San Diego charms with its beautiful, natural scenery, year-round gorgeous weather, plentiful family activities and compelling (and affordable) restaurants, from crowd-pleasing taco joints to the freshest seafood. Here’s where to eat, drink, stay and play in San Diego.
What to Do
Check Out Balboa Park
San Diego’s cultural focal point is a 1,200-acre park just north of downtown. Lawns, gardens and century-old shade trees harbor the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, performance spaces, and diverse museums housed in buildings cherished and restored from two world expositions.
Hit the Beach
San Diego has 70 miles of coastline, so throw a swimsuit in your suitcase and plan to visit one of the beaches, like Coronado, Pacific (PB) or Ocean.
Hike Around Cabrillo National Monument
Surrounded by the deep blue Pacific, the Cabrillo National Monument, named for explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, commemorates the European exploration of the U.S. Pacific coast and preserves one of the oldest lighthouses, Old Point Loma Lighthouse, on the West Coast.
Where to Eat
Pleasingly piquant Sichuan fare is ordered up by a dining room of mostly regulars who pack in for mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and a whole steamed fish with dried chiles. Out of the way from downtown but worth a visit if you have a car.
This airy taqueria-cocktail joint is flooded with light thanks to an all-glass front; the better to snap photos of the pretty and delicious tacos. The “insanely spicy” smoked fish taco, featuring a local fish stuffed with jalapeños, lives up to its name; cool off your taste buds with horchata or chocolate mole ice cream.
Ironside Fish & Oyster
On the menu at this Little Italy restaurant are local fish (kanpachi, black cod and white bass), Maine lobster and colorful salads, plus the names of the people who caught your dinner.
Where to Drink
For cocktails downtown there’s The Lion’s Share in Marina (try the seasonal Corn Star—roasted corn syrup, Ancho Reyes, tequila, mezcal and lime); Prohibition in the Gaslamp (go for summery Akroma, Angel of Wrath, which features gin, Campari, grapefruit zest and pressed cucumber); and, two blocks away, Noble Experiment, where asking for the “dealer’s choice” will get you a bespoke drink mixed to your tastes.
Where to Stay
San Diego offers a splendid selection of hotels in and just outside the buzzing Gaslamp Quarter, including The Andaz San Diego, Kimpton Solamar and Pendry San Diego—all of which have rooftop pools. For a less expensive, boutique property, try The Keating.
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