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10 Things to do in San Diego in Winter

Photo credit: TallGuyInc

10 Fun Things to do in San Diego (in the Winter)

November 27, 2018

Self-proclaimed as America’s Finest City, San Diego offers a wealth of activities, sights, and stunning scenery. And then there’s the weather. The constantly luring, year-round beautiful San Diego weather, boasts an average winter temperature of around 66 degrees. This balmy climate means that even though the winter days are shorter, there are still plenty of things to do—including outdoors.

While some San Diego activities are great year-round—visiting Sunset Cliffs, enjoying Mexican food and margaritas—there are some that you can only do in winter, such as going to December Nights at Balboa Park or spotting gray whales off San Diego’s coast as they migrate north.

Here are 10 of the best things to do in San Diego in the winter. 


1. Go ice skating at the Hotel Del Coronado

Ice skate—San Diego style. Every year, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado offers Skating by the Sea®, an outdoor skating rink with views of the Pacific Ocean. The rink is open from the end of November until early January; tickets are $30 per person in advance (available online) and $35 when purchased on the same day at the rink.

Ice skating at the Hotel Del Coronado
Photo Credit: Hotel Del Coronado

2. Catch a sunset at Sunset Cliffs

Named for its steep cliffs that border the ocean, Sunset Cliffs is a neighborhood in the community of Point Loma. It’s also, as its name suggests, a fantastic place to watch the sunset. Take a walk along the top of the cliffs or scurry down the cliffs a bit (but be careful!) and find a little nook to watch the waves and surfers below. Note that the sun sets between 4:50 and 6:00 in the winter.

Catch a sunset at Sunset Cliffs
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


3. Kick back a Mai Tai at Bali Hai

The Bali Hai, an iconic San Diego restaurant located on Shelter Island, has sold over two million of its famous Bali Hai Mai Tais since it opened in 1954. Don’t make many plans after enjoying a Mai Tai or two—they’re renowned for their potency. In fact, the menu even includes a warning that the drink includes no fruit juice. 

Kick back a Mai Tai at Bali Hai
Photo Credit: Bali Hai


4. Check out Balboa Park December Nights

December Nights is one of San Diego’s longest running and most popular events. Taking place on one of the first weekends in December, the event features colorful light displays; dozens of bands, choirs, and dancers; an array of food; free admission to Balboa Park’s museums; and other fun attractions.

Check out Balboa Park December Nights
Photo Credit:


5. Grab a meal at Liberty Public Market

Hungry but can’t decide what to eat? Head to Liberty Public Market in Point Loma, a public market featuring dozens of fantastic, locally-based food and beverage options. Vendors include Venissimo Cheese, Frat Boy Donuts, Mastiff Sausage Company, Rakiraki Ramen, and many more. Many of the vendors, including a couple bars, have a happy hour and there is live music on Sundays. The market is indoors, which makes it a good spot for cooler San Diego days.

Grab a meal at Liberty Public Market
Photo Credit: Liberty Public Market


6. Go whale watching

Whale fun fact: Mature gray whales are the width of a basketball court and travel about five knots (or six miles) an hour. You can catch a glimpse of these gentle beasts during San Diego’s (gray) whale watching season, which runs from mid-December to April. Each year, over 20,000 gray whales make their way from Alaska to Baja California, and then head back north again in the spring, and the waters off San Diego are a perfect place to spot them.

There are several companies that offer whale watching tours, many departing from the waterfront downtown. For those who’d prefer to catch a glimpse of whales from solid ground, good spots include Scripps Park, located above La Jolla Cove; the Birch Aquarium; and Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Go whale watching in San Diego
Photo Credit: Ryan Harvey via Flickr


7. Sip on some tequila or mezcal at Cantina Mayahuel

Cantina Mayahuel is a Normal Heights eatery serving authentic Mexican fare, including awesome mole. The restaurant is also known for their huge selection of tequila and mezcal—over 200 tequilas and 100 mezcals. Their happy hour, which is offered between Tuesday and Friday from 12 to 6pm, includes $5 tequila or mezcal margaritas, palomas, and shots—a cheap way to warm up!

Sip on some tequila or mezcal at Cantina Mayahuel
Photo Credit: Gustavo Andrade via Flickr


8. Take a day trip to Julian

For those who are seeking colder weather (otherwise known as “seasons”), the mountain town of Julian, located an hour east of San Diego, is an excellent option. Originally a gold mining town, Julian has since become famous for its apples and especially its apple pies. Julian is also one of the rare places in the county that gets snow, averaging about 22 inches a year. Apple pies + (a little) snow = many happy San Diegans.

Take a day trip to Julian
Photo Credit: Moms Pies


9. Be dazzled by the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

For over 40 years, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has awed and entertained crowds. Every year, the San Diego boating community organizes a procession of around 80 extravagantly decorated boats, centering around a different theme each year. And one of the best parts of the event? It’s free!

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
Photo Credit: Port of San Diego via Flickr


10. Gorge on delicious food in the Convoy District

Craving ramen, phở, or Korean barbecue? You’ll find many authentic (or close to authentic) options in San Diego’s Convoy district, which is known for its concentration of Asian restaurants and markets. Popular spots include Manna Korean BBQRakiraki Ramen and TsukemenDumpling InnKung Fu Tea, and Phuong Trang.

Gorge on delicious food in the Convoy District
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, we hope these San Diego activities keep you warm this winter…which, admittedly, won’t be too hard. Have fun!

Written by Whitney Currier for Knockaround

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