San Diego

Things to Do in Spring 2021 in San Diego, Pandemic-Style

The first day of spring is March 20, 2021, and although we're still living through a pandemic, there are safe ways to enjoy the season in San Diego County -- wear your mask and take it outside

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Fields of colorful flowers and the return of the San Diego Padres could only mean one thing: it’s springtime in San Diego. Of course, the pandemic-era has shaken up traditions (everywhere), so here’s a look at how to enjoy some of San Diego’s offerings safely this season.

San Diego Padres at Petco Park

Spring means baseball season and in San Diego, it’s all about the Padres. Last spring, the coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary shutdown of MLB games – including the Padres Home Opener. A shortened MLB season would resume in late July 2020 – and the Padres were on fire (or “On Friar,” if you ask our NBC 7 SportsWrap pros). Fast-forward a year and Opening Day 2021 is on. The club’s standout squad – including Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. – will play its Home Opener on April 1 at Petco Park in downtown San Diego against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first pitch is at 1:10 p.m. Padres CEO Erik Greupner said there’s more excitement this season around the Padres “than perhaps any Padres team ever.”

Pandemic Changes: Petco Park won’t be filled to the brim with spectators this season, but if San Diego stays on track and in the red tier, MLB teams in California would be able to welcome fans into the stadiums at 20% capacity. Greupner said he thinks they can make room at Petco Park for around 10,000 spectators.

Per pandemic-era safety guidelines, spectators will be seated in pods of six or less and distanced by six feet. Fans over 2 years old will be required to wear face masks in the ballpark – when not eating or drinking. Food and drink options inside Petco Park will be limited, with concessions operating at roughly 30% capacity to start off the season. All ordering will be contactless and mobile-based to start off the season. The tricky part will be figuring out who gets access to tickets; right now, members have priority. You can read all about how the Padres are preparing to welcome fans back to the stands here.

And, by the way, even if you can’t catch every game in person this season, NBC 7’s Darnay Tripp and Derek Togerson will be following every moment. The guys get together every week to talk about the Padres on their podcast, On Friar.

We’ll also keep you posted on any and all Padres stories here.

NBC 7's Dave Summers explains why an email from the team to season ticket holders is cause for excitement.

Carlsbad Flower Fields

Nothing says spring quite like a visit to The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch on Paseo Del Norte in San Diego’s North County. Open now through Mother's Day (May 9), guests can enjoy the blooms daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for kids ages 3 to 10; children under 2 get in free, and parking is included in the ticket price. As San Diegans will know, there are endless photo opportunities here and walking along the fields of flowers just makes it feel like spring has arrived.

Pandemic Changes: Last spring, The Flowers Fields in Carlsbad were only open for two weeks before COVID-19 reached our region and forced the attraction to shut down. This year, the fields are open – but far less crowded than they were in the pre-pandemic world – and with a lot of new health and safety rules.

The biggest change is that reservations must be made ahead of time on the attraction’s website. All ticket sales must be made online, no tickets will be sold on site. Visitors must choose a half-hour time window to arrive and can then stay however long they would like for the day. The entry system is touchless. The Flower Fields said cloth face masks are required to be worn by every visitor over the age of 2 at all times – except when eating and drinking. Visitors must keep a distance of 6 feet from any other visitors who are not part of their households. You can read up on all of the COVID-era rules here.

The Carlsbad Flower Fields might look a little different this year, but the smell and beauty remain the same. NBC 7's Jackie Crea has the story.

Balboa Park's Free Gardens

San Diegans enjoy Balboa Park year-round but in the springtime there’s just something therapeutic about the landmark’s free gardens and walking trails. Even during the pandemic, Balboa Park’s free gardens remain open. Take in the blooms at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Garden on the east side of Park Boulevard (across the pedestrian bridge, adjacent to the San Diego Natural History Museum), or check out the drought-tolerant plants at the small California Native Plant Garden on the west end of the tennis courts at Morley Field and get some ideas for your home landscape. Some of Balboa Park’s gardens spotlight towering trees, others prickly cacti. Whatever you’re into, these spots are great for a springtime visit.

Pandemic Changes: While some attractions in Balboa Park remain closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, visitors to open areas – like the free gardens – must adhere by public health guidelines. This includes wearing masks, social distancing, and following the rules unique to each venue. Also, as of March 18, Balboa Park’s iconic Botanical Building in the heart of the landmark remained closed to the public due to the pandemic. You can still walk around the Lily Pond, though. For the latest COVID-related updates about what’s open at Balboa Park right now, click here.

NBC 7 Meteorologist Crystal Egger has a preview of spring in San Diego including the extended daylight hours, increasing sun angle, average temps, and the impacts of a longer and warmer season.

Art Alive

Art Alive is a four-day fundraising event held at the San Diego Museum of Art each spring in support of the museum's programs, exhibitions, and education. Art Alive features nearly 100 floral designers interpreting famous works of art around the museum with blooms. Last spring, as the pandemic forced museums to permanently close, the event was cancelled. This year, Art Alive turns 40 and organizers are planning to host the event – only it’ll be at the end of the season, with a target date of June 17 through June 20. You can keep up with how this year’s Art Alive will shape up here.

Pandemic Changes: As of mid-March 2021, with San Diego County in the red tier in California’s COVID-19 reopening plan, museums are capped at 25% capacity. In recent, pre-pandemic years, Art Alive had been known to spill outside the museum – especially for its Bloom Bash, the kickoff celebration. With outdoor activities still considered the safest alternative during the pandemic, the San Diego Museum of Art said part of this year’s exhibition will extend into the plaza for the family-friendly “Open Air Floral Affair.” The big Bloom Bash is taking a break this year and, instead, the museum will host the Color Feast, an outdoor dining experience. Art Alive 2021 will also feature some virtual festivities, including a 360-degree virtual tour of the floral exhibition, a virtual silent auction and at-home workshops for all ages.

Bauman Photography/The San Diego Museum of Art
An image from a past Art Alive event at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Mission Beach Boardwalk


Take advantage of San Diego’s gorgeous springtime weather and visit the iconic boardwalk at Mission Beach. Several years ago, a portion of the boardwalk's seawall -- between San Fernando Place and Ventura Place, near Belmont Park -- was reconstructed to restore the seawall back to how it looked when it was first built in the 1920s. The spot is a popular place to take a stroll in the spring and summer -- or on any day when the temps are practically perfect. You'll often see locals and tourists walking, jogging and bicycling along the boardwalk. The exercise is great, but the ocean views are even better.

Pandemic Changes: The boardwalk and beach are open for recreation, but wear your face mask and keep your distance from others enjoying the time outdoors.

San Diego Parks With a View

With much of our city boasting waterfront views, a nice spring morning or afternoon playing at a local park – with a view – could be enjoyable for both the kids and mom or dad. A couple of scenic sites that come to mind include Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway, with views of the Embarcadero, or Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach, where the sandy playground is just steps from the water. There’s also Sunset Park, adjacent to Coronado Beach on Coronado Island, La Jolla Shores Park and Kellogg Park – both in La Jolla – and Bonita Cove on West Mission Bay Drive. In San Diego’s North County, try Fletcher Cove Beach Park in Solana Beach, Powerhouse Park & Beach in Del Mar, Buccaneer Beach Park in Oceanside. Oh, and you can’t miss Bayside Park on Bayside Parkway in Chula Vista.

Pandemic Changes: Playgrounds are open and recreation at parks is open to all – bring your face mask and follow any posted COVID-19 rules, and practice physical distancing from people who are not part of your household.

Monica Garske
A couple of tots swing at Fanuel Street Park in San Diego in 2016.

Whale Watching in San Diego (Yes, Even in the Spring)

Traditionally a winter activity, whale watching in San Diego has now become a year-round activity. In years past, Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, has said that San Diego should be considered the world's No. 1 destination for whale watching. Around this time in 2015, Flagship Cruises said gray whale sightings were on the rise in San Diego, with more than 200 spotted off our shores over the first few months of the year. Whale watching tours can be found all along the Embarcadero, including via Flagship Cruises & Events, which is offering daily whale watching tours through April 18.

Pandemic Changes: Per Flagship Cruises & Events, masks are required for every passenger and employee aboard the tours. The company said it has significantly limited cruise capacity to allow for safe social distancing. On the ship, passengers can only remove their masks when they’re drinking or eating. Bathrooms are limited to one person or family at a time. Current COVID-related cruising guidelines for Flagship can be found here. If you use another company for your excursion, be sure to check their website ahead of your cruise for COVID-19 safety tips.

Take a Hike

Put on some comfy gear, fill up your daypack with essentials, and connect with nature on a relaxing springtime hike on one of San Diego’s many trails. Try Cowles Mountain in the East County or Iron Mountain Trail off Poway Road and SR-67, or head to the seaside trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve or Sunset Cliffs. The San Diego Hiker’s Association has a wealth of free information about how to access local trails and what to expect on your chosen adventure.

Pandemic Changes: Face masks and social distance are key here.

Top 7 Hiking Trails in San Diego

Enjoy San Diego's Scenic Views

San Diego is home to so many scenic, sweeping ocean views. They can, of course, be enjoyed year-round, but there's something special about taking in the sights on a perfect spring day. Here's a round-up of eight must-see ocean views in America's Finest City, including breathtaking spots like downtown's Embarcadero, Pacific Beach (try strolling along Crystal Pier), and La Jolla's famous Windansea Beach (look for the cute little historic surf shack).

Pandemic Changes: Be sure to keep yourself at least 6 feet apart from others who are not in your household and wear your face mask.

8 Must-See Ocean Views in San Diego

What kind of springtime activities do you enjoy as a San Diego resident or visitor? Share in the comments section below.

Also, share your photos of beautiful springtime in San Diego on Instagram using the hashtag #SanDiegoGram. 

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