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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

Like every college student, after a week of rigorous finals, I come home ready to unwind and enjoy my summer vacation. I’m so lucky to call sunny San Diego my home, but after seeing everyone posting about their luxurious vacations, I can’t help but get a little jealous. That’s when I realized I could experience a real vacation in my own home town—there’s so much to see in San Diego! So, whether you’re a long-time local, like me, or planning to visit Southern California this summer, here’s my SoCal Summer Bucket List.

Here are some of the more well-known events to experience this summer:

Attend A Padres Game

There’s no better way to get a sense of the SoCal community than watching a baseball game at Petco Park. San Diego Padres fans show up decked out in merch and full of rah-rah spirit. Although the stadium food is pricey, the warm sun paired with a cool breeze from the San Diego Bay makes for a great experience. With tickets starting as low as $4, this summer is the perfect time to go see a ball game.

*Pro-tip: If you’re located near the Coaster line, take the train and trolley to Downtown San Diego for a cheap and convenient ride. The train cars are always full of Padres fans!

Check Out The San Diego County Fair

Located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the San Diego County Fair is a great destination for families and people of all ages. Filled with the typical fried food, rides and prizes, this fair also has live music, livestock shows, and a range of contests and award ceremonies. Make sure you buy your tickets and plan for parking ahead of time, as traffic on the I-5 around the “Via De Le Valle” exit gets bad fast!

Visit The San Diego Zoo

Great for any wildlife connoisseur, or animal lover, the zoo hosts special tours, youth programs, and VIP experiences, making for the perfect “safari getaway!” Walk the park or take a ride on the Aerial Tram to see a beautiful view of the animals, exhibits, and the San Diego skyline. Click here to buy tickets.

Build Memories At Legoland California

With Legoland just around the corner from my house, I spent so much time there growing up. Although this amusement park is more catered to kids, I’m positive that your inner child will have a great time. The roller coasters—although small—are super fun and fit within the theme of each “land” within the park. My favorite area to visit is “Castle Hill.” In my opinion, this medieval area has the fastest coaster of the park, the coolest vibes, and best food; make sure to try some Granny Apple Fries! Legoland also has 2 water parks, an aquarium, and the well-known “Miniland USA” (Lego replicas of historical landmarks) which are sure to strike your interest. 

*Pro-tip: Lots of attractions in Legoland California are included in merged packages like this. Check ’em out!

Visit A Museum At Balboa Park

Home to various art and science museums, gardens, parks, and historical buildings, you could easily spend a whole day at Balboa Park. This is the go-to for art-fanatics and history-buffs as you can view several exhibits and museums like the San Diego Museum of Natural History, The San Diego Museum of Art, or the Fleet Science Center, as well as handmade art in the Spanish Village Art Center in one visit. Afterwards, visitors can have a picnic on one of the many grassy fields of the park, or drive over to Downtown San Diego for dinner.

Take a gander at the whole park’s offerings here.

After going to a few of the “must-see” sights in San Diego, I recommend visiting a few of my favorite smaller eats, views, and experiences.

My Favorite Food:

  • Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in Little Italy: Great Italian dinner experience in downtown San Diego
  • Din Tai Fung in Westfield UTC: My favorite restaurant EVER! Enough said…
  • Gianni’s Pizza in Oceanside: Vegan and Gluten-Free options; great for casual take-out and a sunset picnic!
  • Lola’s 7Up Market & Deli in downtown Carlsbad: A local treasure, Lola’s serves up the best burritos in town!

My Favorite Sights & Experiences:

  • La Jolla Cliffs: Watch the seals, hang-gliders, and waves down the coast.
  • Torrey Pines Hiking Trails: If you’re looking for a hike with stellar views and a coastal breeze, this is the one for you!
  • Sunset On The Beach: There are so many beaches—and even more beach access points—up and down the coast of SoCal, so you’re guaranteed to catch a beautiful sunset this summer.
  • Dine At The Hotel del Coronado: Take the famous Coronado Bridge over to the island of Coronado to enjoy the beautiful views and chews at the hotel restaurant. 
  • Pick Strawberries At The Carlsbad Strawberry Company: Fun for everyone, you can pick fresh strawberries, wander through the sunflower fields, grab some food, and even pet some animals. 
  • Catch A Wave: Learning to surf will complete your SoCal experience, and if you book with an experienced company like Surf Ride, Surfin Fire, or SoCal Surf Lessons I bet you’ll be surfing in no time!

Although this in no way encapsulates absolutely everything that you can experience in Southern California, I hope my Summer Bucket List can act as your own personal guide to enjoying this summer in the San Diego area.

Zoe Goldstein

Cal Poly '26

Zoe is a third year English major at California Polytechnic University- San Luis Obispo. Zoe is so excited to continue her role in her chapter of Her Campus, this year, as a writer and as an editor. She enjoys reading, writing, and listening to music on the daily, and likes to surf and go thrifting in her free time. Her interests and passions include environmentalism, literature, and social equality.