San Diego’s Winter Wonderland

Photos courtesy OF Belmont Park & THE PLUNGE

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE A WINTER’S DAY at the beach, especially Mission Beach. Besides beautiful wide reaches of sand, Mission Beach has an inviting boardwalk with an array of restaurants and fun boutiques, an indoor swim park, and an outdoor amusement park. Although the ocean’s temperature makes it less inviting for a swim, it provides a beautiful backdrop for a wonderful day.

Start the morning with a walk on the Ocean Front Walk, which runs parallel to the beach from the southernmost tip of Mission Beach at the jetty north to Law Street in Pacific Beach. If you’re an early riser, you can join the walkers and joggers who make this 3.7-mile path part of their regular routine. Or plan to arrive at around nine, when the lifeguards report for duty and the shopkeepers start to open their doors. Grab a coffee, tighten your shoelaces, and walk north on the boardwalk as far as you like. Breakfast is a sumptuous tradition on Mission Beach, so make a slight detour to enjoy the cinnamon roll French toast at Olive Café or The Mission’s avocado toast served on house-made rosemary bread.

There are plenty of ways to spend the rest of your day. Biking, skateboarding, and rollerblading are permitted on the boardwalk, at speeds less than 8 mph. If you haven’t brought your own gear, you can arrange a short-term rental with one of several locally owned businesses in the area. There are also plenty of great boutiques dedicated to the beach lifestyle, including The Bikini Shoppe, which carries the latest designer swimwear and accessories.

Mission Beach stretches two miles along the western side of the Mission Beach peninsula
Mission Beach stretches two miles along the western side of the Mission Beach peninsula
The Plunge’s Wibit Slide
The Plunge’s Wibit Slide
Belmont Park’s Giant Dipper Roller Coaster
Belmont Park’s Giant Dipper Roller Coaster

If chilly water doesn’t deter you, you can wiggle into a wetsuit and rent a board. Although Mission Beach isn’t known for consistently great surf, it has its days. In fact, local surfers tell us that the winter is the best time of year to catch good waves, when swells come in from the north and east Pacific Ocean.

Prefer warmer waters? Head for the Plunge Pool, a 20,000-square-foot venue and entertainment facility located at Belmont Park. Offering an incredible heated pool with both shallow and deep ends, the Plunge is equipped with a retractable roof and floor-to-ceiling windows. Purchase a one-, two-, or three-hour recreational session pass, or buy a recreational day pass for full access to the facility all day.

See if you can conquer the giant floating obstacle course, relax in the dry sauna, or just sit back and enjoy the ocean views.

No day at Mission Beach is complete without spending time at Belmont Park. Admission to this iconic seven-acre beachfront family-friendly amusement park is free, and you are welcome to explore and pay for the rides à la carte style. You can also purchase ticket bundles, or a park pass for a full day of unlimited rides and attractions. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a vintage wooden roller coaster first constructed in 1925, will be closed for maintenance until early February, but there are plenty of other things to do. The  exhilarating  Beach Blaster swings daring riders into the sky in random directions, reaching heights of up to 67 feet. There is also a rock-climbing wall, a go-kart track, a classic Tilt-A-Whirl ride, and a zip line that lets you soar above it all.

Plan to have dinner at a restaurant with an ocean view at sunset. The sky deck of  Sandbar Sports Grill serves great authentic tacos, and Cannonball, a hip second-story restaurant, features inventive sushi and California fare. Listen for the surf  instead of sleigh bells, and watch the beautiful sight of the sun sinking into the sea. This is how San Diegans spend a winter’s day: playing and walking in Mission Beach, our winter wonderland.

Beach Blaster at Belmont Park
Beach Blaster at Belmont Park
Beach-themed shops on Ventura Place | Lindsey DeRyckere
Beach-themed shops on Ventura Place | Lindsey DeRyckere


Take the West Mission Bay Dr exit off I-8 and follow West Mission Bay Dr to Mission Blvd. Turn left (south) on Mission Blvd. There are public parking lots on either side of Mission Blvd, just south of Belmont Park. An additional parking lot is located to the east on the south side of Mission Bay Dr. The daily rate is $20/24 hours. In addition, San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System provides bus service to Mission Beach and along the coast north to Pacific Beach.

Mission Beach’s boardwalk is open to pedestrians 24 hours/day. Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk, beach, or adjacent parks between 9 am and 4 pm through March 31. Leashed dogs are welcome in the early morning hours and after 4 pm.

Belmont Park
Plunge San Diego

The Olive Café
805 Santa Clara Place

The Mission
3795 Mission Blvd

3105 Ocean Front Walk

Sandbar Sports Grill
718 Ventura Place