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Sunny San Diego is the perfect weekend escape! The southern California city has something for everyone: Beautiful beaches, must-see attractions, and an exciting nightlife. We created a Weekend in San Diego Itinerary that features the absolute best things to do on a city-break 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 trip is essential.
San Diego Itinerary
We designed our San Diego 3-Day Itinerary for adults – but with just a few tweaks, it could easily serve as a San Diego family vacation itinerary, too. Also, rather than focusing on one specific activity we include a wide range of activities in our plan for visiting San Diego in 3 days.
Weekend Itinerary San Diego
Our itinerary details the perfect way to spend a weekend in San Diego. Our day-by-day guide includes 3 days in San Diego (Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday) that are filled with top sights, attractions and events.
However, because we know not all travelers are planning a 3-Day San Diego Itinerary, we offer our top tips for longer – and shorter! – stays at the end of the post. So, if you want to create a San Diego 1-Day Itinerary or a 4-Day San Diego Itinerary, we have got you covered!
Our San Diego Itinerary blog includes absolutely everything you need to plan your trip! Save, Pin or Bookmark our Weekend in San Diego Itinerary so that you can easily access it as you plan your trip!
Weekend in San Diego
Below we outline our day-by-day plan for a perfect San Diego weekend itinerary. At the end of the post, you will find our top recommendations for how to get there and where to stay – as well as other top travel tips!
Day 1 (Friday): A Night on the Town
After checking into your accommodations (recommendations in a minute!), kick off your 3 Day San Diego Itinerary with a fun night out on the town!
The historical Gaslamp Quarter – or Gaslamp District – is the center of the downtown San Diego nightlife. In addition to the numerous restaurants, bar and clubs that are housed in the district, the Gaslamp is also center stage for several fun San Diego events – like street parties and music festivals.
Join a guided walk of the Gaslamp Quarter on a fun early evening history tour, Brothels, Bites and Booze – where you snack, sip and soak in the atmosphere of the iconic district.
Dinner, Drinks and Clubs
There are endless options for dinner, drinks and dance clubs in and around the Gaslamp. In fact, it is difficult to make recommendations because there are so many amazing choices – but we want to share a few of our favorite spots.
The Local San Diego, which is situated in the nearby Financial District, is an excellent low-key choice for delicious pub grub and a huge selection of craft beer. For pizza, you can’t go wrong with Basic; for Mexican, we recommend the Blind Burro; and for burgers, go to Hodads. Looking for something slightly upscale from bar eats? Check out Garage Kitchen and Bar – and for the most amazing cocktails, head to Noble Experiment, which exudes a speakeasy ambiance.
Although we prefer the casual bar scene, we have made it to a few of the epic Gaslamp nightclubs. Parq and Fluxx are two of the classiest dance clubs in the city. Bang Bang (Asian theme), the Tipsy Crow (sophisticated) and Moonshine Flats (country) are also fun.
San Diego Padre Baseball Game as a Party Alternative
The MLB San Diego Padres play at Petco Park, which is located in the heart of the city in the Gaslamp District. The MLB season typically stretches from late March until late September – and the stadium hosts an array of other events when there are no home games.
If you are planning a San Diego Itinerary with Kids, then the Gaslamp District nightlife may not be an option. Instead, spend the first day of your 3 days in San Diego Itinerary at a baseball game!
Of course, a Padres baseball game is a fun activity to include on a San Diego Itinerary for adults, too! In fact, because of the stadium’s perfect location in the Gaslamp district, it is possible to catch a game and then follow it up with a night on the town at the many Gaslamp bars.
Day 2 (Saturday): San Diego Neighborhoods
On the second day of your San Diego Trip Itinerary, discover some of the neighborhood gems in the city!
San Diego Little Italy
Dating to the 1920s, the Little Italy neighborhood in San Diego is one of the few remaining Italian enclaves in the United States. At one time home to 6,000 Italian families, Little Italy is a thriving community that features public art, quaint piazzas and a fabulous weekend market.
As a matter of fact, a weekend in San Diego itinerary would not be complete without heading to the festive Little Italy Farmer’s Market! The Little Italy Mercato takes place on West Date Street on Saturday mornings from 8:00am until 2:00pm. In addition to the fresh produce, there are several vendors that sell locally prepared foods. Just be sure to save room for lunch at The Crack Shack, the much raved about chicken and egg eatery.
Coronado – Bike, Beach, Drink, Eat
Coronado Island sits just across the San Diego Bay – and is a must-see on your 3 Days in San Diego Itinerary. Appealing to tourists for decades, the posh resort town boasts high-end resorts, an artsy downtown district and one of the best beaches in America.
The Hotel del Coronado – or just Hotel Del – is the island’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.
From San Diego, hop on a ferry to Coronado – or join a guided Coronado tour.
Once there, take a walk on the pristine beach, rent a bike or go shopping at the boutique shops that line Orange Avenue. 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.
Stay on Coronado Island for dinner; some of our top picks are Coronado Brewing Company for amazing local brews, Lobster West for seafood or Leroy’s Kitchen for farm-to-table food in a modern environment.
Day 3 (Sunday): San Diego Beaches and Parks
On the last day of your 3-day trip to San Diego, spend time in the outdoors. In the morning, stroll the grounds of Balboa Park and then in the afternoon, hit the beaches!
A massive green space and cultural destination, Balboa Park features planned gardens, miles of walking trails and some of the city’s best museums – like the Fleet Science Center, Natural History Museum, SD Museum of Art and the Air & Space Museum. The park is also home to the incredible San Diego Zoo.
One of the best ways to explore the enormous park is via a Segway tour – like this morning tour!
San Diego Zoo
The zoo is a must for people planning a San Diego with Toddlers itinerary. One of the most famous zoos in the world, the SD Zoo is a state-of-the-art facility housing more than 4,000 animals. Visitors who opt to go to the zoo should probably plan on spending a majority of the day there – and buying skip-the-line tickets in advance are a good way to save time, too!
Separate from the zoo (and much further 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 – like this planned tour – in order to see all of the amazing animals and partake in the incredible activities.
San Diego Beaches
We think it is essential to plan for some time at a beach in your itinerary for your San Diego trip! Our favorite beaches – Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla – are just a short distance from downtown San Diego.
Catch a ride up the coast and sink your feet into the sand while you soak in the sunshine. Top beach activities are walking along the shore, sunbathing or throwing a frisbee. Before you head back to the airport, savor the scene while you sip a drink at a beach bar with a view.
Wonderland Ocean Pub is our top pick in OB, but if you go to Mission Beach, try Draft South Mission or go to Lahaina Beach House – one of our all-time favorite Sunday session spots – if you find yourself in Pacific Beach. (Bare Back Grill is excellent for a late boozy brunch in PB, too…but no ocean views)
Rather than just seeing on beach, you can join a tour to see all of the famous San Diego Beaches! Find out more here!
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.
USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway naval aircraft carrier sits on Navy Pier in downtown San Diego. Serving for nearly half a century, the Midway was converted into a museum in 2004. Visitors use self-guided audio tours to explore the military ship; there is even a special child audio tour (which is helpful for anyone planning a San Diego with kids itinerary). Find out more and buy tickets!
A shopping and dining outdoor mall, Seaport Village is a charming spot along the waterfront in downtown SD. Although quite touristy, it is a fabulous place to grab an ice cream cone, browse for souvenirs and people watch.
San Diego Harbor Cruise
On a San Diego 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.
Whale Watching Cruises – like this one! – are also a popular San Diego activity!
San Diego Day Trips
We think our San Diego Three-Day Itinerary features the best things to do in the city. 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 charm of Tijuana on a full day excursion from San Diego. Taste-test local spirits, eat real Mexican tacos and learn more about the city’s fascinating culture. Get the details!
More San Diego Itineraries
Above, we feature 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 are planning a longer trip – like a 4-Day Itinerary in San Diego? No worries! We have tips that will make planning your trip to San Diego a breeze!
San Diego One-Day Itinerary
Visitors with only 1 Day in San Diego will certainly be pressed for time, but we created a San Diego one-day trip planner for travelers limited to a single day. We recommend picking just one area – downtown, Coronado Island or a beach city – that you want to fully explore on your own.
San Diego Itinerary 1 Day Tour
On the other hand, you can join a full-day tour with a local guide, who will introduce the best of the city sights in just one day. Highlights of the tour include Coronado Island, 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 is still limiting, but it is possible to visit San Diego in 2 days and still see and experience a lot! Using our above San Diego Itinerary 3 Days, we would start on Day 2; visit Little Italy and Coronado Island, but be back in the evening to experience the Gaslamp District. Then, follow day three of our 3-Day Itinerary San Diego as it is already outlined.
San Diego Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in San Diego, visitors will have much more time for sightseeing! To create the best 4-day itinerary for San Diego, use our outlined guide for three days in San Diego, then spend day 4 at one of San Diego’s amusement parks or the SD Zoo.
San Diego Itinerary 5 Days
To create the best San Diego 5-Day Itinerary, we recommend following our above tips for a San Diego 4-Day Itinerary, then on the last day, explore more city sights. Go to Seaport Village, discover the USS Midway Museum and embark on a harbor cruise.
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 a more relaxed pace and deeper exploration. For example, rather than spending just a half day on Coronado Island, spend a full day there. Also, don’t rush through Balboa Park…and definitely spend one full day at the beach. With 7 days in San Diego, you could also add one of the day trips to Mexico – either to Tijuana or Wine Country – or make the trek north up to the Safari Zoo.
San Diego or San Francisco Vacation?
While there are multiple-day ‘San Diego to San Francisco’ Tours, visiting both cities on a day trip is not possible – especially on a San Diego weekend trip. 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 are in the same state, there are so many differences that deciding which one – San Diego vs San Fran – really comes down to what kind of trip you want. Use our San Francisco Itinerary so that you can compare the activities and choose which city to visit. If you choose both (why not?!) use our California Coastal Road Trip Itinerary to get there!
How To Get To San Diego
San Diego, California can be reached by car, boat, train or plane. Most San Diego weekend visitors travel by plane – and will land at the San Diego International Airport. The airport is conveniently located just north of downtown, between the city and the beaches.
Find the best prices on flights to San Diego on SkyScanner!
Getting Around San Diego
Most places in downtown San Diego can be reached on foot; the city is relatively flat with good sidewalks. However, visitors not inclined to walk can also use the convenient trolley. A Hop On Hop Off Trolley ticket is ideal for short term travelers who want to use the trolley to get to top attractions. To go beyond the city, however, you will likely want to use Uber.
Where To Stay in San Diego
During our trips to the city, we have stayed in many different San Diego hotels. For your Weekend in San Diego Itinerary, we recommend staying in a central location that is close to all of the attractions.
Ramada by Wyndham Gaslamp – $
Formerly the St. James Hotel, the Ramada by Wyndham San Diego Gaslamp Convention Center hotel is located in the heart of the Gaslamp District. (Despite its name, the SD Convention Center is about a 20-minute walk away.) The historic property has been remodeled, but still retains features of the past – like smaller rooms and a fun, old-time elevator – plus they have a rooftop! However, what we like most about this hotel is that it is a budget option in the center of the action. Check prices now!
Porto Vista Hotel in Little Italy- $
We have stayed at the stylish Porto Vista Hotel on several occasions. 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 on-site restaurant – The Glass Door (which has a good happy hour, too!). The chic hotel has a pool and gym – and is one of our top picks for an affordable – yet fashionable – place to stay in San Diego. Check availability!
Hilton San Diego Bayfront – $$
The modern Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel is a big, beautiful property located right on the waterfront, just adjacent to the Petco Park baseball stadium. The 4-Star resort offers spacious rooms with elegant touches. The hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tubs, a luxury spa and a sophisticated restaurant. On weekends we wanted to treat ourselves a little, the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel was well-worth the splurge! Check out the amenities!
Hotel Del Coronado – $$$
For an exceptional stay in San Diego, there is no property that comes more recommended than the Hotel Del Coronado. The charming 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!
What To Pack for San Diego
We have a few tips for what to pack for your San Diego Weekend Trip! For more packing advice, check out our Packing List page.
Our Weekend in San Diego Itinerary includes a lot of walking! Make sure you pack a pair of comfortable city walking shoes for your trip. I like these by Columbia and Kris prefers wearing Merrell trail shoes for city walks. In the summertime, I also like wearing Reef Flip Flops, which with the extra arch support are comfortable to wear all day long.
Regardless of what time of year you go on your trip, you will want to pack clothes that can be layered. The San Diego ‘June Gloom’ weather is real – so you will want warm clothes – like a hoodie, despite it being summer. Even on sunny days, nights can be cool…so keep that in mind as you choose which outfits to pack.
The sun is strong in California – even on cool and partly cloudy days. We spent a cool day at Pacific Beach on one of our San Diego weekend trips and didn’t think we needed sunscreen…and we were both burnt to a crisp! We highly recommend slathering on the sunscreen, even in cooler weather.
San Diego is a beautiful city – so don’t forget your camera! We use a DSLR Canon Rebel, which takes outstanding photos. Perfect for beginner photographers, the kit comes with an array of useful accessories.
Also, if you have binoculars, bring them…especially if you plan on taking a whale watching cruise!
One last thing you won’t want to take a trip without is Travel Insurance. Trip insurance can protect travelers in the case of cancelled flights, lost luggage and other unfortunate trip interruptions. Check World Nomads for rates and coverage!
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!
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