If you’re planning a San Diego day trip, we have some great spots for you to visit. All of these destinations are within 100 miles of San Diego some of them are only minutes from downtown.
Family Day Trips – Explore Nature – Historic Landmarks – Beach Trips – San Diego Road Trips – Adventures
This family-friendly adventure is popular with both locals and tourists. Chances are you might get a little wet but it’s all part of the fun while paddling out to the sea caves. All equipment is included and a guide will be with you at all times to ensure your safety.
San Safari Park is actually located in Escondido California about 35 miles from downtown San Diego. Visitors take a tram ride around the canyons of the picturesque San Pasqual Valley which are home to hundreds of exotic animals. Safari Park also features various shows, attractions, and exhibits to round out your visit.
There is no better way to get acquainted with San Diego than a bay Cruise. Boarding from downtown next to the USS Midway aircraft carrier you can take a one or two-hour cruise around the San Diego Harbor. Highlights include an amazing view of the San Diego skyline, an up-close look at huge naval ships, and sailing under the Coronado Bridge.
History buffs will definitely want to take in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Covering nine square blocks, the State Historic Park showcases the time period from 1821 to 1872 and features California’s first schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, the state’s first newspaper office, and a stable.
Temecula’s wine country is perfect for a romantic getaway or weekend day trip. Most of the wineries have tasting rooms. While others are equipped with elaborate restaurants, gift shops, and boutique hotels. Temecula Valley is one of the few remaining California wine regions where visitors are likely to run into the owner or winemaker in the tasting room.
San Diego Day Trips For Families
There are nearly 4,000 animals living at the San Diego Zoo along with a botanical collection of over 700,000 plants. If you are looking for a unique zoo experience it offers a Backstage Pass which a private tour and reserved seating at shows.
On any given day school children and families visit to observe more than 380 species represented by over 5,000 animals. Birch Aquarium is located on a hilltop site that provides a panoramic view of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
A good place to start your day trip is the Poway Historical and Memorial Society. Located in the Heritage Museum at the Old Poway Park. The Society preserves historical artifacts and memorabilia. One of the highlights of Old Poway Park is a trip on a vintage 1907 Baldwin Steam Locomotive or Los Angeles Yellow Trolley Car.
Legoland is an easy 45-minute drive from downtown San Diego. Featuring three amazing attractions. The main theme park, SeaLife Aquarium, and Legoland Waterpark. With over 60 rides and attractions geared for smaller children, LEGOLAND is one of the best places in California to take younger children for a fun day of play.
Oasis Camel Dairy Farm is one of Southern California’s most unique attractions. Public tours are also scheduled, once a month on weekends. A variety of unique products is on sale at the farm. Camel milk handmade soaps, lotions, and even lip balm can be purchased. Their soaps are one of their best-selling products.
Bates Nut Farm has something for everyone and is a perfect destination for a day trip. Nuts sold at Bates are roasted and packaged on site to ensure freshness. Choose from Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews, and peanuts Also on hand, fruits, candies, packaged delicacies, and chocolate.
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is located in Campo California. The Railway Museum is open to the public every weekend. For a small fee, visitors can stroll through the collection of railroad equipment. The museum offers train rides on most weekends. Train excursions take a 12-mile round-trip journey along the old San Diego & Arizona Railway track.
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum is located in downtown San Diego at Navy Pier. Visitors to this historic warship can view restored aircraft above and below deck along with exhibits and displays about the aircraft carrier.
San Diego Day Trips for Nature Lovers
Torrey Pines State Park is a beautiful wilderness reserve nestled in San Diego County. If you are a nature lover, it’s one of the wildest stretches of land left on the Southern California coast! With over 2,000 acres of untouched land, the reserve has long stretches of beachfront, and an amazing lagoon which is home to migrating birds.
San Diego Botanic Garden is a 35-acre paradise of garden trails featuring flowering trees, plants from all climates around the world desert to tropical, and the world’s largest collection of bamboo.
The flowers have been blooming in the hills above the Pacific Ocean for nearly fifty years. The flower fields are open for public viewing from March 1 through Mother’s Day each year.
Cuyamaca park contains a plethora of different climates, terrains — mainly made up of a woodland oak forest, with a few pine trees and several meadows with seasonal creeks– historical sites (both Indian and Californian), and loads of adventure.
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens if a fun and affordable day trip from San Diego. Located in the foothills above Vista, California, these amazing gardens cover 13 acres in Brengle Terrace Park.
Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens makes for a fantastic fun-filled day trip for the whole family to enjoy. Located just off Highway I-15, it’s an easy and pleasant drive out to the gardens. Once there, lose yourself in over 30 acres of flowers, shrubbery, farm, and fields.
San Diego’s County San Elijo State Preserve is a great place to get out and enjoy nature. Cool ocean breezes make the preserve a perfect year-round day trip destination. Annie’s Canyon trail features mushroom caves and a passage through a one-way slot canyon that ends with a ladder that you must use to climb out of the canyon.
Tucked into the southeastern corner of California, bound by the rugged mountain of the Santa Rosas in the north, the Jacumba Mountains on the South, you will find Anza Borrego Park. Activities include hiking, camping, and off-roading.
Keys Creek Lavender Farm is located in northern San Diego County. The farm is San Diego’s counties only USDA certified organic lavender farm. During the summer blooming season (May and June), Keys Creek Lavender Farm is open for tours by appointment only.
Mission Trails Regional Park is located just a few miles from downtown San Diego. Spared from land developers the park has nearly 6,000 acres of hills, valleys, and open areas.
San Diego Day Trips for History Buffs
Cabrillo Monument is an easy drive from just about anywhere in San Diego. Located on a southward-jutting finger of Point Loma, the small park is an oasis of nature and military history. The monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542. Trails lead down to some of the best tidepools in San Diego.
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in California. Mission San Luis Rey is the largest of the California missions and the only one adorned with a wooden dome. One of the most interesting structures at the mission is the Lavanderia. It served as an open-air laundry, bathing site and a place to wash clothes.
San Diego Mission Basilica De Alcalá holds the proud title of being the first California Mission built along the West Coast. But beyond its incredible historical significance, the mission boasts a vibrant and active role in San Diego’s community to this day.
Operated year-round, the museum differs has nearly 1,000 volunteers helping to maintain and repair the equipment. Also on the grounds are a weaving room and a blacksmith workshop, where visitors can watch artisans hard at work. Tractor shows are held biannually in June and October.
Explore beautiful gardens and historic buildings of the mission complex. The city of San Juan Capistrano has the usual tourist shops and art gallery’s as well a selection of restaurants all within walking distance of the Mission. (Tip) Leave your car at home and take the Pacific Surfliner. The mission is only a short walk from the train station.
Balboa Park features 15 museums that are housed in the park’s ornate 20th Century structures that were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Balboa Park is the cultural centerpiece for the city of San Diego.
Leo Carrillo Ranch is a 27-acre historic park with hand-crafted adobe buildings, windmills, and many other historic structures. On weekends free tours are given. Plan on spending 1 – 2 hours exploring the ranch. Carlsbad has several other attractions worth a visit to round out your day trip. Legoland, Carlsbad Flower Fields, Carlsbad Outlets, and some amazing beaches.
San Diego Gaslamp Quarter is the historic heart of downtown San Diego. The district is eight square blocks off shopping, sidewalk bars and restaurants, boutiques, small specialty shops and larger chain stores.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is much more than a collection of old sailing vessels and is a fun place for the family day trip. Activities include whale watching, kayaking trips, historic San Diego Bay tours and adventure sailing trips.
This huge Victorian hotel looks like something out of a fairytale story with its red roof a massive red turret which towers over the ballroom. The Legendary San Diego Beach Resort has been visited by European royalty, presidents and movie stars.
San Diego Trips Beach Destinations
Travel time 35 minutes 14 Miles – La Jolls’s soft sandy beaches are ripe with activity, which means you’ll likely be able to find some way to enjoy your favorite water sports – be it surfing, snorkeling, kayaking or even kiteboarding. The best view in La Jolla is atop Mount Soledad. During dusk, visitors will be treated to amazing watercolor sunset.
Del Mar California is known for its beautiful beaches, Torrey pine trees, and breathtaking canyons sprinkled with hillside homes. The two square miles of Del Mar has long been recognized as one of San Diego County’s finest neighborhoods
San Elijo is a popular beach for camping. All campsites are perched on as blufftop. with many sites offering ocean views. camping. Access to the beach is by wooden staircases along the bluff.
A boardwalk borders two miles of pristine oceanfront on both the ocean and bay sides of this friendly community. The main strip through town is Mission Boulevard. Historic Belmont Park, at the intersection of Mission Blvd and West Mission Bay Drive, is an amusement park to delight the teens.
Carlsbad offers a full day of fun. Attractions include LEGOLAND, Carlsbad Village, the Flower Fields, and one of the most beautiful coastlines in southern California.
Designed to reflect New England clapboard and Spanish Mission architectural styles of early California, the three bustling shopping areas that make up the Village provides the right setting for grabbing lunch or dinner, browsing for trinkets, or just wanting to enjoy the beautiful San Diego waterfront.
When it comes time for a beach getaway, Oceanside is a must-see destination. Located in San Diego County, it’s within minutes of countless attractions in nearby San Diego but gives you a place to unwind and enjoy the small beach town atmosphere.
A trip to Trestles Beach requires hiking in. There are no public roads to the world famous surf breaks of Trestles. You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy visiting this remote beach. Locals would prefer if you were not a surfer. Hiking trails with amazing ocean vistas are plentiful. Northern San Diego County.
Laguna Beach is a wonderful day trip destination. Full of artist galleries, unique restaurants, and hidden beach coves. Popular annual events include the Sawdust Art Festival and the Pageant of the Masters. Laguna Beach draws travelers from both far and near. Summer months can be crowded so we recommend visiting Laguna during the offseason. September through May.
Coronado is more than just a San Diego beach town. The village of Coronado is charming to stroll and offers numerous boutiques and dining options. If shopping is one of your favorite activities you won’t be disappointed with the collection of shops on Orange Avenue. Pick up trinkets, apparel, browse the pro shop or take in an antique shop or two.
San Clemente’s main attractions are its excellent beaches. North Beach, San Clemente Main Beach at the pier and San Clemente State Park. There is also an excellent dog-friendly beach trail that starts at North Beach and runs along the sand to the pier. This is one day trip where you can leave your car at home. San Clemente’s train station is only steps from the beach.
San Diego Road Trip Ideas
Julian is probably the most popular destination on our San Diego Day Trips list. And the most popular time to visit this is during the apple harvest. There are plenty of other things to do in town including visiting a gold mine, wine tasting, or feasting on apple pie.
Bernardo Winery is north of downtown San Diego and has been producing wine for over 100 years. On the grounds along with the winery are little wooden cottages that serve as shops and include such artisans as a goldsmith and a glassblower.
Established in 1888, Escondido is the Spanish word for “hidden valley”, but it’s no secret that today the city is home to some of San Diego County’s major tourist attractions, fine wineries, craft breweries, fine arts and theater, and numerous outdoor activities.
Located in the northern part of San Diego County is the city of Fallbrook, also well known as the ” Avocado Capital of the World.” Each year in the spring, this modest bedroom community puts on a festival like you’ve never seen, including a giant, inflatable avocado, and hundreds of food and craft booths that line Fallbrook’s main drag.
Palomar Mountain Observatory is home to four revolutionary telescopes. Take a peek inside the main dome and browse through a small museum. Nearby Mount Palomar State Park is a perfect destination for nature-lovers. With over 1,600 protected acres for picnics, fishing, and camping.
Constructed out of cut-stone the tower stands four stories tall. It was built in 1922 by Bert Vaughn, a real estate developer who once owned the town of Jacumba. It was constructed over a six-year period and completed in 1928.
San Diego Adventure Day Trips
A trip to Potato Chip Rock is not for everyone. The hike up to Potato Chip Rock is steep with little or no shade and may not be suitable all hikers.If you are looking for that perfect spot for a selfie or image to post to Instagram then this is it. Plan on a 3 -4-hour round-trip hike to Potato Chip Rock and back.
This day trip requires crossing an international border. Over one million visitors travel to Rosarito Beach annually, yet the town still feels like a best-kept secret. A variety of tours allows visitors to explore the area and fully experience this hidden gem in the heart of the Gold Coast.
Arriving at Salvation Mountain, visitors are greeted by a patchwork of colors on concrete, adobe, tires, hay, and other random things with a big red “God is Love” on a white backdrop and just below, the Sinners Prayer and huge red heart. Salvation Mountain is located in Beal Rd, Niland, CA 92257
One of the town’s most unusual attractions is Galleta Meadows Estates. A collection of original, welded-steel sculptures that includes extinct animals, farm workers, saints, and cactus.