Things to Do in Downtown San Diego

We explored a number of sites in and around downtown San Diego during our anniversary weekend getaway.

Knowing we would be heading up the coast for a few days, we rented a car for our trip; however, we certainly didn’t need it for our time downtown. We found everything to be completely walkable. If you’re not up for walking, there are plenty of trolley, ferry, taxi, and ride-share options available to help you get around.

Here are a few of the highlights from our time along the waterfront.

U.S.S. Midway Museum

Our first stop on our first morning in San Diego was the U.S.S. Midway. There was almost no line, and we were able to use our San Diego Go! pass for speedy and discounted entry.

We’ve toured naval ships before but certainly not an aircraft carrier of this magnitude! I enjoyed all of the different options for learning more about the vessel – in addition to the information plaques around the inside and upper deck of the ship, there was a self-guided audio tour you could pick up or QR scan for your own phone, interactive exhibits, as well as docents to answer questions.

We started our time in the theater, learning more about the Battle of Midway before making our way along the interior and then down into the belly of the ship to see the inner workings of the crew’s quarters and their day-to-day life. We ended our tour on the upper deck, checking out the various aircraft on board and admiring the views of the surrounding waterfront.

Fun facts:

  • I mistakenly believed this ship was at the Battle of Midway. I learned during our time there that she wasn’t commissioned until eight days after the end of WWII.
  • After being decommissioned, the Midway went through inactive ship maintenance in Bremerton, Washington – just across Puget Sound from where we lived in Lynnwood, before making her final voyage to San Diego to serve as a museum.
  • The ship is now frequently used for special events. While we were there, they were setting up for an event on the upper deck that featured a large stage with band equipment. It turned out that later that day Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was performing!

Tuna Harbor Park

Right next to the U.S.S. Midway is Tuna Harbor Park. Brian remembered being their once before during a work trip and eating at the restaurant along the water at the edge of the park near the Midway. However, he did not remember seeing the gigantic Unconditional Surrender statue of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square following Japan’s surrender in WWII right next to the restaurant. It turned out he wasn’t losing his mind – his visit was in 2012 and the statue wasn’t designed until 2013!

I enjoyed walking through the Bob Hope memorial, which features statues of military personnel enjoying a performance by Bob Hope and an audio recording of his back and forth with the crowd.

Other areas of the park have additional exhibits about WWII, but several were under construction while we were there.

Seaport Village

We continued our walk along the water toward Seaport Village, stopping to share a dole whip from one of the street vendors along the way.

We are not into shopping and didn’t go in anywhere, but we did enjoy wandering among the shops and restaurants to see the various fountains, statues, and green spaces.

We concluded our visit by taking a break in a somewhat shady spot surrounding a small pond filled with a bunch of sleeping ducks. We enjoyed some people watching and my very first Wetzel’s Pretzel!

In addition to exploring the waterfront, we also enjoyed exploring these other areas of downtown San Diego that I covered in other posts:

Bonus: Cabrillo National Monument

I know I started this post by saying you don’t need a car to explore downtown San Diego, but if you have one and want to check out other parts of the surrounding area, one of our other quick trips was to Cabrillo National Monument on the Point Loma Peninsula.

Two things I wish I knew before we arrived:

  • The monument closes at 5 p.m. each day.
  • Your annual national park pass can be used at this location!

Had we arrived earlier, I would have loved to explore the walking trails, overlooks and tide pools. Unfortunately we didn’t arrive until around 4:30 p.m. so we had to make a whirlwind trip around to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, New Point Loma Lighthouse, and the monument to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the first European exploration of what is now known as the west coast of the United States.

While we enjoyed all the activities I highlighted here, I wouldn’t be honest if I said everything we checked out during our time downtown was marvelous. If we could do it again, we would skip San Diego’s Old Town and the Gaslamp District. While several people recommended them to us during our trip planning process, we found both areas to be much too cheesy-touristy for our liking and we didn’t spend much time either place.

Happily there are many, many other wonderful options for constructing several fun-filled days in downtown San Diego!

3 thoughts on “Things to Do in Downtown San Diego

  1. Pingback: U.S. National Parks: Top Picks from 2021 – Heather's Compass

  2. Pingback: Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve – Heather's Compass

  3. Pingback: Exploring La Jolla, California – Heather's Compass

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