15 Fun things to do with your dog in San Diego

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Dog surffing in san diego. Photo by Nathan Rupert. nathaninsandiego

San Diego is listed as the fourth most dog-friendly city in the United States, and you will see why as you read this list of what you and your fur buddy can do in this fine city. 

Besides fun activities, shops, parks, and eateries, there are also more than 100 hotels that allow pets. At Petco Park, you can watch a game with your pup at the Barkyard seating area, swim at one of the local beaches with your fur baby, and take a hike in one of the nice dog-friendly parks. 

There are also many bars where you and your dog can enjoy a brew together, although Fido’s brew will be alcohol-free. You can also find more than 30 dog parks, most with leash-free zones and fun activities. From the small dog run in Wells Park to the huge five-acre Grape Street Off-Leash Area in Balboa Park. 

Whether you want to take a walk through the woods or chase seagulls on the beach, you can do it here in San Diego. Take a look at our list of 15 fun things to do with your dog in San Diego. 

Hit the beach: San Diego Original Dog Beach

San Diego has some of the best dog-friendly beaches in the whole state of California! And almost all dogs love the beach. There are so many things to sniff and water to play in. Your pooch can chase the seagulls and bark at the waves or whatever else he wants to do. 

The Original Dog Beach is famous around the globe for being the first official off-leash dog beach in the US, and it is so convenient at the end of Interstate 8, where the San Diego River meets the ocean. 

Officially opened in 1972, the beach is full of clean sand and salty seaweed for your fur baby to play in. On any given day, you will likely see at least a dozen dogs and their puppy parents hanging out enjoying the sun and surf. There is a lifeguard on duty, surfers enjoying the waves, and even some trails that you and your pupster can explore. And if you get hungry, there are several eateries nearby to grab some grub. 

Play in the bay: Fiesta Island Dog Park

On almost all of this island park in Mission Bay, dogs can run around without their leashes and enjoy the sun and surf with their other fur buddies. The dogs love to dig in the sand here but be sure you bring doggie bags to pick up the little surprises they may be covering up. On the left side of the peninsular island, you will see Sea World, and it is fenced off, so you know where not to go. 

Fiesta Island is a popular place for bike races, charity runs, and other events, so be sure to check their schedule on the website if your pooch is not a fan of crowds. Also, Sea World often shoots fireworks so you should check that schedule as well. Most dogs do not love the loud noises. The park boasts spaces for picnics and has fire pits as they are open until 10 PM, so you may want a fire. 

Take a boat ride: Eco Boat Rentals

Well, now that you know where your pup can play in the sand. How about some time on the water? Eco Boat Rentals offers pedal kayaks and hydro cycle boats for use in San Diego Bay. Even if you forgot to bring a life preserver for you and for Fido, Eco Boats has them for free with boat rental. Located in Point Loma Heights right on the bay, you and your fur baby can rent a boat for several hours, and they even have boats that glow. 

Pedal boats are a lot of fun and a great workout for you, and each one can hold up to 600 pounds. You will need to keep your dog on a leash even if he is a super swimmer. Remember, there are sharks out there. You can also take a sailing tour for up to six people and your pooch. Snacks and soft drinks are included, and it is a great way to see the city.  

Ride the waves: Disco’s Paddle Surf

Another pawesome water activity for you and your pup, Disco’s Paddle Surf, has paddleboards, surfboards, and lessons for both of you. They specialize in standup paddleboarding and surfing, offering lessons to those in the bay. However, you will need to bring a life jacket for your dog here because they do not have them. Open daily, they even have kayaks and hydro bikes for rent and sale, in case you really love it and want to keep it up after they close. 

Disco’s Paddle Surf also has events that you can take part in when dogs are involved, so check the schedule for that. The Surf Shop has all sorts of items you may need, from collars to leashes and treats for your pup and you. Don’t forget the drinks! You do not want your fur baby to drink the saltwater. You can find Disco’s at Sun Harbor Marina in San Diego Bay. Right next to Pizza Nova if you get hungry. 

Explore history: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Nestled between Presidio Park and Heritage County Park in the middle of San Diego, Old Town San Diego State Historical Park welcomes pooches with open arms. As long as he is socialized and leashed, your pup can hang out with you at this open-air museum and park all day long. Learn how we lived back in the 1800s and watch how the Mexican culture came to be so popular in southern California. 

Although you cannot bring your pooch into the buildings, there is plenty for you both to do outside. And since the weather is almost always sunny and warm in San Diego, it is very refreshing. Built-in 1825, this park opened to the public and the poochies in 1968 and has been named a historical landmark. See the original adobe buildings with shops, a hotel, and the first San Diego Courthouse. Some of the concessions allow dogs, but you have to ask because they are owned by third parties. 

Learn the culture: Spanish Village Art Center

Do you like art? Take Fido on a stroll along the studios of sculptors, painters, photographers, metalsmiths, and more. 

The Spanish Village Art Center is in Balboa Park and is totally dog friendly as long as your dog is friendly. The artists enjoy talking to the public and seeing the fur babies. You can buy the art pieces you love and take photos of the ones you like to share on Snapchat.

The art village is similar to the historic state park but is a later period of the early 1900s set up to look like an old Spanish Village. Every day, you can see live demonstrations, take part in some art activities, and take a bunch of selfies of you and Fido among the art and flowers. The colorful tiles are a stunning sight that makes the perfect backdrop. Do not miss the glass and enamel art, basket weavers, and fiber artists who display their talents in the courtyard. 

Take a hike: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve loves animals, and this includes your dog. As long as he is on a leash of eight feet or shorter. You and your buddy can explore the trails that include a freshwater marsh, forests, a stream, and even some waterfalls. If you are quiet, you may even get to see some wildlife like raccoons, mule deer, coyotes, and bobcats. Be sure to bring doggie bags to pick up anything your dog drops. 

In the 3,700-acre park, you will find more than 16 trails featuring a community garden, a museum, and a farm with live farm animals. The 6.8-mile Los Penasquitos Canyon Loop Trail is an easy hike with an elevation of 157 feet that typically takes about two hours. If you want to see the waterfalls, tackle the moderate 2.8-mile Peasquitos Falls Loop. The 3.2-mile Rancho Adobe Loop is an easy trail that takes about an hour and features a river, forest, and historic sites. 

Have a brew: Societe Brewing Company

In the middle of a group of brewing companies in Kearny Mesa, the Societe Brewing Company loves dogs. As long as you and your dog are well-behaved and Fido is on a leash, they can join you in the tasting room. However, they do not get to taste the beer but the brewery offers treat made from grains they use. Brewpubs have become popular lately and California has over 1,000 of them, earning the title of the Craft Beer Capital of America. 

Independently owned, Societe opened in 2012 and believes that beer is the best social uniter in the world. The staff at this fun place love their jobs and the beef folk that visits, including the four-legged fans. In the brew room, the bartenders and brew crew are friendly and knowledgeable, so be sure to ask them questions. The beer garden is also a fun place to hang out and drink a few beers. And there are always food trucks nearby. 

Do some shopping: Westfield UTC

If you love to shop and your pooch loves to sniff everything, Westfield UTC is the perfect place to spend the day. There are almost 200 shops in this outdoor shopping center so you can peruse them all. Some of them do not allow pups inside, so take note and be sure to ask if you are not sure. Just east of La Jolla, the restaurants and entertainment venues are nothing to scoff at either. However, you cannot bring Fido into the movie theater, unfortunately.

Many of the eateries have outside access for you and your pup after you work up an appetite and the Palm Plaza has a unique gathering space with outdoor seating, an LED screen, and firepits. There are play spaces for the kids and a Bark Park with a fence behind the Clock Tower. And if your pup gets thirsty, you can find many drinking fountains of all heights for tiny Terriers to Giant Great Danes.  

Enjoy some treats: Original Paw Pleasers Dog Bakery

As the first dog bakery in San Diego, The Original Paw Dog Pleasers Bakery has a great affinity for four-legged fur babies and their owners. All of the treats are freshly baked and are made dog and cat-safe, grain-free, non-dairy, and really delicious, even for humans. The biscuits are popular, and you can get them in so many different sizes, styles, and flavors to please every puppy palate. They even have ice cream and other treats specially made for dogs. 

In fact, this doggie bakery has a birthday club for your pup so that you can celebrate his big day with cake and ice cream made just for him. Their cake collection is massive with photo cakes, a mythical collection, metallic cakes, and the Endless Summer line of birthday treats. Looking for toys or something else for your special friend? The pet shop boasts a variety of pawesomely fun items like stuffed animals, balls, squeakers, and bones. They even have party hats!

Visit one of the oldest parks in the US: Balboa Park

You can spend more than one day enjoying Balboa Park with your fur buddy. As long as your pup is leashed and friendly, they can explore the 1,000+ acres right by your side. You will find several stunning gardens, play places, and the San Diego Zoo here. If you want to let your dog run free, there are a couple of off-leash areas at Morley Field by the tennis courts and Balboa Drive on the south side of Cabrillo Bridge.  

They even have tours that take you to all the dog-friendly spots. Let a local guide take you and Fido on a 90-minute tour to learn all about the hidden gems, history, and dog-friendly spots. You can explore dozens of specially set places for pups, including walking paths, fields, and eateries. Panama 66 Restaurant has a huge patio where you can get a sandwich and brew with your pooch. The Prado is another dog-friendly place where they serve tacos, pasta, and salads. 

Taste some wine: San Pasqual Winery

If you like wine, take your pup on a trip to San Pasqual Winery. The wine served here is made in small batches using grapes from local vineyards and features special flavors like passion fruit and hot passion with habanero sauce. The winery loves dogs and enjoys seeing your leashed and friendly pooch enjoying the sunshine and the special doggie snacks. Take a dog-friendly tour with a special guide through the vineyards and enjoy the beauty. 

Across town, the San Pasqual Wine Bar and Gallery in La Mesa Village is also happy to see your fur babies. Although they do not allow dogs in the gallery, they are welcome at the outdoor wine area, where you can sit and enjoy a glass of local wine while your pup has a non-alcoholic drink or treat. While Seaport Village is located on the waters of San Diego Bay, the winery is inland, surrounded by eateries and shops. 

Dining and shopping on the landing: Coronado Ferry Landing

Although it is technically a peninsula, Coronado Ferry Landing is said to be on Coronado Island. Right along the water, you and Fido can peruse the shops, art galleries, and restaurants, although some do not allow dogs. But you can visit Centennial Park with its stunning views of San Diego and take a walk through Coronado Village’s Orange Avenue. You and your pup can eat at MooTime Creamery, Tent City, or Cafe 1134. 

If you want to get a drink with your furry buddy, McP’s Irish Pub is the place to go. Their outdoor patio boasts fire pits and live music. Coronado Beach has a leash-free dog beach where you and your pup can splash in the ocean together. A surprising place you should not miss is the Hotel Del Coronado. The Victorian resort opened in 1888 and is one of the top 10 in the World. You and your fur baby are welcome to explore inside and out.

Mingle and mix: Grape Street Dog Park

Located in the southeast corner of Balboa Park, the Grape Street Dog Park is the largest in the area. Surrounded by eucalyptus trees, the park is run by DOGS (Dogs of Grape Street) and has been helping socialize pups since the 1990s. It is one of the most interesting and fun dog parks in the city, with a mini obstacle course made of logs and a dog book lending library so you can enjoy reading while your pooch plays. 

With five acres of open green space, the park also boasts water fountains and restrooms. There are also six picnic tables to relax on, a tiring trail, and a variety of interesting toys. Although the park offers doggie waste bag stations, they are often empty, so it is best to bring your own, so you can pick up after your pup. One thing to note, there is no fence, and there is a canyon, so you have to make sure your dog is voice-controlled. 

Take a tour: Authentic SD Drink & Dine

Take a walk in Downtown San Diego with one of the local tour guides who love dogs as much as they love people. You will spend 90 minutes walking around the gorgeous city with your pooch so make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring water as well as doggy waste bags. The guide will take you through the best parts of the city with buildings from the 1920s while they tell you all about the details that only the locals know. 

As you go through the Gaslamp District, you will see many historic buildings like the Woolworth Building, San Diego Hardware Company, the Marston Building, and Horton Plaza Park. Be sure to get some pictures of the Spencer Ogden Building, which was built in 1874. The guide will also introduce you to the most popular pubs, clubs, and restaurants, including those that allow pets. Afterward, you can hang out at one of the clubs and have a drink or some food. 

The Final Woof

We know your fur baby really is your baby. Our dogs are family, and we love to bring them with us when we go out. 

With San Diego having such great weather year-round, it is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. It is never too hot or too cold here, with the average temperature in the mid-70s. The city is full of fun things you can do with your dog, from shopping to wine tasting and the huge Balboa Park to explore.

Whatever you want to do with your fur baby, you can probably find it in San Diego. So, grab your leash, doggie waste bags, and some water, and head out. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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