Discover the best 14 Day Trips from San Diego: Unforgettable Adventures Await!
There are so many wonderful places to explore outside of the San Diego Metropolitan area and enjoy the outdoors, wine country, small towns and other attractions and California scenic landscapes. If you are looking for some exciting day trips and weekend tips from San Diego, use this easy guide to showcase the best places around Southern California to discover and just a short drive from the city.
From idyllic wine country regions, mountain resorts and desertscapes, coastal getaways to going across the border to Tijuana, there’s so much to explore and visit just outside of the city limits. If you’re looking for great ideas, let’s get started to discovering the best places and day trips from San Diego now!
Enjoy these 14 day trips to weekend getaways from San Diego now
Many of these places make a fantastic San Diego road trip or longer getaway, but it is better to enjoy a long weekend or extended get away to explore and see more of each destination below.
How to get around San Diego area
Getting around and embarking on day trips from San Diego is a breeze, thanks to the various transportation options available. One convenient method is by car, either driving your own vehicle or renting one. San Diego has well-maintained roadways and highways, allowing for easy access to nearby destinations. Another option is to utilize public transportation. The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) operates buses and trolleys throughout the city, providing affordable and efficient transportation. You can use MTS to reach transit centers where you can connect to regional transportation options, such as trains or buses for longer day trips.
Additionally, there are organized tours and excursions that depart from San Diego and take you to popular day trip destinations, making the transportation arrangements hassle-free. Whether you prefer the flexibility of driving, the convenience of public transportation, or the guided experience of a tour, there are ample options to help you explore the surrounding gems and hidden treasures with ease from San Diego.
How far is the drive?
Pasadena makes a fantastic weekend getaway from San Diego to enjoy the wonderful downtown area, shopping and dining venues and to visit historic museums and gardens that includes the Huntington Library and gardens, historic homes like the Gamble house, Wrigley Mansion and the Millard House and visit beautiful museums like the Norton Simon Museum with extensive Asian and European collections to enjoy.
How Far is the drive? From the I -5 to I-110, the drive is 141.2 miles north
Where to stay in Pasadena – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out these cool things to do around the Pasadena area below
2. Escondido wine country
An easy weekend trip from San Diego is Escondido. Just under a forty-five-minute drive from downtown San Diego takes you into wine country north of San Diego and into Escondido. With a lively town center with cool antique stores, art galleries and restaurants and a cool local craft beer scene, there’s more to visiting than just wine country and tasting rooms.
But Escondido has some of the coolest and unique vineyards in the county with a variety of grapes growing well in the loamy and rich soil and fantastic tasting rooms to visit around the city.
Check out the wonderful vineyards, explore the colorful and unique Queen Califia’s Magic Circle or do a luxe weekend and Spa treatment at the Golden Door, a world class spa destination just outside of town.
How Far is the drive? From the I-15 N, the drive is approximately 31 miles north.
Where to stay in Escondido – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out these top things to do in Escondido area below
3. Carlsbad flower fields and beach areas
An easy day trip from San Diego to Carlsbad is a must for the annual colorful flower displays. Carlsbad flower fields are so beautiful to witness during the spring time when the entire hillside is lit up with gorgeous blooming flowers of ranunculus and other annuals grown for bulbs for sale but also visitors to enjoy the flower show. The various fruit stands, nursery and even visit to the wonderful beaches in Carlsbad make this a fun day trip or weekend getaway if you just want to get away and enjoy some fantastic beach time away from San Diego
Where to stay in Carlsbad – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out the cool flower fields of Carlsbad below
4. Tijuana, Mexico
A nice day trip in San Diego to Tijuana is do able to visit this northern Mexican city on the border. Just a very short drive from the main interstate lands at the border area with Mexico and you can easily drive in or just park and walk into Tijuana and easy catch Ubers or taxis to some of the main attractions around the city to explore. Popular places to visit around Tijuana includes: Tijuana cultural center with the various museums, Avenida Revolucion – the main tourist drag, Mercado El Popu – the local farmers market an eatery, Plaza Santa Cecilia – one of the oldest parts and central plazas and shopping venues, Plaza Rio shopping mall and Mercado Hidalgo for more eating and market shopping fun.
Where to stay in Tijuana – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
You can do a fun and easy tour at Tijuana like this experience below
5. Las Vegas
One of the best weekend trips from San Diego would be Las Vegas. The entertainment capital of the USA with so many fun venues, casinos, class acts and entertainment venues and premiere dining and restaurants to explore, Las Vegas has it all. Even though Las Vegas comes alive at night time with the colorful lights, entertainment venues and dining galore, there’s also ample outdoor fun activities and being out with nature close by at Red Rocks, Death Valley, The Valley of Fire, kayaking the Colorado river or walking through Hoovers dam and Lake Mead water sports in the area. There’s so much to explore around Las Vegas or just live it up in the city, eat, drink and enjoy all the fun shows, events and live activities walking down the strip or downtown Los Vegas venues. Check out my post here on visiting Las Vegas sites around the downtown district here for more inspiration.
How far is the drive? From the I-15 N, the drive is approximately 331.2 miles
Where to stay in Las Vegas – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out the fun downtown Las Vegas scene below
6. Joshua Tree National Park
If you are looking for a different San Diego day trip idea, consider a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is one of those national parks that is fascinating to explore and experience the many trails and stunning landscapes along with those impressive vistas, amazing desert scape and cactus and impressive rock formations.
Top attractions to visit in the national park includes: taking some of the cool hikes to Arch rock, Barker Dam, Hidden Valley nature trail and Skull rock, visit the Cholla Cactus Garden, visit the Keys View and enjoy the panoramas or do some fun adventure activity like rock climbing, horseback riding or birding. A road trip through the national park and the main attractions is also popular to visiting the area. Check out all the cool things to do in the park here for more inspiration to visiting Joshua Tree.
How far is the drive? From the I-15 N, the drive is approximately 165 miles. Check out our post on visiting Joshua Tree National Park from Palm Springs.
Where to stay in – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out all these fun things to do and see around Joshua Tree below
7. Los Angeles
How about a fun San Diego getaway to Los Angelese. A weekend getaway to Los Angeles or even longer is an ideal way to explore this sprawling city from the historic downtown district with Chinatown, Japan town and other key attractions in the center like the Grand Central Market to trendy parts of the city like Melrose, West Hollywood to Santa Monica area. You can visit iconic attractions like the Hollywood sign and Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Grauman’s Chinese theater, the Hollywood Bowl to cultural treasures like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Griffith Observatory, Getty Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art or the Broad downtown.
Or if you are looking for theme park fun, how about doing the studio tours of the Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount or Universal Studios, Santa Monica Pier or even the colorful and wacky Venice beach boardwalk. Or you can do more easy outdoor fun like visit the La Brea Tar Pits, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica or even checking out ritzy Rodeo drive and upscale Beverly Hills. There’s plenty to choose from depending on what you interests are and fun factor in the city of Angels from day to night time.
How far is the drive? From the I-5 N, the drive is approximately 120.6 miles
Where to stay in Los Angeles – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Here’s some fun things to do around downtown Los Angeles below
8. Death Valley National Park
A different San Diego day trip idea would be to visit Death Valley. The desert is such a sharp contrast to San Diego with sand dunes, harsh landscapes and barren sites with extreme temperatures in heat. It is a fascinating national park with top attractions to visiting including: the Bad Water Basin salt water flats, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, Ubehebe Crater and Dante’s View to name a few sites. The road trip through the park is a contrast of landscape and beautiful places to explore in extreme conditions.
The best time to explore is the cooler winter months when the temperatures are mild and there isn’t as many visitors traveling through the park area and checking out all the main tourist sites. Check out the details for visiting more on my post on visiting Death Valley here.
How far is the drive? From the US 395 N, the drive is approximately 283.2 miles
Where to stay in Death Valley – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Explore all these cool things to do in Death Valley below
9. Anza Borrego Desert State Park
A beautiful drive through the desert area of the Colorado desert in Southern California. The landscape around Anza Borrego Desert State Park is harsh and barren except during the spring season when California wildflowers do the landscape with beautiful colors that are visually stunning. Top attractions to visit around the park includes:
A sunrise experience at Font’s Point for impressive views in the morning ,doing the 3.5 Palm Canyon Trail, check out the wind caves from the Fish Creek Wash, the Badlands washes with fossils and gorgeous rugged rock formations, various cool slot canyons to explore and of course wildflower season in the park which varies according to dry and rainy weather in the park area.
Take a look at my post on visiting Anza Borrego Desert here for more images and information.
How far is the drive? From the I 8E and CA 79 N, the drive is approximately 73 miles
Where to stay in Anza Borrego Desert State Park – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out the wilderness adventures of Anza Borrego park below
10. Big Bear Lake
Want a nice weekend getaway then head out to the Big Bear Lake area around the San Bernardino Mountain range. Being outdoors, doing some adventure activity or some of the unique attractions around the area is part of the fun exploring here to include: a visit to the alpine zoo, the 2nd of its kind in the USA, bike or hike the many trails of the San Bernardino mountains like Castle Rock, Pine Knot or Bertha Peak trail or the Skyline Ridge trail for mountain bikers.
You can spend some time on the lake and enjoy some water activities like SUP, kayaking, jet ski or even fish if you want something low key. Road trip enthusiasts will enjoy traveling the back country areas from the Holcomb Valley scenic drive or a variety of other dirt trails opened to 4WD vehicles.
Check out the main website for more suggestions and tips of things to do and see around Big Bear here for more inspiration.
Where to stay in Big Bear Lake – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Here’s some of the top things to do around Big Bear below
11. Laguna Beach
A fairly easy road trip for a day trip or a nice overnight stay, Laguna Beach offers a lot of wonderful outdoor experiences with beaches, swimming, walking or other adventure sports. Or you can be low key and enjoy the downtown scene with all its cool art galleries and boutique stores or you can find some cool hang out bars and restaurant to enjoy a long meal while visiting the area.
Top attractions to visit around Laguna Beach include visiting the iconic beaches in the area like Main Beach, Victoria Beach, Rockpile Beach and Diver’s cove. You can explore cool parks like Crescent Bay Point Park and Heisler park or visit cultural sites like the Laguna Art Museum or Pacific Mammal Marine Center.
If you are into adventure or recreation, how about some whale watching, diving, snorkeling, play basketball, volleyball and even yoga at the beach. Check out all these 100 inspiring things to do in Laguna here for a top list of fun activities and adventure you can do in and around town.
Where to stay in Laguna Beach – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Enjoy a day at Laguna Beach below
12. Santa Barbara
One of the most beautiful Spanish Colonial cities to visit in Southern California, Santa Barbara is beautiful, historic and fun to explore all the attractions, walking venues and cool places to be around the city.
Top must do activities and places to visit around the city includes: Sterns Wharf on the waterfront, Mission Santa Barbara, the historic downtown district, the botanical gardens, zoo and stunning Lotus land and gardens. Museum enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Maritime museum and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love exploring Shoreline Park, Arroyo Burro Beach Park, and exploring Santa Barbara’s extensive wine country region. With so much to see and do in Santa Barbara, it makes sense to spend a nice weekend or longer getaway stay in the area to see all the main attractions here. Check out my post on visiting the Santa Barbara places to visit here for more inspiration and details to visiting all these wonderful and fun places in the city.
How far is the drive? From the I-5 N and US 101 N, the drive is approximately 218 miles
Where to stay in Santa Barbara – check out all these top rated hotels and inns in the area here for current prices, availability and calendar.
Check out these fun things to do around Santa Barbara below
13. San Juan Capistrano
A gorgeous mission that was demolished with earthquakes and replaced with other structures and buildings with gorgeous gardens. The mission San Juan Capistrano is wonderfully preserved as ruin and the gardens are also colorful with lots of native California annuals and wildflowers that are beautiful to visit especially in the spring time. Take a map and you can do an audio tour of all the sites and main attractions around the entire complex.
The old historic area of Los Rios district is fun to explore one of the oldest communities in Alta California with historic buildings and homes surrounded with lush plantings and a cool neighborhood to explore in the area.
14. San Diego Botanical Garden
Located in the coastal community of Encinitas, the San Diego Botanical Garden was transformed from a private estate into this lush botanical garden. Filled with a variety of beautiful and mature plantings of mostly mediterrannean plants and California Natives, the garden is fun to explore.
A docent will take you on a tour to discover the history and fauna of the gardens and visit some cool off the beaten areas of the garden not typically shown to the public. This is an easy day trip from downtown San Diego to enjoy the garden and other beach communities in the area.
Details and tips to doing a day trip from San Diego
Here are some tips and helpful suggestions for doing a day trip from San Diego:
Plan ahead: Research your destination and plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time. Make sure to check opening hours, admission fees, and any special events or activities that may be happening during your visit.
Rent a car or take a guided tour: Depending on your destination, renting a car may be the most convenient way to get around. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour that includes transportation, admission fees, and a knowledgeable guide.
Bring snacks and water: Whether you’re driving or taking a tour, it’s always a good idea to bring snacks and water to keep you fueled and hydrated throughout the day.
Dress appropriately: Depending on your destination, you may need to dress for the weather or for specific activities, such as hiking or swimming. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and a hat.
Don’t try to do too much: While it’s tempting to try to fit in as many activities as possible, it’s important to allow time for unexpected delays or simply enjoying the scenery. Focus on a few key activities or attractions and leave some room for spontaneity.
Enjoy the journey: Whether you’re driving along the coast or taking a scenic train ride, the journey itself can be a highlight of your day trip. Take time to appreciate the scenery and soak up the local culture along the way.
Extend your road trip to a weekend getaway or longer. You definitely can see and enjoy so much more with an overnight stay or longer in exploring any of these fantastic locations and attractions.
Overall, a day trip from San Diego can be a great way to explore Southern California’s diverse landscapes, attractions, and activities. With some planning and preparation, you can make the most of your time and create lasting memories.
Check out these other posts to visiting Southern California
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Conclusion to doing a road trip from San Diego
In conclusion, a day trip from San Diego can be an exciting and memorable experience, allowing you to explore the natural beauty and cultural attractions of Southern California. With some careful planning and a sense of adventure, you can discover new destinations, try new activities, and create lasting memories. So whether you’re a local looking to escape the city or a visitor wanting to see more of the region, a day trip from San Diego is definitely worth considering.
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