11 Best Day Trips From San Diego, California

best day trips from san diego
| 6 min read

If you find yourself spending too much time in the town where you live on the weekend, you need to consider what spots out of town have to offer, even if it requires a decent drive. Areas outside San Diego have plenty of fun activities for visitors to get engaged in. Several beaches and parks will let you explore nature and take part in activities that require you put in a workout and get a good thrill, and certain centers allow you to educate yourself in astronomy and find your inner space explorer. Check out the 11 best options for day trips from San Diego whenever you plan on going out of town with friends and family.

1. Mount Laguna

Fitness freaks looking for a place with challenging hikes that provide fantastic views of nature should see what Mount Laguna has to offer. You can either take a hike up a variety of trails and get to glance at the number of hills of pine trees along the way, or you could take your bike up the hills if you feel like you need a bit more of a challenge.

Visitors will also be treated with tours of the area to add a little more education to the experience, and campgrounds are provided for those who want to spend the night in the woods gazing at the stars.

Mount Laguna

Website: Mount Laguna

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2. Temecula

Those who want to have a more unique experience over the weekend should stop by the town of Temecula for the chance to get views that they wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise. In this case, visitors can take part in the town’s hot air balloon festivals so they can have an easy trip in the air with amazing views of the world below.

There are always the more common options of taking a hike in the woods, hitting some golf balls, and exploring vineyards on horseback, or you can relax at one of the town’s spas or go on one of its wine tours.

Temecula, CA

Website: Temecula

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3. Palm Springs

Palmy road at Palm Springs - California
Source: Photo by Flickr user Barbara Guida used under CC BY 2.0

If you want to avoid the more active options of vacationing and are looking for a spot that offers chances to relax, you should put visiting Palm Springs on your to-do list. This area is known for hotels that come with pools, spas and great views of the surrounding landscape, along with golf courses for those looking to improve their game.

Some hotels also come with theme parks and water rides in case you want to relax while your kids look for a more thrilling experience. Hot springs are also around in case you decide to have a more active time and want to unwind to end the day.

Palm Springs

Website: Palm Springs

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4. Anaheim/Disneyland

Disneyland park - Anaheim Los Angeles California USA
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Boris Dzhingarov used under CC BY 2.0

If you’ve got kids who love Disney or theme parks, then you should take them to Disneyland in Anaheim so they can get the best of both worlds. This option comes with a variety of parks that offer their own unique experiences, with rides ranging from the Astro Orbitor and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to California Screamin’ and Golden Zephyr.

Disney also comes with the Hero Action Center for kids who want to meet their favorite Marvel superheroes. You can also take your kids to shows featuring Disney’s most popular characters and fireworks to end the night with a bang.


Address: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

Website: Disneyland

Tip from Trip101 local expert


San Diego

Heading up the road to Disney from San Diego is a great time and makes for an easy and fun-filled day trip! However, make sure to time when you leave and return to avoid rush hour traffic. You should also book your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines and get you through the door faster!

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5. Joshua Tree National Park

Avid hikers who are looking for a tough environment that offers more of a challenge than the average grassy trails should see what Joshua Tree National Park has to offer. Located in the desert, this spot consists of rocky trails and mountains that make visitors put in more of an effort to get to the top of their destinations.

This park still offers fantastic photo ops to add to your collection of environmental pictures, and visitors will also have the chance to learn about the different forms of wildlife that reside in the park and how to protect them. Campgrounds are also available if you feel like staying the night.

Joshua Tree National Park

Website: Joshua Tree National Park

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6. La Jolla

LaJolla childrenspool
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user microsome used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sometimes, a trip to the beach is the best way to avoid the same old weekend activities, so stopping by La Jolla should be a priority for those looking for something new to do over the weekend. Several trails are provided for walking along the beach, and stopping by right before sunset is an excellent choice if you feel like taking some memorable photos.

If you want to add to your stay in La Jolla, you can always check out Birch Aquarium and the variety of marine wildlife that it holds, or you can explore the ocean yourself at several snorkeling spots.

La Jolla

Website: La Jolla, CA

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7. Mount Palomar Observatory

Observatory at Mount Palomar - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Banja-Frans Mulder used under CC BY 3.0

If you or someone you know aspires to explore outer space, checking out Mount Palomar Observatory should be at the top of your to-do list. Visitors will be provided with guides to give them tours of the vast amount of technology that scientists have used to study the stars, including the famous Hale Telescope.

Those who are into astronomy, engineering, history, or all of the above will be huge fans of this observatory, as it informs visitors on how discoveries have been made in space and how people can make their own in the future.

Mount Palomar Observatory

Address: Cleveland National Forest Administrative Office, 35899 Canfield Rd, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

Website: Mount Palomar Observatory

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8. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California
Source: Photo by Flickr user Ken Lund used under CC BY-SA 2.0

When looking for a new town to visit over the weekend, one of the best kinds is those with a beach, and Laguna Beach is a great option if you’re looking for a spot to have fun with your friends. In addition to taking out the beach towel and laying on the sand, you’ll be presented with more active options like paddle boarding and snorkeling.

You can always take out your board and go surfing if you’re looking for new waves to conquer, or you can get on a boat and do some whale watching if you want to take some extra special photos home to remember the trip by.

Laguna Beach

Website: Laguna Beach

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9. Julian

Those who want to spend a day in the mountains should see what the town of Julian has to offer for a memorable experience. In addition to numerous hiking and biking trails for exercising and photo taking, as well as lakes perfect for taking the boat out for some fishing, this town provides the chance to explore actual gold mines to feel what it was like for travelers in the 1800s.

Visitors can also take part in music festivals and grape stomps for a more unique experience, or they can learn how to make apple cider at Julian’s apple orchards. Hotels and diners are also available to end the day on a relaxing note.


Website: Julian, CA

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10. Borrego Springs

When visiting a town that allows you to experience the outdoors, it’s important to find a place that offers a variety of activities to take part in. In this case, Borrego Springs should be on your to-do list if you have a free weekend coming up, as activities range from hiking up mountains that provide a great view of the area to taking a look at different forms of plant life in gardens.

You could always stop by the area’s golf courses to try to improve your game, or take a look at the work that different art galleries have to offer. Lodges, diners and gift shops should also help you end the day with a nice meal and some gifts to take home to remember the trip by.

Borrego Springs

Website: Borrego Springs

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11. San Juan Capistrano

A post shared by @hanbanjojo on May 23, 2017 at 9:45pm PDT

One of the best ways to spend your weekend in a new way is to find a town that provides a more educational experience than a thrill-seeking one. San Juan Capistrano is a great option if that is what you’re looking for, as you can learn about Mission San Juan Capistrano and how it has focused on spreading the Catholic faith, or how it has managed to preserve the world famous swallows that occupy the area.

Visitors will also get the chance to see paints and other forms of art that show the history of the area, and the gift shops present many antiques you can take home for a loved one. This spot is also perfect for schools looking for a class trip to take students on.

San Juan Capistrano

Website: San Juan Capistrano

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Take a step outside San Diego and have an adventure!

San Diego aerial view
Source: Pixabay

San Diego natives looking for something new to do on their next free weekend should explore the many surrounding towns and what they have to offer. Several beaches allow you to surf the ocean, watch whales and take beautiful photos of the sunset, while other locations allow you to take part in camping, hiking, hot air balloon trips and other more daring activities. Several spots offer spas and hotels if you’re focusing on unwinding after a long, physical day. Consider these options the next time you feel the need to get out of San Diego for a day, because they may offer an experience that you may never forget.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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John Nassivera is a freelance writer and former news editor whose interests include traveling, science, fitness and lifestyle. He has visited several countries in Europe and traveled across the...Read more

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