How to See San Diego in 48 Hours with Old Town Trolley Tours

How to See San Diego in 48 Hours with Old Town Trolley Tours


San Diego is a city everyone loves. Anyone who has been there only has good things to say, and anyone who hasn’t been but has heard about it wants to go. I was so eager to finally check out San Diego for myself, but had to get down to business! We only had 2 days in the city, but were able to fit in all of the highlights. And here’s how we did it.

How to See San Diego in 48 Hours

Decide what you want to see the most. 

San Diego is a big city with a LOT to offer! Do a little research first to see what’s available, and then decide what’s most important to you. Below is a list of what we decided to do, and I’m so glad we saw as much as we did!

Day 1: 

9:00 a.m: Catch the Trolley at the Old Town Market

Man and boy sit on a bench in Old Town San Diego How to See San Diego in 48 Hours

 

Taking the Old Town Trolley Tour of San Diego is a great travel hack. The trolley is hop on and off, so you’re able to pick the sites you want to spend more time on and then catch another trolley when you’re ready to go somewhere else.

While riding the trolley you’ll get a great history of the area from very knowledgeable and entertaining trolley drivers!

Suggested Stops for Extra Exploring:

  •  Old Town Market. Spend some time at the Old Town Market after parking to meet the trolley. It’s a great historic square with historic stores, restaurants, and reenactments. It’s a great way to get to know the city!
  • Embarcadero Marina. Get off here to see the USS Midway Museum. It’s fascinating and a really important piece of history for the area!
  • Gaslamp Quarter. This area is a really beautiful, renovated, historic section of town. Get off here to see some of the most popular sights of San Diego, and even join a Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour!
  • Hotel Del Coronado. Coronado Island is a popular spot for visitors to San Diego thanks to it’s gorgeous beaches and upscale, relaxed feel. Get off here to explore the island for as long as you like! We suggest walking around the unique hotel, getting some ice cream or gelato in town, and then spending some time on the beach.

Other stops we love are Balboa Park and Little Italy, but this guide gives extra time to go to those places so you can spend more time at Coronado Island if you save those spots for Day 2!

We loved the trolley tour. Trolleys have been one of Whit’s favorite ways to sightsee for years, and I was thrilled that Old Town Trolley Tours operates in San Diego. I could have ridden one trolley for the entire route just to enjoy sitting down, being chauffeured, and the city commentary.

Boy rides on the trolley how to see San Diego in 48 hours

If you’re interested in riding the full route plan on it taking 2 hours. Since your ticket is good for the entire day, just ride the route a second time to get off somewhere that piqued your interest the first time!

Click here to learn more about the San Diego Old Town Trolley Tour and how to purchase tickets in advance. 

Evening: Padres Game!

San Diego is known for its baseball team, the San Diego Padres. I don’t follow sports and even I know about them!

When surrounded by California sunshine and happy people what better thing is there to do than to support and cheer on someone else?

Day 2: 

This is going to be a busy day! Luckily more than half of these stops are covered on the San Diego Old Town Trolley Tour, so you could easily get a second trolley pass and see these places without having to search for parking! Click here to order tickets in advance. 

9:00 a.m: Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla

Seal in the water at Childrens Pool San Diego How to see San Diego in 48 Hours

This is where you go to see those famous San Diego seals! Children’s Pool Beach is a cove that’s been artificially built up to offer a protective space for seals. You can view dozens of seals from the street sidewalk above the beach or by walking down the short pier which curves around the cove.

There is a second beach area next to the cover where visitors can access the beach. Walk down the stairs to a small beach where you can play on the sand or water while watching the seals play.

Be sure not to get too close to the seals, though! Signs warn that mothers could abandon their pups if they feel threatened.

11:00 a.m: Lunch in La Jolla

Burger Lounge Hamburger How to See San Diego in 48 Hours

We loved getting lunch at Burger Lounge, one of San Diego’s most popular restaurants. Their burger patties are made from grass fed beef and are absolutely incredible! We also loved their unique juices and sodas, sweetened with sugar cane.

1:00 p.m: Balboa Park

Pond at Balboa Park How to See San Diego in 48 Hours

Balboa Park is one of the most famous public parks in the country. It has museums, fountains, sculptures, gorgeous historic architecture, and tons of open space to play, exercise, or relax. You could spend a week here and not get to everything!

Hopefully you’re in San Diego over the weekend, because Balboa Park will be filled with buskers putting on really entertaining shows for tips! Not just that, but some museums are free during certain hours on Sundays, which means you can get through a lot for cheaper than normal. Who doesn’t love that?

4:00 p.m: Mormon Battalion

Make it back to the Old Town Market (where you picked up the Old Town Trolley Tour)  to tour the Mormon Battalion. Learn about one of the first groups to settle San Diego and their fascinating history.

The Mormon Battalion is an interactive demonstration that uses a combination of modern technology and historic artifacts to help you really understand the journey of this pedestrian army force. Kids and adults will love it and learn a ton, which helps you understand the area so much better!

Even better, the tour is FREE.

5:00 p.m: Dinner in Little Italy

Little Italy San Diego How to See San Diego in 48 Hours

Did you know that San Diego’s Little Italy was the largest in the country? That’s a fun fact we learned on the Old Town Trolley Tour! It’s been pared down, but there is still a ton to enjoy and see in this area.

I’m not giving you a recommendation here, because this is Little Italy and everything is awesome. Choose from Zagat-rated restaurants and famous bakeries for dinner and desert. You’ll never want to leave.

You’re welcome. And, sorry.

Sunset: View Sunset from Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Check when sunset will be on the day you’re visiting and head to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park for some amazing views. The west coast is known for gorgeous sunsets, and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is known as one of the best places on the west coast to watch the sunset.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park has multiple scenic points you can walk onto to view the sunset and the waves crashing against the rock. Earlier in the day you could also visit to watch cliff jumpers, and lucky viewers could even spot whales as they migrate!


>Get tickets to San Diego theme parks here!<


I hope you enjoy seeing San Diego in 48 hours! If you have some suggestions of other must-do activities in San Diego please share them in the comments! 

 

How to see San Diego in 2 days. Take a San Diego Trolley Tour through Old Town, Balboa Park, Little Italy, Coronado Island, and more! Visiting San Diego California? Here’s your perfect San Diego California tour guide!

 

 

A Canon 60D camera was used for all photos and videos. Consider getting your own here!

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31 Comments

  1. I live in Los Angeles. Do I go to San Diego? RARELY IF EVER. I got married in Carlsbad and even then… i didn’t explore San Diego. I have been to the zoo, there’s that but I know i am missing so much!!! Thanks for the tips! i am talking at a conference there at the end of June so perhaps then I can explore one day!

  2. San Diego is such a beautiful city! I loved visiting there once and cannot wait to go back. I didn’t take the trolly last time, so I’ll do it next time.

  3. I have always wanted to go but felt limited by only a weekend. now I know it can be done!! I will definitely be using your tips on my next trip!

  4. This is perfect! I have never been and will be adding this to “places to see” when we do go. Hopefully, next summer to visit family.

  5. I’ve never been to San diego! I love short trips like this because it’s just enough time to fall in love with a city and want to plan a trip back! Great suggestions. 🙂

  6. There’s so much to love San Diego and I definitely appreciate this guide! It’s been so long since I’ve been there and I’d love to visit again. This is a great way to maximize your time there.

  7. Great tips – It’s on my bucket list, but there is so much to do there I wouldn’t know where to begin narrowing it down, but looks like you had a great time!

  8. This is such a cute little bucket list! I want to go to San Diego– sounds like the way I need to see it 🙂

  9. This is great advice for anyone wanting to visit San Diego. I like how it is using the public transport which is a lot more fun for little ones I think and looks such a lovely experience too.

  10. I’m heading to San Diego in August and I can’t wait to check out some of these places. Great report as always!

  11. I have never been to San Diego but would love to. All the places look so good and I am glad you were able to see them in 48 hours. Balboa park is so beautiful

  12. This is an amazing guide! I love that you used the trolley to get around all these beautiful and fun places. I’m pretty sure the kids will also enjoy the attractions. Definitely perfect for the whole family.

  13. I have been to a few cities that use these trolleys! I love the information that they give. I learn so much from the,

  14. The Pool Beach looks awesome. That would be so cool to see. I have also always wanted to go on a trolley car. I think this tour sounds awesome!

  15. I love San Diego and Wow is it hard to decide how to spend 48 hours there. This is so interesting though because I clearly need to go back. I played tennis on La Jolla and went to the San Diego Zoo (fabulous), but I missed Little Italy and some of the other great things you did.

  16. Hello. I live in N. California, so this post is so helpful. I live taking the trolley and little Italy sounds awesome. I hear the San Diego zoo is awesome as well. Great post!

  17. Although I live in Los Angeles, I haven’t ventured to San Diego just yet. There are so many things to do in SD though it seems and I really want to leave my little bubble of LA!

    Thanks for sharing! x

    Michelle
    dressingwithstyle-s.com

  18. Ok, I officially want to visit San Diego now! I love all the stops you mentioned, especially the dinner at Little Italy. We have rode a trolley around New Orleans, but never have ridden it as a way to tour. Love this idea!!

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