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 2017, 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 Summertime Activities
Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the Go San Diego Card.
Choose as you go from popular attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Go San Diego Card.Note: the below ads are not affiliated with SmartDestinations.com
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 cruise will show you the highlights and give you the inside scoop on the San Diego skyline, local landmarks, and natural wonders of the area.
Getting In: San Diego Harbor Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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.
Choose a whale watch from Newport Landing; with their stellar record of seeing multiple whales on their excursions, you’re practically guaranteed to see one of these 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.
Getting In: Whale Watch tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
Just steps away from the surf on Mission Beach is Belmont Park. It’s one of the last remaining beach front amusement parks, and is not to be missed.
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!
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.
Use your pass for an unlimited ride wristband, and indulge in all that summertime nostalgia.
Getting In: Belmont Park tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
San Diego Zoo
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.
This summer, be sure to check out their new exhibit area, “Africa Rocks.” Home to a wide variety of new species, both plant and animal, it’s a must-see for even return visitors to the zoo.
They also host “Nighttime Zoo” events, from June 18 – September 4, 2017. This event is included with admission, and is a great way for the whole family to enjoy additional special events.
Getting In: San Diego Zoo tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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.
This summer, be sure not to miss out on their “Summer Safari” series, too. Enjoy live performances like dance, drumming, and other music on the safari stage. It will turn the entire park into one giant festive party!
The Summer Safari event runs from June 24 – August 13, 2017.
Getting In: San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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, 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!
Don’t miss their Fiesta Botanica on May 27, 2017 — it’s a family-friendly celebration of all that their beautiful gardens have to offer.
Getting In: Many of the top Balboa Park Museums are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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.
Getting In: Point Loma National Park is free to visit.
No vacation to San Diego is complete without a trip to California’s famous long stretches of coastline, speckled with surfers all year long.
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.
Getting In: La Jolla Kayak Rentals are included with the Go San Diego Card. San Diego beaches are free to explore, but you will likely pay for parking.
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.
Getting In: Birch Aquarium tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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.
Knott’s Soak City is also re-opening this summer after a recent renovation, so be sure to check out their new and improved look!
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.
Getting In: Living Coast Discovery Center tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
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 “Baja’s Wild Side” and “The Cerutti Mastodon Discovery.”
Getting In: San Diego Natural History Museum tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card.
PETCO Park Tours
What’s a better summer activity than attending a baseball game? Cheer on the San Diego Padres at their distinctive stadium in San Diego as you sit back, relax, and enjoy your time with the family.
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.
If you’d like to explore the stadium further, check out a PETCO Park Tour. This behind-the-scenes look at the ballpark is informative and fascinating for all sports fans.
Getting In: PETCO Park Tour tickets are included with the Go San Diego Card. San Diego Padres games are separately ticketed and are not included with the pass.
San Diego County Fair
Del Mar Fairgrounds
June 2 – July 4, 2017
Beginning June 2, 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 “Wild, Wild West,” and is inspired by all things American cowboy.
Meet farm animals, enjoy dozens of live entertainment acts, let the kids explore educational exhibits, and enjoy a number of other amazing mini festivals throughout the duration of the fair.
Getting In: The San Diego County Fair is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Diego Card.
Ashford University Summer Pops
Embarcadero Marina Park South
July 4- Labor Day, 2017
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.
This a great activity for the whole family to enjoy. Take advantage of the cool evening weather to enjoy some talented classical musicians.
Getting In: The Ashford University Summer Pops concert is free to attend.
San Diego ComicCon
San Diego Convention Center
July 20 – July 23, 2017
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.
Tickets are pricey and sell out quickly, but for the big geeks out there, this is basically the event of the year.
Getting In: San Diego Comic Con is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Diego Card.
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.