Shorter Days & Longer Nights: Let Us Plan a Day & Night in San Diego for You

San Diego boasts more than 100 neighborhoods, so if you’re not very familiar with the city, it may seem a bit ambitious to try seeing all of its highlights in a single day. We’ve put our heads together and compiled a one-day, one-night itinerary to help you check some of the best items off your list.

Start at Bunz and work up an appetite for a morning of fun.

Begin your busy day with a hearty breakfast in the indoor/outdoor dining space at Bunz. The Days Inn signature restaurant is a great place to fuel up for exploring, serving delicious options like huevos rancheros and brioche French toast. 

Head over to Belmont Park and Mission Beach to catch a ride on the world-famous oceanfront Giant Dipper roller coaster. Then, enjoy the sand between your toes at Mission Beach, just steps away.

There’s nothing like an exhilarating, beachfront roller coaster ride to get you excited about the coming day’s itinerary. You’ll also be getting an intro to San Diego history, as the Giant Dipper wooden coaster is a National Historic Landmark that dates back to the early 1920s.

After a morning of fun in the sun, soak up the history of San Diego at Old Town. Explore historic buildings, chapels, the haunted Whaley House, tons of shopping, and some of the best Mexican food San Diego has to offer.

San Diego Old Town is not just the city’s oldest settled area and the first place touched by the Europeans who settled in California, but it’s a shopping, entertainment, and arts destination rolled into one. And yes, it offers absolutely amazing Mexican cuisine. Pro tip: Don’t miss the white queso at Miguel’s Cocina.

Walk off those tacos with a stroll through Balboa Park. Catch an IMAX film at the Fleet Science Center, peruse the Japanese Friendship Garden, or take a ride on the carousel or miniature train.

Balboa Park is one of the most enduring icons of San Diego, with its Spanish Colonial Revival buildings, beautiful gardens, and 17 museums. Whether you’re interested in science, art, or architecture, there’s so much to love about this 1,200-acre venue, which is both a San Diego Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark District.

From Balboa Park, venture Downtown and hit up Coin-Op for happy hour (4–7pm), and maybe try your hand at a game or two.

“Happy hour” gets a whole new meaning at the Gaslamp Quarter’s Coin-Op, which is a bar and arcade rolled into one. For a break from the day’s exploring, take some time to check out this watering hole’s 10 pinball machines, five skee-ball machines, four super-shot basketball machines, and numerous Pac-Man machines.

Peruse the shops and boutiques in the Gaslamp Quarter or Seaport Village.


The Gaslamp Quarter and Seaport Village are two of San Diego’s best shopping districts, each offering a mix of fashion boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores stocking everything from local wines to “designer candy.” Of course, you don’t have to pick just one — the two shopping hubs are only 15 minutes away from each other by foot.

Grab dinner and dessert at Saffron Thai, in Mission Hills.

Saffron Thai is one of those restaurants that has become so iconic, it inspired a bestselling cookbook. Sample Chef Su-Mei Yu’s incredible takes on salad rolls, pad see ew, stir-fried veggies, and other recipes at the original Mission Street location, on Indi Street.

Head back to the hotel for a late night swim to cap off your full day in San Diego.

Before you hit your comfy queen- or king-size bed, squeeze in a refreshing dip in the Days Inn pool. It’s the perfect way to cool off from the San Diego sunshine and reward yourself for a successful day of exploring.