logo
  Facebook Twitter Flickr blog RSS

San Diego Points of Interest

San Diego Points of Interest

San Diego

San Diego attractions are as simple as an Italian community where you'll find gelato and a plethora of Italian eateries. Others include a mountain-top observatory and hidden sea caves. From the observatory on Palomar Mountain to the haunted house in Old Town San Diego, here you'll find unique San Diego points of interest and other popular attractions.

Beach City Attractions

Mission San Luis Rey is located off Highway 76 near the 5 in Oceanside. Founded on June 13, 1798 by Padre Fermin de Lasuen, it is the 18th and largest California Mission and referred to as the 'King of the Missions'. The grounds at Mission San Luis Rey feature sunken gardens and arched colonnades. California's first peppercorn tree stands where it was originally planted by the Spanish in 1830. The gift shop also features local wines. Spanish Missions were built all along the California coast between 1769 and 1823. The Spanish built the Missions in their conquest to convert the indigenous people of California to Christianity and as strongholds for their newly claimed territories. Twenty-one missions were built along the 'King's Highway' in California, which is now Highway 101 in the central state and Interstate 5 in the south. Spanish missions are the most historic San Diego attractions.

Mission San Luis Rey
Mission San Luis, Rey de Francia
4050 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92057

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Oceanside Harbor Village

Oceanside Harbor Village is found off Interstate 5 from Harbor Drive. Oceanside Harbor Village is a quaint Cape Cod village situated along the harbor shore and comprised of several touristy shops, restaurants and harbor activities. Enjoy fresh catch at Harbor Fish and Chips, purchase a Hawaiian shirt at Ye Olde Hawaiian Hut, order a round of sliders at Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill and rent a boat or kayak at Boats 4 Rent. Oceanside Harbor offers plenty of things to do in San Diego.

Oceanside Harbor Village
260-280 South Harbor Drive
Oceanside Harbor, CA 92054

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Quail Gardens are found in Encinitas off Interstate 5, off either Encinitas or Leucadia Boulevards. The gardens are situated on top of a hill overlooking the ocean and Encinitas. Trails wind through 35 acres of gardens with species from around the world. A large waterfall cascades into pools through the tropical rain forest. A three story lookout offers expansive views of the region and Pacific Ocean. The gazebo in the lawn garden is often used for weddings. They even have cactus garden that resembles an undersea coral garden. The bamboo from these gardens are harvested to feed the pandas at the San Diego Zoo. The Children's Garden features interactive elements and a small train set. Snack bar, restrooms, gift shop and nursery are onsite.

Quail Botanical Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Drive
Encinitas, California 92024
(760) 436-3036

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Swami's is situated off Interstate 5 from Santa Fe Drive. Swami's is one of Southern California's best surf breaks. The waves at Swami's are always 1 to 2 feet larger than surrounding beaches. When conditions are right, the waves at Swami's break on an outer reef that produces clean monstrous waves. Kahuna Bob's Surf School provides lessons in Encinitas. Parking lot available off PCH or park along PCH. From parking lot, descend the staircase to the beach and head north to Swami's.

Swami's Beach
1298 South Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Del Mar Racetrack

Del Mar is found off Interstate 5 from either the Via De La Valle or Del Mar Heights exits. Del Mar is renowned for its 3 miles of sandy beach and the Del Mar Racetrack, 'Where the Turf Meets the Surf'. During the summer, Del Mar hosts live horse racing with cool ocean breezes and plenty of lucky wagering. Consider taking the train to the Solana Beach Station where you'll find FREE shuttles to the racetrack. The Del Mar Racetrack also hosts the San Diego County Fair every year in June. Adjacent to the racetrack is the Del Mar Golf Center where adults and kids can enjoy a mini-golf course or prepare for the real game on practice putting greens and a driving range. To the south of the racetrack along PCH is Del Mar Village where visitors enjoy quaint cafés, boutique shops, art galleries and luxury resorts within walking distance to the beach. A popular nearby attraction is Torrey Pines State Park which offers hiking trails along unique coastal bluffs and a Visitor Center. To the north of Del Mar is the artsy town of Solana Beach where visitors can find more boutiques, art galleries, live entertainment, cafés and restaurants along Cedros Avenue.

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Flying Leathernecks Museum is located from either Interstate 15 or 805 from Miramar Road. Situated at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, the aviation museum features an outdoor area with over a dozen vintage aircraft and an indoor museum containing Marine Corps memorabilia and artifacts. War birds include the A-4, F18, MiG-15, Corsair, Wildcat, Sikorsky Sea Stallion, Cobra helicopter and more.

Flying Leathernecks Museum
T-4203 Anderson Avenue
Miramar, CA 92145
(877) 359-8762

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


La Jolla Cove

La Jolla is found off Interstate 5 from La Jolla Parkway. Pronounced 'La Hoiya', this is an upscale artist community nestled comfortably into the hillside overlooking the ocean. Ask any San Diegan where the most beautiful place in San Diego is and they'll say, "La Jolla". There are many great hotel and restaurant options in La Jolla. Activities include swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, kayaking and shopping. Spend the day shopping several blocks of upscale boutiques throughout the Village of La Jolla in the center of town. Torrey Pines State Park & Beach is just north of La Jolla which offers hiking trails along unique coastal bluffs and a Visitor Center. Visit the nearby Birch Aquarium at Scripps for a glimpse at local sea life. Explore the La Jolla Caves by sea kayak or by staircase through the La Jolla Cave Store. Peruse paintings, sculptures, film, photography and more at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


La Jolla Sea Caves are situated off Interstate 5 in the beautiful town of La Jolla. Most of these sea caves are only accessible by kayak. Sunny Jim Cave is one of the 7 Mammoth Caves and is accessible from inside the La Jolla Cave Store. Descend a huge staircase to the largest sea cave in La Jolla via a tunnel that was excavated in 1902. The best way to explore all the caves is by kayak. La Jolla Sea Caves are among the most unique San Diego attractions.

La Jolla Cave Store
1325 Prospect Street
La Jolla, California 92037
(858) 459-0746

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Kayak Rentals  |   Other Ideas


Belmont Park is found in Mission Beach near Interstate 5 and 8 freeways. This classic boardwalk amusement park is situated right on the beach. Rides include the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, Flowrider wave machine and classic rides like bumper cars, Tilt-A-Whirl and The Plunge indoor heated swimming pool. Belmont Park is one of many fun things to do in San Diego with kids.

Belmont Park
3146 Mission Blvd
Mission Beach, CA 92109

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Sunset Cliffs is located at the end of Interstate 8 on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Sunset Cliffs is a narrow band of coastal bluffs that comprise some of San Diego's most beautiful shoreline. Uniquely carved bluffs are easily accessed and explored from several parking lots along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Explore picturesque shoreline, sea caves and even a window that peers down into a cave from above. Sunset Cliffs are among the many unique San Diego attractions.

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
Sunset Cliffs, California 92107

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Point Loma Lighthouse

Cabrillo National Monument is found on the southwestern point of the San Diego Harbor entrance and is accessed by Highway 209. On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed at San Diego Bay and this was the first European expedition to land on the west coast of the United States. The Point Loma Lighthouse, Cabrillo Monument, Bayside trail and Cabrillo tide pools can all be explored here. Bayside trail is a short two mile hike offering breathtaking views of Coronado Island, Silver Strand Beach and the San Diego skyline. The Cabrillo tide pools are a one mile stretch of sea anemone, starfish, crab and octopus filled tidal pools that are definitely worth checking out. During migration seasons, whales can be easily spotted from the Visitor Center. Cabrillo Monument is among several historic San Diego attractions.

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 557-5450

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Downtown San Diego Attractions

Gaslamp Quarter is situated off Interstate 5 in downtown San Diego. This historic portion of San Diego covers more than a dozen square blocks near the San Diego harbor and is full of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops. Most of the buildings are the original brick structures from the turn of the century and very reminiscent of towns throughout Gold Country in the Western Sierras. Nearby is upscale shopping at Horton Plaza, several luxury hotels, Padres ballpark, Seaport Village, U.S.S. Midway Museum, San Diego Maritime Museum, Little Italy, Convention Center and more. The Gaslamp Quarter is one of the most popular San Diego attractions.

Gaslamp Quarter
5th Avenue & Market Street
San Diego, California 92101

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Balboa Park Arboretum

Balboa Park is located at the Park Boulevard exit off Interstate 5 in downtown San Diego. Balboa Park is a huge cultural & activity center with 13 museums, the San Diego Zoo, theatres, golf course, restaurants, botanical gardens and much more. Museums include the Natural History Museum, Model Railroad Museum, Automotive Museum, Air & Space Museum, Photographic Arts Museum and many more. Balboa Park is one of the most popular San Diego attractions.

Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 239-0512

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego is found off Interstate 5 south of Interstate 8 in San Diego. The park recreates life in San Diego from 1821 to 1872. Features include original adobe structures, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, stable with carriage collection and a mansion built around a garden courtyard. Some of San Diego's best Mexican restaurants are located within Old Town San Diego. The park also contains the most haunted house in the United States and tours are offered, both day and night. There is no entrance fee into Old Town San Diego. A MetroLink station is situated behind the park offering easy and affordable access to other popular regions of San Diego. Old Town San Diego is among several historic San Diego attractions.

Old Town State Historic Park
1 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, California 92110
(619) 220-5422

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Whaley House

Whaley House is located in Old Town San Diego and is widely considered to be the most haunted house in the United States. Originally constructed in 1857, it has served as a private residence, general store, theatre, government meeting place and today as a tourist attraction. Ghosts are thought to be of several different sources including "Yankee Jim" who was hanged on the property in 1852, the suicide of Violet Whaley in 1885, Thomas Whaley himself and even Dolly Varden, the Whaley's pet terrier. Tours are held daily, both day and night. The Whaley House tour at night is one of the scary things to do in San Diego.

Whaley House
2476 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, California 92110
(619) 297-7511

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Little Italy

Little Italy San Diego is found on India Street between Date and Hawthorn, on the north end of downtown. This 3-block stretch is saturated with Italian restaurants, hotels, art galleries and boutiques. An Italian Festa is held in October celebrating Italy with stick ball, sidewalk chalk art, live entertainment and much more.
TIP: Head east up Date Street to Amici Park where Italian activities and events are held including summer movie nights, farmers market and bocce ball. Amici Park is also a popular local dog park. Little Italy is one of the best San Diego attractions for Italian food.

Little Italy
Fir & India Streets
San Diego, California 92101

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


U.S.S.Midway

U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier found off Interstate 5 in the San Diego Harbor just south of the Maritime Museum. The U.S.S. Midway Museum is a retired naval aircraft carrier. She served in combat from WWII to Desert Storm. Not only is this a full tour of a huge naval vessel but multiple fighter aircraft are part of the exhibit as well. Enjoy refreshments and a meal at the Fantail café. Several WWII Memorials are located along the Marina Walk surrounding the ship including Taffy III, one of the most heroic and decisive Naval battles of WWII. The U.S.S. Midway Museum is one of the fun things to do in San Diego with kids.

U.S.S. Midway Museum
910 N. Harbor Drive
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 544-9600

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


William Heath Davis House is situated at Island and 4th Avenues in the Gaslamp Quarter. The 1850's home is a prefabricated 'salt box' that was manufactured on the east coast and shipped around Cape Horn to be assembled in San Diego. Davis is considered to be the founder of San Diego where he purchased a large amount of property and constructed several of these homes as income properties. For a brief period, Alonzo and Sarah Horton rented the home from Davis. The Horton's are accredited with the vision and know how to grow San Diego into a bustling metropolis. Today, the Davis House is the oldest wooden structure in San Diego and welcomes visitors to step inside for a tour of the house and museum. The William Heath Davis House is among several historic San Diego attractions.

William Heath Davis House
410 Island Avenue
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 233-4692

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


San Diego Firehouse Museum

San Diego Firehouse Museum is located off Interstate 5 in the Little Italy section of Downtown San Diego, at the corner of Columbia and Cedar Streets. Situated in the former Fire Station No. 6, the Firehouse Museum features vintage fire trucks and fire-fighting gear. Visitors are welcome to climb aboard some of the vehicles for fireman's perspective. Memorabilia and tributes are displayed throughout the building. The museum is also available for private party events. The San Diego Firehouse Museum is among several historic San Diego attractions.

San Diego Firehouse Museum
1572 Columbia Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-3473

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Villa Montezuma is found off Interstate 5 at 20th and K Streets. Built in 1887, The Villa Montezuma is a pristine Victorian home showcasing the Queen Anne style of architecture. Inside one can expect to see rich woods, gold & silver embossed ceilings and one of the West's finest examples of art glass. Villa Montezuma is among several historic San Diego attractions.

Villa Montezuma
1925 K Street
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 232-6203

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Mission San Diego de Alcala

San Diego Mission is situated near the intersection of the 8 and 15 freeways. Founded on July 16, 1769 by Padre Junipero Serra, this is the first California Mission. The San Diego Mission was originally built near Old Town San Diego and moved to its current, more fertile location. It stood for only five years before an Indian attack destroyed most of it. Today, the San Diego Mission is restored to original condition. Spanish Missions were built all along the California coast between 1769 and 1823. The Spanish built the Missions in their conquest to convert the indigenous people of California to Christianity and as strongholds for their newly claimed territories. Twenty-one missions were built along the 'King's Highway' in California, which is now Highway 101 in the central state and Interstate 5 in the south. Spanish missions are the most historic San Diego attractions.

Mission San Diego
Mission San Diego de Alcala
10818 San Diego Mission Road
Mission Valley, CA 92108

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Hotel Del Coronado

Coronado Island is found across the harbor from Downtown San Diego. Coronado is accessible via Highway 75 off Interstate 5, or two ferry boat locations; the end of Broadway and behind the Convention Center from downtown. The Highway 75 route takes you 200 feet (61 meters) above San Diego Harbor on the Coronado Bridge, offering outstanding views of Coronado, downtown, military ships and more. Coronado is not really an island since it is connected to south San Diego by Silver Strand State Beach. Half of Coronado is used by the military and inaccessible to civilians. Coronado's most notable landmark is the Hotel Del Coronado on the Pacific side. 'The Del' was built in 1887 as a resort for the rich and affluent and today remains as one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the nation. Many visitors come to Coronado to shop in the stores and boutiques situated near 'The Del'. Hotel Del Coronado is among several historic San Diego attractions. Other activities include renting a bike and riding the Bayshore/Silver Strand Bikeway, playing a round of golf at the Municipal Golf Course, renting a boat from the Coronado Boat House or sunbathing on the white sand beach.

Coronado Island
1100 Orange Avenue
Coronado, California 92118
(866) 599-7242

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Inland San Diego Attractions

Poway-Midland Railroad is located off Interstate 15 from Camino Del Norte. Situated in Old Poway Park at the Poway Depot, the Poway-Midland Railroad is dedicated to the restoration, operation and maintenance of antique railroad and trolley equipment. Rail cars on display date back to the late 1800's and include a steam locomotive, Los Angeles trolley car, San Francisco cable car, caboose, boxcar and more. Many are fully operational and offer rides around the park on weekends. The depot store sells train-related items. The Poway-Midland Railroad is one of the fun things to do in San Diego with kids.

Poway-Midland Railroad
14134 Midland Road
Poway, CA 92064
(858) 486-4063

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Palomar Observatory is found off Highway 76 east of Rincon. This is an operational observatory that is run by CalTech. Free self-guided tours offer a behind-glass view of the massive telescope, or call for a guided tour through the dome available on Saturdays, April through October. Wear warm clothing because the dome maintains cool temperatures. You will not be able to look through the telescope, but the visitor center and gift shop offers pictures. If astronomy is of interest to you, consider camping at the nearby Observatory Campground, which caters to amateur astronomers with a portion of the camp dedicated to telescopes and lights out restrictions.

Palomar Mountain Observatory
35899 Canfield Road
Palomar Mountain, California 92060
Recording: (760) 742-2119
Tour: (626) 395-4033

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Cedar Creek Falls is situated between Ramona and Julian in the Cleveland National Forest. Best viewed in the Spring or after heavy rains when Cedar Creek is flowing strong. Cedar Creek Falls cascades approximately 80 feet to a pool below. Mildred Falls is farther up the canyon and also worth a visit. Cedar Creek Falls can be accessed from Ramona or Julian. Ramona is the shortest route by heading south on San Vicente Road off Highway 78. Make a left on Ramona Oaks Road across from the San Vicente Golf Course. Follow for approximately 2.5 miles and make a right on Thornbush Road. Continue past the residential neighborhood to the trailhead on the left. The hike from here is approximately 1.5 miles. From Julian, head east on Highway 78 and turn left on Pine Hills Road. At approximately 1.5 miles, lean right at the Y onto Eagle Peak Road. Follow Eagle Peak Road for many miles to where it crosses Cedar Creek and follow the trailhead to Cedar Creek Falls. The Cedar Creek Falls hike is among the fun things to do in San Diego for outdoor enthusiasts.

Cedar Creek Falls
Thornbush Road
Ramona, California 92065

Map  |   Hotel  |   No Website  |   Other Ideas


Lake Cuyamaca

Julian is found east on highway 78 approximately 50 miles from Escondido. Nestled in the pine and oak trees of the low altitude mountains between San Diego and the desert, the small town of Julian is a trip back in time. Horse-drawn carriages carry smiling visitors throughout the town. Vintage Bed & Breakfasts replace chain hotels. Every visitor is greeted with small town hospitality. Julian is renowned for its homemade apple pies that are available at several pie shops and restaurants. One of Julian's cool historic sites is the two-cell 1914 Julian Jail at the corner of 4th and C Streets. Enjoy wine tasting at one of several wineries in the Julian region, or take a tour of an actual gold mine at the Eagle High Peak Mine. Ride a train and explore an old gold mine at Smith Ranch & Julian Railroad. Visit the Julian Pioneer Museum for a glimpse into Julian's past. The nearby Lake Cuyamaca offers hiking, boating and fishing. Just outside of town is Heise Regional Park, one of San Diego's most beautiful camping parks. There are plenty of fun things to do in San Diego for outdoor enthusiasts.

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Julian Pioneer Museum is located off Highway 78/79 in the quaint little town of Julian. The museum is situated in an 1800's building and features exhibits of nineteenth-century clothing, household furnishings, gold mining artifacts, Victorian-era pianos, city buggy and Indian artifacts. An adjacent park offers picnic tables shaded by mature oak trees. Farther down 4th Street is the historic Julian Jail.

Julian Pioneer Museum
2811 Washington Street
Julian, CA 92036
(760) 765-0227

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Eagle & High Peak Mine is found off Highway 78 east of San Diego in the wonderful town of Julian. Venture deep into the earth in search of gold. This is only a tour so no actual mining is allowed. Eagle & High Peak were once operational mines and are now one of the many sites to see around Julian. Gold panning is available for the youngsters outside the mine entrance. Learn to gold pan from sluice boxes and rockers. Enjoy hay rides, raspberry picking and fun pastime activities like tomahawk throwing and archery. The Eagle & High Peak Mine is one of many fun things to do in San Diego with kids.

NOTE: Check out our Cool Towns page for more to see and do around Julian.

Julian Mining Company
End of C Street
Julian, California 92036
(760) 765-0036

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Smith Ranch Goldmine

Smith Ranch & Julian Railroad is situated off Highway 78 just outside of Julian. Smith Ranch offers several tour options that let you experience the lifestyle and skills of early American pioneers. Tour options include the Julian Train & Goldmine Tour, Pioneerways Adventure, American Revolution Adventure and several holiday-themed events. All tours include a train ride aboard their 18" gauge mining train. Visitors are encouraged to tour an actual 1870 goldmine on foot or by mine car. After heading West for gold, try your hand at gold panning. Smith Ranch & Julian Railroad is one of several fun things to do in San Diego with kids.

NOTE: Check out our Cool Towns page for more to see and do around Julian.

Smith Ranch & Julian Railroad
2353 Ethelwyn Lane
Julian, CA 92036
(760) 765-2288
Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is found in both Campo and La Mesa. The main location is in Campo where there is a museum and train rides on historic railcars are offered. The museum features over 80 pieces of equipment including steam locomotives, passenger cars, freight car and cabooses. The La Mesa Depot Museum features a period freight train, steam locomotive, refrigerator car and caboose.

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
La Mesa Depot
4695 Nebo Drive
La Mesa, CA 91941
(619) 465-7776

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
Campo Depot
Highway 94 & Forrest Gate Road
Campo, CA 91906
(619) 478-9937

La Mesa Map  |   Campo Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


Gaskill Brothers Museum is located off Highway 95 south of Interstate 8. Situated within 2 miles of the Mexican border, this historic stone structure was the result of a raid by border bandits on the Gaskill brothers store by border bandits in 1875. It also served as Camp Lockett, a military outpost created to protect the southern frontier. The Campo Store Museum is a California Registered Historical Landmark.

Gaskill Brothers' Stone Store Museum
31130 Highway 94
Campo, CA 91906
(619) 478-5707

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas


California Points of Interest

San FranciscoLos AngelesOrange CountySan DiegoInland EmpireDesertCentral CoastSierra NevadaNorth CoastShasta CascadeGold CountryCentral ValleyHome Page