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Explore Downtown San Diego: 5 Things You Must Do 

  • Things To Do
  • Celine Jerly
  • 5 minutes

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Downtown San Diego is a hub of activity throughout the day and into the night. Its nine districts, including the central business district and Gaslamp Quarter, make up the city’s cultural and financial center. Whether you want to explore it in a day or spend a week, there’s no running out of things to do in downtown San Diego.   

The Embarcadero in the Columbia neighborhood sets up a picture-perfect waterfront on the city’s western edge, with its boardwalk hugging the San Diego Bay. Shopping and dining await visitors to the Seaport Village nearby, while Little Italy in the northwest lives up to its name with local flavors. Central downtown is home to the Horton Plaza, museums, and theatres. The San Diego Convention Centre, San Diego Opera, and San Diego Symphony are downtown San Diego city tour staples. The historic Gaslamp Quarter is the city’s de facto nightlife district, with a fusion of Victorian and modern-day architecture adding to its charm. Finally, Petco Park in East Village – home to the San Diego Padres – is a spectacular venue for more than just baseball games.   

There’s more – the children’s museum, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park. Downtown San Diego has something to suit every mood. All within easy reach that you can drive around and explore on foot. Here are a few things to do in downtown San Diego that will have you vibing with the city in no time.   

Get to Know Downtown San Diego’s Maritime History  

San Diego’s Embarcadero by itself is worth a day tour. The USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego are major attractions in the bay area. Historic ships like the 150+-year-old Star of India and tours aboard America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier give you valuable insights into maritime heritage. 

downtown san diego

The waterfront also offers access to exciting cruises, year-round events, and plenty of shopping and dining options to keep you engaged throughout the day. Take a stroll while taking in the Bay views or spend a relaxing afternoon at San Diego County Waterfront Park to round-up the day.   

Taste Old and New Flavors in Little Italy  

Top chefs rub shoulders with old-schoolers in this cobblestoned haven of diverse flavors. Urban wineries, craft breweries, chic cafes, and landmark restaurants make the neighborhood a must-visit for those who get to know a city through its food.   

little italy san diego

Park at Embassy San Diego City parking on Pacific Highway and make your way to the Piazza Della Famiglia – the heart of San Diego’s Little Italy. Now, follow your nose to fresh bakes and Italian seasonings – start at the Little Italy Food Hall or Mona Lisa Italian Foods deli. To take a break from all the food and drinks, check out the Amici Park, art galleries, and boutique shops too.   

Immersive Yourself in Art at Barrio Logan  

Make your way to the center of San Diego’s Mexican-American culture – the hip neighborhood of Barrio Logan has been transforming itself into one big art gallery since the 60s. Chicano Park is the epicenter with the most extensive collection of murals. From here, it extends out into the streets and even vacant warehouses. You can also explore the culinary arts in this neighborhood – authentic Mexican spreads, craft beers, and freshly roasted coffee brews will delight you.   

San Diego downtown

Catch a Game or Event at the Petco Park  

Pretty much every inch of this ballpark is available for rent – yes, even the playing field. So, no worries if you can’t catch a San Diego Padres home game here; there’ll be plenty of chances to attend a concert or special event instead. Another good reason to visit is breathtaking views of the San Diego Bay and the San Diego skyline – paints a complete picture of the city.   

san diego petco park

Dive into Culture & Heritage at the Gaslamp Quarter  

Get ready for a day-to-night schedule – the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego can draw you in and keep you there till the wee hours. Galleries, theatres, and boutiques for the day, and pubs, clubs, and fine-dining for the evening; you’ll find it all in 16-square-blocks downtown. For families, Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House and the New Children’s Museum are the perfect options. Park at the Hilton on K Street and walk around the neighborhood for the best experience.  

downtown san diego

Downtown San Diego parking might seem like a challenge with all the rules and parking space constraints — but that applies to street parking only. It’s easier to book a parking space on Way.com or Propark to avoid these problems altogether. Plenty of downtown San Diego parking lots offer safe and convenient services at affordable rates. Driving yourself is the best option right now to keep up with social distancing norms. San Diego attractions and businesses, including parking garages, have COVID protocols in place to ensure your safety; please check and follow up-to-date guidelines for a hassle-free time exploring downtown San Diego. 


Looking for more parking options in the cityWay has you covered – get online or book your parking space through our iOS or Android apps now!

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