San Diego Central Inland

From its historic monuments and authentic culture, to its up-and-coming neighborhoods with indie boutiques and breweries, Central San Diego is a can’t-miss spot.
San Diego Central Inland
Overview
Relax & Save
The Neighborhood
Famous For
Old Town
Balboa Park
Breweries
Hiking
Museums
Parks
Sidewalk Cafés
Stay Nearby

Head Ashore to the Central Inland Area

While many San Diego vacationers prefer to stay right along the coast, don’t make the mistake of disregarding the area further inland. What it lacks in beaches, it more than makes up for in attractions and a vibrant, diverse area.

San Diego’s Central Inland area lies to the east of the San Diego Central Beaches area. It encompasses over a dozen different neighborhoods. These include everything from the historic Old Town, Mission Hills, and Mission Valley, as well as the nearby Bay Park, to the more trendy University Heights, Normal Heights, and University City.

There are plenty of opportunities to make some unique, long-lasting memories in the Central Inland area. Hike the trails at Scripps Ranch or Tecolote Canyon in Clairemont Mesa, walk Adam’s Avenue in Kensington, learn about the Marine Corps history of Miramar, or visit Carmel Valley village. You can also stay overnight at the ever-popular Hotel Circle.

As you head further east from the shore, there are fewer winds and typically less cloud cover as well. The geography becomes more desert-like, though there are still some greener areas like Balboa Park.

Enjoy a Brew with Go Pass

Pure Brewing Tasting (3 locations)
Pure Brewing Tasting Tour
Grab your Go Pass and head down to one of the three Pure Brewing locations that San Diego has to offer. Choose from a variety of brews for your sampling while you relax in comfort. Locations are in Miramar, Bankers Hill and Carlsbad.
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Local Tips
What activities does the Go Pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go San Diego Pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Snorkel Rentals, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures and more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

In and Around Central Inland

San Diego’s Central Inland is mere minutes away from the Downtown San Diego area, making it an excellent option for anyone who wants to experience everything Southern California has to offer. The San Diego International Airport is equally close, so you can step off the plane and head right to exciting attractions.

The San Diego Natural History Museum is a must-see attraction when you’re so close to Balboa Park, as is the San Diego Zoo. You may also be interested in the Junípero Serra Museum in Old Town, which is a great way to learn more about California’s Mission History.

With so many things to do, you can’t go wrong with a Go San Diego pass, which lets you save when you buy tickets to multiple attractions. If you purchase the Go San Diego pass through our website, you can get an additional discount, which means you’ll spend less time worrying about finances and more time maximizing your fun.

Stay close to the action by booking a room at the DoubleTree By Hilton San Diego, which is part of Hotel Circle. This is a family-friendly hotel with easy access to hotspots like Balboa Park and the Downtown area. For more excellent options, check out our list of the Best Hotels in San Diego.

Popular Activities

Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Discounts Available
Learn More
LEGOLAND Water Park Hopper Ticket
LEGOLAND Water Park Hopper Ticket
$127 per person
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Explore San Diego Bay
Explore San Diego Bay
$42 per person
Buy Now

Famous Attractions and Activities Inland

Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Biking
Biking
Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium
Fishing
Fishing
Museums
Museums
Picnic Tables
Picnic Tables
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego
Skateboarding
Skateboarding

San Diego is more than just its beaches. When you head inland, you’ll find plenty of equally fun things to do like exploring Old Town and Balboa Park, checking out the local museums, hiking and walking through the parks, and getting a taste of SoCal food and drink at the breweries and sidewalk cafés.

Old Town

Old Town is a historic neighborhood that stands in the location of the first European settlement in California. Enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine at cantinas, shop at the bodegas, catch a live performance, attend an annual festival, or step back into history by visiting Presidio Park and the Junípero Serra Museum.

The Lively Old Town Mexican Cafe in Old Town San Diego
Enjoy the quiet moments around Old Town San Diego. Perfect for getting out of the crowds while visiting historic sites, museums and experiencing local Mexican heritage. Consider walking to the many sidewalk cafés, shopping or strolling around the scenic parks. Come enjoy some one-on-one time with your loved ones!

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a hub of botanical gardens, museums, and other attractions. There’s no shortage of things to do in the park, whether you decide to simply walk the park grounds, check out educational and entertaining hands-on exhibits, see a show at the theater, or head to the zoo.

Riverleaf Inn and Comfort Inn and Suites in Hotel Circle
Hotel Circle is a great choice to ‘stay & play’ featuring accommodations perfect for any occasion! Venture to nearby Balboa Park for the world-famous San Diego zoo or visit Old Town, SeaWorld San Diego, local breweries, cafes, parks and shopping. Use the neighborhood trolley stop to get around town.
The Beautiful Neighborhood of Mission Hills
Bring your significant other for an exquisitely marvelous getaway to Mission Hills! Visit nearby Balboa Park, home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and many museums. Or take a relaxing bike ride through the local scenic parks, have a lovely picnic, and enjoy the local shopping boutiques and old-world cafés.
The El Camino Real Light in Front of the Mission San Diego De Alcala
Stay between many top San Diego attractions in the beautiful Mission Valley! Tour the world-famous San Diego Zoo and numerous surrounding museums at Balboa Park. Visit nearby Old Town or spend a day at SeaWorld San Diego, visit the local breweries, shopping boutiques and the unique cafés.
Normal Heights Business District
Normal Heights allows for a relaxed vacation, or one that is faster paced. Check out the local indie shopping boutiques as well as the cafés, breweries and parks. Or take a trip to the San Diego Zoo, surrounding museums and watch the sunset before enjoying the local nightlife.
University Heights Welcome Sign
Visit University Heights to escape the fast paced life. Stroll through the nearby Balboa Park to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, have a family picnic and check out the surrounding museums. Walk or skateboard to a local brewery, café, or shopping boutique that is just around the block.

Breweries

If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, look no further than the breweries in the area for some unique, impressive, and refreshing drinks. The pubs and tap rooms here offer an unbeatable experience with a great atmosphere, and some even allow you to tour the premises and observe the brewing process.

Poseidon Project Pizzaria in Bay Park
Bay Park is the hotspot for couples that like activities! Walk to breweries, cafes, shopping and local nightlife. Close to the airport and featuring a trolley stop, go hiking or biking through a scenic park on Mission Bay, tour nearby Old Town San Diego and catch an amazing sunset.
Main Kensington Sign
Remove yourself from the hustle and bustle to visit Kensington’s local sidewalk cafes, breweries, and pleasant parks. Ride a bike through the exquisite Balboa Park and stop at the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Convenience and enjoyment are just a few steps away; Bring the whole family to this unforgettable location!
F 117 Nighthawk on Runway During the Miramar Air Show
If you love hiking, then you’ll love the variability of hikes and parks available in Miramar! Enjoy the sunshine with a family bike ride or take the time to visit the local museums. Walk to local breweries & cafés and don’t miss the amazing sunset. Visit Miramar for an adventure!
Normal Heights Business District
Normal Heights allows for a relaxed vacation, or one that is faster paced. Check out the local indie shopping boutiques as well as the cafés, breweries and parks. Or take a trip to the San Diego Zoo, surrounding museums and watch the sunset before enjoying the local nightlife.
University Heights Welcome Sign
Visit University Heights to escape the fast paced life. Stroll through the nearby Balboa Park to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, have a family picnic and check out the surrounding museums. Walk or skateboard to a local brewery, café, or shopping boutique that is just around the block.

Hiking

Central Inland’s hiking trails range from relaxing strolls to truly challenging terrain, but all offer some breathtaking views of the city like you’ve never seen before. Scripps Ranch has a large, looping running trail alongside smaller paths, and Tecolote Canyon has over six miles of trails with plenty of wildlife.

Multi Colored Hot Air Ballon Over Carmel Valley
Get away from the fast-paced lifestyle in Carmel Valley. Wander through the picturesque parks and go birdwatching while enjoying the California sunshine. Experience unique shopping boutiques and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés. Take a day trip to nearby Torrey Pines for the beaches, views and golf.
Tecolote Hiking Trails and Golf Course
Clairemont Mesa has the perfect mixture of outdoor activities for your vacation! Visit the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Hike the Tecolote Canyon, take a bike ride, or visit nearby La Jolla for the beach! Don’t forget to have a beer and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés.
F 117 Nighthawk on Runway During the Miramar Air Show
If you love hiking, then you’ll love the variability of hikes and parks available in Miramar! Enjoy the sunshine with a family bike ride or take the time to visit the local museums. Walk to local breweries & cafés and don’t miss the amazing sunset. Visit Miramar for an adventure!
Fishing Floats at Lake Mirama in Scripps Ranch
Go for a hike at the Mount Woodson Trail or the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and enjoy the amazing sunset from the cliffs. Or tone it down a bit and go fishing, shop at the unique boutiques, grab a bite to eat at the cafés and enjoy the local breweries.
UTC Mall is a Great Place Get Food or Just Hangout
Bring the family for a vacation in University City! Visit endangered species at the Birch Aquarium or go shopping at the UTC Mall. Go hiking in Rose Canyon and take a bike ride through the local parks for birdwatching and a picnic. Local shops and cafés are within walking distance.

Museums

The dozens of museums in Central San Diego are some of the best in all of Southern California. Whether you’re interested in classic or modern art, historic events, science and natural history, aeronautics, astronomy, automotives, anthropology, railroads, or photography, you’re sure to find a museum that speaks to you here.

The El Camino Real Light in Front of the Mission San Diego De Alcala
Stay between many top San Diego attractions in the beautiful Mission Valley! Tour the world-famous San Diego Zoo and numerous surrounding museums at Balboa Park. Visit nearby Old Town or spend a day at SeaWorld San Diego, visit the local breweries, shopping boutiques and the unique cafés.
The Lively Old Town Mexican Cafe in Old Town San Diego
Enjoy the quiet moments around Old Town San Diego. Perfect for getting out of the crowds while visiting historic sites, museums and experiencing local Mexican heritage. Consider walking to the many sidewalk cafés, shopping or strolling around the scenic parks. Come enjoy some one-on-one time with your loved ones!

Parks

Experience the beauty of the natural world in Central San Diego by taking a visit to one of its many parks. There are as many small, family-friendly parks for relaxing and having a picnic as there are large state parks with hiking trails, gorgeous scenery, and opportunities for bird watching.

Multi Colored Hot Air Ballon Over Carmel Valley
Get away from the fast-paced lifestyle in Carmel Valley. Wander through the picturesque parks and go birdwatching while enjoying the California sunshine. Experience unique shopping boutiques and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés. Take a day trip to nearby Torrey Pines for the beaches, views and golf.
Tecolote Hiking Trails and Golf Course
Clairemont Mesa has the perfect mixture of outdoor activities for your vacation! Visit the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Hike the Tecolote Canyon, take a bike ride, or visit nearby La Jolla for the beach! Don’t forget to have a beer and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés.
The Beautiful Neighborhood of Mission Hills
Bring your significant other for an exquisitely marvelous getaway to Mission Hills! Visit nearby Balboa Park, home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and many museums. Or take a relaxing bike ride through the local scenic parks, have a lovely picnic, and enjoy the local shopping boutiques and old-world cafés.
The El Camino Real Light in Front of the Mission San Diego De Alcala
Stay between many top San Diego attractions in the beautiful Mission Valley! Tour the world-famous San Diego Zoo and numerous surrounding museums at Balboa Park. Visit nearby Old Town or spend a day at SeaWorld San Diego, visit the local breweries, shopping boutiques and the unique cafés.
Fishing Floats at Lake Mirama in Scripps Ranch
Go for a hike at the Mount Woodson Trail or the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and enjoy the amazing sunset from the cliffs. Or tone it down a bit and go fishing, shop at the unique boutiques, grab a bite to eat at the cafés and enjoy the local breweries.
UTC Mall is a Great Place Get Food or Just Hangout
Bring the family for a vacation in University City! Visit endangered species at the Birch Aquarium or go shopping at the UTC Mall. Go hiking in Rose Canyon and take a bike ride through the local parks for birdwatching and a picnic. Local shops and cafés are within walking distance.

Sidewalk Cafés

The Central Inland area has plenty of modern sidewalk cafés. They’re a perfect place to stop for lunch and rest your feet while enjoying some of the finest local cuisine San Diego has to offer. Enjoy the beautiful weather while eating and drinking your fill in a comfortable, leisurely environment.

Poseidon Project Pizzaria in Bay Park
Bay Park is the hotspot for couples that like activities! Walk to breweries, cafes, shopping and local nightlife. Close to the airport and featuring a trolley stop, go hiking or biking through a scenic park on Mission Bay, tour nearby Old Town San Diego and catch an amazing sunset.
Multi Colored Hot Air Ballon Over Carmel Valley
Get away from the fast-paced lifestyle in Carmel Valley. Wander through the picturesque parks and go birdwatching while enjoying the California sunshine. Experience unique shopping boutiques and taste the local cuisine at the sidewalk cafés. Take a day trip to nearby Torrey Pines for the beaches, views and golf.
Riverleaf Inn and Comfort Inn and Suites in Hotel Circle
Hotel Circle is a great choice to ‘stay & play’ featuring accommodations perfect for any occasion! Venture to nearby Balboa Park for the world-famous San Diego zoo or visit Old Town, SeaWorld San Diego, local breweries, cafes, parks and shopping. Use the neighborhood trolley stop to get around town.
Main Kensington Sign
Remove yourself from the hustle and bustle to visit Kensington’s local sidewalk cafes, breweries, and pleasant parks. Ride a bike through the exquisite Balboa Park and stop at the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Convenience and enjoyment are just a few steps away; Bring the whole family to this unforgettable location!
The Beautiful Neighborhood of Mission Hills
Bring your significant other for an exquisitely marvelous getaway to Mission Hills! Visit nearby Balboa Park, home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and many museums. Or take a relaxing bike ride through the local scenic parks, have a lovely picnic, and enjoy the local shopping boutiques and old-world cafés.
Normal Heights Business District
Normal Heights allows for a relaxed vacation, or one that is faster paced. Check out the local indie shopping boutiques as well as the cafés, breweries and parks. Or take a trip to the San Diego Zoo, surrounding museums and watch the sunset before enjoying the local nightlife.
The Lively Old Town Mexican Cafe in Old Town San Diego
Enjoy the quiet moments around Old Town San Diego. Perfect for getting out of the crowds while visiting historic sites, museums and experiencing local Mexican heritage. Consider walking to the many sidewalk cafés, shopping or strolling around the scenic parks. Come enjoy some one-on-one time with your loved ones!
UTC Mall is a Great Place Get Food or Just Hangout
Bring the family for a vacation in University City! Visit endangered species at the Birch Aquarium or go shopping at the UTC Mall. Go hiking in Rose Canyon and take a bike ride through the local parks for birdwatching and a picnic. Local shops and cafés are within walking distance.
University Heights Welcome Sign
Visit University Heights to escape the fast paced life. Stroll through the nearby Balboa Park to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, have a family picnic and check out the surrounding museums. Walk or skateboard to a local brewery, café, or shopping boutique that is just around the block.

Featured Activity

Mission Bay Private Snug Harbor Duffy Boat Rental
Mission Bay Private Duffy Boat Rental
Grab 10 of your closest friends and cruise around Mission Bay in an electric Duffy Boat! Choose either a 90-minute or 3-hour ride, directions and life vests are included. Watch out for sea lions & dolphins!
Buy Now
San Diego Central Inland
are Known For:
Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Breweries
Breweries
Hiking
Hiking
Museums
Museums
Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego
Parks
Parks
Sidewalk Cafés
Sidewalk Cafés
Walkable
Walkable
This Month's Forecast
66℉ / 82℉
Sunny in September
Oct
61℉ / 81℉
Sunny in October
Nov
53℉ / 75℉
Sunny in November
Dec
48℉ / 69℉
Sunny in December

Stay Nearby

DoubleTree By Hilton San Diego - Hotel Circle
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
DoubleTree By Hilton San Diego - Hotel Circle
from $124 / night
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San Diego Marriott Mission Valley
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4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
San Diego Marriott Mission Valley
from $149 / night
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Cosmopolitian Hotel
Near Old Town
2 Star Rating2 Star Rating
Cosmopolitian Hotel
from $99 / night
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The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows
from $127 / night
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