August 30, 2021

San Diego's Best Parks

In San Diego, good weather equals plenty of park time. Views, pathways, playgrounds, and plenty of grass are all features of our best parks, which are open all year. Which you choose depends on where you are in town and what you want to do there.

The new Waterfront Park is ideal for downtown kids who enjoy splash pads and cutting-edge play areas. Its accessible location across the street from the Embarcadero makes it a pleasant stop in between a stroll through Little Italy or a visit to the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States. Whether you have several days or only a half-day, it is a must-see on every San Diego tourism itinerary. There are numerous gardens, hiking trails, walking routes, playgrounds, and pet-friendly attractions located between the 16 museums.

Finally, Cabrillo National Monument is located on Point Loma. It's San Diego's lone National Park Service park, and it boasts a few noteworthy features. Of course, it honors Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who was the first to set foot in California. There are, however, historic structures, WWII bunkers, walkways, tide pools, and breathtaking ocean vistas.

There are also a plethora of additional San Diego parks worth visiting.


Queen Calafia's Magic Circle is located in Kit Carson Park in Escondido. It's the only American sculpture garden by Niki de Saint Phalle, and it's especially special since you can actually play in it. The mosaic-tiled sculptures in this collection are meant to be touched and experienced. A large circular wall, playful serpents, and a five-legged eagle are among the highlights. The garden is located within the 12-acre Iris Sankey Arboretum. You don't have to be a child to enjoy it; art aficionados should take a detour here. This is one of San Diego's hidden jewels, and admission is free.


This park, located immediately above La Jolla Cove, is a good place to stop and unwind after a walk down the boardwalk or a visit to the area's famous seals and sea lions. The wind-blown trees here are supposed to have inspired Dr. Seuss's truffula trees in "The Lorax" (who was a La Jolla resident). The big grassy space is ideal for picnics, games, and fitness. The park is lined with small green huts that provide good shade and views of the sunset. Year-round, a lifeguard station is staffed, and while on-street parking can be difficult, a number of public garages are within walking distance.


There are two sections worth seeing here. The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has bluffs that overlook the sea and eight miles of paths that go across a diverse terrain. The twisted Torrey pine tree can only be found in two places on the planet: this park and the Channel Islands, some 200 miles to the north. Because to conservation efforts, the park is one of the state's wildest and least developed areas. A beautiful sandy beach may be found 300 feet below the bluffs. The northern section, which is popular with families, features lifeguards, restrooms, and limited parking.


Kate Sessions Park has one of the best vistas in San Diego, with views of downtown, Mission Bay, the ocean, and beyond. The parking lot faces the view, so you'll often see individuals working or relaxing in their cars while taking in the scenery. It's a popular on-leash dog park, but you'll also see plenty of off-leash dogs. At Kate Sessions Park, you may relax on the grass and read a book, get some exercise, throw a frisbee, and enjoy San Diego. Off to the side, there is also a children's play area with swings, slides, and climbing. There are restrooms available.


Mission Trails is one of San Diego's largest and wildest parks, covering 7200 acres. It has almost 40 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers of all abilities, a lake, campgrounds, and a wonderful Visitor and Interpretive Center where you can learn about the area's natural and cultural history. Hikes with a guide are available many times per week. The area is rich in wildlife, so keep a watch out for snakes, lizards, roadrunners, hummingbirds, ground squirrels, deer, and quail. On weekends, the Kumeyaay Lake Campground is also open for camping by reservation only.


Discover what life was like in 1800s Mexico and early America. This is the birthplace of San Diego, and it houses historical riches found by archeologists over the years. The historic park features numerous original adobes, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a carriage collection, and an artifact-filled museum. Some of San Diego's top Mexican eateries surround the park, noted for handcrafted tortillas and fish bowl-sized margaritas. A nice family day here would begin with a visit to the park and its museums, followed by a lunch. Then, to digest, go shopping in the adjacent stores.


This park covers 4600 acres and has 27 miles of beachfront, 19 of which are sandy beaches. Marinas, a horseshoe court, beach volleyball courts, fire rings, picnic spots, children's play areas, and trails for biking, rollerskating, and jogging are among the amenities. The park contains various animal preserves, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. Fiesta Island welcomes dogs. Water sports are extremely popular here, and you can hire stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, aqua cycles, and other watercraft from some of the bay's hotels, as well as the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (which also offers lessons and camps for tourists and residents).

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