Downtown San Diego: Where Urban Vibes and Coastline Collide

Can’t get enough of big city life? Downtown San Diego offers the perfect spot for an urban vacation. The city features world-renown attractions, hosts events that draw millions and has ranked among the best destinations in the U.S. A city replete in culture, history and modernity, San Diego offers generous helpings of all. Museums, galleries, nightlife and shows await, so get some ideas for visiting downtown San Diego.

Downtown San Diego: Where to Go, Things to Do

Explore Embarcadero

Stroll along San Diego’s Embarcadero. Stretching along the downtown waterfront from the marina to the Maritime Museum, the boardwalk is lined with maritime history, shops and charming sidewalk cafes. Find three museums that honor art and history. Step into naval history at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which offers a collection of historic ships. Guests also enjoy the USS Midway Museum, which focuses on World War II. Then take a whale-watching and sightseeing cruise. After a day full of fun, browse dozens of shops and restaurants for food and souvenirs.

Visit Little Italy

Those vacationing in San Diego don’t have to travel far to find authentic Italian food. Little Italy — home to chefs, cafes, craft brews, wineries and art — welcomes visitors to learn about Italian culture and meet locals. Diners will find the streets lined with restaurants serving dishes from northern and southern Italy. On Saturdays, don’t miss Little Italy Mercato, a farmers market featuring local growers and artisans.

Live It Up at Gaslamp Quarter

Home to the city’s most active nightlife scene, Gaslamp Quarter offers trendy spots paired with Victorian-age buildings. This is where history and modernity coexist in one vibrant place. During the day, visit some of San Diego’s top attractions. Stops include The New Children’s Museum, Petco Park and Balboa Park.

After the sun sets, Gaslamp comes alive with nightclubs, bars and live music. Stroll the streets, have drinks with friends, see local bands and dance late into the night. In addition, several companies offer tours of Gaslamp Quarters, so visitors can see it all.

Admire Balboa Park

This neighborhood in downtown San Diego is so large it may take a few days to see everything. Balboa Park houses over 15 museums, gardens, San Diego Zoo, live performances, outdoor recreation and more. Ranked among the largest urban parks in the world, Balboa Park is a must-see. Tour the area with local guides to learn about its rich history. Go hiking and biking for some easy exercise. Then try new foods and shop dozens of stores. The park’s collection of things to do will keep everyone entertained all day.

Have kids? Read our picks for the top 10 San Diego attractions. View vacation rentals in north San Diego and central San Diego.