As one of the most popular tourist destinations in America, San Diego offers an abundance of activities and attractions for visitors and locals alike. And because San Diego is considered a beer city, drinking is popular here, too. For those who are recovering from alcohol use disorder or alcohol abuse and want to have fun without temptation, options might seem limited. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do in San Diego that don’t revolve around alcoholic beverages. Here are a few touristy, sporty, and artsy alternative activities to drinking alcohol:
Touristy Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol in San Diego
San Diego Zoo
Our zoo is “world famous” for good reason. We have thousands of animals and miles of sidewalks and trails winding through the gorgeous park. The great news for those who are recovering from an alcohol use disorder is that you’re allowed to bring in outside food and beverages so you can avoid the restaurants and food carts that serve beer and wine.
A great alternative to San Diego’s other sea life park, Birch Aquarium is science-focused and features over 60 habitats for fish and invertebrates of the Pacific Ocean, an oceanographic museum showcasing research discoveries, plus hands-on tide pools and dozens of interactive elements. Food and non-alcoholic beverages are available at the Splash Café just outside the aquarium’s entrance.
Admission to this retired Navy aircraft carrier includes a self-guided audio tour through the bowels of the ship’s “miniature city” and the 29 restored aircraft on deck. There are also two types of flight simulators, short films and interactive exhibits for military geeks and history buffs alike. For a fun dining experience, the museum’s Fantail Café features options made from the ship’s 1945 cookbook (note that beer and wine are also served).
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Perched atop the tip of Point Loma, this decommissioned lighthouse—not used since the late 1800s—is a near-magical step back in time since being restored for tourism purposes. The adjacent museum and nearby Cabrillo National Monument and tide pools are worth exploring as well, along with the gift shop for unique books and gifts. Food and beverages are limited to vending machines.
Sporty Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol in San Diego
Encompassing 7,220 acres of both natural and developed recreational areas, Mission Trails is centrally located enough to attract hikers and nature lovers from around the county. The Old Mission Dam is a highlight, originally built to store water for the Mission San Diego de Alcala. And if you want to get your heart pumping, climb the popular trail up Cowles Mountain. It’s the highest peak in the county. Just remember to bring lots of water—the beverage of choice at Mission Trails.
Relatively new to San Diego, iFly is a skydiving simulator in Mission Valley that uses vertical wind tunnels to create massive airflow—giving you the sensation of skydiving with all the adrenaline and none of the risk. Each “flight” lasts about 60 seconds, which is longer than the 45-second freefall typical with skydiving, and while iFly hosts parties and private events, alcoholic beverages are not sold onsite.
Miramar Speed Circuit
If you have a bit of a competitive streak, go-kart racing might be right up your alley. Miramar Speed Circuit is a quarter mile indoor racetrack with karts traveling up to 40 miles per hour. If you still can’t manage first place, the facility also offers laser tag for another chance to prevail against your friends/competitors. As with similar attractions, parties and private events are available but no food or beverages.
Beach horseback riding
Travel a little south of downtown to the Tijuana River Valley Nature Preserve and you’ll find a few ranches offering guided horseback rides along the beach (Happy Trails and Surfside Ranch are the most popular). There’s nothing more serene than galloping along the surf, so even though this activity is listed as “sporty,” it will invigorate your spirit more than your heart rate. Still, bring plenty of water to combat the salty beach air.
Artsy Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol in San Diego
When it comes to Balboa Park, the jewel of San Diego, it’s hard to choose a single artsy attraction. Along with the San Diego Museum of Art and Timken Museum of Art (among others), park-wide sculptures, seasonal art installations and events, Balboa Park also features Spanish Village, which houses some seriously talented artists and crafters. The park is also home to several restaurants and eateries, some of which serve alcohol, but there are enough things to see and enjoy at Balboa without even entering a single building.
Old Globe Theatre
The Old Globe Theatre is technically part of Balboa Park, but it’s ripped-from-Elizabethan-England charm sets it apart. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to see a Shakespeare play during the height of his fame, this world-class theater will give you a taste. Lady Carolyn’s Pub offers food and a full bar, but it’s only open one hour prior to showtime and during intermission, promising huge crowds that will be easy to avoid.
Museum of Contemporary Art
With two locations—in La Jolla and downtown—the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego features a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs, and their collections are internationally recognized. The La Jolla location includes a European bistro-inspired café that serves wine and beer, but it’s relatively tucked away on the northeast side of the museum.
There are a million ways to have fun in San Diego without alcohol!
Whether you’re just visiting San Diego or live here permanently, our beautiful SoCal city offers an abundance of ways to have fun without alcohol. If you or someone you love suffers from alcohol addiction and is in the early stages of recovery, help is available to aid the transition into a healthy, positive—and yes, fun—alcohol-free life.