Want to get away without spending an arm and leg on a flight, rental car, and hotel? Here are the top day trips from San Diego that can have you back in your own bed at night. These are perfect for when you have the urge to travel or see something new but don’t have the time or budget for a full-fledged vacation.
Julian – 1 Hour
via Chris Jepsen
Julian is a hotspot tourist destination for San Diegans but it’s completely worth it for all of the delicious pie, apple orchards, apple cider and cute smalltown vibe. Julian is the perfect destination to visit when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego life and enjoy your time eating lots of apple pie, shopping and picking apples during apple season. You can also find things to do such as visiting the old Eagle and High Peak Mine, go hiking, horseback riding, visit a winery, or the California Wolf Center. During wintertime, there is occasionally snow! To avoid touristy crowds, go early or late in the day.
Borrego Springs – 2 Hours
A short two-hour drive will place you in a completely different world. Borrego Springs is a beautiful place to visit (best during cooler months) that will give you the fresh air you need. You can visit the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where you will be exposed beautiful desert landscapes during the day and a breathtaking star-filled sky at night. This is a nature lover’s or photographer’s retreat. Whether you want to practice photography, go on a hike, or ride ATVs or dirt bikes, Borrego Springs has lots to do. If the outdoors aren’t your thing, you can also visit the various shopping areas, art gallery, play golf, or eat at restaurants. The best time to visit is in the springtime to see the beautiful blooming desert flowers!
Mount Laguna – 1 Hour
via Larry Hogue
Just South of Julian is Mount Laguna where you can enjoy various winter activities when it’s lucky enough to snow like sledding or cross-country skiing. You can also visit Mount Laguna to cast your eyes on the beautiful woodsy scenery, go hiking, mountain biking or simply just have a picnic. Mount Laguna is perfect for stargazing with your natural eye or by visiting the Mount Laguna Observatory for a closer look. This is a beautiful place to visit year-round.
Tijuana – 30 Minutes
via Xlquinho Silva
Some may be skeptical about visiting Tijuana, but it’s the largest city in Baja California and well worth wandering into at some point in your life. Cross over the border to enjoy delicious Mexican food, enjoy discounted luxury movies at Cinépolis, visit local bars, museums, the beach, shops, and casino. There are endless things to do during a day trip to Mexico. If you’re feeling really adventurous, travel even further south to Ensenada or Rosarito for beautiful beaches and fish tacos.
Joshua Tree National Park – 2. 5 Hours
via Christopher Michel
If you feel like driving a little bit further, this destination is well worth the drive if you love nature and desert scenery. This is an ideal spot to spend the day hiking, exploring desert plants and wildlife, practicing photography, having a picnic and enjoying your quiet surroundings. You can also enjoy rock climbing, star gazing, wildflower viewing, mountain biking, bird watching, the Keys Ranch Tour and the Geology Motor Tour, or camping.
Temecula – 1 Hour
Temecula is just far enough from San Diego to make it feel like a brand new adventure. If you have never been to Temecula or know nothing about it, you should know it’s a hotspot for vineyards and wine tastings! During your visit to Temecula, you can tour vineyards, enjoy wine tastings, go on a hot air balloon ride, visit Pechanga Casino or just walk around Old Town Temecula and eat at the restaurants and do a bit of shopping.
Idyllwild – 2 Hours
via John Verive
Just two hours from San Diego, Idyllwild is a beautiful quaint town in the San Jacinto Mountains where you will find over 50 trails to explore in tall trees. If you want to go away to a woodsy destination that isn’t overcrowded and far like Big Bear, Idyllwild is for you! Things to do in Idyllwild include hiking, mountain biking, visiting Lake Fulmor, wineries and more.
The Salton Sea 2.5 – 3 Hours
via Matthew Dillon
Visit the Salton Sea which lies 234 feet below sea level, is the largest lake in California and has a high level of salinity which is higher than the ocean. This lake is quite the beautiful sight although the high salinity content has killed off most the fish, giving the town a stink which has turned the area into a ghost town. Fortunately, it’s still empty and you can watch the most beautiful sunsets just over the lake without seeing hoards of visitors. Just outside the Salton Sea is Salvation Mountain which is a man-made adobe work of art that looks inspired by Dr. Seuss, the Wizard of Oz, and devotion to God. The creator took 30 years of his life to make it. You can expect to witness some gorgeous sunsets in the area.
Need More Weekend Activities?
San Diego has a lot to offer residents as far as weekend activities go! Take a look at these other posts on my Blog, "Hidden Gems of San Diego" or "Historical and Abandoned Spots in San Diego" to find your next weekend adventure.
Have a GREAT day!