I moved to San Diego in 2010 for law school, and I can’t believe I’ve been here for 7 years now! My friends have taken trips to visit me in San Diego quite often and I think I have perfected the weekend itinerary for exploring San Diego in a weekend that I’d like to share with you!
ARRIVE - San Diego International Airport is actually located within the city, which makes it convenient to get to your hotel or airbnb quickly. The downfall is that San Diego has terrible public transportation, so renting a car is a good option. Traffic within San Diego on weekends is normally light, roads are easy to navigate, and the weather is almost always clear.
STAY - For a weekend in San Diego, I’d suggest staying near downtown in Little Italy. You’ll see a lot of hotels in Hotel Circle in Mission Valley, which is fast food and chain restaurant central. If you can avoid staying here, that would be best, as it seems central, but there’s not much to see. Also, Airbnbs are not necessarily cheaper in San Diego, as the city charges a tax on Airbnb owners, which is most of the time transferred to you.
- Porto Vista Hotel - a boutique hotel with great views of the harbor, and a cool, modern feel.
- La Pensione Hotel - another boutique hotel in the heart of Little Italy that is affordable yet comfy.
- Inn at the Park (technically in Bankers Hill) - right across from Balboa Park, but quieter. Large rooms and modern decor. Great for the price!
- San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina - located downtown on the harbor, a little pricier, as it is a chain, but the pool is amazing here. The rooms are nice and it’s a pretty good location to everything.
EAT/DRINK - After checking into your place of stay and unwinding from the flight, head out for dinner in Little Italy. As the name suggests, Italian food is prevalent here, but you can also find other types if you aren’t into Italian.
- Buon Appetito - my favorite restaurant in San Diego. Their marinara sauce and bread combo is the best thing ever! Their pasta dishes have huge portions and everything here is delicious, service is amazing. (1609 India St.)
- Monello / Bencotto - sister restaurants featuring homemade pastas. Squid ink pasta and their pizzas are popular choices. (750 Fir Street)
- Ironside Fish & Oysters - fresh seafood with amazing oysters and a cool atmosphere. (1654 India St.)
If you have it in you, take an uber down to the Gaslamp district and walk around the area. There will be plenty going on, though the action is centered around 5th and Market. Some suggestions:
- La Puerta - Casual Mexican restaurant with great margaritas and chips (560 Fourth Ave)
- Barleymash - Popular sports bar, sometimes charges a cover (600 Fifth Ave.)
- Searsucker - a fancier restaurant that has some fun cocktails, such as the Peter Rabbit (611 Fifth Ave)
- The Nolen - a newer rooftop bar with cocktails and great views of downtown (453 Sixth Ave)
- Vin de Syrah - unique wine bar with an Alice in Wonderland theme (901 Fifth Ave)
9:30 AM - Wake up, it’s time for a full day in San Diego, and there’s a lot to see and do! If you don’t have a car, jump in an uber to La Jolla to start your day with some brunch next to the beach. These brunch spots do fill up quickly and can lead to a wait, but thankfully you can walk around the cove if the wait is too long and enjoy the view.
- Cody’s La Jolla - small cottage with a view of the ocean and a range of traditional American breakfast food. (8030 Girard Ave)
- Brockton Villa - close to the cove, also with a great view. Serves a range of breakfast options. They do take reservations which is a plus! (1235 Coast Blvd)
- The Cottage - offers no ocean view, but is incredibly popular with the people. There are always lines here, but the food is pretty good. (7702 Fay Avenue)
11:30 AM - Walk around La Jolla cove, view the seals and take in the view. From here, take a short uber ride to La Jolla Shores to either kayak, stand up paddle board, or just lay on the beach and enjoy the weather. There’s almost always a Groupon for kayak deals in La Jolla, so check it out before! You can just rent a kayak and explore on your own, or do a tour where you can explore the caves.
- Bike & Kayak Tours - 90 minute kayak rental $29 for single kayak (cheaper if booked in advance) (2158 Avenida de la Playa)
- La Jolla Kayak - 90 minute kayak rental $34 for single kayak (cheaper if booked in advance) (2199 Avenida de la Playa)
If you don’t want to kayak, you can opt to pay a little more on your uber (or drive) to take in beautiful beach views at Torrey Pines State Reserve for an easy hike. There are many trails and none too strenuous (but I’d suggest wearing closed toe shoes). - 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
2:30 PM - From La Jolla, take an uber/drive down to Pacific Beach to fill up on some food and drinks, as you’ll be hungry from your physical activity. San Diego is known for it’s fish tacos, so head to either:
- Oscar’s - cash only, but quick eatery with delicious fish tacos (703 Turquoise Street)
- World Famous - more of a sit down restaurant, but easy to find seats at the bar. Great lobster tacos! (711 Pacific Beach Dr.)
3:30 PM - After grubbing on some tacos, drain it down with a beer or two and feel like a college student again. There are plenty of bars in PB, but I like these two right next to each other and right next to the beach.
- PB Shore Club - amazing views, but pretty packed. Try a red bull slushie if you’re feeling frisky :P (4343 Ocean Blvd)
- PB Ale House - can also get crowded, but less obnoxious people. They brew their own beer as well. (721 Grand Ave.)
5:00 PM - Head back to your hotel and rest up!
7:00 PM - Depending on your level of fanciness, grab a bite to eat near Balboa Park. Balboa Park is a huge park with many museums and outdoor fixtures that is beautiful to walk around. While it is beautiful, it gets extremely crowded during the daytime, which is why I like to visit at night. There are some great places to eat nearby, but I recommend making reservations at any of these spots:
- Mr. A’s - $$$ pricey and super fancy, but amazing views of downtown. Service is great, food is great, but expensive. (2550 Fifth Ave)
- Cucina Urbana - mid-priced, but great Italian food (despite not being in Little Italy). Also great service, with an innovative menu and many choices. (505 Laurel St.)
- The Prado - mid-priced, located within Balboa Park. Different choices of food and great atmosphere. (1549 El Prado)
- Panama 66 - also inside Balboa Park, but a cheaper choice that is outdoors and features live music. (1450 El Prado)
Once you’re done eating, check out Balboa Park and it’s beautifulness!
9:00 PM - If you’re feeling up to it, head out to North Park to explore it’s nightlife. North Park is, in my opinion and many others, very hipster. But they have great craft beer, fun spots and live music. Recently more popular, it’s a good alternative to the nightclubs in the Gaslamp as it is more laid back.
- Coin-Op Game Room - a bar with arcade games and beers. I love this place, but it can get crowded if you get there later. (3926 30th St)
- Seven Grand - a dark whiskey room that offers many great whiskey choices, some pool tables, and a cool loungey feel. (3054 University Ave)
- Bar Pink - more of a dive bar, that is cash only, features live music often. (3829 30th St)
- Mike Hess Brewing - a great craft brewery with board games and good beers. (3812 Grim Ave)
9:00 AM - With just one more day left in San Diego, wake up a little earlier and from your hotel in Little Italy, walk or take an uber for breakfast at the Crack Shack. While the name may seem odd to you, don’t be fooled. This restaurant serves delicious fried chicken and has great breakfast options, with a large outdoor area for seating. Right across the street from Crack Shack is Bird Rock Coffee. Grab some coffee from there and fuel up before or after Crack Shack.
10:30 AM - From Crack Shack, take a ten minute walk down to Waterfront Park, an open space park with water fountains right in front of the harbor. From Waterfront Park, take another ten minute stroll until you hit the ticket stand for the Coronado Ferry. Grab some tickets for the next ferry. They depart every hour and cost $4.75 one way.
- http://www.flagshipsd.com/cruises/coronado-ferry - 990 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Continue on to see the USS Midway and the Kissing Statue. If you continue on past this point, you can also visit Seaport Village, but I find that it can be pretty touristy there.
12:00 PM - Take the Coronado ferry to Coronado island. This will give you a beautiful view of both Coronado and San Diego. The ferry is a 15 minute trip and will drop you off at Ferry landing, where there are many shops and restaurants.
12:30 PM - Walk around Ferry Landing and pick up some souvenirs, if you are inclined. Walk a little bit aways from the Ferry landing and grab a beer and some lunch at Coronado Brewing Co. or Nicky Rottens.
1:30 PM - If you have a lot of time before your flight out, rent a bike and explore Coronado. The bike rental shops should have maps for you, but you can explore on your own. Coronado is a small island, so it shouldn’t take too long to explore. Definitely make a stop at the Hotel Del Coronado - a historic hotel that was designated as a Historic Landmark in 1977. You may be able to find a good bike rental deal on Groupon, but they tend to range from about $10-$15 an hour.
- Bikes & Beyond - ($8/hr; $22 ½ day) - 1201 1st Street
- Pedego Electric Bikes - ($15/hr; $45 ½ day) - 1132 1st Street
- Bike & Kayak Tour - ($19/hr, $39 for 3 hours) - 1201 1st Street #215, Coronado, CA 92118
- Hotel Del California - 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA
3:00 PM - Make your way back to Ferry landing to head back to San Diego for your returning ferry. (Departs on the :30 each hour). Take an uber back to the hotel, grab your stuff and head to the airport! And with that you have seen some of the highlights of San Diego. I hope you enjoyed it!
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