11 things to do in San Diego (Besides the Usual Tourist Things)

We live in San Diego. I was born and raised here and lived inland in a smaller town called Santee. Jeremy is from Visalia in the Central Valley. Think cows, crops, lifted trucks, and flat land. (I will give it to them. A sunset in corn fields has a special place in my heart). Jeremy came here for college at Point Loma Nazarene University (Go Sealions!) and never wanted to leave. Now, living in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego (next to Balboa Park, Little Italy, and Hillcrest), we get to see so much of this pretty city at all times of the day.

Now San Diego is easily one of the top tourist attractions for people all over the world and I can completely see why. But we aren’t crowds people. We don’t like to just go and see what everyone else is seeing or paying the big bucks, but we’d rather find our own ways to see this pretty city. So today, I thought I would share a few of our favorite things to do in this city we love when we’re not on the road.

1. Airplanes

I love watching the airplanes and living in San Diego, we get a front row seat. The parking garage east of the airport is our favorite place to stand and feel as though the airplanes are landing on your chest. We also live near Balboa park. Head to the southern end of the park on the west end and watch the planes go by. You know its a lucky day if you happen to catch the FedEx plane and the British Airways plane landing! Jeremy thinks I am crazy when I get excited that this happens.


2. Fiesta Island

I went here now and then as a kid, but I don’t think I started appreciating it until the last few years. I don’t recommend a summer weekend bonfire, because that place is packed. Our favorite part is the entire island is a 24 hour leash free dog zone. It is hard to find this in San Diego. It is so good to let the pups hunt for gophers in the fields and swim in the bay all in the same night. We love coming after a day of work and grabbing our ISLE Stand up paddle board. We can’t get enough of the sunsets and turn back east and be sure to look at that San Diego downtown skyline.

3. Non-Typical Surf Spots and How to Beat the Parking

We love to surf, but there can be some really crowded places packed full with surf camps. Jeremy and I have different favorite places, but the place I am all about these days is Northern Pacific Beach/Southern Tourmaline space. It is a fun break with plenty of parking. Here is my tip: Don’t try the parking lots and head straight to the neighborhoods. In this area, the neighborhood has two staircases down and you get basically front row parking. We also love to surf the cliffs. You get about a 20 second ride, but that paddle out can be killer. Be sure to check the tides, because to climb down you will need low tide.


4. James Coffee

We love our coffee. Iced coffee or iced espresso or iced chai is our go to drink. (As you can see we don’t really dig the hot drinks.) Our favorite place to head to is James Coffee. There is now one in Little Italy that is inside a warehouse where guests parks their motorcycles inside and out, an optometrist that you go to and didn’t know you could feel so cool and hip while getting your eyes checked, and a few home goods stores you won’t want to miss. You can get a haircut while you wait as well. Be sure to check them out.

5. Canyon

Living near Downtown San Diego, we like to still find our outdoors places. There is the beach, but we wanted another feel as well. We have found a place called Maple Canyon. On Google Maps you will see it called Olive Park. When you drive North on First, turn right on Quince. Park your car at the dead end near the bridge. Turn left at the bridge and on the right you will see a trail. Take that trail and you get lost in this trail that is surprisingly in the middle of the city. You will love it.


6. Balboa Park

This is a touristy place, but my favorite thing to do is just walk around. I don’t go to any of the museums unless there is a free one. I just wander through and soak up the architecture. There are musicians playing down the beautiful European-esque roadways, and artists at work around the park. This place started for the world fair and was a way to show off the arts of America. After the world fair, they abandoned the animals and left them there. Harry Wegeforth was walking through years later and heard a roar. When he came upon these animals, he came up with the idea of opening up a zoo which is the San Diego Zoo that you know today. Today, Balboa Park continues to be a place where people show off their artwork.


7. Ocean Beach and their Breweries

We love to head out to surf dog beach in Ocean Beach. We went college at Point Loma Nazarene down the street and OB became one of our stomping grounds. After a surf session we love to grab a beer at one of the local breweries. In the last few years, OB is becoming a lot of new places. These new breweries are killing it and creating a whole vibe to this city even more. OB can have a bad rep, but I personally love the people, the dogs, and the small CASH only shops. Tip: most of this city is cash only and never pay for parking. It’s a trap.


8. Harbor

Living in Bankers Hills, we are only one hill from the harbor. I love to head down mid day, morning, sunset, you name it. This harbor has a special sparkle. Find a bench and take a breather and just stare out over these boats and soak up this pretty city. Matter of fact this week Jeremy and I grabbed dinner to go and sat on the harbor to eat dinner with a view. Highly recommended!

9. Skateboarding

We love to grab our board and head down to the harbor, through Hillcrest, to Shelter Island, and really get to see the city up close. We can see it from a car, but there is something about being so close to the city on a skateboard or even a bike if you have one. Go explore!

10. Coronado Ferry

If you leave before 8:30 from the harbor, you will get a free return ticket. This early morning route is called the commuter pass. You get a free round trip ticket. It may be a little early, but it will save you the about $25 to take this pretty trip. Coronado can be pretty cool and is a great view looking back at Downtown San Diego

11. Foodies

We love food. We boycott the places that are on the food tv shows because they are usually over rated and we hate that. We love the ramen places, Mexican food, the Thai food place in downtown where he barely speaks English. Try places that are not the main stream. Try the places that may seem a little sketchy. (This is usually the best Mexican food).

All right, I told you some exactly places and I was purposely vague in others. I don’t know about you, but part of traveling is doing the discovery phase. Take a day and wander around the city. Take a tour if you’d like, but the more you blend in to the city, the more you get to know the real side of it.

Have fun and feel free to message me if you ever have San Diego questions! info@littlejeepbigworld.com..

Happy Travels.

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