How to Spend Five Days in San Diego

There’s so much to see and do in San Diego, but even if you just have five days, you can pack in a lot. Fortunately, between attractions, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a quick bite from a local café or a nice sit-down meal from a restaurant.

Follow our five-day San Diego itinerary and you’ll get a well-rounded introduction to the eclectic city. Each of these things to do in San Diego are included on the Go San Diego attraction pass, so you’ll save time and money while sightseeing in San Diego.

Day One: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

The best way to start off any city vacation is on a Hop-On Hop-Off bus – you can relax and let the sights come to you. You’ll be whisked from one landmark to the next and given a whistle-stop tour of the city so you can identify the sights you want to come back to later on. Along the way, the insightful and in-depth commentary will give you the history behind the city as well as interesting facts about everything you see, and top tips.

San Diego’s Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour takes you through several neighborhoods, including the historic area of the city, so you’ll be given a well-rounded insight. There are stops at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, Seaport Village, Horton Plaza, Gaslamp Quarter, Bilboa Park, El Prado Museum, San Diego Zoo, Little Italy, and the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum to name a few. There are also stops at popular hotel locations including the Marriott Marquis and Marina, Hilton Bayfront and McP’s Irish Pub close to the Hotel del Coronado to make your trip even easier.

Before your tour starts, grab brunch at one of the best brunch locations in downtown San Diego – Breakfast Republic. This award-winning spot opens early and offers creative breakfasts and drinks among photo-worthy quirky decor.

Day Two: PETCO Park Tour

Home to the San Diego Padres, PETCO Park is located in the downtown section of the city, close to the Gaslamp Quarter, and is a must-see during any San Diego trip. The tour covers the unique features of the ballpark and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how a professional sports stadium operates. Explore the team’s dugout, look around the premium lounge, enter a private luxury suite and learn the history of the Western Metal Supply Company Building. This is the perfect tour for baseball lovers and history buffs alike.

After the tour, enjoy a relaxed drinking and dining experience at the Stone Brewing Tap Room – enjoy a variety of homemade beers accompanied by small plates.

Day Three: San Diego Zoo

No vacation to San Diego is complete without experiencing the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. With more than 4,000 rare animals and 650 species from across the globe, the San Diego Zoo is 100 acres of habitats and exhibits within the boundaries of Balboa Park. Bring the kiddos to see animals like polar bears, elephants, Tasmanian devils, crocodiles, Galapagos tortoises, panda bears, and giraffes. In the middle of the park is a large aviary to walk amongst the freely-flying birds. When using the San Diego Go City attraction pass, visitors can enjoy a ride on the Skyfari Tram, a guided bus tour and the Kangaroo Express Bus too.

Image Credit San Diego Zoo by Damien Lasater

After a long day of interacting with exotic animals, your stomach will certainly be grumbling. Treat yourself to an incredible meal at Prado – this scenic restaurant is affordable and boasts an eclectic range of dishes for the fussiest of eaters.

Day Four: USS Midway Museum

Spend the fourth day of your San Diego vacation in the beautiful harbor at the USS Midway Museum. Located in the Downtown neighborhood, you’ll take the self-guided tour of the 60 on-board USS Midway Museum exhibits with 29 restored aircraft. Narrated by Midway sailors, the audio tour brings history to life with first-hand accounts of life aboard a battleship. Learn about the 50-years of the ship and the over 200,000 sailors who served on her deck. Included in the tour is a visit to the ship’s jail, flight control deck, and sleeping quarters.

After your nautical-themed tour, dig in to some of San Diego’s best local Mexican food. Swing over to Coasterra which serves up modern Mexican food coupled with creative cocktails in a panoramic bay view setting.

Day Five: Whale Watching Tour

Now that the USS Midway Museum has been explored close to shore, it’s time to earn your sea legs through a whale watching tour. The best way to conclude this San Diego itinerary is on the water. Hop aboard a comfortable yacht and spot barking sea lions, leaping dolphins, and keep a close eye on the water for the legendary gray whale. This 3.5-hour tour will be accompanied by live narration so you’ll learn all about the sea creatures along the way. The ship includes indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a full bar, snack bar, and souvenir shop. Since you will be on the water all day, why not try some local seafood. Head over to Top of the Market; a high-end seafood restaurant with beautiful views of the bay and eclectic dishes.

About the Go San Diego pass

One of the best ways to get the most out of your trip to San Diego is to purchase a Go San Diego pass that allows you to experience a variety of attractions for a single price. We make it easy. You choose the pass that best matches your interests, load it to your mobile device or print a hard copy at home and show it for admission to the city’s most popular attractions. Plus, you’ll avoid waiting in line at the ticket counters. Get your Go San Diego pass today and start making huge savings on sightseeing.

Share your adventure with us

Don’t forget to tag us when you upload photos from your trip to Instagram @SmartDestinations or #GoCity. We love to feature your amazing snaps on our social media pages.

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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