Mission Beach is a nostalgic place for me.

I lived there in my college days and back then, it had a lot of fun things to do.

Today, as a family vacation, I find there are still the classic Mission Beach attractions and restaurants of old, yet this area has grown up. Luxurious beach homes have replaced many of the college student shacks, Belmont Park has received a major face-lift and the area has become an entertainment destination. Even with all the changes it’s gone through in recent years, it retains that classic California beach vibe without being too cheeky.

Things to do

Belmont Park is Mission Beach’s main attraction. The towering Belmont Coaster anchors this historic oceanfront amusement park. You’ll find a little bit of everything, from classic carnival games and rides to themed restaurants and an escape room. The midway is quite magical at night with all the lights, sounds and smells of waffle cones.

Take your pick of water sports and chances are you’ll find a place to do it. The surf is always up here and there are several places to take surf lessons. I would recommend going to PB Surf Lessons. They’re an old-school surf style with an established shop, not a pop-up tent on the beach. You can also rent paddle boards, kayaks, jet skis, sail boats, powerboats, party boats, catamarans and even jetpacks.

The boardwalk circles the whole Mission Beach peninsula and acts as the main thoroughfare for walkers, bikers and scooter riders. There are about a half-dozen companies down there with variations of electric scooter and bikes to rent from. Remember to look both ways before stepping onto the boardwalk; it gets a little crazy. Dogs are allowed on the boardwalk before 9 a.m.

Yoga on the beach? Yes, please. While walking on the boardwalk, be on the lookout for event posts. We saw a free yoga class sign and decided to try it and had a great experience. In such a beautiful area, you’ll find all kinds of local entertainment from bands, picnics, runs and more year-round.

SeaWorld San Diego is located in the Mission Bay area and just a short trip down the road. Enjoy a fun day of rides and thrills, shows and presentations and amazing animals.

Where to eat

You’re not going to find fine dining here, but you will find memorable places to eat. The Beach House Grill is beachfront casual dining at its best in the Belmont Park area. The Mission is in the central area of Mission Beach and a popular spot for breakfast. You’re probably going to wait, but its simple, healthy, tasty food will be worth it.

Woody’s Breakfast and Burgers is a bit of a dive, but right on the boardwalk offering delicious breakfast burritos, sandwiches, burgers and smoothies. Watch the sea of people walk by as you eat and see the whole world. World Famous is also on the boardwalk in neighboring Pacific Beach. Billed as California coastal cuisine, it’s a nicer place to grab lunch and a cocktail and let the hours go by.

Places to stay

The Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is probably the nicest hotel in the area followed by tropical classics like the Bahia and Catamaran Resort hotels. I’ve stayed at all three and depending on the purpose of your trip, they each have their own charm. On our last trip, we rented a home on the bayside boardwalk and had a great experience. More room for the whole family and with all the beach amenities we needed. The south side of Mission Beach is quieter and more relaxed, whereas the north side between Belmont Park and Pacific Beach is busier and more commercialized with stores and restaurants. 

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