Guide to the Best Hikes in San Diego

Gorgeous year-round weather and a plethora of landscapes and natural features make San Diego County an incredible hiking spot for outdoor lovers and locals alike. The area offers a diverse array of hiking trails: you’ll find ocean cliffs covered with Torrey pines, rolling mountain ranges, and the incredible Anza Borrego desert. Whatever the season or your hiking skill level, San Diego County is a treasure trove of adventure and wildlife viewing! Here are 15 incredible San Diego hikes.


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1. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is a popular destination, and eight separate trails offer a variety of difficulty levels and types of scenery. From these trails, you can see groves of the unique-to-San Diego Torrey Pine and the otherworldly geology of the cliffs and rock formations overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beach access is possible as well, from the Beach Trail connecting the reserve to the Torrey Pines State Beach.

Directions: To access the trails, park in the main parking lot at Torrey Pines State Beach (12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego). From there, it’s a short walk uphill to the start of the trails.

2. Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock)

The well known 7.5-mile there-and-back trail to Potato Chip Rock offers incredible views of Southern California, but is strenuous and exposed especially in the warmer month. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks, hiking boots, plenty of water, and your patience as you wait in line for your iconic photo on Potato Chip Rock.

Lined with massive boulders that tower over 6.4-miles of zigzagging trail, the difficult hike leads to one of the highest peaks in the county, where views of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain await.

Directions: Parking is $8 at the lot at 14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064. Once you park in the top parking lot, the trailhead starts near the bathroom and wraps around the lake.


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3. Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

This is a popular destination for San Diego weekend warriors, and for good reason! It’s just a short distance from the city, but it feels much more isolated, especially compared to other San Diego hikes that have vistas overlooking subdivisions. There are roughly 12 miles of trails within Los Peñasquitos Canyon, which means there’s a great hike for every skill level here.

The main six-mile loop features a waterfall and is a great and easy hike for beginners, but you can make it as long or short as you wish.

Directions: There are several entrance points into the Preserve. The east entrance is located at the intersection of Black Mountain and Mercy Roads. The western staging area is on the south side of Sorrento Valley Boulevard, approximately 1 mile east of Vista Sorrento Parkway. A convenient northern entrance is near Peñasquitos Creek Park at the intersection of Park Village Road and Camino Del Sur in Rancho Peñasquitos.


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4. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek is an amazing six-mile round trip day hike in the San Diego area, though it can be very strenuous. It ends with a stunning view of an 80-foot waterfall into a deep swimming hole known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, and the trail winds through the chaparral hills of eastern San Diego County. Heat is always something to consider before doing this hike, no matter the season (in fact, it’s often closed during the hottest days of the year for safety). As you descend into the valley, expect a 10-15 degree temperature rise. In the summer, temperatures will often exceed 115 degrees!

Directions: The trailhead is located at 15519 Thornbush Road in Ramona. There is a parking lot. All hikers must display an active permit to hike this trail.


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5. Three Sisters Waterfall

This is another great swimming hole in the County. Carved out of the Cuyamaca Foothills by Boulder Creek, the series of falls is reached by a quick 2-mile descent into the canyon. This means, of course, that the return can be an incredibly hot 2-mile climb uphill, so be sure to bring and save plenty of water. Dogs are not recommended here, especially during the summer months.



Directions: From Interstate 8 East, exit at Highway 79 ( the Descanso exit) and drive north. After 1.3 miles turn left on Riverside Drive. Continue to Descanso. From there take Oak Grove Drive 1.6 miles to the intersection of Boulder Creek Road on the right. Follow Boulder Creek Road north for 13.0 miles (the first half is paved and the rest is dirt) to a hairpin turn where unpaved Cedar Creek Road joins from the west. Park at the trailhead.


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6. Cowles Mountain

At 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego. Its multiple approaches, easy access, and 360-degree views from the summit make it one of the most popular hikes in the county. Although the route from the most popular Golfcrest Drive Trailhead is only 1.5 miles long, the elevation gain of almost 950 feet makes the short hike quite a workout.

Directions: The parking lot for the trailhead is located at 7001 Golfcrest Drive.


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7. Iron Mountain

Another popular hike just outside of Poway is the 6.4-mile hike to the Iron Mountain summit. The vista offers 360-degree views of the surrounding hills, including the San Vicente Reservoir. For rock climbers, some of the granite formations along the trail make for good bouldering.

Directions: From I-15, exit and travel east on Poway Road. After passing through the city of Poway, Poway Road will dead-end at Highway 67. The trailhead will be on the opposite side of Highway 67.


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8. Oak Canyon (Mission Trails Regional Park)

Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the largest hiking areas in San Diego County, and the Oak Canyon Trail is a great option for those exploring it for the first time. This is a 1.8-mile loop that passes historic landmarks (including Mission Dam), oaks along a dry riverbed, rolling hills, and a river crossing. This is a great family-friendly option as there is very little elevation gain along the trail.

Directions: The trailhead for Oak Canyon starts in the parking area at the Old Mission Dam (1 Father Junipero Serra Trl, San Diego, CA 92119).


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9. Cabrillo National Monument

A visit here offers hikers incredible panoramic views, a historic lighthouse, and several tide pools. Following a path from the visitor center to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse will take you to the park’s summit, which is one of the best places to take in the view of San Diego and the lighthouse itself is beautiful. Keep an eye out for gray whales, which can be seen in the winter months (usually from December through April).

Directions: The trail can be started from the entrances at Lot 1 or Lot 2 off of Gatchell Rd. Take Cabrillo Rd. from the main entrance of the park to Gatchell and park at either lot.


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10. Sunset Cliffs

This 68-acre park is a picture-perfect area of San Diego County, complete with expansive ocean views, rocky cliffs, and an intertidal area ripe for exploration. It’s popular with surfers, but even if you just want to catch a sunset or listen to crashing waves you won’t be disappointed. You might even catch a pod of California gray whales during their annual migration to Baja. The trail is a short 3.7 miles, and is best hiked during the late afternoon.

Directions: Start the trail at Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Adair St and follow the path along the cliffs.


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11. Balboa Park Trails

San Diego’s massive Balboa Park is home to 17 museums, the city’s famous zoo, acres of gardens, and a whopping 65 miles of trails. There’s something for just about everyone, from families and history buffs to avid hikers. In terms of hiking trails, Balboa Park Trail #1 a good one to start with: it’s short, at just 1.5 miles, but it also avoids most of the more heavily touristed parts of the park.

Directions: Trail #1 can be accessed from 6th Ave & Upas. Visit Balboa Park’s website for complete trail information, as there are multiple hikes within the park.


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12. Stonewall Peak

While Stonewall Peak still sadly suffers from the lasting effects of the worst fire in California history, the 2003 Cedar Fire, the trail’s popularity has not diminished – nor have the views. After a somewhat strenuous uphill 3.8 mile hike to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with epic views over the rolling Cuyamaca Mountains combined with panoramas across the desert that reach the Salton Sea on clear days.

Directions: Turn left into Paso Picacho campground, pay the fee, and park in the day use area off to the right. The trailhead is across the street.


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13. El Cajon Mountain

The El Cajon Mountain , nicknamed “El Cap,” hiking trail is the most grueling on our list. Used by IRONMAN triathletes for training, the 12-mile hike follows an old mining trail all the way up to its 3,675 foot peak. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it can get very hot on the trail as it’s relatively exposed for most of the way. The trail is actually closed for an entire month during August, so plan accordingly. Layered with steep trails both up and down the mountain, this trek will leave you with sore legs, stunning views, and undoubtedly a sense of accomplishment! Note that this hike is not child- or pet-friendly.

Directions: Follow Highway 67 north until Willow Road. Take a right onto Willow Road and follow it until you see Wildcat Canyon Road. Take a left onto Wildcat Canyon Road and follow it until you see the trailhead for El Cajon Mountain; there is a parking lot here.


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14. Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail

The Cuyamaca Peak Loop hike is a great experience for those who want a long, challenging hike with different routes to the top. Located near Julian, climbers have their pick of the Conejos Trail, Azalea Glen Loop Trail, Azalea Springs Trail, West Side Trail and the Azalea Springs Fire Road. Once at the top of the second-highest peak in San Diego County (6,512 feet), you’ll get to enjoy the view of the surrounding Cleveland National Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park after a 1,700-foot elevation gain.

Directions: Park at Paso Picacho Campground. Park, then walk through the campground to the cabins in the back. Find the trailhead there.


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15. Double Peak Trail

Double Peak is an easily accessed, moderate 3.9 mile hike offering spectacular views over North County, coastal San Diego, and toward East County. In addition to a good climb and even better views, Double Peak boasts a nice park at the summit, complete with picnic benches, a few trees for shade, a free viewfinder, and flush toilets. The views from the top are equal to and sometimes even better than the views available at some of the other peaks in San Diego County. This is a fun one to try for those closer to North County.

Directions: The parking lot for the trailhead is at 900 Double Peak Drive in San Marcos. The lot is open until 8pm.

Looking for more hikes? Check out our favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes in La Jolla!

Where to Find the Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego

It’s that time of year again – apples, pumpkins, and… pumpkin spice lattes? If you’re in the mood to pick your own pumpkins for Jack O’Lantern carvings this year, look no further! We’ve rounded up all of our favorite pumpkin patches in San Diego – from local favorites to family farms in Julian and Ramona. Pack a sandwich and make a road trip out of it!

Mr. Jack O’ Lanterns Pumpkin Patch

Starts Oct. 1

La Jolla finally has its own pumpkin patch! Mr. Jack O’Lantern’s offers premium pumpkins, games, activities, and attractions. Swing by on a weekend and you might catch live music or a food truck. Items such as spider webs, halloween decorations, pumpkin carving sets, novelties, and more are also available to make it a one-stop-shop for all things Halloween. Activities include a giant bounce house, haunted maze, corn hole, slides, bowling, ring toss, and tons more. 6710 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. Visit their website for all the details.

Bates Nut Farm

Sept. 22 – Oct. 31

The Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch has been open for nearly 50 years and is a serious San Diego favorite! Along with a pumpkin-picking patch, visitors can enjoy tractor hayrides, a straw maze, petting corral, and Snows Pony Rides.

Grab a wheelbarrow and pick from variety of pumpkins: Big Macs, Ghost, Cinderella, Jack O’ Lantern, minis, squash, gourds and other fall décor. In addition, Saturdays and Sundays at Bates include live entertainment from 12pm-3pm, BBQ, kettle corn, food trucks, rock climb, bounce, slide and other family friendly events. 15954 Woods Valley Rd., Valley Center. Open Monday through Friday 9am-5:30pm; weekends from 8:30am-6pm. Visit their website for complete details.

Julian Mining Company

Starts Sept. 22

Along with apples and pie, Julian is also known for its fall pumpkin patches! The pick-your-own pumpkin patch at Julian Mining Co. is open every Saturday and Sunday starting September 29. Prices are approximately $.50/lbs. If you’re looking to spend more time here, they also have gem sluicing, gold panning, a petting zoo, and tomahawk throwing. 4444 Hwy. 78, Wynola/Julian. Visit their website for more details.

Mountain Valley Ranch

Sept. 22 – Oct. 31

Free admission! The whole family can enjoy an assortment of pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn. There is also a corn maze, a corn cannon, petting zoo, hay rides (weekends only), and pony rides. Snacks and refreshments will be available on the weekends, as well. Open seven days a week from 9am-6pm. 842 CA-78, Ramona. Visit website for more information.

Farm Stand West & Fran’s Original Farm Stand

Starts October 1st

All throughout the month of October they’ll be hosting a you-pick Pumpkin Patch. Head over to the Farm Stand West or the Original Farm Stand and pick your own bunch of pumpkins for the season. Open weekends from 10am-6 pm. 2115 Miller Ave., Escondido; and 1980 Summit Dr., Escondido. Head here for more information.



Lavender Hill Pumpkins

Starts Sept. 29

Lavender Hill Pumpkins is a super popular spot in Fallbrook; their u-pick pumpkin patch is located on a beautiful family-owned farm on a hillside. They take pride in growing a selection of varieties that produce unusually large or unique pumpkins; this year’s crop includes about 10,000 pumpkins in three dozen varieties, ranging from the very large to the very small, from the mildly eccentric to the shamelessly grotesque. Fridays 2-5 pm; Sat. & Sun. 10am-5 pm. 1509 East Mission Rd., Fallbrook.

Pumpkin Station

Pumpkin Stations are in multiple locations throughout San Diego: Del Mar, Rancho Bernardo, Mission Valley, El Cajon, National City, Bonita. Take the convenient route and pick some pumpkins in the city! Each spot also offers kiddie rides, giant slides, corn maze, inflatable play centers, petting zoos, game zones, and even school tours and party packages. All locations have free parking and admission. Pumpkins are priced individually on size.

Summers Past Farms

Starts October 1st

Summers Past has been a country favorite since they opened in 1987. Besides a large farm, the property also features an herbal soap shop, where they make their own in-house soap products. Wander through the pumpkin patch at Summers Past Farms throughout the month of October and pick your own pumpkin to take home. Other activities include a bounce house, crafts, and snacks for everyone like popcorn, coffee, and smoothies. Open Wednesday-Saturday 9am-5pm, and Sundays 10am-5pm. Located at 15602 Olde Highway 80, Flinn Springs 92021.

Where to Go Apple Picking in San Diego

Fall is just around the corner – and what better way to celebrate its arrival than apple picking in Julian? Apple picking season has been a big-hitting family favorite for years in San Diego; especially in and around Julian and nearby mountain towns.

This year, we were lucky enough to have plenty of rain early on; meaning that all of these apple picking farms are officially open for a long season! Here are the best spots for apple picking in Julian and San Diego.

Apple Starr Orchard

1020 Julian Orchard Drive, Julian, CA 92036.
Open every weekend from 10am-5pm.

The original orchard at Apple Starr was planted by the Farmer family after whom “Farmers Road,”  the road to the town, is named. Parts of the land were earlier used as a milk dairy, and the old barn was constructed in the early 1900s.

The orchard is home to roughly 1000 apple and pear trees. The trees range in age from 20 to 70 years and the majority have low branches that children can access. They only use certified organic products and are inspected annually to maintain their certification. Pear varieties include Bartletts, Comice, Anjous, Bosc; and apple varieties include Jonagold, Granny, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious. No reservations are necessary for u-pick!

Volcan Valley Apple Farm

1284 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian CA 92036.
Open Friday-Monday from 9:30am-4:30pm.

Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Apple Farm, attracts big crowds every year with 7,000 trellis-grown apple trees of red and green apples ready to pick. Choose between seven different varietals of apples, including Gravenstein, Empires (a cross between a Red Delicious and a Macintosh), Jonathans, Golden Delicious, and Pippins. Pick up a bag for $12 and then head into the fields to fill it up yourself! They will also have cold water, fresh cider and applewoods for your smoker.

Also on-site: Granny’s Pies! Grab a sweet treat after you’ve filled up your bag for the day.



Apples & Art Orchard

1052 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian CA 92036.
Open daily at 1pm and 3pm by appointment only.

For groups of 20 or more, this u-pick apple orchard offers tours and picking sessions by reservation. For $12 per person, groups will get the chance to pick a “half peck of apples” (which is about 5 pounds) and spend a relaxing afternoon checking out the Apples & Art Orchard. The adventure includes an apple fact lecture, apple picking, group cider making, and a tasting. This season’s apple varieties include: Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Fuji, heirloom apples, and more. Their harvest is always pesticide-free and all natural, so you can be sure it’s healthy too!

They book tours at 1pm and 3pm daily for groups only (no individuals), and you must book a tour online ahead of time. Be sure to book your reservation soon – they fill up fast and are only open until the apples are gone. This is a great idea for Boy/Girl Scout troops, homeschoolers, and camps!

Julian Farm & Orchard

4444 State Hwy 78, Julian CA 92036

On Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm, you can go apple picking at Julian Mining Company, or pick raspberries and blackberries at Julian Farm & Orchard.  Julian Farm is owned and operated by the same owners as Julian Mining Company, and for the first time this year are opening their new farm for u-pick, tractor-drawn hayrides, the Farmer’s Wife store, and barnyard visits. Be sure to check their website before you go for the most updated information on their apple picking.

Calico Ranch

4200 Highway 78, Julian CA 92036
Please call(858) 586- 0392 ahead of time for information about opening times.

Calico Ranch is a family-run apple and pear orchard located just outside of Julian. The farm has remained in production since it was first planted in the early 1930s, and is one of the oldest remaining farms in Julian today. The Young family has owned the 30 acre orchard for more than twenty years. Calico Ranch offers u-pick experiences on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and usually open at 9am.

Tips for Visiting Julian

  • Make a day of it! Downtown Julian has to much to offer and explore, especially for families – from restaurants to antique stores and, of course, apple pie.
  • Don’t expect cold weather – September is historically very warm in Juilan (usually in the 70s and 80s), so be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and dress for warm weather.
  • Plan your trip ahead of time – and call the orchard you plan on visiting to be sure they are open.

Other Spots to Check Out

  • Oasis Camel DairyThis is a great place to visit after you’ve finished your apple picking! Check out their hand-crafted camel milk soap, lotions, and camel milk chocolate. They offer daily tours, camel rides, and special events throughout the year.
  • Julian Cider Mill: The Cider Mill has been in operation since 1975, making and producing their own apple cider along with homemade fudge, classic preserves, and candies. They also have many varieties of apples, pears, preserves, raw honey, French prunes, Italian plums, dried fruits, nuts, candy, caramel apples and other gifts.
  • Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures: Fort Cross is a family owned and operated hands-on spot that focuses on historical education, outdoor adventuring, agritourism, music, art, and family fun. Activities include Archery, Tomahawk Throwing, Slingshot Paintball Range, Petting Zoo, Candle Dipping, Gold Rush Station, Hayrides, Hoedowns, Guided Overnight Camping, and more.

Labor Day 2018 Activities in San Diego & La Jolla

Labor Day weekend in San Diego is always a little bittersweet – it’s technically the end of summer; the kids go back to school; and those long evenings of daylight are coming to a close. However, there is some consolation! We’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful city that has sunshine pretty much year-round, and Labor Day is one of the most event-filled weekends of the year! Here are a few activities for Labor Day in San Diego and La Jolla 2018.

Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition

August 31 – September 3, 2018
Broadway Pier & Landing

Thousands of people come every year to see master-class sculptors build beautiful three-dimensional works of art. Not only that, but they actually build a beach above the water to do it – by bringing in 300 tons of sand to the Broadway Pier! There will be eleven official master sculptors carving for all four days, from countries all over the world here to challenge the US on our own soil.

Throughout the festival, there will also be live entertainment (big bands and singers), a sand box and rides for kids, a dozen gourmet food trucks, a great view of the bay, and tall ships and cannon battles.

Bayside Summer Nights

August 21 – September 2, 2018
Embarcadero Marina Park South

San Diego’s glorious summer is winding down, but not before the cannons and fireworks light up San Diego Bay to Tchaikovsky’s awesome ‘1812 Overture’. Join the San Diego Symphony as they celebrate summer’s end in spectacular style!

Labor Day Stickball Tournament in Little Italy

September 1st & 3rd; 8am-5pm

What better way to spend Labor Day weekend in San Diego than outdoors enjoying the sunshine?

The Labor Day Stickball Tournament, presented by the Little Italy Association, takes over the streets of Little Italy on Saturday and Sunday and allows players to revisit some of those old school childhood memories. The activity is all about honoring long-standing traditions, paying tribute to this East Coast sporting pastime, and of course; having fun!

Come out and see these teams grab a broom stick, table leg, or any other kind of bat-like stick that will send a rubber Wilson ball flying!

Spend the Day at the Beach

There’s no better weekend to hit the beach and soak in some sun! La Jolla Shores is a great spot for a beach side picnic, barbecue, or soccer game. There’s plenty of grass, a playground for the kids, and restrooms/showers directly nearby. The parking lot does fill up quickly, so try to arrive early; if not, there is also plenty of street parking in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Why not extend the evening and have a bonfire? Bring the s’mores and grab a bonfire pit located along the beach at La Jolla Shores! Visit our guide for making the most out of your bonfire experience.

Hit the Trails

Weather permitting, Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to get out there and hit the trails! San Diego and La Jolla are home to hundreds of hiking, biking, and walking trails; many of which supply gorgeous views and a terrific workout. If you’re looking to be active and still get a great view, Torrey Pines State Reserve has several trails for people of all abilities.

If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back, the Coast Walk Trail right here in La Jolla is breathtaking, and not too long of a hike. There are also a few other great trails in and around downtown La Jolla.

Leopard Shark 101

If you’ve been to La Jolla Cove in southern California during the summer, you’ve probably heard about the leopard sharks! Swimming and snorkeling with these incredible creatures is a popular summertime activity with both locals and tourists alike. And while the word ‘shark’ may sound a little scary, leopard sharks are actually completely harmless to humans and offer a fun way to explore the underwater world off the shores of La Jolla. Here’s everything you need to know about leopard sharks!

Markings and Features

Leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) are a member of the Houndshark family and have quite distinctive features; including large dark spots and saddle type markings. The sharks have a broad, short snout, triangular pectoral fins, a short dorsal fin, and a notched, asymmetrical tailfin. On top they are usually a silver or bronzed-gray, fading to white underneath, with distinct dark spots and blotches on its back, sides, and pectoral fins.

They can live up to 30 years, and take more than a decade to reach maturity. They generally only grow to about four or five feet (in rare occasions they can reach up to seven feet) and the heaviest ever recorded weighed in at a whopping forty pounds.


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The leopard shark is found in continental waters, both nearshore and offshore, and their preference is for waters that are cool to warm in temperate or sandy/muddy bays or estuaries. They love sand flats, mud flats, and rocky bottom areas near reef sites and kelp beds – which explains their love of La Jolla!

The sharks are usually found near the bottom of shallow water, and they are exceptionally strong swimmers. Oftentimes, they are joined in a school of others that include the Smooth-Hound, gray Smooth-Hound, or the Piked Dogfish.

They’ve been found all across the Eastern North Pacific, from Oregon to the Gulf of California and Mexico.

Interaction with Humans

Leopard sharks are harmless to humans. Only one attack has ever been recorded, and it happened in 1955 in Trinidad Bay, California. Fortunately, the diver was not seriously injured.

The leopard shark has recently become a protected species in California and Oregon waters so that they are not overfished. Sports anglers, spearfishers, and small-scale commercial line fisheries are typically the ones who go after the shark.



Mating Season

Female leopard sharks travel to La Jolla each summer to mate with males and spawn their young, which is why there is such a large influx of them at the beginning of summer (around June).

The female leopard becomes mature at ten to fifteen years of age and males at seven to thirteen years. During the annual breeding season, schools of these sharks move from deeper water into nearshore shallower water. Fertilization is internal. The type of reproduction is called aplacental viviparity or ovoviviparity. The fertilized eggs hatch inside the female’s body and pups are born live. After a ten to twelve-month gestation, seven to thirty-six pups about 17.8 cm (7 in) in total length are born. They are independent at birth, but usually stay in shallow bays and estuaries before venturing out into deeper ocean waters

Female leopard sharks have been observed giving birth in a variety of habitats along the California coastline from eel grass to sandbars and the open ocean.


Leopard sharks congregate by size and sex in large nomadic schools. The schools appear and disappear within a few hours. Schools follow the tide as they feed, moving closer to shore as the tide comes in and then swimming away before it recedes. In addition to feeding, the movement may be influenced by temperature, salinity and amount of dissolved oxygen. Large schools have even been observed in the surf zone. They are also known to form schools with California round rays and with sevengill sharks, and smoothhound sharks. The latter are close relatives.

The leopard shark diet consists mostly of smaller shellfish; including clams, crabs, shrimp, squid, and fish eggs.

Conservation Efforts

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife closely manages the leopard shark fishery within state waters. Use of gill nets in waters typically inhabited by these sharks is prohibited. The recreational fishery for leopard sharks is open year-round and coast-wide to diverse and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers year-round in designated areas only. Outside these areas, it is open seasonally between January and June.

In federal waters, leopard sharks are one of three shark species under the management authority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service through the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (Groundfish FMP).

Currently listed internationally as Least Concern, overfishing, loss of shallow water nurseries, and pollution of these areas from runoff are threats to these sharks. They have been found to contain high levels of mercury attributed to either water quality or ingestion of food items containing mercury.

Snorkeling with the Leopard Sharks

The end of August and September are usually the best times to see La Jolla Leopard Sharks, as this is towards the end of the mating season and there are higher numbers of sharks. The ideal time to go is during the day, when there are calm waters and when it’s sunny (as they will be easier to spot).

La Jolla Shores, where the water is warmer and shallower, is usually where snorkelers and swimmers venture out to see and swim with the leopard sharks. It’s easier for them to search for food in the sand and kelp forests, which are protected by the La Jolla Underwater Park Preserve. Their diet consists mostly of smaller shellfish; including clams, crabs, shrimp, squid, and fish eggs.

During peak season, you can simply swim out into the water at La Jolla Shores and see the leopard sharks – they will often be that close to shore. Wade out up to your knees or hips, and you’ll see them swimming around your feet (which is quite an experience!). There’s no reason to be scared of these little guys, as they are completely harmless to humans and won’t bite or bother you.

There are a few different ways to really see the La Jolla Leopard Sharks. You can:

  • Swim out by yourself at La Jolla Shores and simply watch them through the water, which is usually pretty clear.
  • Snorkel the La Jolla shores to get a better look at the sharks through a snorkel mask; either with your own gear or a snorkel rental. If you don’t have your own gear, many companies will rent you gear for the entire day at one price: Everyday California and La Jolla Kayak are just a couple.
  • Take a guided snorkeling tour from any number of companies located in La Jolla Shores:
  • Take the guided snorkeling tours offered by the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in southern California. The tours are typically held from July through September, and these are a great option if you want to learn more about the sharks, as there is a trained naturalist guiding each tour. Intermediate swimming ability is required and previous snorkeling experience is recommended (ages 10+).

A Few Fun Facts About Leopard Sharks

  • Sometimes the leopard shark is referred to as a cat shark.
  • They can form large schools that contain other types of sharks.
  • Leopard sharks have a tooth pattern that is called “pavement-toothed.”
  • They often rest on the ocean floor and pump water over their gills.
  • The genus Triakis is derived from the Greek word “triakis” meaning three-pointed, referring to its three-pointed teeth. This shark species name semifasciata refers to its “half-banded” markings.
  • In the San Francisco Bay, leopard sharks and piked dogfish have been observed engaging in a unique feeding strategy: the two sharks species will swim at the surface, with mouths open, in a counter-clockwise direction. At the same time, densely packed schools of anchovies are gathered at the surface and will swim in a clockwise direction. While the sharks don’t exhibit any specific hunting behavior or directed movements toward the oncoming anchovies, the sharks’ posture and movement does result in ingestion of incidental prey (i.e. anchovies) which inadvertently swim into the open maw of the prowling sharks.

To learn more about activities and fun things to do at La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove, visit our guides section!

San Diego Museums to Add to Your List

San Diego County is home to more than 90 different museums and galleries, each offering visitors a completely unique and memorable experience. From model railroads and the history of art to military aircraft and music-making, it’s no wonder USA Today has called San Diego one of America’s most creative cities! Whether you want to take in the serene beauty of Balboa Park or you want to head downtown to explore San Diego’s urban center, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best San Diego museums to add to your list!

Balboa Park Museums

Balboa Park is the largest urban park in the entire United States, and represents San Diego’s cultural core with a whopping 17 museums dedicated to all kinds of topics; including anthropology, art, aviation, natural science, and technology. The museums and exhibitions are spread throughout the pristine gardens and historic Spanish Colonial architecture in Balboa Park:

  • Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Marston House
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • San Diego Art Institute
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • The San Diego Museum of Art
  • Timken Museum of Art (free)
  • Veterans Museum
  • WorldBeat Center

Pro-tip: if you’re in town for several days, the Balboa Park Explorer Pass is the way to go. There are one-day, multi-day, and annual Explorer Pass options that allow you to experience everything Balboa Park has to offer at a discount. You’ll see savings of more than 50%, in addition to the convenience of it being a one-time purchase. The Multi-Day Explorer/Zoo Combo includes the Balboa Park Multi-Day Explorer Pass plus a one-day admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo. Visit their website for more details!

SEE ALSO: Balboa Park Dining Guide

While you’re at Balboa Park, make it a point to stop and stroll through at least one or two of their 19 gardens. The Botanical Building is one of the most photographed buildings in Balboa Park, and The Rose Garden, Zoro Garden, and the Children’s Ethnobotany Garden are also very popular spots especially during the spring and summer. Don’t forget your camera!

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Museums

Considered the birthplace of California, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park offers visitors a unique glimpse into San Diego’s colonial period from 1821-1872. Many of the historical sites and museums in this neighborhood have free admission, and along the way you’re able to stop at over a hundred shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

At the center of Old Town is the Whaley House Museum Complex, which consists of five historic buildings – the most famous of which is the Whaley House, the most haunted house in the country according to the Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted!”

For a more mellow exhibit, visit the original stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Museum, see a scale model of 19th century Old Town at the reconstructed Robinson-Rose House, and tour the Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith, the first public schoolhouse in San Diego. Casa de Estudillo is considered one of the finest adobe haciendas in the state. Up the hill you’ll discover Heritage Park, a 7.8 acre county park where seven Victorian homes have been relocated and now house shops, bed-and-breakfasts, and the Serra Museum, site of California’s first mission and fort. Here is the complete listing of museums in the Old Town area:

  • Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith
  • Casa de Carrillo
  • Casa de Estudillo
  • Casa de Machado y Silva
  • Casa de Pedrorena
  • Casa del Rey Moro African Museum
  • Heritage Park
  • Mason Street School
  • San Diego Sheriff’s Museum & Educational Center
  • San Diego Union Building
  • Seeley Stables
  • Serra Museum



Coastal Museums

The USS Midway Museum offers a unique opportunity to visit America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier. Complete with 35 exhibits and tours exploring its rich 47-year history, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon learning about San Diego’s naval history. Many of the story-telling docents are veterans who served aboard the carrier.

The floating Maritime Museum of San Diego features one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship.

Other San Diego Museums

There are plenty more museums throughout San Diego County; almost too many to name! Here are a few other popular spots:

Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
Living Coast Discovery Center
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
New Children’s Museum
Women’s Museum of California

San Diego, California has a world of cultural exhibitions to explore and discover while you’re visiting, whether you’re here for a few days, weeks, or a permanent resident! Because there are so many great activities, we recommend making a list of your must-sees and tackle those first.

For more information on events and things to do in San Diego, visit our handy guides section or check out our favorite museums in La Jolla.  

10 Things to Do in Encinitas

It’s no surprise that the city of Encinitas was recently named as one of the best surf towns in the world! Encinitas, California takes the beach seriously; and with six miles of Pacific Ocean coastline to its name, the small community is a beautiful reminder of the historic Highway 101 beach culture that has thrived there since the mid-1900s. Here are ten fun activities to do in Encinitas the next time you visit!

things to do in encinitas

1. Stroll through the downtown shopping district.

The quaint downtown Encinitas shopping district is more than 100 years old. Today, the historic corridor along Highway 101 is home to little sidewalk cafés, cute boutiques and shops, and great restaurants. Though it was once a main thoroughfare from San Diego to Los Angeles, today it boasts a bit slower pace of life. Keep an eye out for the artwork! Visitors will see a variety of wall murals, eclectic street art, and colorful banners on the streetlight poles that were donated by the thriving artists colony there.

Other amenities of the downtown Encinitas shopping district include wide sidewalks, benches, and a huge Encinitas sign stretching from one side of the highway to the other (hint: it makes for a great photo op!). Old Encinitas is also incredibly pedestrian-friendly, and it’s only two blocks from the ocean and not too far from the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course.

On your excursion downtown, make it a point to stroll through the outdoor Seaside Bazaar, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Additionally, between F and I streets on S. Coast Highway 101, you’ll find a local favorite called the Lumberyard Shopping Center. It’s home to more delightful shops and lots of wonderful places to eat. Recommendations include 3rd Corner, which is a wine shop and bistro serving lunch and dinner; St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro, serving authentic French cuisine, baked goods and delicious desserts; and the Lumberyard Tavern & Grill, which is a great place to stop for lunch.

2. Take in a show at the La Paloma Theater.

Opened in 1928, the La Paloma was one of the first theaters to show “Talkies” and has hosted many a Hollywood celebrity (Mary Pickford attended the opening gala) in its time, as well as performers from Jerry Garcia, Eddie Vedder and Timothy Leary to Jay Leno. The venue has also premiered a number of surf films, and today, its claim to fame is a nightly midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

3. Have a bonfire Moonlight Beach.

Moonlight Beach starts where Encinitas Boulevard turns into B Street, and is one of the most popular beaches in Encinitas with both locals and tourists. It’s sandy and wide, great for kids and adults, and perfect for picnics, playing volleyballs, making sand castles, and summer evening bonfires. Moonlight Beach is an excellent swimming, snorkeling, and surfing beach, band it’s popular for surf fishing.

The area boasts tennis courts and kids’ playgrounds, a space to rent beach gear, and a nice snack bar. The beach used to be very popular with locals for midnight picnics in the 1900s, which is how it became known as Moonlight Beach. Even today, you can still see people lighting bonfires and having late parties in the moonlight!

4. Visit the San Diego Botanic Garden.

Packed with four miles of trails, the San Diego Botanic Garden off of Quail Gardens Drive is home to an incredible diversity of plant life and native flora and fauna – you’ll see everything from arid deserts to a tropical jungle and bamboo groves. The plants thrive, and you will enjoy different vistas, numerous flowering trees, majestic palms, and the largest bamboo collection in the country. The San Diego Botanic Garden is one of the best things to do in Encinitas, California!

5. Swim or surf at Swami’s Beach.

Swami’s Surf Beach is one of the most well known local surfing haunts in the area. During the winter when the swells are particularly good, surfers often put on quite a show at Swami’s – the best spot to watch them is from the park on the cliff above the beach. This lovely park is the main entrance point for Swami’s Beach and has many benches in the shade, several picnic tables, and a well-tended shady lawn.

From the park, a long and steep wooden staircase leads down to the beach, which has a lifeguard station. If the tide isn’t too high, you’ll be able to walk along the beach all the way to San Elijo State Beach. If you are wondering what to do in Encinitas with kids, this is a great place to visit!

6. Visit the Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens.

Whether you want to visit beautiful gardens on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, spend a few days at the Retreat, or simply browse at the Books & Gifts store, Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage, Retreat & Meditation Gardens is an interesting place to visit.

You can also take a walk to the SRF Temple in Encinitas, located just a few short blocks away from the Hermitage & Retreat Center. The temple is part of Self-Realization Fellowship, a non-profit spiritual organization founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi) to disseminate his teachings of Kriya Yoga, an ancient Indian spiritual science.

Sunday Funday @caragmorgan #berries

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7. Check out the Leucadia Farmers Market.

The Leucadia Farmers Market is a great place to spend the day, and they are open every Sunday from 10am to 2pm. There are over 75 vendors at this certified market, which offers everything from fresh flowers and plants to meats and baked goods. Visitors will find specialty foods like beef, seafood, marinades, pastas, and sauces; to name a few. The Encinitas Farmers Market is held at 185 Union St, Encinitas, CA 92024.

8. Take surf lessons.

Reviewed as the “ultimate California experience,” the Leucadia Surf School does just what you’d imagine! Whether you’re looking for private lessons or group lessons, there’s definitely something for everyone. Open seven days a week, the school provides visitors with a soft board and a wetsuit, and offers basic instructions before students ride the waves.

An experienced instructor is with you and the group at all times. Already know how to surf? No problem, because Leucadia also does just rentals – they’ll give you some tips on where to catch the best waves and surf right alongside you.

Blue as the water, white as the foam, this building is a proper historical monument to a town that has always resided so close to the ocean. Constructed in 1883, the Encinitas Schoolhouse is this town's oldest building. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Back when Encinitas was a town of less than 30 people, this building was constructed to accommodate one teacher and eight students. It was designed with shiplap siding in a frontier architecture Classic Revival style. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Becoming outdated with time, as the building fell into disuse it was relocated in 1928 to serve as a private residence. Slated for demolition in the 1980s, it was saved—and moved back to its original location—by the newly formed local historical society, who now use it as their main office. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Still in its original condition for the most part, the structure's only major difference today is that it faces south instead of east. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ For more info on the schoolhouse, check out this local news article: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #encinitas #carlsbad #oceanside #backtoschool #foreverlearning #discovering #wanderlust #exploring #sightseeing #adventuring #admiring #history #historylover #architecture #frontier #oldstuff #playinghooky #socal #westcoast #pacific #happybirthday #happymelonday #MelonAndMe #lifeisgood

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9. Tour the Encinitas Historical Society.

Visitors to the Encinitas Historical Society are in for a treat, as the organization is located in an 1883-era one-room schoolhouse built for the eight children who lived in the town at that time. Walk across the original wood floors to discover the history of this unique city through photographs, exhibits, research papers, and docents eager to share their story.

We can guarantee you’ll fall in love with this quaint beachside community during one of the many tours led by the Encinitas Historical Society! These tours showcase landmarks and festivals, and give visitors an opportunity to get to know the friendly locals.

10. Have dinner and drinks by the beach.

Encinitas is home to several great beaches, restaurants, bars, and pubs. A few local favorites include the Bier Garden of Encinitas; the Encinitas Ale House; Union Kitchen + Tap, and more.

The Bier Garden is a great place to hang out with friends after work or after a day on the beach. You can perch on a vivid green stool in front of 32 tap handles offering some of the best craft beer from Southern California. The menu is designed to work well with beer, and whether you go for a full dinner or choose a bunch of small plates (such as skewers with chicken thighs marinated in peanut sauce, or short rib corn nachos with mango salsa and tomato soaked in Bier cheese sauce). You also might want to sample something from their unique Bloody Mary menu – they come with beer chasers!

Only 25 miles north of San Diego, Encinitas has a distinct, quirky personality, attracting not only surfers that flock there for the city’s six miles of Pacific coast, but also visitors exploring the city’s great attractions, restaurants, live music, and shops.

date night ideas in san diego

Date Night Ideas in San Diego

With so many awesome things to do in San Diego year-round, you never have to resort to a boring date night at the movies! From harbor cruises and epic outdoor adventures to romantic beach walks and magic shows, we’ve put together a list of some fantastic date night ideas in San Diego – whether you’re a long-term couple looking to spice things up or you’re browsing first date ideas with a new hubby.

Explore La Jolla Cove

Spend the late afternoon taking a kayak tour around gorgeous La Jolla Cove, where you’ll get the chance to see seals and sea lions, plus the La Jolla sea caves up close. Afterwards, freshen up for a gourmet dinner at one of the local fine dining restaurants; there are tons to choose from! As the night comes to a close,  grab a blanket and cozy up on the grass at Ellen Browning Scripps Park or hunt for your own secluded piece of paradise on the beach.

Check out a local winery



If you feel a bit ‘been there, done that’ with the local craft brewery scene, why not mix things up a little and check out a local winery? Most people visit Temecula for the winery scene, but there are plenty closer to home – from right here in downtown San Diego all the way to north county. Bernardo Winery, which is San Diego’s oldest winery, is home to a wine tasting room and several adorable shops with hand-crafted items and often hosts special events.  This family-owned winery is a great place for couples to enjoy the perfect date night.

Salerno Winery in Ramona is another great destination; complete with a sculpture garden and a large outdoor space with sweeping views of the vineyards, this is a romantic and lovely spot to spend the evening.

Catch a full moon dinner cruise

What could be more romantic than gazing at San Diego’s vibrant skyline from the water, beneath a glowing full moon? Hop aboard Hornblower Cruises’ signature full moon dinner cruise and enjoy a glass of bubbly champagne, a three-course dinner, and plenty of time to dance under the stars and enjoy the sparkling sights around San Diego Bay. Tickets start at $85 per person.

Get competitive at a local trivia night

Trivia nights are a great way to mix up your typical night out at a bar – and you’ve got options for basically every night of the week.  True North in North Park pairs trivia with $4 Bacardi or Jameson shots on Mondays, Park & Rec in University Heights is a popular spot on Tuesday nights, The Regal Beagle in Mission Hills has Wednesdays covered and the East Village’s Knotty Barrel Gastropub combines trivia with half-price bottles of wine every Thursday night.

Catch a dive-in movie

Friday’s with The King 🙌🏼

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Every Wednesday night, the iconic Pearl Hotel hosts a free dive-in theater event poolside. Get there early to grab a bite at the newly revamped Charles and Dinorah restaurant (named for the couple who owned the hotel originally). After dinner, grab a cocktail from the bar and a pool chair, or simply hop into the pool to watch the show! Classics such as Jaws, The Parent Trap, and Wet Hot American Summer have all made an appearance.

If you’d rather stay dry, there are plenty of outdoor movie venues throughout San Diego County as well. Check out our complete guide to outdoor movies to get the scoop!

Adventure through Balboa Park

#NoFilter needed for this beautiful #sunset.

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With twelve museums, multiple parks, beautiful gardens, and fabulous restaurants, Balboa Park really does have something for everyone.  Whether you’re in the mood for an artsy date at a museum or an outdoor outing to admire the beautiful gardens and century-old architecture, you can find everything you need for a romantic time here.

Pro-tip: pack a picnic to enjoy in a secluded section of the park (there are even a few spots where drinking alcohol is allowed), or catch a play that night at the Old Globe Theatre.

Take a sunset hike

When all the colors come out to play 🎨

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Few things are more romantic than watching the sunset together on a warm evening; and what better place to do it than along the coast? Torrey Pines State Reserve, just 20 minutes north of La Jolla, offers several picturesque coastal hikes. Get there around 6 or 7pm to start your hike, and finish it off at one of the benches with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego coastline. Afterwards, grab some dinner in nearby upscale Del Mar or back in La Jolla.

Watch some live music under the stars

Amazing concert venue! #SNC #Allaboutthebase

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Outdoor concerts at places like Humphrey’s by the Bay happen a few times a week, every week. Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular, and you can purchase tickets for just the show or a package deal with dinner. They also offer package deals that come with a hotel room for the night – a romantic bonus for those willing to spend a bit more cash! The setting is serene; arrive early to watch the sunset on the bay and have a few drinks.

Take a romantic ride in hot air balloon

For a big first impression, treat your date to an evening in the clouds! Local hot air balloon companies like Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures offers daily sunset champagne adventures leaving from Del Mar that offer gorgeous views of the coastline and surrounding areas. It’s a bit pricier than our other date night options, but it’s hard to beat the romance factor! Afterwards, have some dinner in downtown Del Mar and walk over to Powerhouse Park on the water.

If you’re willing to venture a bit farther, Temecula (about an hour north of San Diego) is home to a multitude of hot air balloon vendors; there are several options that range in price and timing.

Enjoy some comedy or improv

San Diego is home to a surprising amount of comedy clubs and improv show venues. From our very own Comedy Store La Jolla (which boasts an incredible history that dates back to the ’80s) to Finest City Improv in downtown San Diego, there are plenty of places to take a significant other who’s always up for a good laugh. Stop by the Gaslamp District during the weekendThere are usually shows every Friday and Saturday, and occasionally there will be one or two during the week. Check the venue’s website for details before you go.

Experience a secret speakeasy

Secret bars are all the rage in San Diego right now! Noble Experiment, False Idol (a secret tiki bar), Bar Three Piece (behind Seven Grand), and Prohibition are all in central downtown San Diego; the Charles Kenneth Speakeasy is up north in Carlsbad; and Raised By Wolves is at Westfield UTC La Jolla. Grab some dinner and then pick your poison! Note that several of these spots require reservations, so do check in advance to ensure you have a spot for the evening you wish.

Play some old-school arcade games

This time, I’m here to win. #notleavinguntilthescoreboardsaysso #gameon

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Coin Haus in La Mesa is one of the newer additions to the Cohn Restaurant Group, and is a self-proclaimed “beercade” that features 50 self-serve taps: including 43 craft beers, four keg wines, hard kombucha, and cold pressed coffee. Once you’ve poured yourself a cold one, play one of their 29 retro arcade games – including Games of Thrones and Ghostbusters pinball. It’s the perfect place for all you adults who are kids at heart! Afterwards, grab a bite to eat with your boo at BO-beau kitchen + garden.

If you’re looking for something more central, Coin Op has locations both in North Park and the Gaslamp Quarter; it’s a similar vibe as Coin Haus, but a bit smaller. The games are still great though!

See a magic show

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Enjoy a night of enchanting stories, sleight-of-hand, and humor in Old Town at San Diego’s only venue dedicated to the art of magic. The Red Spade Theater, often called Old Town’s best-kept-secret, was opened by Sebastian Figueroa nearly seven years ago. It accommodates only 28 guests, which creates an intimate and cozy setting for an old-school magic show. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area! After dinner, treat you and your significant other to some of Old Town’s famous Mexican Food.

Explore Liberty Station at night

Stroll through the trendy Liberty Station Arts District on the first Friday of every month from 5 to 9pm and you’ll get to meet working artists, enjoy dance, theater, and music performances, and visit museums and galleries. Wander through the latest exhibits at the Visions Art Museum and the San Diego Comic Art Gallery, then hit up Comickaze Comics for an eccentric selection of mainstream and independent comics, graphic novels, statues, and action figures. Cap off an excellent evening with dinner at one of Liberty Public Market’s dozens of food venues.

Stroll through Seaport Village – and learn how to Salsa!

Try your salsa moves in the beautiful outdoor courtyard at the Headquarters at Seaport Village! On the third Friday of every month (through September), local musician Manny Cepeda and his orchestra will be playing their repertoire of classic salsa, merengue, cumbia, bachata, and Cuban music from 6pm to 9pm. New to salsa? No worries, as there’s no experience necessary for this free event.

Take an evening stroll along Oceanside Pier

Midsummer colors 🌴✨🎨

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At 1,942 feet, the historical Oceanside Pier is one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast. Take a leisurely stroll out over the Pacific Ocean, watch the surfers ride a wave, fishermen catch a fish, and cap off your stroll with a chocolate milkshake for two at Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier. Afterwards, take some time to explore historic downtown Oceanside; grab a bite to eat at Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, or have a beer at Bagby Beer Company.

Enjoy a rooftop cocktail under the stars

Few things are more beautiful than the San Diego coastline under a blanket of stars. Head downtown to the rooftop at The Nolen for incredible panoramas of downtown and delicious handcrafted cocktails; or stop by Altitude Sky Lounge, a swanky outdoor club high atop the Gaslamp Marriott with impressive views of Petco Park, DJs, and fire pits. If you’re in the mood for some grub, head over to Catania’s rooftop dining area in La Jolla for some decadent Italian food and a Happy Hour cocktail.

Drink wine and paint a masterpiece together

Got our Picasso on last night 🎨😘#DateNight #PaintNight

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Anyone can be an artist at Pinot’s Palette in the beautiful Liberty Station Arts District! Each two- or three-hour session takes you through the creation of your own colorful painting, no experience required. Grab a glass of vino to get your creative juices flowing, then relax and follow the instructor-led, step-by-step directions.

When all is said and done, there are so many activities to choose from in San Diego that it can be hard to decide! Whether you and your date prefer spending time adventuring outdoors or you’re looking for a cozy night inside together, there is something for every type of date night idea in San Diego.

14 Ways to Experience Comic-Con International 2018 Without a Badge

One of San Diego’s biggest events of the year is almost upon us – San Diego Comic-Con International! Thousands of people flock to America’s Finest City every year to experience activities, exhibits, movies, and more; but unfortunately, not everyone was able to purchase a badge. The good news? You don’t need a San Diego Comic-Con badge to get your nerd on with the thousands of guests attending the annual convention this year!

During SDCC, the Gaslamp Quarter becomes a superhero’s playground filled with immersive experiences, events and photo-ops themed to match the convention — and many don’t require a badge. Here are 14 ways to experience the Comic-Con hype without a ticket.

Family Con

When: Wednesday Jul 18th, 4pm – 7 pm
Where: Liberty Station.
Small but mighty superheroes are being called to this party at Point Loma’s Liberty Station as the annual pop-culture convention gets underway. Youngsters are invited to dress up in their superhero best for Family Con, which features a costume parade, a petting zoo, a scavenger hunt and more. This free event starts at 4 p.m.

Esports Arena Drive

When: Thursday Jul 19th, 9am – 9pm
Where: Petco Park in the Park.
Test your gaming skills at this mobile gaming arena stopping by Petco Park’s community ballpark, Park in the Park, during SDCC. The arena is made of an 18-wheel semi-truck that will unfold to create a stage and VIP lounge perfect for gaming. Guests will be able to test an array of gaming products from HyperX and have the chance to win prizes.

Super Pup Yappy Hour

When: Thursday Jul 19th, 4pm-7pm
Where: Hotel Republic
Your pups want to get in on the Comic-Con action, too. Head to Hotel Republic’s Yappy Hour for a chance to find the perfect costume for your furry friend while sipping on Comic-Con themed cocktails and mingling with other pet owners. There will also be a pet costume contest and a chance to win prizes.

Her Universe Fashion Show

When: Thursday Jul 19th, 6 pm
Where: Manchester Grand Hyatt
Enjoy a geeky fashion show featuring couture stylings from both professional and amateur designers. The show’s finalists, chosen from hundreds of submissions, showcase original sci-fi and pop-culture inspired designs for a chance to join Her Universe founder, Ashley Eckstein, in creating a new collection for Hot Topic. Fashion and pop-culture fans line up for hours for this free fashion show that may even include a celebrity sighting or two. Seating is first come, first served and the line opens at 1 p.m.

SEE ALSO: 10 Other Things to do in La Jolla This Summer

DC Universe Experience

When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday 21st, 9:30am – 7pm (5 pm on Sunday)
Where: Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
In what will likely prove to be one of the more popular experiences outside San Diego Comic-Con, DC Universe is bringing dozens of interactives to their activation at the Hilton. For example, fans will get the chance to search for clues to find Dick Grayson, they’ll create mayhem with Harley Quinn in her chaos room, traverse the sewers with Batman and view rare DC memorabilia. Guests can register in advance but it will not guarantee admission or speed up the process. Get there early, because the lines for this one will be long.

Hop Con: The w00tstout Festival

When: Thursday Jul 19th, 7 pm – 11pm
Where: Stone World Bistro & Gardens (Liberty Station)
Pop-culture enthusiasts and beer aficionados alike will love this suds-tasting event presented by San Diego staple Stone Brewing. For the sixth year during Comic-Con, Stone founder Greg Kock, creator Drew Curtis and actor Wil Wheaton will debut a special batch of brew — this year, it’s w00tstout 6.0. The brew is described as a complex-flavored imperial stout made in a pecan, rye and bourbon-soaked barrel. A $75 ticket to this year’s event gets attendees 15 three-ounce tastes of w00tstout 6.0 and other Stone creations, unlimited tastings of gourmet bites — like mac and cheese croquettes, lamb meatball melts and Vietnamese spring rolls — plus access to lawn games, music and “a few extra surprises.”

Comic-Con at the Library

When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday Jul 21st, times vary
Where: San Diego Central Library
Even without a badge, you don’t have to miss out on SDCC panels this year. Comic-Con is teaming up with the San Diego Central Library at 11th Avenue and K Street for a series of educational panels. Some highlights include a creator panel called “When I See Myself in Comics,” a chance to meet the makers behind comic books and a panel on how to comics can make a social impact, just to name a few. To attend without a badge, register online in advance before July 17.

MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition

When: Friday Jul 20 – Sunday Jul 22nd, 10am – 6pm
Where: Fleet Science Center
Can you pull a tablecloth off a table without disturbing the dishes on top? Do you stay drier running or walking in the rain? Get the answer to some of your burning questions at the new exhibit based on the popular TV show, “Mythbusters.” Just like the show, this hands-on exhibit will allow guests to use the scientific method to test some commonly-held theories. Access to the exhibit at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park, can be added to a general admission ticket for $5.

Dead Quarters

When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday Jul 22nd, 11am-6pm
Where: Outside Hilton Gaslamp
Outrun the undead at “The Walking Dead’s” off-site SDCC activation. Creators boast an immersive walk-through that will take visitors through the series’ settings, including a 22-foot Zombie slide like the one seen in “Fear the Walking Dead.”

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Gallery

When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday Jul 22nd, 11am – close
Where: Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery
The Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery (363 Fifth Avenue) in the Gaslamp will be transformed into an immersive Mirror Universe Experience during Comic-Con 2018. The exhibit will feature a photo opportunity with Emperor Georgiou’s throne and will showcase props and costumes from the series. There will also be “Star Trek” Comic-Con exclusives for sale.


When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday Jul 22nd, times vary
Where: Outside San Diego Hilton Bayfront
On the lawn outside the San Diego Hilton Bayfront, FX will present several interactive exhibits featuring some of their most popular television shows, including “Legion,” “American Horror Story,” “Mayans M.C.” and “Archer.” Guests can register in advance at The FXHibition is open to the public from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Adult Swim State Park

When: Thursday Jul 19th – Sunday Jul 22nd, 4pm-2am
Where: Behind the San Diego Convention Center
Archery, canoes and a mechanical bull hot dog — it must be Adult Swim. The tv network is bringing nature to the con with a variety of games (open until 8 p.m.), a merchandise store and more to guest 18 and up. Adult Swim State Park will be located at Convention Way and 5th Avenue Pier.

Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections

When: Thursday Jul 19 – Sunday Jul 22, 9am – 5pm
Where: Birch Aquarium at Scripps
A new comic book-inspired interactive exhibit has opened at the Birch Aquarium to highlight the “superpowers” of some of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures. From supervision to an electricity zap — marine life make amazing adaptations to survive in their environment and the team of scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego want to share what they’ve learned with you. The exhibit, open just in time for Comic-Con, is available to guests who purchase a ticket to the museum ($18.50 for adults and $14 for children 3 to 17).

SyFy Fan Party

When: Friday Jul 20 and Saturday Jul 21, 9pm
Where: New Children’s Museum
The lines were around the block for SyFy’s fan parties at San Diego Comic-Con last year and they hope to make this year’s even bigger. With a DJ spinning until 1 a.m. and giveaways galore, this event is a great place to be after other offsite activations and the convention center floor closes. An RSVP is required. Keep an eye on @SyFy on Twitter for details.

Del Mar Opening Day & Summer Concert Series Lineup

It’s back! One of San Diego’s favorite summer activities kicks off next week, with Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack on July 18th, and the Del Mar Summer Concert series beginning on July 20th. We’ve got the rundown for you – from how to spend Opening Day to the full concert lineup.

San Diego horse racing takes place where the “turf meets the surf” at the Del Mar Racetrack. Fans flock to the track each summer to wager on their favorite horses during the annual Del Mar Thoroughbred Club racing season, which runs from mid July through early September. Del Mar’s horse racing tradition dates back all the way to 1937, when Bing Crosby greeted the track’s very first guests – and Seabiscuit won by a nose in the infamous race in 1938. The 2018 season features the nation’s top race horses, trainers and jockeys, and plenty of fun in the sun!

Opening Day

Opening Day at the Racetrack kicks off at 11:30am on Wednesday, July 18.

More than 40,000+ race fans are expected to attend what’s defined as one of the most fabulous, fashionable and fun festivities in the west – Opening Day at Del Mar. The day isn’t just about big bets and fast horses, it’s also about celebrating in style! Fashion-minded guests may participate in Del Mar’s annual tradition, the Opening Day Hats Contest; where entrants compete for cash prizes and judged on creativity and style.

Opening Day Hats Contest

Explore your sense of hat creativity and you could win a share of more than $5,000 in total prizes! Strut your stuff between 11:30 AM and 3:00 PM in Plaza de Mexico (located inside the Stretch Run admission gates).

Enter in one of the following five categories: Most Glamorous, Best Racing Theme, Funniest/Most Outrageous, Best Fascinator and Flowers/All Other. There is no fee to participate, and all entrants will receive two free admission passes to return to the races.

The first race of the day kicks off at 2:00pm, so be sure to stick around!

SEE ALSO: More Summer Activities in San Diego!

Del Mar Summer Concert Series Lineup

Summer concerts are free with racetrack admission (Stretch Run general admission is just $6), and the concerts usually begin shortly after the last race (a bit before dusk). Do note that if you arrive AFTER the last race, concert admission is $30. Here’s this year’s lineup!

July 20: Psychedelic Furs

July 21: Iration

July 27: Steel Pulse

July 28: Switchfoot

Aug. 3: Matisyahu

Aug. 10: Aloe Blacc

Aug. 11: Reggae Fest with Ziggy Marley

Aug. 17: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Aug. 24: Tribal Seeds

Aug. 25: Warren G & DJ Quik

Aug. 31: Cafe Tacvba

Sept. 1: Slightly Stoopid

Sept. 2: Ice Cube



Parking and Transportation

  • Concert Parking after the last race is $20
  • Racetrack parking is $10
  • No overnight parking is available
  • Shuttles to public transportation, taxis, and pickup zones are also available

For more information and this year’s complete racing schedule, visit the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s website.