7 must-dos in San Diego this summer

September is only two weeks away, but Mother Nature isn’t showing any signs of cooling down – in fact, in Southern California, she’s only just beginning to heat up! With temps scorching well above 90 Fahrenheit for the past two weeks, summer is in full swing. And in San Diego, the summer will last well until (and usually through) October.

Whether you’re a native or a foreign visitor, San Diego has no shortage of exciting and unique things to do, see, and taste. But don’t miss these seven must-dos, which I personally consider the best summer activities:

1. Kayak at La Jolla Caves

Photo courtesy of OEX Dive & Kayak (www.diveandkayaklajolla.com)

La Jolla has become my little haven this summer: between the delicious cuisine and the glistening beaches, I’ve had plenty to do and see. Last month, I went kayaking with OEX Dive & Kayak and had a complete blast. With trained, friendly guides accompanying you and watching out for your safety, the chances of anything going wrong are minimal. (Upturning your kayak doesn’t count; that is almost inevitable!) You’ll paddle out from La Jolla Shores to the caves, learning about local history and the marine life. Look for leopard sharks, sea lions, and the famous garibaldi (California’s state fish), and then you’ll get a turn to paddle through the narrow opening of Emerald Cave to (hopefully) see the unique algae that turns the cave pink. Book a late afternoon tour so you get slightly cooler temps and the gorgeous golden glow of the sun bathing your ocean scenery.

*OEX Dive & Kayak offers a variety of tour packages for kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. Please see their website for all price information. Or check out Groupon and Living Social for deals, like I did!

2. Shop Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market
The downtown district of Little Italy boasts the most impressive market I have seen in a long time: with four whole blocks of stalls and stands dedicated to promoting local, homegrown, homemade, and handcrafted goods, it is always downright packed with people. From fruits and vegetables to trinkets and toys, meats and cheeses to pastas and baked goods, there is something for everyone. You can sample the wares at most stalls, but bring plenty of cash – most vendors don’t take plastic. Get here early (the market is every Saturday from 9am to 1:30pm), park nearby, and blow your pocket cash before the sun gets too hot and the people swarm too thick.

Entrance: Free

3. Take a harbor cruise

Photo courtesy of http://www.hornblower.com

Cruising along San Diego Bay and Harbor is the perfect introduction to the city – or at least the surrounding waterscape! Harbor excursions will take you up North and South Islands so you can see Point Loma, Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Navy shipyard, Coronado and the Coronado Bridge, and past the beautiful skyline of the city. And don’t forget the barking seals lazily sunbathing on floating planks near North Island, plus the possibility of seeing dolphins and grey whales! I recommend going with Hornblower Cruises – they offer celebration cruises for Mother’s Day, birthdays, and weddings, or daily one and two-hour sightseeing tours.

Price: $23 (one-hour tour) / $28 (two-hour tour)

4. Stroll around Seaport Village

This waterfront promenade is one of my favorite spots in all of San Diego County, and, subsequently, my most-visited. Seaport Village is a blend of San Diego laid-back culture mixed with LA’s eclectic 3rd Street Promenade: performers, tattoo artists, parrot keepers, and magicians dot the boardwalk and captivate tourists. Horse-drawn carriages take you through the village if you so choose, while live jazz bands entertain visitors in the center plaza as they sip iced lattes or lemonade. Little shops offer everything from “San Diego” emblazoned souvenirs to humorous novelty books to handbags and sunglasses, and you can easily spend a few hours popping in and out of all of them. Then grab an ice cream cone at the local Ben & Jerry’s hut, and watch dive-hunting pelicans, seals dozing in the sun on floating planks, or lazy sailboats slowly make their way down the bay from San Diego’s best front row view.

Entrance: Free (parking: $1 for 2 hours w/ purchase validation; $4 per hour after)

5. See the Titanic Exhibit at the Natural History Museum
This artifact exhibition is a wonderful homage to the disastrous tragedy of the Titanic: it is highly educational, informative in a captivating way, and subtly harrowing. When you first enter, you are given a boarding pass and an information card on a real passenger who was on the ship. The multi-room exhibit takes you through the story of the ship from construction to post-sinking, describing the revolutionary methods used to build her, what life was like onboard for the various classes of passengers, and then how she sank after striking the iceberg. Artifacts lifted from her wreckage are on display in glass cases, with information on who owned them and whether that person survived or not. In the last room, scan the names on the giant display to discover the fate of your passenger. The Titanic: Artifact Exhibition will only be at the Natural History Museum until September, so get there while you still can.

Price: $27 (includes general museum admission) *discounts available for seniors, students, and museum members

6. Have a bonfire at Oceanside Pier
One of the last remaining beaches to offer fire pits in California is at Oceanside Pier (North County.) A time-honored tradition of Californians, a bonfire is the perfect way to send off summer before going back to school (or going back home!) Come armed with all the food and drinks you can bring (though alcohol is not allowed), and don’t forget the proper firewood: no nails; splintered, lacquered or painted wood; or planks. Get here early and set up camp, then spend the day swimming, surfing, or strolling the pier – you can also grab a bite to eat at Ruby’s Diner, situated at the end of the pier – or check out the Junior Seau Amphitheater to watch skateboarders and performers. Then watch the sunset, light up your fire, and eat as many s’mores as you can handle. Oceanside beach closes at midnight.

Entrance: Free

7. Watch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs
Perhaps the best way to wind down on a sultry summer evening in San Diego is to catch the sunset at the appropriately-named Sunset Cliffs. Accessible by a narrow winding road from Point Loma, arrive early (especially on weekends) to snag a free parking spot in the dirt lots. Bring a beach chair, a blanket, and a bottle of wine, then settle down on one of the flat rock faces for a front row view of a huge sun sinking into golden water. When the sun is just above the horizon line, it’s the perfect time for breathtaking photographs – as a photography lover, my favorite subjects (aside from the glowing cliffs) are the pelicans that swoop down low above the blue water.

Entrance: Free

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Check out other great things to do, see, and eat in my San Diego passport on Gogobot!

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