Explore: San Diego

Editorial StaffSeptember 1, 2023
Share This

America’s Finest City offers a ton of vacation fun, from family activities to award-winning restaurants.

San Diego

As summer draws to a close, don’t let the fun fade away. Experience an endless summer that flows into fall by exploring San Diego, a year-round destination for incredible weather and unlimited family fun. With attractions ranging from aquariums and museums to beaches, shops and restaurants, there’s something fun for everyone.

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, above and right
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, above and right
Where To Stay
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

Carlsbad’s Spanish Mission-style resort lies on 400 acres just 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego. Built in 1965 as a luxurious escape for athletes and celebrities, its sporty, chic spirit lives on in its Athletic Club, stunning golf courses and world-class tennis program. The resort will host a variety of events and fun activities through September and October. Learn rejuvenating breathing techniques and eliminate stress with personal development leader Ashish Pandya at the Happiness Retreat (September 8-10). Taste delicious, experimental dishes from Omni’s culinary team with its Test Kitchen Series. Purchase tickets and experience a family-style dinner where guests try six to eight dishes and share feedback to influence future menus, through September 18. In addition, this fall’s theme is “Endless Summer.” Guests will get to experience summer nostalgia with s’mores-inspired treats, artisan markets, movie nights, beach activities, poolside cabana enhancements and more. Get spooky by the sea this October with the resort’s Murder Mystery Weekend, themed “Til Death Do Us Part” (October 20-22). omnihotels.com

Where To Play

Located 45 minutes north of Downtown San Diego, Oceanside is a picturesque beach community with roughly 3 miles of sandy coastline, year-round whale watching, the historic Oceanside Pier (1,942 feet long) and the perfect Pacific Ocean conditions that attract plenty of family-friendly events. Discover the latest updates from Oceanside and check out some exciting events scheduled for this fall. visitoceanside.org

● Valle Earns First Michelin Star for Oceanside
Valle, the contemporary Mexican eatery headed by chef Roberto Alcocer at the Mission Pacific Hotel in Oceanside, has been awarded its first Michelin star in the recently unveiled 2023 California Michelin Guide. This recognition solidifies Valle’s position as Oceanside’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, and notably marks the only new restaurant in San Diego to earn a star this year. Alcocer’s inspiration comes from the region’s food and wine and seasonal-driven ingredients sourced in California. The elevated setting juxtaposes Oceanside’s vibrant surf and skate culture, creating a unique experience for Oceanside residents and visitors alike. valleoceanside.com

● Jet-Set Like the Bachelorette
In honor of Oceanside’s starring role in this season’s The Bachelorette, Mission Pacific Hotel is offering a “Fantasy Suite” package. This exclusive offering includes a 20-percent discount on a stay in the Sanctuary Studio room along with a welcome bottle of wine and spa amenity. Guests can create an unforgettable trip by adding a spa day at Sunny’s Spa and Beauty, crafted cocktails at The Rooftop Bar and a prix fixe four- or eight-course dinner paired with exquisite wines at Valle. missionpacifichotel.com

● Discover Oceanside’s South Morro Hills
Partake in some fall adventures with the whole family in Oceanside’s hidden gem, South Morro Hills. This rare coastal agricultural region in San Diego is home to Mellano Farm Stand, a multi-generational family-owned business that offers a variety of agri-fun experiences in the spring and fall seasons. Corn mazes, weekend tractor rides, pumpkin patches and other autumnal events are on deck for this fall. mellanofarmstand.com

● Elite Surf Competitions for Endless Summer Fun
It’s always summer in Oceanside with the variety of surf events happening year-round. Watch talented surfers display impressive skills, passion and joy at the U.S. Open Adaptive Surfing Championship. These remarkable para surfers, including hometown hero Liv Stone, will take to the waves September 6 through September 10. The Nissan Super Girl Pro happening September 22 to September 24 will bring the most talented female surfers to Oceanside Pier for three days of incredible surf and a spectator-friendly surf community focused on empowering women. usopenadaptivesurfingchampionships.com; supergirlsurfpro.com

Where To Spend A day

San Diego Air and Space Museum
Journey through the history of aviation and space exploration at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, housed in a classic Ford Building built in 1935 and located in beautiful Balboa Park. From authentic and one-of-a-kind exhibits like the Apollo 9 Command Module to state-of-the-art replicas like the Spirit of Saint Louis and Bell X-1, here are three must-see exhibits.

● Apollo 9 Capsule
The centerpiece of a new exhibit “Space: Our Greatest Adventure,” the Apollo 9 capsule is one of 11 on display in the world and the only one available to view on the West Coast. The Apollo 9 capsule went into Earth’s orbit in 1969 and proved it could redock with the lunar lander, which set up future space missions to fly near, and eventually land on, the moon.

● Spirit of Saint Louis
San Diego Air and Space Museum is home to a flight-worthy replica of the custom-built plane that Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927. Built by Ryan Aeronautical, this impressive unit is the first thing you see in the rotunda.

● Bell X-1
The first airplane to break the sound barrier in 1947, this replica of Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 hangs proudly and majestically inside the 86-year-old building, above the Apollo 9 display.

Open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, the San Diego Air and Space Museum will allow your whole family’s interest in aviation to take flight. With a wide variety of attractions, there’s something for everyone from little space cadets to
veteran aviators.

Admission prices:
Full-price adult, $25; youth ages 3-11, $15; seniors 65 and older, $21; children 2 years and younger, active military and museum members are free. Docent basement tours are free for kids 12 and under with paid adult admission. sandiegoairandspace.org

Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium

Explore the wonders of the sea at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography UC San Diego. With more than 60 habitats and exhibits, people of all ages can engage with displays that dive into groundbreaking research and discoveries about marine life and how these findings impact our daily lives. Blend leisure and learning while taking in the gorgeous cliff-side views of La Jolla shores and enjoy all that the coast has to offer both in and out of the water. Here are three essential exhibits to explore:

● Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins
This exhibit follows the world’s tiniest penguins on their journey from hatchlings to adults. It highlights the challenges they face and their resilience in an ever-evolving climate. It also celebrates unique features like their blue color and big personalities. Birch Aquarium is the only place in the Western U.S. where you can see these adorable seabirds waddle, glide and swim this up-close-and-personal.

● Giant Kelp Forest
Dive into the enchanting underwater world of a kelp forest ecosystem with this two-story exhibit, featuring a 70,000-gallon tank. These ecosystems are native to San Diego’s marine environment and home to a large variety of local creatures like leopard sharks, moray eels, giant black sea bass and more.

● Tidepool Plaza
Meet and touch the natives to rocky intertidal zones at the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza. People of all ages can get hands-on with sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, lobsters and more. Located outside with breathtaking views of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean, it’s the perfect place to let the sea breeze captivate your senses and take in the stunning visuals Southern California has to offer.

Hours and Admission Prices:
Birch Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day. Full-price adult, $24.95; Children 3-17, $19.95; seniors 60 and over, $22.95. Visit aquarium.ucsd.edu to buy tickets and learn more about discounts offered.

Old Town San Diego

San Diego’s oldest and most historic neighborhood, Old Town has more than 25 restaurants, 10 hotels and 30 historic sites, making it a great place to visit any time of year. If you want to be part of the local scene, experience la cultura firsthand with these three upcoming events. oldtownsandiegoguide.com

● Fiestas Patrias – September 16
Join the festivities in Old Town San Diego to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, a vibrant and lively occasion that pays tribute to the rich and diverse cultures of both Mexico and California.

● Santa Fe Market – September TBD
The annual Santa Fe Market, a colorful and vibrant outdoor festival, brings the best of the Southwest to San Diego. Art from Navajo, Cherokee, Hopi, Pima, Isleta Pueblo and artists of other backgrounds will be showcased and honored at this cultural celebration.

● Día De Los Muertos- October 28-29
Celebrate the annual Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, in Old Town San Diego. During this event, traditional and contemporary altars will adorn the Old Town community. Engaging activities like face painting and public memorials await, alongside life-sized catrinas and skeletons, towering puppets and live musical performances throughout Old Town. dayofthedeadsd.com

Bazaar del Mundo above and below (2)
Bazaar del Mundo above and below (2)
Bazaar Del Mundo 

Celebrating more than 50 years in business, Diane Powers’ Bazaar del Mundo can be credited for attracting thousands of visitors to San Diego with food and wares that capture the spirit and adventure of Latin America. The lively and colorful entry to San Diego’s Old Town community, the Bazaar del Mundo is a favorite destination for food, folklore and fun.

Bazaar del Mundo’s 50-year history is colorful, to say the least. After winning the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s bid to restructure the Pico Motel in 1971, Powers began her journey to build a thriving collection of colorful shops and restaurants inspired by the Mexican bazaars she fell in love with during her early travels.

The Bazaar del Mundo Shops are comprised of colorful boutiques, each offering distinctive items from all over the world.

● The Gallery Veatures artisanal jewelry, including amazing turquoise and sterling silver pieces.

● Ariana is filled with artsy women’s fashions and accessories.

● Artes de Mexico features the work of several masters of Mexican folk art.

● The Guatemala Shop  features treasures from across Latin America.

● The popular  Kitchen Shop  sells vibrant tabletop and kitchen products, imported ceramics and handwoven textiles.

Everything has been carefully selected and curated to reflect each colorful culture. The atmosphere at Bazaar del Mundo is festive, authentic and inviting. Shoppers can stroll through the many shops, soaking in the vibrant colors, rich textiles and the beauty of handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items. bazaardelmundoshops.com

Casa de Freds
Casa de Freds
Casa Guadalajara

Whether you’re a local or visiting from out of town, a stop by Bazaar del Mundo is not just a quick shopping trip, it’s a trip around the world. Diane Powers’ Bazaar del Mundo Shops sits adjacent to Casa Guadalajara Mexican restaurant on Juan and Taylor Streets. The complex reflects the popular shopping and dining experience that San Diegans and visitors enjoyed for more than 30 years while in the Old Town State Historic Park.

Established in 1995, Casa Guadalajara has grown to become one of the most popular Mexican dining destinations in San Diego. Serving up award-winning Mexican cuisine in a beautiful courtyard setting, owner Diane Powers seamlessly creates an ambiance that satisfies all senses with bright, festive décor and lush patios. Casa Guadalajara serves customer favorites including Ensenada fish tacos, tequila-lime shrimp and carne asada tampiqueña. Enjoy the breezy outdoor patio, order one of their famous “Bird Bath” margaritas and admire Mexican folk-art-adorned architecture. Happy Hour in the Cantina is also back and features specialty margaritas, sangrias and cervezas along with shareable plates. casaguadalajara.com

Want a downloadable version of this article? Click Here.