Known for its beaches and wonderful climate, San Diego is a visit you will love on the west coast of California. The craft breweries are some of the best of any state. The sites to see are plentiful throughout and it’s a feel good city that anyone can fall in love with it! There is so much to do in the city of San Diego and the surrounding area. The city is split by areas of the city each day to help you navigate a bit better. Enjoy San Diego because it’s an amazing city that will definitely become one of your favorites.
Top 5 Things To Do
- Balboa Park – One of my favorite parks in the United States. The architecture brings you to Europe in a way. A lot of the buildings were built for a convention in the early 1900’s to show off the city. You won’t be disappointed as you walk around the park and enjoy the many things to do. Home to the famously photographed botanical garden, the San Diego Zoo and many more museums to stroll through.
- La Jolla Cove – A picturesque areas in San Diego that gives you a little taste of the beach life. The marine life is plentiful in the area and can be the site of some amazing sun activity while you are here. The beaches offer a lot to enjoy while you are here, just try to get here early as it does fill up with people.
- Gaslamp District – Whether you want to party hard for the evening or just go out for some fine dining, Gaslamp as a lot to offer you on your store. Take time and stroll through the area and people watch, or indulge in some fine culinary cuisine.
- USS Midway – A maritime naval museum that was one of the longest running air craft carriers in the US Navy. You can’t make it out to San Diego without taking some time and learning about the importance the Navy has had on the port city. There is plenty to do aboard the ship so carve out at least half a day to enjoy all that it has to offer.
- Hotel Del Coronado – Take the commuter boat over for a half day on Coronado. A small area right outside the downtown area of San Diego, it feels like the Hamptons of the west coast! This hotel specifically was opened back in 1888 and you will often see it in many movies. At the time, it was the largest hotel resort in the world and has seen it’s fair share of celebrities including many presidents.
- Old Town State Park
- American House Coffee and Tea
- Racine and Laramie
- Rockin’ Baja Lobster Restaurant
- Old Town Tequila Factory
- Whaley House Museum
- El Campo Santo Cemetery
- Cafe Coyote
Your first day will take you into the old area of the city to experience some of the original parts of the town. There are some touristy areas, as there will be in any historic area you go to, but it’s well worth your first day in the city.
State park: Make your way through the park and enjoy your look into the Old town of San Diego. There are several historic landmarks in the area for you to stop off and see as you walk through the old area of San Diego.
American house coffee and tea: Grab a coffee or tea depending on what you enjoy. They have many options for you to indulge in so that you get your morning off right.
Racine and Laramie: This store opened in 1869 and continues to stay open. It’s neat to walk through, even if you don’t choose to purchase anything.
Rockin’ Baja lobster: As you make your way out of the state park, you can stop in and have a great meal at Rockin Baja. It’s a bit touristy in a way, but they have some good tacos, great drinks and a cool atmosphere. Take a couple of Oyster shooters as you finish your meal, you won’t regret it!
Old town tequila factory: Make your way up to the tequila factory and enjoy some drinks. They may not make their own tequila, but they have some great flights of different types of tequila. If you haven’t really done a tequila tasting before, it’s a fun experience to have as you make your way on to your next location.
Whaley house museum: The house was built in 1857 and it was the first two story house in San Diego. Thomas Whaley built the house himself. Take a walk through time as you tour the house and see various exhibits that take you back in time. There are a lot of neat artifacts in the museum and the tickets are only 10 dollars for adults. This is also known as one of the most haunted houses in the city!
El Campo Santo Cemetery: Smaller than it used to be, this cemetery has been around since the 1800’s. It is a part of any ghost tour, but also interesting to see the graves and headstones used in the 1800’s.
Cafe coyote: Finish your day off with some massive margaritas and great food. They make their own tortillas out front, which are fantastic. It’s a great way to end your first night in San Diego.
- Gas Lamp walkabout
- Full Moon Sushi and Kitchen Bar
- Comedy Show
- Coin Op Gaslamp
- Double Deuce
Heading out of Old Town from the previous day, you are now heading into a bit more lively area of the city. This part of the city has some fantastic upcoming restaurants and night life for you to enjoy. It will be a day of walking through and getting some wonderful food and enjoying the people watching.
Werewolf: Start your day out with some delicious breakfast food. This restaurant can take you back to say the least. It can be counted as nostalgic. With the great food, you get a chance to watch old 80’s and 90’s videos on the tv’s above the bar. The food and drinks are great. I had the bloody mary and an eggs Benedict and they were very enjoyable.
*Gas Lamp walkabout: Enjoy walking down 5th street and doing some people watching. There are many restaurants to look at or maybe you just want to do a little bit of shopping while you are in the area. Either way, enjoy walking through the heart of Gaslamp in San Diego.
Mad House Comedy Club: Most days besides Monday and Tuesday, you can get a chance to see a comedy show during the day. Open 11-3 and then 6:30-1:30am, you are able to stop into the Mad House Comedy Club and see some great comics put on a wonderful show. Make sure to get your tickets before going in, but sometimes in the day, it won’t be as big of an issue. They do serve some simple american style food if you are hungry, if not just have a drink and enjoy laughing hysterically!
Coin Op Gaslamp: After laughing your ass off, you should move on over and relive a little bit of your youth. This place has every arcade game that you can imagine. Who wouldn’t want to play a little bit of Ms. Packman or maybe challenge your friends to some Dance Dance Revolution. Either way, you will love having a little bit of childhood remembrance. The speciality drinks aren’t as special, but they do have a wide array of craft beers to enjoy.
Full Moon Sushi and Kitchen Bar: You are probably getting a little hungry at this point. If you are in the mood for some fantastic sushi, stop in at Full Moon which is rated the best sushi restaurant in San Diego. The sushi chefs do a fantastic job with presentation and they will always have something special on the menu. It can be a bit pricey, but it’s wealth worth it when you get your food. It’s a smaller location so you might have to wait a little bit before you sit down.
Searsucker: Keep in your swanky feel after eating at a fine dining sushi restaurant and make your way over to Searsucker. The feel is very prohibition. Order one of their several specialty cocktails and enjoy the great service. You can either end the night after this or move on to a dance club that might bring you back to the movie Road House to finish your night off right.
*Double Deuce: The Double Deuce has two different sides to the club. On one side, you get the country bar feel like you are in the Road House movie. They have country music going and you can enjoy living that country mentality. For those that want to move up a notch for the evening, walk over to the other side of the bar and you get a much different atmosphere. The other side is more like a club and also has a mechanical bull. If you want to do some people watching, this is the place to be! You can spend countless hours watching people ride the mechanical bull or just dance the night away! No matter what your appetite holds, there is a little bit for everyone at this club.
- La Jolla Cove
- Cabrillo National Monument
- Hotel Del Coronado
- Il Fornaio
La Jolla Cove: Start your day off and watch the sunrise at La Jolla. This beautiful area with give you something a little different with sharp cliffs and a great place to enjoy an early morning. It’s known for some fantastic snorkeling and marine life in the area. Enjoy yourself as you relax a bit before heading over to Cabrillo.
Cabrillo National Monument: The southern most tip of the Peninsula is the first place that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped foot in the western united states. There is a lighthouse that you can go into or just enjoy the monument and the view. This area gives you an amazing view of the entire San Diego area. On the way to the monument or after, stop off at the cemetery. It’s well worth a visit.
Hotel Del Coronado: You might have looked across and saw this little island area. Coronado island is a small boat ride away from the downtown area of San Diego. Take one of the commuter boats over and I would recommend getting bikes or just taking an Uber to get over to this amazing hotel. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States. Just stop in and walk through the hotel and see the beauty of the architecture. After walking through the hotel, head to the beach to see a beautiful view.
Il Fornaio: Finish off your day at this great restaurant that is right next to your boat back to the main land. They have some great dishes, whether you decide to take some appetizer platters or entrees, there is no bad choice. They also have some great speciality drinks that you can sit and enjoy. This will be your last place to visit for the evening before heading back to the main land and heading back for the night.
Now on to my favorite location in all of San Diego. Balboa Park will entertain you for one day, if not two or three days if you are fitting everything in. Sometimes I just enjoy sitting outside of Panama 66 and watching the street performers. There are parts of the area that whisk you away and make you feel like you are caught in the middle of Europe, other times you feel like you could be in the middle of a carnival. Either way, I hope you enjoy Balboa Park just as much as I do. The site of several conventions in the early 1900’s has left many amazing buildings that will wow you.
- Balboa Park
- California Tower
- Alcazar Garden
- Panama 66
- The Botanical Garden
- San Diego Zoo
- The Prado
California Tower: Start off strong as you make your way across the Cabrillo bridge. The first site you will probably see is this amazing bell tower. Within the area, you will find the museum of Us. The museum takes you through the civilizations of our past and shows you how we have came to be as human beings. They have several fascinating exhibits and you can make your way up to the bell tower after. The bell tower gives you a wonderful view of the city of San Diego. I know that you’ve had some great views already, but always take a different look when you get a chance!
Alcazar Garden: Stop on over to this small garden as you make your way out of the museum. You will often see many people coming to the area for wedding photos as it’s a beautiful garden area. It won’t take you a long time to just sit and experience the pretty area, but it’s a nice quick stop for you as you make your way through Balboa Park.
*Panama 66: I’m going to assume that you are probably getting kind of hungry after going through a museum. I get it, I always feel the same way! Even if you aren’t, you can still stop in for some great drinks. They have several food items that are delicious, especially the cheese plate. They also have a lot of local craft beers and speciality drinks. It’s a perfect place to sit and watch the local street talent as you sip on some suds before moving on.
The Botanical Garden: If you are already in Balboa Park, you might as well stop in to the free tour of the botanical gardens. The gardens can be as short as you want to make them and they are free to enter. What I love about the area is the zen like quality you get when you enter the building. They have many different types of plants for you to explore along with some simple waterfalls. Outside, you get to watch ducks go wild in the pond in front of the garden. You can take some time relaxing in this area, or you can move on to the San Diego zoo.
San Diego Zoo: This zoo is rated by many as one of the top zoos in the world. There are more than 3,700 animals across 100 acres of land. It’s interesting to hear about how this zoo came into existence and the walking of the elephants across the bridge. You can take a while as you walk through this zoo as there are so many exhibits to see and explore. Tickets are a little pricey in comparison to everywhere else in the park, with adult tickets costing $60 and children at $50. Regardless, you still have to visit an amazing zoo when you come across one.
The Prado: Finish your night at the Prado restaurant. This restaurant has some fantastic food, great atmosphere and of course great drinks! It’s often used as a wedding venue and we actually looked at having our wedding here ourselves, but it was a bit pricier than we expected! Either way, stop in and grab a wonderful meal before heading to bed for the evening. It’s been a long day in Balboa Park and I am sure you enjoyed everything that it had to offer. You could make it two days, because there are plenty of other museums to go into, but with a limited amount of time, you save the best for the itinerary!
- Coava Coffee
- USS midway
- Unconditional surrender statue
- Fish Market
- Kansas City BBQ
Coava Coffee: Start your day off right in the area by having some of my favorite coffee. Coava is out of Portland and I was so happy to see them set up a coffee shop in the heart of downtown San Diego. The single origin coffee is always fantastic and the service is incredible. Enjoy your coffee at the shop and relax a bit before heading into your day.
USS Midway: This maritime museum was the longest serving aircraft carrier, over 50 years of service. It’s also the most popular naval warship museum in the United States. I will tell you that this is well worth a visit and can take you over 3 hours to make your way through the ship. It’s so interesting to see how people lived on the ship and the day to day life that they took on. The museum also is home to A LOT of aircrafts when you get to the top deck. Several aircrafts to see and I almost felt like I was Tom Cruise walking through the Top Gun academy as I walked the deck.
Unconditional Surrender Statue: As you make your way out of the museum, you will see an amazing statue of a couple kissing after the war. It was famous for a photo that was taken in the middle of Time Square in New York. This 25 foot statue is something to stare up at as you walk your way through the area. Make your way past the statue and move on for some good at the fish market.
Fish Market: A great place to go while in the area. It’s a little pricey for some of their meals but they have a delicious array of food and drinks. It has a wonderful view of the bay area and the bridge. It’s a great way to culminate the day with dinner. One final move will take you to a place that you might have seen on a movie with Tom Cruise in the 80’s.
Kansas City BBQ: This little hole in the wall joint is a final stop for the evening before heading back for the night. Once you walk in, you will think, what did I just get myself into? What I will say is that I have no idea! This place was used in the famous Top Gun scene where Goose plays ‘Great Balls of Fire’ at the piano. The piano still sits here and they even have a board to put your face into Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis’ bodies. The BBQ is actually pretty delicious by the way, but either way, it’s a stop for any Tom Cruise fan in the 1980’s. Stay for the food and cheap drinks, but enjoy the atmosphere!
- Stone Brewery
Tijuana: Depending on if you want to make an extra day of it, you have to make your way across the border for a last hoorah during your stay in the area. Tijuana is famous for many things that I won’t go into, but what they are also famous for that maybe you have no idea about is the Caesar salad. Among other things, they have a anything goes mentality in the area. We had a ball glowing across to this Mexican city. We tried many tequilas at restaurants in the area. I wanted to buy a tequila to bring back to the US and I was a little unsure about which one to buy. We stopped into a restaurant and the bartender continued to give different types of tequila to try. We enjoyed the hospitality, but also realized that we needed to stay inside the tourist zone of the city. As we made our way outside of the zone, we saw prostitutes next to police officers like it was a normal situation. Either way, depending on how you feel, you can make it over to this interesting Mexican city or if you aren’t feeling up to it, you can stay around the San Diego area for the day.
Stone Brewery: There are several breweries that I could recommend to you on your vacation in San Diego, because San Diego has fantastic breweries. If there is one to end with, it’s outside the city a little bit but well worth the trip to Escondido. They make some of the best beer in Southern California and if you love IPA’s, I’m sure you’ve had Stone at one point in your life. What I like about the brewery is the landscaping outside. It’s a decent amount of area to navigate but they have several waterfalls on site and many beautiful places that you can stop off and just relax and enjoy yourself. If you like fantastic beer and a beautiful location to end your trip right, stop off at Stone!
*Top people watching spot