San Diego is a great place to visit year ‘round, especially in the winter with its balmy days. This southern California city offers great golfing, miles of Pacific Ocean beaches, a quaint historic district, a first-class zoo and fine dining. San Diego also makes a great base to explore the region, from the desert to wine country to the Mexican border city of Tijuana. For sure, this city and its environs, easily reachable on day trips from San Diego, have something for everyone.
Best Organized Day Trips
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Borrego Springs, located in northeast San Diego County, is a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life. This town offers a slower pace of life, a community that is not defined by how many big-box stores it has (none), and where the nearest stop light is 50 miles away. It is surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, making it the county’s only desert community. Placed in the open stretches of land, visitors will find large, metal sculptures of prehistoric animals. Built by sculptor Ricardo Breceda and financed by benefactor Dennis Avery, the fanciful sculptures have become popular tourist attractions.
Located about 30 miles (50 km) north of San Diego, Legoland California is an amusement park in Carlsbad that is mainly geared for children ages 2 to 12. The park is based on Legos, a children’s toy that originated in the 1930s in Denmark. Legoland does, however, have more than 60 rides the whole family will enjoy as well as plenty of hands-on exhibits. The themed resort also offers lots of shopping opportunities and a chance and a SeaLife Aquarium that is designed to teach children (adults, too) about the sea and its inhabitants.
Julian is an historic town in San Diego County, famous for the California gold rush of 1870. Soon after, a settler brought in a wagonload of apple trees for an orchard; today, Julian’s apple pies are world-famous. Located about an hour drive from San Diego, it is also well known for being a mountain resort town. Exploring Julian’s old mines is a top tourist activity as is visiting the California Wolf Center, which provides an opportunity to see wolves in a controlled environment. Other fun activities include visiting the Julian Pioneer Museum and local wineries, hiking in the Cuyamaca Mountains and going horseback riding.
Visitors with sturdy sea legs might want to cruise out into the Pacific Ocean on a whale-watching expedition. While whales swim along the San Diego coastline throughout the year, the best time to see gray whales that are as wide as a basketball court is December through April as they migrate between Alaska and Baja California. Blue whales, the largest creature on earth, can be seen from mid-June through September. Good places for landlubbers to see the whales are Birch Aquarium and Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Wine aficionados won’t want to miss the opportunity to taste wines in Temecula Wine Country, located in Riverside County about an hour from San Diego. Southern California’s wine country vintners produce award-winning wines in more than 50 varietals – white, red or in between – so everyone is sure to find a wine that matches their taste. Most tasting rooms are open daily, usually from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., providing an opportunity to taste wines produced at the winery from estate vineyards. Most tasting rooms charge fees for sampling their wines.
Located right across the border, this Mexican city of 1.3 million people is a shopper’s paradise, especially in the downtown Zona Rio. The historic district is located in the Zona Centro. Tijuana’s proximity to the US has made it a very popular tourist destination, especially for day-trippers. Taking a taxi to Baja California’s largest city is one way to get there or visitors can take a Blue Line trolley from San Diego to the border crossing at San Ysidro. American citizens can just walk across the border on a day trip from San Diego, but need passports or passport cards to return to the United States.