As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, we get the urge to draft up a long laundry list of resolutions and things we want to do in the next 12 months, but why’s it always got to be at the beginning of the year? You still have two and a half months until the ball drops, so there is plenty of time to knock some must-do San Diego activities off your list. Here are 16 things in 2016 we suggest you try before 2017 rolls in:
- Drink local brew
- Hike Torrey Pines
- Explore the farmers market
- Get some history lessons in Old Town
- Paddle board in the bay
- Catch the sunset at the cliffs
- Experience fall in Julian
- Eat your weight in food at Public Market
- Ride on the Belmont Rollercoaster
- Cheer on the Gulls
- Pet the kitties at The Cat Café
- Cruise along the boardwalk
- Brave the paranormal
- Catch the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
- Ice Skate at Hotel Del Coronado
- Hang ten at the California Surf Museum
Everyone likes to claim fame to being the brew capital of the U.S., but at the end of the day, as long as you have some craft beer in your hand, do titles really matter? Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point, and Karl Strauss Brewing Company are staples in SD, but new brew hubs are popping up every day. Bitter Brothers Brewing Co. and Resident Brewing Co. are just two of the latest on the scene.
You’ve heard everyone talk about Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and there’s good reason. The coastal park has a number of trails that let you choose your own adventure. Quit saying, “I’ve been meaning to hike Torrey Pines,” and just do it today. Some trails meander through chaparral and others hug the coastline. Our favorite? The Beach Trail, which leads straight down to the sand and sea, where you can cool off after the long haul.
The beauty of sunny San Diego is that there are farmers markets open every day of the week, all year long. Not many people can say they can pick up fresh flowers and fruit in the dead of winter, but in SD, it’s less about the season and more a matter of which market to choose that day. Beyond produce, you’ll find handcrafted goods, homemade snacks, and local food vendors. Live music resonates through the stalls, as fortune tellers offer guidance and buskers do backflips.
Pop quiz! Where is the city’s first public school house, newspaper office, and courthouse located? The correct answer is Old Town San Diego Historical Park. You might know this area for its kitschy shops and Mexican restaurants, but it’s also home to some of the city’s earliest foundations. Take a tour of the Mason Street School, San Diego Union Museum, and First San Diego Courthouse to get a sense of the region’s history, and then treat yourself to a margarita at a nearby cantina.
The winter waves are well on their way, so taking your first surfing lesson can be a little lofty during this season. Skip the rough whitewash, and head to Mission Bay to paddle board across calm and glassy water. Don’t be intimated, all it takes is a little balance and motivation. The water’s generally pretty chilly year-round, so squeeze yourself into a wetsuit in case you take a plunge!
You can never see enough sunsets in your lifetime and each one in San Diego is seemingly more beautiful than the last. Pack a picnic and head to the bluffs of Sunset Cliffs, where there’s nothing but the ocean between you and the sun.
The lack of seasons in San Diego can be great if you love comfortable temperatures and practically perpetual sunshine, but some do miss those crisp autumn days when the leaves start to change. If you’re craving some autumn vibes, head east to the nearby mountain town of Julian, where you’ll find fall foliage and cooler temperatures. Between the hot cider and apple pies, it’s easy to forget you’re in SoCal.
Perhaps the closest thing you’ll get to Seattle’s Pike Place Market in San Diego is the Liberty Public Market. You won’t see any fishmongers throwing fish, but you can get some tasty seafood, from lobster rolls to raw oysters. Open seven days a week, this permanent market serves up craft coffee, gourmet cheese, cold-pressed juices, authentic tacos, artisan pastas, and oh, so much more. Come hungry and graze the stalls for a taste of SD.
You haven’t thrown your hands up in the air on a rollercoaster ride in ages. Actually, you can’t even remember the last time you went to a theme park. It’s time to remedy that—step right up and get your tickets for the Giant Dipper at Belmont Park. Built in 1925, this seaside coaster flies down a wooden track, stirring up memories of your childhood. Go on, get a little nostalgic—and maybe woozy—at this amusement park in Mission Beach.
It’s been a while, but San Diego is back in the game! The hockey game, at least. As of last year, Valley View Casino Center is now home to the San Diego Gulls. The team will hit the ice for their first home game of the season October 15. Throw on your favorite jersey and flock to the rink to watch the puck fly.
San Diego is known as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation with pet-friendly parks, beaches, and restaurants galore. If you find yourself more feline inclined though, make yourself comfortable at the city’s Cat Café. First a cup of coffee and then a cat in your lap: Does life get any better than this? At this downtown hot spot, you can purchase food and drinks, and then receive admission into the play area, where you can hang with the cats—all of which are available for adoption.
You don’t ride a bike in San Diego, you ride a beach cruiser. OK, technically a beach cruiser is a bicycle, but it’s unique in that it is single-speed with balloon tires and a stylized steel construction. Do as the locals, and pedal your way around the city. The Mission Bay Boardwalk is one of the best places to cycle with the sand and sea to the west and shops and restaurants to the east. You’ll whiz by the weird and wonderful along this popular stretch.
With Halloween just around the corner, you’ve got spooky on the mind. If you’re feeling brave, head to the Whaley House Museum, which is considered one of the most haunted places in the states. Story has it, the Whaley family built the home in the mid-1800s, on property where convict, James “Yankee Jim” Robinson, was hung. After moving in, the family reported hearing the footsteps of Yankee Jim. The home was later turned into a museum in 1960, and visitors have said they seen apparitions of the Whaley family lurking around the home.
Contrary to popular belief, it does get chilly in December–enough to wear a jacket! This December, at least fake that it feels like winter and get in the holiday mood for the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, one of the best Christmas things to do in San Diego. Sip on hot chocolate as a huge procession of boats adorned with Christmas lights cruise around the bay spreading holiday cheer.
Viewfinder Tip: If you’re celebrating NYE in SD, downtown is one of the most popular spots to go out on the town.
Yes, it’s a tourist trap, and yes, it’s a bit pricy, but how many people can say they’ve ice skated on a beach? It’s all about the novelty of the beachfront ice rink at the fabulous Hotel Del Coronado. Every year, between Thanksgiving and January 2, the hotel sets up a rink on Windsor Lawn, overlooking the ocean, proving to be one of the best thing to do in San Diego in December. Glide across the ice with a view of the seaside, and you’ll find yourself in an unconventional winter wonderland.
You’re in surf country, so drop into the city’s past. The California Surf Museum in Oceanside showcases some of the state’s most revolutionary surfers over the years. Between the vintage footage and the original “waterbox” camera used to take surf photos back in the day, you might find the urge to ride the waves yourself.
What San Diego winter activities are on your list?