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San Diego is …

One of “America’s Coolest Cities” according to Forbes

The #1 Buzziest Beach Town according to Yahoo! Travel

One of “The World’s Best Beer Cities” according to The Beer Connoisseur

One of “America’s Best Cities for Foodies” the #2 Athletic and Active City according to Travel and Leisure

And a “Best of the World” Destination by National Geographic Traveler

I’ve lived here for 10 years and I have to say, I agree with all of these things!

Based on just the above, it’s obvious there is something for everyone in San Diego. Whether you want to spend your days lounging by the ocean, hiking up mountains, tasting craft beer, or visiting the famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, or Sea World with your family, you’ll never get bored.

San Diego’s Main Attractions

Beaches

San Diego is a rather large city so there isn’t just one beach to choose from. For a first time visitor, the variety of cliffs, coves, and shoreline in La Jolla is a good stop on your tour of San Diego. For the younger (and young at heart) crowd Pacific Beach is a great spot to spend a few hours and then grab a bite or a drink at any of the bars and restaurants overlooking the ocean. If you’re a hippie at heart, head just a little more south to Ocean Beach. And if you find yourself in North County or like to surf Torrey Pines, Swami’s and Moonlight Beach are all great spots!

things to do in San Diego, La Jolla Cove

Beautiful beaches at La Jolla Cove

Balboa Park

Located just north of downtown, Balboa Park is so much more than just greenery – but there is plenty of that! There are plenty of museums to visit, including the San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Man, the Air and Space Museum, and the Botanical Building. If you’re traveling with kids, head over to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the Natural History Museum, and the Model Railroad Museum as well. From there, or perhaps on a separate day entirely, head over to the San Diego Zoo that is adjacent to the park!

Hiking

San Diego is all about being outdoors. If you’re looking for a bit of a workout, head over to Torrey Pines State Park for a relatively easy hike overlooking the ocean. For those looking for something a bit more challenging, head inland to Cowles Mountain, Mt. Woodson (also know as Potato Chip Rock) or Iron Mountain. These are some of the most popular spots to hike, so if you can get there on a weekday the crowds will be thinner. And if you’re looking to avoid the crowds completely there are many other hikes off the beaten path!

Pacific Crest Trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Old Town

Titled the birthplace of California, Old Town is filled with Mexican restaurants and shops. You can also visit The Whaley House, which the Travel Channel labeled the most haunted house in America.

Theme Parks

For those traveling with kids, the San Diego Zoo may not be enough to keep them occupied your entire trip! You can purchase a multi-day pass that can provide access to Sea World, the Wild Animal Park, and Legoland – and hey, even if you don’t have kids you’ll have a fun few days visiting these parks!

San Diego’s Food & Drink Options

Fish Shop

If you’re coming to San Diego, chances are you want to get your hands on some seafood, and I don’t blame you! For a casual spot, check out one of the Fish Shops – in Pacific Beach, Encinitas, or Point Loma! From fish tacos to oysters to spicy shrimp, good beers and BYO wine, this place is a definite favorite of mine.

Little Italy

There are so many good restaurants in San Diego, it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few, but the restaurant scene in Little Italy is some of the best. And no, I’m not just talking about Italian (although there are some delicious Italian spots here!). From seafood to Mexican to Japanese to Modern American to steakhouses, there is something for everyone down here.

Beautiful Cedar Creek

Beautiful Cedar Creek

Liberty Station Public Market

Think a smaller version of Pike’s Place. Lots of different food vendors, indoor and outdoor seating, and a full-service restaurant as well, all located within Liberty Station which is unique unto itself. A former Naval Training Center, you can now find restaurants, breweries, shops, and even a movie theatre here!

San Diego’s Craft Beer Scene

Craft beer is big in San Diego. Really big. There seems to be at least one brewery in every neighborhood with some having upwards of five to 10 to 15! Some of the bigger breweries are Stone Brewery, Ballast Point, and Green Flash, but there are some great smaller spots such as Modern Times, Alesmith, and Rough Draft.

Getting Around San Diego

San Diego is not a walkable city. While each neighborhood is relatively walkable, getting from one to another is not. There is a bus and trolley system, but the ideal method of transportation is by car.

If you decide not to rent a car, be prepared to use Uber or Lyft!

Places to Stay in San Diego

If it’s your first time visiting, chances are you want to be by the beach or in the heart of downtown. Some hotels include:

Catamaran Hotel & Spa

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina

Pendry San Diego

The US Grant

There are more budget options in most neighborhoods as well, and Airbnb and VRBO is widely used, especially by the beach.

Don’t Miss Out on San Diego’s…

Happy Hours!

San Diego loves their happy hours and there really is nothing better than grabbing a drink and a bite to each, watching the sunset over the ocean after a perfect day relaxing at the beach or exploring the city.

Mexican Food & Mexico

San Diego lies on the border of Mexico and there is no shortage of delicious Mexican food – from fancier restaurants to taco shops with walk-up windows and seating outside. For something even more authentic, you can walk or drive across the border and be in Tijuana relatively quickly! If you have a full day or want to spend the night, you can make your way down a bit farther to Guadalupe Valley and wine taste!

Sunset over Pacific Beach

Sunset over Pacific Beach

San Diego is an amazing city with wonderful weather year round and has something for everyone. As someone who has grown up on the other side of the United States and traveled all over the world over the 10 years that I’ve lived here, I am always happy to call San Diego my home.

Click the pin below to save this San Diego guide to your USA travel board! 

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Jocelyn Fielding

Jocelyn Fielding

FTB Member

Jocelyn has lived in San Diego, CA for the past 10 years. While she grew up 3,000 miles away outside of Boston, Massachusetts, she feels that after 10 years she can consider herself a local in San Diego. She has had a love for writing pretty much since she learned to write. Her love for travel grew once I visited Europe in High School, lived in Italy in college, and really took off after a trip to Bali in 2009. Since then she’s made it a goal to visit at least one country per year – sometimes a challenging feat when you have limited vacation time, income, and you want to see your family on the other side of the country. But, she’s made it happen with 30 countries and counting and is on track to make it to all 6 continents this year!

You can follow Jocelyn on her blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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