Top 7 Things To Do in San Diego
You are never short of things to do in San Diego. I fell in love with the city back in 2007 when I spent a semester abroad there studying at UCSD. Perfect, sunny weather, great food, beautiful beaches and laid back locals, I’d live in San Diego in a second…too bad the US government is a little strict on work visas.
All this sunshine and roses you’d think I couldn’t say a bad word about the place right?
There is one thing that San Diego has wrong with it though.
The Worst Thing about San Diego
The one downside of San Diego is a simple one: just getting around the city. It is painful.
The city is spread out and it is tailored to driving and driving only. You have little pockets like Pacific Beach where you can get around on a bike but go outside your little local bubble and you need a car. Whilst living in La Jolla for university I didn’t have a car so was left relying on friends with cars or trying to navigate the barely existing public transport system.
Catching a bus from La Jolla to downtown is a huge struggle. Unsurprisingly, I mostly stayed in La Jolla.
Dayna and I were on the last leg of our Pacific Coast Highway road trip so we sprung to keep our car for our 5 night stay in Pacific Beach and although we actually didn’t spend too much time in the car, we appreciated it the few times we went exploring.
Best place to stay in San Diego
The reason we didn’t use the car that much was because we stayed in PB (Pacific Beach) and this area has a lot to offer by itself.
We stayed at Beach Haven Inn in a suite that felt like luxury given we weren’t used to having a kitchen and separate lounge area. The best thing though was the location; we were a 2 minute stroll from the beach that, even in “winter”, you can stroll along in bare feet and there’s even a wide cycle pathway if you want to hire a bike instead.
A couple of minutes the other way and you have great restaurants, big supermarkets, bars, cafes, frozen yoghurt places, ice cream sandwich places…all the essentials you need within a short walk.
Top 7 things to do in San Diego
After living there for months, you’d think I’d have made the most of it but we actually got to explore more in a few days with a car than I could in a few months without one. Here’s a few of our favourite things to do in San Diego (car or no car).
1. Eat All the Mexican Food
San Diego has the best Mexican food in the world. Period. It’s unsurprising given the perfect combination of proximity to Mexico, US health and safety standards for food preparation etc plus ample access to quality ingredients.
There are some longstanding arguments among locals as to where you can get the best tacos and burritos and you have popular spots like Las Cuatros Milpas that can have huge queues outside. I won’t get in to those arguments about the absolute best Tacos or Burritos though.
We opted for a few other places around Pacific beach with tacos at Taco Surf, Oscar’s and the best california burrito (fries in a Burrito people – it’s amazing!) we’ve had in a long time at La Playa Taco Shop.
If it’s a breakfast burrito you’re craving then the best we had was at Kono’s Cafe at Pacific Beach (great coffee as well if you’re able to make it there).
The thing is, you can’t go too wrong in San Diego – Yelp & Tripadvisor will rarely point you too wrong. Be adventurous and try a few!
2. Drink All the Craft Beers
San Diego has grown to be a massive hub for Craft Beer with the number of breweries growing every year. We did a beer tasting at Rose’s in Old Town (another place I’ll mention on this list) so that let us (well, me) get through a few of the local brews and we also went to Stone’s, a local brewing institution. There are a few options but we visited the huge Stone’s brewery in Liberty Station which I think is worth going to just for the awesome outdoor garden bar area.
3. Go to the Beach
San Diego has over 110 km of coastline so there are a ton of great beaches to check out. Coronado, Del Mar, Torrey Pines…there are endless options for walking along the beach, swimming, surfing or just enjoying the view.
Two of my favourites are Pacific Beach (for the pier and the boardwalk) and La Jolla cliffs where you can watch the paragliders launch and land off the Torrey Pines Gliderport on the cliff tops.
4. Watch the Sun Set
The sunsets can be amazing in San Diego and I’m sure the locals become spoiled by it but we couldn’t get sick of just watching the sunset each day. The great thing about being on the west coast is you just need to go anywhere with a view of the beach for a great sunset.
5. Check out Old Town
I never made it there when I went to UCSD but on our latest visit we made it to the touristy Spanish Old Town that marks the original settlement of San Diego. Although it is touristy, it is also a great spot for beer tasting, drinking margaritas and learning more about the history of the town.
6. Eat at In’n’Out burger
I could eat Mexican food every day for the rest of my life but others might not be the same.
When you get tired of Mexican food (so maybe after a month or two of eating it in a row?), there are a couple of In’n’Out restaurants as a backup option. Simple and delicious, the queues speak for themselves and this is (arguably) the best fast food burger in the world. Just don’t go expecting a huge variety of unique options. Number of patties, and cheese slices is about all you need to worry about.
7) Check out the UCSD Campus
The UCSD campus is a sprawling, beautiful series of different bits of art and the little apartment I shared there at i-House in La Jolla had a view of the ocean that others would have paid huge money to have.
Walking around the campus 8 years after being a student definitely made me appreciate how cool the place is. Just check out the architecture school’s building.
The few months I lived there were some of the happiest months of my life so returning back again after years away was a nostalgic and emotional trip down memory lane. Dayna had to put up with me constantly pointing at places and saying “ah that’s where I used to go every afternoon!”, “I had lectures in that classroom!” etc.
The library is one of my favourite spots and it is at the heart of the campus. Part spaceship, part library; it even starred as a spaceship in the cult movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
There’s a few notable mentions that I’ve missed above so if you’re looking for more things to do here are a few others (to make it a Top 10 Things to do in San Diego) :
- Visit San Diego Zoo (one of my favourite Zoos in the world)
- Explore Balboa Park (go for a walk and explore the park since it is right by the Zoo already)
- Check out USS Midway (see the longest serving Navy aircraft carrier & the museum their)
Have you been to San Diego? What do you think, anything we’ve missed?
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