Click for possible route/stop changes on the day of your tour.
If you’re looking for a respite from all that snarling traffic and general chaos from the valley to the hills, Los Angelinos would do well to pack their bags, cobble a new playlist together, hit the Santa Ana Freeway south and retreat to the coastal beauty of San Diego.
At about 121 miles, this 2+ hour road trip takes about as much time as some rush hour commutes, but the payoff is so much more rewarding.
Whoever coined the old adage that says, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” must’ve spent some time on the open road headed for California’s southernmost city. There’s a lot more to do than play ‘I Spy’ or count out the state plates to make the time pass on this journey and we’re going to break it all down for you. To preface, these recommendations do not take into account whether you’re taking your sweet time. They are predicated on using I-5 as your main route, so take it for what it’s worth. Without any further adieus, lets get this show on the road!
Here is the not-so-definitive-but-cool-all-the-same list for The Unforgettable LA Road Trip To San Diego!
First, here are the must-see towns on the way and why
Before we start pulling over and stretching our legs, let’s at least wait until we hit Anaheim. If you’ve got the inclination or a car full of aspiring mouseketeers, spending the day in Disneyland might be in the cards. This is one of the most visited places in the world but if money or time are of concern, pop in a movie for the kids and just keep on truckin’.
Further south in Orange County, located in Santa Ana, is the far more accessible Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. As the county’s largest museum, it celebrates the finest art and culture from Asia, the Pacific Islands, Ancient Egypt and more including housing exhibits on loan from world-class museums and a great, interactive section specifically designed for kids.
Further down in Tustin you might want to check out the Marconi Automotive Museum where you can walk amongst an impressive 30 million dollar collection of some of the world’s rarest and sought after mechanical machines like the sapphire blue FX Ferrari, designed by Frank Williams of Formula 1 fame. You might’ve worked a healthy appetite by this point and you’ve got some legit options in the area that go beyond the kind of fare you normally get from a drive-thru window.
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Our patio at our Anaheim location got a little love this week. Patio is reserved tonight for a private event, but come on down this weekend to check it out. We are giving away our old picnic tables for FREE. If anyone wants one, just come on by the tasting room. #drinkbsb #backstreetbrewery
In Irvine, you can satiate your yearnings for Korean food with a visit to Seoul Haus. Burntzilla takes the hot dog game to new, delicious heights and the BackStreet Brewery makes a monster burger you can wash down with a variety of tasty craft beers.
With a full stomach, you’re ready to hit the road again for another 30 miles until you reach San Clemente and The Surfing Heritage Foundation to discover, understand and appreciate surfing as a sport, lifestyle and culture that is quintessential California.
San Onofre State Beach, Carlsbad State Beach, The San Diego Botanic Garden and The Birch Aquarium At Scripps are all solid contenders as some of the best roadside attractions worthy of your travel time and dollar as you make your way to ‘America’s Finest City.’
Ok, you’ve arrived in San Diego, now what?
Sightseeing Tour Options
Now that you’ve rolled into town and are ready to seize the day, there is but one thing to do above all others. Whether you’re tight on time or taking things at your own pace, the very best way to immerse yourself in the history, culture and people of San Diego is by booking yourself an Old Town Trolley Tour.
For a comprehensive, fully-narrated experience that allows you to hop-on and hop-off at any time during the tour, it’s a personalized way to enjoy and discover this wonderful town! You’ll learn about the rich history of Old Town San Diego with a walk back in time at their museum. You’ll also get to browse over 40 different shops where you’ll see skilled artisans plying their trade along with some delicious dining options.
Is your visit to San Diego under a time crunch?
Another alternative worth investigating is a San Diego SEAL tour. This is the only land and sea tour of the city that provides visitors with a one-of-a-kind perspective on a trip that’s part tour and part amusement park ride. This tour covers just a few of the places found on the Old Town Trolley along with a few new ones and culminates with a dramatic splashdown into San Diego Harbor for the tour’s second leg. The SEAL is a specially designed amphibious vehicle that was inspired by the WWII era hybrid transport trucks responsible for bringing troops and munitions to and from shore, known affectionately as DUCKS.
Must Visit Locations
As a recognized naval city, no trip would be complete without a visit to the San Diego Harbor at the Embarcadero Marina. You’ll have a chance to spot an anchored aircraft carrier, walk amongst the many commemorative statues and memorials dedicated to military personnel and to drink up that invigorating, ocean air.
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Looking for kid-friendly activities in San Diego? Visit sites like @Seaport_Village for ice cream and balloon art. You can even fly a kite! And don't forget, during the month of October kiddos 12 years of age and under receive free admission to ride Old Town Trolley San Diego, @SanDiegoSeals, and Old Town Trolley's La Jolla Beach Tour! #oldtowntrolley #sandiegoseals #seaportvillage #sandiego #kidsridefree #deals #localdeals #october #familyvacation #citytour #watertour #beachtour
Although the coastline sees its fair share of action, downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village is a hub for locals and travelers alike. Throughout the year, thousands stroll along the San Diego Bay taking in the sights. Be it a beautiful exercise route, trendy retail shop, caricature drawing, or tourist souvenir you’re looking for – Seaport Village has it all!
Known as America’s largest urban cultural park, more than 500,000 visitors come each year to delight in the beauty and amazing attractions of Balboa Park. Thriving botanical beauty flourishes throughout and surrounds 15 museums, a variety of performing arts and musical theaters, exotic gardens, fabulous restaurants, upscale shopping, the San Diego Zoo and exquisite Spanish Moor architecture.
Equipped with today’s gaslamps, brick sidewalks, landscaping, galleries, theaters, boutiques and shops, more than 100 restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the Gaslamp Quarter is where San Diego’s amazing history still thrives. Visited by millions of travelers each year, the area pulsates with activity from morning until the late night hours.
A unique urban hub where past and present seamlessly merge where you can shop trendy stores and view classic buildings like the stately U.S. Grant Hotel.
Off The Beaten Path – Hidden Gems
Providing over 700 acres of natural magic – including trails and views of San Diego’s island, ocean and mountain regions – Elfin Forest leaves hikers and travelers wanting more after each visit.
Enjoy a morning of food and fun while admiring the speed and grace of Del Mar’s horses. Dine al fresco, learn about all things equine and take in the sights of dynamic thoroughbreds as they warm up for their next encounter on the track.
Head to La Jolla Beach to check out the beautiful architecture high above the Pacific Ocean. The entire property is dedicated to discovery, science, architecture, health, introspection and development. The facility welcomes visitors, provides tours and regularly hosts events.
When the day is done and the purples and oranges of a San Diego sunset signal the end of your journey, the city you were in just a few hours before will take on a whole new significance as it finds its way into your heart.