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  • Writer's pictureLauren Diaz

Guide to San Diego

We visited San Diego in September 2023 for a quick weekend getaway so here's a little recap of everything we did, where we stayed, and the restaurants and bars we visited while we were there!

If you want a short/saveable itinerary visit our Tiktok for the video versions:

Where to Stay:

view from hotel balcony of San Diego city and bay

This isn't the most luxurious hotel but it was very central to a lot of touristy areas. It's also very quiet as far as noise from the street is concerned. If you're staying over a weekend it's an ideal location to visit the Little Italy Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.

Address: 1646 Front St, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $449.04 for 3 nights including 1 night of parking

Things To Do:

I'd like to preface this section with a small disclaimer! I was provided with a media pass by Visit San Diego in order to visit the locations listed below with the exception of the free ones, the Old Town Trolley, the San Diego Zoo, and Cabrillo National Monument.

Seaport Village

Photo of seaport village showcasing blue and white shiplapped buildings with a blue sky

This is a waterfront area that is home to lots of shops, restaurants, and serves as a hub for many tours like the Old Town Trolley that I will write about further below. It also has really nice views of the bay of San Diego.

Address: 849 West Harbor Drive San Diego, CA 92101

Price: Free unless you shop

Old Town Trolley

photo of old town trolley that is green and orange driving into seaport village

If you are not renting a car during your time in San Diego this is the best way to get around the tourist areas. They also had very knowledgeable drivers that provided fun facts about the city and important sites. The trolley is also open air so it's a perfect way to enjoy that SoCal weather. We booked this tour as part of a bundle with the San Diego zoo through Go City. They have different tiers but this is the second time I've used them and they are great!

Address: 500 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $187.20 USD (for two people as part of the Go City bundle - includes entrance trolley and zoo entrance)

Balboa Park and Museums

Balboa Park should be at the top of your list for attractions in San Diego. It is a beautiful park that holds gardens, fountains, and 18 different museums that you can visit. It is very lively whether you want to be active or sit back and relax in a shaded area!

Address: 1549 El Prado San Diego, CA 92101

Price: Free to venture the park, each museum has an entrance fee

San Diego Air and Space Museum

This is one of the many museums that you can visit within Balboa Park. If you are a fan of air and space, this museum is for you. It has a pretty large exhibit of historic artifacts like planes and spacecrafts. You can definitely spend hours here if you stop and read everything or you can zip through just seeing the highlights.

Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $28 per adult

Japanese Friendship Garden

This is a peaceful sanctuary - a park within a park pretty much but well worth a visit. The whole park is an ode to Japanese culture with zen elements like water features, koi ponds, and bonsai trees. There is also a cafe on-site that has a large assortment of teas and Japanese dishes.

Address: 2215 Pan American Road E. San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $14 per adult

San Diego Museum of Art

This museum was a lot larger than I thought it was going to be. They have a ton of exhibits that showcase everything from Modern Art to ancient sculptures. No, you won't see any masterpieces but it is worth a visit if you are an art enthusiast.

Address: 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $20 per adult

San Diego Zoo

The world famous San Diego Zoo. It's famous for a reason! This is the largest zoo I've visited and has pretty much every animal you can think of, it was very impressive and I would recommend it for all ages. With your ticket you also get to ride the Skyfari - a cable car that travels over the zoo and take the Guided Bus tour that takes you on a double decker bus through a section of the zoo with the driver explaining the zoo's conservation efforts and the animals you see along the way.

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $187.20 USD (for two people as part of the Go City bundle - includes entrance trolley and zoo entrance)

Maritime Museum of San Diego

This museum preserves one of the largest collections of historic ships in the United States. You can start at the main ship that holds a large exhibit with ship models, information about charting, maps, the navy, and more. Then, you can step onboard all the old ships, replicas, and even a submarine.

Address: 1492 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $24 per adult

USS Midway Museum

This museum is onboard the longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, the USS Midway. It gives you a glimpse into life as a sailor onboard the carrier and also holds many aircrafts onboard. You can also see some really nice views of the downtown San Diego skyline. Fun fact: This is where the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick took place!

Address: 910 N Harbor Drive San Diego, CA 92101

Price: $32 per adult

Old Town

Old Town is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego, the first place where Europeans settled in California. Today it is home to a bunch of shops, restaurants, and preserved historic buildings and museums. The area is also very connected with Mexican culture, while we we there the area was decorated for Dia de Los Muertos.

Address: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110

Price: Free, unless you shop/dine

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is part of the U.S. National Parks system and commemorates the landing of European explorers on the west coast of the U.S. Since the area sits on a hill it has beautiful views of the city and San Diego Harbor. While you're here you can take in the fresh air at different trailheads, head to the visitors center, the Cabrillo statue, the lighthouse museum, and more.

Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

Price: $20 per vehicle (or $10 per person walking)

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is best known for the fact that you can watch seals and sea lions swimming in the water and sunbathing along the rugged coast. The small beach is very popular for wildlife viewing, but also snorkeling and scuba diving as it is a protected marine reserve area. It's very picturesque and so fun to watch the animals. Just be aware of your surroundings and give them plenty of space!

Address: La Jolla Cove San Diego, CA 92037

Price: Free

Where to Eat:

Since we were only here for a quick weekend we didn't get to try as much food as we would have liked. However, of everything we tried the following restaurants were fantastic!

Breakfast Republic

This restaurant has multiple locations across California, so if you're visiting several cities on a longer SoCal trip keep that in mind! The menu here is huge, it really has something for every breakfast lover whether you like to enjoy savory or sweet in the morning. I highly recommend trying the pancake flight that comes with three flavors so you can try as much as possible!

Address: 707 G St, San Diego, CA 92101

Reservations: None

The Mission

The Mission is San Diego based with 3 locations across the city. They have classic cafe food including breakfast and lunch options like omelettes, soups, salads, and more. We went for breakfast and absolutely loved everything we tried. If you have to choose one I'd go with this as your breakfast option.

Address: 1250 J St, San Diego, CA 92101

Reservations: None

Frost Me Cafe & Bakery

This is a cute coffee shop/bakery that is perfect to visit if you're going to be exploring the Little Italy Farmer's Market, although you may need to make a bit of a line. They have an insanely large variety of freshly baked pastries and your favorite coffee options to pair with them. If they have it while you are there, try the créme brûlée cruffin!

Address: 555 W Date St, San Diego, CA 92101

Reservations: None

Don Carlos Taco Shop

If you're looking for a super casual lunch spot that is quick but delicious, this is a great option. They have so much to choose from when it comes to Burritos, Tacos, and Quesadillas. Don't skip out on the Cali Burrito, it was incredible.

Address: 737 Pearl St UNIT 113, La Jolla, CA 92037

Reservations: None

The Lion's Share

This moody, intimate restaurant should definitely be on your list for dinner. They specialize in "exotic meats" and their menu changes regularly. You'll find all sorts of protein across their menu like venison, elk, and pork to name a few incorporated into new-american style dishes. The burger was phenomenal but if there's one dish I'd have to pick its the Bison Crudo, it was so unique and delicious. An added plus: they also have excellent cocktails!

Address: 629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

Where to Drink:

Like I've mentioned previously, we were in San Diego for a very short period of time and really only had 1 night out. Hopefully, I can add to this section in a future list!

Young Blood - #49 on the 2023 North America List

This may be the only bar we visited in San Diego but I think it would still be first on my list. Young Blood is a speakeasy hidden inside of a restaurant called Neighborhood. You enter through this wall of kegs to get into the bar and once you're inside you embark on a 3-course cocktail journey. There is no menu so the bartenders will talk you through how everything works and create cocktails based on your interests. It's an incredible experience and worth every penny.

Address: 777 G St, San Diego, CA 92101

Set Price: $67 per person plus tax & tip

And that's a wrap on San Diego! I hope this guide is helpful if you're planning a trip anytime soon!


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