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How to Spend 3 Days in San Diego

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How to Spend 3 Days in San Diego
A full San Diego experience can be had in three days if you plan an itinerary with tours that combine the sights, culture, and adventures of Southern California’s Pacific coast. Here are our top ideas for how to spend your time, including a day trip to wine country or Mexico.
 
Day 1: Check Out Top Attractions
Get oriented to the city on a hop-on hop-off trolley tour, which provides transportation to popular destinations such as Old Town, Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, or Little Italy. The Go San Diego Card complements the independent nature of the trolley tour with entrance to participating venues at one price. Depending on your interests, check out one or two of San Diego’s major attractions, such as the San Diego Zoo (home to the giant pandas), SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay, or the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego Bay waterfront. Then enjoy the city from the water on a San Diego Bay dinner cruise, which typically includes a meal with sides and dessert. Some cruises include additional features such as Champagne or a DJ. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase if not included in the price.
 
Day 2: Get Active
With its near year-round pleasant weather, San Diego is made for outdoor activities. Explore the sea caves of La Jolla on a kayaking tour for the chance to spot wildlife such as seabirds, sea lions, and perhaps dolphins, or go further into the ocean on a whale-watching cruise to look for migrating whales and other marine life. On land, discover Balboa Park by Segway on a tour of the gardens, architecture, and cultural sites of this urban oasis, or head to Coronado on a Segway adventure that takes you on the ferry, to the beach, and past the historic Hotel del Coronado. Spend the evening on a food and drinks walking tour themed around a piece of the city’s history, such as the seedy aspects of the Gaslamp Quarter, now a nightlife district, or the Mexican and Native American heritage of Old Town, including tequila tastings.
 
Day 3: Get Away for the Day
San Diego sits less than 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Mexico, making it easy to visit on a day trip. Tijuana is the closest destination, which you can explore on a Baja California coastal tour. You have the chance to go sightseeing and shop for gifts and souvenirs along Avenida Revolución, and then continue down the coast to Rosarito for free time to hit the beach or walk around town. Alternatively, discover one of California’s lesser-known wine regions on a day trip to Temecula, located inland between San Diego and Los Angeles. Enjoy tastings of different varietals at local wineries, and learn about winemaking in an area sandwiched between the desert and the ocean.
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San Diego Whale Watching CruiseDay Cruises

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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

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Go whale watching from San Diego aboard a replica of a historic sailing schooner that won the world’s first America’s Cup sailing competition in 1851. Throughout your cruise, your expert guide shares informative commentary about gray whales, dolphins, and other marine animals, along with details about the US Navy sites you pass as you head out on the Pacific Ocean.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
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Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission TicketAttraction Tickets

Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket

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Take a trip through American naval history with admission to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. This enormous ship, known as the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, now offers a range of interactive exhibits, a self-guided audio tour and numerous restored aircraft across its 4-acre (1.6-hectare) flight deck and sections below. It’s an essential piece of San Diego’s, and America’s, military history.
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  • 7 hours
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San Diego Tour: Hop-on Hop-off TrolleyHistorical & Heritage Tours

San Diego Tour: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley

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Explore some of the top highlights of San Diego with your silver, gold, or platinum day pass (depending on option selected) for the city’s Hop-on, Hop-off Trolley Tour. Choose your own adventure as you get on and off the trolley at any of the 12 included stops, covering famous sights including the Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Zoo, USS Midway and the Cruise Ship Terminal, Little Italy, and many more. This San Diego trolley tour also features live commentary from the on-board guide during your ride.
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  • 2 hours
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Skip the Line: San Diego Zoo TicketAttraction Tickets

Skip the Line: San Diego Zoo Ticket

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Meet some of the world's most exotic animals with your admission ticket to the renowned San Diego Zoo, one of California's top family-friendly attractions. More than 4,000 animals representing 800 species live in this state-of-the-art zoo, including some that are rarely seen at other zoos. Admire the animals and go in-depth during daily keeper talks and guided bus tours. With mobile tickets, simply scan your phone for direct entry into the San Diego Zoo.
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Booked by 10,511 travelers
  • 1 to 4 hours
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  • 1 to 4 hours
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Baja California Coastal Day Trip from San DiegoDay Trips

Baja California Coastal Day Trip from San Diego

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Add a little Mexican spice to your visit to California during this 9-hour San Diego to Baja day trip. Admire views of the vibrant blue ocean and craggy coastline as you travel south and across Mexican border. Stop first in Tijuana for a guided sightseeing tour, covering landmarks like the Tijuana bullring and the shops of Avenida Revolucion. You’ll have lunch in the seaside village of Puerto Nuevo, dining on deep-fried lobster and a margarita, before exploring the historic waterfront city of Rosarito Beach. Round-trip hotel transport is also included.
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Booked by 1,258 travelers
  • 9 hours
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San Diego Luxury Dinner Cruise with Window Seating and Champagne OptionNight Cruises

San Diego Luxury Dinner Cruise with Window Seating and Champagne Option

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On this experience, relax in style aboard a luxury dinner cruise. Enjoy panoramic views from the boat's deck and take your time over a gourmet, 3-course meal, as you cruise past twinkling city lights that ring San Diego Bay. Enjoy DJ entertainment and enjoy an unforgettable evening, or celebrate a birthday, anniversary or another special occasion. Viator Exclusive: Upgrade to a guaranteed, private table by a window and bottle of Champagne.
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  • 3 hours
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La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak TourNature & Wildlife

La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour

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Enjoy the sublime coastal scenery as you spot abundant marine life during this kayaking trip in La Jolla’s sea caves and ecological reserve. Paddle along with your expert naturalist guide as you observe the numerous species of birds, dolphins, sea lions and even orcas that inhabit the area. Also, kayak among the lush kelp beds that grow in the reserve and, if conditions permit, explore inside the sea caves that dot the area’s rocky coastline. This La Jolla caves trip includes all necessary equipment, a life jacket, guide, and optional wetsuit rental.
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  • 2 hours
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Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego's Questionable PastHistorical & Heritage Tours

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Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego's Questionable Past

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Explore the best eats in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego on a walking tour with an expert guide who shares the inside scoop on the district's hopping restaurant and bar scene. Sample delicious dishes at several eateries, sip drinks, and learn about the history of the district as you discover its latest incarnation as a top nightlife destination. Colorful stories shared by your guide make the history of San Diego come to life on this 2.5-hour tour.
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Booked by 2,269 travelers
  • 2 hours 30 minutes
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San Diego Harbor Dinner CruiseHalf-day Tours

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San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

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Take an evening cruise wining and dining aboard the ‘Spirit of San Diego,’ enjoying top-notch food and drink, plus sparkling skyline views during this San Diego dinner cruise. Dig into your included gourmet meal, accompanied by a complimentary cocktail and live on-board entertainment, as you cruise 25-miles worth of California’s beautiful coastline and gaze at the twinkling stars above. You can also upgrade your cruise to include an unlimited open bar for an additional price.
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Booked by 2,548 travelers
  • 3 hours
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Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones Culinary TourHistorical & Heritage Tours

Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones Culinary Tour

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Get your fiesta started in San Diego on a food and walking tour through historic Old Town. Visit some of the district's finest Mexican restaurants to sample tasty dishes, tequila cocktails, and hear mariachi music. Learn about the history of California and the Native Americans, Spanish, Mexicans and gold rush prospectors that influenced Old Town's growth. You even hear some ghostly tales at Whaley House and an old cemetery. Get insider tips from your guide about authentic Mexican cuisine and other great places to visit on this fun tour.
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Booked by 623 travelers
  • 2 hours 30 minutes
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Private Balboa Park Segway TourCultural Tours

Private Balboa Park Segway Tour

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Take a tour of San Diego's most-popular park during this Segway exploration of Balboa Park. Follow your friendly local guide to all of the hot spots and learn why locals love the laid back vibe of this coastal destination.
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  • 2 hours
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Coronado Island Segway TourHalf-day Tours

Coronado Island Segway Tour

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Traveling by Segway is not only fun and different, but allows you to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. On this guided and narrated morning or afternoon tour, explore downtown San Diego and admire gorgeous views of San Diego Bay from the Embarcadero. Take a ferry ride to Coronado Island to check out still more sights, including pretty Coronado Beach and the historic Hotel del Coronado.
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Booked by 109 travelers
  • 3 hours
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