What to see in San Diego in 24 Hours

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The southern California city of San Diego is just minutes from Mexico, boasts a rich military history and hosts one of the biggest conventions every year. While there is a lot to see and do in this coastal city, here are a few things to prioritize if you only have 24 hours to pack it all in.

Visit La Jolla Cove

This small, deep water bay is home to seals, sea lions and a variety of birds and marine life. La Jolla Cove is a great spot for snorkeling, swimming and learning about the wildlife that inhabits the area. Seals and sea lions often swim alongside beach-goers and there are plenty of trails and educational experiences for the whole family to enjoy. Parking is a little limited, but there is some free street parking (with a time limit) and paid parking as well.

Take a Stroll Through Balboa Park

You could spend an entire day or two just in Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo, Japanese Friendship Garden, many museums and the world’s largest outdoor organ all live within the boundaries of the park. While many of these require admission, there are lots of free activities to do as well. We parked in one of the free lots nearby and took the shuttle in to the park, which made it very quick and easy! We spent a couple hours in the park checking out a live organ performance, several gardens and even saw a couple protests happening.


Close to downtown, this waterfront spot will be of interest to military history enthusiasts and anyone looking for a gorgeous view of the bay. There are two museums, the USS Midway and Maritime Museum of San Diego at the Ebmarcardero as well as the home of the San Diego Symphony. You’ll also find the famous kissing statue “Unconditional Surrender,” by J. Seward Johnson and a tribute to Bob Hope.

Eat Tacos

San Diego is so close to Mexico, that you have to experience the local taco scene! I stopped in The Taco Stand after visiting La Jolla Cove and the tacos were freshly made, including the tortilla. According to their web site, this was their very first location before expanding to downtown San Diego, Miami and Vegas! They also have burrios, quesadillas and breakfast items on the menu.

Hike in Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve looks like a remote wilderness park, yet is just 20 minutes or so from downtown San Diego. It’s home to the rarest pine tree in the United States, which only grows in two locations: Torrey Pines and Santa Rosa Island near Santa Barbara. Jagged cliffs meet the sea and there are trails right down to the ocean and beach. There are also some great hikes to the top of rock formations that provide sweeping views of the whole area.

Whether you’re a foodie, animal lover or looking for outdoor activities, there’s definitely a little something for everyone in San Diego. If you want to see more of our trip, be sure to check out my vlog over on YouTube!

2 thoughts on “What to see in San Diego in 24 Hours

  1. Laura

    November 4, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    Now I would really like some tacos!!!

  2. Josy A

    November 5, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Oooh you had me convinced as soon as you mentioned hiking. 😉

    I didn’t realize San Diego had so much nature at places like La Jolla Cove. It is sooo cool that you can see so many sea lions! Sign me up for tasty tacos too. <3

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