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21 Things to Do and Love in San Diego in 2021

Enjoy exciting new additions and steadfast treasures

Recognized by global travel authority Lonely Planet as a Best in Travel pick for 2021, San Diego is the perfect place to vacation in the new year, whether relaxing on a weeklong holiday with family or last-minute weekend escape with friends or a special someone.

With 17 different museums in Balboa Park, abundant restaurants serving cuisine from around the globe, 100 diverse and colorful neighborhoods and an enviable Southern California lifestyle and setting, San Diego is continually recognized as one of the nation’s top travel destinations.

Below are 21 exciting new additions and steadfast treasures that visitors can do and love in San Diego in 2021.

1. Spend a day or week at the beach

San Diego has more than 30 unique beaches from the wide sandy shores of South Mission Beach to family-friendly La Jolla Shores to Torrey Pines State Beach fortified by 300-foot sea cliffs. Beach lovers can swim, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, paddle board, play volleyball, and more along San Diego's expansive seashore.

2. View art with ocean views

With a spectacular setting along the Pacific, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego - La Jolla campus reopens in fall 2021 after completing a major expansion project. Nearly doubled in size, the iconic cultural institution can now display its permanent collection of more than 4,700 objects in all media along with temporary exhibitions in spacious new galleries with ocean views.

3. Watch the "Super Bowl" of horse racing

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships returns November 5-6, 2021 to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, one of the nation’s most iconic racing venues, “where the turf meets the surf.” The thrilling two-day event is the year-end international championship of horse racing, attracting the best horses and jockeys from around the world to coastal Del Mar in San Diego's North County.

4. Take a ride on a historic carousel

The historic Balboa Park Carousel has delighted children of all ages since arriving at Balboa Park around 1922. A menagerie of animals that were hand carved with European craftsmanship, the carousel received a full makeover, restoring its original glory. The Balboa Park Carousel is one of a few in the world still offering a brass ring game for everyone taking the 5-minute ride.

5. Listen to symphonic music under the stars

Music lovers will love The Shell, the new home of the San Diego Symphony's popular annual Bayside Nights Summer concert series. Set along San Diego Bay in downtown's Embarcadero Marina Park South, the architecturally striking and acoustically superior outdoor stage is the perfect venue to entertain audiences with beautiful musical performances under the stars.

6. Sample award-winning Chardonnays

San Diego wines continue to gain recognition around the world for their quality, concentration and rich aromas. With more than 100 dynamic wineries located in all corners of the county, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the region's floral Viogniers, sassy Chardonnays and bold Syrahs in picturesque vineyard settings, trendy wine bars and urban tasting rooms.

7. Enjoy diverse outdoor adventures

The scope of outdoor activities is as varied as San Diego's topography, from kayaking along hidden sea caves to mountain biking in the rustic backcountry to hiking in the vast Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Adventure seekers can scuba dive in Wreck Alley, paraglide above the Pacific, zip line across mountainous terrain, and much more.

8. LEGO to the movies

Families and children of all ages are immersed in the streets of Bricksburg at The LEGO Movie World, the newest attraction at LEGOLAND California Resort, based on the blockbuster films The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. On the flagship ride, Masters of Flight, guests can hop aboard Emmet’s triple decker flying couch for a thrill-seeking adventure.

9. Savor cuisine from around the globe

From epicurean food adventures in Little Italy and award-winning farm-to-table restaurants in La Jolla to an Asian Restaurant Row in the Convoy District and authentic Mexican eateries in Barrio Logan, San Diego is a food city serving cuisine from around the globe. There is no tastier time to savor the dynamic culinary scene than San Diego Restaurant Week, occurring April 11-18, 2021, and at the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, on November 7-14, 2021.

10.  Hang out with Superman and Wonder Woman

The magic of Comic-Con can be experienced year-round at the new Comic-Con Museum, opening summer 2021 in Balboa Park. Super-powered museum-goers can find rotating exhibits, a 4K video theater, classes and seminars, and a gift shop filled with comics and graphic novels. Comic-Con International returns July 22-25, 2021 to the San Diego Convention Center in downtown.

11. Climb a historic bell tower

The popular Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park reopens in summer 2021 after completing a major reconstruction project. In addition to spacious new galleries, an education center, multipurpose theater and more, restored historic spaces like the museum's bell tower will be open to the public for the first time in decades.

12. Stroll 100 diverse neighborhoods

San Diego's 100 diverse neighborhoods paint a striking portrait of California's second largest city. From the Mediterranean-style village of luxurious La Jolla and the hip and trendy offerings of Little Italy and North Park to the laidback 1960's hippie vibe of Ocean Beach and the colorful LGBTQ+ character of Hillcrest, San Diego is a multi-faceted metropolis with lots of personality.

13. Explore the Earth's ecosystems

Families and children of all ages can venture through four ecosystems—Desert Dunes, Wild Woods, Marsh Meadows, and Rainforest—at the new Sanford Children's Zoo, slated to open late 2021 in the San Diego Zoo. Children can learn about wildlife communities that have unique adaptations of their environment while discovering the natural world of diverse wildlife on the planet.

14. Get into the swing of things

In addition to teeing up on more than 90 courses countywide, golfers of all skill levels can watch two top tournaments played in San Diego in 2021. The annual Farmers Insurance Open, played January 28-31 on the iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course, invites fans to tune into the action on the Golf Channel and CBS. Golf fans can attend the prestigious 2021 U.S. Open played June 17-20 on the Torrey Pines South Course.

15. Take the plunge a floorless dive coaster

Thrill-seekers can dangle and drop more than 90 degrees into a dive plunge while riding Emperor, SeaWorld San Diego's newest coaster. Soaring more than 60 mph, Emperor is the tallest and fastest floorless dive coaster in California. The hair-raising ride pays tribute to the Emperor penguins’ journey from chilly, frosted cliffs to their deep dive into the depths of the ocean.

16. Drink a pint or two of local brews

San Diego is the capital of craft beer. There are more than 150 breweries serving internationally award-winning brews in every corner of the region. San Diego owns the West Coast-Style IPA, and many San Diego breweries have their own spin on this hoppy palate-pleaser. The best time to experience the dynamic beer scene is during the annual San Diego Beer Week (2021 dates TBD).

17. Discover beautiful outdoor murals

Some of San Diego's most striking art can be found outdoors along city streets and displayed in neighborhood parks. The Murals of La Jolla feature massive painted and photographic works by local artists and international contemporary art stars. Barrio Logan's Chicano Park has the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

18. Eat tasty fish tacos

One of the cornerstones of San Diego’s unique Cali-Baja cuisine is the fish taco, a delicious, simple dish originated in Baja, Mexico and popularized by local surfers and residents. Found on restaurant menus in every corner of San Diego, the most authentic way to enjoy a mouth-watering fish taco is by visiting one of the many neighborhood food trucks and taco stands.

19. Experience rich diversity

A rich diversity of people, cultures and perspectives is the foundation of San Diego's enviable lifestyle, vibe and attitude, creating one of the best destinations in the world to live and visit. San Diego boasts rich Latinx, Asian, Black, LGBTQ+ and military communities and a vibrant Kumeyaay history. The diversity can be appreciated in neighborhoods and special events throughout the year.

20. Shop where residents shop

There is no better way to experience San Diego's unique character than shopping in local businesses. From one-of-a-kind boutiques, retail shops and art galleries to San Diego-style eateries, beer pubs and wine bars, visitors can meet and support the many residents and business owners that shape the culinary, artistic and entrepreneurial spirit of the region.

21. Visit with family, friends and loved ones

We missed you and can't wait to welcome you safely back to San Diego with your family, friends and loved ones. Whether on a fun-filled family getaway to the attractions, or much-needed escape with friends to the great outdoors, or a special occasion with a special someone, lasting memories are sure to happen. With so many exciting new additions, steadfast treasures and safety protocols in place, San Diego is the perfect place to visit in 2021.

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