A Locals’ Guide to Non-Touristy San Diego
More than 35 million people visit San Diego every year. That’s a lot of guests! And like any town this welcoming of visitors, there are plenty of great things to do — many of which were specifically envisioned to attract non-locals. But what if you’re looking for something, well…a little different? The kinds of places that don’t really make the travel guides? Something so distinctly San Diego that it can’t be experienced anywhere else, but that also isn’t likely to be overcrowded? We’re here to help. Check out some of our favorite San Diego best-kept secrets and live like a local.
Have a Beach Day (various locations)
Sure, heading to a San Diego beach is one of the more popular activities for locals. Given our perfect year-round weather and more than 70 miles of coastline, there’s plenty of them to go around! But if you’re looking to see some of the sandy stretches that the locals most appreciate, you’ll want to head to one of the well-kept secrets. Beaches like San Onofre State Beach, Windansea Beach and Swami’s Beach are just as breathtaking, but far less crowded.
Get Spooked (4.4 miles)
Whaley House Museum is one of the most fascinating structures in the city. And while this locale can be a stop on some tourists’ lists, we feel as though it needs a little more attention. Built in Old Town by its namesake Thomas Whaley in 1856, the house served as his family’s home. It’s also fulfilled multiple other functions during its life, including stints as a theater, courthouse, and general store. But the reason the Whaley House draws most visitors these days? It’s because The Travel Channel recently named the structure “The Most Haunted Home In America.” So if you’ve got a flair for the paranormal, then steel your nerves, and find your way to this eerie edifice for a tour.
2476 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA 92110
Sharp, Shaped Shrubbery (5.1 miles away)
Alex and Edna Harper have created an amazing sight at their home in Mission Hills. Topiary is the practice of shaping bushes into whimsical forms, and the Harpers have turned their front garden into Harper’s Topiary Garden — a meticulously manicured showcase that even Edward Scissorhands would envy. Their display includes countless plants trimmed into the form of animals, geometric shapes, human figures, and more. Visitors are welcome to stop by — as long as they respect the Harpers’ space.
3549 Union St, San Diego, CA 92103
Enjoy Some Suspense (5.2 miles)
The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is an adventure and a destination in one. Tucked away in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood, the bridge is a strictly pedestrian passage that spans nearly 400 feet across Sessions Canyon and sits 70 feet above it. It was built in 1912 in order to connect newly built trolley stops and has remained in place as a favorite spot for locals to take a gently swaying stroll. It’s also a unique space for souvenir photos!
Spruce St, San Diego, CA 92103
¡Viva México! (8.6 miles)
San Diego has one of the most active and vibrant Mexican communities of any city in the US. And there is perhaps no more exciting center of the city’s Latino culture than Barrio Logan, the city’s largest and oldest Latino neighborhood. Some of the best Mexican food in the city can be found here, as well as specialty shops and incomparable art exhibits. Don’t miss Chicano Park, which is home to the world’s largest collection of public murals.
Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy &, Main St, San Diego, CA 92113
The Play’s The Thing (9 miles)
London’s legendary Globe Theatre was one of the greatest playhouses in history. Noted playwrights like Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker and — of course — William Shakespeare débuted some of their most famous works there. San Diego is home to our own Old Globe Theatre modeled after the original, and located in Balboa Park. Upcoming performances include several Shakespeare works, including Twelfth Night, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
See a Superbloom (31 miles)
Just up the coast in Carlsbad, you’ll be able to take in one of the most jaw-dropping views southern California has to offer. The breathtaking Carlsbad Flower Fields draw tens of thousands of visitors to acres full of giant Tecolote ranunculus flowers every spring. Row after row of brilliant rainbow colors ripple across the landscape during the peak months. When visiting, guests are treated to not just the brilliant botanical display, but also a wide range of family-friendly activities (such as antique tractor rides, fruit picking, and more).
5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Make Humphreys Your First Stop
Humphreys Half Moon Inn is the ideal place to stay when planning your tour of San Diego’s most secret spots. Planning a visit? Check out our Special Offers page to select the San Diego travel deal that’s right for you, and we’ll get your room ready!