One of our favorite things about coming back from a vacation is sorting through all of the new treasures you’ve brought back from your adventures. In fact, souvenirs are one of the most important ways we recall our travels, with each item ideally evoking important and beloved memories about that particular trip.
With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to make smart choices when buying souvenirs and to choose things that you’ll value for years to come. For those traveling to San Diego and looking for top places to buy souvenirs, we’ve put together this guide.
San Diego souvenirs can be found all across the city, of course, but these are a few suggestions for the best places to acquire those all-important mementos.
San Diego Zoo souvenirs
Zoos are among our favorite places to buy souvenirs in any destination, and the San Diego Zoo offers an especially promising series of gift shops – ten of them, in fact!
If you’re traveling with the kids, then you’re going to want to set aside a bit of time to scope out San Diego Zoo Kids Store. This shop features a wide selection of apparel, toys, books, miscellaneous odds and ends, and of course, the beloved plush animals. It’s so well regarded, in fact, that it’s been Zagat rated.
Other intriguing options for places to buy San Diego souvenirs at the Zoo include the Zootique, which offers a more high-end selection of fashion, jewelry, gourmet foods, and handcrafted gifts. There are also a few animal-specific shops, including Sydney’s Shoppe (koala-themed items), Arctic Trader (polar bear-focused), and the self-explanatory Panda Shop.
Their sister attraction, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, also sells a number of top-notch souvenirs.
SeaWorld San Diego souvenirs
A similarly exciting option for souvenirs is SeaWorld San Diego. Boasting dozens of engaging exhibits with a conservational focus, SeaWorld is more than its exhilarating rides and attractions.
As a result, their souvenirs have a significant educational bent, with plenty of toys, games, and books available for visitors of all ages. The SeaWorld Store boasts the widest selection of gifts, toys, collectibles, and other souvenirs.
There are also stores with a specific focus on turtles, whales, penguins, sharks, and more. Some stores are only open in the summer, however, so be aware of this when planning your souvenir shopping.
USS Midway Museum souvenirs
For fans of military history or those with an avid interest in the American past, the USS Midway Museum is one of the top places to buy souvenirs in the entire city.
The museum boasts the eclectic Jet Shop, a gift shop filled with U.S. Navy and USS Midway apparel, educational books and toys, special memorabilia, and plenty of San Diego-specific souvenirs.
If you enjoyed your tour of the ship, you can also purchase a souvenir photo of yourself and your family taken as you enter the ship. Choose from a variety of backgrounds, too.
LEGOLAND® California souvenirs
While it might seem like you can get LEGOs at any of your regular sources for toys, there’s something special about the LEGO set or character that you get straight from the source.
Our favorite toy-themed amusement park, LEGOLAND® California offers the best in LEGO entertainment for your little ones. As far as souvenir shopping goes, you can find uniquely themed venues that focus on different areas of the park, including stores specific to Heartlake City and the LEGO Movie.
In addition to their regular gift and souvenir shops, they offer the opportunity to trade LEGO minifigures at various locations throughout the park. Especially during special seasonal events, you can get minifigures here that you can’t find elsewhere!
The San Diego Natural History Museum / the NAT souvenirs
This museum is a smart choice for educational San Diego souvenirs. The Alex and Elizabeth Wise Museum Store at the San Diego Natural History Museum features a wide selection of gifts, books, toys, and stationery.
Among many other eclectic offerings, the store also includes items specific to popular exhibitions (like dinosaur-themed items correlating to Fossil Mysteries). Souvenir-hunters will also appreciate distinctive items like original botanical artwork and a line of sustainable products.
A similar institution that offers the same kind of souvenirs, albeit with a different selection, is the Fleet Science Center.
San Diego Air and Space Museum souvenirs
Museums are pretty reliably good places to souvenir shop, especially because their offerings are usually distinctive and often unique to their location. The San Diego Air and Space Museum is no exception to this rule.
This museum is a perfect destination for those shopping for space enthusiasts or anything with a love of all things aviation. A brief survey of their products includes apparel, toys, books, collectibles, puzzles, stickers, and more.
If you’re searching for something a little more outside the box or unique, you can also find plaques autographed by astronauts, airplane models, and space food (including everyone’s favorite, astronaut ice cream).
San Diego Museum of Art souvenirs
For culture lovers, the San Diego Museum of Art offers plenty of artistic souvenirs that can’t be found in other places around the city. These unique products are often crafted specifically for this museum and/or the special exhibition they accompany, too.
For example, you can find art prints of paintings that the San Diego Museum of Art holds—paintings that exist nowhere else in the world. You’ll also find exhibition guides and coffee table books, distinctive apparel like silk-printed scarves, and hand-made puzzles and toys.
The museum actually offers two stores: the regular Museum Store where you can find the prints and sundries, and the Bibliotique, which sells gifts with a focus on San Diego’s prominent cultural interests—art, sports, and beer. Both of these shops are a sure bet for unique San Diego souvenirs.
For more artsy souvenirs, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art (Downtown).
South Coast Plaza souvenirs
For the shopaholics out there, South Coast Plaza boasts over 250 different retail venues. This is the place to come if you’d like to indulge in some serious marathon shopping.
Popular stores include high-end luxury brands like Gucci, Hermes, Harry Winston, Alexander McQueen, and more. Of course, you can also find more affordable brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Free People, Gap, and H&M.
In addition to a wide range of men’s and women’s fashion, you can also shop for jewelry, eyewear, athletic wear, handbags and accessories, and plenty of other products. South Coast Plaza is among the top places to buy souvenirs that will please any taste.
Save on San Diego Attractions & Souvenir Shopping
We’re sure you’ll enjoy one or more of these places to buy San Diego souvenirs and hope that they offer top ideas for that perfect memento of your trip.
While you’re budgeting for some shopping, keep in mind that products like the Go San Diego pass can help you save on admission to the museums and attractions that sell those desirable souvenirs.
Save up to 55% on attraction admission versus paying at the gate. The Go San Diego pass also includes extra discounts places like Macy’s that could also be promising souvenir destinations.