San Diego Off the Beaten Path
Updated: May 23, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
Beyond San Diego's must-see attractions - and the city has more than its share - are lesser known hidden gems that may not get as much love from tourists but are perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and still enjoy some of the area's best things to see. Seaside tide pools, working artist studios and the stunning California coast are among the fun places to go on this short list.
590 Coast Blvd. S.
Tiny, picturesque La Jolla Cove may be the spot everyone heads to, but don’t miss nearby Cuvier Park, one of La Jolla’s other fun places to go. Just look for the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art: The park is right across the street. A popular spot for weddings thanks to the gorgeous oceanfront scenery, Cuvier Park is just steps away from Whale View Point, which as you might guess is known for its whale sightings, and is next to the marine-life filled La Jolla Tide Pools.
Shutterstock.com/Lowe R. Llaguno
San Diego-Coronado Ferry
990 N. Harbor Dr.
One of the best views you’ll get of downtown San Diego is from the deck of the San Diego-Coronado Ferry, which departs from two downtown locations: the Broadway Pier near the Maritime Museum of San Diego and from behind the convention center near Petco Park. The 15-minute ride drops passengers off at Coronado Ferry Landing, home to a couple dozen fun restaurants and shops. And the landing is just a mile and a half from one of Coronado’s top things to see: the Hotel del Coronado, a beautiful Victorian resort whose distinctive red roofs figured prominently in the classic Marilyn Monroe movie “Some Like It Hot.”
Spanish Village Art Center
1770 Village Pl.
Balboa Park is at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in San Diego—and for good reason—but you can find relatively quiet, out-of-the-way corners there too, such as the Spanish Village Arts Center. This rambling collection of quaint artists’ studios and galleries surrounds a courtyard paved with stones hand-painted a riot of colors. Here you can browse artwork from more than 200 artists and craftspeople, and although it feels way off the beaten path, the center is just a gazelle’s leap from the San Diego Zoo’s main gates.
Ladera Street & Sunset Cliffs Boulevard
You can’t help envying the homeowners in San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs neighborhood: the Pacific Ocean views from atop the bluffs here are amazing, and watching the sun set over the water is something these lucky folks get to do every day. But visitors can enjoy the magnificent scenery here too by making the short trip from downtown out to Point Loma. One of the city’s excellent things to see, the eroded cliff faces—which include natural arches and caves—turn golden in the late afternoon light.
Theodor Seuss Geisel Memorial
9500 Gilman Dr.
You might wonder why there’s a bronze Cat in the Hat statue in front of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) library, but there’s an easy answer: Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, made La Jolla his home for more than four decades. It’s in this sunny Southern California community that Geisel penned some of his most beloved children’s books including “Horton Hears a Who!,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” UCSD might be off the beaten path, but it’s here that you’ll find Geisel immortalized at his writing desk with his fun-loving, hat-wearing cat by his side.
AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
Frank Swanson is a AAA Travel Expert.