Where To Stay: Hotel Republic. It is in the Financial District (downtown), walking distance to the Marina, Amtrak, Aaharn and Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
Where to buy tickets: Go City pass or Costco.
Transportation: Recommend to take Uber and not rent a car since there is $50 valet parking charge at hotel per day.
Day 1: Arrive at hotel. Buy groceries from Ralph’s nearby and head to Coronado island in the evening (Hotel Del Coronado). Coronado is the happening place in San Diego. More happening than Downtown San Diego itself. And Hotel Del Coronado is a place to visit. Eat at Miguel’s Cocina near Hotel Del Coronado.
Day 2: San Diego Zoo. Or do the Safari Park instead if you have already been to some zoo couple of times. The Zoo comes up as the top attraction of San Diego. Its not bad but comparable to Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle) so can be easily substituted for something else like the Safari. They have lot of monkeys but oddly there were no gorillas. The best exhibit I found was that of Asian Leopards. They have at least 4 of them and they were very active. You do feel a sense of guilt watching the animals in captivity (esp. the birds which are meant to soar in the skies). Dinner at Aaharn. Aaharn is the best place for budget conscious. The food is good and it cost only $20 for 2 people. Rest of the places were 3x expensive. If you are staying at Hotel Republic you could eat at Aaharn throughout your trip.
Day 3: La Jolla Cove. Start at the children’s pool and walk to La Jolla Cove and the Cave Store. Check out the cave and then head over to Salk Institute. Have lunch at Salk Cafeteria (good food and very cheap) and then go to the Gliderport. Do paragliding there. It is costly ($175 + $100 for photos and video) but worth it if you have never done it before. Also the best views of the ocean are from here. Then explore UCSD campus nearby. Dinner at Karl Strauss.
Day 4: Sea World. There are 2 main roller coaster rides – Electric Eel and Manta. Both are lot of fun. Then there is Tidal Twister, Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Alley which are fun as well. If you have been to another Sea World then might want to substitute with Legoland. Stroll around the marina in the evening.
Day 5: Check out from hotel. USS Midway. Amazing experience. They have dozens of fighter and bomber planes plus you can take a tour of the ship all the way from the bridge to the engine room. You can see the dining hall, admiral’s desk, kitchen, laundry, radio room, conference rooms, mess, supply room, pretty much everything. They have interesting talks where they explain crew in yellow jackets direct the planes, the crew in red jacket checks ammunition, white jacket checks safety and so on. They have a place where you can park your luggage in case you are taking flight back home in the afternoon.
Gaslamp Quarter is supposed to be an attraction but I found it passable.