As tour guides in America’s Finest City, we often get asked when is the best time to visit San Diego. While San Diegans will tell you that this is a town you should visit in fall, winter, spring, or summer because of the awesome weather, ocean views, and a never-ending list of attractions, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to check off your bucket list … us locals, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: the perfect time of year to visit San Diego as well as helpful tips as you book your trip.
What is the Best Month to Visit San Diego?
In contrast to other cities, such as Seattle, San Diego doesn’t have a rainy season per se — and it doesn’t see much rain at all. It only rains an average of 42 days a year, and the rain normally doesn’t last all day. San Diego is also known for having an average annual daily temperature of 70° Fahrenheit, which means you can bust out shorts 24/7, 365 here! Despite the prime weather all year, we recommend taking a trip to SD at times not everyone would suspect: in September after Labor Day weekend and during the holiday season –Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year!
Our Top Pick: September
Photo via La Jolla Mom
Once the Labor Day tourist rush passes, September becomes one of the best months to visit San Diego. Hotel rates begin to drop as kids return to school, but the days are still long, and the weather is fantastic with crisp, clear, blue-skied sunny days.
Attractions such as Seaworld and the San Diego Zoo are no longer teeming with people, so you can enjoy yourself more. The beaches are also less crowded, yet you can still enjoy La Jolla Cove, Pacific Beach, or Ocean Beach as you would in the earlier summer months with ideal temperatures — an average range from a low of 66° to a high of 77°.
A few things to do in September:
Enjoy the last month of summer beach weather
September is known as the locals’ summer month at the beaches because the crowds are gone and the weather is still amazing. In fact, September 2022 saw some of the hottest temperatures on record, which is the perfect excuse to spend your day soaking up rays. Something unique to September in San Diego is the chance to see peak numbers of leopard sharks swimming around. They incubate their babies in the warm waters — best seen at La Jolla Shores — and feed on squid at night at the nearby submarine canyon. If you want a view of this without putting on the snorkeling gear, you can book a reservation at the Marine Room restaurant. No need to go it alone: some tours this time of year are dedicated to leopard shark sightings.
Go apple picking in Julian
One of the best fall activities in San Diego is a short drive away! Bust out your best fall threads for a day trip to the iconic gold mining town that is known for its apple picking, Julian! There are several U-pick farms to choose from to get the true apple-picking experience and bring home some great finds for your own apple pie! Two of the more well-known places are JULIAN FARM & ORCHARD and JULIAN MINING CO.
Check out Fall festivals and SD activities
Your list of things to do in San Diego in September and October should definitely include checking out some of the amazing festivals America’s Finest City has to offer! Must-see festivals and events include concerts at the San Diego Symphony’s outdoor venue, the Shell, the San Diego Festival of the Arts, the Miramar Air Show, and checking out a Padre’s baseball game at Petco Park.
Runner Ups: October, November, and December
The benefits of visiting during the holidays are plenty! Ring in Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and NYE sans the busy summer San Diego crowds while still enjoying more favorable climates than most of the country.
October is the perfect month to bring the entire family to San Diego! Every year, Kids Free San Diego goes down in October. Kids (usually ages 12 and under) play and eat for free at over 100 attractions, hotels, and restaurants throughout the county. A few of our recommendations are a trip to Legoland, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Zoo, Seaworld Spooktacular, Belmont Park, and many more!
In addition, San Diego is a spooktacular place to ring Halloween in! Haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and Halloween parties are plenty! And, San Diego is one of the best places to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos in the iconic Old Town San Diego. If you want a tour of the historic places and tastiest margs and Mexican cuisine, join us on our Southern California tour!
Photo via Hotel Del Coronado
If you come to San Diego in November, you’ll be thankful for some of the lowest hotel rates of the year. Temperature ranges from a low of 54° to a high of 69° — so you can still brave the beautiful beaches of Mission beach or Del mar with a comfy sweatshirt!
Kick your San Diego vacation (fun fact: San Diego has been voted one of the best cities to visit on Thanksgiving break) with a mainstay — go tide pooling! One of our twice-daily low tides happens during daylight. The best times to go are during minus tides — find out when to go with the online tide charts. A few of the best spots are tide pools in La Jolla Cove and Shell Beach.
November is also a fabulous time for foodies to visit. If you love to eat, November is the best time to visit San Diego for you! A few of the must-see San Diego November events are San Diego Beer Week, the San Diego Bay Food and Wine Festival, or even leave the cooking to the SD chefs and celebrate Thanksgiving at one of the myriads of amazing restaurants serving food for Turkey Day!
And, November marks the start of must-see holiday celebrations, such as Skating by the Sea at Hotel del Coronado, the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration, and the San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells.
Photo via hotels.com
San Diego in December is one of the best months to visit if you want to flee the cold. You get a mix of good weather and the holiday festivities continue! Two of the hotels that celebrate Christmas big time are the Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s Winter Wonderland and Del’s Skating by the Sea! Where else can you spot a Christmas tree, holiday cheer, ice skating, and the Pacific’s waves crashing on the shore!? But, make sure to book your hotel or Airbnb ASAP because many people will have the same idea as you!
A few of the must-see December holiday events in San Diego are:
- The Holiday Bowl Parade, which is the country’s largest balloon parade, boasts marching bands and ornately decorated floats.
- December Nights at Balboa Park has stunning light displays, live music and choirs, food and other entertainment. along with marching bands and elaborately decorated floats, is the country’s largest balloon parade.
- San Diego Parade of Lights — a truly electric evening! Watch from the harbor as more than 80 lavishly decorated boats pass
The million-dollar question is … can you go to the beach in December? Well, that depends! SD locals use the beach to go for a run, a walk, watch the sunset, build a winter bonfire, or bundle up in a wet suit to go surf in the Pacific Ocean (local surfers do not miss a day!). Depending on where you are coming from, you might think the “brisk” San Diego weather is a walk in the park compared to snow and heavy winter coats.
While we truly believe San Diego is worth visiting all year long, we know it depends on preferences! If you want to dodge the tourist crowds and soak in some sun and holiday fun, we hope to see you from September – December! P.S. no matter the weather, we are ready to tour you around our favorite Southern California city! Contact us for more info.
This blog was written by San Diego native, Melissa Harter. Melissa hails from San Jose, CA, and has been a San Diego local for five years now after a 10-year-long pit stop in Los Angeles. In L.A., she began her writing career crafting digital content for a wide range of clients, including The Real Talk Show, Sharon Osbourne, Hank Azaria, Time-Life, and Cardinal Financial. She’s excited to be able to use her passion for writing to introduce people to some of the best spots in San Diego, many of which she has already frequented or has on her ever-expanding list of things to do … In her spare time, she enjoys taking her puppy, Milo, to all of the best dog beaches in SD, grabbing a glass of wine or a cup of joe at new places, and hosting watch parties for The Bachelorette TV show.