Just less than twenty miles from the U.S./Mexican border lies the waterfront city of San Diego, where ocean view hideaways, wine tasting adventures, and family fun at luxury beach resorts is all in a day’s worth of things to do. There really is something for every kind of taste and budget in S to the D—from romantic trips to little inns overlooking the dramatic California coastline or celebrating the area’s enchanting natural beauty and super pleasant climate at some of the town’s most popular museums, gardens, and Spanish Colonial style architecture.
Since 1769, this West Coast hub has been entertaining travelers with its more than sixty-eight miles of beaches in and around the city. So sun, surf, and savor the sunshine all within the fifth wealthiest city in the U.S., according to Forbes magazine.
8 Things To Do on a Weekend Getaway in San Diego
1. HIT THE BEACH.
A trip to SD isn’t complete without unwinding at one of the many pristine beaches. Be sure not to miss out on the tide pools below Cabrillo National Monument, as well as on Mission Beach, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean from Mission Bay Park in northwestern San Diego (it also has a bustling boardwalk!), or Coronado Beach, a popular shoreline that boasts fewer sunbathers, calmer waves, a peaceful atmosphere, an idyllic location in the "Crown City” – not to mention many magnificent mansions sitting behind the beach on Ocean Boulevard. Plus, there’s that historic Hotel del Coronado — a 120-year-old National Historic Landmark that’s perched beyond the sand. Yes.
2. Get Artsy and Creative.
If you’ve got little kids in the family, make sure to add this downtown favorite to the to-do list. With an art studio, a climbing wall, as well as an all-around mission to "inspire children to think, play and create," San Diego's newest marina museum is a unique hybrid of a children's museum and an art museum offering kids a number of hands-on experiences. Plus, admission is free during the second Sunday of every month!
For the older folks, try heading out to the San Diego Museum of Art, where you’ll find a copy of the 17th century University of Salamanca, in the so-called Platero style, with finely-chiseled terracotta and silversmith work. The museum's collection also contains a broad spectrum of works from around the world and pieces that date back to as far as 7,000 years ago. Find Spanish old master paintings, along with Asian Art, European Art, and Art from the Americas in this artistic haven.
3. Get wild at Balboa Park.
It’s home to the world renowned San Diego Zoo, a 1,200-acre park about a couple miles north of city center that’s home to all sorts of exotic animals, including pandas which have been successfully bred there since birth. The entire space is spread out along a canyon, with many hills to gawk over and to provide its animals with a more than natural home to dwell in.
Balboa Park itself is a fantastic spot for a stroll, a bike ride, or even a picnic. Wander around the many gardens, like the gorgeous Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, all while admiring the array of intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture. There are even shows to take in at the Old Globe Theatre or within the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. You can also do some art viewing at the Casa de Balboa — which houses three separate art museums — as well as in the Spanish Village Art Center. Along with the zoo, the munchkins will also adore exploring the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (just two of the park's 15 total museums).
4. Venture through Gaslamp.
Sixteen lively blocks are peppered with Victorian-style buildings housing various shops, art galleries, trendy restaurants, and popular nightlife venues. If you’re looking for a super hip and incredibly busy scene, the Gaslamp Quarter is definitely the place to go.
Start out at the Horton Plaza outdoor shopping center and then explore the neighborhood's side streets by foot or hop on an Old Town Trolley Tour. Night owls will enjoy the neighborhood's many patios and rooftop lounges that feature stellar drinks and pool parties that last until the sun comes up. They truly are Vegas-worthy shindigs boasting killer city views, celebrity DJs, and lots of booze served pool-side—all in the heart of San Diego. Party on.
Go down under into the world of La Jolla where you can swim with curious sea lions, snorkel to your heart’s content, and then take a quick lap around the entire cove. It’s the perfect spot to paddle around, as La Jolla Cove is super protected from ocean waves and hence, features calmer waters, colorful fish, and an abundance of sea life. It also happens to be one of Southern California's most photographed beaches.
Make sure to get there early for a nice spot by the caves. You’ll even want to venture towards Scripps Park, which lies above the cove—an all-around good place to picnic, lounge, or just enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean. Remember though: surf and boogie boards are not permitted.
Witness fifty acres of incredible eye-popping color at the legendary Flower Fields, where you and the fam bam can see the only Tecolote Giant Ranunculus in all its glory each spring. It’s surely a site that cannot be missed.
And if you’re looking for more pastoral experiences, try snatching up fresh strawberries over at Suzie’s Farm, which basically provides most of the organic produce served in SD’s best restaurants. They even have a Strawberry Jam event that allows for visitors to personally go out into the field to pick a basket full of their very own strawberries.
7. Catch a Game.
In and around downtown, there’s Petco Park, one of the most family-friendly baseball stadiums in the U.S. Let’s just say that both football and baseball are magnificent American pastimes that S to the D is lucky enough to boast not one but two teams for: it’s home to the Padres and the Chargers. What’s more is that thanks to the always beautiful weather, checking out professional sports action is something that can be done any time of year. Score.
8. Hike Potato Chip Rock.
It is quite possibly the most hyped-about hiking trail in the entire county—a super strenuous uphill challenge that’s nonetheless a workout like no other. You’ll no doubt be treated with scenic views of SD down below when you reach that infamous piece of rock, which many visitors wait in long lines to pose for pictures with. Get ready.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.