Popular San Diego Day Trips within 100 miles of downtown. All of these destinations are perfect for a weekend adventure. Mileage estimates are from downtown San Diego. Travel time will depend on traffic. Start with our top picks or jump to Family Activities – Gardens Nature – Historic Landmarks – Beach Destinations – Road Trips – Adventures
Travel time 35 minutes 14 Miles – This family-friendly adventure is a popular activity for both locals and tourists alike. Chances are you will get wet on this trip buts it’s all part of the fun. Kayaking is the best way to see La Jolla’s famous sea caves. An expert guide will be with you at all times to ensure your safety.
Travel time 1.25 hours 34 Miles – Safari Park is 1800-plus acres of exotic animals and botanical gardens galore, carved out of the hills and canyons of the picturesque San Pasqual Valley just outside of Escondido, California.
When it comes to harbor tours and whale watching in San Diego Hornblower Cruises offers the best tours. No other San Diego harbor cruise operator has more choices. Dinner Cruises, San Diego Bay tours, Scenic Brunch Cruise and Whale Watching all depart from downtown.
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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 67 miles – 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 Family Activities
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.
Travel time 35 minutes 15 Miles – On any given day school children and families visit to observe more than 380 species represented by over 5,000 animals. The Birch Aquarium is located on a hilltop site that provides a panoramic view of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Travel time 1.15 hours 24 miles – A good place to start your 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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 37 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 49 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.75 hours 64 miles – 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 Outdoors Nature
Travel time 40 minutes 19 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1 hour 29 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 35 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1.75 hours 50 miles – The 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 44 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 52 Miles – Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens makes for a fantastic getaway for a girls day out, a romantic picnic in the park, or a 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.
Travel time 2 hours 90 miles – 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, and the Vallecito and Pinyon Mountains on the west. To the east, the Borrego Mountains taper into the Carrizo Badlands before falling away into the Salton Sea Trough.
Travel time 2 hours 48 miles – 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 public tours.
Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Garden is a wonderful hidden gem in Northern San Diego County. Hours are limited but it’s well worth the effort to see this amazing display of artwork and statues.
Historic Landmarks Museums
Travel time 30 minutes 11 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 43 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 47 miles – 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. These shows are a great way for visitors to experience the museum’s vast collection of antique tools and machinery.
Travel time 1.5 hours 67 miles – Mission San Juan Capistrano is a popular tourist attraction. Tour buses drop off visitors each morning eager to explore the 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.
Travel time 2 hours 73 Miles – Motte Historic Auto Museum is home to an eclectic collection of vehicles. The interior of the 9,000 sqft barn includes nostalgic life-size photos. A replica of a 1950s malt shop. And an art deco Cinema. There are 20 plus historic cars ranging from the 1910 all the way up to the late sixty’s.
Balboa Park has 15 museums that are housed in many of the park’s ornate 20th Century structures that were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. The park has become a cultural centerpiece for the city of San Diego.
Travel time 1.25 hours 35 miles – 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 Beach Day Trips
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.
Travel time 45 minutes 23 Miles – 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
Travel time 1 hour 27 Miles – San Elijo State Beach, San Diego’s most popular beach for camping. San Elijo State Beach can be best described as blufftop camping. About half of the 170 campsites have uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. Access to the beach is by wooden staircases which drop you directly on the beach from the campground.
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.
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 with its endless photo opportunities.
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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 57 miles – 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. Watch out for trains, they pass by at 70 miles an hour.
Travel time 1.5 hours 74 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.50 hours 84 miles – Corona del Mar is a lovely little Southern California beach town. While you may not be able to afford to live here. Corona del Mar makes a great day trip destination. This area of Orange County is known for its pristine beaches. Corona del Mar State Beach and Little Corona Beach. Along with soaking in the sun, Corona del Mar offers Cliffside views, trendy restaurants, and quaint village shops.
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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 60 miles – 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
Travel time 1.5 hours 60 miles – 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. Unfortunately, due to ever-growing crowds, most of the U-Pick apple farms are by reservation only. You can still pick up a bag of fresh apples from one farm stands. There are plenty of other things to do in town including visiting a gold mine, wine tasting, or feasting on apple pie.
Travel time 1 hour 33 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 37 Miles – 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.
Travel time 1.25 hours 57 miles – 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.
Travel time 2 hours 62 miles – 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.
Travel time 1.5 hours 84 Miles – 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 Adventures
Travel time 1.5 hours 36 miles – 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. Weekends this place can get crazy busy. With up to a 30-minute wait to get out on the rock. But if you are looking for that perfect 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.
Travel time 2 hours 38 miles – 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. You will need a valid passport to travel into or back from Mexico. If you drive your car you will need vehicle registration or title for your vehicle plus valid driver’s license.
Travel time 2.5 hours 150 Miles – 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
Skull Canyon Zip Lines is located on 160 acres of some of the most scenic land that southern California has to offer. The terrain is mountainous, and there are magnificent views to be had as you fly through the warm, clean air. Three zip line packages are offered. Each designed to appeal to a different audience from newbie to experienced adventurer. 13540 Temescal Canyon Rd, Corona, CA 92883
Travel time 2 hours 94 miles – Borrego Springs is an excellent choice for a weekend retreat or inexpensive San Diego trip. Entering the sleepy little downtown is like stepping back in time. Most folks visit this area of Southern California to explore Anza-Borrego State Park. 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.