San Diego, California
San Diego. Famous for Ron Burgundy, the Chargers, and the very best Mexican food you’ll ever taste. One of the most sought-after places to live in the US and a top vacation destination for all you sun-seeking travelers. My grandparents have lived oceanfront in La Jolla for 45 years and, because of them, it has become my second home. As a kid, it was all about the fact that this amazing metropolis had the five things any kid would want… SeaWorld, the zoo, waves, sand and Legoland. As I got older, it was still about the waves and the sand, but also the adorable downtown La Jolla, the Pacific Beach nightlife, and the countless water activities, from jet skiing, to paddleboarding, to biking the boardwalks. San Diego truly has something for everyone, as long as you like sun, surf, sand and sea. Which is everyone.
The mild 75-and-sunny weather year round brings the people in to this coastal California paradise, but it’s the unique SD lifestyle that keeps them coming back. The people are easy-going, friendly, and affluent. The beaches are picturesque, full of surf-worthy Pacific waves, and aren’t overcrowded. Located just 2 hours south of Los Angeles, San Diego could not be more different from it’s neighboring CA metropolis. Whereas LA has the bustle of a busy city, complete with traffic 24 hours a day, cutthroat careerists and a huge lack of open space, San Diego seems to have taken that city way of life and thrown it right out the window. I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t want to live in this amazing city with it’s laid back vibe, stunning ocean views, and incredible weather.
So, even if you can’t afford to retire to a 15 Million Dollar Oceanview mansion in La Jolla just yet, you can plan an awesome trip!
for the tourist
San Diego Zoo
If you have only been to small zoos, you’re missing out. The huge San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s top ranked zoos, and it’s no question why. You can’t possibly see everything in a day, but you’re guaranteed to have a great day trying. Whatever you do, don’t miss the famous Giant Panda Exhibit, as the SDZoo prides itself on having the most successful breeding program outside of China for the endangered species, and they are making huge strides in saving the pandas from extinction. My favorite things to do at the zoo are see the panda cubs, feed the giraffes, and watch the polar bears swim. Feeling adventurous? Sign up for the Ropes Course Safari. It’s new and looks awesome!
Sea World is Disneyland for ocean lovers. Full of awesome water rides and even better sea animal shows, SeaWorld is a family vacation must-do. Feed the dolphins, touch the starfish and the stingrays in the tide pools, and don’t miss the Polar Bear exhibit! So much fun.
Taken this summer in La Jolla
If you find yourself in La Jolla, don’t miss Seal Beach, also called Children’s Pool. Here you can watch and get up-close-and-personal with hundreds of seals playing and sunbathing in the cove.
Del Mar Racetracks
Del Mar, located 20 miles north of San Diego, is a really cute seaside town and is home to one of California’s best horse racing tracks. If you’re looking to win big or just have a good time at the races, this is definitely a fun adventure. And the horses are gorgeous. Check the schedule before you go, and of course study up on those thoroughbreds to know who to bet on!
Old Town San Diego
This historic center prides itself on being the “Birthplace of California”. Lots of authentic mexican restaurants, museums, shops and great history. A tourist fave in SD.
for the foodies
One of my very favorite special occasion restaurants I have ever been to. The ‘Maitre D’ owner, who gives the restaurant its name and it’s fame, is an 80-something year old man whose energy and charisma make this restaurant the gem it is. As soon as you walk into this small, 10-table restaurant, the maitre d and his staff do everything possible to make your celebratory night a night to remember. The menu is full of decadent tableside-prepared dishes such as bananas foster, baked alaska, and the finest chateaubriand steak. The live piano music combined with the gorgeous antique furniture makes you feel like you’ve stepped back into the roaring 20’s for dinner. The atmosphere, the service, and the food are all incredible. Don’t miss out on their famous “infused vodka” which comes to your table as a bottle in a cube of ice, infused with fruit or flowers. There are also Ice swans between courses that hold your sorbet. Every bit of this restaurant is an amazing experience. It’s quirky, crazy and elegant all in one, but the best part has to be the night has to be the owner and how he takes photos of every table with his little camera, then develops them and will give them to you when you return. He wants to make sure your special night is remembered! He remembers every single diner that comes into the restaurant… it’s incredible. I guarantee you your night at this hidden gem will be a night to remember. Maitre D. 5523 La Jolla Blvd.
Phil’s Barbecue is less of a hidden gem and more of a you’re-going-to-be-waiting-in-line-for-two-hours-if-you-want-a-table San Diego staple. But, have no fear, they do take out and you can call ahead and pick up your order with no wait!! Definitely the way to do it! Winner of Travel Channel’s best sandwich in america, you have to try the El Toro Tri-Tip Sandwich. It is heaven. And I’m a North Carolina Tar Heel who loooves barbecue and although I would never imagine that my favorite barbecue would be found in CA, Phil’s definitely takes the cake. Also try the pulled pork Broham and their incredible beer battered onion rings. I don’t even like onion rings and I could finish a whole order myself. Phil’s BBQ 3750 Sports Arena Blvd 619 226 6333
Harry’s Coffee Shop
La Jolla’s breakfast hot spot. Harry’s has been around in downtown La Jolla since 1960 and it’s red leather booths, loyal local diners and classic delicious breakfast haven’t aged a bit. I’m not kidding you when I say I dream about Harry’s cinnamon rolls, a delicious warmed donut roll that I get every time before my omelette. They also have great benedicts, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal pancakes, omelettes and anything else you could possibly want for breakfast or brunch. Harry’s Coffee Shop 7545 Girard Ave La Jolla CA 92037
Old Town Cafe
Admittedly, this is a very touristy place. But, if you’re into touristy mexican margaritas, sombreros, and delicious authentic mexican food, I highly recommend it. They handmake their tortillas right there which is awesome, and the margaritas are muy delicioso!! Old Town Mexican Cafe.
Located on Prospect Street in the heart of downtown La Jolla, this sushi bar, complete with outdoor fire pit dining for CA summer nights, was awarded Zagat’s Top World Restaurants Award as well as Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence. With its contemporary vibe and stunning decor, it’s a great place to grab drinks or dinner.
Dos Pedros Taco Shop
Shhhhh. This place is a local secret. It is literally a 100-square-foot little shack that serves up the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. Get the carne asada fries, a carne asada burrito, or just the quesadilla and take it to the beach. Best. Mexican. Ever. 723 Turquoise Street, San Diego, CA and 6990 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla
for the adventurer
snorkel with leopard sharks
Yes, sharks. But they’re small and harmless, so don’t be scared. Here at the La Jolla Cove, you can snorkel with them! Pretty cool.
jetski in mission bay
Mission Bay hosts some great water for jetskiing. SO much fun. Check out Mission Bay Sportcenter for prices and reservations.
kayak the caves of la jolla
Rent a kayak or do a tour and see the caves of La Jolla Cove!
golf at torrey pines
Famous for being Phil Mickelson’s go-to course and the site of the 2008 US Open, golfing or sightseeing at Torrey Pines is a must for any golfers coming to SD. Situated atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific, it’s a stunning course.
for the beaches
La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores is your catch-all California beach. It has huge waves and a gorgeous stretch of white sand that spans for a mile. Go to a nearby surf shop if you want to rent a surfboard for the day or take a lesson! They also rent boogie boards, paddleboards, skimboards, and more! One of the most famous is Mitch’s Surf Shop.
Rent a bike and ride along the whole boardwalk lining Pacific Beach. This beach can get crowded, but is definitely a fun one to people watch. Great restaurants also line the boardwalk! (and my favorite shaved ice place, a popular little stand you won’t miss).
Coronado island is one of my favorite places in the world. It is this gorgeous island ten minutes from downtown San Diego that is home to a naval base. The town itself is so great. Full of cute shops, dining, and one of the best hotels in the world, Hotel Del Coronado. The beach outside of the Hotel Del is a great place to go for the day.
for the nightlife
Pacific Beach bars
Pacific Beach is packed with beachy bars, full of tank-top clad college kids looking to have a good time. The casual atmosphere among all the PB bars is so much fun, and completely different from the bars in downtown San Diego. Check out Typhoons, especially for dancing.
where to stay
Hotel Del Coronado
One of my favorite hotels in the world. Site of Marilyn Monroe’s movie “Some Like It Hot”, this hotel has incredible history but is gorgeously refurbished to be a top notch modern resort. The pool area, restaurants, and shopping are amazing, and the beach is fantastic. Not to mention you’re on the cute island of Coronado, a gorgeous section of San Diego. This is definitely my pick for where to stay! You won’t be disappointed. https://www.hoteldel.com/
The Omni Downtown
This Omni Hotel is connected via a skywalk to Petco Park, the home of the Padres. So, if you’re planning on catching a game while you’re in town, there’s no better place to be. https://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/SanDiego.aspx
If you want to stay in La Jolla, this downtown hotel is my favorite. It’s beautiful iconic pink architecture and overlooking ocean views make it a top tourist spot for the city. https://www.lavalencia.com/
If you can’t already tell, you’re never going to get bored in San Diego. The people here are super active, and you’ll adapt well to their awesome way of life. Jetskiing, paddleboarding, surfing, boogieboarding, and soaking in the sun… who’s with me?