top of page

The 4 Things You Must See Around Downtown San Diego, California

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Downtown San Diego as seen from Shelter Island in black and white

Most people visiting San Diego, only consider laying on the beach all day. And with the sun, sand, and endless fish tacos and margaritas, who could resist? I'm not saying the beach is a bad place to be, I'm just trying to get you to have the most fulfilling time in San Diego possible, and that is by exploring everything the downtown area has to offer.

I'm way more used to small towns and mountainsides, but there is something about the life of downtown San Diego that really draws me in. Maybe it's the coastal location, or comic-con, or balboa park. Whatever it is, I know anyone (even a nature nerd like me) can find something they want to do around the city of San Diego.


1. The Maritime Museum

The star of India ship in the harbor of downtown San Diego

I'm not the biggest fan of boats, I'm not overly fond of going out over the deepest and darkest parts of the ocean while swaying back and forth on a giant death trap, not my jam. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy seeing these amazing feats of engineering from dry land.

Hence, the Maritime Museum. This floating museum (or should I say museums) is made up of 10 ships, from ancient pirate-like sailing ships to steam-powered ferries, to soviet submarines (which totally freak me out, I would never go in one). Once you get a ticket you are allowed to climb aboard any one of the boats and learn about the stories of these testaments to history.

You can also walk along the harbor a bit further down and find the USS Midway Museum, which is on the USS Midway the longest-serving aircraft carrier in US history. While I have a personal vendetta against the Midway for ruining my 11th birthday (basically, I wanted to go to the beach, but my family wanted to go to the Midway Museum so I was stuck on my worst nightmare, a boat, for my entire birthday), that shouldn't stop you from at least walking by and seeing all of its glory from the safe and solid sidewalk.



2. Gaslamp Quarter (The Historic Heart of San Diego)

An archway in Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego

The Ghiradelli shop in the gaslamp quarter of San Diego

The historic Gaslamp Quarter is "the heart of the city". Home to many beautiful old buildings, fun bars, and delicious restaurants. Start at the huge convention center on the San Diego bay (where my favorite event of the year happens, San Diego Comic-Con) and continue going up 5th Ave to take in all of the sights and sounds of the city of San Diego.

Also, don't forget to stop in at the Ghirardelli shop to get a free sample of chocolate, it's probably my favorite part of Gaslamp.

At night, this area becomes a party destination, with tons of clubs and bars with shining lights flashing to the beat of the bass, you're bound to find one that intrigues you (if drinking and dancing is your sort of thing). Just don't forget to get a lot of cash out, with cover charges of around $20 per person and drinks for $15, it is not going to be a cheap night, so it's best to leave the credit card at home (if you're anything like me and are bound to go a bit overboard).



3. Barrio Logan

A mural in Barrio Logan that read all the way to the bay

I originally went to Barrio Logan looking for a good craft beer and some tacos and while I did find them, I came out with so much more. This small neighborhood South East of downtown San Diego just screams culture and passion. From the food they make to the art they paint, the people of Barrio Logan a very proud of their Chicano heritage.

In Chicano Park, you'll find the largest outdoor mural of Mexican-American heritage in the world! With beautiful paintings describing their past, future, and present it is sure to wow anyone. They also have other pieces around the neighborhoods so keep an eye out for more paintings as you walk around.

The patio seating at Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan San Diego

Logan Ave is the main strip of the neighborhood where you will find fantastic Mexican craft beers at Border X Brewing. Here, they pay homage to their roots by making beer such as the horchata golden stout, and the gran jefe wheat, both of which are fantastic. I also suggest stopping at one of the many Mexican eateries in the area for some real Mexican food, I stopped at 664 TJ Birrieria for beef dip tacos and it was traditional and delicious!


4. Balboa park

People walking down the main street of Balboa Park San Diego

Balboa Park has to be my ultimate favorite part of the downtown San Diego area. This is for all of my outdoorsy people out there (you're going to like this). With almost 20 different gardens and trails all through1,200 acres of natural beauty, you can spend all day just in this park. Also, if you're looking for a longer trek around the city, check out the seven bridges hike, it's about 6 miles and goes straight through Balboa Park.

This giant park is also home to 20 different museums on every subject from indigenous cultures to Comic-Con, and the famous San Diego Zoo! Walking down the main strip on El Prado you'll see vendors lined up selling handmade jewelry, carved wooden boxes, and of course delicious fresh churros.

The botanical building at Balboa Park in San Diego California

My favorite building in Balboa Park is the Botanical Building. It's a giant greenhouse full of beautiful and unique plant species that just makes me so happy (if you don't know already, I'm the biggest plant nerd). So, take your time in this enormous historic park, walk around and take it all in because you're bound to find something you'll love (trust me it's inevitable).



A boat sailing in front of the Coronado bridge by downtown San Diego

Those are all of my favorite areas of downtown San Diego, hopefully, they give you a sense of what San Diego is all about. From the water, to the culture, to the great outdoors, this city has way more to it than most people get to see on a one-off trip. So feel free to walk around enjoying a sunny southern California day around downtown San Diego, you won't regret it.

Also, feel free to comment below, email me, or DM me on Instagram if you have any questions or experiences in San Diego. I would love to know what you think of the city or let you know more of what I've learned with my time living there.

Until next time,

Happy Trails!

139 views0 comments


  • Instagram

Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm the photographer, writer, hiker, camper, and craft beer drinker of this blog!


Here, I share my travel, camping, and hiking tips to help anxious explorers get outdoors with confidence!

Even introverts are social sometimes...

  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

subscribe to Get more adventure in your inbox!

Also receive my free

camping checklist!

First Name


Most Recent Posts

  • Instagram

Follow me on Instagram

for more adventures!

are you looking for more adventure?
try subscribing!

I'll send you my
free camping checklist!

bottom of page