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9 of the Most Fun Things to Do Around UC San Diego
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9 of the Most Fun Things to Do Around UC San Diego

Whether you’re enrolled or just visiting, there are plenty of fun things to do around UC San Diego.

Natasha Kouyoumjian

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6 min read

October 17, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Dreaming of a better life? Waking up with the sun and to an ocean view is a world-shared dream. But that’s not all UC San Diego offers. Graduating astronauts, lectures from field professionals, and modern education are just the tip of the iceberg at UCSD. If you’re searching for a place where the beach, social life, and a better education meet, you’ve found it. Every futuristic hope and dream of a freshman lies in this place. And to top that, it's not limited to students. Whether you’re enrolled or not, there are plenty of fun things to do on campus. By the way, if you’re considering visiting the city, be sure to keep in mind those weird San Diego laws.

What to Do at UC San Diego?

UC San Diego's main entrance is a reflection of its students.

1. Roaming Around the Campus

This exciting campus is a great starting point for getting to know San Diego city well. The uni has endless educational corners and is home to endless greenery. If you’re orienting the UC San Diego campus, make sure to arrange access to the Scripps Oceanography space and take surfing sessions. If you’re headed to the library, make sure you pass by the main entrance to admire that luminous architecture. On your way down, stop by to pay your respects at the memorial of Dr. Theodore Seuss. Yep, from the cartoon series.

The campus’ food court has very tropical energy and if you’re making your way down there, you’ll find the college bookstore on the right. Fun fact –  this bookstore even picks up your amazon orders. Pick up a snack and a book and head down to the campus parks for a lovely picnic among the pine trees. 

If you’re taken aback by the city or thinking about a future in it, there are plenty of friendly and affordable neighborhoods to settle down in this city.

What to Do Around UC San Diego?

Walking around Little Italy is a trip within a trip.

2. Little Italy

Location: Neighborhood in San Diego, California.
If you’re craving that Western European feel, just run down to Little Italy. Among many other must-sees during your time at UC San Diego, Little Italy is that place that you wouldn’t want to miss. Walking through the shops and taking in that vibe feels like a vacation within a vacation. Definitely try out a Neapolitan pizza from the locals and get to hear all about their ancestral recipes. Later, you can have a little gelato a la Italia and walk around the waterpark. Mind the view of the massive ships at the port. If you’re feeling the heat, you can even soak your feet in the fountain. Make sure to get your photo up at the gate.

Standing on this beautiful island, you can taste the Spanish influence on the city.

3. Ship Off to the Coronado Island

Surely visiting the beach is on your to-do list when you’re roaming around the city. Luckily, Coronado Islands falls under fun things to do at UCSD. The island is connected to San Diego with a 200 ft dramatic bridge and is only a 2-mile drive. There are plenty of things to see on the island, but once you land there make sure you hit up that white sandy beach. This beach is ranked among the best ones in… drumroll … you've guessed it! AMERICA! This beach not only has an exotic feel to it but also has an unlimited amount of sand, so you’re guaranteed a spot. After sunbathing, dive in the ocean - and freeze. What? It's the pacific ocean and also part of the fun! 

When you’re done splashing around San Diego, make sure you pass by Hotel del Coronado. This mega-hotel is right across the beach and is unmissable. With the red and white colors and the old architecture, you can still taste Spanish influence. Prepare to be wooed, and stay camera-ready for that Instagram post! If you make it until sunset, enjoy the magnificent horizon glowing in flaming colors. After that, make sure you visit Centennial Park to experience the view of the beautiful skylines and the lit-up city to balance out that contrast of nature and sunset.

The Lily Pond Botanical Building is a pink sensation sitting in the midst of the park.

4. Balboa Park

Location: San Diego, CA.
Another big recommendation to add to your list of UCSD's things-to-do list is Balboa Park. You can either spend a few hours at this park or a few days. The outstanding architecture will leave you awestruck. Several gardens are stationed through those gates - so pristine, that you might even call them enchanting. If you’re a lover of gardens, make sure you visit the Lily Pond Botanical Building. Also, be sure to check out the desert garden, but be careful not to prick your finger on that cactus.

As we’ve already mentioned, Balboa Park isn’t a conventional one. There’s a legitimate reason why it's an ultimate San Diego attraction. If by chance you’re into museums, there’s a wide variety of them sitting – more like towering – on those grounds. Check out many of them, since most cost a tiny fee. We recommend the San Diego Museum of Art and Museum of US & California Tower. Yes, this is all in the garden.

With its non-profit wildlife conservancy, this zoo is a major tourist attraction and well known across the entire country.

5. San Diego Zoo

Location: Balboa Park.
In addition to being one of the most popular urban parks in the United States, this rural paradise is packed with an array of attractions - including the world-famous zoo of San Diego. If you’re attending UC San Diego, or just visiting town, be sure to dedicate some time to see this place. This zoo is a non-profit wildlife conservancy, nesting over 3,500 endangered animals and home to 700,000 exotic plants. So kids or no kids, if you’re up for being an eyewitness to endangered species and spending some time with wildlife, be sure to check this place out.

If there’s one thing you would want to check off your bucket list, it's La Jolla.

6. Visiting La Jolla Town

Location: San Diego, CA.
Looking for things to do near UCSD? La Jolla is located just 9 minutes from campus, and it's an absolute requirement to visit.  The city is a coastal town with a beach. The water cove is ecologically protected and the most desirable swimming spot. Keep your taste buds tingling with some of their amazing food and witness some diverse wildlife. Diving and snorkeling are the most common things to do here - along with shopping and dining. Also, don’t forget to check out the countless sea lions who’ll most likely be busy cuddling and simply existing in their natural habitat. If you’re interested in visiting the area, be sure to check out our getaway guide to La Jolla for more things to do in the city.

One of the Three Sisters' magnificent cascades. Jump in, the water’s incredible!

7. Take a Hike, Word for Word

Name: Three Sisters Falls Trailhead, San Diego
Location: Cleveland National Forest
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation: 985 feet
Route type: Out and back
Time: 2h 13min
Dogs: Allowed on leash

If you’ve had enough of San Diego beaches, heading east you’ll find an amazing range of mountains. For a good break from college life, and to tick off one of the top things to do in San Diego, take a hike. Only a few miles away from the city and a relatively short hike, the Three Sisters' Falls awaits. This trail is fully surrounded by mountains, so get ready for incredible mountainous and valley views along the way. When you reach the last spot, you wind up at the Three Sisters hosting magical waterfalls cascading down the mountainside. At the endpoint,  don't hold back from jumping into the lake.

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