30 Actually Cool Things to Do in San Diego This Summer

Celebrate summer with balmy movie nights, beer, wine, music, and art fests, and more.

Summer’s finally come to San Diego, bringing picture-perfect weather for long, leisurely days at beautiful beaches and balmy nights that are ideal for scenic sips at a craft brewery or vibey rooftop bar. It’s also time for county fairs, Pride Week, and the craziness that is Comic-Con. Don’t miss out on a single minute of the fun—just consult our handy guide to all the best San Diego has to offer, and get out there!

Fiesta del Sol
Fiesta del Sol

Saturday, May 21–Sunday, May 22
Free
Solana Beach
Join several thousand of your new best friends at Fiesta del Sol, a free, family-friendly two-day music festival. The Belly Up provides a diverse showcase of continuous live music spanning rock, reggae, soul, funk, jazz, blues, Latin, and worldbeat. A kid’s zone features rides, games, bounce houses, arts and crafts, and other fun activities. Gourmet food trucks and other great specialty food vendors, plus beer and wine gardens, will be available, and don’t miss the Solana Beach Fireman’s Pancake Breakfast on Sunday morning! Parking and shuttle buses to the festival are free (follow the signs), as well as a designated bicycle parking area conveniently located at SD Electric Bike.

Saturday, May 21
$-$$
Broadway Pier
Beer and wings go hand in hand, and what better way to enjoy them than an afternoon on the San Diego Bay? The 5th Annual San Diego Wing Fest has the best of both: wing masters from San Diego’s best wing joints, plus DJ's, live entertainment, Beer and Spirit sampling for VIP'S, giveaways, sauces and rubs sampling, games, vendors and a Festival of Cars showcase. VIP tickets get you in an hour before the crowds, along with a two-hour beer and spirits sampling.

San Diego County Fair
San Diego County Fair

Wednesday, June 8–Monday, July 4
$-$$
Del Mar Fairgrounds
Be a superhero, or at least eat like one at the 2022 San Diego County Fair. Besides the best in stomach-churning rides, the most over-the-top deep-fried food on a stick, stack, or bun and nightly, nationally recognized entertainment, you can peruse world-class exhibits in fine art, photography, woodworking, jewelry/gems and minerals, home and hobby, and the Paul Ecke Jr. Flower & Garden Show. Check the website for discounted tickets, special events, season passes, coupon books, and other ways to save.

San Diego Brew Fest
San Diego Brew Fest

Friday, June 10–Sunday, June 12
Various locations
San Diego Brewers Guild, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting local entrepreneurs of craft beer and small businesses, is throwing a huge 25th anniversary party with the inaugural San Diego Beer Weekend (not to be confused with SD Beer Week, which is still happening November 4-13). The Guild’s Board of Directors partnered with Brewers Supply Group to create a proprietary hop blend especially for the weekend they’ve named ZAMBA, with aromatic tropical, tangerine, and stone fruit notes, which collaborating breweries will use in a specialty beer of their choice for the weekend celebration. Stop by any participating brewery all weekend to grab a pint, as well as a commemorative anniversary glass, while supplies last. Check out which of your favorite breweries are participating here.

Saturday, June 11
$$
NTC Park, Liberty Station
Enjoy a fun-and-beer-filled day at the 11th annual San Diego Brew Festival, featuring more than sixty excellent breweries, cideries, ginger beers, and kombuchas including Societe Brewing Company, Novo Brazil Brewing Co., and Juneshine Hard Kombucha. There will also be live music and an array of local food trucks (not included with admission). Your ticket gets you unlimited tastings, with one-hour early admission for the VIP option.

Thursday, June 16–Thursday, September 15
Free
Encinitas
The beloved Encinitas Classic Car Nights rolls into town on the third Thursday of the month through September. Check out the finest hot rods, foreign automobiles, classic cars, woodies and July’s theme auto, classic VW Buses, lining the South Coast Highway 101 from D Street to K Street in downtown Encinitas as well as side streets, adjacent parking lots, or simply cruising up and down the main drag. Enjoy the family friendly atmosphere with live music at several venues.

Tuesday, June 21–Thursday, August 25
Free
Balboa Park
For 39 years, San Diegans have enjoyed a kaleidoscope of musical genres, from disco to Dixieland and big band to bluegrass, every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6:30-7:30 pm at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Pack a picnic for a romantic date night, or just sit back and listen to some great music in fabulous surroundings.

Saturday, June 26
$$
North Park
San Diego resident Daniel Szpak, co-founder of Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream in North Park, wanted to celebrate everyone’s favorite frozen treat and support social change, so he founded Scoop San Diego, a non-profit that supports San Diego’s underserved communities. Your general admission ticket gets you ten tastings, or choose the VIP option to meet local ice cream and gelato chefs, taste exclusive flavors only available in the shady VIP Lounge, and enjoy an hour of early entry. Vendors include Gelati & Peccati, Mr. Trustee Creamery, Neiderfrank’s Ice Creams, Stella Jean’s Ice Cream, Holy Paleta, Dixie Pops, and many more. This year, proceeds go to Alpha Project, whose mission is “to empower individuals, families, and communities by providing work, recovery and support services to people who are motivated to change their lives and achieve self-sufficiency.”

Saturday, July 2–Saturday, September 3
$
Little Italy
The Amici Park Amphitheater at West Date & State Streets hosts Little Italy’s Italian Film Festival, featuring outstanding Italian movies (with English subtitles). Bring your own picnic or hit the Little Italy Food Court located at the Piazza della Famiglia, grab a blanket, and enjoy movies under the stars with friends and family. Sorry, no outside alcoholic beverages or animals (other than licensed service animals) are permitted.

The Big Bay Boom fireworks show
Port of San Diego

Monday, July 4
Free
Various locations
Billed as the largest display on the West Coast, the Big Bay Boom’s pyrotechnic artists put on a dazzling show from four barges strategically located around the North San Diego Bay, choreographed with music broadcast “live” on two local radio stations. Taking advantage of the natural amphitheater formed by the bay, there are plenty of free, prime viewpoints from Point Loma, Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Liberty Station, Little Italy, the North Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and the South Embarcadero to the Coronado Ferry Landing.

San Diego Pride
San Diego Pride

Saturday, July 9–Sunday, July 17
Free-$$$$
Hillcrest, Balboa Park
The annual Pride celebration is one of the best parties in San Diego! Kick the weekend off at the Spirit of Stonewall Rally on Friday at 6 pm, under the Hillcrest Pride Flag. Saturday’s events include the San Diego Pride Parade, one of the largest in the United States, attracting over 300,000 attendees. Head down to Marston Point in Balboa Park both Saturday and Sunday for the Pride Festival, summer’s biggest dance party with multiple stages of entertainment, dozens of vendor booths, exhibits, cultural presentations, delicious food, and more than 40,000 of your closest friends!

Wednesday, July 20–Sunday, July 24
$-$$$
Various locations
This is the weekend where San Diego becomes the center of the nerd universe, with the annual insanity known as Comic-Con International. Of course, tickets are technically sold out due to ticket holders from the canceled 2020 event rolling over their badges, but you can still take advantage of CCI inspired food and drink specials at dozens of clubs, restaurants, and bars across San Diego County.

Marine Band San Diego
Marine Band San Diego

Saturday, July 30
Free
Little Italy
The popular Marine Band San Diego Summer Concert returns to the Piazza della Famiglia at West Date Street between India and Columbia Streets in Little Italy to get you grooving to tunes from the 45-piece Marine Band, along with their party band music group, Sound Strike, and New Orleans-style band, Double Time Brass Band, starting at 6 pm. Oorah!

Saturday, August 13
Free
Chula Vista
Celebrating 25 years in Chula Vista’s original neighborhood, the Chula Vista Lemon Festival attracts over 45,000 attendees. Hundreds of vendor booths provide interactive features and giveaways, along with all things lemon-flavored and infused, live bands, sour contests, a kids' fun zone, and a craft beer garden.

Saturday, August 6–Sunday, August 7
Free
Liberty Station
Feast your eyes on creations from over 150 fine artists in painting, photography, sculpture, woodworking, and more. The San Diego at ArtWalk@Liberty Station aims to show the variety of artistic expression while promoting the experience of owning original art, which can be very affordable while giving you a unique, one-of-a-kind piece to display at home. Stroll the charming rose gardens while enjoying the wares, music, and interactive art-making, then head over to the shaded pavilions for wine, beer, and food trucks, and vendor booths.

Sunday, August 14
Free
Encinitas Community Park
Four-legged friends of all kinds are welcome at the Pupologie Cardiff Dog Days of Summer featuring dog-related vendors, rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies. Spoil your pooch with new toys at “Maker’s Market Row,” where you can purchase high-quality handmade goods. There’s a full lineup of dog contests, live music, kids activities, The Lost Abbey Beer & Wine Oasis, food trucks, and more. Contests cover categories like cutest pup, best looking, best trick, best dressed, and dog/owner look-alike, with winners receiving a ribbon and a cool goodie bag. Dogs will be available for adoption, as well as on-site pet services including microchipping, licensing opportunities, rabies vaccination, and pet care information provided by San Diego Humane Society.

Sunday, August 21–Monday, August 22
Free
Oceanside Pier
Head to the Oceanside Pier to cheer on 350-400 world class bodysurfers from all over the globe competing in their age groups for trophies and prizes at the Annual World Bodysurfing Championships. The contest starts at 6:30 am each morning, and will feature the quarter, semi, and finals for all age brackets. The Men and Women's Grand Championship Final will follow the last age group final.

$$
North Park, Oceanside
If your work week has you ready to throw an axe at the wall, we’ve got the place for you. Let go of your frustrations at AxeVentures in North Park and Oceanside—just book a spot online or walk in, learn the ropes from one of the coaches, and spend the next hour or so perfecting your technique. Prefer to smash your stress away? Book the North Park Rage Room and use a crowbar or baseball bat to beat, crush, and demolish a bunch of stuff (provided, but you can bring your own objects to trash, subject to approval.) Get your glow on at Dark Light Nights after 6 pm on Mondays in Oceanside and Thursdays at both locations. Safety note: Closed toe shoes are required.

Farmer's Table
Farmer's Table

$-$$
La Mesa, Little Italy, Bay Park, Chula Vista
In the ever-escalating competition to stuff as many embellishments into your glass as humanly possible, The Farmers Table reigns supreme with their outrageous Barn Yard Bloody Mary. It’s made for four or more and contains a full pitcher of spicy, boozy goodness, plus skewers of bacon-wrapped shrimp, Mexican-style street corn, mozzarella-stuffed mushroom, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, short rib, andouille sausage, various grilled and pickled vegetables, blue cheese-stuffed olives, bbq-sauced bacon and, just for good measure, a whole-roasted chicken. For the less ravenous, there are normal-ish bloodies too, including the popular Tijuana Maria with a bacon-wrapped hot dog, Mexican-style street corn, and pickled veggies.

Rooftop Cinema Club
Photo courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club

$$
Downtown
For the ultimate outdoor film experience, head to the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego’s fourth floor rooftop theater, where the Rooftop Cinema Club gives you a luxe movie experience with panoramic views of downtown San Diego, state-of-the-art wireless headphones, and comfy deck chairs. Craft brews, movie-themed cocktails, and upscale noshes are available with contactless order and pick-up. Cult favorites, singalongs, themed nights, and family-friendly screenings are shown Wednesday through Sunday.

Swim with sharks

Free-$
La Jolla
Scores of leopard sharks swarm the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores Beach throughout the year, but especially during the summer, when the water is warmer, drawing snorkelers from all over the world to swim with them. Typically hanging out in under ten feet of water near The Marine Room Restaurant and off the La Jolla Tennis Club, groups of sharks can range in number from a few to hundreds. Although leopard sharks can reach five feet in length, there’s no need to be intimidated—they have tiny mouths and don’t attack humans. If you don’t have snorkeling equipment of your own, there are several shops within easy walking distance where you can rent them.

$-$$$
Marina
Tuna Harbor Dockside Market has added an online store to their website, which allows you to pre-order fresh-spot prawn, ahi tuna, sea urchin, rock crab, and more every week from 5 pm Thursday until 7 pm Friday, ready for curbside pickup on Saturday from 10 am to noon at the end of the Tuna Harbor parking lot. The open-air dockside market is still open from 8am–2pm Saturdays as well, with additional seafood not necessarily available in the online store.

Coronado Island ferry landing
Lowe Llaguno/Shutterstock

Take the ferry to Coronado...

$
Board the Coronado Ferry at either the Broadway Pier or the Convention Center for a quick, 15-minute ride across San Diego Bay to Coronado Ferry Landing, where shopping, dining, and activities ranging from biking to stand-up paddleboarding can be found within walking distance. Fares are a mere $7 one-way, and you can bring your bicycle for free. Masks are required to board the ferry, and tickets can be bought at the ticket booth or online for a contact-free purchase.

Silver Strand Bikeway
Dancestrokes/Shutterstock

Bike the Silver Strand

Free-$$
Coronado
Beginning at Coronado Ferry Landing, the Silver Strand Bikeway is an 18-mile flat, paved loop that takes you along the sandy tombolo all the way to Imperial Beach. Perfect for riders of all levels, you’ll be treated to views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the other. Don’t miss a stop at Silver Strand Beach for a quick swim or a walk along the sand. Bike rentals are available at the ferry landing if you haven’t brought your own.

La Jolla beach
frank mckenna/Unsplash

Surf at Black’s Beach

La Jolla
Free
San Diego beaches are open, and if you live near La Jolla Shores, you have access to one of the best surf breaks in the city, beginning with its thrilling hike from the gliderport down to the beach. Of course, the other thing Black’s Beach is famous for is being a nude beach, and if you’re so inclined, feel free to bare it all.

...or hit up one of San Diego’s other great beaches

Free
Various locations
Whether you’re surfing, swimming, or simply enjoying the view, San Diego has plenty of waterfront stretches to satisfy your inner sun worshipper. Windansea Beach’s rocks and cliffs, Coronado Beach and the historic hotel that dominates its landscape for miles and miles, or other oceanside escapes are there to entice you for a walk or a paddleboard out into the waves. We’ve got the best of them right here for you, just don’t forget to check their specific regulations. Did we mention they can differ from beach to beach?

$
Nestor
Fully digital and presenting the brightest picture quality available on three 100-foot screens, you can see a current double-feature every day, year round at South Bay Drive-in Theatre. A bargain at $10 for adults and just $1 for kids five to nine years of age—they even have email coupons for food discounts at the snack bar (just be sure to have masks on and socially distance when you aren’t inside your car). Credit and debit cards are accepted for tickets, but the snack bar is cash only.

Free-$$
Various locations
Most of San Diego’s farmers markets have fully reopened, selling flowers and produce picked just hours before, the freshest eggs, honey, seafood and baked goods, or any number of prepared and packaged dishes. A number of local farmers are selling direct-to-consumer from their farms as well—pick up meat, poultry, produce, eggs, honey, CSA boxes, and more. The how-tos vary from market to market, so check with your local market manager for details, such as pre-ordering and cashless options.

Mitch's Seafood
Mitch's Seafood

$$
Fleetridge
Fish tacos are a rite of passage in San Diego, and Mitch’s Seafood is the place to have two or six, what with its extensive menu and water’s edge location. Call ahead to order for takeout or walk in—you can sit inside, at the outdoor dining area on the dock, or walk along the harbor and enjoy the view while you savor your meal.

Gelati & Pecati
Photo courtesy of Gelati & Pecati

$-$$$
Various locations
If you’re stuck in a takeout rut, now’s the time to hit up some of the best eateries in town. Wormwood celebrates updated French fare and the green fairy, absinthe; Valle fuses the best of Baja California cuisine with modern SoCal execution; and Market on 8th in National City showcases cuisines as diverse as the neighborhood itself. Check out other dine-in, takeout, and delivery choices ranging from brunch to sushi to the best seafood restaurants with ocean views.

dirty flat top burger
The Friendly

$
University Heights, North Park
It may not be pretty, but it’s damn near the best burger you’ll ever have. The Friendly’s Dirty Flat Top burger starts with a plain, prefab white bun, buttered and toasted golden brown, adds two thin patties, smashed and caramelized on the grill, and is topped with a melted slice of American cheese, garlic aioli, and softly sauteed onions. You can get gussied up versions at the North Park location or a side slice of pizza at University Heights, but whatever you do, don’t ask for ketchup. Check Instagram for popular and random specials.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.