San Diego is the second-largest city in California. It sits in the southern region of the state near the United States and Mexico border. There’s a lovely infusion of Mexican and Spanish heritage that blends into the city’s culture and permeates the atmosphere. Which is especially notable in the city’s out-of-this-world Mexican cuisine.
Its location on the coast of the Pacific Ocean deems it the land of surfboards and sunshine. The weather stays mild year-round, with little fluctuation in temperature. You’ll find plenty of aquatic activities and outdoor attractions that are fun for all ages.
Apart from its endless coastline and attractive weather, there are many more wonderful ways to enjoy your time here. If you’re planning a trip to this coastal city and trying to decide what to do in San Diego this weekend, you’ve come to the right place!
Let’s dive into the best things to do when planning a trip to San Diego!
Insider Tips for an AMAZING Weekend in San Diego
A weekend trip to San Diego will give you plenty of time to explore this seaboard city, but the key to spending your weekend wisely is staying in a central location!
In order to make the most of your San Diego getaway, you’re going to want to pick an accommodation in a prime location. The Gaslamp District is an ideal area to stay in San Diego. This district is in the Downtown area and offers many attractions and activities.
This is where the locals go to hang out. It’s a lively area of the city filled with local and chain restaurants, buzzing bars, fun shops, and more!
You’ll find many accommodation options in this area of the city, with prices to suit all budgets!
Our Favorite Hostel – USA Hostels San Diego
- Colorful and funky decor
- Free breakfast and self-catering facilities
- Free and discounted hostel activities offered
This San Diego hostel is a great value for money. It’s centrally located in the Gaslamp District, next to many of San Diego’s top attractions. Each bed features a privacy pod that includes a personal reading light, shelf and power outlet.
Best Airbnb in San Diego: Studio in the action of Old Town
Located in the heart of Old Town is this little cottage home. Besides the excellent location this home has, there is a hot tub you can dip your feet in after a long day exploring the beaches. And in the morning, enjoy your cup of joe in the peaceful shared courtyard. It is simple but quaint, and you can’t beat the location! It’s just footsteps away from the trolly and impeccable cafes you have to try.
Our Favorite Budget Hotel – Comfort Inn Gaslamp Convention Center
- Guests have free admission to the nearby fitness center
- Italian restaurant located next to the hotel
- LCD TV’s in all rooms and free Wi-Fi
This San Diego Hotel is centrally located in the Gaslamp District. All rooms include a kitchenette with a microwave, refrigerator, and sink. A complimentary breakfast is provided every morning for guests.
Our Favorite Splurge Hotel – Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
- Lounge and bar area with spectacular views of San Diego Bay
- Fitness center, tennis court and pool
- Room service available
This luxury resort hotel is located in Downtown San Diego. All rooms include a flat-screen TV, free toiletries, a coffee machine, and more! This hotel is also equipped with 8 on-site dining options.
Know How to Get Around in San Diego
When planning transportation for your San Diego weekend getaway, you’ll have a few different options to choose from.
San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System isn’t as convenient as other public transportation systems in large metropolitan areas. The best way to get around the city and fully experience San Diego’s attractions is by car. You can rent a car at the San Diego International Airport and select areas in town.
Driving around San Diego is pretty straight forward. The city’s streets are laid out on a grid and are easy to navigate. Make sure to keep some extra change on hand as, like other big cities, San Diego’s popular tourist areas are lined with parking meters.
The trolley is great for quick trips in and around Downtown, but its network doesn’t visit too many neighborhoods beyond that. Bus routes cover more ground, but since many of San Diego’s best places to visit are spread out, you could end up wasting a lot of time on transport.
San Diego’s Coaster Train connects Downtown and Old Town to the city’s coastal communities, including Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Catch the Coaster Train for easy access between these areas of the city.
San Diego has many pedestrian-friendly zones. Once you’ve decided on an area in the city you want to explore, you’ll find that walking works rather well.
Weekend trips to San Diego are a great time to experience the nightlife. Different areas of the city have different options to suit your nighttime vibe. Cap off the perfect day by checking out these locations!
The Gaslamp District
- Prices to suit all budgets – inexpensive to high-end
- Known for its wide variety of nightlife options
- Sports bars, dance clubs, live music venues, eateries, and more
Downtown San Diego’s lively Gaslamp District is packed with night time action. There are 16 walkable city blocks filled with everything from sports bars to nightclubs to restaurants. Check out The Tipsy Crow for a casual night filled with signature drinks, games, comedy shows and live music.
- Youthful atmosphere for the young, or young at heart
- Relaxed area of the city by the beach
- A great place to bar hop
Pacific Beach is a trendy neighborhood in San Diego that is popular with sunbathers and surfers. The nightlife options here are mostly casual in nature. Check out the PB Shore Club for an upbeat atmosphere and fantastic ocean views. They’re open until late and are located just steps from the beach.
- This neighborhood is at the center of San Diego’s LGBTQ scene
- Upbeat gay bars and clubs
- Walkable and easy to get around
Hillcrest is San Diego’s gay district. For a fun night out filled with friendly people and an upbeat vibe, make sure you hit up Hillcrest! There are plenty of eclectic eateries, cafes, and clothing shops. Dance the night away at Urban MO’s Bar & Grill. This bar has a lively dance floor and festive themed nights.
Food is an important part of any holiday getaway. Here are a few options to check out to this weekend in San Diego to experience the local food culture.
The Best Market – Liberty Public Market
- A great way to sample the local culinary flavors of San Diego
- Indoor, year-round market, open every day
- Casual style eating, great for groups and people with different dietary needs
The Liberty Public Market has a large and diverse variety of local food and drink options. It has a lively atmosphere and all of the food and products are made locally. From snacks to mains, to dessert, to drinks, there’s something for everyone! Make sure to bring your appetite, there are lots of different food options to choose from!
For a Unique Dining Experience – One Door North
- A rustic American menu featuring seasonal dishes
- Located in North Park
- Great for a casual and social dining experience
From indoor Safari tent dining to tree-lined wallpaper, to antler chandeliers, this San Diego restaurant provides guests with a one-of-a-kind dining experience. This family-owned restaurant draws its inspiration from nature, with a focus on local ingredients and handcrafted dishes. Enjoy quality meals and friendly service. Live music is available most weekends.
For Dinner and Drag – Lips Restaurant
- Fabulous customer service
- Dinner and a show
- Full dinner and drink menu
Lips restaurant is run by drag queens and features live nightly acts; with one morning show on Sundays. The server’s double as performers and will keep you laughing all night. Enjoy endless comedy and entertainment both on, and off the stage. Make sure to check out their Sunday show if you’re into endless mimosas, bloody marys and champagne!
Unlock the secrets of traveling on a budget!
Sign up for The Broke Backpacker newsletter to receive regular tips on how to travel for less plus a FREE copy of The Backpacker Bible!
A San Diego weekend trip is the perfect time to experience the city’s sports culture. This southern California city has great weather year-round, so there’s always something to do!
Here are the best weekend activities in San Diego ideas for sports lovers.
See the Padres at Petco Park
- Watch a match and immerse yourself in the electric feel of game-day
- Lots of food and drink options available in the park
- New ballpark with lots of modern amenities
Located in Downtown San Diego, this baseball stadium is home to the Major League Baseball team, the San Diego Padres. If your San Diego weekend coincides with a home-match, watch a game and experience the local sports culture. This modern ballpark is located in the middle of the city and offers stunning views of the San Diego skyline.
Enjoy a Water Sport
- Experience San Diego’s beautiful beaches and get a bit of exercise
- Enjoy some refreshing water fun
- Activities for all ages to enjoy
Supplied with an endless coastline, San Diego has lots of aquatic activities to choose from. Surfing and San Diego go hand in hand, and there are plenty of companies along the beach where you can rent a board and ride some waves. Or, if you’re looking for a more leisurely activity, try kayaking, stand-up paddle-board, or snorkeling!
Release Unwanted Stress at AxeVentures Axe Throwing
- Located in North Park
- A fun group activity
- Other social games available too
If you’re in the mood to try something new, or just blow off some steam, this is the perfect activity for you! The instructors teach you the proper form and technique to throw an axe, then let you loose – in a very spacious setting! Try out axe throwing and tap into your wild side on your weekend getaway in San Diego!
If you’re planning a trip to San Diego make sure to add a stop at one of these venues for an entertaining experience!
San Diego Civic Theater
- Wonderful selection of performances, amazing acoustics and good visibility
- Enjoy popular Broadway shows, musicals, concerts, and ballet performances
- Open and operating since January of 1965
The San Diego Civic Theater is an upscale venue offering first class productions. It’s the region’s largest performing arts venue and has hosted the world’s finest talents, from opera singers to classical musicians to comedians. This theater is the ideal place to enjoy San Diego’s performing arts culture.
- Small and intimate music venue with an eclectic offering of artists
- Two full bars and food available for purchase
- Located in San Diego’s Solana Beach neighborhood
Belly Up is one of the best live music venues in San Diego. Enjoy quality entertainment in an intimate setting. The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual and the venue is located right next to the beach. There are multiple seating and standing areas found inside, but make sure to arrive early to be guaranteed a seat!
House of Blues San Diego
- Great place to go for dinner and a show
- Diverse selection of live music offered
- Rock- and blues-themed chain
This San Diego concert venue makes for an entertaining night out. The House of Blues in San Diego has a friendly vibe and casual aesthetic. The venue is the perfect size, small enough to not be overwhelmed by large crowds, yet big enough to experience the music culture with others. There are multiple bars and their menu features signature southern dishes.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
10 Other Awesome Things to do in San Diego This Weekend
Looking for more ideas on what to do in San Diego for a weekend? Read on for 10 more awesome San Diego weekend getaway ideas!
#1 – USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum is located in Downtown San Diego, at the Navy Pier. This historic naval aircraft carrier museum is filled with interactive exhibits and fun activities. Check out the Battle of Midway Theater and watch an immersive film, have a go at the flight simulators, or take a guided tour of the flight deck!
Audio guides are also available for guests to use free of charge. Kid audio guides are available too! This museum is large in size, you could easily spend half a day here!
#2 – Old Town
This historic neighborhood of San Diego has something for everyone! It’s filled with local shops, authentic Mexican restaurants, bars, and historical attractions. Stop at the Whaley House Museum and tour a 19th-century house, restored to its former state, and considered haunted by many!
Enjoy handmade tortillas, made in full view of pedestrians in the tortilla stands found along the busy streets. Swing by a street-side bar for a zesty margarita and some people watching. This is also a great place to pick up local San Diego souvenirs, you’ll numerous stores find with an abundance of options.
#3 – Balboa Park
Bask in the outdoors at Balboa Park. This 1,200-acre urban cultural park offers many attractions and is fun for all ages. This large public space is a great place to connect with nature, you’ll find ample green belts, gardens and walking paths.
You’ll also find museums, a Spanish village art center, statues, gift stores, restaurants, and many other attractions. Take in the beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture as you peruse the areas that interest you most. Weekend getaways in San Diego are the perfect time to discover this large park. This area is free to enter and open 24/7!
#4 – San Diego Zoo
The world-renowned San Diego Zoo is located inside Balboa Park. It houses more than 650 species and subspecies. This large zoo is overloaded with fun attractions. Take a 35-minute narrated tour of the zoo, watch a wild bird show or see a 3D movie with special effects!
Kids will especially love the animal encounter area and the fun themed playgrounds. The Skyfari Aerial Tram is a unique way to see the zoo from a different perspective, check out the animals and plants from above the treetops! If you’re planning a trip to San Diego this weekend with kids, make sure to add this stop to your itinerary!
#5 – Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is located just outside the main streets of Old Town. This area of the city commemorates the early days of San Diego. Travel back in time as you explore the historic buildings, including original adobe houses, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and more!
You’ll find several eating establishments, including a chocolate shop, candy store, and ice cream parlor. There are fun themed Mexican restaurants where you’ll find servers dressed in traditional Mexican clothing. The Old Town is considered the birthplace of California; if you plan a trip to San Diego, you don’t want to miss this area of the city!
#6 – La Jolla Cove
La Jolla is a quaint, sleepy town with a gorgeous landscape, amazing restaurants, and an abundance of boutique shops. The La Jolla Cove is a great spot for swimming, diving and snorkeling. You’ll find plenty of seals and sea lions sunning on the rocks and playfully swimming in the water.
Enjoy a leisurely walk around the cove and surrounding area and enjoy picturesque views in every direction. Experience the beauty of California’s ocean and marine life with a stop at this coastal cove. Make sure to bring your camera, this stop is the perfect photo opportunity!
#7 – Seaport Village
San Diego getaways are a great time to wine and dine, and shop till you drop. Seaport Village in Downtown San Diego has everything you need to partake in this vacation custom. This large waterfront shopping and dining complex overlooks the stunning San Diego Bay.
There are more than 70 shops, galleries, and eateries spread along the shoreline. From bayside restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops, to live music and a carousel for kids, there’s something for everyone!
#8 – Coronado Island
Coronado Island is located across the San Diego Bay from Downtown San Diego. To get there you’ll cross the iconic 2.1-mile long Coronado Bridge. This bridge is an attraction all on its own, offering wonderful ocean and city views as you traverse over the water.
Coronado Island has a laid-back vibe and a friendly beach town persona. The main attraction of the island is its pristine beaches with crystal blue waters. There are five main beaches on the island, the most popular being Coronado Central Beach.
Don’t miss a chance to check out the iconic Hotel del Coronado while you’re there. This historic hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books!
#9 – Cabrillo National Monument
The Cabrillo National Monument is at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula. This famous monument depicts Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who landed at San Diego Bay in 1542. The main reason people visit this monument is for the incredible scenery.
Admire the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Point Loma Naval Base, Downtown San Diego, and on clear days, the mountains of Tijuana, Mexico. The monument is also surrounded by scenic hiking trails; head down Cabrillo Road if you’re into exploring tide pools!
#10 – Belmont Park
Belmont Park is a historic oceanfront amusement park that has been opened since 1925. This popular attraction has a wide range of rides and games and is fun for the whole family! Enjoy a heart-pounding thrill ride, play a leisurely game of mini-golf, or run around with a fun game of laser tag. You’re guaranteed to be entertained for hours!
This amusement park if free to enter and has a pay-as-you-ride policy. It’s located right next to the ocean and the Belmont boardwalk. Kids will especially love this addition to their San Diego itinerary!
Don’t forget to pack a good book! San Diego Then and Now® is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
Now that we’ve covered all the highlights of the city, we thought we’d add in some useful information about San Diego, and answers to questions you might be asking yourself.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
#1. What should I pack for a weekend in San Diego?
- Sunscreen – The sun shines bright in San Diego most days of the year, and chances are you’ll be spending the majority of your time outside. Pack sunscreen with an SPF 30, or higher, and you won’t have to deal with the aftermath of a sunburn on vacation.
- Supportive Sandals – A comfortable pair of sandals with good support will most likely be the only footwear you’ll need on your 2 days in San Diego. No matter the attraction you choose, sandals will keep your feet happy and will fit in perfectly with the city’s low-key and casual vibe.
- Light Jacket – San Diego’s weather is temperate year-round, meaning the city doesn’t experience extreme high or low temperatures. Most days, all you’ll need is a light jacket. Rainfall in San Diego occurs the most from December – March. If you’re planning a vacation during these months, a light jacket that is also rain-proof is ideal.
#2. Can I get an apartment in San Diego for the weekend?
Booking an apartment in San Diego for the weekend has never been easier!
You’ll have a couple of options to choose from when selecting your apartment accommodation. Airbnb is widely used by tourists visiting San Diego. This is a great choice for groups in particular, as splitting the cost of your accommodation more ways will help save you money.
Airbnb apartments are usually booked-out through locals, meaning you’ll get a real local experience when you select this form of accommodation.
Another way to find an apartment in San Diego is by checking booking.com. This popular online platform provides all sort of accommodation options, including apartments. Apartments found on booking.com tend to be more high-end. These accommodations are rented out in a manner similar to hotels, and not through private individuals.
Apartments are a great option for San Diego weekend getaways. They tend to have more amenities than hotels and hostels and can provide guests with a more personalized living experience on their weekend away.
#3. Is San Diego safe for a weekend trip?
Safety is always an important thing to keep in mind when traveling. San Diego is considered a safe city to visit, however, as with any other major city, there are certain precautions you’ll want to take.
The high crime-ridden areas of San Diego are not the touristy areas of the city, therefore tourists would have very little reason to visit these areas. Most crime that occurs in San Diego is drug-related and occurs between individuals who know each other.
Pickpockets or bag and purse snatching can occur in tourist areas and public transportation. Remain vigilant and keep your valuables close to you at all times. Mugging is another crime that can target tourists, although most victims are not physically injured. If this incident does occur, do not resist and immediately hand over your valuables.
Stay in well-populated areas, travel with others when possible, especially at night, and keep track of your belongings. Following these simple guidelines you should have nothing to worry about!
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Final Thoughts on a Great Weekend in San Diego
San Diego offers a slow-paced vibe, lively atmosphere, and plenty of outdoor activities and attractions. With good weather year-round, there’s never a bad time to take a San Diego trip!
Weekends are a great time to experience the city in high-drive. You’ll find options for all ages, and activities to suit everyone’s preferences. We hope this guide has helped you discover all the highlights and unique areas of the city.
San Diego offers a rich history, fascinating culture, mouth-watering Mexican cuisine, and so much more! This is a city you’ll never get tired of visiting. Lovely warm weather, beautiful beaches, and an abundance of fun activities await you. San Diego is the perfect place to take your next weekend vacation! If you’re spending a few days in San Diego, check out our epic multi-day San Diego itinerary.
“Find out how YOU can support the site. We work hard to put out the best backpacker resources on the web, for free! It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers [that’s you!]. Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going 🙂
For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Thanks for your support.