A Weekend In... San Diego
There’s no better time of year to get away for the weekend and discover all that San Diego has to offer. From wild animals and stunning coastlines to the historic Old Town and acclaimed restaurants, San Diego is sure to impress.
By Julie Wuellner
Drenched in sunshine year round and just three hours down the coast, San Diego is a fun and easy weekend getaway for Malibuites. With its many distinct lively neighborhoods and laid-back beach towns, San Diego County is sure to have something for everyone whether you’re going with the whole family, planning a romantic getaway with your significant other or wanting to hit the town with the girls.
If you’re interested in a cultural and historical taste of San Diego, head to Old Town, the sight of the first spanish settlement in California. With it’s plethora of heritage tours, museums, art galleries and restaurants Old Town is the perfect stop for any history buff. From Old Town, walk over to Heritage Country Park, an eight-acre park developed to preserve San Diego’s historic Victorian architecture.
If you’re traveling with kids, spend a day at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The zoo, located close to Balboa Park is one of the largest in the world, housing 3,700 animals. However, perhaps, even more impressive is the San Diego Safari Park, about 30 miles outside of downtown. The Safari park functions as a non-profit, specializing in species-preservation and breeding. Once there, you can book one of the various safari tours to visit the animals up close and personal in their large free-range enclosures, home to animals from Europe, Asia and Africa.
Head to La Jolla for the best of San Diego County’s beautiful and vastly different coastline. Everywhere you look, La Jolla’s beaches boast dramatic cliffs, hiddden coves and seals lounging on the nearby rocks. The area is best explored via kayak or paddle board and you can even go snorkeling through the clear (but cold) waters of La Jolla’s underwater park to check out colorful fish swimming by the reef. Heading into downtown you can explore Little Italy, housing some of San Diego’s best dining options and coffee shops as well as the Mercato Farmer’s Market every Saturday. The vibrant market features a seemingly endless array of vendors giving out samples of farm-fresh produce and local artisan foods.
Of course, don’t forget about Balboa Park brimming with museums, shops and beautiful spanish architecture and gardens. We recommend checking out the spanish village art center which serves as a community hub for hundreds of local painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, glass artists and everything in between.
If you’re planning a trip to San Diego in the near future we’ve put together together the perfect San Diego county getaway itinerary with something in mind for everyone.
11 a.m. — Axe Throwing
To start out your trip to San Diego, why not try something that is completely different from your normal tourist activity? Located in the heart of San Diego’s North Park AveVentures offers an entertaining, unique and somewhat adventurous start to your trip. Not sure what axe throwing entails? Picture a game of darts, except a lot more extreme. For those of us not well versed in the ancient art of axe throwing, AxeVentures has a knowledgeable staff of coaches who can set anyone on their axe throwing ways in no time. While it may sound like a somewhat bizarre activity we guarantee it to be a fun, memorable experience.
2:30 p.m. — Atypical Waffle Co.
After spending the first part of the trip throwing axes, sit back, relax and eat some delicious waffles at Atypical Waffle Co. (formerly Wow Wow Waffle), also located in North Park. The converted garage combined location combined with its unexpected options in liege waffles make for a fun and quirky lunch destination. We recommend the nutella chocolate lovers waffle with nutella, strawberries, whip and chocolate drizzle if you’re in the mood for sweet and the number seven with smoked brown sugar’d bacon, avocado and goat cheese if you prefer savory.
6 p.m. — Balboa Park and the Gaslamp District
Next, we recommend exploring Balboa Park and the neighboring Gaslamp district. Both are iconic for San Diego and offer visitors entirely different views of the city. If you’re feeling up for it, we recommend going on the Ghosts of the Gaslamp Tour. Whether or not you’ll see a ghost is debatable, but the tours are fun and you’re guaranteed to learn an interesting fact or two about the area.
8 p.m. — Dinner at Juniper and Ivy
After you’re done exploring the gaslamp district head to Juniper and Ivy, one of San Diego’s most refined and creative restaurants guranteed to be nothing short of fantastic. Opened by Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blaise, the restaurant features inventive dishes such as Tuna Wellington with Sauce Au Poivre, Duxelle, Butterball Potatoes and Black Russian Kale and the Carne Cruda Asada with quail egg, cotija and Jalapeno. We highly recommend starting your meal with a delicious buttermilk biscuit which comes with smoked salt and strawberry jam.
8 a.m. — First, Coffee
Get your morning coffee fix at one of San Diego’s most beloved coffee shops, James Coffee Co. Located in Little Italy, the coffee shop offers all kinds of espresso based beverages made from in-house roasted beans as well as freshly made pastries. Favorites include latte with honey cinnamon and their almond croissants
10 a.m. — Farmer’s Market in Little Italy
Sample an endless array of foods from over 200 vendors. If you’re interested you can also book the Little Italy Walking Tour with Wine Tasting for an informative tour which includes 12 tastings.
Noon — Lunchtime
If you’re still hungry after walking around the Farmer’s Market, grab lunch at The Crack Shack (also located in Little Italy). Don’t let the name fool you, the small eatery is from Mike Rosen and Richard Blaise had so many patrons flock to its doors that it was forced to temporarily close its doors. Now, open once again the fast-casual restaurants serves various forms of gourmet fried chicken. We recommend the Senor Croque with crispy chicken, bacon, fried egg, miso-maple butter on toasted brioche.
2 p.m. — Scripps Beach
After morning in Little Italy, make the drive down to beautiful La Jolla and head over to Scripps Beach, one of San Diego County’s most iconic and beautiful beaches. From there, walk over to the pier. While it isn’t open to the public, its still worth to go check out.
8 p.m. — Underwater Park
No San Diego trip is complete without making it out on the water and one of the best places to do so is the 600-acre La Jolla Underwater Park. Whether you paddle board, kayak or even snorkel you are sure to be amazed by the beautiful, clear water showcasing a large variety of underwater life, such as bright orange garibaldi and playful seals which like to hangout on the nearby cliffs. Since the beach is protected by the reefs, the water is relatively calm and flat, making for a perfect place to paddle out and explore.
10 p.m. — Head to a Brewery
For dinner, head to one of San Diego’s 150 + breweries. We recommend Stone Brewing Co., a San Diego staple. The craft brewery is one of the largest in the United States and consistently brews unique and delicious beers. For dinner we suggest the slow roasted Brisket Grilled Cheese.
10 a.m. — Lazy Breakfast
Take Sunday morning off and have breakfast at your hotel. If you’re staying at Rancho Bernardo Inn (page 158) we recommend heading to Verando Fireside Lounge & Restaurant for their Eggs Benedict and Jump Start smoothie.
12:15 p.m. — Head to the Spa
After breakfast, continue your relaxing morning with a trip to the spa. Try Rancho Bernardo Inn’s new Floral Infusion Spa Package for the perfect blend of relaxation and rejuvination. To start the treatment off you’ll head into the chef’s garden with your spa therapist to gather fresh seasonal herbs and flowers which will be used to create your own custom scrub. Your spa therapist will then make you an organic tea with some of the herbs gathered, followed by giving you a relaxing massage using your custom scrub. After your treatment is done, any leftover herbs will be mixed into a second scrub for you to take home with you.
12:30 p.m. — Organic Lunch
Continue the feel-good vibes with a healthy, organic lunch at Goodonya Organic Eatery. Opened by former U.S. Olympic athlete Kristen Buchanan, the casual lunch spot is focused on healthy, whole foods made from 100% non-gmo and organic (also local when possible) ingredients. The atmosphere is friendly and extremely down-to-earth. The eatery offers a wide array of food from re-vamped brunch favorites to salads, sandwiches to burritos and salads as well as oh-so-trendy bone broth soups. We highly recommend that no matter what you order, you get the Golden Milk Latte to go along with it.
1:30 p.m. — Safari Park
Finally, before heading home, experience the San Diego Safari Park. The park is home to thousands of different animals and is focused on species-preservation and breeding. What makes the Safari Park unique is that rather than keeping animals is individual exhibits, the majority of species live in one of the parks numerous large free-range enclosures. Visitors are encourage to book a safari tour, which takes them directly into the exhibit to experience the animals up close and personal. If you have time, we also recommend going to see the Shiley’s Cheetah Run to experience first hand the impressive 70 mph speeds a cheetah can reach. If you’re feeling up for it, you can also go on the jungle ropes safari to experience the park from the tree tops.
Where to Stay
Hotel Del Coronado
For an iconic San Diego experience, stay at the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island. The sprawling 28-acre resort offers everything from a charming victorian building, to contemporary ocean towers, California cabana buildings and a luxurious beach village so that there is a room to suite the style of any guest. In your downtime, you can partake in surf camps, luxurious spa retreats or go shopping at The Del, their collection of specialty shops.
Old Town Inn
If you’re looking for a nice but still affordable option, we recommend staying at the Old Town Inn. The Spanish-style inn dates back to 1945 and is family-run, pet-friendly and conveniently located close to both Old Town and SeaWorld. It offers a beautiful courtyard with a heated pool and pool-side BBQ perfect for hanging out and relaxing after a day of sightseeing. There is also an arcade and game room for kids and complimentary breakfast in the mornings. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and the grounds are lush and well-kept.
Take the Kids to Legoland
Just 30 minutes north of San Diego, LEGOLAND California is sure to be a hit with the kids. The park houses more than 60 rides, shows and attractions for kids ages 2-12. This spring, kids can even go behind-the-scenes of a live movie set at The LEGO Movie 2 Experience and experience the LEGO soundstage as well as LEGO models as seen in the 3D movie.
A Romantic Dinner
For a romantic dinner, make a reservation at Herringbone where you dine in the company of 100-year olive trees and watch your food be prepared in their open-concept kitchen. The restaurant specializes in delicious ocean-to-table seafood and if you really want to splurge we recommend trying to chef’s tasting menu.
Old Town and Heritage Country Park
Home to California’s first settlement, San Diego’s Old Town is chalked full of art and culture. The charming spanish-style neighborhood is perfect if you want to take a stroll, visit a gallery and learn about the cities history. Right next door, you’ll find Heritage Country Park, an eight-acre county park dedicated to preserving San Diego’s Victorian architecture. There you can view Victorian styles such as Italianate, Queen Anne, classic revival styles and Stick-Eastlake.
Watch a Game at Petco Park
If you can stomach watching a team other than the Dodgers, go see a game at Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres. Petco park is centrally located in San Diego’s downtown offering impressive views of San Diego’s cityscape while watching the game. Not into Baseball? On June 22, Paul McCartney will be performing there.