Walk or cycle the downtown waterfront and, in addition to wonderful views across San Diego Bay, you'll find the San Diego Maritime Museum, with maritime exhibits and ten historic vessels to explore (sdmaritime.org), plus the U.S.S. Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier and museum (midway.org). Also part of the waterfront are Seaport Village, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex (seaportvillage.com), and the fishing piers of Embarcadero Marina Parks (North and South), as well as Broadway Pier (portofsandiego.org/ recreation), where you can book a harbor excursion or catch a ferry to Coronado (sdhe.com).
Best Kid Beaches:
Gorgeous surf, an expanse of sand that glitters with golden flecks of mica, tide pools, and kid-friendly restaurants nearby make Coronado an ideal family beach. You'll find quiet surf and bonfire rings at La Jolla Shores, tide pools and kayak rentals at nearby La Jolla Cove. "Fire rings go fast, so get there early in the morning and 'reserve' one by tossing in a bunch of wood and leaning your gear on the side," says blogger Local Wally. (Even so, you might have to share.) Get wood at a local supermarket or have it delivered by Rings Afire (ringsafiresd.com). Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has hiking trails, breathtaking scenery, an uncrowded stretch of sand—and hang gliders (torreypine.org). Amenities of Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, popular with surfers, families, and (often) dolphins, include a great playground, a lifeguard, a concession stand on weekends, and fire rings. (Find information on all beaches at parks.ca.gov.)
Sandiego.org: Official site of the San Diego Visitors and Convention Bureau. Localwally.com: Inside info, including best-of awards and a top 10 list of free and inexpensive things to do. Enlightenedexplorer.com: A guide to the city's top destinations, plus discounted tickets to many popular attractions. Sandiegobargainmama.com: An ever-changing list of events and bargains in and around SD. San Diego Essential Guide app: Covers major attractions and local favorites, with 2,700 photos, directions, pricing, and insider tips. ($2.99, iOS)