Planning to spend your birthday in San Diego? This party town has everything you need to make your special day go off with a bang. From paragliding off the cliffs at La Jolla to cocktails on Mission Beach and sailing into the sunset in San Diego Bay, we run down our 10 favorite things to do in San Diego for a birthday.
Reach for the Sky
Take flight over the Temecula Valley on a thrilling sunrise balloon ride. There are a number of companies such as Magical Adventures Balloon Rides operating up here, around 20 miles from downtown San Diego, with flights generally including 45-60 minutes in the air and a champagne toast to steady your nerves when you land. You’ll soar high over the Temecula wineries and, on clear days, enjoy far-reaching views across mountainous desert landscapes to the east, shimmering ocean vistas to the west and San Diego’s distant skyline in the south. As birthday experiences go, this one is pretty special.
Meet the Locals
Spend your special day with some of San Diego’s most special wildlife by renting a kayak at La Jolla Shores and paddling gently out into the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park. This astonishing marine reserve is home to a dazzling array of sea critters. On a good day you might spot curious leopard sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and harbor seals swimming through the clear waters under your boat. Look out too for bright orange Garibaldi, the California state fish, no less. Afterwards, make for the nearby secret sea caves, many of which are only accessible by kayak.
Have a Picnic in Balboa Park
Is the sun shining? Well, of course it is: you’re in Southern California! Hit one of the local street markets for freshly baked breads, aromatic cheeses and – as it’s your birthday – as much homemade cake as you can possibly eat, then head over to Balboa Park for a lazy lunch with friends. Choose a wild spot along one of the many walking trails or pick a manicured lawn off the main El Prado drag. Alcohol is permitted in designated areas, but not in glass bottles, so make sure to think outside the (wine) box if you’re planning on celebrating with a drink.
Catch a Game at Petco Park
Head downtown to the East Village for all the thrills and spills of a Major League Baseball game on the San Diego Padres’ home turf. All you need to get into the spirit is a beer, a hot dog and, of course, a giant foam finger. The atmosphere at these games can be electric so it’s perfect for birthday fun, as well as being conveniently close to the Gaslamp Quarter’s fab nightlife. If baseball isn’t your bag, check listings for concerts at the stadium instead: Petco Park has hosted some of the biggest stars on the planet, including Madonna, Taylor Swift, Green Day and The Rolling Stones.
Hit the Road
Whether it’s your 21st, 40th or 99th, you can’t fail to be charmed by GoCar’s cute two-seater electric vehicles. Rent one of these brightly colored little beauties and hit the streets of San Diego for a self-guided narrated tour (yes, the car actually talks!) of the city’s best attractions. Cruise through the Gaslamp Quarter, take a spin round Balboa Park, park up for lunch in Little Italy and discover the city’s rich heritage in the Old Town. You can follow the car’s GPS route at your own pace, or go freestyle and check out hip neighborhoods like North Park and Hillcrest.
Take a Leap of Faith
There won't be many things to do on your birthday in San Diego that come close to the adrenaline rush of launching yourself from the cliffs at La Jolla. Brave souls can take tandem flights with expert paragliders at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, where colorful parachutes bob and weave through the air, gliding out elegantly over the ocean and along the sand-colored bluffs before riding the warm air currents back to terra firma. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even be lucky enough to spot seals and dolphins frolicking in the surf below.
Get a Taste of the Good Stuff
About an hour out of Downtown, Cali’s Temecula Valley is home to somewhere in the region of 40 (count ‘em) wineries, producing award-winning Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Malbec, Riesling and more. Almost all of them offer tours and tastings and, as this is effectively an educational experience (right?), you can get tipsy in the California sunshine absolutely guilt-free, with the lush green vineyards stretching out before you as far as the eye can see. Head to Wilson Creek, Callaway and Vindemia for some of the finest vino-fueled views in the valley.
Sip Birthday Cocktails by the Beach
Take a spin on the century-old Giant Dipper rollercoaster at Belmont Park before moseying on over to Cannonball for some of the best cocktails on Mission Beach. Grab a table on the huge rooftop terrace and settle in for some top-drawer people-watching and expansive views of the beach and sea. There’s sushi and Pacific Rim dishes to snack on, but it's the drinks you came for, right? Get the party started with a rum-infused Mission Beach Mai Tai and keep it rolling with a punchy Cactus Cooler. Delicious.
Sail into the Sunset
SoCal sunsets are famously beautiful, with the sky putting on a cosmic show of fiery orange, bruised purple and flamingo pink as the sun disappears over the horizon. Grab your camera and set sail on an evening cruise of San Diego Bay, where you can expect impressive sunset views of the city skyline as well as attractions including the USS Midway Museum and curvaceous Coronado Bridge. Tours include dinner and drinks and a chance to wander the deck and spot seals and dolphins gliding silently alongside the boat.
Have a Laugh!
Head up to the La Jolla Comedy Store for big names and even bigger laughs at this San Diego outpost of the legendary LA club. Or spend an evening in the Gaslamp Quarter where atmospheric dive bars, hip microbreweries and rooftop cocktail joints go some way to demonstrating why this historic ‘hood is also the nightlife hub of the whole city. There’s great comedy to be found here, too. Try the open mic night at the American Comedy Company or lose all inhibition for the raucous sing-alongs and all-night danceathons that have made The Shout! House’s Dueling Pianos show one of San Diego’s best birthday nights out.