Quirky Things to do in San Diego

America’s Finest City didn’t earn its nickname for nothing. San Diego has beautiful beaches and great cultural attractions, and there’s tons of fun places to eat, drink, and play in the sun. With a mild climate year-round, there’s never a bad time to visit.


Many visitors flock to the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo. But there’s lots of quirkier things to do in San Diego that are enjoyed by the locals and aren’t so tourist-oriented. Here are a few of the quirky things to do in San Diego that’ll make for a much more memorable (and in some cases, bizarre) visit.

Take a Pleasure Cruise on a Steam Ferry

Thought steam ferries were exclusive to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers? Not at all! In fact, San Diego has its own steam ferry courtesy of Bahia Resort Hotel. Bahia Resort is located in Mission Bay, and they operate a seasonal steam ferry that takes passengers for a pleasure cruise on the bay. The Bahia Belle offers family-friendly cruises in the daylight hours, and then it turns into a bumping cocktail cruise after hours. Brunch and dinner cruises are also available. There are plenty of pleasure cruises available in San Diego, but this one is no doubt the quirkiest.

Smoke Marijuana

Did you know that only 10 states in America have legalized recreational Marijuana? If you’re unfortunate and live in one of the other 40, a trip to San Diego is your chance to do some shameless smoking (here’s looking at you Midwesterners and Southerners). Find a dispensary in San Diego and light up! Be sure to bring your friends and munchies.

Know that in San Diego, it’s illegal to smoke in public places or within 1,000 feet of a school. But there are various bars and cannabis joints (no pun intended) that allow-and even encourage-smoking. See this list of 420-friendly places.

Go to a Speakeasy

Like in other big cities, speakeasies are popular and abundant in San Diego. For the uninitiated, “speakeasy” is the term for the secret bars or liquor stores that operated illegally during the Prohibition era, named such because patrons were encouraged to “speak easy” about the real goods sold there.

Obviously, it’s perfectly legal to drink booze nowadays. Modern speakeasies are liquor lounges that feature 1920’s decor and pay tribute to the hush-hush nature of the classic establishments. In San Diego, you’ll find Prohibition Lounge in Downtown, which doesn’t advertise itself on the street and which is situated in a jazzy basement of one of the historic buildings. Noble Experiment and False Idol are also really popular.

If you’re a fan of jazz music and high-class cocktails, be sure to visit one of these retro bars.

Go to Mexico

Why not? The Mexican city of Tijuana sits just south of Downtown San Diego. You’ll find great beer (Mexican lagers, to be exact) down in TJ, and they’ll cost a fraction of what they do in the Gaslamp Quarter. There’s also delicious street tacos, and you’ll get to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Mexico along the streets of Revolution Avenue. Crossing the border might take some time, so consider making Tijuana a day trip.

If you don’t feel very safe heading cross the border, know that there are guided tours that will take you across safely.

Go to the Beach in December

If you’re visiting San Diego in the middle of winter, you’ve got to hit the beach at some point during your stay. This is for no other reason than to have bragging rights over your friends, who are probably stuck somewhere else in the United States with less desirable weather. Instead of making a snowman, you can make a sandman. You can even get your tan on! We’re not making this up. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Get Naked on San Diego Beach

Did you know that San Diego has one of the most famous nude beaches in the United States? Enter Black’s Beach. Black’s Beach is a relatively difficult beach to get to; you’ll either have to stroll along a long stretch of beach north of La Jolla during low tide, or you can hike down to it from Torrey Pines, which is considered a relatively difficult hike. But once you reach the beach, feel free to kick off your shoes, and your shirt, and your pants, and your underwear, and go swimming in your bathing suit. Truly the most efficient way to tan.

From nude beaches, to steam ferries, to legal pot joints, San Diego offers numerous opportunities to go above and beyond the average vacation and make some memories you’ll never forget.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.