Things to Do in San Diego in the Summer 2016

Due to the stellar weather, summer is probably the best time of the year to visit one of America’s prettiest cities, San Diego.

The weather is always great in Southern California, but summer in San Diego certainly takes things up a level (or two).

If you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in San Diego in the summer, check out our list of the top attractions and activities going on this year, including…

  • San Diego Harbor Tour or Whale Watch
  • Museums at Balboa Park
  • San Diego Zoo
  • PETCO Park Tour
  • and more…

Heading to the area to celebrate Independence Day? Then check out our post on things to do in San Diego 4th of July Weekend.

Vacation during the tail end of summer ? Here are a few fun things to do in San Diego Labor Day Weekend.

Save on Attraction Admission

Regular admission to a number of of these popular San Diego activities are included on the Go San Diego® Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

Please note, the special summer events taking place at these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go San Diego Card.

Outdoor Attractions

San Diego Harbor Cruise

There are many fun San Diego boat tours that explore the beautiful San Diego Harbor.

With its proximity to the Pacific, the San Diego Harbor has plenty of sealife and ocean vistas for visitors to ooh and ahh over.

A harbor tour will show you the highlights and give you the inside scoop on the San Diego skyline, local landmarks, and natural wonders of the area.

Whale Watching Cruise

Whale watching cruises in San Diego are some of the most exciting ways to observe some of the ocean’s most majestic creatures.

Learn all about these precious animals: from their migration patterns to what they like to eat and how they play, you’ll know basically everything there is to know about whales by the time you’re back on shore.

Belmont Park

San Diego Belmont Park 1 (5)
Just steps away from the surf on Mission Beach is Belmont Park where you can experience one of the last remaining beach front amusement parks.

Satisfy that surfing-induced craving for fair food, and stock up on California beach apparel at the various surf shops. Certainly a very nice thing to do in the San Diego area during the summer.

Belmont Park is an action-packed, palm tree-lined amusement park right on the coast, and it is the place to soak up those Southern California rays while enjoying the hustle and bustle of an amusement park!

An unlimited wristband lets you ride as many times as you want!

Balboa Park

Balboa is arguably the country’s finest urban cultural park, surpassing even New York’s Central Park in terms of natural beauty and the wealth of attractions, parks, gardens, picnic spots, and biking trails located within.

There plenty of great things to do in Balboa Park – check out our guide for more info.

Pack a blanket and some sandwiches and enjoy a leisurely lunch, and then stop into any one of the renowned cultural institutions. Or, move your picnic back to dusk and make it a romantic evening in the park.

You’ll find tons of top museums (a few of which are listed below), some of the area’s most peaceful gardens (from the Japanese Friendship Garden to the Cactus Garden) in addition to performance spaces, recreation areas, and restaurants. You could practically spend your entire vacation right here!

Point Loma

San Diego photographs

Cabrillo Statue, from a distance.

This beautiful historic expanse, featuring the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Cabrillo National Monument, is a beautiful free National Park that families love to explore.

You’ll find excellent views of the city, tide pools, and the beauty of nature all around you.

Beautiful Beaches

No vacation to San Diego is complete without a trip to California’s famous long stretches of coastline, speckled with surfers all year long.

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, looking to learn, or just want to check out the locals riding the “gnarly” waves, San Diego has a beach for you.

La Jolla Beach is one of our favorites, so be sure to build in some time to stop there.

You can soak up the sun, splash in the waves, rent a kayak, play beach volleyball – you name it! Your summer dreams await at this popular and gorgeous beach.

Get a taste of California surf culture (and perhaps a few gulps of salty sea water) at Mission Beach, home to a two mile stretch of white sand that attracts bronzed crowds for sun bathing and water sports.

The mild waves offer a gentle initiation to the Pacific Ocean for those who have never surfed before.

Museums, Zoos & More

San Diego Zoo

Things to Do in San Diego

Aren’t they just the cutest?

One of our favorite zoos in the entire country, the San Diego Zoo is home to some of the most adorable animals in the world, including the endangered Giant Pandas, along with hundreds of other species.

It’s a must-see thing to do in San Diego during the summer for any animal lover, but be aware that its massive size means you’re in for a good bit of walking or a lot of tram rides.

Full of family-friendly activities, classes, and tours, you’ll never tired of exploring all the critters that call the San Diego Zoo home.

The San Diego Zoo is consistently rated among the best San Diego attractions by travelers. Best yet, San Diego Zoo ticketed admission is included with the Go San Diego Card!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a great place to spend the day with teens

A majestic predator at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Cousin to the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park emphasizes animals commonly found on African Safaris, including exotic tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, and more.

Their Tiger Trail exhibit has been a huge hit with visitors, allowing you to see a tiger accelerate from resting to full speed in just seconds – a truly jaw-dropping sight.

Birch Aquarium

Perched right at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Birch Aquarium is actually affiliated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, so you know it’s both entertaining and educational.

Here you’ll find a wide variety of exhibits and marine life, from living coral reefs to majestic whales. A favorite thing to do in the summer with kids!

Be sure to check out their summer lecture series on various topics pertaining to ocean life, conservation, and other scientific work.

Knott’s Berry Farm & Knott’s Soak City

Located just a short drive from San Diego, you can enjoy the rides and slides at Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Soak City.

America’s first theme park continues to thrill visitors daily with world-class roller coasters, water rides, children’s activities and plenty of entertainment.

Located immediately adjacent to Knott’s Berry Farm is Knott’s Soak City. This unique, 13-acre waterpark is and has everything a kid could want in the way of tube slides, raft rides, wave pools, and more. Grab a bathing suit, slather on the sunblock, and you’re ready to go.

Living Coast Discovery Center

Explore San Diego’s wildlife at the Living Coast Discovery Center. There are only so many sea specimens you’re likely to see on your snorkeling adventures, so pay a visit to the Living Coast Discovery Center to learn about creatures big and small that populate the coastal region around San Diego.

The Center is also deeply invested in its conservation work, so it’s a great attraction for anyone interested in working with animals or the environment.

San Diego Natural History Museum

One of the many prestigious museums located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Natural History Museum contains a diverse variety of exhibits, artifacts, and other objects pertaining to the natural history of the California and Baja California region.

Among its many exhibits, theNAT features dinosaur bones, a collection of gemstones, fossils, and a wide selection of plant of animal life for you to explore.

New this summer are exhibits like “Best of Nature 2016″ and “Whales: Giants of the Deep.”

Crossover: Where Comics and Science Meet—Star Trek and the Science of Space Travel


August 12,2016

This event takes a look a the art, tech and science featured in some of the most popular comic books; while enjoying a couple beers from Galactic Brewing Company.

Getting In: Admission to this event is $15 and includes two beers (event is 21+).

Impossible Science Festival

August 20&21, 2016

The Impossible Science Festival will be an interactive event that explores the science behind things that seem impossible to the average person. Visitors to this event will get to learn how to turn objects invisible, explore levitation, and much more.

Getting In: Admission to The Impossible Science Festival may be an additional cost with the Go San Diego Card.

PETCO Park Tours

Go see a baseball game. Cheer on the San Diego Padres with a PETCO Park tour before an exciting ball game. What says American summer more than a good old-fashioned afternoon at a ballpark?

Watch the Padres in their beautiful stadium, munch on some hotdogs or pretzels, and keep an eye out for fly balls! The Padres will often feature special promotions throughout the summer, like kid nights or fireworks, so look into their schedule before you attend.

Festivals & Free Events

San Diego County Fair – Del Mar Fairgrounds

June 3 – July 4, 2016

Beginning June 3, North America’s fourth-largest fair will get underway at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

With over 1 million visitors anticipated each year, this festival only gets bigger and better as times goes on.

This year’s theme is “Mad About the Fair,” influenced by the art and concepts of the world of Alice in Wonderland. Enjoy Sunday Tea, costumed events, and more — a special treat for fans who are ready to go “down the rabbit hole!”

Ashford University Summer Pops – Embarcadero Marina Park South

Each summer a stage is erected by the bay at Embarcadero Marina Park South to host the San Diego Symphony’s annual outdoor summer concert series.

The Ashford University Summer Pops series begins just before the 4th of July and runs through Labor Day.

San Diego ComicCon – San Diego Convention Center

July 21 – July 24, 2016

For fans of Superman, Spiderman, Spawn, and the Simpsons, there’s probably no better San Diego Attraction than the annual Comic-Con International show. Comic-Con International: San Diego has quickly become the largest comics and pop culture event in the United States.

During Comic-Con San Diego, more than 130,000 artists, celebrities and comic book fans will pack the San Diego Convention Center – a huge transformation from when about 100 people attended the first “minicon” in 1970.

Let’s Recap

So there you have it. Our picks for some of the top things to do in San Diego in the summer.

Please note, the summer events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go San Diego Card.

Plan to visit some of these top attractions during your trip. Whether you are traveling with your family or a couple of friends, we’re sure you will have a great time.

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