baby seats and even a selection of surreys so the whole family can ride together.
Get your SUP on in Mission Bay. San Diego Paddle Yoga's glow-in-the-dark tours offer a unique after-hours peek at night life in the water. Many visitors report seeing sting rays and flying fish!
Deep in the hills of San Diego, the community of San Carlos offers a 3-mile roundtrip trek with a rewarding vista. It gets hot and busy, so try to come on a weekday and brings lots of sunscreen.
For a $5 entry fee per car, you can experience hours of sightseeing where the first European set foot on the west coast in 1542. Wander through sea caves and tide pools during low tide, then tour the lighthouses and enjoy seasonal whale watching December through April.
Up in Encinitas, this hidden garden is brimming with lush beauty. See garden displays showcasing the best of South America, South Africa, Australia and more. Families will love the model trains, and this is the perfect spot for shutterbugs to snap some photos.
This La Jolla hotspot features a stretch of white-sand beach between two rock-reef points. Rough water makes it unsuitable for swimming, but its seclusion is perfect for a quick jog, surfer-watching and even diving among the kelp beds beyond the break.
This historic aviation site lets visitors actually experience a tandem hang glide or paraglide. Those wanting to keep their feet on the ground can grab a snack at the cafe and enjoy the view.
Head to Fern Street for a series of shops with eclectic monikers reflecting the curios waiting inside. Discover unique home items at Bad Madge, funky gifts at Graffiti Beach and locally sourced handmade goods at the aptly-named Make Good.
This shopping section of Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach boasts over 85 one-of-a-kind shops. Browse the boutiques and score some fun finds to take back home. If you're there on Sunday, the farmers market has creative offerings, including a Jamaican food cart.
Located in the heart of the San Diego Bay, this series of seaside shops is just touristy enough to offer an ever-evolving list of attractions. Don't miss the carousel, the street performers and sunset dining along the water.