Welcome to JetSetting Fools, here you will find our best travel tips for destinations worldwide. Some of the links on this site are Affiliate Links and if you use them to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. For more information, read our Disclosure Policy.
Sunny San Diego is the perfect destination for a weekend escape! The popular southern California city has something for everyone: Beautiful San Diego beaches, must-see attractions, famous San Diego parks, unique neighborhoods and an exciting nightlife. We created a Weekend in San Diego Itinerary that features the absolute best things to do on a weekend getaway!
Planning a trip to San Diego doesn’t have to be complicated. However, with so many things to see (and so little time), organizing your weekend San Diego trip is essential.
How To Plan a Weekend in San Diego Itinerary
During the many years that we resided in Phoenix, we made countless weekend trips to San Diego, California. It is an easy flight – and the San Diego airport is right in the heart of the city, so it takes little time to dive into weekend fun.
That said, no two of our San Diego weekends were planned exactly the same. Although beaches, baseball and craft beer are among our favorite things to do in San Diego, we constantly challenged ourselves to plan San Diego weekend itineraries that included sights, attractions and districts that we had yet to visit.
Based on our experiences, advice from locals and tips from fellow travelers, we have created a plan for the perfect San Diego weekend trip!
San Diego Weekend Getaway Itinerary FAQs
Before we jump into our trip plan for a weekend getaway to San Diego, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
How Many Days for a Weekend Getaway San Diego?
For the best weekend getaways in San Diego, we recommend spending at least three days in the city. Planning a 3-day long weekend in San Diego is enough time to see top sights, discover cool districts and stroll on the best SD beaches.
However, your trip plan needs to be succinct. To help, we created a detailed itinerary that shows you the best way to plan a weekend in San Diego for 3 days. In fact, our SD itinerary is a complete day-by-day guide that includes everything for the best 3 days in San Diego.
That all said, we know not all travelers are planning a 3-Day San Diego Itinerary. Therefore, we offer our top tips for longer – and shorter – stays at the end of the post. Want to create a San Diego 1-Day Itinerary or a 4-Day San Diego Itinerary? We have got you covered!
Is this a City or Beach San Diego 3 Day Itinerary?
Both! If you are going to spend three days in San Diego, there is certainly enough time to see both the beach and the city…and even more!
Our 3 Day San Diego Itinerary is a trip plan that includes both city attractions and the best beaches. Rather than focusing on one specific activity, we include a wide range of events in our plan for visiting San Diego in 3 days.
On the other hand, visitors interested in only a beach San Diego vacation or those who want to plan a city break can still use our outlined San Diego trip itinerary for our top suggestions on what to see, do and eat.
Can I Use this Weekend Itinerary San Diego for Families?
Yes! While this may seem like a San Diego 3-Day Itinerary for adults – as we were aiming to create the best weekend trip for traveling couples and/or groups of friends – it can actually be used for all types of vacations to San Diego.
Since San Diego boasts numerous attractions and places that kids will enjoy – we have updated our SD trip plan to include kid-friendly activities, as well. With the incredible range of activities, this can easily serve as a San Diego family vacation itinerary.
So whether you are looking for a fabulous San Diego itinerary for couples or are creating a San Diego vacation planner for families, you can use our weekend guide to plan your best SD trip!
Can I Plan a San Diego, California Vacation on a Budget?
Absolutely! While the city is generally considered to be an expensive destination, you can certainly plan affordable San Diego vacations…and you can use our San Diego weekend itinerary to help you do it.
Many of the activities that we recommend are either cheap or free things to do in San Diego. In fact, some of the must-do San Diego attractions – like the beaches and parks – don’t cost anything at all. Furthermore, neighborhood exploration is highly encouraged – and we recommend a few of the best places to see in San Diego.
Some of the biggest costs of your vacation in San Diego will be flights and accommodations – so we highlight our top tips for finding cheap airfare and best suggestions for discounts on hotels in San Diego later in the article.
What else is included in this Weekend in San Diego Trip Planner?
San Diego trip planning is not limited to what to see, do and eat – you also need to consider how you will get there, where you will stay, and what you will do to get around.
Don’t stress! Our San Diego trip plan includes all that information and we share top San Diego travel tips for packing, as well. Plus, we created a San Diego Map of attractions to help guide you on your trip.
As you start to make reservations and planning your San Diego 3 Days Itinerary, staying organized is key! We recommend using a travel planner – like our Printable Travel Planner – to stay on top of all your trip details!
BEST WEEKEND IN SAN DIEGO ITINERARY
Now that we have covered the basics, it’s time to get to our complete day-by-day plan of our perfect San Diego weekend itinerary. Our San Diego Itinerary is packed with information! It includes everything you need to plan a trip to San Diego – plus that all important map of San Diego vacation spots at the end of the article.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Weekend in SD Itinerary so that you can plan your San Diego trip!
Day 1: San Diego Sightseeing
After checking into your accommodations (recommendations later), kick off your 3 Day San Diego Itinerary with classic sightseeing in San Diego. Start at the beginning – in Old Town in San Diego – then make your way back into downtown for city exploration, dinner and drinks.
Old Town San Diego
A destination for history, shopping and dining, Old Town San Diego is an excellent place to start your fantastic weekend in San Diego.
The Old Town State Historic Park is a living history museum that celebrates the origins of San Diego. The complex is comprised of historic buildings and exhibits that depict what life was like in San Diego in the 1800s. Visitors can learn about the history of San Diego in Old Town via on-site museums, re-enactments, tours and events.
There is no entry fee to the San Diego State Historic Park and Museums – it’s one of the best free San Diego attractions! Use this brochure for more information.
Pro Tip: Old Town is a San Diego must-see sight…and it is easily accessible by trolley, bus, train or taxi. As a matter of fact, one of the best ways to explore on the first day of your San Diego Itinerary is with a Hop On Hop Off Trolley pass.
Little Italy San Diego
Dating to the 1920s, the Little Italy neighborhood in San Diego is one of the remaining Italian enclaves in the United States – and a weekend in San Diego itinerary would not be complete without taking a stroll through the charming district.
At one time home to 6,000 Italian families, Little Italy is a thriving community that features public art and quaint piazzas. What San Diego Little Italy is best known for is its fabulous outdoor weekend market, Little Italy Mercato. In addition to the fresh produce, there are several vendors that sell locally prepared foods.
Pro Tip: The Little Italy Mercato, which runs for six blocks on West Date Street, happens on Saturday mornings from 8:00am until 2:00pm (and Wednesdays from 09:30am to 1:30pm). If the market is a must-see in your weekend 3 Day Itinerary San Diego, plan accordingly. More info.
Downtown San Diego Sightseeing
Downtown San Diego is a hub of culture and entertainment. Sightseeing is highlighted by impressive museums, SD Harbor views and leisurely shopping. We are sharing our top picks for what to do in San Diego Downtown.
USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway naval aircraft carrier is anchored at Navy Pier in downtown San Diego – and visiting is one of the top San Diego activities.
Serving for nearly half a century, the Midway was converted into a San Diego museum in 2004. Visitors use self-guided audio tours to navigate their way through the legendary military ship.
Pro Tip: The USS Midway Museum offers a dedicated children’s audio tour, which is ideal for anyone planning a San Diego Itinerary with Kids. Find out more and buy tickets!
San Diego Harbor Cruise
On a San Diego Bay Cruise, passengers enjoy spectacular views of the skyline while listening to commentary about the city’s history and sights. With multiple daily departures – and a choice of 1- or 2-hour bay cruises, guests can easily fit a cruise into their San Diego Itinerary.
Pro Tip: Whale Watching Cruises – like this one – are one of the best things to do in San Diego – but only in the right season. The whales migrate past the San Diego shoreline from December through April.
An outdoor shopping mall and dining hub along the Embarcadero, Seaport Village is a pleasant spot along the waterfront in downtown SD. As it is featured in every San Diego vacation guide, it can be quite touristy.
That said, it is a fabulous place to enjoy an ice cream cone, browse for souvenirs and people watch. If you do grab a bite to eat at Seaport Village, Edgewater Grill is recommended by locals.
Pro Tip: On Saturday mornings, peruse the fresh-caught fish, shrimp and seafood at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market.
More Downtown San Diego Attractions and Museums
We have featured a few of our preferred top things to do in San Diego Downtown, but we want to mention a few museums that are great weekend trip ideas in San Diego, as well.
The New Children’s Museum
A fun activity to include in a family weekend getaway to San Diego, the New Children’s Museum is an interactive art museum dedicated to young children and families.
San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
A small museum located in an old mission-style building, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum displays fascinating exhibits of Chinese art, history and culture.
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Another small museum in the San Diego city center, the Museum of Contemporary Art features intriguing and thought-provoking modern artworks.
Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
A Victorian-era heritage home with a lovely garden detailing the history of downtown San Diego…plus it’s haunted! If you are seeking unusual things to do on a San Diego 3 day trip, the haunted tour is a top pick!
Pro Tip: We love these bite-sized museums in downtown SD – but we feature more of the best museums on Day 2 of our Weekend San Diego Itinerary.
San Diego Padres Baseball Game
Catching a game at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park is a highlight of a 3 Days in San Diego Itinerary. Located in the heart of the Gaslamp District, the stadium is one of the best in all of Major League Baseball.
In addition to watching a game, visitors have several more reasons to put Petco Park on their list of what to see in San Diego in 3 days. The San Diego skyline views are incredible, there is a kid-friendly ‘Park at the Park’ and the concessions feature local eateries and San Diego craft breweries.
Whether you are planning a San Diego Itinerary with kids, couples or friends, a Padres baseball game is a big hit!
Pro Tip: Visiting outside of the summer season? See what else is going on at Petco Park! The stadium is used for an array of San Diego events – including concerts, motorsports and rugby.
A Night Out in San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
The epicenter of downtown San Diego nightlife, the historical Gaslamp Quarter – or Gaslamp District – is the perfect place to kick off your long weekend in San Diego.
In addition to the numerous restaurants, bars and night clubs, Gaslamp is also center stage for several fun San Diego events – like street parties and music festivals.
Pro Tip: You can begin your discovery on a fascinating guided walk of the Gaslamp Quarter. The fun early evening history tour, Brothels, Bites and Booze – where you snack, sip and soak in the atmosphere of the iconic SD district – is an excellent start to a great night out!
Where to Eat and Drink in San Diego Gaslamp
Gaslamp is the prime spot for dinner, drinks and dance clubs in San Diego. The biggest challenge for your 3 day trip to San Diego may be deciding which places you want to go to eat, drink and dance the night away!
The Gaslamp District is constantly evolving, with new places coming on the scene and old favorites fading away. That said, we are sharing a few recommendations for the best restaurants and bars in Gaslamp.
Casual Dining in Gaslamp
For great pizza in a cool atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with Basic. La Puerta, Blind Burro or Pokez fit the bill when you are in the mood for Mexican. Hodads is, hands down, the place to go for burgers. Punch Bowl Social, Barleymash and GARAGE all serve up classic American fare and are always a fun time.
Upscale Eats and Craft Cocktails
Looking for something slightly upscale from bar eats? Check out Dobson’s or the Westgate Room. For amazing cocktails in Gaslamp, head to Noble Experiment (speakeasy vibe) or El Dorado Lounge (classic Western-themed boozer).
SD Gaslamp Nightclubs
The Gaslamp nightclubs are fun and funky – and there numerous where you can dance late into the night. We are highlighting a few to include in your San Diego Three Day Itinerary.
- Bang Bang: An Asian eatery that transforms into a fun club on weekends.
- Onyx Room: Underground club featuring DJ’s and EDM.
- The Tipsy Crow: Iconic SD live music venue and club offering three levels of dancing and games.
- Trailer Park after Dark: A basement dive that is popular with the young crowd.
- Moonshine Flats: Excellent fun for country music fans to line-dance the night away.
- Parq: An upscale club with funky décor and bottle service.
Pro Tip: The Local San Diego, which is situated in the nearby Financial District, is an excellent choice for delicious grub outside of the Gaslamp district – plus it’s also the home of Resident Brewing, some of the best craft beer in SD!
Day 2: The Best Places to Go in San Diego
On the second day of your San Diego Trip Itinerary, explore the city’s best park, discover a neighborhood gem and take the ferry to Coronado.
Balboa Park in San Diego
A massive green space and cultural destination, Balboa Park is a must-visit on your weekend trip to San Diego. The urban park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and it is free to enter the grounds.
Top attractions in San Diego Balboa Park are the planned gardens, miles of walking trails and some of the city’s best museums. In fact, there are so many things to do that visitors could easily spend an entire day in Balboa Park. However, for our Weekend Itinerary for San Diego, we recommend spending just the morning there.
To help you choose which fun things to do in San Diego Balboa Park, we are highlighting the best sights.
San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park
Balboa Park is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is a must for travelers planning a San Diego itinerary with family. One of the most incredible zoos in the world, the zoo in San Diego is a state-of-the-art facility housing more than 4,000 animals.
Visitors who opt to go to the SD Zoo should buy skip-the-line tickets in advance to save time – because there is still more to see on your weekend in San Diego!
Botanical Building and Lily Pond
The most photographed spot in the park is the 1915 Botanical Building from across the Lily Pond and Lagoon. While the viewpoint is iconic, visiting the Botanical Building is fun, too; it houses more than 2,000 plants, including orchids and palms. Plus, it’s one of the best San Diego things to do for free!
Japanese Friendship Garden
Nestled in Balboa Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden features meticulously planned gardens, koi ponds, bridges and waterfalls. There is a fee to enter.
Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden
The free rose garden is one of the must-see sights in San Diego Balboa Park. Visitors can see the roses in bloom from March through December – but April and May are the peak season.
With 5,098 pipes in 81 ranks, the Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park is the largest outdoor musical instrument in the world. Catch a free organ concert on Sundays at 2 in the afternoon.
Museums in Balboa Park
The sprawling Balboa Park houses 16 incredible museums – and we are featuring the top picks. While the museums are not free, there is a money-saving Balboa Park Explorer Pass that will help save money if you plan on visiting multiple of these sights.
- Fleet Science Center: An educational and interactive facility with a planetarium, IMAX theater and hands-on exhibits.
- San Diego Natural History Museum: Dinosaurs and fossils are top attractions at this earth science museum.
- San Diego Museum of Art: A vast and incredible art collection, including masterpieces and sculptures.
- San Diego Air & Space Museum: Aviation history museum with flight simulators and displayed aircraft.
Walking Trails at Balboa Park
While there are many things to see at Balboa Park that you will want to include in your San Diego itinerary for the weekend, one of the best things to do is just walking. Visitors can easily explore Balboa Park on foot – as it features an astounding 65 miles of walking and biking trails, which are open 24/7/365.
Pro Tip: Take some time to explore the magnificent Balboa Park on foot or on wheels. One of the best ways to cover more ground in the enormous park is via a Segway tour – like this morning tour!
South Park District
Sitting adjacent to Balboa Park on the southeast side, the San Diego South Park District exudes classic Southern California charm. Established in 1870, the under-the-radar district is a top destination to include on your San Diego weekend trip.
The residential neighborhood is comprised of quaint bungalows, tree-lined streets and a main thoroughfare that hosts boutique shops and innovative eats.
What To Do in San Diego South Park District
Exploration of the South Park neighborhood centers on 30th and Fern Streets.
We recommend grabbing lunch in the district – either at the highly rated Café Madeleine for French-inspired fare or Eclipse Chocolate & Bistro for an amazing weekend brunch in San Diego.
After lunch, peruse the South Park shops for interesting finds and unique, local San Diego made products. Vinyl Junkies Record Shack is fun for music lovers, The Book Catapult is a must for bookworms and Thread and Seed is a top choice for apparel.
Pro Tip: Extend your district exploration to the north into San Diego North Park – another fantastic, hip neighborhood that is fun to discover. Shop and eat on University Avenue and maybe check out who is playing at The Observatory North Park, a historic live music venue that dates to the 1930s.
Coronado sits just across San Diego Bay (and is technically a peninsula, not an island) – and is a must-see on your 3 Days in San Diego Itinerary. Appealing to tourists for decades, the posh residential community boasts high-end resorts, an artsy downtown district and one of the best beaches in America.
From San Diego, it’s just a 15-minute ferry ride to Coronado Ferry Landing, which puts visitors in the perfect position to start exploring. Travelers with a car can just as easily drive to Coronado via the stunning Coronado Bridge, taking in the epic San Diego skyline views enroute.
That said, another way to see Coronado is via a guided Segway Tour that navigates through San Diego and Coronado.
What To See in Coronado, San Diego
The number one reason to include Coronado on your San Diego vacation planner is to see the Hotel del Coronado – or just Hotel Del; it’s the town’s most famous building. Dating to 1888, the resort hotel is a National Historic Landmark and has been visited by a long list of celebrities – from Marilyn Monroe to Muhammad Ali.
However, the Hotel Del isn’t the only reason to visit this stylish San Diego neighborhood. Some of the fun activities on Coronado include spending time on the pristine beach and going shopping at the boutique shops that line Orange Avenue. It’s all easily walkable – although we prefer to rent a bike and navigate Coronado on two wheels.
Pro Tip: Ladies who are looking to add a little fun in their San Diego Bachelorette Itinerary might want to make reservations for spa treatments at the Spa at The Hotel Del.
Dinner on Coronado
On the second day of your Weekend in San Diego, stay on Coronado for a delicious dinner. Although Coronado feels like a small town, there are a copious number of places to eat. In fact, some of the very best restaurants in San Diego are in Coronado – so we are highlighting a few of the favorites.
Coronado Brewing Company ranks as our top choice for a casual meal and a few locally crafted brews. The tavern serves exceptional pub fare – and the classic Pub Burger is our go-to (but the Ahi Fish Tacos are phenomenal, too!).
Seafood is naturally a specialty on Coronado – and Lobster West is a top pick for a simple meal. Try the Lobster Roll – and accompany it with a bowl of Lobster Bisque or Clam Chowder.
For an upscale dining experience with a sea view, Serea Coastal Cuisine at the Hotel Del Coronado is said to be exceptional. The sea-to-table concept has a flair for the Mediterranean – and the tiered patio seating is hard to beat. Other recommended seafood restaurants on Coronado include Brigantine and Bluewater Boathouse.
Pro Tip: If dinner in Coronado isn’t appealing to you, head back to San Diego and try one of the popular restaurants in Little Italy – like Juniper and Ivy, Queenstown Public House or The Crack Shack. Or, if missed the North Park neighborhood, aim for 30th Street for an array of al fresco dining and craft beer bar hopping options.
Day 3: Discover the Best San Diego Beaches
On the last day of your 3-day trip to San Diego, spend time on the beautiful Pacific coastline – it is quite possibly the best thing to do in San Diego!
San Diego Beaches
In addition to visiting Coronado Beach, it’s essential to schedule some time in your San Diego trip itinerary on the mainland beaches.
Our favorite San Diego beach communities – Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla – are just a short distance from downtown San Diego. Torrey Pines, just a bit further north, is a top SD destination, as well.
Catch a Uber/Lyft ride (or drive) up the California Coast to sink your feet into the sand while you soak up the sunshine. Top San Diego beach activities are shoreline walking, frisbee throwing, bike riding, surfing and sunbathing.
The Best Beaches in San Diego
The best San Diego beaches start west of downtown and continue north along the coast. We are listing the top beaches to visit in San Diego from south to north. Each destination has its own vibe – but all of them are fantastic for San Diego weekend trips.
OK, while Point Loma doesn’t actually have beaches for playing and swimming, the coastline offers some of the most spectacular views – which is reason enough to include it in your Weekend San Diego Itinerary.
The top attraction in San Diego Point Loma is Cabrillo National Monument Park. The best things to do at Cabrillo National Monument is explore the Point Loma tide pools, go hiking on the Bayside Trail, take in the view at Whale Overlook and visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. A fee is required to visit Point Loma Park.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Dramatic cliffs, rocky bluffs, natural rock arches and hidden sea caves are top reasons to visit the free Sunset Cliffs Natural Park on the northern boundary of Point Loma.
The park encompasses 1.5 miles of rugged shoreline. Visitors can choose to stay on the top of the cliffs for the unrivaled panoramic views – bring binoculars to see if you can spot any migrating whales. Adventurous travelers can take the stairs down the Ladera Steps to explore the sea cave at low tide.
The town of Ocean Beach dates to the late 1800s – and, in addition to the beach, there is a lot to discover!
The most popular beach in Ocean Beach is Newport Avenue Beach – where surfers ride the waves and people come to hang out. Visitors can also walk along the landmark Ocean Beach Pier or eat at one of the many Ocean Beach restaurants. Wonderland Ocean Pub is our top pick in OB – but South Beach Bar & Grille is a close second (especially if you’re there for Taco Tuesday!).
Mission Beach embodies the classic Southern California beach atmosphere – which is why we think it is one of the best places to include on your San Diego trip itinerary. The skinny, 2-mile peninsula is just two blocks wide – with the Pacific Ocean on the west and Mission Bay on the east.
The top thing to do in San Diego Mission Beach is to stroll, bike or rollerblade along the boardwalk promenade.
The Belmont Park theme park is a big tourist attraction in Mission Beach – and riding the 1927 Big Dipper wooden roller coaster is a must! The best part is that you only pay for rides and food – getting into the Mission Beach amusement park is free!
That said, we do recommend heading to Draft, where they serve big portions and feature a massive local craft beer list or Beach House for tacos and margaritas!
Exuding a chill surfer vibe and home to loads of fun beach bars is what encouraged us to spend many of our 3-day weekends in San Diego on Pacific Beach.
The same oceanfront boardwalk in Mission Beach extends to Pacific Beach (and north to Law Street Beach) – and it’s just as popular in PB.
The sandy shores are ideal for surfing, swimming, sunbathing, playing in the sand and building sandcastles – and the wooden Crystal Pier is a super spot to catch a beautiful San Diego sunset.
Another spot for an amazing SoCal sunset – and one of the best things to do in San Diego Pacific Beach – is to perch on the ocean view deck at Lahaina Beach House.
While there are several fun beach restaurants in Pacific Beach (like World Famous, Baja Beach Café and PB Shore Club), our top recommendation for a place to eat in PB is Bare Back Grill – which sits a block off the beach, but makes divine burgers (try the Bare Lil Lamb Burger!).
La Jolla, California
La Jolla is a fabulous destination with heaps of activities and beautiful beaches to entertain guests during a Weekend Trip San Diego Itinerary.
The best shoreline spot is La Jolla Cove, where sea lions and pelicans provide the entertainment and the natural landscape provides the scenery. The La Jolla tide pools and Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave are two other top places to see – and sandy La Jolla Shores Beach is the best place for bodyboarding and bonfires. Just to the north, adventurous travelers (and fans of abandoned structures) can hike down to see something unique in San Diego, The Mushroom Beach House.
San Diego visitors who have had enough beach can go shopping on Prospect Street – where there are cafes, ice cream shops, local boutiques and famous brands. If you are looking for a better view, drive up to nearby Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial, where a large white cross stands in honor of American veterans.
Active and adventurous travelers planning a weekend trip to San Diego may want to head further north to Torrey Pines, where an abundance of outdoor adventures await.
The popular oceanside Torrey Pines State Park boasts a network of hiking trails along the top of the rocky cliffs, offering fine Pacific Ocean views.
More impressive views of Torrey Pines State Reserve and the coastline, however, are from a paraglider. Thrill-seekers can book a paragliding adventure from the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
If you prefer your scenic views with both feet on the ground, Torrey Pines State Beach is an incredible beach backdropped by towering cliffs. However, Black’s Beach is the most famous San Diego beach in the area, because, well…everyone is naked.
How To Visit San Diego Beaches
Planning a trip to San Diego beaches requires a little bit of organization. While public transport can be used to get to some of the beaches closest to the city, you will need to rent a car or Uber/Lyft if you want to visit multiple beach attractions in a single day.
Of course, if you just want to see Mission Beach and Pacific Beach (admittedly, two of our favorites for San Diego beach activities), then we recommend getting a lift to Mission Beach and renting a bike. From Mission Beach, you can use the 3.2-mile Ocean Front Walk to bike north to PB (and continue all around Mission Bay as well).
Pro Tip: Another option for visitors who want to see multiple beaches without a car is to join a local guide on a tour of the most famous San Diego beach spots. Find out more here!
Weekend in San Diego Itinerary Map of Attractions
Use this link to Google Maps for an online, interactive version of our Attractions Map of San Diego.
More Things To Do in San Diego, California
Above we outlined three perfect days in San Diego, but there really is so much more to see and do! We are highlighting a few other popular SD activities that you may want to incorporate into your San Diego vacation planner.
San Diego SeaWorld
Sea World is a top attraction to include on a San Diego vacation itinerary. That said, if you decide to go to the SeaWorld – which features sea creatures, animal shows and amusement park rides – plan on spending an entire day at the adventure park.
San Diego Safari Park
Located north (near Escondido), the Safari Park is a spacious zoo that features wild and endangered animals in a more natural habitat. Exhibits include the Asian Savanna, African Plains, the Tiger Trail, Hidden Jungle and Gorilla Forest. Visitors will want to create a full-day San Diego Safari Park Itinerary in order to see all of the amazing animals and partake in the incredible activities. Buy your tickets in advance!
San Diego Day Trips
We think our San Diego Three-Day Itinerary features the absolute best things to do. That said, if you are trying to plan a longer San Diego vacation itinerary or have alternate interests to what we outlined, then you may want to add fun day trips from San Diego, CA to your trip plan.
We are highlighting some of the top-rated day trips that can be added to your San Diego travel itinerary.
Valle de Guadalupe Premium Wine and Food Tour
On this San Diego day trip itinerary participants sip and swirl wine in ‘La Ruta del Vino’, which is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in North America. Transportation, appetizers and wine tastings are included in the tour. Find out more!
San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico
Get an introduction to the Mexican city of Tijuana on a full day excursion from San Diego. Taste-test local Baja spirits, eat real Mexican tacos and learn more about TJ’s fascinating culture. Get the details!
San Diego to San Francisco Tours
Understandably, many visitors making a trip to California might want to squeeze more than one destination into their vacation (like Los Angeles or San Francisco). Rather than bogging down your San Diego weekend with long day trips, it may be best to save other California destinations for another visit.
In fact, one of the best ways to see the state’s best coastline destinations is via a multi-day California road trip! We detail everything you need to know in our guide, Driving the California Coastal Highway (including stops in amazing destinations like Malibu, Santa Barbara, Morro Bay and Monterrey).
San Diego or San Francisco Vacation?
If you are limited to just a few days over a weekend, you will need to weigh the advantages of a San Diego vs San Francisco vacation.
Although the two cities share the same state, that’s about where the similarities end. There are so many differences that deciding which one – San Diego vs San Fran – really comes down to what kind of trip you want. Have look at our San Francisco Itinerary so that you can compare the two side-by-side and choose which best suits you.
How Many Days in San Diego?
San Diego is vibrant and offers an array of activities, which makes it difficult to decide how many days to spend in San Diego.
You could easily spend a week in San Diego and not see it all. We have been limited to spending just 1 day in San Diego, numerous times – and we became experts at making the most of it!
When planning a trip to San Diego, it is best to consider your interests and your total budget to help you decide how many days to stay.
Above, we featured how to spend 3 perfect days in San Diego – but what if you are trying to plan a succinct San Diego 2-Day Itinerary or a 4-Day Itinerary in San Diego? No problem! Our tips will make planning your trip to San Diego a success!
More San Diego Itineraries
Below, we offer sample itineraries for what to see in San Diego in one day – or how to spend 5 days in San Diego.
San Diego One-Day Itinerary
Visitors with only 1 Day in San Diego will certainly be pressed for time, but it is possible to create a San Diego one-day trip planner.
The key to planning a one day trip to San Diego is to focus on one area. For example, explore downtown or set sail for Coronado Island or go to just one beach that you can fully explore for the day.
San Diego Itinerary 1 Day Tour with a Tour Guide
On the other hand, you can join a local guide for a San Diego one day tour. The guide will introduce the best of the city sights in San Diego in a day. Highlights of the tour include Coronado, the Embarcadero, Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, La Jolla and more of downtown. Book it here!
San Diego Itinerary 2 Days
A 2-Day San Diego Itinerary will be limiting, but it is possible to visit San Diego in 2 days and still see and experience a lot!
San Diego 2 Day Itinerary Outline
It can actually be quite simple to create a 2 Days in San Diego trip plan. Using our above San Diego Itinerary 3 Days, just pick the two days that are most interesting to you!
Alternatively, you could create a 2 Day San Diego Itinerary by combining Days 1 and 2 and eliminating sights that are not of interest. For example, you could start at Coronado in the morning, go to Balboa Park in the afternoon and discover downtown sights and the Gaslamp in the evening.
Then, choose one of the beaches from day three of our 3-Day Itinerary San Diego for your second day of your 2 days in San Diego.
San Diego Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in San Diego, visitors will have much more time for sightseeing. You could break up the tourist sights in our 3-Day San Diego Itinerary for more relaxation – or you could add even more attractions!
San Diego 4-Day Itinerary Outline
For us, a Perfect 4 Day San Diego Itinerary would be to follow Day 1 in our trip plan as written. On Day 2, however, spend the entire day in Balboa Park and the South Park neighborhood, drifting into North Park for dinner. Then, on Day 3, spend the day in Coronado – and on Day 4, visit the best beaches.
Alternatively, create a 4-day itinerary for San Diego by using our guide as it is written, then spend the entire 4th day at one of San Diego’s amusement parks or the San Diego Zoo.
Travelers could also arrange a San Diego Itinerary 4 Days that features more of the region via an organized day trip – perhaps even crossing the border into Mexico.
San Diego Itinerary 5 Days
Spending 5 days in San Diego is certainly a more relaxed way to see the sights and enjoy the cuisine. How you plan your trip will depend on your interests – but we can assure there are plenty of SD sights and attractions to fill your time!
San Diego 5-Day Itinerary Outline
To create the best San Diego 5-Day Itinerary, we recommend following our above tips for a Perfect San Diego 4-Day Itinerary (spending an entire day in both Balboa Park and Coronado). Then on the last day, go to an amusement park, the zoo or perhaps go golfing in San Diego!
San Diego Itinerary 7 Days
There are numerous ways to spend one week in San Diego! With a full week, we recommend adjusting our Weekend in San Diego Itinerary to allow for an even more relaxed pace and deeper exploration.
San Diego One-Week Itinerary Suggestions
When organizing a 1 Week San Diego Itinerary, start with our San Diego 5 Day Itinerary. Then, on Day 6, take one of the day trips – for example, to Tijuana or Wine Country in Mexico. Then, spend the last day of your trip delving more deeply into a favorite district.
With 7 days in San Diego, you could also see any attractions that you missed or go to a beach that you skipped earlier in the week.
Travel Tips for Your San Diego Weekend
Now that we have detailed what to do in our 3-Day San Diego Itinerary – as well as options for longer or shorter stays – we have a few more travel tips for your trip.
What is the Best Month to Visit San Diego?
Determining the best time to visit San Diego really depends on what you want to see and do on your vacation.
The summer months – June, July and August – have the best beach weather and, in general, the summertime is considered the ideal time of year to visit San Diego. However, those are also the busiest months in San Diego and the most expensive for accommodations.
San Diego in the autumn – September and October – experiences warm weather, yet there are fewer crowds and prices on hotels start to come down. Fall is our favorite season to visit San Diego.
Wintertime is relatively pleasant in SD, although a bit too cold for swimming (but not too cold for beach walks and other outdoor activities). Traveling in the winter months to San Diego is perfect for budget travelers and those looking to avoid crowds (unless of course you visit San Diego for New Year’s!).
In the spring, San Diego is busy in March (due to it being a major spring break destination), but usually has a lull in visitors from late April until mid-May.
How To Get To San Diego
In addition to deciding how to spend a weekend in San Diego, it is necessary to figure out how to get there.
San Diego, California can be reached by car, boat, train or plane. Most San Diego weekend visitors travel by plane – and arrive at the San Diego International Airport (SAN). The airport is conveniently located just north of downtown and is close to some of the best San Diego beaches.
Getting Around San Diego
Most places in downtown San Diego can be reached on foot; it retains a very high walkability score. However, visitors not inclined to walk can also use the convenient trolley. A Hop On Hop Off Trolley ticket is ideal for travelers who want to use the trolley to get to most of the top SD attractions.
To get to the beaches and nearby communities – you can rent a car or use a car service, like Uber. While renting a car will open your opportunities for further exploration, it can be very expensive and difficult to find parking in San Diego.
Where To Stay in San Diego
During our weekend San Diego trips, we have stayed in many different locations in an array of San Diego Hotels and Airbnbs.
That said, for a short 3-Day Weekend in San Diego Itinerary, we recommend staying in a hotel, rather than an apartment. With the limited time, you’ll want to try to check in early (or at least secure your luggage) – plus, the extra Airbnb and cleaning fees can be exorbitant during a short weekend visit.
We also suggest choosing a hotel in San Diego that is centrally located and close to the major attractions. In our Weekend Itinerary for San Diego, staying in or near downtown is ideal – and we have a few recommendations in a range of prices.
Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayside – $
Part of the new Hilton Bayside “campus”, the Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Downtown is located on the edge of Little Italy and two blocks from the Embarcadero.
The modern property features stunning rooms – plus a great rooftop pool and 24hr fitness center. However, what we like most about this hotel is it’s location to many of our favorite places in downtown SD and it’s priced affordably for your San Diego Itinerary 3 Days Trip. Check prices now!
Porto Vista Hotel in Little Italy- $
When deciding where to stay in San Diego for a weekend trip, we have ended up at the stylish Porto Vista Hotel more than once. The hotel is located in Little Italy, just a short walk to the Gaslamp District. Some of the contemporary rooms have balconies, but guests who do not have a balcony can still enjoy the views from the sun deck or the on-site bar and restaurant – The Glass Door (which has a good happy hour, too!).
The artsy hotel has a pool and gym – and is one of our top picks for an affordable, yet fashionable, place to stay in San Diego. In fact, it would be one of my top picks for an affordable San Diego Bachelorette Party Itinerary hotel. Check availability!
Hilton San Diego Bayfront – $$
The modern Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel is a big, beautiful property indeed located right on the water, with direct access to Petco Park via the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge.
The 4-Star resort offers spacious rooms with elegant touches that make it an ideal place to stay on San Diego trips. The Hilton Bayfront features an outdoor pool and hot tubs, a luxury spa and a lovely on-site lounge and restaurant. On the weekends when we wanted to treat ourselves a little, the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel was well-worth the splurge. Check out the amenities!
Hotel Del Coronado – $$$
For an exceptional stay during a weekend in San Diego, there is no property that comes more recommended than the Hotel Del Coronado. The iconic hotel offers its guests luxury rooms and outstanding service. We have yet to stay at the famous Hotel Del, but we look forward to it one day. Book your stay!
Before you start your search, use our tips for Booking the Best Hotels!
What To Pack For Your San Diego Trip
We also have a few packing hacks for your San Diego Weekend Trip. Whether you are visiting San Diego in one day or staying for the week, our packing tips will help you decide what to pack for San Diego.
Walking Shoes for Your 3 Days in San Diego
Our Weekend in San Diego Itinerary includes a lot of walking! Make sure you pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I like these by Columbia and Kris prefers wearing Merrell trail shoes. At the beach in the summertime, I go with my favorite Reef Flip Flops, and Kris slips on these Sanuks.
Pack Layers for Your Weekend in San Diego
Regardless of what time of year you visit, you will want to pack clothes that can be layered. The San Diego ‘June Gloom’ weather is not a myth – so be ready and carry a hoodie that can be tucked into your day bag, along with your other everyday travel items. Even on warm sunny days, nights can be cool…so keep that in mind as you choose what to pack in your suitcase. You don’t want to have to splash out for an overpriced “I ❤️ SD” sweatshirt!
Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen
The sun is strong in California – even on cool and or even partly cloudy days. We once spent a spring day at Pacific Beach on one of our San Diego weekend trips and didn’t think we needed sunscreen…and we both got unexpectedly and uncomfortably sunburnt. We highly recommend slathering on the sunscreen, even in cooler San Diego weather.
Pack A Travel Camera for Your San Diego Itinerary
San Diego is a beautiful city – so don’t forget your camera! We use a DSLR Canon Rebel, which takes outstanding photos. A perfect budget camera for beginner photographers, the kit comes with an array of useful accessories. Also, bring your binoculars…especially if you plan on taking a San Diego whale watching cruise!
Travel Insurance for Your San Diego Weekend Trip
We Want To Know: What would you add to our Weekend in San Diego Itinerary? Give us your top tips on the best things to do in San Diego in the comments below!
More Top USA Destinations
Already Have a Destination in Mind?
Traveling to the Pacific Northwest? Excellent! Get all the best tips with our popular guides to Bend OR, Spokane, Montana, Seattle, Portland OR , Vancouver WA plus amazing Oregon Coast and Columbia River Gorge road trips!
Pin it! See all of our travel pins on our JetSetting Fools Pinterest Board.