San Diego, California is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the western part of the United States. With a comfortable climate all year long, predictable weather, booming business district, and a diverse population, the result is some of the most friendly and unique cultures you can imagine. San Diego offers a large variety of public and private parks, available to satisfy any of your recreation needs with plenty of grass and sunshine to enjoy. Are you in need of a peaceful place to relax and bird watch? Perhaps you want to take the kids to a playground area complete with restroom and watering amenities. Do you have a dog that would love to make new pup friends at a dog park? If you’re into fitness, there are a slew of wonderful hiking and biking options you can choose from.
We’ve completed a list of some of the best parks in San Diego, California. Please keep in mind that this is just our list of the best of the best and that there are still a big variety of well-maintained, clean, and popular parks that are more than suitable to kill a few minutes or an entire day!
Balboa Park – Museums and Gardens in San Diego
Balboa Park is absolutely stunning. There are 1200 acres of botanical gardens, paved walks, natural animal viewing, and 16 full museums in Balboa Park! Additionally, there are a slew of performing arts venues, biking trails, and a number of annual events that draw tens of thousands to see the district where “culture, science, and nature collide” in San Diego. There is no park that changes more from year to year, with a full staff of employees to help transition smooth changes, allowing for different experiences every time you visit. Be sure to plan ahead of time and check the event calendar because some events aren’t free. The park has been around since the late 1800’s and has grown to be one of San Diego’s most prized treasures.
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 – (619) 239-0512
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – Best Views in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs is a unique park because it’s only 68 acres in size, and exists for virtually one reason: watching the sunset. You can obviously visit the park at any point in the day to take in the bay breeze, see how far you can make out the ocean on the seemingly unending horizon, or, if surfing is your thing, catch some nice waves depending on the weather the time of year. Dedicated in 1983, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a resource-based park stretching along the Pacific Ocean bordering the western edge of Point Loma. Anybody in the San Diego area needs to make it a point to migrate out to Sunset Cliffs to watch the sunset. You’ll get some of the best pictures you’ve ever captured and a memory to last a lifetime. The only problem is that so many people are interested in capturing the sunset that you may struggle to find parking so get there early, especially on weekends!
1253 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92107 – (858) 581-9982
La Jolla Shores Park – Grass and Sand
Amazing grassy-area park spanning two blocks and just steps away from the ocean and sand of La Jolla Shores Beach. Start your day in the grass of the park and then head over to the beach for the late afternoon sun! The waves at this beach are often the most gentle of all the beaches in San Diego. La Jolla Shores Park is adjacent to the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.
8300 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037 – (619) 221-8899
Waterfront Park – New Playground and Splash Fountain
Located a few steps away from Little Italy and across the street from Embarcadero, the Waterfront Park is an ideal oceanfront stop for a picnic on the lawn when you’re out sightseeing. The kids love the newly installed playground equipment and a fountain you can walk right into on a hot day to cool down. You’ll also find a native plant garden and reflecting pool on site, as well as a public art display. During the summer months, movies are shown in the evenings on the lawns. While located right in downtown San Diego, there are many parking lots near by.
1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101 – (619) 232-7275
San Diego Zoo – Zoo with Safari Park (admission fee)
The San Diego Zoo theme park is one of the most well known zoos on the entire planet. The San Diego Zoo now has a partnering experience called the Safari Park. The two together allow for world renowned integration of wildlife health and care, science, and education to develop sustainable conservation solutions. The San Diego Zoo has made it a point to improve the visitor experience by allowing for those with disabilities of almost any kind to have a fun, interactive day at the park. They’ve also created a state of the art application for cell phones and tablets, to make the self-navigation and self-teaching portion of the experience something unforgettable. The best part is, any progress you make on the app can be tracked and taken with you when you go home. You can pick up where you left off the next time you visit the park. Both parks are terrific for groups, parties, and even school classes. Reservations for regular parties are not required for either park!
2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 – (619) 231-1515
Old Town San Diego – Historic State Park in San Diego
Old Town State Historic Park is considered to be the birthplace of California! Filled with Mexican-American restaurants, authentic Mexican museums, antique shops, and a bunch of historic treasures that have been unearthed over the past 300 years, Old Town is a place you can spend an entire weekend in. Every year there are a number of festivals and parades to visit, new food vendors creeping up, and a growing swath of visitors that want to check out the original adobes and schoolhouses, meticulously preserved over time. If you’re looking to integrate into the area, this is a great way to get a taste of some local culture and understand the history behind how San Diego became what it is today!
4002 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110 – (619) 220-5422
Mission Trails Regional Park – Hiking in San Diego
You can’t ignore this local hiking spot. Loaded with views that allow you to see for miles, Mission Trails Regional Park is known for having some of the best hiking trails in southern California, which is really convenient since it sits on the outskirts of San Diego. Sprawling for over 7200 acres, you can enjoy over 40 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking trails, walking paths, campgrounds, and even a lake. Mission Trails is the largest park in San Diego. Guided hikes can be found from local companies, there are ample opportunities for run-ins with friendly local wildlife like hummingbirds, lizards, and deer, and if you’re lucky enough to get a sunset tour, you can see what it’s like to experience the beautiful phenomenon at the edge of the desert. It’s easy to forget just how remote San Diego used to be but Mission Trails gives you a nice reality check and when you get home at night, you’ll have a new appreciation for your modern amenities! The trails are open 24 hours a day so if you’re interested in some star gazing, this would be the only place in San Diego that might allow it with minimal light pollution!
One Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119 – 619-668-3281
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach – Hiking with Gorgeous Ocean and Golfing in San Diego
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The Torrey Pines Golf Course is one of the three most famous in North America! Right next door is the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach. There are eight miles of trails that allow you to have a really cozy hike with the significant other while experiencing some of the most untouched land in all of California. The reserve doesn’t allow for food or beverage in an effort to preserve the authenticity of the land so grab something to eat before you come. The twisted Torrey Pine Tree is an extremely rare tree that is only found in a couple of places on the entire planet – one being here at the reserve. There is a spot more suitable for families that has lifeguards watching the swimming hole at the base of the bluffs, where there is a sandy beach. Bathrooms and water fountains are found there as well. Hit some golf balls with the buddies early in the day and have a romantic walk through the trail with your loved one while the kids play at the beach this weekend! Note that there is ample parking but it costs up to $25 for the day.
12600 N Torrey Pines Road, San Diego, CA 92037 – (858) 755-2063
San Diego Parks Map
No city in the state of California allows for a more diverse selection of beautiful parks than San Diego. There are another dozen or so worth mentioning just outside of San Diego, if you’re interested in traveling a little. Investigate the local tour guides, look for some brochures about guided tours of the surrounding areas and you’ll find some real hidden gems in Southern California that will make your relocation seem like the best decision for you, your family, or your business. Some parks near San Diego allow for boating tours, there are aquariums, and even horseback riding attractions through the more remote regions. Surely, there is something for everybody because the best parks are in and around San Diego, California.
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