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Where Do Locals Go in San Diego? Avoid Tourist Traps

Looking for a way to find all of San Diego's hidden gems? With so many tourist traps lurking around the city, it can get hard to find the perfect low-key spot to spend some quiet time. All you want is some much-needed peace; especially if you're settling down after a move

It will come as no surprise that the best guidance comes from the city's locals. They've seen, heard, and experienced it all. You just need to think like them. 

Want to channel your inner San Diego native and find the best spots around town? Just keep reading for all you need to know. 

How to Spot a Tourist Trap

Anyone who's ever visited a tourist trap knows what one looks like. It is simply a memory you'll never forget. But if you still need a refresher on the signs of these attractions, that's understandable, too. 

Loud Marketing 

Most San Diego tourist traps are loud; both audibly and aesthetically. Due to their desire for business, these places are decked out in neon signs and bright colors. The building may even be shaped in a very notable way. 

This is all a ploy to get families visiting San Diego to come on in and have a look.  Instead, when you notice a business like this, you may want to reconsider your entertainment choices and turn around. 

Gift Shops

Another notable sign of tourist traps is their merchandise. If the business you're in has a giftshop littered with overpriced T-shirts, keychains, glasses, or any other souvenirs, it is a red flag. Most of the time gift shops are placed in buildings that are known for attracting a lot of people. 

Many of which will get excited over the chance to buy a mug with their location tagged on it. In fact, there may even be a sign (or shirt) indicating how many people they attracted yearly. You never know with these sorts of things. 

Photo Ops 

Living in the age of technology, the belief that something didn't happen if there wasn't a picture has quickly become more of a fact. Because of this, tourist traps give you plenty of opportunities to take the photo your social media is begging for. This may look like cute walls, fancy statues, or a classic aesthetically pleasing sign.

Whatever form they come in, photo ops are more a curse than a blessing in this case. If you haven't already, check out our best places to photograph in San Diego for a taste of the variety you can expect from the greatest city in the world!

Local Spots in San Diego

If you're trying to avoid San Diego tourist traps, you'll probably have a harder time trying to find a place to go if you stick with the classic top 10 things to do in San Diego list that you'll find on TripAdvisor or other travel blogs that aim to satisfy the masses. Sure the hot spots are flooded and the go-to but don't worry. There are still PLENTY of hidden (path less traveled) local spots you can access that are hiding around the city. 

You just haven't been introduced to them yet ;)


After moving to San Diego, establishing a go-to restaurant is a top priority. What else are you supposed to do when you can't find the will to cook? 

If you're more of a breakfast person, you can always get yourself a freshly made acai bowl straight from Swami's cafe. This is a great location for anyone trying to focus on their health. Swami's serves fresh whole foods and has vegetarian specials for customers with this special diet. 

If you need a new favorite Mexican restaurant, check out Lucha Libre. This Mexican restaurant is inspired by professional wrestling; the owners' favorite sport. They have an impressive menu of tacos, burritos, and other staple Mexican foods. 

You should also check out Hodad's the next time you're craving a burger. With over 50 years of experience, Hodad's has prided itself in creating one of the best burgers around. If you don't believe them, just ask the San Diego locals.

Waterfront Park 

In need of a new park since the move? Water Front park just might be the place for you. This small and quiet park is located on the edge of San Diego and prides itself in being a safe and smoke-free environment for both you and your kids. In fact, they even have a newly installed water park the entire family can enjoy. 

This location also has picnic areas, garden rooms, playsets, and the occasional festival/farmers market. You can also reserve sections of the park for birthdays, weddings, and other big events. Just contact park services and inform them of your plans. 

San Diego Theater

The next time date night rolls around, the last thing you and your spouse will want to do is scour the city for the perfect place to go. Instead, spend your night at the San Diego Theater. Here, you guys can spend your night entertained at the show of your choice. 

This theater holds musicals, plays, comedy shows, concerts, and more. Just find the showing you wish to go to and book your tickets in advance. After that, just get ready and enjoy a night of laughs, cries, and overall entertainment. 

This theater also holds family shows that would serve as the perfect bonding experience for the entire family. 

Make San Diego Your Home 

Now that you know all about avoiding San Diego tourist traps and where to go instead, we hope the move to San Diego won't seem so daunting. 

If you need help finding the Home of your dreams, give John and Melissa Steele a call. They are the owners of Steele San Diego Homes and are dedicated to helping you find the best home at the best price. All you have to do is ask. 

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