Your second full-day tour starts with a famous San Diego theme park, but you'll need to choose which one: SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo. You could spend the entire day at either one, but if you need a change of scenery halfway through the afternoon, spend a few active hours at the public aquatic park, Mission Bay, or on the Mission Beach boardwalk. If you have no desire to bike or kayak, chill out on the beach and embrace a lazy afternoon under the sun.
1. Pick a Theme Park: SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo
You'll get a dose of animals at both places, but do yourself a favor and choose either SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo; don't try to do both in 1 day. Get there when the gates open to maximize your touring time, and spend a little more than half of the day exploring. Plan to leave by early afternoon for a late lunch.
At SeaWorld, Shamu may be the star, but there's a whole lot more to see and do here. You'll find Journey to Atlantis (a roller coaster), Shipwreck Rapids (a splashy river ride), lovable penguins at the Penguin Encounter, and, of course, animal shows. There's also a passel of Sesame Street-related attractions, and a "4-D" interactive movie experience.
More than 4,000 creatures reside at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, known not only for its giant pandas, gorillas, and tigers housed in naturalistic environments, but also for its successful animal preservation efforts. The Children's Zoo petting area is perfect for little ones (and any adult who loves animals).
2. A Post-Theme-Park Break
If you're coming from SeaWorld and don't mind a little irony, try the fresh-off-the-boat seafood at the Fishery, 5040 Cass St. (tel. 858/272-9985) -- a casual Pacific Beach fish market. If you spent the morning at the San Diego Zoo, pick up a gourmet taco at colorful Mamá Testa, 1417 University Ave. (tel. 619/298-8226), a local favorite.
3. Mission Bay Park & Mission Beach
Outfitters such as Mission Bay Sportcenter and Cheap Rentals rent gear including bikes, in-line skates, kayaks, and catamarans to better make your way through and around Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground. You can also enjoy unparalleled people-watching along the Mission Beach boardwalk, which hugs the wide swath of sandy beach. Or just grab a blanket, plop down on the sand, catch some rays, and ponder the volleyball players' suntanned muscles.