Seaport Village in San Diego should be on every visitor’s day trip list. With more than 50 shops and 17 dining locations, this waterfront venue has much to offer tourists and locals alike. Our Day Trips TravelingMom visited Seaport Village in downtown San Diego recently and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of shopping, eating and live entertainment in this charming outdoor setting.
My family and I have been going to Seaport Village in San Diego since it first opened in 1980. The feel of this 14-acre venue hasn’t changed much since. Some of the same shops I remember as a child are still operating! But Seaport Village feels fresh and vibrant despite its long history. Chic boutique shops in The Headquarters, live music and crowd-friendly entertainment along the boardwalk keep people coming back. Here’s a day trip itinerary for an afternoon at Seaport Village in San Diego.
Maximizing a Day Trip at Seaport Village in San Diego
This outdoor venue is located within walking distance of the San Diego Convention Center and the San Diego Padre’s ballpark, Petco Park. Also close by are the Marriott Hotel & Marina, Manchester Grand Hyatt and Midway Museum. Seaport Village is a great day trip location for guests staying in the downtown area.
Winding walkways encourage a slow flow through the plazas and courtyards. There are more than 50 different shops, many with doors wide open to encourage wandering. The Spanish style buildings, cobblestones and drought-tolerant gardens throughout give the place a true SoCal meets South-of-the-Border feel.
Reach the boardwalk and be rewarded with a view of the waterfront and the Coronado Bay Bridge. We like to meander through the shops, take in the view and stop for lunch!
Lunch on the Waterfront
We enjoyed a late lunch on the patio at Buster’s Beach House in the east plaza of Seaport Village. There are two entrances to the restaurant. One entrance is in front of the gazebo (where visitors were dancing to live music on our visit). The second entrance faces the bay front. We were seated outside near the bay front entrance. It was a perfectly lovely afternoon in the shade and a very nice day to enjoy the view.
Traveling Mom Tip: Dogs can dine with you at Buster’s Beach House, outside on the bay front patio.
Buster’s Beach House offers SoCal dishes with a tropical twist, like mango pineapple salsa and coconut rice. I went with the waitress’ recommendation for a Diamond Margarita. It was delish (and really strong).
SoCal Dining with Tropical Touches
We started off with a Short Board Sampler. Tiki chicken skewers, spinach dip with chips, coconut shrimp and fried calamari were impressively served alongside a variety of dipping sauces. The coconut shrimp with marmalade sauce was my absolute favorite!
My daughter was smitten with the coconut shrimp as well, and ordered it as her main course. The platter was served with veggies and rice pilaf. I opted for the Island Mahi Mahi, which was light and flaky. I loved the creamy lemon dill sauce and the combination of flavors with the vegetables and jasmine coconut rice.
My husband, seeing fish tacos on the menu, couldn’t resist! My husband is a fisherman so he’s quite picky about his seafood. He thoroughly enjoyed the blackened mahi tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo and avocado cilantro sauce. When in SoCal, you should order fish tacos at least once – my husband highly recommends these from Buster’s Beach House.
There’s Always Room for Dessert!
We saved room for dessert and asked our waitress which was her favorite. She brought us the Coconut Profiteroles, homemade coconut cream puffs. Three puffs were filled with coconut pineapple ice cream, then drizzled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with toasted coconut flakes. Yummy and a refreshing way to complete our meal!
Traveling Mom Tip: There’s only one restroom at Buster’s Beach House (upstairs) and there are only two ladies stalls. Hint: Don’t wait until the last moment to go or you might find yourself standing in line, especially on a busy weekend!
Live Entertainment at Seaport Village
On the afternoon of our visit, The Cat-illacs were entertaining guests with classic cover songs in the East Plaza Gazebo. Many jumped up to dance with the music as others simply relaxed under the trees, chatting or singing along. We stood in the shade under the restaurant eaves, taking in the atmosphere.
Traveling Mom Tip: Chairs and benches are in short supply on the weekends. Arrive early to grab a spot in the shade. Or do like many other visitors did on our visit – bring your own lawn chair!
Native American flute music players serenaded guests in the West Plaza. Shoppers mingled in the shade, sipping beer and margaritas. Seaport Village’s Carousel in this area is a must-do, in particular if you have little ones with you. This historic 1895 Looff carousel features hand-carved horses and menagerie animals.
Located just a few minutes from the original Seaport Village is the newest addition, The Headquarters. San Diego’s old Police Headquarters is now a trendy courtyard of boutiques and dining. In keeping with its roots, there is an exhibit featuring a collection of police memorabilia and original jail cells.
Traveling Mom Tip: The police exhibit shares the hallway with The Headquarters bathroom. Be sure to step all the way inside the two-story jail cell room and look at the wall of mug shots from the 1930s. Be sure to read all their tawdry crimes!
We ordered dessert from Gelato Paradiso before resting next to the fountain in the courtyard. Gourmet Italian gelati & sorbetto made in-house. Mama Mia, was this a rich and creamy treat! The flavors were just incredible. My preschooler however was disappointed that his pistachio gelato “tasted like nuts.” Poor kid – used to artificial flavoring, I guess!
Traveling Mom Tip: The Headquarters courtyard is in full sun. Shop first, then take your gelato to go and walk back to enjoy it in the shade at Seaport Village.
Parking and Transportation
Weekend parking at Seaport Village is notoriously tricky. Arrive at opening (10 am) for the best chance of grabbing an open parking spot. Don’t want to drive? Consider taking the Trolley and walking across the street from the stop. The Santa Fe Train Station is only a few blocks away if you take Amtrak or the San Diego Metro Coaster.
Rounding Out the Day Downtown
If you’re looking for a few other downtown San Diego activities to complete your day trip, here are a few other TravelingMom suggestions.
The New Children’s Museum is located a few blocks away from Seaport Village. If you’re traveling with young children, this is an ideal spot to spend the afternoon. Be sure to plan enough time to play at the Children’s Park across the street and enjoy a cool splash in the fountain.
Grab a kite and head to Embarcadero Marina Park North, just steps outside of Seaport Village. This waterfront park has bike trails and picnic spots and offers some of the best kite flying in the city.
The Midway Museum, Star of India and HMS Surprise are just a short walking distance down the San Diego waterfront.