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How to Spend 1 Day in San Diego

How to Spend 1 Day in San Diego

With a plethora of family-friendly attractions that highlight history, culture, and wildlife, plus its sunny setting on the Pacific, San Diego is an ideal place to spend a day, no matter what your interests are. Here are the top ways to experience the city with limited time. 

 

Morning: Get Acquainted

Orient yourself with San Diego on the hop-on hop-off trolley, which provides open-air transportation so you can reach the locations that interest you at your own pace. Perhaps check out Old Town State Historic Park, Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, or Little Italy—some of the most popular destinations for sightseeing, eating, and people-watching. For independent travelers, the Go San Diego Card provides entrance to many of the city’s best attractions at one price. If you prefer a set itinerary and commentary about the sights, opt for a guided city tour.

 

Afternoon: Visit Major Attractions

San Diego is well-known for its zoo, home to the city’s beloved giant pandas—wildlife lovers won’t want to miss this attraction. You can combine your visit with a trip to its sister property, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Park. Alternatively, check out SeaWorld San Diego, located in Mission Bay, to see dolphins, sea lions, and other marine animals. If you’re more of a history or naval buff, the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego are within walking distance of each other on the Embarcadero, which runs along the San Diego Bay waterfront.

 

Night: Dine on the Water

Spend the evening on a San Diego Bay dinner cruise, which provides a chance to look back at the city as it lights up for the night. Cruises typically include a full meal such as steak or seafood with side dishes and dessert, served in an enclosed cabin. Most boats also have open-air decks to taking in the views and fresh ocean air. Opt for a luxury experience for additional features such as Champagne or a DJ for onboard music and dancing. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase if they are not included in the price.

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9 Tours and Activities

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San Diego Tour: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley

San Diego Tour: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley

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Explore some of the top highlights of San Diego with your or or two day trolley pass (depending on option selected) for the city’s Hop-on, Hop-off Trolley Tour. Choose your own adventure as you get on and off the trolley at any of the 11 included stops, covering famous sights including the Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Zoo, USS Midway and the Cruise Ship Terminal, Little Italy, and many more. This San Diego trolley tour also features live commentary from the on-board guide during your ride.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$46.00
From
$46.00

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

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Take an evening cruise wining and dining aboard the ‘Spirit of San Diego,’ enjoying top-notch food and drink, plus sparkling skyline views during this San Diego dinner cruise. Dig into your included gourmet meal, accompanied by a complimentary cocktail and live on-board entertainment, as you cruise 25-miles worth of California’s beautiful coastline and gaze at the twinkling stars above. You can also upgrade your cruise to include an unlimited open bar for an additional price.
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  • 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$110.90
From
$110.90

Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket in San Diego
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Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket in San Diego

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Take a trip through American naval history with admission to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. This enormous ship, known as the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, now offers a range of interactive exhibits, a self-guided audio tour and numerous restored aircraft across its 4-acre (1.6-hectare) flight deck and sections below. It’s an essential piece of San Diego’s, and America’s, military history.
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  • 2 to 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$26.00
From
$26.00

San Diego Zoo Safari Park 1-Day Pass Ticket

San Diego Zoo Safari Park 1-Day Pass Ticket

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The renowned San Diego Zoo Safari Park presents more than 3,500 animals roaming in large enclosures that replicate their natural habitat. Go on a safari adventure unlike any other outside of Africa itself, with exhibits inspired by the African Serengeti and the Asian Savanna. With mobile tickets, simply scan your phone for direct entry into the Safari Park. Ticket must be redeemed on travel date selected. Tickets must be purchased at least one day prior to visit.
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  • 2 to 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$65.00
From
$65.00

San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass Ticket

San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass Ticket

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Meet some of the world's most exotic animals with your admission ticket to the renowned San Diego Zoo, one of California's top family-friendly attractions. More than 4,000 animals representing 800 species live in this state-of-the-art zoo, including some that are rarely seen at other zoos. Admire the animals and go in-depth during daily keeper talks and guided bus tours. With mobile tickets, simply scan your phone for direct entry into the San Diego Zoo. Ticket must be redeemed on travel date selected. Tickets must be purchased at least one day prior to visit.
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  • 1 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$65.00
From
$65.00

San Diego Premier Dinner Cruise

San Diego Premier Dinner Cruise

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On this experience, relax in style aboard a luxury dinner cruise. Enjoy panoramic views from the boat's deck and take your time over a gourmet, 3-course meal, as you cruise past twinkling city lights that ring San Diego Bay. Listen to an entertaining DJ play music and enjoy an unforgettable evening, or celebrate a birthday, anniversary or another special occasion.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
From
$154.71
From
$154.71

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park 2-Visit Pass Ticket

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park 2-Visit Pass Ticket

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View more than 4,000 animals roaming in large enclosures on a 2-day visit to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This admission ticket allows you to spend two days at the Zoo, or split your time between the Zoo and the Safari Park. At the zoo, see the diverse collection of animals, many of which are not present at other zoos in the United States. The Safari Park is inspired by the Serengeti Plains in Africa and the Asian plains and is home to lions, tigers, zebras, which you can see from the a 32-acre (13-hectare) safari trail. Access to all shows and exhibits, as well as use of all the in-park transportation, are included. With mobile tickets, simply scan your phone for direct entry into the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.
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  • 4 to 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$120.00
From
$120.00

Maritime Museum of San Diego Admission Ticket

Maritime Museum of San Diego Admission Ticket

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Sail back into history during this visit to the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Enjoy one of the world’s biggest collections of historic ocean vessels, including five ships and two submarines. You’ll view the USS Dolphin research submarine, a Soviet B-39 submarine, the iconic Star of India and the HMS Surprise (star of the ‘Master and Commander’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean films’) among others. A fun collection kid-friendly exhibits, plus an on-site maritime research library, round out the experience.
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  • 1 to 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$20.00
From
$20.00

San Diego City Tour
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San Diego City Tour

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Discover the sun-drenched attractions of San Diego on this 4-hour city tour covering the city’s top neighborhoods, historic sites and parks. Over the course of your trip, you’ll check out the museums of Balboa Park, admire the historic architecture of the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town and explore the mansions and beautiful coast in La Jolla, plus much more. It’s a great chance to pack in lots of landmarks in a short period of time. This San Diego sightseeing tour also includes round-trip hotel transport, a guide and optional upgrades to include visits to the USS Midway and Seaport Village.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$69.00
From
$69.00