San Diego has been my home since 2004, and I believe I have explored a lot of San Diego in my 7 years here. However, most of the time I write about San Diego, it's about hiking at the backroads. I neglect the fact that San Diego is one of the popular tourist and vacation destinations here in US, where a lot of its tourists went back to make this place their new home.
Instead of making an itinerary which I usually do when writing road trips to National Parks, I will instead feature here clusters of places in and around San Diego, grouped together for a day of activity. These are also the places I bring visiting friends and or family. Unless friends request for Sea World or Legoland, I usually do not bring them there, for I feel like there are other more interesting places to see AND FREE. And I feel like there is more joy out in the sea than inside Sea World.
Here are my list of places to see ( and all these assume starting from downtown San Diego ):
A: Explore Balboa Park, San Diego Hillcrest Area, Old Town, some of the beach communities nearby ( Pacific Beach or Mission Beach or sunset Cliffs at Point Loma) Cabrillo National Monument, Gaslamp Quarter and downtown San Diego. (one day)
1. start the day at Balboa Park.
2. From Balboa Park, move to Old Town State and Historic Park to revisit California and San Diego's History. There are many city tours provided here, but depending on your interest, you can get one or make your own tour by following this itinerary :). Maybe, you may want to have lunch at Old Town for some Mexican cuisine.
B: Exploring Torrey Pines and La Jolla area ( one day exploring and sightseeing)
1. from downtown San Diego, drive North to Torrey Pines State Reserve. Torrey Pines State Reserve is about 18 miles North of downtown and is still within San Diego city limits, but feels like outside of San Diego. You can take a walk at the beach right next to the sand stone cliffs, or take a relaxing hike on top of the bluffs, or both ( make a loop hike from bottom to top ).
( if you plan to hike from bottom to top, you can park on the shoulder of North Torrey Pines Road, then enter the park on foot for free. However, most tourists drive to the top and then take the short trails from the top to the look-out points. If you enter the park by car and drive to the top of the reserve, you pay $10 entrance fee).
D: Wild Animal Park and some sightseeing at North San Diego County ( one day )