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THE BEST PARKS AND GREEN SPACES IN SAN DIEGO

14 PLACES

UPDATED APR 6, 2020

We might be biased, but the local parks and green spaces in San Diego are the most beautiful in California. From city setups to ocean views and bay front property, these outdoor destinations are unmatched.

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LAUREN PADULA

FITT SAN-DIEGO CONTRIBUTOR

We like to think of this place as the Central Park of San Diego. It's 1,200 acres of museums, gardens, trails, and landscapes. And you can travel from Amazonian-like jungles to rose gardens to the cacti-filled desert-scape all within 15 minutes of walking. Little known fact: there are a few spots where alcohol is allowed, making this the perfect park for a sun-soaked Sunday brunch (we’ll bring the OJ)!

Fun fact: this Adams Avenue park was once the site of a streetcar barn that housed trolley cars next to an ostrich farm (you guessed the part about the ostrich farm, right?). Now, it's known for grassy lawns, shaded areas, and a pretty awesome view of Mission Valley. So, naturally, it's one of our go-to spots to lounge outside on a sunny day.

This 46-acre waterfront green space has everything — running trails, wide open spaces, basketball courts, soccer fields, and more. You’ll also find charming boutiques, a public market, and historic markers throughout. Meaning you could (and should) definitely plan to spend an entire day here. Another fun fact (we're full of them!): The “NTC” in this park’s title stands for Naval Training Center, where the Navy held much of its San Diego-based operations from 1921 until 1993.

We love this grassy knoll where Law Street runs into the Pacific Ocean in Pacific Beach for two reasons. It's fun to watch the surfers checking out the break both south at the pier and north at Tourmaline, and yoga. Every Saturday and Sunday at 10am, a donation-based yoga class is held on these bluffs. Join the 100+ other yogis for unobstructed ocean views as you namaste with Namasteve.

This beachy escape is in BirdRock, a small community between Pacific Beach and La Jolla known for mansions that are true architectural masterpieces and pristine coastline. But you don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy the view. Park it on a bench and watch the waves come in while surfers take advantage of Rock Pile down below.

Also referred to as the Wedding Bowl, this sandy stretch of green space in La Jolla Cove is a super popular destination for—yup—weddings! But we're big fans of it for other reasons, like its incredible views, rocky coastline, and patches of grass that are great for lounging on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Before you head home, hit up the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, which is right across the street.

This is our favorite place to go in late August and early September — leopard shark season. Since these guys are harmless, you can snorkel, kayak, or surf right next to them. It's a truly memorable experience. When you're not in the water, walk over to the famous Scripps Institute of Oceanography pier, hang in the sand, or post up on the grass and soak up some sun.

Tidelands Park has arguably the best view of any place on this list. From the magical crown jewel of Coronado, you’ll be gazing over the San Diego Bay at the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline. But the coolest part? You can take the ferry from downtown there and back — a $4 well spent.

A few years ago, San Diego put a large chunk of change into revamping the bay front Waterfront Park — and, if you ask us, the result is pretty amazing. From a water feature for cooling off during hot summer days to a massive green park perfect for laying out your yoga mat or a picnic blanket, we can’t say enough good things about this outdoor oasis. You don’t even have to bring your lunch; there are some delicious spots to grab grub just across the street (try Carnitas Snack Shack as a splurge meal).

Shoreline Park is a hidden gem along the San Diego Bay. We like to come here during the day to sit back on the perfectly-manicured grass, and stay until the evening — right across the way is Humphrey’s by the Bay, an outdoor concert venue. Pro Tip: rent a kayak or canoe and paddle up to the venue to watch the show (for free!) from the water.

Name a place where you can run, bike, swim, and stand-up paddleboard all in the same day. If you guessed Fanuel Park in Pacific Beach, you’d be right on the money. This park sits on a picturesque stretch of beach along the bay, and there's tons to do.

Millions (really) visit this coastal outdoor space each year, and you can count us among them. It's the perfect place to spend a Saturday. You can hit the bike trail, go on a walk, go swimming, waterski, or pack a picnic. We also like to invite the whole crew for a friendly volleyball match. If it's a windy day, bring a kite!

If you're looking for a grassy lawn to play fetch with fido, this is not it. With woodsy trails, rocky terrain, and mountain views, this is where we go when we're in the mood for an adventure. Want to make it a weekend-long excursion? Bring your tent along, there's a campground at the park.

We like to say this park is the best of both worlds. There's a wide-open grassy area where you can lay out in the sun or play a game of Kan Jam. But if you're down to explore, hit the park's hiking trail. It's a little less than a mile and includes rocky terrain, along with wildflowers and cacti. Either way, you're in for incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

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