San Diego is a vibrant city that blends sunshine, pristine beaches, rich culture and exciting entertainment. This three-day itinerary explores must-see attractions and experiences that will invigorate your spirit and spark a sense of wonder.
The largest urban cultural park in the country, Balboa Park is a must-see for its 17 museums, botanical gardens and Spanish-Renaissance architecture. Afterward, savor a craft beer flight at Pure Brewing in a setting with a lush green ambience.
The Gaslamp Quarter is the historic heart of San Diego, with fabulous restaurants and bars that offer a wide range of cuisines and price points. Dine outside on the sidewalk, in cozy indoor pubs, at elegant and ornately designed fine dining restaurants or in roof-top bars and lounges with fantastic city views.
Walk 16 1/2 blocks down 5th Avenue and feel the excitement flow like fog on a spring morning. You’ll discover Victorian-style buildings that evoke a quaint and rich taste vibe, plus contemporary skyscrapers and trendy shops.
You can take a walking tour of the neighborhood led by the Gaslamp Historical Foundation, which has its headquarters in the Davis-Horton House. You’ll learn how the area grew from its inception as New Town to becoming today’s Gaslamp District. You’ll also visit a relic from the past: a saloon and brothel that is now the Whaley House Museum, and see electric versions of the old street lamps that give the Gaslamp its name.
The largest ethnic enclave of its kind in the United States, Little Italy is home to cozy patio cafes, international restaurants, craft brew stops and urban wineries, sophisticated shops and boutique hotels, and the festive Piazza della Famiglia. Here, Top Chef alums open new spots alongside longtime local hangers-on serving lemon-infused blintzes and classic eggplant Parmesan.
For hearty fare, stop at Lunella Russo’s Italian restaurant. This family-run spot serves dishes reminiscent of an Italian grandmother’s kitchen. Diners can start with a rich focaccia or an appetizer of stuffed mushrooms and share an entree like the carre d’agnello, rack of oven-roasted lamb in a Cabernet sauce.
Those with a yen for Kiwi pints will find satisfaction at Queenstown Public House, a laidback pub on Cedar Street in the Craftsman-style former home of an old tuna clipper. This lively destination also features a menu of traditional Kiwi fare.
Known as ‘America’s Finest City’ for its long stretches of beautiful beaches, San Diego offers plenty of reasons to visit. From a historic tourist district with well-preserved buildings to a shopper’s paradise and excellent waterfront restaurants, the area offers something for everyone.
Vegan cuisine gets a chic makeover at The Plot, where dishes like lentil and wild rice meatless loaf and Okinawan sweet potato gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and nori tapenade are sure to impress. And with a back patio that feels less like a restaurant and more like a fancy friend’s backyard complete with herb garden, heat lamps and spare blankets for when the weather starts to drop, you’ll want to linger awhile.
This La Jolla spot in the Grande Colonial hotel is adorned in sea blue and white, giving it a resort-like flair. Its lauded chef and precise but never pretentious food will also leave you wanting to stay awhile.
After a day of beach fun and sightseeing, a night on the town is an essential part of your San Diego experience. The party kicks off in the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, where 16 walkable city blocks are packed with rooftop bars offering sweeping views and buzzing nightclubs featuring top-notch DJs.
Known for its seafood, this upscale neighborhood offers plenty of restaurant options. Try a grilled yellowtail sashimi at the popular Lionfish, or opt for the fresh catch at The Fishery.
Then, sample locally brewed craft beer at one of the many trendy pubs and breweries in the area. At Pure Brewing, a 5oz flight of five different beers allows you to discover your favorites.
Travelers can also explore Oldtown, the birthplace of California, to feel transported back in time by its adobe streets and Mexican heritage. Stroll past the historic Whaley House Museum or visit the Mormon Temple, which displays impressive architectural details.